Villain of the Piece
Part 3 Waiting Games
- Chapter 46 -
9th January to
Nineteen-eighty-two was destined not to be turbulent, and yet not to be exactly tranquil. Slytherin won the mid-January Quidditch match against Ravenclaw and Nymphadora Tonks was caught arguing about it with Doon Pilliwickle. Severus could hear them scuffling in the corridor before the start of Monday afternoon’s Potions lesson.
“What is all this?” he asked, flinging open the door.
“Nothing, Professor” both girls said simultaneously, and behind them the queue of students quietened.
He looked from one to the other. “Well for your part in this nothing you lose ten house points” he said to Tonks, “And for yours, Miss Pilliwickle, detention I think.”
“Oh, but sir–”
“But me no buts, Miss Pilliwickle. My office, , Friday evening.”
“Maybe he wants to get you on your own.”
“Oh, yeah! Didn’t think of that.”
“Keep your minds on your cauldrons” Severus called warningly to the whole class and the room fell silent at once.
“Sit down” Severus said, noting the sore eyebrow. “Witches and wizards do not find it easy” he continued, “To use magic upon themselves. Hence the usefulness of potions and the foolhardiness of cosmetic auto-charms. You, Miss Pilliwickle, amateurish though your may be with a wand, are quite good at potions.”
“So’s my mum, sir”
“I am therefore considering” he continued, as if
“Yes, sir – no, sir – three bags full, sir. You’re all sweetness and light now” he snapped. “Well, let me tell you, young lady, that you will have to work if you want a chance of getting that prize. You will have to work hard, and you will have to be inventive. So get thinking! And you can use this hour to practice that Draught of Peace you made a mess of on Monday.”
“What? Now, sir?”
“Yes, now, sir! What did you think you’d be doing this evening?” he asked acidly. “Writing lines? You’re going to make profitable use of this time – that’s why you’re here. Get yourself into the classroom and get cracking!”
Although Severus was pleased that he had set Doon Pilliwickle on the path to getting the Potions Award, he felt rather guilty about denying Tonks the opportunity of trying for it. She, too, was good at Potions, and she was in many respects an extremely gifted witch. It was said that she could change her hair colour, magically, when she was only a second-year student.
“She’s a Metamorphmagus” Minerva said proudly, as they sat in the staff room on a sleety Sunday afternoon. “We guessed as much from the start, but it was clear by the time she turned twelve.”
“That’s very rare, isn’t it” Ted Kettleburn said. “Will she be an Animagus as well?”
“I don’t think so” Minerva replied. “I don’t know of anyone being both.”
“I wish I was an Animagus” Ted said. “I’d really love to be a unicorn.”
“You couldn’t be” Filius insisted. “No human transforms into a magical animal. The nearest you could be is a horse.”
“No, that’s not true” Wilbert piped up. “There was a German wizard family who were Erklings.”
“No, Wilbert” Minerva replied, shaking her head very definitely. “There never was. Not really. It’s just a myth…”
The debate continued, and Severus sat and listened, pretending to be immersed in re-reading an old NEWT textbook about amulets. He wondered who was right. He didn’t know of anyone who could transform into a magical animal. And he didn’t know of any other Metamorphmagi. It made pretty Nymphadora very special indeed.
As the winter dragged on Severus fell into despair almost without
realising it. He worked hard to coach
I need more time to myself, he decided, and he took to visiting the teachers’ roof garden, mainly on snowy, chilly days when he knew no one else would be there.
And that was where
“Severus, are you orright?” she asked.
He pulled himself together quickly. “Of course” he said. “Just reading.”
“At ? In the dark? You haven’t looked at that book for hours.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve been watching you, on and off, from my tower.”
“I’m alright. Just leave me alone.”
“You’ve been here a lot, lately, all on your own” she said. “I see you when I’m teaching. I don’t think these vigils are doing you much good.”
“Your concern is most touching.”
“Let’s go in, eh, and sit by the fire.”
“By the fire? It isn’t cold out here–”
“I think for once, Severus” a familiar voice cut in, “You would do well to take some friendly advice.”
It was Dumbledore.
He was looking kindly but resolutely at Severus. “Let’s get him inside” he said to
“I’m not an invalid” Severus protested.
But it was no use. Supported by Dumbledore on one side and Aurora on the other he was escorted to his room. A fire blazed in the sitting room hearth and Jotto was making tea and toast. He had also placed warming pans in the bed.
“I’ll be back to see you in the morning!” Dumbledore said
sternly, once a sufficient quantity of toast had been consumed. “Come along,
“What condition?” Severus asked angrily, as Jotto warmed his nightshirt and turned down the bedclothes.
“Professor Sinistra say you is ill, sir” Jotto said. “You has the winter sadness. You sits too often in the cold and the dark, all alone.”
“Oh, really? Do I?” Severus grumbled. “Professor Sinistra takes a lot upon herself!”
“Professor Sinistra very fond of you, sir” Jotto said softly. “She tell Dumbledore you is not well. You is not to be neglected. She very kind person, sir.”
“She’s an interfering little minx” Severus murmured. “What time is it?”
“Ten past one, sir.”
“Call me at nine. I’ll go up late for breakfast.”
“I’ll serve your breakfast here, sir. Dumbledore’s orders.”
“How do you feel this morning?”
“Puzzled” he said.
“Puzzled to know why you have a pair of jodhpurs over your arm and are busy poking around in my wardrobe. Puzzled to know why you are in my bedroom at all.”
“Cut de crap and tell me how you really feel.”
He sighed. There was
no getting away from it so he thought about it for a moment as
“Everything I have to do is simple” he said. “Get the brats through each lesson, get Pilliwickle good enough for St Mungo’s, make sure no one hurts anyone, take a few house points here and there, and sit back and enjoy the Quidditch final – it’ll be our year again, I’m sure.”
“And I can’t seem to keep my mind on any of it” he said desperately. “My mind is like a demented butterfly. It’s flitting from flower to flower and not stopping long enough to gather nectar. I can’t settle to anything. I can’t focus on anything.”
“I know how that feels.”
“It shouldn’t matter how it feels!”
“You think you can turn off your feelings?” she scoffed. “You think you can shut them down? You might be able to screen them from prying eyes, but you cannot switch them off. If you could, you would be a machine, not a human.”
“So what exactly do you propose to do with me?”
“Do what I do when things get too much … So get ready” she added, grinning. “You are going on a very long broom ride, when I have got these jodhpurs to the right length and found you a nice riding coat.”
“And what if I refuse?”
Dumbledore’s orders. Anyway –
aren’t you going to the theatre with
“Yes. What of it?”
“You want to be fit for it, don’t you?”
“I’m not ill.”
“No? Okay. So you are turning me down. I thought you were longing to go out with me.”
“Well, that’s as may be” he said, fighting back a smile, “But I don’t need you to dress me for the occasion.”
“You need warm clothes” she insisted. “Muggle if possible – a coat, not a cloak; old boots that you don’t mind getting messed up; and these jodhpurs because they have a cushioning charm.” She grabbed an old pair of his trousers and added “Be ready in half an hour. I’ll send these back by elf.”
The sky was clear when they set off; a soft grey-blue, and
the sun was almost warm on their backs.
They flew due west,
“The coast!” she yelled, after they had been travelling for sometime.
“We’re not going down there!”
“Nah! Too many Muggles.”
She turned north and they flew for ages over a land of a
myriad inlets and little islands. Larger
islands loomed to their left but
“What are we looking for?” Severus yelled, trying to hear himself above the roar of wind in his ears.
“Beach? They’ll be no beaches here. It’s all bare rock!”
He clung on grimly, pulling forward a little to ride alongside her, and very glad of the padded jodhpurs because his backside was beginning to tell him that he was sitting on a knife blade. The land below them was bleak and barren – poor-looking pasture and heather, a vista of yellow-green and brown, and craggy rocks, bare mountain tops and clumps of Scots pine. And towards the sea, west and north? North? Was that the end?
“Is that the edge?” he called out. “Have we come to the corner?”
She swung left into a graceful arc, a gentle curving dive
like a slide down a spiral staircase.
Severus felt as if he’d left his stomach behind as he copied her descent. I must not be sick, he told himself
firmly. And then he saw what
“Well, what do you think?” she said.
It was beautiful, and he said so. The sand was firm and clean, almost white,
the sea boisterous but blue. There was
not a human to be seen; not a road, not a car, not a cottage. It was cut off and totally unspoiled. They shouldered their brooms and began to
walk, the piping of kittiwakes in their ears.
“I never have yet.”
“How did you find this place?”
“By flying. By searching” she said. “I fly when I want to clear my head. When my mind needs unpacking. You walk around the school – I fly.”
“You’ve got a very good broom.”
It was a Kaltenschtick Max; the name gleamed silver on the black ash handle. They walked on for a while, not speaking – not needing words.
“Did you enjoy the flight?” she asked at last.
“It was exhausting.”
“You’ll get better. Stronger. You need more practice – increase your endurance.”
“I always Apparate.”
“It’s too instant. Flying gives you this – this peace” she explained, struggling for the word. “Anyway it’s good to be strong – good at everything. Apparating … flying … more than one string to the bow.”
“Is that your mantra? I suppose you’ve had to be adaptable.”
She didn’t answer and he realised she didn’t want to
talk. They walked on, enjoying the sound
of the sea and the gulls, the feel of the sand, and the simple beauty of an
unspoilt landscape. When the beach
finally ran out Severus suggested pressing on.
He had an idea that he would like to see
“We’ll have to fly to the cliff top then. It looks too steep to climb.”
She was right, but once they had got up onto the hills they
could walk once again. By the time they
got to the
“This is the highest cliffs in
“Are those puffins?”
“Very nice … Do your plans include feeding us?” he asked. “Or are you expecting me to catch a deer and poach it?”
“Blaymore” she said simply. “Hope your backside’s recovered because you’ve got a bit more flying to do.”
“Would you like to examine it?”
“No, I’ll take your word for it.”
They set off again, more or less doubling back on their tracks, flying beyond the south end of the beach and on across the hills beyond. In a tight fold of a valley they came across a road. And beside that road was a cottage.
“That’s just a cottage,
“That Crawford’s! That’s lunch. I show you where we can hide our brooms.”
Landing behind gorse bushes they stowed their brooms in the thick of them.
“Leave the ordering to me”
Crawford’s cottage was not just a cottage, as Severus
“What’ll ye have?” Crawford asked, weaving his way back through the tables.
“Koolin Rouge. And a half of–”
“Cannay gettit, mam. Nay Koolin. No’ since the distillery fire.”
“But it’s beer–”
“Aye, but the distillery was a depot for it. It’s no’ made round these parts. Nay Koolin, nay Glenverrits. No’ till Whitsuntide, mebbee.”
“Aye” he said, nodding his head.
“Aye … Will yer, be eatin’?”
We most certainly will, Severus said to himself as he looked down the menu. Fresh salmon, fresh haddock, Old Smokies, Crawford’s Sunday-Best Breakfast…
“What’s Crawford’s Sunday-Best?”
“Four eggs, scrambled, with diced bacon and smoked salmon” Crawford said, as he pushed a very dark pint of beer in Severus’s direction.
“And Old Smokies?”
“Oak-smoked kipper … That’ll be one pound thirty for the drinks.”
“My shout” Severus murmured, diving for his moneybag. “This is my party today. And no arguments.”
They took the table in the window, keeping clear of the Muggles at the bar.
“Don’t drink that too fast”
“It’s beautiful” Severus said. “What are you going to have to eat?”
“Finnan haddock I think.”
They took their time over their meal and sat in armchairs
afterwards, beside the fire. Muggle
customers clumped in an out in boots and
“It’s here then – the tourist season.”
Severus gave them a wary look. “Yes I suppose we do mark the start of the tourist
season” he said to
“Hill walkers do” she said. “But there are few cars, even in summer. That’s why I like it. Crawford lets out his spare room in the summer. I bet every guest he has, has a backpack rather than a suitcase.”
“Do you ever stay here?”
“No, I have … other places to go.”
“Did you see that house we flew over on the way up? The house with the Quidditch pitch?”
“Yes, that’s Ravens Craig. That’s Septima’s family’s old place.”
“Who lives there now?”
“A family by the name of Umbridge.”
When they eventually set off it was well into the afternoon.
“The weather’s changing”
The wind was rising, and in the south west the sky was darker.
“Are we taking the same route back?”
“No. We’ll cut across. Follow me.”
She flew like an arrow, south and a little east, across lakes, and around mountain tops but more usually straight over them. Time passed and the sky slightly to their right darkened further. It was impossible not to keep watching it, checking it. The darkness was congealing, becoming more concentrated. Sunlight shone towards them, bending around a gloomy, forward-marching mass.
“It’s coming towards us, Aurora. It’s catching us.”
“Let’s dismount and Dissapparate.”
“No! That’s giving in. Jut race it.”
Minutes passed and the ominous mass was closer. The town by the estuary with the elbow bend was coming into view, and the black thundercloud was marching up the estuary towards it, seeming tethered to the earth and yet still advancing.
“It’s a storm!”
“I know! Fly like the ruddy devil!” she yelled, laying flat along her broom and urging it forward.
Severus did the same, feeling his broom vibrate with the effort.
They turned almost due west. He was half afraid of crashing into
“Come on!” she screamed, looking back at him. “You’re slacking!”
Darkness enveloped them and as he watched the air around
“You’re mad!” Severus yelled. “Nutty as a fruitcake!”
“We’re home!” she cried in triumph. “Look!”
There was the lake, glistening sliver. And beside it, perched on the cliff, half-clad in a cloak of forest green, was Hogwarts castle, its many towers and turrets yellowing in the last rays of the sun.
They circled and landed, running for the doorway as the
storm broke over their heads. Hailstones
peppered the rooftop as
“One flight down” she said.
On the first landing she mumbling a password and a door in the wall creaked open. They tumbled inside, into a room with a cosy fire. She waved her wand and the ring of candles above their heads lit at once.
“How wet did you get?”
Severus was chuckling. He took off his coat and inspected it.
“Hardly at all” he admitted. “No thanks to you, you crazy girl. I suppose I’ll have to hand this coat back.”
“Yes, if you don’t mind.”
“And the jodhpurs?”
“Don’t you dare take those off in here.”
“It was just a thought.”
She grinned and said “Yes, I bet it was. No, you can keep the jodhpurs. You’ll need them for next time.”
“Oh, you think I might be mad enough to do this again?”
“Yes” she said. “I’m sure of it. Now, do sit down. Would you like some tea?”
As she made tea Severus thought over the day. Yes, he wouldn’t mind doing it again. It had been fun. He understood why she walked the shoreline when her brain needed unpacking. He understood why she liked to race a storm.
Dumbledore visited him after dinner that evening and demanded to hear all about their outing.
“She’s a good girl, Aurora” he concluded. “She’s very young and so I suppose in terms of her job she feels inexperienced. But she’s kindly and loyal. She describes herself as ‘not much of a witch’ but I think she’s quite a find.”
“Not much of a witch?”
“No – well – she doesn’t feel confident of teaching the main subjects” Dumbledore explained. “She’s only really happy with Astronomy. And she obviously looks upon it as a lesser subject, a supplementary subject.”
“That doesn’t quite add up” Severus said. “She insists it’s important to be strong in everything.”
Dumbledore smiled and said “I suppose she draws a distinction between teaching and doing”
“Yes, perhaps” Severus mused. “She loves flying, and yet when Rolanda mentioned her refereeing a Quidditch match, she seemed horrified. That’s a point – why wasn’t Rolanda refereeing last year’s final?”
“She wasn’t well” said Dumbledore. “That was a bad go. Eddie Dangerfield stepped in, and he did very well with it. Then just as Wally Worple caught the Snitch, Eddie fell off his broom. He blew the whistle as he fell – we all laughed about it. But he broke his hip, poor man. We rushed him to St Mungo’s, but it was a bad break. It still hasn’t mended.”
“Not even with Skele-Grow?”
“There are complications. Eddie has a bone disease we were not aware of. Even he was not aware of it.”
“Well, anyway, Easter is almost here” the Headmaster said with a sigh, “And miraculously by some strange chance we are still alive – even Eddie Dangerfield. I suppose you’ve heard that I’m being canvassed for the Ministry. To see if I’ll allow my name to go forward to be the next Minister for Magic.”
“I’m not agreeing to any such nomination.”
“No. I get asked at times” he admitted, “But I’m really not interested. The Wizengamot is bad enough – I don’t want more politics in my life.”
“You’d rather be your own boss.”
“Exactly. And out here at Hogwarts I can be a bit of a maverick too, when the mood takes me.” The blue eyes twinkled mischievously. “So you’re stuck with me for a while longer” he added.
“I’d hardly describe it as stuck, Headmaster.”
Dumbledore chuckled. “And I am stuck with Lucius Malfoy” he added.
“Yes. Haven’t you heard from him lately?”
“Only a letter to say that he’s home” said Severus, “And that the Ministry were not pressing charges. I haven’t heard from the Malfoys for months.”
“Yes. Well now Lucius has applied to join the board of governors” said Dumbledore.
“School governors. He’s bound to be accepted. So, you’ll have a friend on the school board.”
Severus shrugged. He wasn’t sure whether he was pleased or not.
“Quidditch Final soon” Dumbledore added. “I think Hufflepuff ’ll have their work cut out to beat you.”
Severus smiled and said “Minerva will be sad.”
“Yes, well her luck might change in a couple of years” Dumbledore said mischievously. “The Weasley boys will be joining us, and if some of them don’t get into Gryffindor I’ll be very surprised. So your run of luck might run out – especially when you lose Gwenog.”
“Well, we’ll see about that” Severus countered. “We’ll just have to pull something else out of the bag.”
The final tool place at the end of April and it was won by
Slytherin. Severus was delighted. He also realised that he felt in much better
shape than he had a few months earlier.
His life was getting back to normal.
The June exams went smoothly and by the time of the Leaving Feast he
felt relatively serene.
She also has her mysterious lover, Severus said to himself as he took his place at the High Table. Yes, the little minx leaves the school whenever permitted and always returns happier. I wonder who he is – the man whose jodhpurs I have in my wardrobe. The man whose riding coat I wore. I wonder if he lives at that big house on the coast? Ravens Craig … Well, I’m starving! Where is Dumbledore? And where is Minerva? I want my House Cup and I want my Feast!
The Head and the Deputy arrived at that moment, both looking rather serious. Wilbert was with them and he winked as he slid into his place.
“Just been having a chat with the old man” he whispered. “Think I’ve just ruined his appetite.”
“Well, you might as well know – now that Albus and Minerva know” Wilbert said mysteriously. “I’m leaving.”
“My book’s being published. I’ve been working on it all year. Finally got it accepted. And a commission for two more – over the next four years. They really like my stuff.”
“You’ve been writing a book?”
“Yeah! Text book!”
Wilbert added happily. “
“So you’re not…? So you and she aren’t…?” Severus was lost for words.
“If you mean, am I her fella – no of course I’m not” Wilbert grinned. “But I did enjoy teasing your about it. Lucky bloke, though – whoever he is. Now – let’s get the speeches over with – I’ve got an appetite like a Hippogriff!”
The feast was the best Severus had ever tasted. He smiled quietly from time to time, thinking
ahead and planning. I’ll apply for the
Defence job, he decided. And if
End of Part 3
Koolin Rouge is a pun on a beer from the
And there really is a beer called
- The End -