The Sugar Quill
Author: Christina Teresa (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: For the Love of Hufflepuff, Part 3: Restoration  Chapter: Chapter Two: Boxing Day
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Chapter Two: Boxing Day

"Severus, I wish you would have warned me," Dumbledore said with some irritation as they sat in the Headmaster's office the morning after the Dark Lord's strike against both the wizarding and Muggle worlds.

The emergency Hogwarts faculty meeting had already taken place. Minerva was assisting the other staff members in rounding up the few students staying at the castle for the Christmas holidays, and safely ensconcing them in their respective dormitories. Veronica still hadn't arrived. What was taking her so long? Severus thought impatiently. As soon as Veronica was here and Minerva returned, the real meeting could begin. Snape fingered his teacup nervously. "You knew I went to Voldemort last night."

"And when you didn't report anything to me, I assumed it was a routine meeting. One of his little loyalty tests."

"That's what I thought, too," Severus replied, not quite truthfully. "He mentioned nothing about these raids when I saw him." He had suspected Voldemort was planning something dramatic, but what good would it have done to give Dumbledore vague non-information? That's what Snape had been telling himself all morning. Why didn't I inform him of my suspicions? "I do have reason to believe that he will trust me with more information from now on."

Dumbledore gave him a significant look, then nodded and did not ask for the details of his involvement in last night's events, as usual. Severus found the Headmaster's characteristic lack of interest somewhat infuriating. Was it that he didn't care what Snape was forced to do or was it that as long as Dumbledore didn't know he wasn't partly responsible for the results of Snape's actions? Severus was thankful for Minerva's entrance a moment later.

"The new Minister of Magic is here," Minerva announced in agitation.

Dumbledore sighed heavily. "Well, send her--"

Suddenly, a tall and elegant woman in blood-red robes threw open the Headmaster's office door. Several of the portraits of former headmasters and headmistresses opened their sleepy eyes with alarm. Fawkes, the usually serene phoenix, abandoned its golden perch and flew to the top of a bookcase at the other end of the room.

Snape recognized the new Minister of Magic as Euphemia Wilmont. Until Fudge's death this morning, she had been the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Even though she had spent most of her career behind a desk, Wilmont had been a formidable Auror at one time. She was in her mid-sixties, but still quite attractive-perfectly coiffed hair, high cheekbones, brown eyes-not warm like Veronica's, but intelligent and exuding authority. Snape immediately felt like he was under inspection and found himself straightening his posture as he rose to his feet. He noticed Dumbledore doing the same.

"Euphemia," Dumbledore said, "you're looking as lovely as always today. I would say congratulations on your promotion to Minister of Magic, but under the circumstances-"

"Sit down, old man!" Wilmont snapped. Dumbledore obeyed. "I just left the Muggle Prime Minister and he told me that you and he already met this morning and he feels confident that the plan of action the two of you worked out will do just fine, but thanked me for stopping by." She took a step towards Dumbledore who appeared very glad to be behind the safety of his desk. She glared at him dangerously. "Go over my head again, Albus, and I'll cut your legs off at the knees."

"Figuratively speaking, I hope?"

"Don't be too sure," Euphemia replied. "Just run you're little school and I'll take care of the rest of wizarding Britain. By the way, I'll be sending an Auror over later today to help watch over Hogwarts."

"Just one?" Dumbledore didn't seem terribly disappointed that there wouldn't be more.

"As you know, we lost four last night," Wilmont explained tensely, "so my department-my former department is spread a bit thin. But we'll manage-without your help."

She turned to leave, then, almost as an afterthought, she grabbed Snape's left arm and pulled up his sleeve. The Dark Mark was still visible. Snape heard Minerva gasp. Wilmont gave Snape a humorless smirk. "You didn't seriously think you could show it to Fudge and expect he wouldn't mention it to me, did you? I trust you slept well last night."

Snape pulled his arm away and rolled down his sleeve. "Like an innocent babe, Madam Minister. Thank you for asking."

"Oh, I am glad," she replied sarcastically. "I would hate to think that one of Hogwarts' finest professors was up to any mischief." Wilmont then sauntered regally out the door and slammed it behind her.

Dumbledore scowled. "Lovely woman."

Snape stared at the closed door, a evil sneer on his face. "Pity no one had the presence of mind to strangle her at birth."

Just then, the trio heard a cry from just outside the office. Snape rushed to the door, followed by Minerva and Dumbledore. They found Minister Wilmont sitting on the stairs holding her eye. Veronica had one hand over her mouth, eyes wide. In her other hand was her new Nimbus Two Thousand Two. There was a dent in the broom's handle.

"Oh my…oh, dear. Ma'am, I am so very sorry," Veronica babbled sincerely. "Let me help you to the hospital wing." Veronica reached out for the older woman, but Wilmont recoiled.

"Please, don't Miss-"

"Stanley," Veronica supplied.

Wilmont rose. "I think you've done enough for one day, Miss Stanley. Unless, of course, you'd like to blind me in the other eye as well."

Dumbledore cleared his throat. Snape suspected it was to keep himself from laughing. "Minerva, would you be so kind as to escort the Minister to the hospital wing."

"Certainly, Albus." Minerva took Euphemia by the arm and led her away.

Veronica watched them exit the secret passage, still looking absolutely mortified.

Severus grinned. 'Gods, I missed you' is what he wanted to say, but it came out as, "You just hit the new Minister of Magic in the eye with your broom."

Veronica winced painfully. "Naturally, who else could it have been?"

Dumbledore smiled. "Don't worry, Veronica, that was the first good thing that's happened all day. I trust your dear family is well."

"Very well, thank you, sir," Veronica replied in a ridiculously formal tone as she gave the Headmaster an icy look.

At first, Severus thought her behavior was due to her resentment of Dumbledore's inaction when Balin was abusing her, but then he realized she blamed the Headmaster for his involvement in last night's events. After all, Snape as good as came out and told her he was meeting with Voldemort last night. She could easily put two and two together. Did she remember the dream we had shared as well?

"Might I speak to you for a moment?" Severus said quietly. Before she could answer he took her by the arm and pulled her into a corner. "Veronica, I realize you must have many questions, and I will answer them-later. Right now I need for you to…what was that phrase I heard the Weasley twins use when one of their classmates was whining about their Potions final? Oh yes, 'suck it up'."

Veronica nodded reluctantly. "Sorry." She then approached Dumbledore. "I apologize, sir, it's just that it's been a rather stressful day."

"For all of us," Dumbledore agreed. "But right now, I need you to put your personal feelings aside. We must be united in our fight against Voldemort."

Minerva returned just then. "Minister Wilmont will recover," she reported. "Unfortunately."

"Now that we're all here…" Dumbledore walked to the far side of his office and pulled out his wand. "Fidelitas Veneratis Amor!" He then took a step forward and disappeared into thin air, followed by Professor McGonagall.

Severus then led Veronica through the invisible door, into a secret chamber somewhere in the castle (even Snape didn't know exactly where it was located). In the middle of the room was a large, round wooden table with the Hogwarts crest inlaid in the center. Snape suspected that the table was as old as Hogwarts itself.

Most of Dumbledore's allies were already assembled: Arabella Figg, Mundungus Fletcher, Clarence Sibbery, among others. Snape saw Hagrid followed by Arthur Weasley appear seemingly out of nowhere. Weasley was no doubt the Ministry's unofficial representative. As he continued to look around the room, Severus scowled. Alastor Moody was here as well as Snape's two least favorite people in the entire world (next to Harry Potter, of course): Remus Lupin and his faithful dog, Sirius Black. Veronica, being the person that she was, made straight for the unregistered Animagus, thinking he was just a dumb animal and patted the big, black dog on the head. Actually, 'dumb animal' is an accurate description for both the man and the beast. When Black started to lick Veronica's hand, Snape took her by the arm and steered her to an empty chair.

She gently shrugged him off. "Don't tell me you hate dogs, too?"

"I hate that one," Snape replied as they took their seats. He was just about to tell her the truth about Black when her eyes filled with panic.

"You didn't tell me Alastor Moody would be here!" Veronica whispered as she turned away from Moody and placed her hand above her heart as if that would be enough to hide her Dark Mark from the ex-Auror.

Moody, who was chatting with Dumbledore, swung his magical eye in their direction. He and the Headmaster exchanged a few words, then Moody limped towards them, his wooden leg making a clunking sound on the stone floor.

Despite his own fear of the ex-Auror, Snape met Moody's disconcerting gaze as he tried to shield Veronica from him.

"Professor Stanley?" Moody said kindly-well, as kindly as his gruff voice would allow.

Veronica turned to him tentatively.

"Dumbledore just told me where you got that little souvenir." A sympathetic expression crossed his gnarled features. "I'm sorry I couldn't kill him for you." Moody was the only Auror of the three sent to arrest Professor Balin twenty years ago who had survived.

A few tears welled in Veronica's eyes as she jumped up and threw her arms around Moody's neck. "Thank you for trying."

She certainly likes to hug people, doesn't she? Severus thought with vexation. Moody shot a parting glare at Snape, then left them as Dumbledore motioned that he was ready to begin the meeting.

Dumbledore stood at his place at the great table, looking as powerful as Severus had ever seen him. "As you all have heard, Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters have attacked both the wizarding and Muggle communities with unprecedented brutality. He has sent the unmistakable message that he has regained his full power and is more determined to use it than ever before. We of the Order of the Phoenix will not allow him to achieve his goal of dominance over the wizarding world. We cannot allow Voldemort to frighten us into submission."

"But to attack the Minister of Magic himself?" said Arabella Figg. "What's Voldemort playing at?"

"I believe the purpose of Fudge's assassination is two-fold," Dumbledore replied. "Last June, when Cedric Diggory was murdered, the circumstances of his death were covered up by Fudge. Part of the drive, the reward that Voldemort receives is the attention he gets for his evil acts and the fear it instills in the general public. Since Fudge was responsible for the cover-up, his death is an act of revenge, but it is also an act of terror. If Voldemort can get to the Minister of Magic, then no one is safe."

"How exactly did Fudge die?" asked Professor McGonagall. "From what the Prophet and WWN reports described, it doesn't sound like it was the Killing Curse."

"The experts at the Ministry think it was poison," Arthur Weasley said. "But it's like nothing any of them has ever seen before. Apparently, it ate Fudge away from the inside out."

Severus watched Veronica from the corner of his eye. Her expression didn't flicker, but under the table, he felt her take his hand and squeeze it reassuringly. He returned the squeeze and continued to hold onto her hand.

"Snape," growled Moody, you're the poison, I mean, Potions expert-what do you think it was?"

Severus realized too late that Moody might have been able to see Veronica take his hand under the table. "It doesn't sound like anything I've ever heard of before," he replied deadpan, looking Moody straight in the eyes. "But I'll be glad to research it right after the meeting."

"I'm afraid that will have to wait, Severus," Dumbledore told him. "You, Remus, and Professor Stanley will be constructing a new security barrier around the school today. I'll give the three of you further instructions after the meeting." Then he continued to address the Order, "I have spoken to the Muggle Prime Minister and he has agreed to let us handle Voldemort. Two members of the Muggle Parliament were killed as you all know. Their natural reaction was to strike back. I have convinced them of the futility of such action."

"What does Minister Wilmont have to say?" Clarence Sibbery asked. "Have you met with her yet?"

Moody snorted. Dumbledore sighed. "We spoke just before the meeting. Though Minister Wilmont will not hide her head in the sand as Fudge did, she has told me in no uncertain terms to mind my own business and let her people handle Voldemort. Voldemort and his Death Eaters are our business. We will not be put off by the arrogance or ignorance of the Ministry, but we must be careful. We cannot afford to be shut down before we win this fight. Unfortunately, all we can do now is watch and wait. Any information you come across, no matter how insignificant, should be reported to me immediately. Be sure to properly encrypt any messages you send in case they are intercepted." The old wizard took one more look at each of his allies in turn. "This time we will not fail. Voldemort will be destroyed once and for all."

The meeting was adjourned and the members of the Order filed out, disappearing through the room's invisible doors, many of them looking more anxious than they had before the meeting began. Severus, Veronica, Remus and Black the Dog stayed behind as Dumbledore requested.

"Are the three of you familiar with the Impenetrabilus Shield?" Dumbledore asked.

All three of them nodded, but looked skeptical.

"It is a powerful shield, Albus," Remus said, "but it's very unstable."

"I expect the three of you to do what you must to make it stable enough to last until the new term starts. By then, I'll be able to put a more permanent barrier in place. I don't want anyone flying into Hogwarts when we aren't looking. I want the only entrance into the school to be at the main gates." He smiled wryly. "That's where we'll put that one Auror Euphemia so generously agreed to send us." Dumbledore then glared at Black. The Animagus whimpered and lowered his huge, shaggy head. "Remus, I thought I told you to keep your dog at home."

"I tried, Albus, but you know how disobedient he is."

Dumbledore clucked his tongue. "Yes, quite."

Black backed away from the Headmaster and sidled up to Veronica.

"Oh, I know what you're after." Veronica dug in her robe pocket and took out something wrapped in a handkerchief. "Every time I leave my parents' house, my mum shoves a meat pie in my pocket," she told Severus. "I've been a vegetarian since I was ten, you'd think she'd be over it by now." She gave the meat pie to Black the Dog and scratched him behind the ears affectionately. Black gobbled it up in one swallow, jumped up and proceeded to lick Veronica's face.

Snape folded his arms across his chest angrily. "Veronica-"

Black then rolled over on his back and allowed her to scratch his stomach. "Oh, you're a good dog, aren't you?"

"Veronica, he's an Animagus!" Snape yelled. "Show yourself, Black!"

With a pop, Sirius Black transformed from the huge black dog into his human form. No longer gaunt and straggly, Black looked like his old, obnoxious-and much to Snape's chagrin-attractive self.

Veronica jumped to her feet and spun on Snape. "Why didn't you tell me he was an Animagus before I-?" She made a scratching motion with her hand and blushed.

"I tried, but you were apparently having too much fun to listen," he snapped sarcastically.

"Thanks ever so much for the meat pie-Veronica, is it? I'm Sirius Black." He held out his hand.

Instead of taking it, she took a few steps back when she recognized the name and face. Snape's lips curled in a satisfied smile.

Dumbledore then proceeded to explain that Black had been falsely accused of the crimes Peter Pettigrew had committed.

"Pettigrew…" Veronica said, turning back to Severus, "isn't that the boy you tricked with the Bertie Bott's vomit-flavored beans?"

He nodded. "The very same."

Black circled Snape with a bemused smirk on his face. "Oh my, could it be? Look Remus, Snape's washed his hair!" Black then glanced from Veronica to Snape and back again. "And he's got himself a nice lady friend, too. What are the odds?"

"Let me guess," Veronica said with amusement, "you all hate each other."

"I don't hate anybody," Lupin said with good-natured superiority.

"All of you, be quiet!" Dumbledore said irritably. "Sirius, it's not safe for you to be here. You were supposed to remain at Lupin's."

"Under the circumstances, I wanted to make sure Harry was safe. I'd like to speak to him, if you don't mind. He is my godson, for goodness sake. I have a responsibility to him as well as to our cause." He glanced at Veronica as if to size her up, then added, "Harry is the most important part in all this, after all."

"You can speak to him-briefly," Dumbledore told him, "but you're not to tell him anything. Understood? Then you are to wait in my office until Remus is ready to take you home."

Black nodded, then with a pop, he transformed back into his dog self and disappeared through the invisible door with Dumbledore.

Severus, Veronica and Lupin spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon putting up the Impenetrabilus Shield around the school. Even with the three of them, it was a formidable task. Lupin and Veronica chatted pleasantly while Severus sulked.

At one point, Lupin grinned at them in that infuriatingly nice way he had. "So, how long have you two been…?"

"Oh, we're just friends," said Veronica, a little too quickly, Snape thought.

Lupin was still wearing his ratty robes and his hair was prematurely gray, but Snape imagined many women would still find him to be an attractive man. Why did Lupin and Black have to be so good-looking? Veronica had told him more than once that she had no interest in a romantic relationship with any man, but that still didn't make him feel any better. Much to his annoyance, he doubted that Veronica would be put off by the fact that Lupin was a werewolf. He snorted. She'd probably feel sorry for him.

"Something wrong, Severus?" Veronica asked.

He grunted in response; she rolled her eyes.

"The children still miss you very much, Professor Lupin," she said. "You made quite an impression on them."

"Call me Remus, please. It's nice to hear I haven't been forgotten." Lupin proceeded to ask her about the progress of a dozen students. Then, "How's Neville Longbottom doing?"

"Oh, wonderfully! I taught him this Anti-Bully Charm-" Veronica stopped herself and glanced at Snape. "I'll send you an owl about it later."

After they completed their task, Remus bid them goodbye and went to pick up Black. Severus and Veronica went to her office to discuss the day's events privately.

She made him a cup of tea and then fixed him with a look of disappointment. "Severus, I will never ask you to choose between me and Dumbledore, so please don't ask me to choose between you and the rest of the universe."

He looked down at his feet sheepishly. "Well, hypothetically, if you had to choose, would you choose me or them?"

"Severus, really!"

He got up and paced in frustration. "It's just that everyone loves you, Veronica. For some reason, I find that extremely irritating."

She sighed in exasperation. "Everyone loves me, but nobody loves you, is that it?"

He chose not to confirm his unspoken thoughts and continued to pout. Am I that obvious?

"Not only are you completely pathetic," Veronica said with a laugh, "you're wrong. I love you."

Severus felt like a bolt of lightening had just passed through him. "You do?"

"Of course I do. You're quickly becoming the best friend I've ever had."

He turned away from her when he felt himself blush.

"That's why I can't bear to see you do things for the supposed good of the wizarding world while you murder your own soul in the process." She paused and met his eyes. "It was your poison that killed Fudge, wasn't it?"

Severus held up his hand defensively. "Please, Veronica. I cannot have this conversation."

"Why not?"

"Because if I let you talk me out of doing my duty…"

Veronica's expression became suddenly hopeful.

He pointed a warning finger at her. "Don't look at me that way. I have to do this. I have a debt to pay. You don't know what I've done."

"Torture? Murder?" she retorted. "I know what they do, Severus."

"Don't tell me," he said acerbically, "you forgive me."

Veronica shook her head sadly. "It's not my place to forgive you. Only your victims and their families can do that; but I will be your friend, which means I'll nag you to death until you stop this madness."

Severus felt a searing pain in his left arm. Voldemort was calling his followers to his side. Now? It isn't even dark yet. If he weren't inside Hogwarts' Apparition barrier he would have already been transported to the Dark Lord's side. "I have to go."

*

As Harry Potter approached Professor Stanley's office, he overheard her and Professor Snape talking…

"Not again, Severus," Stanley said sounding very upset. "Just don't go!"

"I must, Dumbledore is depending on me," Snape replied. "You of all people should understand why I have to do what I can to stop them!" Snape abruptly opened the door and startled Harry. His black eyes narrowed with suspicion. "What are you doing here, skulking about, Potter? You're supposed to be in your dormitory!"

"I know, but I wanted to talk to Professor Stanley," he said as he looked past Snape into the office. Professor Stanley had a handkerchief out and was drying her eyes. "I can come back later."

Snape opened his mouth-no doubt to say something nasty-but closed it again. Harry knew it was because he was afraid of the Anti-Bully Charm. He and his classmates usually only used the charm right before Potions class, but Snape didn't know that. Why Professor Snape even liked the woman who had created the charm was a bit of a mystery to Harry and his friends.

Stanley approached Harry and motioned him inside. "It's all right, Harry, Professor Snape was just leaving. Please come in."

With one last sneer at Harry, Snape turned and marched down the corridor, his black robes billowing behind him. Stanley closed the door after him, then offered Harry a chair. He couldn't help wondering where Snape was going and why it made Professor Stanley so upset. Was he going to Voldemort? He had been present when Snape had shown the late Mr. Fudge his Dark Mark. Shortly after that, Dumbledore had sent Snape on a secret errand. The conversation he had just overheard further confirmed his suspicions that Snape was once again spying on Voldemort for Dumbledore.

Harry knew things were very bad-worse than they had ever been since his parents had been murdered fourteen years ago. He had felt his scar burn in the middle of the night, so he had known that Voldemort was up to something even before he read the Prophet this morning. When he tried to talk to Professor Dumbledore about it, the Headmaster had told him not to worry, that he was safe. Harry had been buoyed by the unexpected opportunity to speak to his godfather, Sirius, just a few hours ago, but Sirius had told him the same thing-not to worry because Dumbledore had everything under control. What made all this so much worse was that Ron and Hermione were at their respective homes for the holidays. Sure, they had both sent him encouraging letters this morning by owl post, but it wasn't the same as having his best friends by his side. Harry wasn't quite sure why he expected Professor Stanley to treat him any differently than the other adults had, but in the past she had never lied to her students and usually had some practical advice to help in any given situation.

"I was just about to make some cocoa," she said. "Would you like a cup?"

Harry nodded and tapped his foot nervously as he looked around her office. He had visited this office under its last three occupants and each time the room reflected the personality of the instrutor. Professor Stanley was no different. There were photographs on her desk and mantle of what must be her entire family. The one on her desk was of a younger version of Stanley with an older woman who just had to be her mother. She had the same unruly curly hair and kind face as her daughter.

One of Fred and George Weasley's fake wands that had half-turned into a rubber chicken was displayed on the bookshelf along with more books on the Dark Arts than Harry had ever seen outside the restricted section of Hogwarts' library. But what he saw in one corner of her office piqued Harry's interest more than any other object in the room. "Is that a Nimbus Two Thousand Two?"

"Yeah," she replied with an affectionate smile. "Professor Snape gave it to me for Christmas."

"Wow, he must really like you!" Harry blushed and added, "Sorry."

"That's all right," she said. Stanley picked up the broom and handed it to Harry so he could examine it more closely.

Harry noticed a dent in the handle.

"Had a little mishap this morning," she said, grimacing.

Whatever the mishap was, it seemed she didn't want to talk about it, so Harry didn't inquire further. "I've heard this is even faster than the Firebolt."

"I think that depends on who's riding it," she replied. "Perhaps you can give me some pointers on how to fly one of these as soon as they let us outside the castle. I've never owned a racing broom before."

"Sure, Professor." The momentary distraction that the broom had provided faded quickly. Harry sighed.

Professor Stanley took the broom from him and motioned for him to sit back down, then handed him his cocoa. "You didn't come here to talk about brooms, did you?"

He shook his head.

She looked at him with a comforting expression of sympathy. "We're all afraid, Harry," she said. "It's all right for you to feel that way, too."

Any doubt Harry had had about coming to Professor Stanley disappeared. "It's just that everyone keeps telling me not to worry. I'm trying, but…"

"But given your past history it seems a bit unrealistic?"

Harry nodded. He felt tears stinging his eyes, but was determined not to start blubbering like an idiot, even though he doubted Stanley would hold it against him. "I know Voldemort will come after me again soon. I can't help thinking that my luck is bound to run out and the next time we meet, I won't be able to get away, let alone beat him."

Stanley rose to her feet. "Well, it sounds like an extra credit Defense lesson is in order. That is, if you're up to it?"

Harry grinned with relief. "Thanks, Professor."

*

Harry followed Professor Stanley into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. She went to a cupboard and pulled out several big, cushy pillows and put them on the floor behind her. Harry took his wand out of his pocket.

"I'll be teaching you the Stunning Spell today," she announced brightly.

Harry didn't bother to hide his disappointment. "But I already know that one."

"Not without a wand you don't." She approached him, took the wand out of his hand and placed it on her desk. She then stood in front of the pillows again and asked, "Has anyone ever explained to you exactly how a wand works?"

Harry glanced at his wand longingly and then thought back to his first-year Charms class. "Professor Flitwick told us that the wand focuses and amplifies the spells we cast."

"Exactly," Stanley said approvingly. "It's just a tool-a very useful tool certainly, but it doesn't make the magic happen, you do. Theoretically, you can make any spell work without a wand. The trick is focusing enough energy to make it work. There are ways of using ambient energy for that purpose, but that's too advanced even for you."

Harry nodded in understanding, but was still unconvinced. He had made things happen on occasion without his wand (blowing up Aunt Marge came to mind), but he never actually intended anything to happen-it just happened.

"Now, what I want you to do is gather up that fear you're feeling right now, focus it and throw it out at me with your wand hand as if you were holding it, while you say the spell." His concern must have registered on his face, because she added, "Don't worry, you can't hurt me. When I worked for the Madragora Institute for Magical Research, I had the Cruciatus Curse thrown at me every day."

Harry would never forget what it felt like to be under that terrible curse and couldn't imagine anyone letting someone curse them voluntarily. "Why?!"

"We were trying to find a way to block it."

"Any luck?" he asked hopefully.

"Afraid not," she replied. "But I did discover that it's slightly more bearable if you don't try to resist it."

"I'll try to remember that," he said unenthusiastically.

Stanley clapped her hands together. "All right, Harry, let's give it a go."

Harry took a deep breath. The Prophet headline flashed through his mind: 'MINISTER OF MAGIC MURDERED! YOU-KNOW-WHO TO BLAME!' He tried to gather up the fear he had felt when he had read that, but found it harder than he thought it would be. It seemed that the fear preferred to stay in the middle of his chest and in the pit of his stomach rather than be directed by him. He took what he had and sent it down his wand arm. "Stupefy!" He felt a small jolt of energy leave his hand. Professor Stanley reeled, but didn't fall.

She beamed at him. "Very good, Harry! I really felt that. Try it again."

Harry did try it again. And again. And again. The more he tried, the less fear he was able to muster to make the spell work. "I'm sorry, Professor, but I guess I just don't feel frightened enough to make it work. Maybe if Voldemort was standing in front of me, I might be able to do it, but you're just not scary."

Stanley grinned. "Well, I think I can fix that." She closed her eyes and chanted, "Pravus Malum Invado!" When she opened them again, Harry jumped. Her eyes burned like black coals; all the warmth Harry was accustomed to seeing in them had disappeared. Professor Stanley had been completely transformed from the gentle, supportive teacher she had been just a moment ago into a being of pure malevolence. He could feel a palpable wave of evil emanating from her; it made him sick with fear. Stanley locked eyes with him and chuckled mockingly, "Scary enough for you now, Potter?"

Harry was too afraid to even nod. Then he saw her go for her wand. He gathered up the nauseating fright he felt, sent it down his right arm and out his hand. "STUPEFY!"

The Stunning Spell hit her square in the chest and she fell backward onto the pillows, unconscious. After a few seconds, Harry grabbed his wand from her desk and pointed it at her. "Ennervate!"

Professor Stanley immediately stirred and gazed up at him proudly. "Well done, Harry!"

He was relieved to see that she was back to her old self, but found himself still shaking a little. "Whatever it was that you just did, do you mind not doing it ever again?"

//
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