The Sugar Quill
Author: Juliane (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Strange Choices in a Mad Season  Chapter: Chapter One
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Chapter One

As the carriage rolled towards Hogwarts on a mellow summer evening, Viviane leaned out the window to catch a first glimpse of the castle towers. Sheíd had a wonderful summer in Prague, but to her surprise she was happy to be returning to another year of teaching at the English wizarding school. By the time the school year had ended last spring, she thought she would never look forward to coming back, especially after the row with Snape and the mistake sheíd made of yelling after Dumbledore down a school corridor. She blushed slightly as she remembered having to apologize to Albus, but she hoped heíd forgotten both her fit of temper and her apology afterwards.

As the carriage rolled up to the door, Viviane felt a surge of excitement. When it stopped she bounded out and ran into the entrance hall, shouting "Albus? Minerva? Anybody home?"

"Well, thereís the end of our nice quiet summer," a sarcastic voice declared. Viviane spotted Snape lurking in a corner of the hall. Suddenly she remembered the one thing she was definitely not looking forward to doing - spending two hours a week deciphering potions with Snape. Hopefully Albus had also forgotten that heíd sentenced them to that particular task.

"Severus. Practicing your manners for the new crop of students, I see."

Before Snape could retort, Dumbledore walked hurriedly into the hall, slightly out of breath. "Viviane! Howís our traveler? I trust you enjoyed your vacation!" He patted her on the back and smiled at her.

"It was lovely, Albus. In between waltzing and wine tasting, I actually picked up some interesting new methods for Transfiguration. And I brought you back some divine chocolate creams."

"They sound wonderful, but I hope they arenít a bribe."

"Bribe?" said Viviane, puzzled.

"Yes, bribe," Dumbledore chuckled. "Viviane, I know your methods. Severus, since youíre here, I might as well let the both of you know that Iíve arranged for you two to have Wednesday evenings free in order to start your Potions collaboration. Iím sure youíve been looking forward to it. Iíll see you both at dinner!"

As Dumbledore walked away, Snape hissed, "If you had refrained from blasting down my door last spring, we wouldnít be in this mess."

"Oh? If you hadnít played that scurvy trick on Remus, blasting down your door would have been unnecessary. Excuse me. I have to unpack." As Viviane walked to her room in the Ravenclaw tower, she began to wonder if this year was going to be as much fun as sheíd anticipated.

****

At dinner that evening, Viviane was having a wonderful time comparing vacation notes with Professor McGonagall, who had enjoyed herself immensely hiking in Scotland, and Professor Sprout, who had discovered several new uses for mandrakes over the summer. Suddenly Dumbledore called for everyoneís attention.

"Ahem. I have an announcement to make that will greatly affect this school year. The Ministry has decided to revive the Triwizard Tournament, which will take place at Hogwarts-"

Viviane leapt to her feet. "Albus! You canít be serious?"

Dumbledore looked at her with an expression that made her sit down more quickly than sheíd gotten up.

"Excuse me, Albus, sorry for interrupting. But with the events at the Quidditch World Cup this year and the Death Eaters gathering force, do you really think this is a good time to hold a tournament featuring dangerous tasks for students, not to mention the amount of strange people whoíll be running around Hogwarts? And all of them eager, probably, to get a glimpse of Harry Potter."

Dumbledore sighed. "Viviane, you make several relevant points. But I think weíll be able to handle security, and it will be a good chance for the students to meet with others that they may need to ally with in future. It does mean extra work for all of us though, so I have cancelled Quidditch this year." Professor McGonagall sat back in her chair with shock but Viviane decided there might be advantages to the situation after all. That decision was immediately reversed when Dumbledore caught up with her as she was leaving the Hall.

"My dear, I have a very large and very important task Iím going to ask you to perform for us during this Tournament. You raised several security issues, and I share your concerns. Therefore, Iíd like you to take on the role of Defender of the Tournament. Since you speak several languages and have done such a good job containing the little threats the Death Eaters have been sending us, I have no qualms in trusting the safety of the students of all three schools to you. Do you think you can handle this as well as your classes?"

"Defender? Albus, Iíd be happy Ė well, Iíd do it, but do you really think that Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will feel the same way about my competence?"

Dumbledore smiled at her. "Iím sure youíll do just fine."

"If everybody agrees, Iíll do it. But Albus, I must tell you I still donít like the idea of this Tournament!"

****

As she waded through the throngs of soaked students arriving in a terrible rainstorm, Viviane spied Harry, Ron, and Hermione. "Well, hello you three! Got into any trouble yet?" she teased.

"Give us time Ė we arenít quite up to Fred and Georgeís standard," answered Ron. "What are you going to teach us this year? That Shield you taught us last year really came in handy this summer when Fred was trying to perfect his wriggly-eyebrows curse."

"I think weíll be getting into some of the more difficult reversal methods for high-end curses, and maybe cover some rather nasty Blasting Spells. Weíll see, depending on the time frame what with the-" Viviane broke off. "See you in the Hall!

"What is going on?" said Ron. "I donít know which is worse, the big secret or the state of my stomach."

"Your stomach, definitely," said a voice behind them, and the trio turned to find Charlie and Bill behind them.

"How did you get here?" Ron exclaimed. "We said goodbye at the station!"

"Yeah, but we were curious about the announcement. We want to hear what Dumbledore has to say about it," Charlie said.

"And who was that you were talking to? That tall woman with the dark hair?" said Bill. "She must be new, because Iíve definitely never seen her before."

"Me neither. Geez, whatís she here for? Looks like a tough customer in and out of the classroom," interposed Charlie.

"Oh, thatís Professor Chance, whoís here to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. One of the coolest teachers here, by far," explained Ron.

"Speak for yourself," retorted Hermione, who found Professor Chanceís class the hardest sheíd yet encountered, and who didnít seem to appreciate some of Professor Chanceís teaching methods.

*****

Viviane knocked at Snapeís reconstructed door with a hint of a smile, remembering what happened the last time sheíd been here. The door had ended up in pieces and they had nearly come to blows. This time, however, Snape opened it and stood aside to let her in.

"Professor Chance. Since you got us into this, how do you suggest we go about fulfilling the Headmasterís instructions?" Viviane ignored the accusation and said "Well, why donít you give me a lesson in Potions for the first hour, to get it over with, and the second hour Iíll read by the fire or something and if you need a translator, Iíll be here. I think that arrangement would fall into Albusí requirements." Last year Viviane had given Snape the master potions book from Aquitaine, which contained many written in ancient French that he needed help in translating.

Snape sighed and said, "That is fine with me. Weíll start with a simple Growth Potion." As he gathered the ingredients, Viviane observed the room. The only other times sheíd been in there, she had been either injured or so angry that she hadnít noticed the décor. "Early English Uncomfortable," she thought to herself, noting the hard wooden chairs and cold floors with threadbare carpet. The only decorations seemed to be rows of slimy things in jars.

"Are you going to pay attention or not?" Snape asked impatiently.

"Oh, sorry," replied Viviane. What do you want me to do?"

"Hereís the list of ingredients and instructions for brewing the potion. Start cutting up leeks." Snape began to flip through Aquitaineís potions book when he spotted Viviane about to throw her chopped leeks into the boiling cauldron. "No! Wait, donít do-"

It was too late. Viviane had tossed in the leeks, and a loud bang echoed off the walls as the cauldron melted into an iron puddle and the half-completed potion ran off the table and onto the floor. Mortified, Viviane hardly dared look at Snape, who, after a rare speechless moment, choked out "One of my best cauldrons. Here," he continued, throwing her a towel. "Clean up that mess and concentrate. Brewing potions isnít like picking up dubious Transfiguration spells from Hungarian vagrants. You need to pay attention to what you are doing. Iíll be back with another cauldron in a moment Ė start cutting up more leeks and this time make sure you cut them up properly."

At the end of an hour, Viviane had finally managed to brew a passable, if weak, Growth Potion, and she lit a fire, then subsided into a chair to read up on the histories of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. The time went much faster, since she only had to deal with Snape when he needed a word or phrase translated.

As she gathered up her books and headed out the door at the end of the second hour, Snape handed her a sheaf of parchment. "Here is your assignment. I want you to research Reversal Potions. Make sure you have one before you come back next week."

Viviane stared at Snape in disbelief. "Youíre giving meÖ.homework? I have a day job, you know!"

Snape responded with a nasty smile. "Dumbledore said to teach you Potions. So Iím teaching you. Good night!" He shut the door firmly in her face, and Viviane stomped back to her rooms, cursing Snape, Dumbledore and Hogwarts all the way there.

Next morning on the way to breakfast, Dumbledore waylaid Viviane and asked, "Did you enjoy your first Potions lesson?"

Viviane gave him a dirty look and breathed, "I swear, Albus, I will get you back for this. Just you wait!"

Dumbledore chuckled, and said, "I suppose I shouldnít ask Severus for his opinion!"

"I rather think not. I melted his best cauldron." As Viviane walked off, she could hear Dumbledore laughing quietly.

****

For her first class of the year, Viviane took her fourth-year students out to a grove of dead trees. "Iím going to teach you a Blasting Spell, which is definitely something you canít practice on each other." She indicated the trees. "Weíll be practicing on these for accuracy and degrees of intensity. Any questions before we begin? No? Good. By the way, the same rules as last year apply while youíre in my class. No one will hit anyone else with a curse or spell without warning. The severity of the spell will influence just how many points Iíll take from your House, which start at 50 and go up from there. Letís begin."

After a group practice of the wand motion and spell, Viviane let each student try to blast small twigs off the end of branches. Poor Neville Longbottom managed to hit a raven instead of his twig, and the bird attacked him before Viviane could stop it so she sent him off to Madam Pomfrey to heal the resulting puncture wounds. As Viviane let the students start strengthening the blasts, it was Dracoís turn to try. With a glance at Viviane, he tensed his body and delivered a blasting spell so powerful that it not only knocked off a massive branch, but ricocheted back towards him. Viviane immediately saw what was coming, and tried desperately to keep her face straight as Draco ducked instinctively and the remains of the blast hit Crabbe and Goyle standing behind him, knocking them backwards about five feet and leaving them in a heap. Viviane found she could no longer stand it and gasped out "Iíll be right back Ė left something in the castle," and ran down to the courtyard, where she stood shrieking with laughter for several minutes. Wiping her eyes, she took some deep breaths and ventured back to her class, wondering how Draco managed to deliver that much power. She could hardly believe that heíd practiced much over the summer.

****

Viviane and Professor McGonagall were playing their first game of chess since the year started, and Viviane was getting soundly beaten.

"Yet another Defense teacher. I must say, they keep getting weirder," McGonagall said between a sip of her wine and the capture of Vivianeís remaining bishop.

"Damn! Minerva, you need to cut me some slack for the first couple games. Yeah, Alastor Moody!" Viviane began to giggle. "I knew him years ago. He wasnít bad-looking when he started out and still had all of his extremities. We used to call him CV."

"CV?"

"Constant vigilance!" Viviane shouted, making Professor McGonagall jump and then start laughing. "He certainly is paranoid. How did your first class go today, Viv?"

"Total chaos, naturally. I have the Gryffindors with Slytherin again. Even when they arenít fighting each other, I swear the mutual antipathy just makes things happen. Neville Longbottom got attacked by a raven and Crabbe and Goyle were slightly injured by a surprisingly strong Blasting Spell courtesy of Draco Malfoy."

"Draco Malfoy? He produced a strong spell?"

"Yeah. It surprised me, too. But then again, it makes sense, sort of. Iím teaching some powerful stuff, and the Malfoys do like power. And he does well enough in Potions, so he isnít entirely hopeless. How did your classes go?"

Professor McGonagall smiled. "Our new batch of students seem a likely bunch. And my third year Transfiguration class was a treat Ė Ginny Weasley in particular seems like a quick study."

"Cute kid, Ginny. But I feel sorry for whoever tries to date her, with all those older brothers around."

****

The next morning, as Viviane was sprinting to her fifth year class, she passed by Moody, who was letting his students into the classroom.

"Moody!"

"Chance!"

They gave each other a high-five as Viviane went running off down the hallway, trailing coffee out of her oversized mug.

Professor Moody turned to his class. "Lethal woman, she is," he said with apparent satisfaction. "Keep on her good side. I once saw her take out a rampaging giant with a Stunning Spell and two sword thrusts." The students stared at each other, shocked, while Hermione gave Ron and Harry an ĎI told you so!í look. Ron responded with "Iím sure sheís mowed down acres of house-elves, too. Better raid her desk again to check on that, Hermione."

****

The huge blue carriage approached the door, and Viviane shifted from foot to foot nervously. She had no idea if the Beauxbatons delegation knew of her, of Aquitaine, or her parents, but she sincerely hoped not. As the students followed their teacher up the steps and into the castle without anyone glancing in her direction, she began to hope that it wouldnít be an issue. The Durmstrang group followed, one of who was apparently a Quidditch World Cup player. Viviane shook her head and picked him out immediately, due to the crescendo of giggles that followed his passage through the Hogwarts student ranks. "Professional athlete and student. What are his teachers thinking, letting him do that? Surely he canít have acquired the skills needed to master the tasks of the Tournament," she thought. He certainly didnít seem as if he was enjoying the attention.

Viviane hurried back to her rooms instead of the Great Hall, suddenly realizing that sheíd have to be conspicuous and easily found if something went wrong. Therefore, her usual black attire was out. "What to wear, what to wear?" Viviane asked herself as she flipped through her wardrobe, inspecting extravagant dress robes that had belonged to her mother, and others sheíd had made over the years. Finally a deep blue robe in fine wool caught her eye, edged by constellations worked in silver thread and set with tiny crystals. That, Viviane decided, would do nicely.

Feeling odd in the unaccustomed robe, Viviane hurried into the Great Hall just as Dumbledore was welcoming the students. He gave her a reproving look as she made her way between the tables and took the only empty chair at the faculty table. She sat down, carefully moving her sword to one side of the chair and surveyed the Hall. It looked strange, with the red and blue robes of the other schools mixing with the black of Hogwarts. She was nearly caught up in the excitement emanating from the students, but the nagging sense that the Tournament was an incredibly stupid idea kept her subdued. She barely paid attention throughout dinner, her mind still trying to work out her security plans, when she heard Dumbledore announce her as Defender of the Tournament and look at her expectantly.

Taken by surprise and moving on instinct, she stood up and moved around to the front of the faculty table, unsheathing her sword and sweeping it over her head so quickly that most of the assembly jumped at the audible Ďwhooshí it made. Eyes blazing and holding the sword aloft, she surveyed the room and said, "If anyone here is contemplating mayhem, disruption, or injury to anyone involved in this Tournament, think twice. I, Viviane Chance, am Defender of this Tournament and swear to protect all members of the schools involved. If anyone sees or hears of any unusual activity or of a threat, tell me, and Iíll deal with it. Immediately."

Amid total silence, Viviane slammed her sword back into the scabbard and headed back to her seat. As she did, she noticed that a rather attractive wizard with long red hair was seated near the end of the table. He leaned backward as she passed him, looked up at her with a smile and whispered, "Well done! Youíve managed to scare the piss out of everybody."

Viviane whispered back with a grin, "Except you, apparently! Hope you enjoyed the show!"

After she passed by Charlie leaned over to whisper to Bill, "Brave boy! What are you, a glutton for ÖahemÖpunishment?"

****

Viviane was sitting in the chair by the fire, cleaning her sword. She removed a spot of mud, held it out to watch the flames play on the steel of the blade and glitter in the emeralds that made up the eyes of carved serpents, then tossed it down on the carpet.

"Iíd think you would treat your precious family relic with more respect." Viviane looked up to see Snape gazing at her with a faint sneer.

"Youíre assuming itís precious. Not to me." Viviane snorted. "I hated the sight of it, growing up. No sooner would I be in the middle of a good book when my father would come along to drum me into the practice court, going on and on about honor and duty and family reputation. I absolutely dreaded school vacations." Viviane gave a short laugh and stretched her arms over her head. "The rude irony of it all. My skill at swordfighting earned me a good if eminently disreputable living after Voldemort killed my parents and destroyed Aquitaine. It was my key to survival. How my father would have laughed to see what Iíve become and how Iíve used his lessons in honor. If heíd had a sense of humor, that is, which he didnít."

"Living? Survival? Surely your family has enough gold stored in Gringotts to make you comfortable until the end of time. Iíve wondered why youíre bothering with Hogwarts. After all of your wanderings about, donít you find teaching in a boarding school limiting?" Snape demanded.

Viviane sighed and thought about it. "Yes. I find Hogwarts to be an uncomfortably small place at times. But the Devereaux had more pride than money. Oh, Iíve had enough to travel and choose my way of life, within reason, and I chose to disappear. Itís much easier to take little vacations from reality when youíre able to roam at will-"

"What? Vacations from reality? What on earth are you talking about?" interrupted Snape.

"Oh, surely you know what Iím talking about, Snape. When the burden of being who I am gets to be a little too much. When the crazy past we all share, thanks to Voldemort, presses a little too close. When my black hole of a conscious needs a little cleaning out." Viviane looked up at Snape with a wicked smile and raised eyebrows, eyes glinting.

"Speak for yourself. I have no reason to want to escape from anything, nor does my conscience need - it is time for you and your metaphysical nonsense to go."

"Right," said Viviane, reaching for her sword. "See you later."

Suddenly the door opened. "Isnít this cozy," remarked Lucius Malfoy, as he entered. His glance took in Snape busy at the cauldron and Viviane sitting by the fire. "May I ask who-" but he broke off and simply stared at Viviane, whoíd gotten out of the chair and attempted to sweep past Malfoy and out the door. Malfoy detained her by stepping in front of the doorway.

"Excuse me, I donít think weíve been introduced. You must be Viviane Devereaux-"

"Professor Chance. And you are a Malfoy?"

"Lucius Malfoy." He looked intently at her, and remarked, "Yes, Fudge was right. With those eyes and those features you canít possibly be mistaken for anyone else. Philippe would have been proud, but it must have dismayed your lovely mother. Dumbledore thinks you quite an acquisition, Iím sure."

"Iíve been wandering around anonymously for years with these eyes and features. And I was hired simply as a Professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Goodnight."

Viviane could feel Malfoyís amused glance follow her out of the room and she wondered just what kind of business he had with Snape at that time of evening.

****

There was something strange about the students. They were more subdued than usual, and were avoiding her glance. Viviane attributed it to the nervousness over the impending test, until Hermione Granger raised her hand to ask a question.

"Professor Chance, a few days ago Professor Moody said you were lethal, and youíd killed a giant. Is that true? Were you an Auror?"

Viviane was shocked by the question and that Moody had said such a thing to students. Trying to buy some time, she found herself turning her ring around on her finger as she considered what to say. Finally she gave Hermione a level look and raised an eyebrow. "Well Hermione, you always do ask the hard questions. And I suspect you already know the answer to your second one since youíre such an avid researcher. Iím also rather surprised you bothered to ask, since you seem to be doing quite well with Blasting Spells, unlike the Shield Spell of last year."

Hermioneís accusing gaze turned into a glare as Viviane turned away and paced slowly across the room, hands pressed together and placed against her chin. "In answer to Hermioneís question, and to the doubts that the rest of you obviously have, I was not an Auror. As a matter of fact, Iíve clashed with them in the past. And yes, Iíve killed a giant. And dragons. And wizards." Viviane took note of Nevilleís terrified and Dracoís fascinated expressions. "Let me warn you, if you ask me difficult questions you are old enough now to get difficult answers. But Iím currently working against Voldemort, and for Hogwarts, and youíre all safer with me here than without me. What the lot of you make of all this, and whom you choose to tell is your business. Any other questions, difficult or otherwise?" The class sat in profound silence. "Good."

Viviane handed out the tests and sat back at her desk, wondering if it was worth it to confront Moody with his indiscretion and hypocrisy. "Damn him. Making nice to me and then this," she said to herself. "Subtle move, too, Alastor. You havenít lost your touch." She decided to let it pass, considering the outcomes of their former strong disagreements and hoped that they could simply manage to avoid each other in future.

****

Time for the choosing. Viviane watched with interest as the three names came out of the Goblet, but sat upright, appalled, as Harry Potterís name was tossed forth as well. As she joined the rest of the faculty and chosen champions, she held back as the discussion about the inclusion of Potter raged. Finally Karkaroff looked at her and said, "Professor Chance, I believe? Youíre in charge of security here. What is your opinion?"

"My opinion is irrelevant, Karkaroff. Iím simply going to step up security, thatís all. Iíll keep a very sharp eye not only on Potter, but on everyone involved." Her eyes narrowed. "Anything youíd like to share?"

Snape stepped between them and said "This wonít be an issue when we find out just how Potter got his name into that Goblet. So you wonít have to worry about the extra security, Professor Chance."

Viviane gave a mirthless laugh. "Thatís the first time Iíve heard someone say that. Excuse me, everyone, I have a few people I need to talk to."

Hurrying after Harry, she caught up with him just before he got to the Gryffindor entrance. "Harry, I have just one question to ask you," Viviane said.

Harry looked up at her and said, "No, I didnít put my name in the Goblet."

Viviane smiled and said, "In that case, I have a couple of questions. Who do you think would? Is there another student who might have done it, mistakenly thinking it would be a favor to you? Fred and George playing a prank are out, because we know they canít get over the age line. Anyone else come to mind?"

"Um, well, not a student. But maybe Voldemort-"

"Ah yes. It always seems to come back to him, doesnít it? Iíll keep an eye on your back, Harry. And if you need any extra help, find me. It isnít quite fair, you know, that the other champions have more years of learning under their belts. But youíve had good training from Professor Lupin, and youíve always done well in my class."

Harry looked surprised. "Thanks. Youíve never said anything so-"

"Iím afraid Iíve been a little remiss in letting you know that. But youíre kind of overwhelmed by attention, so I may have gone a little too far the other direction. But youíve got real talent for Defense techniques. Now get some sleep, or at least try to!"

****

"Rita! I havenít seen you in ages. Still keeping the Ministry on its toes, I hope. I assume youíre here to cover the Tournament?"

"Viv. I thought Dumbledoreís hiring of Lupin was a strange idea, but youíre the last person Iíd expect to see teaching here. You change sides so fast that even I canít keep up with you."

"I have no Ďsidesí, Rita, only goals."

"Got a quote for me? How is Harry Potter-"

Viviane laughed. "No comment. I donít have time to act as your inside source, but I wonít hinder you as long as you keep out of my way and Iím left out of your stories. As an advance token of my appreciation, theyíre weighing wands in that classroom at the end of the hall. Youíre sure to catch all of the champions in one place, and I donít think thereís any faculty present to interrupt whatever interview you choose to conduct. And thereís a closet in there if you need some privacy."

"Thanks! You always did know how to cut a deal, darling. Be sure and read my next column in the Prophet!"

"I always do, Skeeter."

****

There were lots of strange people milling about the night before the first task, most of them relatives of students who had come to watch the first Triwizard Tournament and support Hogwarts. Viviane was regretting her decision to wear a conspicuous robe, as parent after parent waylaid her to discuss the measures she was taking to protect the students at the Tournament. As she nodded, smiled, and talked until she was hoarse, she suddenly found herself face to face with Lucius Malfoy.

"Mademoiselle Chance Ė or shall we say Devereaux?"

"Professor Chance."

He bowed mockingly, and as he straightened up, said, "Iím honored. To meet the future consort of Lord Voldemort-"

Vivianeís lips tightened, but she made no reply as she tried to walk away. Lucius Malfoy caught a fold of her robe and stepped up to her. "Excuse my presumption, Professor Chance. Letís talk parent to teacher. I really must apologize for my son. He doesnít have the abilities he should, Iím afraid, but I think Dumbledoreís methods are also highly to blame for his-."

"You son is bright enough, Malfoy. Itís a pity your method of alternate bullying and bribing does him such disservice."

Malfoy glared at her and was about to retort when Snape appeared and said, "Professor Chance, the Weasleys sent me over to ask for an audience with you. Come along." He dragged her off, and as he did so whispered, "I know any kind of advice is anathema to you, but may I suggest steering clear of Lucius Malfoy. It will do you no good to antagonize him."

"He started it-" Viviane retorted, but Snape had dropped her arm and moved off into the crowd. She turned towards the gaggle of Weasleys, who were looking at her in surprise. "Professor Chance!" Arthur Weasley exclaimed. "How nice of you to stop by!" Viviane scowled after Snapeís disappearing form, wondering what the latest fit of bossiness was about.

****

The dragons for the first task were ready to go, the golden eggs placed in the nests. Viviane prowled around, looking for possible security problems, but everything seemed to be secure and in order so she leaned on one of the railings and studied the creatures. They certainly were beautiful, but she didnít envy the person who got that Horntail, which seemed to be in a permanently nasty mood. She tooked at the stands, filling up with spectators, and noted Cedric getting sick outside the championsí tent. It seemed like a good time to take her place.

She walked up the stands to a seat near the top, where she had a clear view of events. Taking out her wand, she held it ready for whatever she might need, be it stopping some threat or to magnify her voice if a warning was needed. The first three champions did well, and Viviane tensed as Harry emerged to battle the Horntail. She began to laugh as Harry summoned his broom and began to outwit the dragon from the air. "Oh, good job, Harry. Clever boy!" she exclaimed. He was so good at spells requiring basic courage that she often forgot that he was also quite clever. As he scooped up the egg and came to a halt she raced down the stands and into Madam Pomfreyís tent.

"Well done, everybody! I bet youíre all relieved to have that over with." Leaning towards Harry, she whispered, "Excellent idea, summoning your broom. The most important part of any defense technique is using your brain!"

As she walked back towards the castle, Viviane decided that although she would still watch Harry closely, he was quite capable of taking care of himself to a certain point.

****

Snape found that Viviane was much better at Potions theory than in brewing them, so heíd taught her how to make a series of Base Potions, which she would spend the first hour brewing for the more complex ones he would create later in the evening. They seemed to have found a comfortable accord with each other, Viviane thought as she stood cutting up roots while Snape arranged the ingredients he would need later. Sheíd actually come to look forward to Wednesday evenings; they provided a break from the constant surveillance she was usually performing and gave her energy for the rest of the week. Viviane watched the Potions master and thought that this was where he looked to best advantage. He moved gracefully among his jars, bottles and herbs, and Viviane noticed yet again how beautiful his hands were as they sorted out glass vials. Pity he was so irredeemably bitter, she concluded.

"Pay attention! Youíre cutting those roots up in the sloppiest manner!" Snape said, making Viviane jump and refocus.

Once the first hour was over, Viviane forgot to pick up her book and was leaning against the side of the chair. The Tournament was taking more out of her than sheíd realized, and she sat gazing into the fire with a tired and rather sad expression. Snapeís voice roused her from her meditations.

"Chance, wake up. What, exactly does this mean? Should the newt livers be ground or powdered?" Viviane got up and peered at the book.

"Um, it looks like you want them coarsely ground up. A Truth potion? Donít you have one of those already? Veratiserum?"

"Yes, but this seems to work differently. It doesnít last as long as my Veratiserum, but it looks much more powerful."

"Ah, yes. The addition of the ratís blood increases the potency, but I can see that the mandrake you need for stability would degrade the effects of the potion more quickly than usual," Viviane observed.

Snape stared at her, mouth open in surprise. "Exactly, but how did you know that? This potion is a far cry from the simple ones youíve been studying."

Viviane looked amused. "Well, it just makes sense. Youíve made me research what the ingredients do Ė it isnít hard to figure out what the effects would be."

"Not according to the students in my classes. Very - very good. Well, thatís all I needed," Snape said, still looking surprised.

Viviane returned to her chair and resumed staring into the fire. "You look exhausted, by the way," Snape remarked. "Are you thinking about the end of this wretched Tournament?"

"Actually, not at the moment. I was thinking about Aquitaine." Viviane hugged her knees and leant back into the chair. "I generally avoid the thought, but it was such a beautiful day today, and it reminded me of our annual harvest festival. It used to be such fun, and I can still taste the fresh apple cider. I did love that place."

"Iím rather surprised you enjoyed school. Didnít you get homesick? Iíve heard that your parentís chateau was one of the most beautiful in France, and conditions at Aquitaine have been unfavorably compared to a monastery."

"Oh yes, my parentís castle was stunning. But wasnít I made for the role of scion of an heroic house and living in one was disconcerting at best. At Aquitaine I had everything I wanted. A library and the freedom to use it, exceptional teachersÖand I was good at the academic life. I thrived in it. The lack of velvet curtains and fine cuisine did not matter when I was with a group of people who had the same goals and passions as I did." Viviane suddenly felt like sheíd said too much and abruptly stood up. "Time to go," she said.

****

Viviane was heading to Snapeís office to drop off some hard-to-get ingredients sheíd obtained through some of her old contacts. As she passed through the Slytherin common room, she noticed that Draco, one of the few occupants, hastily stuffed a bunch of parchment into his bookbag when he saw her. Viviane wandered over and sat down next to him. "Draco. How goes it?"

"Fine, Professor Chance! I told my father about what weíre learning in your class and he says it sounds like Iím finally learning something useful!"

"How nice of him. So. Which class were you copying a paper for just now? Herbology? And who did the actual work?" Draco stared at her, opened his mouth to say something but then changed his mind.

"All right, time for a little chat. My office. Now." Draco, looking sulkier than usual, followed her back to the Ravenclaw tower.

"Professor Chance-"

"Draco, has it ever occurred to you that all your fatherís money and influence wonít help you very much in the long run?"

Draco looked smug. "My father is a very important man. Heís on the school board and thinks Dumbledore-"

Viviane gave him a look so forbidding that Draco shut up instantly.

"Dumbledore thinks cheating is an expellable offense. Iím going to offer you a deal, because I think youíre far from dumb. As a matter of fact, youíre one of my more talented students, but the talent is getting lost under your apparently insatiable need to attain results without work. Iíll help you out with your schoolwork Ė obviously, youíve been cheating so long youíve forgotten how to study correctly. Weíll start with this Herbology paper. But the deal hinges on two conditions. One, if I catch you cheating again, I go to the Headmaster. Secondly, you are not to tell anyone that Iím tutoring you. I need to tell Dumbledore, of course, but I wonít mention your current transgression. Deal?"

Draco looked at her from under his eyelids and groused, "Do I have a choice?"

"As a matter of fact, no. Be back here Tuesday after dinner."

Finally he mumbled, "OK."

As he left her office, Viviane smiled wryly to herself. "Take that, Lucius Malfoy," she said after the door closed.

****

As she staggered out of the Forbidden Forest, numb and shaking, Viviane decided to avoid any encounters in the hallway of the castle and went around to the back where she could enter through her window and get cleaned up before anyone saw her. It was late, but these days any of the teachers could be walking the halls. She dragged her tired feet to the steps of the terrace, but a wave of nausea overwhelmed her before she could continue and holding herself up by her sword, she leaned her head against the stone newel and tried to control a series of dry heaves that swept over her.

"Chance? What in the world-"

She looked up and saw Snape gazing down at her, appalled. "I must look like a madwoman," Viviane thought, "blood-covered and shaking, with my hair falling in my face." Trying to speak normally, she said "The Death Eaters had a little surprise for me tonight. They managed to send a real dragon out instead of one of their little magical mock-ups." Her voice broke and she sank down on the steps, her back to Snape. "Oh, it was a beautiful creature. I didnít know it was real until Iíd cut its throat, and I ended up like this." She indicated her drenched robes. Making an effort to control her voice, she continued, "Do you make it a hobby to stalk around here nights? Donít you ever sleep?"

"Do you?" Viviane heard the rustle of robes as Snape sat down next to her on the steps. He was trying to glimpse her face, but Viviane turned away. "Please," she said. "Can you leave me alone? IímÖ" she broke off, lost for words.

"The unshakeable Professor Chance is shaken? By the death of a dragon? Surely you have worse than this on your Ė how did you phrase it Ė black hole of a conscience? I never thought Iíd see the end of your incessant bravado and blather about vacations from identity." Viviane was surprised to hear him speak so evenly, and sneaking a look at his face, she found it contemplative rather than sneering.

Viviane leaned her head on the stair railing, scraped idly at the blood on her hands, and considered his question. "I suppose Ė well, yes, my past deeds include far worse than killing a dragon. Albus places great importance on the choices people make. You seem to have made all the right ones, according to him. Do you share his opinion on that?"

"He said that?" Snape said sharply.

"Not literally. But I know he believes it." She hesitated, but Snape seemed unwilling to comment so she continued. "Iíve made some awful choices, and worse mistakes. But I canít let regrets consume me, because otherwise Iíd be useless to myself and everyone Iím trying to serve. And I am trying, Severus." She pulled herself to her feet and prepared to go inside.

He caught her wrist as she turned and said without looking at her, "You had to do it, you know. Itís too dangerous to let wander about the Forest, and if Hagrid found it he would try and keep it as a pet."

Viviane smiled slightly in spite of herself, but said, "That doesnít change my hatred for what I do," and walked to her window.

Just as she was about to pull herself up to the windowsill, Snapeís voice made her pause yet again.

"Viviane-" Snape said hesitantly. She glanced back at him, but he was still facing away, gazing out over the lawn.

"Is any of that blood yours?"

"Not this time," she answered, and climbed into her room.

//
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