Note: this is a chapter containing some profane language.    

       Within a few days, Livia had gotten word to her brother and obtained additional supplies. She had also spent time in the library. Her friends also found their way back to the room and again expressed surprise to see her. She explained that she knew what was going around Slytherin about her and wondered if they had heard of it. A few had. She told them she would take care of this.

            “Shouldn’t that be the headmaster’s job?” Athena asked.

            “Really, it should be Professor Snape’s job, but he won’t do anything,” Ted replied.

            “I won’t let them off the hook and no one will, um, mess with me again,” Livia stated. Most of the others knew she wanted to say something else and realized she would deal harshly with those students if she ran across those two spreading that story about the Winter Ball, even though no Ravenclaw student believed it.

            The faculty came to know about it, but the consensus that emerged was to let Miss Woodcock deal with the issue herself, for the time being, unless she did anything too outrageous. Professor Snape frankly stated he wanted to see how she handled the matter, given it provided her with a unique challenge – and they would see how she responded. Meantime, the term began and each laid out their plans and ensured the classes had ample information to get started well.

            Oddly enough, Livia received a note from Bill Weasley, the Head Boy of Gryffindor. He said he heard the story some Slytherins were spreading and asked if she was all right. He asked her if she needed his help to shut down the two responsible for it, though secretly he chastised himself for letting her go and exposing her to this incident. She wrote him back and thanked him for his concern, but if Professor Snape did not intimidate her, neither would Loki nor Tim. She basically told him “I got this,” which made him happy to read. He hoped that she meant it.

            Towards the end of January, a notable thaw had occurred, a brief respite when the weather became unseasonably temperate.  Livia had exited a side door looking to head away towards the grounds. Loki and Tim followed her, taking this as their opportunity to gloat and try to get Livia Woodcock’s goat, essentially taunt her on how they put one over on her with Thor’s fake date.

            “Funny, since the only ones who lost money in the deal were you,” she noted, locating her wand. “Never occurred to you dopes that nothing pleased me more than you having to fork over your money to Thor – more than even you took from him.” She made a silent command.

            “Nice try, but the only fool is you,” Tim asserted. “You fell for a lie. We set you up.”

            “Listen, you rat-faced, flea-bitten dumbasses, even Professor Snape knows what you did, and I knew way before him,” she stated very forcefully. “Ask Thornton yourselves the next time you actually can speak, you putrid, filthy creatures. And if you bother me again, I will turn you permanently into the little turds that you are, you miserable –”

            Just then Professor Snape approached the scene. Though Livia had hardly moved her wand, he saw two donkeys with rat heads scratching from fleas though still wearing Slytherin gowns.

            “Miss Woodcock, watch your language.” He had some idea where she would go with the end of that statement. He surveyed his two students. “Looks like revenge sure is a cold dish,” he remarked. “I think you two better try to clean yourselves of your fleas and hope that the rest of you comes back.” The two galloped back inside the school to find a means to bathe.

            “You are aware that you crossed a big line already,” he maintained, after they fled.

            “You mean cursing them dumbasses?” she asked.

            “Since they likely lacked a voice and most of them looked like robed donkeys, they could be called dumb asses, but that was not quite your entire intent, was it?”

            “If I had five more minutes, I would have ripped the –”

            “Language, Miss Woodcock,” he repeated. “I have not seen this side of you before.”

            “Sometimes, I think I should call ‘em as I see ‘em,” she said. “Do you really think with a name like Woodcock, I should remain completely unable to know how to do that?”

            “Hmm – fair point,” he noted. “I barely saw you move your wand. How long will they remain rat-faced, flea-bitten dumb asses?”

            “Rest of the day, sir. They might have to try to sleep that way, but they should return to their normal, snotty selves the next day.”

            “I will see them then. So you plan on them going to dinner that way?”

            “If they want to eat,” Livia assented.

            The whole school saw them at dinner, eating but unable to speak, scratching themselves and unable to sit like other students, given their hind ends and hooves. They needed others to help them eat, given their inability to hold any kind of utensil. Everyone had a good laugh about it, even other Slytherins. Thor had told them to be quiet, not realizing Livia would force it on them. Every table seemed to know that she cursed them out and turned them into “rat-faced, flea-bitten dumbasses.” Bill got her attention and raised his cup as a toast to her, which his brothers and few other Gryffindor students joined him in doing. Various members of Hufflepuff also congratulated her, including Reggie, Clara and a few of their friends she did not fully know then.

            Those seated by Livia at the Ravenclaw table barely could stop laughing enough to eat adequately. They all congratulated her and said, no matter how punished, having done that more than compensated for whatever happened therafter. Shelley confessed to never having seen anything like it in her life but expressed concern over what Professor Snape would do to her.

            “Give me detention perhaps,” she asserted. “Who cares? They learned their lesson.”

            The faculty had diverging views on the subject, given that they had let Miss Woodcock deal with the issue themselves. “Since Thor confessed the whole story to me, I am taking the ‘tough love’ approach – don’t expect me to do anything,” Professor Snape stated. Some expressed surprise.  “Since I did not punish them, she did. She could easily complain that my lack of attention and the fact that they goaded her caused her to act. You talk to her, Albus, if you want to reprimand her. I wish I had done that when I was her age. She barely moved her wand and focused her anger well. They had no idea what she could do, and I will tell both of them that tomorrow.”

            “I will talk to her, but I do not know if I will punish her too much,” the headmaster admitted.

            Livia found herself called to the headmaster’s office sometime after dinner. She had no clue what he would say. She had defended herself and felt unrepentant about it. If she had to fight for respect, she would. She would never apologize for any of it, not even for calling them “dumbasses.” She had experienced enough abuse and bullying to last a lifetime – never again.

            She entered and was asked to sit down. Livia told him that she knew why she was there and professed to not care about the repercussions. They got what they deserved, and no one would ever torment her again. She had expected to find Professor Flitwick there, that they might have decided her actions unbecoming to her role as a prefect or worse. Yet other Ravenclaw prefects, outside of Rhonda Wayne, plus the Head Boy and Head Girl all spoke and wrote in her favor. In fact, a few said they would resign if he severely punished her for defending herself, including Rosalee, the Head Girl. Bill Weasley, Head Boy of Gryffindor and his brother, Charlie, a prefect, expressed similar views to their head of house and the headmaster. They all asserted that, if they had her talent and needed to defend themselves against two bullies, Loki and Tim would also have earned a similar embarrassment. They also argued that she should not have had to deal with that, but the lack of action against them by their own head of house had compelled her to act.

            “It seems you have some friends here, after all, and that my directive to you to keep a low profile did not eliminate that.”

            “What do you mean, sir?” Livia asked. “Aren’t I here for you to punish me?”

            “Only for failing to heed my directive by making those two Slytherin boys the laughingstock of the school,” he replied. “I must caution you severely to lower your profile here. As far as the incident goes, several other Ravenclaw prefects, Head Boy and Head Girl told Professor Flitwick not to punish you – with some threatening to resign if he did so.”

            “Really?” Livia inquired.

            “And both Bill and Charlie Weasley, as Gryffindor Head Boy and prefect, wrote letters of support to their head of house and myself. Seems all the student leaders I mentioned think Professor Snape’s inaction forced your hand, and those boys got their comeuppance.”

            “I told Professor Snape not to punish them,” Livia revealed. “It would be out of character for him and, if you also recall, you asked me to vow to protect his reputation. No one would understand how he could punish two of his own after we have sparred in his class.”

            “I see you identified conflicting promises,” he acknowledged. “Either you expose him or yourself. Given that, you made the right choice. And you must continue to keep your word there. I cannot tell you why it matters, but you will understand one day. You will be tempted to question him or me but think of a greater good, even though it may take a very long time to materialize. Even if other members of the faculty ever press you, say nothing about him – no matter what. Until you understand why I have asked this of you, continue this way whilst being true to yourself.”

            She was about to leave and stood up, assenting to his demand.

            “Just between you and me, I want to know how you did that,” he requested. “I found it very amusing – and complicated – but I dare not say so directly to Severus or the other faculty.”

            “Mental focus and a silent command started it, which really required little more than touching my wand,” she disclosed. “I was warned they would try that so I made myself ready.”

            “Who warned you? Someone in Ravenclaw?” he asked.

            “No,” Livia answered. “Professor Snape did it first. Again, no one else knows.”

            “I wonder if he suspects who your father is,” the headmaster mused.

            “If he has identified any candidate, he has not shared it,” Livia responded. “Speaking of relations, any information about Alice West’s family?”

            “Yes, I located a relative,” the headmaster replied. “He is a great uncle and rarely has he visited family, owing to him living in our world. He has a nice property outside Hogsmeade, on Meade Meadow Lane. He used to disguise mail through owls dropping off items in their postal system at night or using it himself. He has been reclusive since the recent death of his wife. If or when you think introductions should take place, Professor Flitwick can arrange this.”

            The two bid each other farewell and parted ways. The headmaster pondered her situation greatly. He could not easily see who she resembled among his former Slytherin students. He rarely saw anything in her that indicated a Slytherin legacy. He never saw her speak to snakes and she never mentioned any great ambition, despite being clever and resourceful. Her ideas about self-preservation seemed uneven. Her courage, fairness, individuality and intelligence placed her elsewhere, as did her loyalty and kindness. She would have succeeded in any house, though only one ideally suited her to skip a year to get close to her age group.

            The next day, Loki and Tim had indeed returned to their own bodies and Professor Snape called them along with Thor Thornton into his office. First he asked Thor to describe, honestly, what Miss Woodcock said to him the day he asked her to the Winter Ball. Thor, remembering Livia’s request, repeated it all, including that she would not cease until she got the truth out of him and said she verified it by holding both his hands. Loki and Tim seemed totally shocked. Professor Snape thus concluded that Miss Woodcock had not erred in rendering them into dumb asses and warned all three that, not only did Miss Woodcock have a Slytherin father, she happened to be a very impressive witch already and took a particularly dim view of attempts to taunt her. In short, he told them they were lucky to have escaped relatively unscathed. He could not guarantee their safety if they attempted another stunt against her, given how easily she had made Loki and Tim “rat-faced, flea-bitten dumbasses.” Next time, he said, a murder of crows or parliament of owls, all wild, might defecate on them or peck their eyes out, since they protected her.

            “Then why do you bother her?” Tim asked.

            “I am older, stronger and wiser than you,” Professor Snape answered. “Yet she does not fear me, which should tell you something about who she is or what she may become.”

            The rest of the term proceeded uneventfully for the most part. Her dueling with Professor Flitwick had uneven results, depending on her mood and focus – or his. She easily exceeded the headmaster’s goal of beating him once a week, but they did go through quite a lot of rounds. Sometimes, she still enlisted Helena Ravenclaw regarding being a better duelist, particularly asking Helena to tell her if she tips anything off visually. Helena usually liked discussing more academic subjects, which they did, but because Livia seemed so at ease with these, she assisted where Livia most needed to improve. She also had more of an idea than Livia did about what the headmaster expected of her. Helena could live through Livia’s triumphs and liked thinking that she could help Livia become a professor if not headmistress. Livia thought Helena kept such a thirst for knowledge and knowledge itself that, in a way, she became the type of mentor a female wanted from another female. Livia could confide in Helena, too, and Helena maintained that confidence because it made her feel more alive. Helena liked having a purpose, too.

            The playlist for the Muggle Music Club began to take great shape as the potential playlist expanded in various ways. Increased comfort with the dual turntables enhanced the need to have more songs. Shelley, though, still had not given Livia a straight answer about the first song. Candidates included “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones, “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin and even the Run-D.M.C/Aerosmith version of “Walk This Way,” or “Fame” by David Bowie. Shelley decided to be less obvious and go with “Walk This Way,” making Reggie very happy. Livia decided to follow it up with U2’s blues-influenced “When Love Comes to Town,” then Prince’s “Purple Rain.” then a ballad. Livia originally preferred “Little Red Corvette,” but Reggie talked her out of using it, letting her know metaphorically its meaning would create more problems than a mere “porno mag” reference, an education that Alice later affirmed. The playlist was coming together. Livia just had to make sure the records would be stored and coded properly. She realized that they did not have enough on vinyl, so she assigned buying a few records to another member of the committee, who subsequently forgot which record to buy and subsequently bought an entire back catalog over spring break, figure one had to be correct. Livia got the Bowie record and Dire Straits on vinyl herself, since she wanted “Sultans of Swing” somewhere, though she though Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” would end the night.

            Everything seemed well in hand for Livia’s spring break and she returned to Durham promptly. Tom, Alice and Abby all were glad to see her and over the course of her time there, various people they all knew dropped by for dinner or to hang out or to do some tours around the area. Everyone enjoyed walking the grounds on the Wear near the castle and cathedral as the water rushed around the old part of the city. Gary had taken on extra responsibilities at one the city’s best hotels and, as he considered a switch to a rival, he wound up with a promotion instead. Like Tom, he also contemplated buying a small property, with the goal that it would be close to his job and to wherever Tom settled. Tom’s career had taken shape, giving Alice the chance to explore her options. Contacts in Durham had arranged for Alice to meet some people at Newcastle University, given where she was and what they might offer. Because they did not quite have the traditional standing of Oxford and Cambridge, they might jump at the chance to work with her, especially if she took a social or cultural look at materials she could access. They could make truly more of a family historian, based on that. Still, any applications would wait till much later that year, if she could find the right advisor interested in what she could offer as well as do.

            Tom told Livia that he drew closer to getting an actual home to buy, perhaps not exactly where he wanted, but the size and features made it so nice that he wanted Alice to consider it seriously. He thought if they settled upon a house, at that point she could consider her own future, including theirs together. He took Livia to a jewelry shop to show her a ring he considered buying and wanted her opinion. It was an emerald-cut diamond with several baguettes and had a matching band set. Though the diamond was not particularly huge, the quality seemed quite high and all of the bands platinum. Livia thought Tom must be doing very well, but she asked him if this and a house would be too much to get at once, given that they had only recently obtained their own car. He said the rings could have their own payment schedule in terms of buying – and he need not get all three at once. Moreover, he knew Alice’s father would throw a lavish wedding, and he had to get something that they would accept as fitting, with the stone’s quality more than compensating for its somewhat modest size whilst the composition of the band would satisfy them.

            He did not know the exact timing but he guessed maybe it would come together in 2-3 years, if the current trajectory continued. Livia asked if she could give him any money, which he thought most bizarre, given her age and status. She explained it may only be £500-£1,000 but if it helped she could probably pull it off. He thanked her for such an extraordinary offer, but he felt that if he could not manage it himself, he had no business proposing to her. Besides, he was not ready yet. He had to see what a house might cost, what kind of down payment he might collect and if he could expect any raise or bonus from Fitzer, Robinson and Hubbard.

            Soon after, the day for the hearing before the Framlingham Town Council took place. Tom had supplied them with additional information, including an explanation of his father’s absence (to keep Lydia and their mother away). Tom, Alice and Livia made the trip. Cathy showed up as well as Livia’s original solicitor Mr. Wilson and Mrs. Harrison from her old school. Livia’s case got a significant boost in the fact that the dissenting judge, the well-respected Martha McDonald, now stood as a valued member of the council. She remembered Livia’s case and had maintained her suspicions about Lydia’s story. Tom presented his credentials from his Durham firm and reminded everyone of the information he had supplied. One council member confirmed that he has spoken to Rev. Woodcock on the phone, who confirmed what he opted to do instead of attending. Another councilor, also a member of St. Michael’s congregation, confirmed this account. Alice asked to make her own remarks, after briefly outlining exactly who she was and the role she had played in the last years of Livia’s life.

            The council seemed very interested to talk to Cathy, who read a prepared statement that included what she currently did, and how she attempted then to minimize her role in what happened to Livia. She told them that indiscretions as a teen had given Lydia the means to compel her to support Lydia’s account, though she intentionally tried to say so little about it that she had thought someone in addition to one judge, the present Hon. Councilwoman McDonald, would not find her support credible. She further stated that others who could have supported Livia’s account got bullied into silence, which in part explained why the Hibbert family moved. She had said she had apologized to Livia some years ago and their shared compassion for animals helped them to repair their relationship, which had dwindled to nothing whilst Livia resided at Colindale.

            Another council member took the statement and recollections of Mrs. Harrison and compared it with other inquiries of Lydia Woodcock’s career at school, noting that these all matched. Tom had additionally submitted documents from former residents in town, his now adult-aged friends Adam and John, as well as several other friends, who all testified to Livia’s caring nature, solid relationship with her brother and other upstanding qualities. Tom then requested that the town formally apologize for having wrongfully sent her to Colindale and referred to copies of medical reports also submitted as proof of the harm she had suffered there. They did not seek damages, merely a formal apology, and assurance that the case no longer existed.

            The council retired to consider the matter. Tom’s current standing held a lot of sway and they recognized his legal career emerged from this matter, so at least something positive occurred owing to the incident. Livia’s medical records from the first and last attacks proved eye opening, especially the last with the footprints on her nightgown speaking to a very vicious assault. They returned to say that, though they would send formal letters to Mr. Wilson and Mr. Woodcock, they could say that these should resolve the matter fully in favor of Miss Livia Woodcock. Thus, they all left the hearing and Livia hugged everyone who came. They all enjoyed a nice dinner with some catching up, joy and toasts of congratulations at a nearby tavern. Shortly afterward, Cathy’s boyfriend Doc, after meeting them all there, took Cathy home and Tom, Alice and Livia returned to Durham. When he got home, Tom rang his father to say simply “Mission Accomplished,” in case anyone else overheard the conversation. Alice had made and stored a red velvet cake for the occasion, too. Though tired, everyone enjoyed their sleep that night, expecting a letter from the town. The notice took several weeks and Livia had already returned to school by then, but Tom informed her that the case finally and formally had ended.

            The spring terms seemed to go very quickly, as Livia had her eye on the formal exams and made sure she had prepared well for each, including the Divinations test no one expected her to pass. Still, the headmaster suspected she would do well, since Livia made herself a good student, if she never gave it the time she had devoted to dueling. There she made strides in varying tactics and countering Professor Flitwick’s efforts to catch her misdirections. She varied by sometimes tips being accurate and sometimes not, making anticipation very random. She often did better with sequences of unanticipated moves, however. They resembled set plays with occasional variations. She had become competitive with him and the headmaster considered if he should take turns with Professor Flitwick, so he could judge her progress for himself, as well as change the nature of who she faced. Some powerful duelists just reacted and he wanted to gauge her on that ability.

            With only days before the end of the term, he and Professor Snape began discussing how she should begin formal training on her nascent Occlumency and Legilimency skills. To the headmaster’s relief, he did not object to tutoring her, but he said he did not really know where to begin because he had only a limited idea about her skills. He did not want to waste his time or hers relaying technical aspects of things she already could do. The headmaster agreed but wondered how he could discover her level of sophistication in this regard. Professor Snape had an idea, but to do it, he wanted the headmaster’s complete permission to do it. Professor Dumbledore found himself oddly taken aback, if intrigued, at his proposal. Yet he realized that, if Miss Woodcock had the powers Professor Snape suspected, the lessons might benefit both of them, as the abilities of the latter required mastery and vigilance to maintain. Because the action had obvious pitfalls, too, he made Professor Snape swear that he would tell her what she needed to know afterwards, though they agreed not to tell her until after she took her exams. After they bid each other farewell and left, the headmaster wondered how this subterfuge would work out and made sure he would check to made sure Livia knew everything about it before she left for the summer.

            Only too quickly the night of the music club dance took place, with obliging staff member Zach Hawthorne thoroughly ready to retrieve anything on the playlist or even requested, if they had it. Bill Weasley had sent a good luck note to Shelley and stopped by beforehand to briefly look everything over and speak for a few minutes with Livia, a gesture she appreciated. She considered that she might not ever see him again and wanted to remember everything about their conversation before she hugged him and said farewell. He then left to continue studying to facilitate his own graduation. Livia left to change into something more suitable, though not better than the dress she wore the prior year. It was black, lacy and clung to her tightly, with one arm and much of the opposite leg of a more transparent lace backed by a netting, not a jersey fabric like the rest. Her hair featured a large, silver butterfly-shaped marcasite clip with a tiny black and white diamond inlaid pattern.

            Promptly at eight o’clock, Shelley got everyone quiet and welcomed them to the event, their third. The attendance looked similar, probably more. She expressed the hope that her event would turn out as well as those organized by Bill Weasley and acknowledged her committee chairs, including Livia. With that, she invited her assistant Liam to the floor and the song “Walk This Way” began. When Livia took the floor, she first danced with Reggie, who thanked her for working in his suggestions and making the mix strong, educational and, above all, danceable. He just had gone to find someone else when a young man Livia did not think she had ever seen approached her. He seemed about a head taller than her, with dark hair that framed his face in waves, with the back pulled into a single band. He had dark eyes and wore a dark, fitted waistcoat. He addressed her by name and asked for the next dance, to which she agreed. She thought he looked familiar but considered the subdued lighting in the room might have distorted her view.

            She confessed to not knowing his name, and she could not pick up anything about him that gave her a clue as to his identity. He told her that his name was Christopher and that he was related to someone at the school. She felt intrigued, though perhaps it had something to do with the U2/B.B. King record. She could not detect a resemblance to any of the students. He explained the reason for that – he had no tie to any of the students. Now Livia felt totally baffled. He told her he had come in part to judge her guardedness, fairly high at school in general, which upon being told that, spiked even higher. Silently, he continued to speak. He gave me a specific task to do and already you have shown part of it – I feel that you have heightened your guard against me, which seems high, anyway. He wanted me to determine how much control you have over your emotions, how you control them and how well you can perceive things about me.

            She read little about him other than being able to sense that he said nothing entirely false. She briefly looked over towards the door and saw what looked like Professor Snape saying something to Professor Flitwick about minding his nephew for the night, then left the Hall. Livia then realized who this Christopher had for a relative, a point he confirmed. He continued speaking to Livia. You always seem on guard, anyway. Do you ever lower it much? How much control do you have over regulating it? Are there levels below what you first showed, or does it just shut off?

            Livia did not know what to say. Personally, she felt like completely shutting down or that she already had, because he knew a lot and she knew nearly nothing. I cannot read you at all and this concerns me. How is it that I draw a blank regarding anything about yourself?

            He saw that she had considered moving away from him, and he slightly tightened his grip. Don’t try to run. There are reasons why you cannot penetrate me. I am focused entirely on answering his questions right now. Frankly, the sooner I understand the answers, the sooner we can just enjoy the rest of the evening, if that suits you. I did not know what to expect when I accepted this task, and I would rather just dance with you than upset you. Okay?

            Livia answered his questions regarding her general state of alert and a higher form she takes when feeling threatened but admitted that it seemed after that she only could turn it off. A large gap existed between “off” and “on.”  Under specific circumstances, she found a higher threshold against perceived problems or anything remotely stressful, though she often found reading the intentions of people could get her to turn it off in specific situations. He asked her to lower her guard, to see what he might read from her. For good or ill, he found that she thought him attractive and intriguing, two things that might create issues later, though he had to admit his opinion matched hers entirely, which made him want to cast aside these questions quickly. He wanted to know how quickly she raised her guard, as well, and he could verify what she said by what he felt. He felt she had answered everything to his satisfaction. He gave her a few tips or exercises for better modulating her emotional control, like dials on one of her musical devices.

            Just before “Purple Rain” fully began, he had walked over to the DJ and said something to him. He walked back and told her that his uncle had said that, when he had completed his task, to do something pleasant and suggested a song to request. The only question he had concerned if the DJ could find it and when he would play it. They did not have to wait long. The DJ, Zach Hawthorne, who had become a school-wide tutor,  used a microphone to tell everyone he had a request for a song that he would play it immediately. Another student's overbuying for the collection had yielded a successful request.

            The choice was an older song Livia had sung to for a long time at Colindale called “Tiny Dancer.”* She found it feasible that Professor Snape remembered it but felt surprised that he would suggest playing it. I understand that you know this very well. Sing it in my ear quietly, since I do not know the words. He had guaranteed that she had to be very close to him to do that. She found it rather surprising the tug she felt to get that close to him, particularly near the chorus:

But oh how it feels so real
Lying here with no one near
Only you and you can hear me
When I say softly, slowly

Having gotten closer, she recognized his resemblance to Professor Snape as well as his tremendous grace. He seemed to know how to talk to her and make her feel at ease after an awkward, rattling conversation. He had a bright smile and seemed to enjoy their interaction. She thought he had to be about her age but wanted to know more. He told her his full name: Christopher Prince. His father had been a cousin to the professor’s mother, so technically Professor Snape was not his uncle. Given the age difference, resemblance and that Professor Snape tutored him, owing to the late emergence of his own gifts, calling him “Uncle Severus” made sense. At 11, he could not enter the school. It seemed a great arrangement to receive private lessons from him than go elsewhere. Livia found the explanation credible but had stopped doggedly trying to evaluate his sincerity. She got lost in him, totally smitten. Bill Weasley had not been “her type,” but Christopher was. She could not have drawn him up much better. Still, how did I miss the similarity? Did that factor in her attraction? What a strange thought, she pondered. She rarely considered Professor Snape a male exactly, given his age and position.

            Both of them stayed together the rest of the evening. Shelley found herself slightly jealous that this mysterious young man had made such an impression on Livia, though Liam had kept her quite entertained that night. Other than a few looks from various people she knew, no one bothered them. Professor Flitwick saw no reason to say anything about it, though he did watch them at times, given what Professor Snape had said to him.

            Christopher had no problem with changing tempos or really anything, though playing “Take My Breath Away” seemed a little too poignant for either of them, though neither showed any discomfort to the other, probably because he had put his face over her shoulder and she had put her head onto his shoulder sideways. Every now and again she tried to understand something about him but could not perceive very much. Professor Snape must have taught him well regarding things he intended to teach her about masking herself that lay beyond her own nascent skills. She had never met another person her own age who could pull off what she did, not to mention surpass it. He must have advanced very quickly. Still, he seemed more a blank than blocking her.

            Finally, came that “Last Dance,” and he seemed entirely comfortable with such an upbeat, if suggestive, tune. He seemed rather agile but disciplined in leading her. She could even spin her off her feet and ensure she landed appropriately. Everyone clapped and seemed ecstatic that the night ended on such a good note. Livia felt unsure if she should bid Christopher good night from the Great Hall or not. She finally sensed something from him – an unease related to Professor Snape. She surmised that he needed to mind his behavior, since his favor did not include treating her like his date. Still, she walked out with him as various staff, including Hawthorne the DJ, took responsibility for clearing the Great Hall. He seemed to be heading back towards Professor Snape’s quarters and she volunteered to accompany him at least as far as she could go. She somehow did not expect that Christopher had the means to get there so easily and seemed unconcerned that she had followed him to his uncle’s door.

            He bowed to her and wished her a good night when she pulled him towards her. She gave him a big hug and he returned it, if a little carefully, especially at first, as if he feared Professor Snape would hear him and open the door at any moment. She took the matter into her own hands quickly. She kissed him, tenderly, but not for an extremely long time, shorter than the first kiss Bill Weasley had given her. He looked shocked.

            “Why did you do that?” he asked.

            “Because I knew you wouldn’t,” she answered. “Most everyone fears your uncle. I don’t.”

            Just then the door to his uncle’s room opened, he whispered goodnight and went inside. Livia returned to her quarters. Everyone there had plenty of questions concerning the young man she had danced with almost the entire evening. She did not know how much to say. She told them his name was Christopher, he attended a different school but had a relative there who had suggested attending the dance with him. Silently, she told Shelley to back her up on whatever she said and she would try to explain later. Shelley affirmed that he had a distant connection to Liam O’Neill, which everyone accepted. Later on, Liam agreed to assent to whatever Shelley said as a favor to her. At that point, though, Shelley took Livia aside and begged to know the real story.

            Livia silently told her she would not believe it. The young man actually had a job to perform for Professor Snape and that he tutored the young man who called him his uncle, though their relationship did not quite match that, being a little too far removed. She wondered if he felt somewhat bad about that whole Thor Thornton incident though he also got answers to his own questions, should she take on advanced studies with him the following year. Christopher ultimately showed that Livia was not the unemotional nobody that Professor Snape’s house members tried to make her out to be. Shelley found the whole incident that evening strange. She did not understand why Livia hid this tie, either.

            Livia posited that she did not entirely get the motives, either, except to say that Christopher decided to stay of his own accord and not at Professor Snape’s request. That is, he made his own choice once he had ascertained what he needed to find out. Shelley seemed to find that acceptable, given that young men might have their own desires or agenda. In her mind, he seemed to totally enjoy himself, almost as much as Bill Weasley appeared to do the previous year. Livia did not know what to make of that comparison, given Bill had started out as a willing accomplice, although at some point he had become something else entirely.

            The next day Livia had returned to full-on exam study mode and felt extremely focused towards what she had to do. She had no luxury of time to dwell on Christopher Prince. She was surprised to receive a letter addressed to her that afternoon. It came from Professor Snape, requesting that she see him as soon as she took her last O.W.L. exam. He needed to speak to her. She presumed he would reprimand her.

            Livia’s exams went very well, receiving perfect marks in Potions, Care of Magical Creatures, Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts and Muggle Studies. Her History of Magic, Herbology and Transfigurations exams all rated as easily Outstanding, though not flawless. Most surprisingly, she clearly earned Exceeds Expectations, and nearly Outstanding, on her Divination exam, though she never attended a single class. She could teach herself still and bypassing her Second Year did not represent a fluke. Her error in the history class seemed minor to her and she thought the Transfiguration grading represented a matter of taste, hers not fully agreeing with Professor McGonagall. Livia thought it a trivial issue, rather than a substantive one. Livia preferred pleasing herself first and most of the faculty knew she had some non-conformist ideas that she kept to herself, not unlike her Patronus. She now had a bobcat animagus she liked, too, but did not feel it made sense for Scotland. She knew she had to alter it but she had not chosen a form.

            The headmaster asked to see her also before she left, but Livia felt she should honor Professor Snape’s request first, since he had sent it first. She arranged to see him at his faculty office. When the door opened and she entered she appeared shocked that Christopher Prince had let her inside the door.

            Just sit here for a few minutes, he said. She had no idea what awaited her until before her eyes Christopher Prince no longer sat before her. She instead saw Professor Snape. She put her hand over her mouth and her eyes grew very wide. She did not see this coming – at all.

            “I must explain this to you,” he stated. “I did not intend to trick you. I wanted to find an objective means to assess what you knew about emotional control, since it relates to what we call Occlumency, or thought concealment, and through it Legilimency, the ability to penetrate the mind of others. Let me show you this…” He pulled a parchment with two sets of handwriting, one she knew as his and the other, probably younger, but possessing some similarity. “This is how I know what happened. I basically used a potion to alter myself to appear to be someone else. I had to take a lot of it, I rightly believed, so that you could not detect my identity. You are very good at that typically. I know you tried and extracted a few small things.”

            “But I saw you that night talking with Professor Flitwick,” she said.

            “That was a misdirection of mine having transformed another object into impersonating me,” he said. “That figure did not stay long or say much, just enough to convince people that I had made a brief appearance. Because I took an ample amount of what I made, I did not really recall what happened, which I anticipated with these questions and answers. Have I upset you?”

            “Some,” Livia admitted. She dare not say how much. If he did not know that she had kissed him, she sure did not want to tell him. “I am very disappointed that I did not meet your nephew – that he does not really exist. I am glad, sir, that you did not tell me this until after my exams, though.”

            “I realized that this could create a problem, and I regret if it has,” he stated. “I would like to work with you next year so that your skills more closely match mine in the areas I have mentioned, which should also enhance your dueling abilities. Will this episode create an obstacle?”

            “I suppose not,” she replied. “I will need the summer to digest this.”

            “I will try to answer questions about your parentage – would that help if I did?” he asked.

            “That should – yes,” she answered.

            “Would it be too much to impose on you to assist me again with my inventory?” he asked.

            “No,” Livia recounted. “I could probably do that in my sleep by now.”

            “I rather you not be asleep given what I will need to have made,” he asserted.  “If you wind up coming on the 28th, I will try my best not to annoy you.”

            “Okay,” Livia agreed. “I guess I know why the headmaster wants to see me now.”

            “Yes,” he affirmed. “He allowed my attempt to understand your skills better, but I do not know what he wants to ask you about it – probably he wants to ensure that I told you.”

            Livia then went to see the headmaster, who just had given out instructions regarding the upcoming graduation ceremony. He put aside a few things, warmly greeted her and asked her to sit. Livia told him that she knew why he asked to see her. He seemed relieved to know that Professor Snape had kept his word.

            “So he told you, did he?” the headmaster inquired. “I did not know entirely if he needed to do that, but I agreed, so long as he told you about it and did not upset you before your exams. And by the way, your exams are most accomplished. Congratulations.”

            “He told me after the exams,” Livia responded. “And thank you, sir.”

            “I thought he should tread very carefully, though I think he proved to you how much more you can learn and develop regarding skills you have acquired on your own. Once trained, you should have ever greater advantages over others, and I mean against adults, not against children who usually do not or cannot disguise their feelings, especially from you.”

            “Yes, he did prove that by making me think a young man could be as skilled as himself,” Livia stated.

            “Did he hurt you? That was what worried me.”

            “The only thing that hurts me is the fact that Christopher Prince was not an actual person that I met,” she disclosed.

            “Hmm.” He paused. “I am not sure if I should tell you this, but I know you kept quiet about Christopher’s identity and got Miss Silver to ensure that everyone bought your story. I think you have the right to know this and will keep it to yourself. Actually, you have met the real person.”

            “What?” Livia asked. “I am not following you.”

            “You have met that person – it’s just that his name is Severus Snape, not Christopher Prince.”

            “Wait – are you pranking me?” Livia inquired.

            “No,” the headmaster replied. “Who you met is the person Severus might have been, had he been sorted differently, for one. I think the best way to explain this is that you met him as a blank slate – benefiting from the wisdom he gained in life without experiencing any of the grief or struggle that accompanied it. He could forget his own past yet have insight from it. That’s why you could not read him. You met essentially an idealized form of himself, but he was still there.”

            “You mean he remembers everything that happened that night?”

            “I believe he does – though he may not want you to know that,” the headmaster admitted. “I think you should know. You will still maintain your silence, regardless. He is more vulnerable than anyone here would guess, in more ways than one. But I think you have realized that.”

            “I have,” Livia affirmed. “I have known for a while. He protects himself well owing to it.”

            “And you have protected him and yourself from the slightest sign of it. I appreciate your sensibility and your discretion.” The bid each other farewell and Livia headed back to Ravenclaw.

            Livia bid the rest of her room goodbye from the room. She had to travel to Durham, which made the train unnecessary to use. She packed up what she needed to take home, shrank it to fit well and be easy to transport and took off for Durham early in July, already with something in mind to get her brother in town before she showed up at his door. She had plenty to think about, but decided that, for the time being, she would bury herself in some music instead. That she kissed Professor Snape, and he knew it, would not be an easy or quick thing for her to handle. She knew why he would not admit to remembering it. She could not do that. Still, what should she do?

  * Author's Note

The song "Tiny Dancer" features lyrics by Bernie Taupin with music by Elton John. It appears on the 1971 album "Madman Across the Water" though also was released as a single in 1972, the year of Livia's birth. The character developed a close affinity to that particular song.

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