Sabriel wandered over to where the rest of her classmates were standing, huddled outside the entrance to the potions classroom. She heard the sound of her shoes echoing in the cold stone corridors and the faint dripping noises of damp from the lake which permeated the rock. She suddenly felt more at home than she had since she first arrived. She had spent the long summer months between terms with her father at Hogwarts, due to her father’s dislike of their small and dingy home in Spinner’s End. She would have complained about rattling around in an empty school, but she hated the house too.
She actually loved her holidays at Hogwarts; she enjoyed wandering the halls by herself and learning all the quirks of the castle. She’d stayed away from the other houses’ living areas, but she knew the rest of the building very well. Once she had come across Dumbledore going into his office, recognising the famous wizard from his Chocolate Frog Card. He had known exactly who she was, despite the fact that they had never met and he had invited her to see his office.
She remembered the feeling of awe as she walked up the moving spiral staircase to the magical tower-room. It was full of strange objects and books and there were what seemed like hundreds of portraits on the walls. He had made them a cup of tea and they had chatted about Hogwarts, the wizarding world at large and her own school in France, which she had attended until she began Durmstrang. She remembered fondly the twinkle in his extraordinarily blue eyes. It had become a sort of ritual; when Dumbledore was at Hogwarts during the holiday, they would sit and chat and drink tea. He had first aired his thoughts regarding the Triwizard Tournament during one of these chats and she had given him some advice about how best to approach the school. They had become friends of sorts.
She had needed a friend during her solitary months at Hogwarts, the castle was usually deserted except for the odd teachers who chose to stay behind and no matter how much she liked wandering the halls, everyone needed company now and again.
The dungeons were her favourite part of the castle and the only part she knew very well. She reckoned that her knowledge of all of the twists and turns of the castle’s subterranean floors could rival that of the Slytherins, or even Fred and George.
Only she knew the secret entrance to her father’s living quarters, tucked in the back of his office. She also knew every entrance to the Slytherin common room and the pattern of the passwords (this month’s would be vincere vel mori – victory or death). She knew that the Bloody Baron was a sucker for a pretty face and that if you gave Peeves a cockroach cluster once in a while, he was a valuable ally to have. She knew the best way to manipulate people into agreeing with you and how to melt someone’s heart with a dazzling smile. She would have been the perfect Slytherin.
Then again, she thought, she would have been constantly in the company of the likes of Draco Malfoy, so perhaps she was better off.
She walked over to where Ron and Hermione were standing. Harry was talking to a very pretty Chinese girl and looking completely flustered.
“Hey. Who’s that Harry’s talking to?”
Ron and Hermione smirked.
“That’s Cho Chang” said Hermione with a grin. “Harry’s had a crush on her since third year. She’s in the Ravenclaw Quidditch team.”
“Yeah. And she supports the Tornadoes.” Ron said with a snort. Hermione rolled her eyes.
She looked at Harry. He seemed very awkward, as though he was expecting it all to go horribly wrong at any second. She looked inquisitively at Ron and Hermione.
“Why are they so… weird together?”
Hermione looked solemn. “Cho was Cedric’s girlfriend. You know, Cedric Diggory who was killed. Harry feels guilty about it.”
“Guilty? Why would he feel guilty?”
Ron pitched in. “Because Cedric would never have been put into that danger if it wasn’t for… well, you know…”
Sabriel got it. “If it wasn’t for Voldemort’s complete determination to kill Harry?”
Ron flinched at the name. “Yeah, that’s it.”
She understood. Sabriel had seen first hand what that guilt could do to a person, guilt at having indirectly caused someone’s death by just knowing them. It was a dangerous thing.
Harry joined them and awkwardly tried to hide the blush that was still staining his cheeks. He tried to break the uncomfortable silence.
“So, how do you like Hogwarts so far?” He grinned desperately at Sabriel.
“Yeah, it’s okay.” They looked exasperatedly at her. “I mean, I love this castle and the grounds are amazing, but I’ve been here for less than twenty four hours, everyone thinks I’m a bat because of who my father is and I haven’t had a class yet, so I think I’ll reserve judgement.” She smiled at them.
“Are you a bat?”
“What, I was just asking!”
Sabriel chuckled. “Hey, it could have its uses, being a bat.”
Harry mouthed a quick ‘thanks’ at her for diffusing the embarrassing tension and was about to say something more when the Slytherins arrived.
They looked like they were trying to be the Mafiosi, the way they strutted into the corridor, shoulders plunged back and heads held high. Malfoy was in the lead, as the rich kids often are, with his two brute-force men – Crabbe and Goyle – looming behind him. The petite Pansy Parkinson looked morose and kept glancing at Malfoy, who it seemed was purposefully ignoring her.
The five girls looked Sabriel up and down, sizing up the new competition, while the boys just tried desperately not to stare at her (it would not do for their head of house to catch them ogling his daughter).
Malfoy stepped forward with a smirk, no doubt about to say something snarky, when he was interrupted by the arrival of the Potions Master.
He swept past them in a manner which Sabriel did find reminiscent of some sort of bat, something she’d never seen him do, and billowed into his classroom.
Sabriel followed Harry, Ron and Hermione into the class and to their usual table at the back. It was somehow darker in the Potions class than it was during the holiday and it seemed colder. Her father swept over to his desk and turned to glower at his class.
He began lecturing them on their upcoming O.W.Ls and the importance of a high pass grade. Sabriel couldn’t believe the malice in his voice. No wonder he had a reputation for being horrible. He acted as though the only way to teach his students was to make them fear him. She remembered the way he used to teach her, patiently and carefully making sure she understood how to read, to hold a wand, cast a spell or stir a potion. He was always so gentle with her, so caring. He always seemed to enjoy teaching her, why couldn’t he be the same with his students? What was different?
He came to the end of his tirade and revealed the task for the day. She smiled when she saw the potion he had set them: The Draught of Peace. Easy as pie. She set to work. She was so engrossed in the incredibly complex potion that she never noticed that Harry forgot his hellebore essence. She heard familiar soft footsteps padding towards their table. She looked up to see her father with an awful smirk on his face.
“Potter, what is this supposed to be?”
She looked at Harry’s potion. She listened as her father ripped into Harry, disregarding the surrounding potions which had been obviously botched to a much greater extent than Harry’s. She glared at him.
After he had finished tormenting Harry, he swept past Sabriel on his way back to his desk, just catching the filthy look she was giving him. Most of the class was watching closely for any sort of exchange between father and daughter, but they were disappointed: neither seemed to acknowledge the other’s presence.
They were both experts at hiding their emotions.
Harry sat sulking while the rest of the class finished their potions. Sabriel added the last few touches to hers and sat back, having created a perfect draught of peace. Even Hermione was glancing nervously at her cauldron to see if her potion looked the same as Sabriel’s.
Sabriel edged closer to Harry so they could talk.
“Is he always like this?” She asked. Harry looked surprised.
“Yeah… I mean, I was going to ask you the same thing.”
“Well, you’re probably more qualified to comment, I usually only see him for two months a year. He’s never like this with me. Well, only when I deserve it.”
Harry looked astounded. He couldn’t imagine a Snape who wasn’t being nasty or malicious.
“You’re in for a shock. He’s definitely the nastiest teacher in the school. He favours Slytherins shamelessly and picks on Gryffindors.”
Sabriel nodded. She knew he’d be like this. He was like this when he was angry, but she had never expected it to be so constant. It was unnerving to think that so many people hated her own father and probably herself by extension.
“McGonagall’s probably the strictest, but at least she’s fair.”
Sabriel snorted with laughter. “Fair? There’s no such thing.” If she had learned anything at Durmstrang that was it.
Harry looked at her. He stared silently for a few moments, as if contemplating something. “You’re more like him than you think, you know.”
Sabriel studied him coldly for a while before a sly grin lifted one corner of her mouth.
Snape called them up and one by one they handed over their draughts of peace.
The bell rang to signal the end of the lesson and the students began filing out. Sabriel couldn’t help but catch a glint in Mafoy’s eye as he stared at her on the way out.
Snape caught it too.
“Are you coming?” Harry, Ron and Hermione were waiting for her.
“You guys go on; I’ll meet you at Defence Against the Dark Arts.” She waited as the dregs left the classroom.
Sabriel turned to her father who was staring intently out of the doorway. His gaze didn’t budge as he spoke to her.
“Did something happen between you and Malfoy?”
Sabriel realised he had caught the look.
Her father looked vaguely disturbed. He kept staring at the doorway.
“Nothing.” He finally turned to her. “So? What do you think?”
She stared at him. It was hard to believe that he could act like a vicious and cold hearted fiend for two whole hours; purposefully make the lives of half a year miserable and then turn back into her father – a shy and rather bumbling Potions Master who had absolutely no self-esteem. Impossible.
“Seriously? I think you’re a sadistic bully who hates Harry Potter and doesn’t mind showing it, even at the expense of an entire class. You’re a shameless favourtist and a mean and nasty teacher. How can you expect people to learn in this environment? You terrify half the class and make the other half believe that they never have to do any work, because of the house they’re in. But all this I knew.”
He looked rather shocked. She had built up a head of steam and there was no way she was stopping any time soon.
“What I didn’t know is that you enjoy intimidating others and watching them suffer, especially watching them being humiliated by their enemies; but I suppose I should have guessed that from your choice of fraternity.” She spat the last word, making her meaning painfully clear. Her father’s involvement with the Death Eaters had always caused her an awful lot of anguish and confusion, but she had never let it show before.
Silence boomed in her ears. She regretted instantly what she had said, seeing plainly the hurt in her father’s eyes.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean that. Put that down as annoyance at being treated like a leper by the general populace.”
He made no reply. The silence was becoming deafening. Sabriel tried to lighten the mood.
“So, what should I call you?”
He looked up at her, surprise on his face.
“What do you mean?”
“In class? Should I call you Professor, or Sir, or… Pops?”
He smirked. “Do you usually call me Pops?”
“You know why?”
“’Cause you’d hex me?”
“Exactly, so lets assume that I don’t want you to call me Pops EVER let alone in front of people.”
“Okay. What then? Daddy-o? Father Dearest? Sev?” He grimaced at ‘Sev’. Only two people had ever gotten away with calling him ‘Sev’ and they were both dead.
“I think Professor will be fine if it doesn’t make you too uncomfortable.”
“I don’t know, I like Daddy-o…”
He glared at her. “What do I call you?” He inquired.
“You usually call me ‘Hey You!’ don’t you?”
“Sabriel, I’m serious. I have no idea what to call you.”
“Well, here’s an idea, I think it may catch on: why don’t you call me Sabriel? It’s catchy, easy to remember and it also happens to be my name.”
He rolled his eyes. “I don’t call any of my other students by their first names.”
“None of your other students are related to you and besides, you don’t want to call me Snape, do you?”
“No. That would be bizarre.”
“So, splash out. Live a little. Use my first name and if you get really annoyed with me, you could go wild and chuck my middle name in as well.”
“You know you are a truly irritating child and I should have strangled you at birth.”
They smiled at each other for a few seconds.
“How about a truce?” Sabriel extended her hand.
“Deal.” They shook hands, and then he pulled her in for a hug.
“I really am sorry about what I said. I didn’t mean it.”
He sighed. “Yeah, I know. I forgive you. This time. Next time you should know that you’re not too old to go over my knee.”
She glared at him. “And you’re not too decrepit for the receiving end of one of my hurling hexes which were famous at Durmstrang.”
“And that’s saying something.” He grinned.
“I’d better run, I’m going to be late for Defence Against the Dark Arts.”
“Knowing Umbridge I doubt it will make the least bit of difference to ward off the forces of evil.” He said dryly.
“Yeah, but this way I don’t get detention.” With that she hurried off.
He watched her leave, lost in thought. He remembered the expression on Draco’s face as he left the classroom and the look on Potter’s face when he first saw Sabriel. He wondered which one he would hate the least if it came down to it.
It only took him a few seconds. He wouldn’t let Draco Malfoy within ten feet of his daughter, having seen Lucius’ handiwork. At least Potter had a moral code.