Characters: Severus, Amycus, Daphne
Warning (highlight to view): For implied canonical murder and violence.
Word Count: 680
Summary: Severus is troubled by a Slytherin performance.
Disclaimer: This work of fan fiction 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 from (and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by) the posting of this fan work.
Author's Note: This ficlet follows A Thoroughly Inappropriate Promise.
The next time that Severus found himself at Hogwarts, he was its master; at least, that was the part he had to play within its unwelcoming walls. Having by then survived killing a man he both despised and, in spite of everything, respected and watched a woman whom he'd forbidden himself to call friend murdered before his eyes, Severus found that he was able to bear the chill stares of the staff—and the adoring ones of most of his Slytherins. It was painful to see how badly he'd failed those students, but he was an actor, Hogwarts was his set, and he would hit his every mark. Until he kept his most pressing promise, it was all he could do. That was made unexpectedly more difficult, however, when he first encountered Daphne—for whom, in his weakness, he'd spared no glances since his return—emerging from the Hospital Wing.
He'd gone there to collect information on the wounded students, the stubborn ones, who'd insisted upon fighting the Carrows. Amycus had accompanied him, and Severus had done what he could to placate the vicious idiot.
"They deserved it, every last one of them!"
"Perhaps, but one must be careful that, in issuing correction, one doesn't inadvertently harm oneself."
"What the hell does that mean?" Amycus had spat.
"Lord Voldemort would not approve if any of the . . . recalcitrant children of his own house were punished too harshly for their . . . failures of understanding."
"I only gave Zabini and Greengrass detention—with Filch, not with me. Serves 'em right, the little high and mighties, having to bear the presence of a Squib because they're too good to do—"
"'The dirty work' of learning Defence," Severus had interrupted. "Yes, you've told me what Greengrass said. But she, like Zabini, was too long cowed by the former Headmaster's influence, and allowances must be made. She will—both of them—all of them will, given time, learn their proper roles. In the meantime, go carefully. Pure-blood, wealthy Slytherins—our lord would not thank you if any of them came to harm."
"If Greengrass is too good to do her school work, why does she work in there?" Amycus had demanded, jerking his head towards the infirmary.
Severus had smiled, slowly, and had been gratified to see Amycus blanch. "Because I assigned her scut work as a detention for her cheek before ridding the world of Dumbledore's presence."
"And she's still serving it." Amycus had appeared impressed.
"And she's still serving it."
Amycus' phlegmy sniggers had reverberated in the corridor as he'd left Severus, who had turned to find a regal-looking Daphne standing before him. Time seemed to stop with his heart.
Burning with righteous fury, Daphne was magnificent, impossible to ignore, and so Severus found himself unable to act while he waited for time to begin again.
Daphne's words were not a greeting.
"Greengrass," he replied, hoping that his expression betrayed nothing to her.
"Did you want something?"
"Sir," Severus replied automatically.
"Did you want something, Headmaster?"
"Headmaster, sir," Severus insisted, as fear for her alarmed his every nerve. Don't be stupid, Daphne!
As if in response to his silent plea, she smiled. It was tight, chill, full of loathing—Severus wanted to shake her.
"Madam Pomfrey is in her office, Headmaster."
The image of Daphne thrown over his knee rose in Severus' mind's eye, but he repressed it with violent effort before it could become something more troubling by concentrating hard for sounds of Amycus' signature wheeze. Hearing none, he knew that it would be safe to dismiss Daphne, unpunished, from his presence. He didn't do it.
"Miss Greengrass," he said with desperate harshness, "you will learn to show respect to—"
"Oh, yes, Headmaster."
Severus bit the inside of his mouth so hard that he drew blood.
"One must always show respect to one's elders, mustn't one?"
Severus found himself utterly without resources upon which to draw and, knowing that he would only lose the fight were he to allow it to continue, barked, "Go!"
It was both a relief and a damnation that Daphne obeyed him at once.