The Sugar Quill
Author: Christina Teresa (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: For the Love of Hufflepuff, Part 2: The Badger and the Serpent  Chapter: Chapter Two: The Revenge of Neville Longbottom
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Chapter Two: The Revenge of Neville Longbottom

It was the first Monday of November. Neville Longbottom hated Mondays because that was the day the Fat Lady changed the password to Gryffindor Tower. He was lost in thought trying to remember whether it was "poppycock" or "jigglypiggly" when he barreled into someone. Not just someone-- Professor Snape. Why me? As Neville’s books and parchments flew in every direction, he steeled himself for the inevitable.

"Mr. Longbottom," Snape began disdainfully, "can't a person walk down a corridor without being assaulted by someone too stupid to watch where they are going?"

Neville lowered his head, wishing the castle's stone floor would open up and swallow him whole. "I-I'm sorry."

"You are without a doubt the clumsiest, most inept creature it has been my displeasure to be associated with. How you ever got into this school is an utter mystery to me. I remember a time when Hogwarts admitted only the cream of wizarding society, now they'll let anyone in. I'm deducting ten points from Gryffindor for your negligence. Perhaps that will teach you to be more careful in the future."

As soon as Snape marched away, Neville knelt down and gathered his belongings, tears stinging his eyes. He felt someone watching him and looked up with a start. To his relief, it was only Professor Stanley. She held out her hand and helped him to his feet.

"Are you all right?" she asked as she handed him a handkerchief.

He shrugged, embarrassed. "You’d think after five years I’d be used to it."

Professor Stanley's warm brown eyes flashed with anger. "You mean to tell me this happens on a regular basis?"

Neville nodded despairingly. "Usually just in Potions class. Please don't say anything, it'll just make it worse."

"But Neville, I can help you."

Memories of Professor Lupin and the consequences of the Boggart Snape dressed like Neville's grandmother came rushing back. Like Lupin, he was certain Professor Stanley meant well, but whatever she had in mind was bound to make his life miserable. "Promise me you won't interfere."

Reluctantly, Stanley nodded. "I promise."

*

Veronica's anger did not diminish one bit as she sat at the staff table at dinner moving her food around her plate with her fork. Once or twice she had to suppress the desire to stick her fork-- or some other sharp object-- into Professor Snape's flesh. Of course, that might make her feel a little better, but it certainly wouldn't help Neville.

Snape ceased to be the mildly amusing thorn in her side he'd been during her first two months teaching at Hogwarts. She realized she was only now seeing him for what he really was-- a cruel bully. And bullies were one thing Veronica refused to tolerate. Unwelcome memories invaded her thoughts of another Slytherin Head of House, Professor Balin. I wonder what else Snape is doing when others aren't looking?

"Is there something bothering you, my dear?" Professor Sprout asked.

"I'm fine," Veronica lied. "What makes you think there's something wrong?"

"Well, you haven't eaten a thing and you just violently impaled an innocent potato."

Veronica looked down at her plate and saw that she had indeed plunged her fork as far as it would go into the poor, unsuspecting vegetable. She wanted to tell Sprout about Neville's problem, but was bound by her promise to the boy not to. "It's nothing, really."

She tried to put it out of her mind, but with no success. Then she had an idea that would protect Neville and possibly solve the whole problem. As Headmaster Dumbledore left the Great Hall after dinner, she asked to speak to him privately.

"Of course, Veronica," he said as he took her arm and led her to his office. "I've been meaning to have a word with you, as well."

Veronica had only been in Dumbledore's office once before, when she interviewed for the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. She never had occasion to come here as a student. The beautiful Phoenix, Fawkes watched her with interest from his perch. However, the portraits of previous headmasters and headmistresses were too busy dozing to pay her any mind. As Dumbledore made her a cup of tea, she caught a glimpse of a Pensieve sitting on a shelf in a locked glass case. Unlike the one she'd been carrying around with her for the past two years, this one was full of silvery-liquid memories. With some effort, she pushed that bit of unfinished business to the back of her mind. Thankfully, she had other things to worry about at the moment.

Dumbledore handed her a cup of tea and settled in an overstuffed chair across from her.

"Headmaster," she began, "I have a hypothetical situation I'd like to run by you, if you don't mind. Sort of a moral dilemma."

"Veronica, I insist you call me Albus."

She still felt a bit like a young girl around this man who had always been larger than life, but smiled and nodded. "Thank you, Albus."

"Before we get to your problem, I must tell you that I am most pleased with your work. The students like you-- well, most of them anyway." Dumbledore grinned wryly. It was unnecessary to mention where the complaints were coming from. "And you're teaching them practical defense methods without encouraging recklessness. I know you only agreed to stay for two terms, but you have a position here for as long as you want it."

"Thank you, sir-- Albus. I must admit compliments like that will make it harder for me to leave when the year's out." Nothing could be farther from the truth. She was only here as a favor to Professor Sprout to help boost Hufflepuff morale after last year's tragedy. Besides, the Diggorys were friends of the family. It was only right for her to do something to prevent any more students from getting hurt. She couldn't wait to get back to the safety of the Institute. Hogwarts hadn't been a safe place for her since she was fifteen.

"Well, perhaps if Professor Sprout and I work on you a little you'll agree to stay," he said with a twinkle in his eye. "It would be so nice not to have to search for another replacement when the position is already aptly filled. Now, what was it that you wanted to ask me about?"

She chose her words carefully. "First, what do you think of bullies?"

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. "In general, or did you have someone specific in mind?"

Veronica was tempted to mention Snape by name, but was determined to remain true to her promise. "In general."

"Well, I don't like them-- generally speaking."

"I was hoping you'd say that." She put down her teacup and leaned toward him. "Now, for my hypothetical situation. Say there is a bully who is victimizing a particularly vulnerable individual, someone ill-equipped to defend himself."

"A distressing situation indeed," he said.

"Very. Now, say there is another person who has developed an experimental, but quite effective Anti-Bully Charm. So far it only works on verbal abuse, but in this case it would be sufficient. Don't you think this person is morally obligated to teach this charm to the poor soul who is being victimized?"

He furrowed his brow in confusion. "Of course, but I'm not quite sure why you feel you need my permission, unless..." Then a look of realization suddenly crossed the Headmaster's face. "We're not talking about just any bully are we?"

Veronica smiled devilishly . "Hypothetically-- no."

Dumbledore sighed heavily. "You're certain your charm will not backfire on this particularly vulnerable individual?"

"It won't, I promise."

"Nor cause any permanent damage to the bully?"

She scowled. "No, unfortunately."

"Then, Veronica, you must do what you think is right."

*

The next day, Veronica asked Neville to stay after class. "I know you asked me not to interfere with your situation with Professor Snape, but I have a new charm that I know will solve the problem once and for all. I've already spoken to the Headmaster and he said it was all right for me to teach it to you. Don't worry, I didn't mention you by name."

Neville sighed, visibly appreciative and annoyed at the same time. "I know you're trying to help, but I'm a complete washout when it comes to magic. I'm sure I couldn't make the charm work. Professor Snape is right, I am useless."

"Now, I'll not have talk like that," she said firmly. "I don't know how, but people like Professor Snape seem to know exactly what to say to make a person feel awful about themselves. It doesn't make what they say true. You're doing just fine in my class and Professor Sprout tells me you're one of her best students."

"But that's just Herbology," he protested.

"Just Herbology?! I couldn't make mold grow on a piece of stale bread if I tried," Veronica told him. "I was the worst, you just ask Professor Sprout if I wasn't. It takes a special kind of person to cultivate living things."

He flushed with pride. "This charm of yours, it's pretty good?"

Veronica lit up like a child with a shiny new toy. "At the risk of sounding immodest, it's bloody brilliant! He won't know what hit him."

Neville's face broke out in a broad smile. "When do we start?"

*

Professor Snape dreaded Potions class with the fifth-year Gryffindors almost as much as the students did. Potter, Weasley, Granger and Longbottom were the reasons why. Longbottom especially irritated him in a way even Harry Potter couldn't. In the back of his mind, he knew it was because Longbottom was a constant reminder of past sins Snape could never hope to atone for. By the time Longbottom's parents had been attacked, Voldemort had been vanquished and Snape was teaching at Hogwarts. Mrs. Chitterlow, the Auror's wife he brutally murdered, wasn't Longbottom's mother, but she could have been. A part of him knew that taking it out on the boy was dreadfully unfair, but Snape was a dreadfully unfair man.

As if on cue, Snape heard a loud crash come from the Gryffindor side of the classroom. Longbottom had knocked over a bottle of Culrage extract.

"Professor Snape," said Ron Weasley, "don't blame Neville. I accidentally bumped--"

"Shut up, Weasley," he snapped.

Perhaps it was because Snape had bullied Longbottom so many times in the past that he didn't notice that Neville did not have the familiar look of panic in his eyes as Snape approached. Instead he had an expectant, almost excited, expression on his face.

"Mr. Longbottom, have you ever been in a room for more that ten minutes without breaking something? Your blundering incompetence is a hazard to wizarding society!" Almost instantly, Snape heard his cruel words reverberate against the walls of the dungeon and then pound in his ears. He was assailed by paralyzing feelings of anger and fear. He scanned the faces of the other students. They didn't seem to be experiencing what he was.

He turned back to Neville and found the boy regarding him with a triumphant expression that said, 'you can't hurt me anymore.'

Snape's rage began to swell again, but something told him it would be unwise to lash out at Longbottom a second time. He swallowed his vitriolic comments and said as gingerly as he could, "Just be more careful next time." He couldn't even bring himself to assign detention; the fear was that incapacitating.

The entire class was staring at him in confusion. Potter and Weasley looked from Neville to Snape and back again, large grins breaking out on their faces. Snape wanted to shout at them, but was too terrified. He sat down and mumbled, "Everyone, just get back to work." He hid his hands under the desk so the students wouldn't see that they were trembling.

Snape had never heard of a charm or curse that could have this sort of an affect on a person. Longbottom was incapable of performing even the simplest of spells; it was ridiculous to think he could have come up with this himself. There was only one person who could be responsible for this outrage-- Professor Stanley. That bitch!

Only after class was dismissed and Longbottom was out of sight could Snape regained control of himself. He stamped to Professor Stanley’s office and banged loudly on the door.

"Come in."

She was sitting at her desk and reading the Daily Prophet while munching on a biscuit. "Ha!" she cried out happily as she read out loud, "'Chudley Cannons Defeat Falmouth Falcons!'" She looked up at Snape as if he’d been there the entire time. "Do you think the Cannons will win the League this time?"

"I didn’t come here to discuss Quidditch." Her nonchalant demeanor was pathetically transparent. Her wand was sitting out on her desk. She had been expecting him.

She jumped up out of her chair. "In that case, I've been meaning to ask if you're any good with brooms?" She picked up her broken broom and tried to hand it to him, but he just stood there with arms folded getting angrier by the minute.

"What have you been teaching Neville Longbottom?" he demanded, his rage boiling just below the surface.

She shrugged casually as she propped the pieces of her broom against the wall. "Nothing of any consequence. Just a little Anti-Bully Charm I developed."

Snape used the fact that he was more than a head taller than Stanley to his benefit. He loomed over her in his most intimidating posture. "How dare you teach a student to use magic against me-- especially in front of other students!"

She stood on her toes in an unsuccessful attempt to neutralize his height advantage. "How dare you use your position of authority to demean that boy! Do you like to drown kittens and kick sick puppies, too?"

Stanley's uncharacteristic show of anger was a strange contrast to her usual, irritatingly cheerful disposition, but Snape was determined she would not confound him this time. "That," he snarled, "is beside the point! Dumbledore will hear about this and you'll be out on your--!"

"He already knows," she told him. "He gave me his tacit approval before I taught the Anti-Bully Charm to Neville. It's about time we Spares started fighting back."

"Spares?" he asked in bewilderment. "What are you talking about?"

"I am referring to what Voldemort said right before he had Cedric Diggory murdered. He told his lackey to 'Kill the spare'. It was in the 'unofficial' Ministry report. When I read that I thought to myself, that sums it up perfectly. We-- the Hufflepuffs, the Neville Longbottoms of the world-- are the Spares. The Insignificant and Expendable. Well, I think I speak for all the Spares when I say that we are bloody sick of it and we're not going to tolerate it anymore!"

Finally, he was beginning to see her for the cunning, deceitful creature she really was. "Now, I understand why my Slytherins have been getting second-rate treatment from you. I don't care what Dumbledore said, I'll have you sacked if it's the last thing I do!"

"Oh dear, the poor defenseless Slytherins," she said, clutching her heart in feigned concern. "Your little group I lovingly refer to as the Death Eaters of Tomorrow are not the ones in need of protection! Your old Head of House, Professor Balin would be so proud to see how you've followed in his footsteps."

"What?!" She might as well have slapped his face, it probably would have hurt less. "What did you just say?"

"Your attitude, the wonderful way you deal with students-- you're just like him."

Snape took a few steps towards her. He must have looked as furious as he felt because she retreated slightly and actually seemed a little frightened. "You don't know anything about me," he told her in a low, deadly tone. "Go to hell!" Snape then turned on his heel and left her office.

***

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