The Sugar Quill
Author: Christina Teresa (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: For the Love of Hufflepuff, Part 2: The Badger and the Serpent  Chapter: Chapter One: Veronica
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Author's note: "For the Love of Hufflepuff" is just for fun and is not intended to infringe upon any copyright owned by J. K. Rowling, Scholastic Press or Warner Brothers Pictures. Original story and characters. "Part Two: The Badger and the Serpent" takes place during Harry Potter's fifth year at Hogwarts. Rated PG-13 for violence and language. Thanks to Yo and Zsenya for their help and encouragement.

***

Chapter One: Veronica

Professor Severus Snape glanced over at the staff table's only empty chair. The new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor was late; some academic on sabbatical from the Madragora Institute for Magical Research. The Ministry's Committee on Experimental Charms thought highly of the independent think tank's research-- often seeking the Institute's advice on policy, but Snape was of the opinion that it was staffed with wizards and witches who couldn't hack it in the real wizarding world.

To make matters worse, the new professor was a woman. What was Dumbledore thinking? Snape didn't have anything against witches, per se. Certainly, Professors McGonagall and Sprout were very competent in their respective fields, but Transfiguration and Herbology were not the Dark Arts. Women were too sentimental and often showed the sort of weaknesses that could be exploited by dark forces. Unless it turned out this Professor Stanley was a former Slytherin, then there might be hope for her.

*

Professor Veronica Stanley made her way quickly through Hogwarts' Great Hall to the staff table. She was a petite woman in her mid-thirties, with a pleasant face framed by unruly curly brown hair. The hem of her bright yellow robes was covered in mud, her pointed hat was slightly askew and the dilapidated broom she carried had been broken in half.

Professor Sprout, a plump little witch who was Head of Hufflepuff House, bolted from her chair and wrapped her arm around the younger woman. "Veronica, my dear, are you all right?"

"Rough landing," Professor Stanley laughed, "but Iíll survive." She regarded her broken broom with disgust. "Thatís the last time I buy the economy model. I didnít miss the Sorting I hope?" she asked as she settled next to Sprout.

Sprout gave Veronica's hand an affectionate squeeze. "Youíre just in time."

Snape turned and glared at Dumbledore. "Sheís from Hufflepuff?!"

"Didnít I mention that?" The Headmaster took a sudden interest in the Great Hallís magical ceiling. "I could have sworn I mentioned that."

*

The next morning in the staff room, Sprout was giving Stanley a first-day-of-school pep talk over a cup of tea when Snape walked in. He sat next to the two women and sneered at Veronica. She couldnít help but notice the palpable wave of intimidation he emanated. She only vaguely remembered Snape from her time as a student at Hogwarts, but doubted he recalled her at all. Not surprising as she had only been in her second year when he was in his seventh. Besides, Hufflepuffs and Slytherins didn't tend to travel in the same circles. Sometimes, it was hard to believe they were from the same planet.

"So, Professor," he began with a hint of sarcasm in his voice, "I hear this is your first time teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts."

Veronica nodded, a wide-eyed expression of innocence on her face. "Yes, formally. I have done a great deal of study on the theoretical aspects of the Dark Arts and have some theories of my own, but to be honest, Iím a bit nervous."

"As well you should be," he replied smugly. "You will find theory a poor substitute for practical experience."

She leaned toward him, her chin on her hand. "I imagine your knowledge of the subject is exhaustive. Headmaster Dumbledore told me how badly youíve wanted this post, but as you are one of the foremost Potion Masters in the world, he has been hard pressed to find a replacement for you."

One corner of his mouth curled up. "Dumbledore said that?"

"Oh, yes," she said seriously. "From what heís told me of your Potions expertise, I feel almost cheated to have left Hogwarts prior to you joining its teaching staff."

He looked a bit stunned, not to mention, confused. "Thank you."

Professor Sprout turned her head and cleared her throat in an attempt not to burst out laughing.

Veronica closed the distance between them and put a friendly hand on his arm. Snape attempted to snatch it away, but she tightened her grip. "I hate to impose, Professor Snape, but if it wouldnít be too much trouble, I would be so grateful if I could consult you from time to time. I have no doubt I would benefit tremendously from your superior knowledge of the subject."

"Uh, yes, of course," he said, finally extricating himself from her grasp. "If you ladies will excuse me, Iím due in the dungeon." Snape rose slowly, keeping a suspicious eye on Stanley, and backed out of the room.

As soon as he was gone, Stanley gave Sprout a wink and a smile. The older witch covered her mouth as she started to giggle.

"Do you think I overdid it?" Veronica asked.

"I imagine he thinks youíre a bit mad."

"Good. Perhaps heíll leave me alone."

Sprout shook her head. "I doubt that will be the last you hear from that arrogant, insufferable blowhard."

Veronica regarded her with surprise. Professor Sprout was one of the kindest people she had ever known. It was rare for her to speak ill of anyone.

"He and his horrid group of Slytherins. I havenít seen a bunch this rotten since," she lowered her voice, "You-Know-Who rose to power the first time."

That comment sent a chill down Veronica's spine. Snape couldn't be that bad. No one could be that bad. She glanced at her watch with a sigh. "Well, I guess Iíll see for myself in about five minutes. The fifth-year Slytherins are my first class of the day. Wish me luck."

*

Draco Malfoy was holding court while the Slytherins awaited the arrival of their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. His thugs, Crabbe and Goyle, and pug-faced Pansy Parkinson were particularly attentive.

"What could a Hufflepuff possibly know about the Dark Arts? Theyíre only good for target practice." Malfoy then stiffened up and pretended to fall over in what had become (in Slytherin circles, at least) his well-known imitation of Cedric Diggory.

All of his classmates laughed, some more comfortably than others. Draco turned around when he heard a particularly loud chuckle come from the doorway. It was Professor Stanley.

"That was very funny, young man," she said as she entered the classroom, still laughing as she approached him. "You are?"

"Draco Malfoy." Her bright yellow robes made her look like a giant canary and she was grinning like an idiot. Is she mental?

"Well, Mr. Malfoy, I hope you and your friends enjoyed your little joke thoroughly because it will cost you detention."

He opened his mouth to protest, but she held up her hand to stop him.

"After school today, you will help Professor Sprout declaw her new crop of Woundwort. I suggest you wear very thick gloves, they pinch." She walked to her desk and pulled out a copy of The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection, Volume Two from a weathered brocade bag. Then she regarded the class with a look of affectionate disappointment. "I do so hate to get off on the wrong foot, donít you? Letís put all this unpleasantness behind us and turn to Chapter Three, So, Youíve Been Bitten By A VampireÖ"

Crabbe leaned over and whispered to Malfoy, whose usually pale face was red with anger, "Detention in the first minute of the first class of the year. That's a new record."

Draco kicked him in the shin. "Shut up, you idiot!"

*

After lunch, Neville Longbottom filed into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom along with his fellow Gryffindors for their first lesson. Professor Stanley was sitting on the edge of her desk, smiling cheerfully as the students settled into their seats. She had already achieved a certain level of popularity among the Gryffindors when word spread of Draco Malfoy's detention, but several of Neville's classmates were skeptical. They doubted a female Hufflepuff was capable of teaching them what they needed to know in an increasingly dangerous world. All Neville knew was that he much preferred her kind and open face to the scarred visage of her predecessor, "Mad-Eye" Moody. She took the roll then asked each student to introduce themselves so she could commit their names to memory.

"There are many dangerous creatures in the world," she began, "vampires, werewolves, dementors; but by far the most dangerous are other human beings. Unfortunately, some of the most deadly are beginning to crawl out from under the rocks they've been hiding under for the last fourteen years. I'm am talking, of course, about Lord Voldemort and his merry band of Death Eaters."

The entire class, except for Harry Potter, cringed at the sound of the Dark Lord's name.

Professor Stanley sighed and shook her head. "You know, that business about making Voldemort more powerful when you speak his name is a myth. In fact, there's an ancient magical belief that says to know a person's name is to have power over them. All this 'You-Know-Who' and 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named' rubbish gives him the sort of fearful respect he craves but does not deserve. So in this class we will call him Voldemort or," she paused and grinned mischievously, "'That Snake-Faced Git', if you prefer."

Harry Potter laughed out loud. Everyone else gaped at her like she was crazy.

"Humor is also an excellent way to bring someone like Voldemort down a peg," Professor Stanley said, "though it helps if more than one person laughs."

Harry was still chuckling. "'Snake-Faced Git'. Do you mind if I use that sometime?"

Stanley beamed. "Be my guest."

A visibly upset Lavender Brown raised her hand. "The Daily Prophet hasn't said anything about You-Knowóthat person you just mentioned rising again. My mum and dad said Dumbledore just overreacted after what happened last year. If it was really happening again we'd hear about it. The Ministry would warn us, wouldn't they?"

Professor Stanley snorted. "The Ministry's job is to keep the peace. They'll tell you only what they think you need to know. Thank your stars Headmaster Dumbledore thinks differently. It's not my intention to frighten you," she said more gently, "but it is happening again and burying your head in the sand isn't going to make it go away. Speaking of sand, the first thing I'm going to teach you is a combination Sand Spell and Banishing Charm. You turn a bit of the floor into sand and fling it into the face of your opponent. It's much simpler than a Stunning Spell, but quite effective."

Neville heard some of his classmates murmur their disappointment.

Stanley must have heard, but chose to ignore it. "Any other questions before we get started?"

Ron Weasley raised his hand slowly. "Last year, we learned about the three Unforgivable Curses..."

Neville's hands gripped the edge of his desk unconsciously. Every time he heard those ghastly curses mentioned he thought of his parents, both victims of the Cruciatus Curse, lying mindless in St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.

"I know it's illegal to use the Unforgivables on other human beings," Ron continued, "but don't you think those rules should be changed under the circumstances? I mean, we should know what they know."

Harry Potter and Hermione Granger said "Ron!" in unison.

"How are we supposed to fight them if we don't know what they know?" Ron replied defensively. "Harry, you of all people--"

"That is a excellent question, Mr. Weasley," Stanley interrupted. "One that I do not have a satisfactory answer to. It's tempting, but I must tell you that this knowledge is very dangerous and not just for the obvious reasons. It changes a person. Fortunately for me, it's a moot point since I'm not allowed to teach them to you anyway."

Dean Thomas whispered to Seamus Finnigan, "She probably wouldn't even know how."

She turned to Dean, but didn't seem angry. "I imagine I must seem like a bit of a let down from last year. It's all right, I'm not offended. Alastor Moody is a rather hard act to follow. But as I am charged with teaching you how to stay alive and in one piece, you all have a right to be sure that I know what I'm doing. I think a demonstration is in order."

Neville groaned inwardly, but heard Dean, Seamus and a few other boys say, "Cool!"

She looked around the classroom for a moment then marched to the back of the room and bent down by a small hole in the wall. Using her wand, she gently removed a little mouse from its home. She stroked it and cooed, quieting the frightened animal as she made her way back to her desk.

Neville started to murmur, "Please don't torture it. Please don't torture itÖ"

"Not to worry, Mr. Longbottom. I think the Killing Curse will be sufficient. It is the most difficult of the three to master." She continued to pet the animal affectionately. "He's a sweet little fellow, isn't he? Would you like to hold him before he goes?" She tried to hand the mouse to Dean, but he looked down at his feet uncomfortably.

"Professor Moody used spiders," Dean told her. "Why don't you kill a spider instead?"

"No spiders!" Ron protested.

"I'm afraid all I have is this little fellow, so he'll have to do." She placed the mouse on her desk. The animal, unaware of its impending doom, nudged Professor Stanley's hand. The tension mounted as she scanned the room. "Ready everyone?"

Several students, including Neville, shook their heads. Dean Thomas was looking especially uncomfortable.

She took a few steps back to give the class a full view of what was about to happen. Neville's eyes traveled from the little mouse to Professor Stanley pulling out her wand and back again. Then she said those terrible words...

"Avada Kedavra!"

With a flash of blinding green light, a palpable stream of energy rushed though the air towards the unsuspecting creature, followed by a small explosion. When the dust cleared, the mouse was startled, but still quite alive. There was a rather large hole in the wall.

Professor Stanley grinned and shrugged. "Missed."

Neville joined his classmates in a collective sigh of relief.

She picked up the mouse and handed it to Dean. "Mr. Thomas, please return our little friend to his home." He did so gladly.

"Despite my knowledge of the Unforgivable Curses, I am definitely from the Stun-and-Run school of Dark Arts defense. Disable your opponent long enough to get to safety. Leave the heroics to the professionals. These sadistic bullies that call themselves Death Eaters are very motivated to hurt, maim or kill you and they have more tricks up their sleeves then you can shake a wand at." She reached behind her desk, pulled out a large sack and put it on the top of her desk. "Now, if you would push your chairs to the side and then take a pair of protective goggles, we can get started."

When Neville went up to get his goggles, he approached the professor. "Thanks for not hurting it. I know it's just a mouse, butó"

"You're very welcome, Mr. Longbottom," she said with a kind smile. "You'll find that you can defend yourself well and still remain true to who you are."

*

That afternoon after classes, Professor Snape made his way to Professor Stanley's office to complain of her harsh treatment of Draco Malfoy. Her door was open, so he entered without knocking. She was in the process of unpacking a trunk full of books and her back was to him.

"Professor Stanley, I'd like to speak to you if you have a moment." Snape was disappointed when his stealthy entrance didn't startle her.

She smiled and invited him to sit down, but he declined. "I was just about to make some tea. I'd be happy to make you a cup."

"No, thank you." While she made her tea, Snape looked around her office. The walls were mostly uncovered, but she had several photographs on the mantle and a large one on her desk of what must be her entire family-- all smiling, hugging and waving. Sentimental drivel. Her broken broom was propped up in one corner with an equally battered broomstick servicing kit sitting next to it. She had an impressive collection of magical texts, no doubt for show. On one of the shelves was an empty stone basin decorated with ancient runes. It was a Pensieve. An empty Pensieve? Apparently, the woman didn't have even one thought left over to put inside it. There was also a hint of burnt sage in the air. She had been purifying the room.

"What was it you wanted to talk to me about?" she asked pleasantly as she sipped her tea.

"Mr. Malfoy's unwarranted detention," Snape replied in his most condescending, patrician tone. "It is your first day as a faculty member so you may not be aware of Hogwarts' policy of progressive discipline. It is customary for teachers to deduct points from the student's respective House for the first transgression then assign detention only if the behavior persists."

"I am aware of the policy, but I felt that the offense was serious enough to warrant detention. After all, it was a rather callous remark."

"Yes, but--"

"Surely, Professor Snape, you don't think it's appropriate for a student to make jokes about the murder of one of their classmates, do you?"

"Of course not." For the second time today, this little woman managed to derail him. He wasn't out of ammunition yet. "There's also the matter of your first lecture. Why is it the Slytherins received a lecture on vampire bites while your other classes received a practical defense lesson?"

"Oh, but knowing how to properly treat vampire bites is very practical." She put down her teacup and pulled her long, curly brown hair back from the left side of her neck. Snape could just make out two small puncture scars. "Got that doing field work in Romania." She sighed wistfully. "And he seemed like such a nice young man, too." She then resumed unpacking her books. She reached in her trunk and pulled out a particularly ancient volume and placed it on the shelf. "Don't worry, Professor, I'll be teaching your students the Sand Spell next week."

A vaguely frustrated Snape was about to leave when shocked recognition stopped him dead. The book Professor Stanley had just put on the shelf was the Infusco Diabolus. Snape went to the shelf and took it down. Just touching it brought back horrific memories of his Burning Ritual.

"It took me ten years to find a copy," Stanley told him, "and it cost me a month's wages when I finally did track it down. Antiquarian books, that's where the money is if you ask me. It took me another two years to actually decipher it. It's written in code, you know."

"Yes, I know," he said quietly. "Why do you have a copy?"

"As Mr. Weasley so eloquently put it in class today, how are we supposed to fight them if we don't know what they know?"

"There used to be a copy in Hogwarts' library, but it disappeared years ago."

"As you can see, this copy doesn't have Hogwarts' seal." She took the book back from him and replaced it on the shelf. "Professor Snape," she said in a slightly strained tone of voice, "I still have a great deal of settling in to do, so if you'll excuse me." She then politely but firmly ushered him out of her office and closed the door behind him.

*

All through September and October, Professor Snape came to Professor Stanley's office at least once a week to complain about her teaching methods. Veronica would have been annoyed if it weren't for the fact that she was able to handle him so easily. She just killed him with kindness. Their conferences usually went something like this:

"The tried and true defense of the Defatigatum Curse is the Adversus Charm," said Professor Snape, his prominent nose in the air. "Any amateur knows that."

"Of course, you are absolutely correct, Professor," Veronica answered.

Snape gave her a self-satisfied smirk.

"But," Stanley continued, "I've discovered that if one uses the Potensus Charm instead, it requires much less effort with virtually the same results, thereby allowing one to put that much more energy into a counterattack. More tea?"

His smirk evaporated. "No, thank you," he replied through clenched teeth.

She smiled brightly as she poured him another cup anyway. "I do so enjoy our little chats, don't you?"

He glowered at her and stormed from her office.

"Leaving so soon?" she called after him.

Less amusing was Draco Malfoy's conduct in her class. Veronica was forced to assign him detention twice for throwing curses while his classmates' backs were turned. Messrs. Crabbe and Goyle insisted they didn't object, which made the behavior all the more disturbing. Professor Snape invariably defended the boy, thereby perpetuating it. She never did and probably never would understand the Slytherin mind.

***

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