Characters: Severus, Pansy, Daphne, Millicent, Theo, implied others
Word Count: 930
Summary: Severus misses the mark.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling, and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by the posting of this fic.
Author's Note: Thank you, fodirteg, for beta'ing.
"This is pointless! Why should we bother learning this rubbish?"
Parkinson's shrill voice rose above those of the other girls sitting in the common room, silencing all but one.
"Because Professor Binns is finally teaching us something interesting."
"I think things are only interesting if they're useful, and I'll never have a reason to use that silly mark."
Severus wasn't surprised, as he sat by the fire in an effort to assure his Slytherins that all was well, by Bulstrode's near-deferential tone. Greengrass is a pretty girl.
"It isn't the percontation mark that interests—"
"Good," interrupted Parkinson, "because anyone who can't understand a rhetorical question without some backwards question mark tacked onto it would have to be bloody stupid."
Greengrass made an impatient sound. "You're missing the point: Binns is attempting to compare the usage of obsolete punctuation with the poorly understood symbology found in Merlin's scrolls. Without an understanding of that symbology, one can't truly understand Merlin's writings because the marks essentially turn his text into code."
"Then why not just tell us how to decipher the code? Why make us learn—"
"Because much of this 'rubbish', as you call it, derives from Merlin's symbology. Binns is just trying to provide context towards a better understanding of—"
"You know what I understand?" Parkinson said, as the sound of a chair scraping the floor met Severus' ears. "Precisely why you don't have a boyfriend. Come on, girls."
"I enjoy a good bout of 'punctuating' from time to time, Greengrass," Nott called across the room, as the other girls presumably followed Parkinson to their dormitory.
"Then you ought to do well on the examination."
Wasting your time there, boy, Severus thought, as the common room fell silent again after a bit of rude chuckling. Binns, as well.
With few exceptions, and most of those were Ravenclaws, Binns' students had never taken the time to appreciate his lecture on magical cryptography—or how they might make use of it. Such was entirely outside their frame of reference.
How then, do you explain Greengrass' depth of perception?
Severus had no answer; all that he knew of Greengrass came from observation; she was not wont to share much about herself, as was, for example, Tracey Davis, who was now attempting to prevent an argument amongst the girls by sharing a personal anecdote about studying with her sisters at home. Greengrass kept her head down and in books, but Severus knew that, in spite of being a wealthy pure-blood, she held no love for the Dark Lord or his agents: her actions were too studied to be signs of true obedience.
At least she doesn't openly rebel against the Carrows.
Severus had promised Dumbledore to protect Hogwarts' students, but he felt especially responsible for his Slytherins—no matter that the majority of them had embraced the Dark Lord's regime without a thought. He refused to allow himself to believe that this made them unworthy of his concern; children marked best that which they knew, and the members of his house had been shown little to recommend the world as it had been.
Of course they don't fight against a world in which they're respected, no matter what that "respect" might cost others. They don't know any better.
His argument wasn't completely convincing, given Greengrass and the rebellious students of the other houses, but it didn't matter; nothing mattered now but his duty.
Sighing, Severus rose and swept his eyes over the room, finding it empty.
Badly done, you imbecile, he chastised himself, for having become so preoccupied that he had lost track of his surroundings.
He did, however, note that evidence of the girls' study session remained and approached their abandoned seating area. Bending down, he retrieved a forgotten scrap of parchment that had fallen to the floor before one of the sofas, his eyes widening as he examined it.
His first name was written upon the parchment, and the mark that followed it was entirely unknown to him—but its appearance of an open heart sitting upon a full stop was enough to tell him something of its meaning.
The last thing he needed was for one of his girls to fancy herself in love with him. If Alecto or Amycus should discern her regard, it wouldn't go well for her, no matter her blood status. Which of the girls had been so foolish? Severus knew that it had not been Parkinson; the girl had fancied Draco since she was a Third Year. And it had obviously not been Greengrass: her hand was a crisp print.
Besides, pretty girls have never fancied me, nor ones like Bulstrode.
Bulstrode would marry a man but court the women of her set, so much was clear.
That left Tracey Davis, and Severus could easily believe that she had misconstrued his nightly presence in the common room; she was the sort of girl who sought the support of personal connections for her own peace of mind. She was not, as was Greengrass, of an independent disposition, and this was a weakness that Severus knew he must teach her to overcome as he had done because soon, he suspected that he would be in no position to protect anyone.
Davis, Severus decided, as he secreted the bit of parchment into his robes, would benefit from a detention with Filch for being so careless.
Davis needed to learn that she was on her own; all his Slytherins did.
For their own good, they all need to begin to see the world as it is, rather than as they believe it to be.