(Note: This is the last chapter I had already written, so the next one might be a bit of a wait. Thanks so much for reading xx)
Sabriel awoke abruptly to Hermione shaking her briskly.
“Qu’est ce qui se passe?”
Hermione looked confused. So did Sabriel until she realised that she had been speaking French.
“Oh, sorry. Forgot to speak English. What’s going on?”
“You have to wake up, it’s time for breakfast.” Hermione still looked confused as she wandered over to the recently vacated mirror, wondering how anyone could forget to speak English.
Sabriel sighed. She was not a morning person. She hated getting up in the morning and back at Durmstrang it often took the threat of an airborne trip out of the window to the glacier below to get her to wake up. Especially if it was Inge who was threatening. That girl meant business.
She sighed again, resigned herself to reality and sat up abruptly. The dorm was empty except for Hermione who was standing at the mirror trying in vain to comb the tangles out of her copious bushy hair. Sabriel got up and dressed and plonked herself in front of the mirror. She grimaced at her own reflection. She saw her mother’s chin and nose, her father’s dark eyes and sarcastic mouth. Her very pale skin was on the sallow side and she had slight dark circles under her eyes. No wonder, considering the little sleep she’d had the previous night. She’d had a dream which she’d had several times before – one in which she saw her mother.
She couldn’t remember much about her mother, but she had an impression of her. She could remember an echo of her voice and the warmth of her touch. Her dream was one in which she was desperately searching for her mother, running through endless corridors and doors, but always seeing her disappearing around a corner. She would constantly see her father sitting in a chair reading a book. She’d plead with him to help, but he could never hear her.
The dream always left her drained and somewhat maudlin. She had never really understood what it was all about.
“Ow!” Hermione was holding a hairbrush with a significant clump of her own hair sticking out of it. She looked exasperated. “I hate my hair. Do I have a bald spot?”
Sabriel smiled, sighed and got up; trying to put her dream and the uneasy feeling that came with it out of her mind.
After assuring and reassuring Hermione several times that she did not have a bald spot and teaching her a nifty little untangling spell (which she had learner from Astrid: a young Swedish woman who could be best described as a ‘hipster’ who never went anywhere without looking like a perfect shop-window mannequin), they made their way out of the dormitory and headed down to breakfast.
The Great Hall was buzzing as usual, huge piles of toast and tureens of cornflakes cluttering the long tables. Sabriel looked for her father at the staff table and found him sitting in his usual place right at the end. She grinned at him and gave him a little wave. She was amused at his bewildered reaction (he was obviously not used to any sort of affectionate treatment during term time); he gave her a small smile, turned a little pink and concentrated extremely hard on his cornflakes.
Sabriel sat down, chuckling to herself, her stream of thought cut off when she saw the look of shock and amusement on Harry’s face.
Harry looked incredulous. “Did Snape just… blush?!”
Sabriel laughed. “Perhaps just a little bit.”
Harry shook his head as if he was trying to remove water from his ears.
Ron looked confused. Hermione smirked.
Than the post came.
Sabriel had missed the Post the day before, so she was completely stunned when a huge number of owls swooped into the Great Hall. There were tawny owls, screech owls, snowy owls, spotted owls, barn owls and owls which seemed like a mix of the above. She saw a proud and fierce-looking eagle owl, which of course swooped down to perch itself on Malfoy’s arm, dropping some box of presents on his lap.
She saw a rather dull-looking owl, looking particularly exasperated; drop a large package on top of Neville’s toast. Neville dejectedly opened the package and turned pink when he saw the contents.
Dean Thomas exclaimed loudly “Neville, how could you possibly remember to bring seven quills, but completely forget to bring any ink?”
A smart trim owl dropped a newspaper in front of Hermione who paid him before disappearing behind The Daily Prophet.
Ron looked relieved about something of which Sabriel was entirely ignorant, before he turned to Harry and said “Thank Merlin Errol’s not here, it took me ages to get the pumpkin juice out of my robes last time.”
Sabriel was so busy surveying the wondrous chaos before her that she hadn’t noticed a large snowy owl nudging her arm.
“Adolf!” Sabriel was delighted.
Harry, Ron and Hermione looked enquiringly at her. Harry said “That owl looks just like my owl Hedwig. He’s called Adolf?”
“Yeah. Named after a crazy uncle, not the dictator. He belongs to my friend Oleg.”
She unfurled a long piece of parchment from Adolf’s leg and let him drink deeply from the leftover milk in the bottom of her cereal bowl. “You’ve come a long way Adolf!” She looked around to Harry. “Is there somewhere he can rest before he flies back to Durmstrang?”
“Yeah, the Owlery. I’ll show you where it is after breakfast.”
“Thanks.” Sabriel began to read her letter.
How’s life in old Angleterre? Rolled a cheese down a hill yet? If you haven’t I shall be sorely disappointed. What do you think of Hogwarts? I’ll bet it’s much less cut-throat than Durmstrang.
Life goes on here in the land of frozen water (though the dragons keep melting the glacier – apparently the muggles think that it’s something to do with the climate – bless them.) Professor Jaspersen is a decent Headmaster – much better than Karkaroff anyway – despite the fact that he’s a Dane (I know, I know. You disapprove of my weird aversion to Danes. I can’t explain it. Unlike my problem with the Swiss, which is entirely justified.)
We all miss you lots, we especially miss the increasingly gloomy letters from your father, proclaiming more and more doom with every word. We can laugh at how safe we are, nestled in our chilly wee corner of the world, but it’s hollow laughter now we think of you, stuck in a dreary castle in the rain, surrounded on all fronts by enemies and bad food.
Have you come across the famous Potter yet? Is he as much a twerp as you were led to believe?
Let us know how it is all going and try and defeat old Voldemort so you can come back.
P.S. Oscar, Vlad and Tatiana are too lazy to send their own letters so they’re stealing some airtime on mine. They send their love, all except for Oscar who has too much of a crush on you to be able to be around the word love.
Ow! (Oscar hit me).
Sabriel smiled and looked up. Harry, Ron and Hermione looked expectantly at her.
“You want to read it?” They nodded.
She threw it over to them and laughed loudly at their looks of dismay and confusion.
“But it’s in some weird language.” Ron received a sharp kick from Hermione for that one.
Sabriel laughed again. “It’s not in ‘some weird language’ Ron, it’s Russian.”
“You speak Russian?” Harry looked impressed.
“Everybody who goes to Durmstrang has to speak Russian; it’s the language we’re taught in.”
“But.” Ron looked confused. “Viktor Krum is Bulgarian isn’t he?”
“Yeah, but Durmstrang takes students from all over Europe; Germany, Russia, Scandinavia and so on. The witch who founded the school was Russian, so we all speak Russian.”
“Hey – that’s my name!” Harry had spotted it amongst the Cyrillic. “What does it say?”
Sabriel read out the letter, translating as she went and chuckling as she imagined Oleg’s ostentatiously pompous voice saying the words.
After the remainder of breakfast was taken up by Sabriel writing her snappy reply to Oleg’s letter (“your aversion to the Danes is perfectly explainable, it’s your unrequited love of golden boy Peter Tiersen in Seventh – get over it, Oleg, he’s just not that into you.”), Harry showed Sabriel where the Owlery was (Adolf and Hedwig got on like birds of a feather – pardon the pun) and they caught up with Ron and Hermione outside their second potions lesson.
After chatting with them the previous night in the common room, the Gryffindors had warmed up to Sabriel considerably, though a few were still slightly wary of her. Sabriel was chatting amicably with Lavender Brown when the Slytherin’s arrived.
“Ah, Potty, the Weasel and the Mudblood. What excellent company.” A cold, drawling voiced sneered from behind them. All the Gryffindors spun around. Malfoy and his cronies had arrived and were greeted by at least three attempts at physical contact as several Gryffindor males responded to his insults. Malfoy simply smirked as the scuffle subsided and looked Sabriel up and down. She shuddered.
“And the new girl. Why exactly are you hanging out with them?” He pronounced ‘them’ as though it described a piece of pond scum. “You should come and spend some time with me.”
Sabriel would’ve laughed out loud at his expressive eyebrow movements if she hadn’t been so repulsed. He was actually coming on to her. She shuddered again. She looked him straight in the eye and replied.
“Perhaps if you hit me on the head with some form of blunt instrument, that might have a greater chance of happening.”
The way Malfoy’s face fell was even more comical than his eyebrows. All the Gryffindors burst out laughing, their mirth increasing as Malfoy’s face went redder and redder.
His sharp eyes narrowed. He lashed out.
“You’re pathetic! I wouldn’t want to date a Gryffindor anyway, especially not one who was sent away because her father was embarrassed of her!”
Though she tried to play it cool, that cut her to the quick. She desperately hoped that it didn’t show on her face.
“Not even good enough for Slytherin.” His comrade laughed cruelly.
“Yeah, well decent human beings aren’t allowed in Slytherin, are they Malfoy?” Harry shouted at his nemesis.
“I think that’s quite enough, don’t you Potter?”
The silky voice of Severus Snape stilled every person in the corridor.
“Ten points from Gryffindor, I think.”
The Gryffindors were hushed, knowing as they did that it was pointless to try and explain or defend themselves.
But Sabriel glared at her father and then refused to look at him for the rest of the lesson.
Harry spent so much of the lesson worrying about Sabriel that he yet again messed up his potion, receiving zero marks and an evil smirk from Professor Snape. She hadn’t spoken a word since Malfoy’s vitriolic outburst earlier. He suspected that something Malfoy had said had really stung her. She looked sullen and introspective throughout the rest of the day, not even cheering up when Neville was attacked by one of Professor Sprout’s mad purple sunflowers and staggered around the greenhouse covered from tip to toe in puce-coloured pollen.
As they sat down to dinner, Harry took a deep breath and decided to try and get her to open up. If she was as stubborn as her father, it could be dangerous to even try.
She didn’t appear to hear him, she just kept staring into space.
She jumped slightly.
“Sorry, I was miles away. What’s up?” Harry had a concerned look on his face. He also seemed awkward and slightly apprehensive. She had a feeling she knew what was coming.
“Are you, um, are you okay? You’ve been distant all day.”
“I’m fine .” Her face was like a steel trap, she just shut down.
Nervously Harry tried again.
“Are you sure? You don’t seem fine.”
Sabriel closed her eyes. She could feel her temper bubbling. It was always the way, anger was like a defence mechanism to her, another inherited trait from her father. ‘Harry doesn’t deserve it, he’s just trying to be nice’ she told herself.
“I’m okay, I just think that the Malfoy family are using up oxygen which could more valuably be used by something else, like a dung beetle or a ferret or something.” Humour. Another defence mechanism.
Everyone laughed and the tension dissolved.
“Funny you should say ferret…” Harry smirked. Sabriel looked questioningly at him and he described the infamous incident the previous year in which Malfoy had been transfigured into a ferret by Professor Moody, who actually turned out to be Barty Crouch Junior, a death eater.
“Best thing a death eater ever did” said Harry in good humour.
Ginny leaned forward “But I thought your dad was pretty chummy with the Malfoys?”
Everyone snapped around. They were fascinated by anything to do with the background life of their least favourite teacher.
Sabriel sighed. “Yeah, I guess you could say they were family friends, but that doesn’t mean I can stand any of them.”
“Have you ever been to Malfoy’s house?” asked Ron with a sort of disgusted but totally compelled expression, like the sort of expression you get when looking at a dead animal.
“Yep.” Sabriel answered. “It’s massive, it’s like a freakin’ palace. But, not really like a palace, more like an evil fortress. It’s all dark and gloomy, full of creepy suits of armour and dejected looking house elves.”
At the mention of house elves everyone groaned and looked apprehensively at Hermione. Sabriel was confused.
“What?” Hermione looked straight at her and embarked on a twenty minute tirade about the enslavement of house elves and how immoral it was and explaining about SPEW. Sabriel glanced apologetically at Harry and Ron and tried to eat her soup without looking like she was bored.
After dinner everyone headed back to the common room, some starting on the already massive stack of homework which the teachers had dumped on them (“It’s bizarre,” Sabriel lamented, “At Durmstrang, all you have to do for the first three days is try to survive the beginning-of-year pranks.”); some pointedly ignoring their homework and playing Wizard Chess; and a rather large gang were huddled around Seamus Finnigan whose eyebrows were smouldering.
Harry and Ron shooed some first years away from the big armchairs next to the fire (drawing a nasty look from Hermione) and the four of them sat down, immediately drawing many a curious look from the crowd. Fred and George shuffled over to them.
“We heard you had a run-in with Malfoy” said Fred.
(“Git” added George).
“And that Snape didn’t say a thing about it?” Fred looked vaguely incredulous.
“Yeah” George had the same expression. “Git?”
All of the gang (and about half of the common room) looked over at Sabriel. She sighed, it seemed the whole house, if not the whole school, was going to continue to find her fascinating for some time. Harry recognised the expression.
“Hey – maybe it’s none of our business?”
Sabriel smiled at Harry “Thanks, but it’s okay. I don’t think he heard any of what Malfoy said, and anyway, I’m not going to get anywhere if everyone thinks that I need Daddy to help me out every time someone’s nasty to me.”
Hermione gave her a wide smile.
Ginny wandered over, having caught the tail-end of their conversation.
“Hey, you were about to tell us about Malfoy’s house this morning, but you got, um…” She looked at Hermione “…distracted.”
“Oh yeah!” Sabriel inwardly breathed a sigh of relief that the conversation was moving on from what Oleg would have termed her ‘daddy issues.’
“Well, what do you want to know?”
“What’re his parents like?” Ginny asked.
“You know what they’re like!” Said Ron. “You’ve met them several times!”
“No, I mean when they’re not being evil and showing off in front of Gryffindors.”
Sabriel thought about it. “Hmm. Lucius pretty much shows off all the time, and is perhaps more insufferable when he’s in good spirits. He likes to think of himself as some sort of Baron or something. Narcissa acts like a dumb blonde trophy wife, but really she’s much smarter than that. She also cares about her family more than anything in the world, whereas Lucius seems completely indifferent to his son and his wife. That’s not to say she’s a decent human being though, she’s pretty vicious.”
She thought for a moment.
“Lucius’ great uncle lives with them – he must be about 120 years old. He swears emphatically to anyone who’ll listen that he used to play billiards with Churchill.”
Hermione gave Ron the most astounding expression – a mix of incredulity, exasperation and rage.
“Winston Churchill? Prime Minister of Britain during the war? No?”
Ron shook his head.
Hermione proceeded to pick up one of her books and hit herself over the head with it to stop herself from exploding. Ron continued to look bewildered.
“Ummm… What else do you want to know?” Sabriel held back a snigger.
Ron leaned forward emphatically, Hermione still had her head in her hands.
“Do they have like, dungeons and stuff? Is it full of dark magic?”
Sabriel smiled “Oh I have no doubt, but they don’t exactly haul it out a dinner parties. Lucius likes to invite the Minister ‘round whenerver possible and apparently Fudge is partial to the very expensive Tokay they have at Malfoy Manor. But mostly they’re just your average family.”
The group looked at her with cynicism.
“Only with milions of galleons… And strong ties to the dark forces. So really not that average I s’pose.”
“We were hoping you’d be able to tell us an embarrasing story about Malfoy to be honest” said Fred.
“Yeah, like he’s scared of kittens or something” added George.
“No can do,” chortled Sabriel, “but I wouldn’t be surprised.”
‘… use of basic grammar is appalling, I suggest you go back to nursery school in order to remedy this. P.’
Snape sighed. He had not only spent three hours attemping to find an ounce of talent exhibited in any of his OWL students’ essays and failing, but had seen more misplaced apostrophes than right answers. What in the blazes did they teach students at muggle schools?
He reached over to the still-teetering stack of parchment to grab the next sad excuse for a Potions essay.
‘The three main distinguishing feature’s of a Draught of Living Death…’
He threw the parchment down on his desk in disgust.
“Enough of this.” He wearily got up from his desk and headed over to a concealed little cupboard in the corner, which housed a few dusty decanters. He poured himself a draught of rosy-coloured dry sherry, which he had been partial to since nicking a healthy dollop of Slughorn’s back when this had been his office. The red-gold liquid calmed him a little, but it wasn’t enough - this particular evening - to quiet the little voices in his head which insisted on repeating the same worries and concerns over and over.
The placement of Sabriel into Gryffindor still stung him a little, though he supposed he would have to get over it at some point. He liked to cling to some probably long-defunct notion that his daughter was very much like him. This recent revelation that she was a Gryffindor had prompted a realisation that she was, in fact, much more like her mother, in more than just looks.
He hoped beyond hope that she wasn’t as trusting as her mother had been.
The more pressing matter, which would no doubt keep him awake tonight, was what to do about Malfoy. While he was nowhere near as dangerous as his father, he had inherited Lucius’ foul sense of entitlement and over-inflated ego – two charaterstics which he did not want anywhere near his teenaged daughter.
Snape had no ideaa what to do about the matter. He could not be too hard on Draco – he had to keep on Lucius’ good side – but he couldn’t very well leave Sabriel to fend for herself. She was only a child after all.
His thought was interrupted by the sound of a fire crackling into life, as if of its own accord, in the grate behind him. He spun around to see a crackling green blaze which immeditely spat out a piece of scrolled parchment, before disappearing again, as quick as it came. He picked up the smoking parchment and dusted some soot off of it. It was sealed with a large piece of black wax and stamped with the all-too-familiar crest of the Malfoy family.
He was slightly incredulous. It was as if Lucius had known Snape had been thinking about him. With a flick of his wand, the parchment unsealed itself and spun open on the desk.
Lucius’ extravagantly (and, as Snape had always thought, pretensiously) spidery cursive script covered the parchment, with his farce of a signature sprawling itself luxuriantly across the bottom of the page. Snape sniffed scornfully and then began to read.
How’s life as a teacher treating you? Not letting the children get on top of you I hope…’
Snape’s lip curled. Lucius loved to rub it in, that Snape had to work for a living, instead of living, as Lucius did, like a toff on family money. He continued:
‘… they can be such devilishly tricky blighters or so I’m told. Things are just grand my end, having the confidence of the Dark Lord on one’s side has its advantages…’
Another dig. Snape found himself wondering, as he often did, why on earth he was ever friends with such a loathsome man.
‘…Heard about your Sabriel being sorted into Gryffindor. Dreadful news, my deepest sympathies to you. I’ve always told Draco on no uncertain terms, that if he was in Gryffindor I’d disown him. But, then again, you’ve always shown yourself to be rather more tolerant of that type of person, haven’t you? People do say that one’s worst qualities do come from one’s mother, so it’s not all your fault.
Please do drop me a line if there’s anything at all I can do.
Yours & c.
Snape sat for a minute, taking in the full extent of Lucius’ sneering arrogance. He could feel his eye twitching irritably.
‘Malfoy must be getting cockier’ he thought. There was absolutely no way he would have dared to speak to Snape like that in the past, certainly not in reference to Selina or Sabriel. He suddenly realised that he was breathing heavily, he felt as though he could quite happily fling his desk across the dungeon office in his rage. A minute ago he had been considering writing Lucius a carefully worded letter, suggesting he warn his son off Sabriel. This letter changed things. Something was afoot which Snape didn’t know about.
He sat down and picked up a quill. This was going to take some skill.