The train had not even departed when the faculty had convened to discuss the new students and issues carrying over from the previous year. Towards the end of the meeting, Professor Flitwick said he had something on his mind he had to discuss because he did not like the current situation. The topic concerned Livia Woodcock.

            “I know what you said, headmaster, that no one should try to draw too much attention to her,” he began. “That is why I did not tell her in the spring of any plan to make her a prefect. In fact, I stalled over elevating any female owing to this problem.”

            “What is the problem, Filius?” the headmaster asked. “Don’t tell me that you cannot find anyone to fill the position.”

            “The problem to me is simple,” Professor Flitwick answered. “Most of the Ravenclaws know I work with her and like her. Not naming her a prefect will draw more attention – as in ‘How could I overlook her?’ – than naming her one. She would accept it, but I think I could not justify it well to anyone who asks me about it, like any of her roommates.”

            “I see what you mean. That would make for a difficult explanation. Not naming her Head Girl could be justified from whatever outside lessons she would receive beyond Fifth Year, but there does not seem any reason regarding prefect that you could name. I mean, that title would not alter her situation regarding those seeking her help with written assignments, would it?”

            “No,” he replied. “She has never compromised her own work owing to that, perhaps because she does not plan on sitting for 12 exams this year. I think she wants to do nine, though I think the ninth one comes entirely from zero class time. She felt no need to attend a single one of Sybill’s classes, yet thinks she can pass the test.”

            “Really?” several asked at once.

            “Well, if her ability to take money off first-year students is any indication, I would not put this past her,” the headmaster observed. “She taught herself second year D.A.DA. skills, after all, and a previous instructor of that got her to conjure a full Patronus during his first hour teaching her at age 14. If you think, there will be more buzz about her lack of elevation than doing this, do it, Filius. Just don’t make her Head Girl, if you can help it. Name her friend instead.”

            “Out of curiosity, just what is her Patronus?” Henry Jones, the new D.A.D.A. instructor, asked.

            “From what I understand, it is a North American bobcat,” the headmaster responded.

            “Very unusual,” Professor Jones stated. “Her choice?”

            “I would think so,” Professor Snape offered. “She was given a toy stuffed animal bobcat when very young. Maybe six. She may still have it.”

            “How do you know that?” Professor Jones asked.

            “Infamous episode during her first year here,” Professor Snape answered. “To settle it with me, she allowed me to view her memories – some good, a lot not so much, to say the least. I think her past makes her unusual, though she hides it well. Prior experience also forced that upon her.”

            “I feel it necessary to continue essentially hiding her,” the headmaster asserted. “But point taken, Filius. Passing her over, given what her own house knows, would provoke only questions.”

            “I will inform them after the feast,” Professor Flitwick said. “Thank you.”

            The trip passed fairly well, though for all the students entering the Fifth Year or Fifth Level, concern had creeped in for some because this year ended with formal exams that determined much of what a student would continue doing afterward. No one knew for sure if it represented an accumulation of skill or emphasized mostly that pivotal year. Though Livia expected the formal exams to offer a novel form of stress, she did not feel terribly concerned, given how she felt about her classes on the whole. Even her teaching herself whatever she would need to show did not trouble her much. Only dueling bothered her. She had still not beaten Professor Flitwick, and she considered several different approaches that would give her more unpredictability, which she needed to use against him. She also held some curiosity over how the music club would continue without Bill Weasley. Could they sustain the event without him? She did not need to revisit what happened last time, but she did want another event to take place, rather than that bittersweet night be her last memory of it. She would find out how well she had recovered when she saw him in the Great Hall. She could pull off stoic, but would she feel that way?

           All too quickly, the moment of truth had arrived. Their belongings taken to their rooms, the returning students took their places in the Great Hall. She saw him, with his new pin on, she blinked then politely smiled and nodded at him. He smiled and nodded back. It happened very quickly, and Livia felt glad it had come and gone with little fuss or emotion on her part. She did not want to know how he felt. She had to close that book versus dwell on it. She took her seat with the other Fifth Year students she knew and they busily continued earlier discussions of their summers and their expectations for the year. Livia followed in general, but did not say much. Dueling continued to occupy her thoughts.

            Professor Dumbledore welcomed everyone back and made a few pithy comments no one knew how to take. After Professor McGonagall led in the new students, he made sure to introduce the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, too, and mentioned any other changes of note. After the sorting took place, everyone enjoyed their first meal and retired to their houses. Professor Flitwick ensured no one had gone to their rooms before telling all that, though an unusual situation had delayed his appointment of all the prefects for the year, he had added Livia Woodcock and Shelley Silver to round out the list. He recommended that they catch up to the others by arranging a meeting with the Head Girl, the blonde, studious Rosalee Richmond, as soon as they could. With that announcement, he allowed most of the returning students to retire to their rooms.

               Rhonda Wayne, still a prefect as was her sister before her, was not happy to hear the news, though at least she did not have to attend a meeting with them right away. Their elevation might complicate her desired revenge; she would bide her time. Shelley seemed elated and surprised that Livia did not share her emotion. Livia did not know what really would change. Shelley thought about the school pool privileges and being taken seriously by younger students. The rest of their room’s residents congratulated both, though a few privately said they thought Professor Flitwick had named both to obscure Livia some, though they did not understand why he would do that.

            Professor Flitwick then came around with the new students and introduced them to the existing residents and, as he had done previously, suggested Livia was the person to consult regarding any issue concerning a written assignment. He also gave Livia and Shelley their pins as well as their schedules, which once again matched entirely, except for the time Livia would continue to practice dueling. Every year that seemed to increase. Livia thought he was giving her ample opportunities to try new things to finally win. It had increased to four sessions a week, though how many battles they had each time could vary, depending currently, on how long Livia could defend herself. The amount of time outside would get cut some, even if the sessions did not take up her entire free time. Livia and Shelley ultimately joined the rest of the student leaders.

            The first classes proceeded fairly well, with the exception of the first Potions class. Whilst in the process of laying out the coursework for the year, Professor Snape spotted Livia and Shelley wearing their new Ravenclaw prefect pins and decided to draw notice to how he expected neither to do very well, given the responsibilities of prefects drained from the preparation time necessary for formal exams. He seemed to want his confrontation to escalate, Livia thought. Shelley, sitting in the back, could not figure out how he saw the pins. Her jaw dropped and she was about to sink into her chair. Livia steadied Shelley: she took the bait, thinking he had to have a reason for this. In her best impersonation of Professor Snape, she announced forcefully: “I am feeling rather peeved today because Professor Slughorn never chose me to be a Slytherin prefect.” Some students laughed whilst some were simply stunned at both the voice as well as what Livia Woodcock said.

            He walked right up to her, perhaps centimeters from her face. “What is the meaning of this insolence, Miss Woodcock?”

            She did not flinch and gave him the same stare, contorting her face to resemble his scowl. She matched his cadence, too. “I could ask the same, if you wish to keep arguing with me.” 

            “Hmph. Two weeks detention, 10 points off Ravenclaw and four o’clock my office – you know the drill. I will add a week for every minute I wait.”

            “If you say so, sir,” Livia said as herself, though not breaking her gaze.

            He continued the class as if nothing happened. Actually, Livia did not seem rattled even slightly, either. Shelley and at least a few other students found the whole exchange surreal; others could not fathom Livia’s mimicry or her attitude, much less why they had drawn Professor Snape’s ire for pins they wondered how he even could see.

            After class, Shelley worried about the repercussions and Livia reassured her. “Don’t worry. Unless he hits me, he cannot hurt me.”

            Livia showed up a few minutes early, sat on the floor, materializing her Walkman and listened to something she found enjoyable. Professor Snape showed up exactly at four, looking very put out. “Take off those silly headphones,” he said. “Inside. Now.”

            Livia sent the Walkman back to her room and shut the door. “I gathered that was a show, and you have something to tell me,” she stated.

            “You are scary, sometimes,” he asserted. “Can’t believe I said that to a 16-year-old girl.” 

            “Not really,” she responded. “I logically deduced that you would not pick a fight with me unless you had something important to say and thought this was simply the means to that end. Since we don’t have written assignments immediately, you could either tell the headmaster or inform me directly. I think the second is faster.”

            “True enough, but you actually tried to resemble me,” he observed. “Rather unsettling.”

            “You didn’t expect me to back down, did you?” she asked.

            “No,” he answered. “But that was a better version of me than I expected.”

            “Practice makes perfect. So what do you want to tell me, sir?”

            “It’s about your dueling. I wanted to suggest something. Can you enable someone to perceive a lie as truth? Moreover, can you fake your intent but do something entirely different?”

            “I have faked sincerity a few times, with one incident concerning you, actually.”

            “Really? What happened?”

            “That time you sent me to the Leaky Cauldron and followed me. A patron there said he thought he recognized you. Something about him did not seem right. I asked him who he thought he saw and he gave your full name, not including your title here. I told him he was mistaken, that you were my uncle, who often gets told he resembles you and that it bothers him. I know he tried to penetrate my mind, and I ensured he got nothing but sincerity from me. He presumed I, as a child, had to be telling the truth. He apologized and said he thought he saw an ‘old friend’ but, frankly, sir, I did not believe him, so I said nothing else.”

            “Did you get his name?” he inquired.

            “No,” Livia replied. “I considered that question too risky in terms of him doubting me.”

            “You are cautious. I must admit your discretion regarding me is admirable. If you can fake your next move or moves, you might throw Professor Flitwick off and, if you can still perceive his, you can pull off beating him. This may not pay off immediately. You will need to practice to shorten up the time you switch from what he believes will come and what you do, as if working in tandem. I also suggest you do not tip him off about this until you feel you can do it well.”

            “Makes a lot of sense,” Livia stated. “Thank you, sir. How should I practice?”

            “Maybe a mirror would help,” he suggested. “I would trespass too far on him if you tried to practice this with me. It would also cause a lot of talk here. At some point, though, I might be able to impart some information that you find helpful in many respects, but I doubt I could propose it until after your exams. I also need to know a little more about some of your nascent skills.”

            “So I should go to detention now?” Livia queried.

            “Yes,” he affirmed. “By the way, arguing with myself was rather interesting. You really have done a lot of study. I oddly enjoyed that ‘show,’ as you put it.”

            “You do seem to take more joy over being annoyed than finding anything to laugh about, sir,” Livia asserted. “Can’t say I will ever understand that, though it must provide some kind of exorcism. If it did, I take my detention gladly. Good day, sir.”

            He watched her walk away. You definitely understand it, perhaps said better than I can. That’s also why you’re so scary. Albus and I can make you even better, though.

            Livia served her time just thinking about how to execute Professor Snape’s suggestion. It was like having her mind go one way and the heart go another or working two things in her brain at once. The mirror was a good idea, so she could see if she tipped off what she did or merely what she wanted Professor Flitwick to anticipate. She could see how she could incorporate this with shifting her style, perhaps several times during a single fight or single session. He gave her plenty of food for thought, though for the time being she wanted to limit her style changes until she could master this concept and add it to things Professor Flitwick would not have previously seen. She opted to keep her own best ideas hidden until the right moment came, to maximize his surprise.

            At dinner, everyone buzzed about her Professor Snape voice. Some had heard that she mimicked voices but had never heard her do any, let alone do an impersonation of him to him. A few people she did not know well asked her to say something in his voice. She gently said “Maybe later,” owing to the fact that whoever asked usually interrupted someone else talking at her table in her vicinity. After she dropped a hint as to not being a dance monkey, the requests stopped coming, though the buzz about it went on and on.

            Shelley finally said: “Well, the cat is out of the bag now, Livia. Is the detention worth it?”

            “Definitely,” Livia replied. “I told you it would be. To me, that was fun.” She did not wish to give the entire story.

            “I cannot believe you actually twisted your face like his and stared him down like he does,” Shelley observed as others nodded in agreement. “You must have ice water running in your veins.”

            “Now we get it to see if Professor Snape dies from his own stare!” Ted exclaimed. Everyone laughed.

            “You just have to do another song,” Athena claimed. “I think the whole house would want to hear it, now.”

            “This will die down eventually and become yesterday’s news,” Livia suggested.

            “No, it will become a legend,” Ted asserted. The others nodded.

            The faculty had their own uproar over that incident, with the bulk unaware that Livia Woodcock could impersonate Professor Snape in his own class. Professor Flitwick offered his apologies and asked if he should do anything as punishment.

            “Already done, not to worry, Filius,” he acknowledged. “It will not happen again.”

            “Very unlike you not to hold a big grudge here, and I want to soften this for her, if I can.”

            “It’s over,” Professor Snape responded. “She will do her time. You need not strip her of her position or anything. I picked a fight with her and she did not back down. Sounds to me like she will be a handful to duel in the near future. Better you than me.”

            “Since when do you admit to starting a fight, Severus?” the headmaster asked.

            “I had my reasons,” he replied. When everyone else left, he was a little more truthful. “I had something to say to Miss Woodcock, and the quickest way to do it was to stage a fight. Okay?”

            “I hope it was worth it,” the headmaster told him.

            “That is up to Miss Woodcock. Goodnight, Albus.”

            At least the first Muggle Music Club meeting went agreeably well. Somehow Bill had convinced Percy to join, though he had not gotten to the level where he could take Muggle Studies. Professor Flitwick joyously welcomed another Weasley. Reggie had shown up, too. The group stood, even with the loss of Bill, at 34 members. He had an organizational dilemma, since Bill no longer would chair the event. He did not want to put Livia in the role, since she caused enough of a dust up already. He opted to put Shelley in charge, who decided she wanted her prior Winter Ball date, a tall, dirty blond, blue-eyed curly-haired Gryffindor student named Liam O’Neill, to serve as her assistant. Livia would head the playlist committee, which pleased Reggie, given that he knew she would listen to things he suggested. Since Shelley had played Livia’s role partly before the previous year’s event, they would have little problem swapping. Livia just had to know what kind of song she wanted first, since she had no idea where Shelley stood with Liam or wanted to stand with him. Given all of Livia’s access to equipment, she just had to know if the committee wanted recent songs or how far back should she go – they decided to stick with living musicians but to cover entire careers, even if they went back 15-20 years. So a funky 70s song by David Bowie had the same footing as Run-D.M.C. or Prince. This gave everyone in her committee the ability to go album hunting over the break for potential candidates.

            The rest of the semester proceeded uneventfully in terms of academics. Livia had everything well in hand whilst she worked on putting Professor Snape’s ideas with her own into practice. She used a mirror and asked Helena Ravenclaw to assess as to whether she tipped off her intent. Helena loved being helpful. Only when the calendar turned to November did Livia pronounce herself ready to try out her new approach. She did catch Professor Flitwick off-guard and, finding himself less able to read her intentions, she finally got him – and more than once that day. He was shocked. He had never seen these tactics and her ability to cover her true intentions with false moves or thoughts. He just had to know what changed her approach.

            “I don’t know how you came up with this,” he began. “I like it! But how did this happen?”

            “Don’t make this common knowledge,” Livia stated. “Remember that fight I had with Professor Snape?” He nodded. “Well, it was a ruse because he wanted to talk to me and he gave me an idea for part of what I did today. He told me to fake my intentions and practice by a mirror and not try this until I thought I had it. Other aspects of changing my style I considered over the summer. I just put those ideas together and held off showing any of it till I could do all of it.”

            “I don’t know what to say,” he responded. “Why would he do that?”

            “I think we have very similar skill sets so he figured a good part of this out,” Livia replied. “Why is a good question. He could have a number of reasons – I will not hazard a guess.”

            Professor Flitwick immediately set off for the headmaster’s office. When he entered, he reported that Livia had finally figured out how to beat him in a duel, having done it twice in a single session. “She developed some tactics in private that she never showed me until now. She may not have them down as fully as she can get, but they certainly did the job today.”

            “Twice in one day, impressive,” the headmaster acknowledged. “So you credit her entirely with this and not yourself, whether you suggested anything or even lost a step?”

            “Actually, I think Severus deserves a lot more credit than I do.”

            “Really?” the headmaster inquired. “How is that possible?”

            “Apparently, he baited Miss Woodcock into their spat in class and suggested something to her regarding faking her intentions that she developed on her own.”

            “Oh,” the headmaster recounted. “Now I understand what he said to me about having a go at her. Keep it up. She will need to continue developing as you react to what she now can do.”

            Professor Snape later was summoned to Professor Dumbledore’s office. “You wished to see me, headmaster?” he asked.

            “Yes, Severus,” the headmaster affirmed. “Today, Professor Flitwick has informed me that Livia Woodcock defeated him twice in a single session. I understand that credit for this feat belongs to you, though.”

            “Not entirely,” he answered. “She had some of her own ideas and just ran with something I suggested. I never directly assisted her, just gave her an idea. She did all the work.”

            “What exactly did you suggest, if you don’t mind me asking?”

            “I asked her how she did at lying or faking things to people,” Professor Snape disclosed. “I suggested she try sending out clues to actions he would anticipate but she never intended to take, thereby disguising what move or sequence of moves she wanted to use.”

            “Now if she can add more aggression to her misdirections, she probably could match up one-on-one against…”

            “I doubt she is ready for that,” Professor Snape observed.

            “Well, just in case, I want her prepared for anyone,” the headmaster said. “If she had to fight anyone, I would expect it to be –”

            “But she’s in prison at Azkaban,” Professor Snape stated.

            “When the dark forces arise again, she will not remain there,” the headmaster asserted. “We both know it.”

            Livia had no clue then about such things, only that the headmaster had made her dueling skills imperative. Initially, she found herself taken off-guard when a tall, dark-haired lanky Fifth Year Slytherin with light brown eyes named Thor Thornton asked her to the Winter Ball, claiming that he found anyone feisty enough to spar with Professor Snape worth asking.

            The hairs on the back of Livia’s neck told her something else had prompted this.

            “You lie to me,” Livia said. “I don’t like flattery. What’s the real story?”

            He stammered. “I-I guess that’s a ‘no’ then?” Thor asked.

            “Why can’t you tell me the truth and start from there?” Livia insisted. There was something he concealed, but he had an honorable goal. It just had nothing to do with her.

            “I am not trying to disrespect you…” he began.

            “But you won’t be honest with me, will you?” she inquired.

            He broke, seeing that she wanted the truth. “Okay,” he responded. “A couple of housemates put me in a bind. They said they would give me my money back if you accepted my offer and they would pay me an additional sum if I danced with you for an hour. If I got the money, I could buy something for my little sister, Tessa, something I know she would like.” Tessa started school in France, he explained, and he wanted to give her something to remind her of home.

            “Who are these boys?” Livia demanded.

            “Their names are Loki Loth and Tim Yew.”

            “I think I know who they are. Bullies and thieves both, underweight and undersized one and the other is a huge oaf. Both scared to do their own dirty work, I would imagine. They probably scammed you for this very reason. Why do you consider them your friends?”

            “Believe it or not, they are the most innocuous Slytherins right now.”

            “Give me your hands,” Livia demanded.

            She wanted to confirm his role in the scam. She did not put anything past Slytherins having an ability to lie to her. She verified his desperation and that he had he had told her the truth.

            “Okay,” she acknowledged. “Unless you are a master at lying, I have verified your story. I do not need or want any of the money. How long do I have to be there?”

            “If we start dancing fairly quickly, shouldn’t be much more than an hour.”

            “I will do it on one condition. If your head of house asks later, tell him the whole story and that you told me the truth and I agreed. If he ever felt like punishing you for this stunt, that will guarantee that he will not do it.”

            “He doesn’t punish Slytherins,” Thor asserted.

            “And he generally recognizes that I am a Slytherin legacy,” she responded. “Did you not know that? He very likely attended school with my father.”

            “No, I did not,” he admitted. “That explains your lack of fear of him, though – even if he punishes you for it.”

            “Do not say anything about our conversation beforehand, should those two idiots hear of it and cancel their agreement.”

            The rest of the room was excited for Livia to have a Winter Ball date, though not necessarily thrilled that it came from a Slytherin. Livia opted for something nice but not terribly flashy. They all had their own dates to worry about. She told them simply that her situation was not all it appeared to be. She walked into it with her eyes open but asked them not to say anything about it until afterward.

            “Why Livia?” Shelley asked. “Is something wrong?”

            “No, more like ‘not right’, but it is not a big deal. I will tell you all later.”

            Livia lived up to her end of the bargain. Thor looked like he took the event seriously. Livia wore something appropriate, if on the sedate side. She made small talk and told him to keep his chin up and look like he enjoyed the evening. Only a very few realized Livia was acting, if they looked nice together. When she knew she had passed the hour, she finished the current dance, then bowed to Thor and left the room, telling him to go fetch his winnings just as she left. She returned straight to her room, changed her clothes, put on her headphones and wrote a letter to her brother, making arrangements to return to Durham for the upcoming break. Mel came and, upon him telling Livia he had been fed well that night and felt strong took off with the letter.

            Livia kept her headphones on till everyone returned. Only then did she turn off her music, and addressed them all.

            “That was a fake date for me,” Livia stated. “I know two Slytherins, Loki Loth and Tim Yew, will say otherwise, either now or after break, but Thor Thornton only asked me to get money back from those supposed friends of his. I helped him because they had cheated him, I believe, and they actually offered him more money than he lost if he succeeded. I knew this from the day he asked, which is why I never got very excited about the event. It was staged and I participated.”

            The others in the room were shocked, but they knew Livia could detect liars. Her behavior made sense, and the others all expressed their regret that she had missed out on perhaps landing an actual date because she had accepted Thor’s offer.

            “It hardly matters to me,” Livia said. “I have yet to come across anyone other than Bill here that I have ever taken an interest in. Of course, I don’t really try much. Hey, how about I sing as Professor Snape again?”

            They were all enthused. In fact, they had no idea how fitting singing Prince could be.  Reggie had gotten Livia interested. She loved how many new things he had added to her collection:

I never wanted to be your weekend lover
I only wanted to be some kind of friend
Baby, I could never steal you from another
It's such a shame our friendship had to end*

Fortunately, the term ended before too much gossip about Thor and his “date” made the rounds, though Livia had figured out that Thor did get his money, as promised. What she did not know concerned the fact that Thor felt rather guilt-ridden as the story started to spread around Slytherin and that he had gone to Professor Snape and confessed to the whole thing. His head of house told him to keep the money. Livia was a big girl who did not yet know about what Loki and Tim had started saying, and the issue probably would straighten itself out next term. Still, he felt like he should warn her, so he wrote her a note, telling her that he needed to speak to her and requested she return to campus the evening of Sunday, 8 January and let him know when she had returned.

            Livia found the note odd, given he practically opened himself up to another practical joke by her. She could not imagine his reason. Apparently, some members of Ravenclaw had sheltered her from the initial rumors floating around about her “date” with Thor Thornton or flat out denied that fooling her could have taken place.

            Despite the fact that Livia had not exploited the Winter Ball for her financial gain, she had spent her money wisely and had sufficient funds to buy a few presents. Not old enough to apparate to Durham, she had to land by The Sands and walk to Tom’s new home with Alice and their cat, Abby. It wasn’t too far and shrinking Livia’s things made the trip fairly easy. She did not even need a full tape to fly there. Livia found the open parts outside town very inviting, though wanted to visit certain High Street or Silver Street town stores as well as indulge her love of music.

              Tom wondered why she looked for things on vinyl as much as CDs, since to his knowledge she did not own a means to play that older format. She explained its use with old turntables the school owned for their dance. He remembered teachers holding onto the use of film strips or overhead projectors when newer devices had started becoming popular. Most people in his profession still used a pad and paper and had used nothing more sophisticated than either a photocopier or carbon paper. He heard about many more things to come and could not wait to see when he could dump his typewriter. So if Livia wanted Run-D.M.C. on vinyl and looked for other artists there, also, he did get it, though he wondered why she could not make her stuff work. Livia explained the room size and acoustics made using her device difficult and, moreover, open to theft if it would become commonly known that she had such things. Still, she knew his point had merit and started pondering if somehow they could use it in the future.

            Alice had begun researching where she might qualify for advanced training or advanced study. It depended upon whether she saw herself more as an archivist or a historian. She liked the former but really wanted the latter, which took more to achieve. She made inquiries at Durham University and got some contacts in both Manchester and Newcastle to check out. The latter would work much better logistically, though her relatives wanted her to explore more prestigious options. First, though, came Tom settling in fully, which seemed to be going well.

            Christmas Eve included a nice get together featuring many of the couples Tom and Alice knew – Audrey and Jake, Gary and Penny, Adam and Linda, John and Lesley. Tom’s father called and Cathy showed up with a new vet at her rescue, who Gary liked to call Doc Dick (a play on his name being Richard, a suggestion he did not seem to mind). Since both Doc and Gary liked Abby a great deal, they had developed a mutual respect that produced a lot of humor at each other’s expense. Alice even asserted to Doc and Cathy that she thought Gary visited more owing to Abby. That is, the cat nobody had wanted became the cat everyone wanted. Abby, in turn, had begun to feel more relaxed in her home with a lot of people. It did not hurt that Livia had her own room and Abby could escape there whenever she preferred a nap to a boisterous mass of people.

            Sometimes, at events liked this, Livia wondered what it would be like to have someone with her – boyfriend or not. She knew she would never be like them fully and never even hinted that she would have liked it if anyone brought someone to meet her. It seemed a non-starter, since she had never been wholly authentic there. She mostly was, but she lived two lives in two worlds. She belonged more in one, but lacked a real family there. Where she seemed to have some family, she never could entirely belong. Yet she hoped she could share both with someone, still.

            The New Year’s celebration went pretty much the same way, though Tom had vowed to her that, given his recent accomplishments with Fitzer, Robinson and Hubbard, he would be scheduling a formal hearing before the Framlingham Town Council during her spring break to finally get that formal apology from them. Cathy even updated her own affidavit regarding the matter, testifying to her own profound remorse at participating on what became a complete miscarriage of justice. She planned on attending, too, even if she had to change her work schedule to do it. With any luck, the rest of her family would not really know. Rev. Woodcock’s job was to ensure his wife’s ignorance of it as well as Lydia’s.

            The holiday had passed well and Livia almost did not want to leave, but she knew better than to question whatever Professor Snape had on his mind. Inviting her was way too unlike him, knowing what she had done in the past. Given what his sparring with her actually had involved, she had to trust that he had something important to discuss.

            So she made her excuses, shrank her other belongings and re-sized her broom once she got to The Sands. She left late on Sunday afternoon, 8 January, telling Tom something pressing had come up and she did not know the details, only that the headmaster requested that he see her. She knew he basically liked the mysterious older man, so using him as a blanket story made sense.

            She got back around eight herself, composed a note and called for Sevy to take a note to Professor Snape (which she knew Sevy would only be too happy to deliver). She went back to “Purple Rain” and attempted to try Prince’s voice, which over recent weeks had grown on her. This time, with no headphones needed, she totally lost herself in the song when she thought she missed the first knocking at her door. The rapping started anew, she thought, so she turned down the sound and opened the door to find Professor Snape again standing outside of it. “Sorry, sir, I guess I did not hear you at first, as I got wrapped up,” she apologized.

            “Who is that?” he asked.

            “His full name is Prince Rogers Nelson but he goes by Prince. The Hufflepuff student Reggie really got me hooked into listening to him.”

            “I need to tell you something, but I prefer it not to be here. Take my sleeve.”

            Slowly, Livia recognized the room. It was his. “Gee, I do not know if I am ready for a singing birthday card yet. I don’t have my music with me.”

            “Save it – I have something serious on my mind,” he stated. “That Winter Ball date you had...”

            “Bogus, it was,” she admitted.

            “I know,” he acknowledged. “Thor Thornton suddenly had an attack of a guilty conscience, as un-Slytherin-like that it is. He told me the whole story. Why did you agree to it?”

            “He finally told me the truth about his so-called friends taking his money and having only one means to get it back and extract something from the two who set him up. I verified his story, so I played along. It meant buying a gift for his sister who’s at another school versus being broke.”

            “Kind of you, but this is not over,” Professor Snape recounted.

            “What do you mean?” Livia asked.

            “Those two have already spread it in Slytherin how they bamboozled you, and I am sure they intend on trying to make you the laughingstock of the whole school next term,” he answered. “Do you want me to punish them?”

            “You never punish your own,” Livia asserted. “How is that supposed to work?”

            “Well, the headmaster could do it,” he suggested.

            “Nah, that likely won’t work. They’d wonder how he found out. Let me take care of it. I dare those two to say anything to my face. You will probably consider reprimanding me when I get through with them. I do not suffer fools lightly and, frankly, I might relish the opportunity more than you might suspect. You can warn them after that: 1) you know the whole story; and 2) they should not mess with a Slytherin legacy whose powers they have grossly misjudged.”

            “You have something in mind, I take it?”

            “Something I wish I had done to Lydia years ago, if I could have gotten away with it.” She paused. “Thank you for telling me so I can be in full control when I pull this off. I have to look up a few things and maybe practice, but I’ll be ready. If you happen to see me, you will think I am not in control – and that will be quite intentional.” She paused again but once more he said nothing. “So how should I wish you a Happy Birthday this year, sir? You get your last year of being in your twenties.”

            “I rather you did not remind me,” he observed.

            “One of these days, I’m going to get you to laugh,” she said. She realized no sound carried from his room, she materialized a tape and her Walkman and amplified the volume. “How ‘bout this?” She started dancing and singing around him shamelessly, trying to get even get a toe tap from him to Devo’s “Whip It.” “C’mon sir, it’s fun,” she urged.

            If Albus only saw this. He would know why I think she’s got a screw loose. He said nothing and did not move, though he followed her with his eyes.

          “I thought you would at least like the idea of whipping students you don’t like,” she added. “Can’t seem to find the right thing, but I will keep trying.” She sent the tape player and tape back to her room. “Try to be good to yourself tomorrow. Happy birthday and goodnight, sir.”

            “Just take my sleeve again, in case Mr. Filch is around,” he stated. Once returned to her room, he only said “Goodnight, Miss Woodcock” in his usual deadpan voice. When he returned, he wryly smiled. It was a good try.

* Author's Note

"Purple Rain" is the title track song from the 1984 released album that served as the soundtrack to the 1984 film. The group recorded the song, written by Prince and produced by his ensemble, live at a concert in Minneapolis, MN, at the First Avenue nightclub that served as the film's setting.

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