The Art of Misdirection
a story of two Slytherins, by Ada Kensington
AN: This update is long overdue, I apologise. I've also revised the first chapter as there were some issues there that
needed clearing up. Apart from that - enjoy the second chapter!
For once, the Knight Bus ride was fairly uneventful, though more often that not, Theodore thought wryly as he sped through
the air on his broom towards the rambling Nott estate, the words ‘fairly uneventful’ used in conjunction with ‘the Knight
Bus’ demanded that some sort of chaos take place. And it did, with uncanny regularity. On form, as ever, Madam Marsh had
taken another one of her little turns. It was definitely one of her most spectacular yet - almost Vesuvius-like - Theodore
had thought as he had helped her off the bus, trying his best to ignore the indignant roars of the other passengers (Bloomin’
heck, I only washed these yesterday! I say, that was utterly uncalled for! ‘Ey, watchit Missus!) and particularly of the
unfortunate man who had been sitting across from her and the miserable whimpering of his equally unfortunate crup. He had
tried his best to remain impassive but a slight quirk of the mouth had betrayed his amusement. It really had been most
spectacular, and - he had to admit - he had been rather awed by the sheer range of it. It had went everywhere! Everywhere…
Other than that, though, the journey had been uneventful. After Madam Marsh had left, he had had some time to sit and
read before Ernie had let him off at his stop, the nearest road to the Nott Estate: a three-hour walk and an hour’s broom
ride (twenty minutes if there wasn’t his trunk to strap to his broom) through the desolate countryside of the Highlands of
Scotland. The Nott Estate was not far from Hogwarts itself and Theodore had sought permission from Headmaster Dumbledore
again and again to let him ride the Knight Bus or his broom directly to the Estate to save him from the tedious and
unnecessary journey to nine-and-three-quarters. But Dumbledore refused, as he always did year after year, with a smile and
that infuriating twinkle in his eye. It would’ve been useful if he could have gotten home a little quicker this year, too,
he thought as he urged his faithful Nimbus 2000 to pick up the pace.
As he flew, a warm breeze, gathering strength, whistled past him and he smiled as it ruffled his dark hair and travelling
cloak, a welcome relief from the relentless glare of the sun. At the moment, not even thoughts of Dumbledore’s constant
rebuttals or the prospect of what madness awaited him at the Estate when he landed could dampen his spirits. It was warm,
the sun was shining - transforming the dark waters of Loch Achtriochtan into a blaze of silvery-white - and straight ahead,
casting no shadow today, was the majestic and lonely figure of Bidean Nam Bian dominating the landscape - all greens and
greys, sporting a modest crown of white at its summit. And there, cut into the living rock, sitting squat and square, stone
against stone, was the Nott Estate.
The actual manor was neither as grand, nor as large as Malfoy Manor, and currently, it wasn’t in as good condition, but the
grounds were vast, covering miles and miles of land - including Loch Achtriochtan, Bidean nam Bian and the other Munros
surrounding it. The manor itself was protected by extensive Damp Repelling charms, as the waterfall that fell just behind
would have destroyed it centuries ago if there hadn’t been some sort of protection. Unfortunately, that did not stop clumps
of moss from growing on the bare patches where the charms had worn off. Theodore sighed, his carefree mood vanishing as he
touched down before the main entrance, the great, oak doors blackened with weather and age. In its place, apprehension
gnawed at his insides. Biddy had evidently done her best but House Elves could only do so much…
“Master Theodore! Master Theodore! You is back! You is arriving home at last!” a small voice squeaked excitedly.
Bat-like ears flapping, the House Elf bounded down the crumbling stone steps two at a time to stop in front of Theodore,
panting and grinning from ear to ear.
And here she is, Theodore thought with a smile.
“Hello, Biddy… Oh? Thank you,” he said gratefully, as Biddy untied his trunk from his Nimbus and levitated it up the
stairs and through the doors.
“Biddy is so glad that Master Theodore is home,” she continued, ushering him inside. “It’s being so strange with the
Master gone - and even if he doesn’t speak to Biddy any longer, I still would make his meals if he asks me - but he can’t
ask me now because he’s gone away - and I always am trying and trying to stop the nasty moss but the Master’s spells are not
lasting and I am not being able to keep the stone clean on my own…”
Theodore sighed to himself. Yet another thing to add to the long list of things to do.
“I’ll see to it, Biddy,” he said in what he hoped sounded a reassuring tone, letting the House Elf take his travelling
cloak and broom.
“Thank you, Master Theodore,” Biddy said, happily. “And what time should Biddy serve dinner and what would Master
Theodore like served?”
“I’m not that hungry at the moment,” Theodore replied. That was a lie but he felt that he should get started on sorting
out all the issues - big and small - that needed to be addressed. “So eight o’clock would be wonderful, Biddy, and you can
serve whatever you have in the kitchen. I have no particular cravings this evening.”
He smiled politely and Biddy bowed, her huge ears sweeping the floor.
“Thank you, Master Theodore. I’m sure Biddy can think of something,” she grinned, before she bounded away to the kitchens.
At least someone’s happy, Theodore thought with a sigh as he took a moment to look around. The interior of the Nott
Estate was surprisingly homely, if a little dark. The floor was laid with the same stone as the building itself and a single
green strip of carpet stretched from the front door, up the grand staircase which forked in two leading to the east and west
wings. A wrought iron chandelier hung from the low ceiling, lit with hundreds of flickering candles, and torches in brackets
provided much needed heat, casting their warm glow upon the various wall hangings and portraits.
As of yet, there appeared to be no damage to the inside of the house and Theodore thanked the world for small mercies.
Rolling his eyes, he turned and walked into the dining room. He was glad to see that it was almost as he had left it.
Almost. The scuffed stone floor was the same, as was the enormous ebony wood dining table and chairs. The silverware had
not changed; the beams on the low ceiling showed no signs of decay; the sunlight filtered in through the narrow windows
illuminating great, dry clouds of dust as it had always done; the fireplace was lit as it was every morning and, staring
down at him with supreme disinterested interest was the largest of many portraits of Theodore’s father. His father had been
very handsome: with wavy, golden-blonde hair, blue eyes, strong cheekbones and a faint, roguish air. This particular
incarnation wore unfussy, royal-blue dress robes, a sapphire ring and an insolent smirk. Thankfully, it never spoke. None
of them did. But they watched. They always watched. This portrait was currently staring down its nose at the one thing
that had changed in the dining room. The accounts. Great towering piles of them spread out halfway along the dining table,
spilling over one another, falling haphazardly onto chairs, onto the floor, arranged in no order whatsoever except in the
order of chaos. Theodore’s heart sank at the sight. Walking slowly towards the head of the table, fluttering a pale hand
across the leaves of parchment, carefully, he took a seat. He was beginning to feel sick.
“Hello, Father,” he said darkly, addressing the portrait, as he surveyed with distaste, the toppling piles of parchment.
“What sort of mess have you left for me to clean up this time?”
There was no answer, as usual, but he could have sworn the portrait’s smirk deepened further. For a while, he stared at
the absolute pandemonium before him with his head in his hands before he stood up and decided to get to work.
His father’s books were scattered in front of the fireplace, but the latest entries were almost illegible and didn’t make
a blind bit of sense. So, in a moment of frustration, he tossed them all into the fire and began a new book. Going up and
down the table, he arranged everything into manageable bundles, and when he had finished that, he sat cross-legged on the
floor with his sleeves rolled up and began arranging them into chronological order. Hours passed and it was almost dark
outside before he finished. Standing up, he stretched out the stiffness from his aching muscles and smiled. He knew he’d
barely even made a dent in the backlog but at least he felt like he’d achieved something.
“Is Master Theodore ready?” Biddy squeaked.
“Yes I’m ready, Biddy,” he replied breathlessly, running a hand through his dark hair and sitting down at the table. He
really was rather hungry…
Biddy made her appearance with a clatter, dragging the food trolley to a halt in front of Theodore. As she lifted the
lids, the delicious smells all clamoured for Theodore’s attention at once. His stomach clenched with hunger. Laid before
him was a modest tureen of vegetable soup with freshly baked bread; steamed cod and baby potatoes, smothered in butter and
mint, with what looked like a spinach salad; and there was rhubarb crumble for pudding.
“Thank you, Biddy. This looks wonderful,” he said graciously, meaning every word as he poured a ladleful of soup into his
Biddy beamed, her ears twitching furiously. “Yes, Biddy thought young Master Theodore would like it - yes, she did!”
Theodore tasted the soup. Piping hot, thick and full of flavour - it really was delicious. So he had another spoonful.
And another. And another…
Then someone knocked on the door.
Immediately, Theodore put down his spoon and looked inquiringly at Biddy. Perhaps his father normally received guests at
this time? He really did not know. Surely, if it was a social caller, though, they would have known of his father’s
current… predicament? Biddy, however, was looking at him with a similar expression of bewilderment. Obviously this was an
unexpected guest. An unwelcome guest, perhaps? The thought drifted treacherously into his mind. It was a real possibility.
A bailiff coming to seize the assets of the estate? A Magical Law Enforcement squad here for a “routine inspection”? A
fellow Deatheater, perhaps? He supposed he could just about deal with the latter, if push came to shove, but the former…?
His mind reeling with possibilities, he rose to his feet. His voice sounded unsettlingly calm. “Biddy, could you see
who is at the door please?”
“Yes, Master Theodore,” she said obediently. Blinking, confused as to who on earth would call unannounced at this time of
night, she trotted out into the main entrance hall.
Standing beside his chair, his hands behind his back, Theodore waited. The fire crackled; the flames flickered, casting
odd shadows across his pale face. In the corner of the room, the grandfather clock ticked. He stared at the door. There
were muffled sounds coming from the main hall. The visitor obviously had no cause to force his way in, as no voices were
raised. It was most definitely a man. They were now outside the dining room; he could hear Biddy’s voice clearly, bidding
the guest welcome. Theodore took a deep breath and straightened up, composing himself. His face was inscrutable. ‘If there
is anything that you need do not hesitate to ask Biddy. Biddy will do her best to make your stay welcome. It is Biddy’s job
to serve all guests, yes it is…’ Her voice sounded as though it was coming from very far away. She was just outside. The
man said something in reply, but he couldn’t make it out. Then, the doors opened and Biddy stepped through them, smiling
politely, ushering in his… guest. A tall, thin figure stepped out of the shadows clad in a black travelling cloak, his
footsteps almost soundless upon the flagstone floor. He stared at the man and black eyes stared back at him, glinting coldly
in the firelight. Behind his back, his hands were shaking; but at the same time, a wave of hatred swept through his mind, so
strong that it steeled his resolve to maintain his composure. His face was inscrutable.
Biddy’s voice rose, once again, to the fore. “Professor Severus Snape of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to
see you, Master Theodore.” She looked at him expectantly.
There was a moment of silence in which he was afraid that he would not be able to speak, but he knew that he had to, he
knew that it was necessary. He would not let him win. “Indeed,” he replied, removing his hands from behind his back and
clasping them in front of him. “I bid you welcome to the Nott Estate, Professor Snape.” He gestured towards one of the
chairs seated at the table. “Please, sit. I am afraid I have only just sat down to dinner. Biddy will be only too glad to
bring you something from the kitchen if you wish.” His voice sounded strangely detached.
Snape’s black eyes swept the floor and Theodore felt his face redden. “Something to drink would be sufficient, thank you,”
he answered correctly, having the grace to avert his eyes from the chaos surrounding him. He took a seat at the table a
little away from Theodore, saying nothing; but he glanced sidelong at him with a strange intensity. It was unnerving.
“I am afraid I must apologise for the state of the place,” Theodore went quietly, taking his seat at the head of the table
once again. “As you well know, my father had to leave in rather a hurry and there have been some things that have…
accumulated during my absence.”
Snape raised one sceptical eyebrow. Theodore felt his fists clench under the table and he reached for his soup spoon. It
would stop him from reaching for his wand, and it would give him an excuse not to speak with the man, even if only for a
minute or two.
“Please excuse me,” he said, “ I have not eaten since this morning.”
“Not at all,” was the curt reply.
Theodore raised the spoon to his lips once again and, for some reason, the soup did not taste quite so nice as before. It
was cloying and tasteless and he was acutely aware of every action he made, however insignificant, as Snape was still staring,
his black eyes boring into him. A moment later, Biddy came in with two bottles of wine, very fine, from the cellar. Snape
chose the red and Biddy poured out a glass, placed the bottle on the table and then left as quietly, and as unobtrusively, as
Once again, Theodore could hear the tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock of the grandfather clock - preposterously
loud. It wasn’t irritating; but neither was it reassuring. It was just there, and he seized it and focused on it with every
fibre of his being. Anything to drive him to distraction, his conscious thoughts screamed at him. Tick-tock, tick-tock…
Take another forkful of salad… Tick-tock, tick-tock… Chew in time to the rhythm… Tick-tock, tick-tock… Put the fork down -
start again… Don’t look at him…
That was why, when Snape spoke up eventually, he jumped. “You have settled in quite well?” Snape enquired quietly. His
face was inscrutable.
“Quite well,” Theodore replied, hating him.
“I am glad to hear it. I was sent here to see how you are getting along - no problems, I assume?” Snape said, steepling
his hands in front of him, his cold eyes searching Theodore’s face.
At that moment, something inside Theodore snapped. His composure left him, and was replaced by the black hatred that had
always been there, writhing just below the surface. “And I suppose you extend this courtesy to the other students of
Hogwarts?” he said, sneering. “Or does this privilege only extend to very particular students of your own house?”
“I am merely concerned that…” Snape began before Theodore overrode him.
“Concerned?” Theodore hissed, his dark eyes flashing. “How kind of you! Then I shall write to Draco, Vincent, Pansy and
Gregory and tell them to expect the same!”
“They have their other people to look after them, as well you know, Theodore,” Snape said, becoming impatient.
Theodore rolled his eyes. “You speak as though I had just been orphaned - I have Biddy. We will manage perfectly well
and, dare I say it, we will manage better than if my father were here.”
“And you speak as though I doubt your capability in looking after yourself,” Snape said smoothly before continuing a
little more slowly, “though I seriously doubt whether your current... circumstances... are as favourable as theirs.”
Theodore went cold. His mind was reeling with the shock of Snape’s implication. So he knew as well? How many others
knew? Did the other Slytherins know and never let on? They would be laughing at him. Everyone would be laughing at him.
How dare he do this? How dare he come and throw this in his face after everything that he had done to him? He could not
take any more of this. Social etiquette be damned!
Slowly, he straightened up and turned around. He looked straight into Snape’s eyes and said, coldly and deliberately:
“Biddy will show you to your room.”
Before Snape could say anything in response, Theodore rose from his chair and strode toward the doors, the fury of the
sheer indignity of it all thundering through his veins. When passing the last of the piles of parchment, he kicked at it,
scattering them, sending sheets flying through air and fluttering gently to the floor. When he reached the doors, he threw
them open with reckless abandon and shut them behind him, the great, shuddering bang resonating throughout the main hall.
He had felt Snape’s eyes following him all the way out.
“I will be in my quarters, should you need me, Biddy,” Theodore said, addressing the small, green figure looking at him
quizzically, her head popping round the door from the kitchens. “You may show Professor Snape to his room, if you are ready.
Good night, Biddy.”
Not waiting for an answer, he turned on his heel and climbed the stairs - walking past all the golden-haired portraits.
As always, they said nothing; but they knew something was wrong. They were all smirking unpleasantly, and this did not help
to calm him down. He didn’t stop until he reached his rooms, where he opened the door with a rather too vigorous ‘alohomora’.
The door flew open on its hinges and Theodore marched over to his bed and threw himself upon it, drawing the curtains over
and hugging his knees to his chest, staring furiously at his feet.
After fifteen minutes worth of rocking gently back an forth, willing himself to calm down, he realised that it wasn’t
going to happen. All he had accomplished so far was his discovery that the sock on his right foot needed darning. His mind,
however, was a little clearer and he knew that the only way he could possibly be at ease was with Snape gone. Out of his
home and out of his life. He swung his legs over the bed and sighed, resting his head in his hands.
“I need to calm down…” he whispered to himself. Slowly, unconsciously, his eyes fixed upon the door to his study. For a
moment, he stared at it accusingly, as if it were its fault for making him look. Then, his whole body sagged under the
weight of a weary sigh. He stood up and ran a hand through his hair. “What harm could it do?” he said lightly, before he
turned the handle and emerged into his recently converted study-cum-potions-laboratory.
As soon as he stepped foot into the room, he felt better. It did his heart good to see that Biddy had kept everything in
working order for him. His small cauldrons, gleaming, were stacked tidily in their corner; new stocks of ingredients had
been ordered; the torches were lit in their brackets; and there were piles of different kinds of wood, some ordered in
specially, ready to be used. With a small smile on his face, Theodore walked over to his large cauldron, cast-iron and
deep-bellied, and ran a loving hand over it. There was nothing for it. It was the only way he could soothe his agitation.
Once he had admitted this to himself, he went over to the sink and searched around in his mind for something simple to
brew whilst washing his hands. He decided upon a Befuddlement Draught and instantly went to work, casting several cleaning
charms on both his work-surface and upon the insides of his cauldron. Forcing on his dragon-hide gloves, steam already
rising from the water in the cauldron, he separated all the necessary ingredients: the sneezewort, the scurvy grass, the
lovage; and chopped, diced and crushed them as was required, his thin hands working swiftly and skilfully. Standing over his
simmering cauldron, he deftly added a hint of this, a dash of that; stirred clockwise and anti-clockwise; kept the apple wood
tinder burning at just the right temperature. But at the end of it all, his mixture was not quite the right shade of light
blue he had expected. Puzzled, he narrowed his eyes and reached for his experiment notes. What did he do wrong? He knew
the method by heart! He could have recited it in his sleep! As his eyes scanned the parchment for errors, a cold voice
drifted in from the shadows. Theodore stiffened.
“Your sneezewort isn’t nearly fresh enough.” A pale, thin fingered hand appeared in front of his face. “Smell it.”
Grudgingly, Theodore sniffed at the herb. Sure enough, Snape was right, but then that was to be expected. Even if he
was… what he was… he still was a master potion-brewer, after all.
“I… I am rather tired,” Theodore admitted, his professional pride pushing aside his personal differences for the moment.
“I wasn’t thinking…”
“That,” Snape retorted caustically, “is obvious.” He deftly extricated Theodore’s experiment records from his hands, his
eyes darting back and forth. Theodore scowled, but remained silent. After a minute, he pronounced his judgement upon the
matter. “Your method was correct, as I surmised, as was your preparation of the ingredients. Ultimately, it was the quality
of the ingredients themselves that let you down and also the fact that you did not bother to check the quality of those
ingredients before you began your preparation.”
“I was tired, I wasn’t thinking properly…” Theodore began mulishly before Snape interrupted him.
“So you have told me,” Snape said, staring down his hooked nose at Theodore. “Well that particular ailment, fortunately
for you, can be cured by a single, extraordinarily simple action. My suggestion is that you go to bed. I shall finish up
here - and I will not see you in the morning.”
Instinctively, Theodore nodded, blinked once or twice and wandered absently out of his laboratory and back into his room.
By the time he realised what had happened, he was too tired to care. His head was aching and his eyelids felt ridiculously
heavy; they would just not stay open no matter how hard he tried. With a sigh, he knew that there was no use fighting it
and, after all, he had had a long day. So he changed into his nightshirt and slipped under the covers. He could hear Snape
working in the next room, chopping up some roots, no doubt, by the sound of things. He must have been starting on something
new. Probably intent on showing poor, stupid Theodore how it was done, he thought with a scowl; but his anger gradually faded
as the warm, welcome darkness of sleep beckoned. He was just about to go to sleep when a thought drifted pleasantly into
his mind. At least he wouldn’t have to deal with him in the morning.
Things were looking better already…