“’Bout time you got here,” the bartender grumbled.
“Yes, well, perhaps if we had been alerted that some of our students were patronizing your fine establishment, we might have come sooner,” Dumbledore said reasonably. There seemed to be no condescension in his voice, but the bartender scowled anyway. He stepped into the room, followed closely by Snape on one side and Hagrid and Fang on the other. Hagrid carried an enormous crossbow and, seeing Dawn on the floor, took on a look of rage.
The four men in cloaks got to their feet, all their hoods off now. The absence of cover revealed four men who couldn’t have looked more like scoundrels. They had nearly indistinguishable sets of scars, hook noses, and rotting teeth. They also shared identical looks of fright.
“You four will leave. Now,” Snape snarled.
They wasted no time wrapping themselves in their coats and bustling off into the night.
“And stay out,” Dan muttered.
“Hey! They didn’t pay their tabs!” The bartender looked incensed.
“We will cover the bill, plus the damages, of course,” Dumbledore said calmly. “As for you, Mr. Gunn, I would suggest you not make more trouble for yourself than you already have.”
“Sorry, Professor.” Dan looked torn between standing in Dumbledore’s presence, and tending to a semi-conscious Dawn on the floor. The other Slytherin pairs leaned heavily on each other for balance, forming a ragged line in front of their table. Dan chose conscience over propriety and knelt down next to Dawn. He gingerly touched her shoulder; she didn’t respond except to snore softly.
Snape glanced briefly at her, then at Dan, and finally at the other students of his house. He didn’t make a sound, but the muscle in his jaw ticked rapidly.
“Severus? Perhaps you could …”
“I will return them to the castle, Headmaster, and hand out appropriate punishments.”
“Very well,” Dumbledore said with a nod. He turned and glided out with Hagrid in tow, leaving seven drunk Slytherins and Dan Gunn alone with the Potions Master. The rest of the bar had long since emptied.
Snape continued to shiver with silent rage for half a minute. When he spoke, the tone was pure ice.
“Mister Gunn, you are sober, is that correct?” His black eyes burned into Dan as he said it.
“Then when your friends are once again sober as well, you can tell them that they have lost twenty points apiece for Slytherin, and will have detention with Mister Filch for two weeks.” Snape inhaled deeply. “Also, tell them that should they attempt to avail themselves of Madame Pomfrey’s hangover cure, they will be quite unsuccessful.” He looked Dan over carefully. “You were protecting Miss Summers instead of the rest of them?”
“Why is that?”
“I accidentally punched her in the jaw, Professor. She was unconscious, and one of those bast … guys was moving in on her.”
“I see.” Snape appeared to consider that for a moment. “And who threw the first punch of this melee?”
Dan said nothing.
“Do not seek to try my patience. I have none to start with, and a drunken brawl by the senior members of my house …” He didn’t finish the sentence, but Dan was sure he could see fire spewing from Snape’s flaring nostrils. “Who attacked whom?”
“Sir, he was …”
“I did, sir. But …”
Snape cut off his explanation with a raised palm.
“I see.” He was quiet for several seconds. “Twenty points from Ravenclaw for being out of bounds. Fifty points for starting a bar fight and another twenty for not knowing the difference between your side and the other. And you, along with Miss Summers, will serve your detentions with me, beginning on Monday.”
“Sir, I can understand me, but Dawn …” He didn’t question the points. Doing that would cost him more.
“Are you suggesting detention with me is worse than with Filch, Daniel?”
Dan was smart enough not to answer that question.
The first thing she noticed was the orchestra playing full bore inside her skull.
Then she felt the pain.
Oh, the pain.
Dawn couldn’t remember her head hurting so much.
“Shhh. Don’t talk, Dawnie. It’ll just make it worse.”
“Uhhh…” She gingerly lifted her arms and pressed her palms to the side of her head. Now the orchestra was playing the 1812 Overture inside it, and they had the real cannons. She was so not loving it. She cracked an eye open and felt the world spin, forcing her to jam it shut again. Her stomach lurched and she gagged, but she had nothing left to throw up.
Somebody rested a cool towel on her head. She would have kissed them if she could have sat up or opened her eyes.
Willow had to work hard not to chuckle. Dawn’s skin had faded to a sickly green, and she knew the girl was not in for a pleasant Saturday. It was one of the reasons she restricted herself to one glass of wine a night. The others had more to do with black magic and Angry Drunk Willow than anything else.
“She’ll be fine, dear,” Madame Pomfrey said, puttering about behind Willow. “A little too much to drink isn’t fatal. I could give her something to help it, but Professor Snape instructed me not to.”
Willow spun around, eyes wide and mouth agape.
“He said they would have to suffer the consequences of their indulgences. Part of their punishment, it seems.”
Fuming, Willow ordered Madame Pomfrey to give Dawn the hangover remedy right away.
“But Professor Snape …”
“Me and the Potions Master are gonna have a little chat. Before that, though, she gets the healing stuff. If the others come by, give it to them, too, and if he gets all uppity with you, send him to me, okay?”
“Oh, I can handle Severus, young lady. I just can’t violate an order from a Professor about student punishment.” Pomfrey smiled conspiratorially and shrugged. “Of course, the Headmaster says that if another Professor contradicts him …”
“You’re welcome, my dear.”
She reached into one of the cabinets and pulled out a tube of pink liquid, which she poured into a glass and handed to Willow.
“Here, Dawnie. Drink this.” She tipped the glass into Dawn’s mouth. The younger girl drank it down and promptly fell asleep.
“She’ll sleep for a few hours now, but when she wakes up she’ll be right as rain.”
Willow watched Dawn sleep for a few minutes, then she got up and left. She had to see a man about a girl.
Sirius’ eyebrows drew together in a frown. Harry and Ron leaned forward in their chairs in front of the staff fire, watching his disembodied head float in the flames while they waited for an answer.
“I don’t know, Harry. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing I really want to give the Headmaster. I mean, sure, Dumbledore’s okay, but what about the next guy? What if it was someone like that woman in your fifth year?”
Ron nodded. “S’a good point, mate.”
“Yeah, but … the other thing?”
“Other thing?” Sirius asked.
“Well, it’s … um …” Harry paused, knowing that the fireplace wasn’t secure enough for this. “D’you have any floo powder? This is something that’s better to talk about in person.”
“Alright. I’ll come through. Step back a bit.”
Ron rose and pulled his chair away from the fire awkwardly; Harry rolled back a few feet. The head vanished, and a moment later the fire turned green. A moment after that, Sirius arrived with a thunk; his hand shot out to steady himself on the stonework.
“Thanks,” Harry said. He wheeled up and shook Sirius’ hand, and the shake quickly became a contorted hug. They hadn’t seen each other since Harry had moved his rehab to Hogwarts. Ron shook his hand as well, and then he and Sirius took seats near Harry.
“Something’s afoot at Hogwarts, then?” Sirius asked.
Harry nodded. “Bad. Dumbledore brought in a really powerful witch to teach Dark Arts this year, and …” Harry explained about Willow, and about Dawn’s undercover mission. By the end, Sirius couldn’t restrain his concern.
“Prophecies and the Watcher’s Council. Sounds bad. I see why he wants a map.”
“We sorta need it,” Ron admitted. “I guess we could always steal it back when Dumbledore retires.”
“That would be something,” Sirius said with a grin. “We’ll make Marauders out of you two yet.”
“We did our share of sneaking around,” Harry replied indignantly.
“Yeah, but you were trying to help people, not make things interesting. We had different priorities.”
“Things were interesting enough without us making trouble.”
Sirius had to concede that point. He leaned back in the chair and ran a hand over his short beard. “So Dumbledore wants a Marauder’s Map for himself, huh?”
“That’s the what of it,” Ron said. “An’ we told you the why. Can you show us how to make one?”
“Did you talk to Remus?”
“Uh huh. He told Harry to talk with you, since he thought you’d object more than he would.”
Sirius pondered that, then narrowed his eyes. “If you two swear you’ll steal it back when Dumbledore retires, I think I could get on board.” Then he grinned again, and his weathered face lost ten years. “A’course, making one won’t be easy. In fact, Remus and I don’t know all of it.”
“No. James knew the whole thing. We had a quarter of it each, so you two would have to figure out his part and Wormtail’s part.”
“Is that even possible?” Harry asked.
“You’re as clever as your father, Harry, and Ron and Hermione are a damn sight more clever than Wormtail on their worst day and his best. Besides, mine was the hard part.” His dark eyes twinkled with mirth. “I’m the one who beat the Unplottable spell.”
“It’s complicated, but I think I can teach you. Then we can get Remus in here to show you how to put a password on it.”
“Hermione can do that already,” Ron said.
“And make it look like blank parchment?”
“Well … I dunno,” he said tentatively. “Maybe.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Harry said. “Does that mean you’ll do it?”
Sirius turned his intense gaze on his godson and nodded.
“You know, if your father was here, and if he was seventeen or so, he would really frown on you two corrupting the Marauders like this. Helping people. Ridiculous. This isn’t what our talents were meant for.”
The door to the Potions classroom slammed inward, rattling the racks of glassware and kicking up dust from the stonework. Willow stepped through, eyes burning but still green, her gaze trained on Snape. He was seated at his desk with flasks of student potions for grading, and didn’t bother to look up.
“Professor Rosenberg. How nice to see you.”
Willow reached out with her mind and slammed the door closed. Then she put a silencing charm on the room.
“You … you huge jerk-person! What the frilly heck is wrong with you? Not giving the kids medicine?”
“They decided to hold an impromptu party, young lady,” he responded, glancing up with an unruffled expression. “They must accept the consequences of their actions.”
“Even if it makes them so sick they can’t move?”
“Miss Summers is still under the weather, then?”
“Dawn’s a separate case. We’ll get there in a minute, buster. What I want to know is how you can be so cruel to members of your own house?”
“Cruel? Whatever do you mean? I didn’t force them to imbibe copious amounts of firewhiskey. Would you care to see their bar bill? They had quite a lot, and if I had not shown up, they would have the same health concerns as they do right now. I see no problem.”
Willow’s voice rose, and she started waving her hands for angry emphasis. “Except, duh, they could have gone to Madame Pomfrey for help. Then it wouldn’t have mattered. Also, they wouldn’t have detentions, which, okay, those I can understand, and the points, too, but-but-but, to make them sicker, and then order the nurse not to give them the wizard version of Tylenol?” She stopped and took a deep breath. “Don’t do it again.”
He sneered at her. “Or what?”
“Or I’ll reverse the order, again, and do something to you that … well, it’ll be something seriously bad that I just can’t think of right now. Got it?”
“Are you threatening me, little girl? And you dare reverse one of my instructions? Those students are …” He paused. She was pointing two fingers at him. “What are you doing?”
“Deciding if you’ll look better with your feet or your head embedded in the ceiling.”
He reached down for his wand; the instant it cleared his robe, it shot from his hand and flew across the room.
“Sorry, buddy. No pointing of the wand just now.”
“How did … you do not wish to harm me. It would be a bad mistake.”
She smiled. Then she stuck out her tongue at him.
Snape’s eyes went wide.
“I think we both know you can’t do squat against me, so I’ll be nice and ignore that you made with the threats and the angry glares.” She reached out mentally and pulled the wand back across the room, letting it hover in front of him.
Snape snatched it from the air and thrust it back into his robes. He was clearly steaming, but she knew he knew she was right. He couldn’t do anything to her.
Willow could see him fuming, but she took his silence for acquiescence. “Now, about Dawn.”
“She is a student in my house, and subject to the same rules as the others. It would blow her cover to do otherwise.” His tone of strained civility made Willow want to chuckle. She imagined that people rarely took this guy down any pegs, let alone the several she just had.
“Agreed. But why the separate detention? Why not let her schmooze with the others and, y’know, find stuff out?”
“She will have plenty of time for … schmoozing, as you say … with the Slytherins. I have other reasons for moving her detention.”
“And they are?”
His jaw twitched angrily.
“Don’t make me cranky, Sev.”
He visibly bridled at her use of the diminutive, but he didn’t comment. “Last night, one of the students was quick to defend her. He is not of my house, and she will not have much opportunity to see him, given her schedule. I believe she could use an ally elsewhere, and two weeks of my detentions together will help that along.”
They waited in silence while Willow thought about that.
“This guy, he’s a solid citizen?”
Snape gave a single, sharp nod. She grinned. Maybe there was more to this Snape guy than the hook nose and personality deficit after all.
“That’s a good plan, Sev. I like it. Which is of the good, because you really don’t want to see me cranky.”
She turned and left, and Snape exhaled the breath he had been holding.
“No, I truly don’t believe that I do,” he mumbled to the empty room.