The Sugar Quill
Author: JK Ashavah (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Dux Dolosus  Chapter: Chapter One: The Potions Master
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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.

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Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, places or situations of the Harry Potter universe, they belong to that wonderful woman J. K. Rowling, Warner Brothers, Scholastic Books and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

I am making no money and intend no copyright infringement. I'm only playing!

The quote at the start of the chapter is from: Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 1998, pg. 61 (Australian version).

I don't own Merlin Talisen. She is on permanent loan from my sister TQ, to whom I owe so much ... without her willingness to act out scenes and talk for hours about fanfiction, who knows where I would be.

First of all, I have no idea where Antony came from. He just walked straight into my fic about Harry's fifth year, in a similar way to that in which Faramir walked into the glades of Ithilien in The Lord of The Rings. I came to like Antony, and I wanted to write about him. He was suppsoed to get a one shot. Unfortunately, I forgot to tell him that.

Thanks to Jenavira for finding me the quote for this chapter when my copy of Chamber of Secrets was Absent With Out Leave, TQ for helping Antony get to where he is today, and Queen of the World, Mirror of Erised, Beth Brownell, EJ Malfoy, and Pheonixx for all your help. The most recent re-write is courtesy of the wonderful Calliope.

I would like to dedicate this chapter to The Cynic, whose appreciation of this fic made me decide to go ahead and finish it. Thank you for your encouragement. I am indebted to you.
 

Rating and Warning: R for drug use, coarse language, severe angst, darkness, (maybe) sex, and psychological and suicide themes in later chapters.

 

Dux Dolosus

By: JK


 

Chapter One: The Potions Master

"There's an empty chair at the staff table ... where's Snape?"
Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 

The sun rose over Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, signalling the start of what should have been a lazy, relaxing winter Sunday, a chance for the students to unwind between the excitement of the Hogsmeade visit the previous day and the inevitable return to classes on Monday.

As the students drifted into the Great Hall, yawning sleepily, they noticed several small things. First of all, the Head Table was several staff members short. Professors Snape, McGonagall and Dumbledore were all missing. This caused no more concern than a few raised eyebrows - with the uncertainty caused by Dumbledore's conviction that Lord Voldemort had risen again, such absences among the staff were not uncommon.

However, the Prefects from Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were standing in a huddle near the doors into the hall, whispering worriedly whilst eying the doorway; their Slytherin counterparts sat together at one end of their table, muttering darkly to each other. Several students slowed as they walked past the huddles, hoping to catch a snippet of what was concerning the Prefects so, but to no avail.

The Head Boy and Girl stood at the front of the hall in a strangely stiff way. Occasionally one or the other of them would make their way towards the huddle of Prefects, exchange some brief, terse words, and return to their spot near the Head Table. The Slytherin Head Boy's stony expression was unusually still, as if it were fixed to his face.

These strange events sowed seeds of uncertainty and doubt in the minds of the students, and with the gossip flying around the hall, the seeds flourished.

Finally, Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore entered the hall, both looking abnormally grave. Dumbledore took his place at the Head Table. The Head Boy and Girl turned to him respectfully, and slowly the chatter in the Hall died down. The faces of all the students turned to the front, eyes trained eagerly on the headmaster, waiting for news of this disturbance.

Dumbledore raised his arms.

"Do not be concerned," he said slowly and reassuringly. His words caused many students to shoot uncertain glances at each other. "There is simply a minor administrative problem, caused by the sudden illness of one of the members of the staff." Whispers sprang up all over the hall. They spread as only gossip can, and had quickly reached every corner of the hall. Dumbledore cleared his throat, and the hissing sound died down quickly. "If I could see the prefects, Head Boy and Head Girl in my office when they have finished eating, I will explain the situation to them."

With that, he exited the hall, an outburst of chattering from every side following him as he walked out the door. He sighed, shook his head slightly and climbed the many staircases that led to his office. He took a seat at his desk, glancing around as if he had been hoping for something to have arrived while he was gone. His eyes fell on a roll of parchment, which he opened and read, a smile creeping across his face behind his beard.

"Yes," he said softly to himself, tapping the surface of his desk with one finger. He rolled up the piece of parchment and placed it in a drawer. Fawkes the phoenix studied him intelligently. Dumbledore smiled. "She is coming."

***

Later that day, the prefects poured out of Dumbledore's office, whispering excitedly.

"I can't believe our luck!" Harry Potter exclaimed, grinning. His friend Hermione Granger gave him a reprimanding look. "Come on, Hermione, you didn't like him either!" Harry said. "He was always taking points off Gryffindor!"

"I don't think anyone liked him," Justin Finch-Fletchley added. "I certainly didn't."

The other prefects nodded in agreement.

"The only ones who liked him were Malfoy and the Slytherins," said a sixth year Ravenclaw, glancing around hurriedly as she did so to check that no Slytherins were in sight. Draco Malfoy seemed to have led his house mates down a different corridor from the other prefects. The Ravenclaw looked relieved. " I mean, he was their Head of House and everything. They were the only ones who liked him. Right, Julia?"

Julia, a sixth-year Gryffindor girl, nodded. "Which, of course," she added, "means," she lowered her voice dramatically, "Himself." The capital letter she gave the word could easily be heard, and a hush fell over the group. Its members looked uncertainly at each other.

"Who?" Hannah Abbott asked eagerly, surveying the faces of the older prefects. Julia rolled her eyes at the ceiling.

"The Head Boy."

"Julia, you're just mad at him because he took points off you!" her male counterpart said jokingly.

"No, I'm not, Robert!" Julia shot back. "I hate him!" She looked at the older prefects as if searching for support. The Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws looked at each other, then nodded slowly. "I mean," Julia continued. "You," she said, shooting a glare at Robert, "didn't have to work with him last year. He's horrible."

"No-one who has Draco Malfoy following him around like a fawning puppy dog can be any good," one of the Hufflepuffs said. The other prefects nodded in agreement, except Hermione and Robert.

"But, if Dumbledore made him Head Boy, there must be a reason!" Hermione exclaimed. "Don't judge him so quickly." Julia rolled her eyes at the ceiling.

"Hermione, you can be so naive!" she told the younger girl. Hermione opened her mouth angrily, but Robert interjected.

"She has a point, Julia." Julia turned to glare at him.

"As I said, you," she said, pointing an accusing finger at him, "didn't have to work with him all last year! I did, and so did Sandy, Alvin, Alastair and Sylvia!" She indicated each prefect as she said their name. Sylvia, the Ravenclaw, nodded her agreement.

"Julia's right, Robert. He's horrible to work with. I can't believe you haven't figured that out after three months!" She paused, looking around. "He's conceited, arrogant, snobbish and he thinks anyone with blood less pure than his is an inferior form of life!" Robert grinned at her.

"Get out of it, Sylvia," he said in a good-natured way. Her jaw dropped, and she shook her head disbelievingly.

"Robert, it's true," Alastair, the other Ravenclaw sixth year added. "Look at how Draco Malfoy is at his beck and call. I'm surprised Dumbledore even let him into the school, let alone gave him a Head Boy badge."

"Why?" Hermione asked, surprised.

"Don't tell me you don't know, Hermione," Alastair said, grinning at her. "Some piece of information you haven't read?" Hermione paused for a moment, her mouth open in indignation, then glared, and began to speak, but Alastair interrupted before she could say anything. "I'm just kidding, Hermione. But didn't you know?" He dropped his voice and spoke in a conspiratorial tone, so the others had to lean close to him to hear what he said. "His father was a Death Eater," he said with a flourish. The younger prefects gasped, except for Hermione and Harry.

"So?" Hermione asked, obviously unconvinced. "That doesn't mean anything." She exchanged a glance with Harry. His expression said that he agreed with her. It looked like he was remembering his run-in at the end of the previous year with the Death Eater son of a Ministry official.

Alastair and Julia sighed.

"Just look at his personality, Hermione!" Julia exclaimed. "He's such a snob, he's always ready with an acid remark, he's secretive, cunning, scheming, and he fits right in with the ideals of Slytherin house."

"In short," someone interjected, "he's the perfect Slytherin."

"I couldn't have said it better," Julia said, nodding emphatically. Alastair, Sandy and Alvin agreed.

"Plus, he has the perfect Death Eater pedigree," the same voice continued nastily. All the sixth years nodded. "I'd be surprised if he didn't become a Death Eater."

"Exactly!" Julia crowed. "At least someone agrees with me ..."

Her jubilance faded, and she studied the expressions of the other prefects, realisation slowly creeping across her face. She gulped.

"Umm ..." She cleared her throat nervously. Who said that?" she asked tentatively. She looked terrified.

"Me," said a cold voice from behind her. She spun around, stepping backwards, and her hands flew to her mouth. A strangled exclamation escaped her throat, and the terror in her eyes was obvious.

A moment later, the reason for her horror was made clear to all the prefects. As the speaker steeped into the middle of the group, Alastair, Sandy and Alvin gave similar startled exclamations to Julia's, and fidgeted nervously under the acid gaze of the boy in their midst. The Head Boy.

"Professor Dumbledore told you to go inform your respective houses of the reason behind the absence of Professor Snape," he said coldly. His fury was plain in his voice, and his pale blue eyes glinted maliciously. "Not," he continued, his voice as cold and dangerous as a snake's hiss, "to stand around in the corridors gossiping idly and blocking the passage of your fellow students. I make that twenty points each from Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Now, get out of the way and let us through." He nodded his head at the Head Girl, who was standing behind Julia with a pained, sympathetic expression on her face as she studied the prefects.

"Go on!" the Head Boy ordered. The prefects turned and hurried off.

"See?" Julia hissed under her breath at the others. "He's an evil sadist!"

The other prefects exchanged glances, and it looked like every one of them agreed with Julia.

***

Raylene Faulkner, Ravenclaw and Head Girl, gazed at the retreating backs of the prefects, shaking her head slowly. The Head Boy didn't seem to notice her, and she sighed. She had heard the Gryffindor prefect's parting words, and she could see from the expression on her companion's face that he had too. Although she couldn't see if the girl's remark had hurt him or not.

"Come, Raylene. We are supposed to be at the door already." With that, he strode ahead of her. Raylene gave an exasperated sigh.

"I'm coming, Antony." Why do I bother trying to work with him? she wondered as she jogged to catch up with him. He's demanding, egocentric, and has a nasty sadistic streak. In other words, as he said, he's the perfect Slytherin.

She shook her head, unable to comprehend Antony and catch up with him at the same time. Rolling her eyes at the ceiling, she finally managed to reach his side.

"Will you slow down?" she panted. He shot her a cold, penetrating stare and slowed his pace fractionally. Yeah, thanks.

Antony and Raylene strode together down the marble staircase and into the Entrance Hall. There were several small groups of students gathered there, probably, Raylene decided, to try and glean some snippets of information about Professor Snape's disappearance.

She had an idea that Antony knew more about Professor Snape's whereabouts than she did. She also knew that it would not be a good idea to ask him. Whatever it was, she supposed, if Dumbledore was content, that was all that mattered to her. Besides, it was never a good idea to become too curious when around Antony, lest he fix her with a glacial stare.

The official story behind Snape's disappearance was that he had suddenly fallen ill and had to leave. The story didn't ring true to Raylene, however; he had vanished in the middle of a school trip to Hogsmeade, and he had been fine that morning. Snape had been deep in discussion with Antony as Raylene had left the castle for the village, and neither of them had looked happy. What the trouble had been, she could not tell or even begin to guess.

Her thoughts were brought to an end as Antony hauled on the doors that led into the grounds. They opened, and the two seventh years walked out into the weak sunshine of the cool December day. Antony folded his arms across his chest and walked down to the edge of the lake, where he stood looking out over the Forbidden Forest. Raylene did not join him, but instead chose to wait by the doors.

They had been sent by Dumbledore to greet Professor Snape's replacement as Potions Master. The new Head of Slytherin would not be the new Potions Master. Antony had seemed irritated at that - the role of Head of Slytherin had gone to the Potions Master for many years.

Instead, the new Head of Slytherin would be Professor Vellian, of the Astronomy department. Raylene couldn't see why Antony objected - Vellian always seemed to her to be a perfectly competent teacher. Maybe he wasn't as like the perfect Slytherin as he had to be to pass Antony's inspection.

Why could she not find it in her to hate Antony? That was the question which had been burning in her mind since they had started to work together as Head Boy and Girl. He was everything she hated - arrogant, cruel - even, some people might say, evil. Yet still, she couldn't hate him. She kept searching for some good quality, some reason to not hate him. She certainly couldn't like the person he was. Always so cold and emotionless. I wonder what he feels. I know he must have emotion somewhere, but he hides it so well.

Raylene shook her head, giving up. Antony turned to look at her, as if he could feel that she had been watching him.

"I think our new Professor is coming," he said simply, walking over to where Raylene stood. She craned her neck, and sure enough, two figures were approaching.

One of them she recognised instantly as Hagrid. The other was much smaller, probably about average height. As they drew closer, Raylene could see that the unfamiliar figure was that of a woman.

She shot a glance at Antony to see what he thought of this, but his face was impassive. He was watching the approaching figures intently. It was as if he could see something that Raylene could not.

Finally, Hagrid and the woman drew near enough for Raylene to see their new Potions Master closely. She studied the woman carefully. The professor was slender, and her green robe set off the colour of her eyes. Her long hair was dark and was braided around her head in an intricate coronet. It caught a ray of the morning sun, and Raylene saw that it was not black, as she had first thought, but was instead a deep, dark mahogany.

"An' here's our Head Boy an' Girl ter meet yeh, Professor," Hagrid said. "I'd best be off."
With that he turned, leaving the new Potions Master alone with Raylene and Antony. She didn't seem at all perturbed by the Head Boy's hostile gaze, instead she smiled at the two of them and put down the bag she was carrying to offer them her hand.

"Top of the mornin' to you," she said, and Raylene was surprised to hear a gentle, Irish voice. She wasn't sure what she was expecting, but that wasn't it. Antony took in the woman's words without so much as the flicker of an eyelid. "I'm the new Potions Professor," she continued, obviously trying to get some reaction from the two seventh years. "Professor -"

"Merlin Talisen," Antony interrupted in a chilly voice. Raylene spun to look at him, bewildered. How did he know that? For she could tell from the new professor's expression that Antony was right.

"Oh," the woman said, frowning slightly. "So Dumbledore told you." She was scrutinising Antony's face in a way that made Raylene wonder if the two had met before. No, they can't have. She wouldn't have asked if Dumbledore told us about her if they'd met before.

"No," Antony said coolly, his face emotionless. "I recognised you." Raylene frowned, shooting glances from Antony to Professor Talisen. The Head Boy's expression was unreadable. He kept his face blank and cold, but Raylene could see him studying the professor.

Professor Talisen frowned, her green eyes thoughtful.

"I don't ... recall ... ever having met you," she said slowly. Her moment of hesitation made Raylene wonder if perhaps the professor did not really agree with her own words; she seemed to be searching her memory for any recollection of the boy.

"It was a photograph," Antony replied curtly. His tone made Raylene start. He had been looking straight into Professor Talisen's eyes, but he spoke quickly and his demeanour changed fractionally. Raylene had a sudden feeling that he was lying.

"By the Saints!" the professor exclaimed, rolling her eyes heavenward. "Can't a woman keep out of the media spotlight for a single moment?" Her tone was irritable, and Raylene guessed that Antony's words had struck a nerve somewhere. She turned her eyes to the Head Boy.

"It wasn't the media," he replied coolly. This simple statement had an amazing effect. The tone of his voice was challenging, and Raylene saw Professor Talisen sharply turn her gaze to Antony's, trying to interpret his meaning.

His eyes were narrowed, and he was standing at his full height, which was greater than the professor's. It seemed to Raylene that he was trying to be intimidating. It didn't look like it was working.

What's he playing at? she wondered to herself. Does he honestly think he can frighten a teacher?

There was a silence as Antony and Professor Talisen studied each other. Each moment seemed an eternity to Raylene, as she waited for someone to say something.

"We weren't introduced," she finally said desperately, trying to defuse the situation before anything could happen to heighten the feelings of hostility in the air. "I'm Raylene Faulkner of Ravenclaw," she continued, offering her hand to Professor Talisen, "and this is -"

"Antony Bond, Slytherin," Antony interrupted coldly, his gaze fixed on Professor Talisen's. Raylene had the feeling that he had thrown down some sort of gauntlet, challenging the professor to act, making it her move.

Professor Talisen arched an eyebrow, letting her breath whistle gently through her lips as she exhaled.

"So," she said thoughtfully. "Antony Bond, is it?" She narrowed her eyes. She seemed to be judging Antony somehow. Raylene couldn't see why his name was so important.

"Yes, Professor," Antony replied, his tone hostile. Raylene was reminded of a tough youth saying "what's it to ya?" in imitation of American Muggle television shows. She could sense the battle of wills going on between Antony and Professor Talisen but was unable to tell who was winning. Something was going on underneath the words they spoke, but she could not tell what.

"That explains a lot," the professor said under her breath. Raylene glanced at Antony to see if he had heard her, but his face showed only the hostility he had been displaying.

"Shall we go in?" Raylene asked, in what she knew would be a futile attempt to ease the tension in the air. "Professor Dumbledore's waiting for us."

Antony nodded curtly, turning in a swirl of long black robes, and strode towards the castle, flinging open the doors before him and sweeping across the Entrance Hall. Raylene picked up Professor Talisen's bag, receiving a grateful nod for her effort, and followed him into the castle.

"Impossible. There's no other word for him," she muttered as she hauled the professor's bag through the doorway, shaking her head slowly. Professor Talisen sighed, and Raylene could tell from the expression on her face that she agreed wholeheartedly.

***
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