Summary: While trying to survive inter-house rivalries, Severus Snape, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin each have a few moments of quiet introspection.
Disclaimer: Hogwarts and its students belong to J.K. Rowling. (Although I did make up a few students to round out the cast.)
Author’s Note: “Vae victis” means “Woe to the vanquished.”
Chapter One- Severus
“I’m going to the library to study.” It’s a simple statement, easy to understand, straightforward—except for the fact that it actually has two very different meanings. If one truly wishes to find a quiet place to work, those places do exist within the Hogwarts Library, out of the way desks and tables hidden deep within the stacks. One can work here uninterrupted, surrounded by the accumulated knowledge of generations of witches and wizards. Even the dust motes gliding through the shafts of sunlight seem especially charged with magic back here. Whether it is because of their association with the enchanted books, or because they were once part of those books, now decaying with age, or perhaps it is just my imagination running wild in the silence and solitude.
However, for many students, the phrase, “I’m going to library,” means something very different. The front of the library, with its large tables ringed with chairs, and a few well-placed comfortable armchairs in cozy groups, is a meeting place, a gathering place, a place to see and to be seen. The focus there is not on books and on studies, but on other students. Yes, students do some work there, if they need to do research or if they wish to work with students from another house, but the truly serious ones will make their way to some out of the way corner. Those who choose to stay in the busy front have a divided interest between their books and those coming and going.
When I wish to study, I go straight to a desk I found tucked away in the Potions section. It’s almost always available. Those of us who are serious about our studies each seem to have one favorite desk here, and we each respect each other’s space. My nearest “neighbor” in the library is a Ravenclaw third year. He was nervous every time I walked by him when he was a first year, but now he’s realized that I follow the same, “You don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you,” rule that all the library hermits follow. I came to Hogwarts to study magic, to learn as much as I could, to become as knowledgeable, as powerful as I could. I see no reason to waste my study time socializing or antagonizing.
The only time I ever have competition for my desk is when exams draw near. The idiots who wasted their time all term suddenly realize that they need to revise, and some of them try to force themselves to work diligently by seeking out the quiet corners of the library. It was a problem when I was younger, but now—few students in the school dare to antagonize a Slytherin fifth year with a reputation for expertise in curses. Even to Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws older than myself, I need only say, “That’s my desk,” and they throw their belongings into their bags in a blind panic and flee.
I confess. I do sometimes select a place near the front to pretend to read, but only after my work is done. Even then, I’m not wasting my time. After all, magic isn’t the only thing worth studying at Hogwarts. My fellow students are worth studying as well. The more I know about human behavior, about the behavior of these particular humans, the better prepared I am for the future. These are my future allies and my future foes, and soon the stakes will be higher than house points. I intend to know them as well as they know themselves.
Actually, I’ll probably know them better. Few people really know themselves as well as they should. One needs to know one’s own strengths, and even more importantly, one should know one’s own weaknesses. If you don’t, you won’t thrive in this world. You may not even survive.
An hour until dinner. Time enough for a bit of people watching. Who’s doing something interesting today? Here comes Evans, moving up from her favorite desk hidden away in the Charms section to sit at one of the small almost-out-of the-way tables near the front. Of course. Quidditch practice should have ended by now. Evans gets her real work out of the way before meeting Potter for a “study date.” Why they bother with the pretense of studying together is a mystery to me. She knows she won’t get anything accomplished with him, and he never bothers to study. If they want to be together so badly, they ought to just go find some empty classroom and shag each other senseless. Her face just lit up. The Quidditch hero must be in sight.
Her weakness—him. She’s always been both intelligent and hardworking. The Sorting Hat must have been having an off day when it didn’t put her in Ravenclaw. If she’s not careful, his tendency to coast by on raw talent alone might rub off. So far, she’s resisting temptation. Getting her work done while he’s at practice is a good sign.
His weaknesses—quite a few. First of all, that raw talent I mentioned. So much just comes so naturally to him that he’s never had to cultivate discipline. If there is any justice in this world—and there probably isn’t— it will catch up to him someday. Some people think that I resent it when Potter and Black best me with their grades because I’m jealous. They’re wrong. I resent it because they didn’t earn those grades. If they had worked for those grades, I wouldn’t care in the least. I don’t care when Lupin beats me in Defense or Evans beats me in Charms. I do care when Black and Potter beat me in anything.
Now that’s interesting. Pettigrew is talking to Jemma Greenleaf over between those two bookcases. Is this an innocent, “Excuse me, I’m an idiot and I can’t find a certain book,” conversation, or is he flirting? Blushing just a bit, surreptitiously wiping his sweaty palms on his robe, laughing together. This is very interesting. I wonder if Pettigrew has any idea that he’s playing with fire. Greenleaf may be in Ravenclaw, but she has quite a few Slytherin relatives. If Liegeard were even to suspect that a Gryffindor has been sniffing around his cousin, he’d skin them both alive.
They’re actually leaving the library together. Idiots. If they’re seen together here, she might be able to bluff her way out of it when Liegeard confronts her. But if they’re seen together in the halls—Liegeard will be furious. Not that I care what he does to Pettigrew, but Greenleaf doesn’t deserve to face Liegeard’s wrath for “dishonoring the family.” LeStrange is checking out a book, but I’m not sure if he saw them.
Evans might listen if I warn her to warn Pettigrew, but there’s no way to talk to her when she’s with Potter. I wonder if Lupin’s here? Or is he off doing God-knows-what with Black? He’s enough of a regular here that I know in which hidden corner to look for him, but chances are just as good that he isn’t here. He’s a strange one. For two or three weeks, he’ll be here almost every day, and then he vanishes. A week or two will go by and he won’t set foot in here. I guess his lazy friends rub off on him, and then when he realizes how far behind he’s getting, it’s back to the books. Not all the Gryffindors can coast by on natural brilliance.
Past the Rune dictionary, three aisles and then turn right, past the alcove where the Ravenclaws leave books open for the Grey Lady to read, turn left, and—I’m in luck, or rather, Pettigrew’s in luck. I think I almost recognize Lupin better from the back than the front. I’d have to be an idiot to sit in front of any of those four in Potions.
“Is there something I can do for you, Severus?”
How does he do that? I swear Lupin has eyes in the back of his head.
“I saw Pettigrew with Jemma Greenleaf.”
He’s giving me his full attention now, but his expression is undecided. He’s trying to decide if I’m threatening or warning. I don’t intend to obviously do either. A threat makes Gryffindors obstinately determined to defy, and a warning would make me appear soft.
“I just wondered if he knew that she’s Charles Liegeard’s cousin.”
“I wouldn’t know. Is there anything else?”
The best answer to that is silence and walking away.
“Severus? As long as you’re here, may I ask you a question?”
I pause and acquiesce with a nod of the head.
“I thought that you couldn’t use belladonna and spiny henbane in the same potion because they cancel each other’s effects, but several sleeping potions seem to use both.” He gestures toward his open Potions text as he speaks. “What am I overlooking?”
Sleeping potions. We’re beginning them in a few days. I didn’t know Lupin liked to work ahead.
“You’re making two mistakes that are very typical for Gryffindors. First, you think it’s acceptable to ask others for the answers you should find yourself, but unlike your friends, I think you should do your own work. Second, you’re generalizing. Although belladonna and spiny henbane do frequently cancel each other out, there are exceptions. If you were to read Enchanted Sleep by Morphia Langour or An Herbal Index by Zenobia Bloom, you’d know what those exceptions are.”
“Thank you, Severus. I’ll take a look at those.”
He’s making note of the titles. I guess he’s going through one of his studious phases; it’ll end soon enough. I’ll make my escape before this conversation gets any more sickeningly civil. Lupin may be less objectionable than his three cohorts, but he’s still someone I don’t want to be seen as being friendly toward.
Still time until dinner. Maybe I’ll drop my books off in my dormitory before going to the Great Hall. It’s an odd numbered day, so the staircase behind the Re’em hunt tapestry will bring me to the dungeons instead of the owlery. A useful shortcut when it’s here. It seems strange to climb up in order to go down, but it wouldn’t be Hogwarts if it didn’t contain these deceptions. Where is that green stone?—there! Now three more paces and,
We really should change our password soon. We’ve had this one since the beginning of term, and those obnoxious Gryffindors are overdue to try to breaking in here once again with one of their foolish pranks. I’ll bring it up with the other Slytherin prefects tonight.
“—with Peter Pettigrew all the way to the Ravenclaw Common Room entrance.”
“You’re sure they were actually together and not just walking in the same direction?”
Bad news travels fast. Rosier couldn’t wait to share this juicy gossip with Liegeard.
“Yes, I’m sure. He walked her to that big statue near the Ravenclaw Common Room, said he’d see her after dinner, then he went back up the stairs toward Gryffindor tower.”
“I saw them together in the library,” LeStrange says. “I think Severus did too.”
LeStrange did see. By the time I spoke to Lupin, it was already too late.
“That stupid little tramp. What did you see or hear, Severus?”
Liegeard looks furious. I wouldn’t want to be in Greenleaf’s or Pettigrew’s shoes. Maybe I can still shield her a bit; he is on his own.
“Not much. Pettigrew started talking to her, she left the library to get away from him, but he tagged along with her. You ought to teach her a few devastating insults to use on unwelcome suitors.”
“Unwelcome?” Liegeard asks.
Come on, Liegeard. You don’t have to believe me. Just pretend that you do, and your precious “family honor” will be spared the taint of association with a Gryffindor.
“Of course ‘unwelcome,’ Charles. You know your cousin. If she were really going to lower herself to associating with a Gryffindor, do you think she’d choose that pipsqueak Pettigrew?”
There’s the cold, calculating smile we know so well. Good boy, Liegeard, you’ve caught on.
“I don’t know,” Rosier says slowly. “They looked awfully friendly to me. She smiled at him, and she put her hand on his arm when she said good-bye.”
Damn you, Rosier. You just won’t be happy until you’ve stirred up as much trouble as possible. Liegeard dismisses this information with an imperious wave of his hand.
“She’s just too polite for her own good. She didn’t know how to get rid of him.”
That’s it, Liegeard. Be her defender. If you think her reputation affects your “family honor,” keep her reputation unblemished.
“And since she doesn’t know how to get rid of Pettigrew, we’ll have to do it for her.”
No way to avoid it. At least he isn’t a Mudblood. They won’t be tempted to kill him; they’ll be content to just hurt him and scare him a bit. Neither will be difficult with that runt.
“Before we deal with Pettigrew, we have to get him away from his ‘bodyguards.’ Those damn Gryffindor fifth years like to travel in a pack. What do you suggest, Severus?”
“Evan overheard Pettigrew say that he wants to see Greenleaf after dinner, correct? Whatever he has in mind, I doubt very much that he is planning on bringing his entourage. Greenleaf was probably just planning on avoiding him, but if you were to ask her to, she could make plans to meet him somewhere, somewhere isolated and out-of-the-way.”
“But we meet him instead.”
I nod once. “Not only does Pettigrew learn his lesson, but word will get around school that she set him up. Everyone will understand that she never had any interest in him, that she was merely setting him up for you. No one undeserving of her will ever dare go near her again.”
Yes, I see that appeals to you, Liegeard. Not only will your cousin redeem herself in the eyes of your housemates, but you won’t have to fear a repeat of this episode after you graduate this year. Now you just have to convince your cousin to go along with deceiving her would-be suitor. Though, if she knows you as well as I do, she won’t dare defy you. Liegeard is looking at his watch.
“I’ll go speak to her now. I should be able to intercept her on the way to the Great Hall. We’ll have a little chat about what she should say to that damn midget Gryffindor. Who wants to join me in teaching the upstart a lesson later?”
Several immediately volunteer: Rosier wants to get back in Liegeard’s good graces after being the bearer of bad news, Palatine and Diffin like any opportunity to inflict pain, and LeStrange has to follow the crowd. There’s no way I can get out of it. It was my plan, and everyone knows I hate Potter and his flunkies. It’ll seem suspicious if I don’t volunteer. Liegeard looks at me, and I nod my head. Good thing I already finished my homework; looks like I’ll be busy tonight.