a Harry Potter fan-fic
a sequel to "Squib Doors"
Chapter 1 of 7: Points for Gryffindor and A Life Saved for Slytherin
Everything in this story really belongs to J.K. Rowling.
I stepped out of the faded, nondescript green and silver tapestry into the gloom of Professor Severus Snapeís office. Severus has his office sealed with a protective spell that only a wizard could break. But the spell had not even slowed the Squib Door down.
Snapeís office had been cleaned up a great deal over the past few days. All the debris left over from the battle with the vine-monster had been cleared away. The Professorís remaining belongings, the few things that had escaped destruction, had been placed on new shelves, surrounding a new desk. Everything in the office seemed to be bristling with dangerous protective curses and hexes. Severus knew that his office was now vulnerable to invasion, and he was taking no chances. The collective prickly "push" of all the protective spells made me want to press back against the tapestry. Instead, I made myself walk forward to the Professorís new desk.
There was a clean piece of parchment on the blotter, with a quill and an inkwell beside it. These were the only items on the desk that were not protected by some spell or other. I dipped the quill into the ink.
"I can still get in," I wrote. "Sorry." I dipped the quill again and made a note of the time.
Twirling the quill in my hands, I debated the wisdom of adding an encouraging word or two. "Keep trying? Carry on? Chin up?" No, the professor would find probably find that condescending, coming from me.
I also pondered the wisdom of mentioning that the protective Charm which Professor Flitwick had placed on his own office had succeeded in making the Squib Door pause. The journey into the diminutive Charms Professorís domain had been slower than usual. Iíd still been able to gain entry, but it seemed that whatever Flitwick was working on, it was a step in the right direction.
Professor Flitwick had been given the task of finding a Charm that would prevent me from using the Squib Doors to gain entry into any room in the Castle. Heíd given me permission to enter his office at random intervals to try out the effectiveness of the Charms he was using.
Over the past few days Headmaster Dumbledore had changed his mind about not telling anyone else about the Squib Doors. After careful consideration, heíd decided that additional people would be informed about this new potential risk to the Castleís defenses on a "need to know" basis. Flitwick had been the first additional person who "needed to know."
(Professor Snape had decided that he couldnít wait for Professor Flitwick to come up with something. He was trying, on his own, to find a spell that would block the Squib Doors. Heíd also given me permission to enter his office at random intervals to test his spells.)
Losing my nerve on the matter of mentioning Flitwickís greater measure of success, I simply wrote my name underneath my brief message: "Argus Filch." I was just stepping away from his desk, when the locked door to Snapeís office opened. I didnít have time to jump through the tapestry to safety.
A tall, burly Slytherin fifth year girl stood there, staring at me in horror.
"Professor Snape!" Millicent Bulstrode shouted. "Come quickly!"
"Wait! Itís not what youíre thinking!" I said, desperately. "Donít ..."
"PROFESSOR SNAPE!!!!" she bellowed, even louder.
Behind Millicent, out in Snapeís classroom, were several other Slytherin girls. I recognized blonde Pansy Parkinson, another fifth year, and the tiny Morgan sisters, Lilith and Gehenna; a second and first year, respectively. All the girls stared at me, wide-eyed as Severus Snape entered from the corridor.
He caught sight of me and his eyes narrowed to cold, black slits.
"He was in your office, Professor! And the door was locked!" Millicent reported, breathlessly.
"Thank you, children. Now, please step out into the hallway. I want to have a little ...chat with Mr. Filch. In private."
"Go!" he ordered them, when the girls lingered for a moment, obviously curious about what he was going to do to me.
Knowing that he would be obeyed, Severus stepped into his office and shut the door behind him with a slam.
"IDIOT!" he hissed.
"How could I have known that you would be sending students in here?" I demanded.
"You knew full well that weíre cleaning the corridor out there!" Severus snapped. "Since you are the one who organized the work schedules!"
"Well, I expected the children to stay out in the corridor! If you needed something from your office, why didnít you fetch it for yourself?"
"How could I have known you would choose such an inopportune time to test my wards?" Snape demanded. His voice dripped acid and his eyes burned darkly in his pale face.
I had clearly made him angry. Nervously, I retreated. "You did say `random intervals!í" I reminded him, defensively.
"I assumed that you would have the sense to wait until no one was nearby! Perhaps at night, or during a meal! Not when I have the corridor filled with children, scrubbing down the walls and the floor! There are Gryffindors out there with my Slytherins. I sent Millicent in here to fetch more lye because I preferred to keep an eye on things!"
His tone changed, suddenly. "Filch. Stop. Donít back up any further...!"
Snape was reaching out to grab me. His expression was so fierce that, despite his words, I took another involuntary step backwards.
Right into a protective curse in front of one of his shelves.
I was told later that my howl of anguish was heard by the house-elves all the way over in the kitchens.
"Please tell me that these porcupine quills donít have poison on them!" I moaned.
"No, thereís no poison," Snape was making an attempt to sound soothing, but I could hear amusement in his silky voice. "I considered them enough of a deterrent without added enhancements. Hold still, Argus. This is going to hurt. You may want to grab the desk."
"Y-you sent the Bulstrode girl in here to fetch lye...? Was she supposed to get her bum shot full of quills too?"
"Donít be absurd. Miss Bulstrode knows the countercurses. Filch, hold still. I wonít tell you again...."
Both of us heard voices out in his classroom. A moment later, someone was pounding on the office door.
"Professor Snape?" That was Millicent. "The Gryffindors wonít stay out! I tried..."
"Mr. Filch?" I recognized Neville Longbottomís voice. "Answer me! Are you all right?"
Snape chose this moment to murmur "Tracto!" The sharp quills embedded all down my back yanked themselves out simultaneously.
I wailed in agony.
"Mr. Filch!" That was Neville again, sounding worried.
"Heíll be all right, Longbottom!" Snape said, with a sneer in his voice. The sneer didnít match his expression, which was quite definitely amused. "In a day or two..." he added.
Rubbing my wounds, I gave him a baleful look.
It was the first time in ages that I had seen Severus looking anything other than haunted and bone-weary. If Iíd been in a more charitable mood, I would have been pleased. I was not feeling particularly charitable at the moment.
"You should get yourself to the hospital wing, Filch. In case I didnít get all of them. Take the long way, donít use your Door. Otherwise the children are likely to think that Iíve done away with you completely. Can you walk?"
"Oh, I can walk. Just donít ask me to sit down..." I growled.
"Itís your own fault," Snape replied. "The next time you test the wards on my door, remember to steer clear of the curses by the shelves."
"There wonít be a next time!" I said, sullenly. "Iím going to be working strictly with Professor Flitwick from now on. Heís making some progress..." I added, snippily.
I had the satisfaction of seeing Snapeís expression change from amusement to chagrin. Glaring at me, he opened his office door to drag me out into a knot of milling young Gryffindors and Slytherins.
The look of concern on Nevilleís face, when he saw me limping and obviously in pain, surprised me. I knew that Neville was fond of me. I was fond of both him and Ginny Weasley too.
But, really, I hadnít expected either child to continue to show it so openly. Liking the foul old caretaker would hardly increase their standing with their fellow students, after all.
Gryffindor courage comes in many forms, however. Neville and Ginny always smiled at me when they saw me in the corridor. They always said cheerful "Good Mornings" to me in the Great Hall at breakfast. It took some getting used to. I always returned their greetings gruffly, wondering how long their friendliness towards me would last.
"Longbottom!" Snape said, scowling. "Mr. Filch needs to be helped up to Madam Pomfrey in the hospital wing. Can you manage that?"
Neville nodded, giving Professor Snape the angriest look I had ever seen on the gentle boyís face. He came forward to support me with his left arm. His burned right arm was still in a sling.
To my surprise, I saw that Nevilleís fellow Gryffindor fifth years; Parvati Patil and Dean Thomas, were also directing looks of concern at me and dark looks at Snape.
"You poor man!" Parvati said. "What has he done to you now?"
I suspected that I had Peeves to thank for this. The miserable poltergeist had been telling people that the Headmaster had allowed Professor Snape to beat me for the part Iíd played in awakening the magic-eating vine-creature that had left "his" dungeons in such a shambles. In truth, Severus hadnít laid a finger on me. Though it had amused both him and Dumbledore to allow Peeves to think he had. It had certainly shut the poltergeist up for a few days. No one seemed to believe my protests that it hadnít happened. And this little incident was not going to help matters any.
"He hasnít done anything to me," I muttered, embarrassed. "It was the protective curses on his cleaning supplies..."
"He should have asked you for your permission, before he went skulking around in there! Right, Professor Snape?" Pansy said, giving me an angry look.
"I believe that is a mistake Mr. Filch will not make again any time soon, Miss Parkinson." Severus said, amusement in his voice once more.
"You were busy..." I muttered. "I didnít want to bother..."
At the same time, Neville spoke up. "He didnít mean to do anything wrong, Professor!" The boy said, hotly. "You know he didnít."
Neville looked Snape right in the eye. Unlike the other children, he knew exactly how Iíd gotten into Snapeís locked office. He could probably make a fair guess at "why" too. Neville understood the necessity of keeping the secret, but he didnít like to see me being treated like a common thief.
The whole room went silent. Neville Longbottom had been bullied by Professor Snape ever since his very first Potions lesson back in his very first year. Everyone knew how frightened the boy was of Severus. Heíd never talked back to him before, never defended himself against the sarcastic taunts and the harsh criticism. Neville was gentle and self effacing. He found it difficult to stand up for himself. But I had recently seen how very bravely Neville could stand up for other people.
Severusís eyes narrowed. This was an attack from a completely unexpected quarter. In his all too recently violated dungeons. In front of his precious, all too recently threatened Slytherins. Oh, my. It seemed that gentle Neville could choose his battles as recklessly as any of the more hot tempered young Gryffindors.
"Well, now..." Snapeís voice was an icy whisper, that nevertheless carried to every corner of the very quiet dungeon. "Mr. Longbottom..."
The temperature in the dungeon appeared to be dropping. Neville kept his eyes locked on Professor Snapeís and didnít look away. Parvati and Dean had moved up on either side of him to offer him support, but Severus didnít spare either of them a glance. Poor Neville had sown the wind and he was about to reap the whirlwind.
This could be very bad. I had to do something.
"You should have remained silent, idiot boy!" Snape hissed. "Youíve just earned yourself..."
"Twenty-five points for Gryffindor!" I spoke up, hastily.
Everyone was staring at me now. Snapeís dark eyes went wide. Another attack from an unexpected quarter!
"F-for what happened... with the... the vines. Neville saved me, then. And Ginny did too. So another twenty five points to Gryffindor, for her as well..." My face white, I locked eyes with Severus. ĎIf youíre going to be angry with anyone,í I pleaded with him silently, Ďlet it be with me. Not the boy.í
"Professor...? C-can he DO that?" Pansy asked in a small, indignant voice. "Can he actually give points?"
"Of course I can!" I said. "Iíve just never done it before. I am well within my rights, and Professor Snape knows it."
Severus took a deep breath. "Get this wretch out of my sight. Now!" he snarled at Neville. "And yourself too!"
Neville took me by the arm and pulled me out of the dungeon as fast as I could limp. Parvati and Dean stared after us with incredulous delight, while the Slytherins stood around in shocked silence. Neither of us spoke a word until weíd turned a corner away from the area where other children were scrubbing the floors and walls of the corridor.
"Neville, you shouldnít have..."
"He had no right to treat you like that! What did his curse do to you?"
"Oh, nothing much, really. Just shot me full of porcupine quills..."
The boy looked at my back. "Youíre bleeding! He doesnít need to have such vicious spells guarding his things! He knows that youíre the only one who can use the tapestries. Itís not as if anyone in the Castle can just walk in there. He should trust you." His voice was as indignant as Pansyís had been.
"He does trust me. But Professor Snape doesnít like to feel ...vulnerable. Heís under a great deal of pressure."
"I canít believe youíre actually sticking up for him!" Neville said. Then he sighed. "I canít believe Iím arguing with you. I know you can get to the hospital wing much more quickly without me, Mr. Filch. Call one of your Doors."
"Neville... do you realize that Professor Snape sent you with me, precisely because he knows that I can call a Door in front of you?" I asked, leaning against the stone wall.
My attempts at summoning the Doors were not always successful, but the tapestries nearly always responded quickly when I was in some sort of distress. The faded yellow-and-black Door was there in an instant.
"Iíll know itís difficult, but try to be patient with him," I said, not yet stepping into it. "Donít argue with him on my account. Maybe it would be best if you stayed out of his way for a while." I thought about the various jobs being done all over the Castle and its grounds.
"Professor Sprout and her seventh years are outside, in front of the greenhouses, dissecting the dead vine-creatureís main root. I know that she wouldnít mind if you wanted to observe," I added.
Neville nodded. "All right, I will." But he stood and watched me, sternly until I stepped into the tapestry.
"Take me to the hospital wing... please," I moaned to my Door. Those porcupine quills really did hurt.
Poppy would not let me return to work. She removed some deeply embedded quills that Professor Snapeís spell had missed. The medi-witch was much gentler than Snape had been, but it was still a painful process. When the quills were finally out, Poppy put me to bed with soothing poultices all down my back. The potion that she gave me dulled the pain and made me too sleepy to argue with her.
I woke up, several hours later, lifting my face out of my pillow to find myself being stared at by a pair of angry golden eyes.
"It wasnít my fault!" I told Mrs. Norris, who was sitting on the bed beside me, in a rather Sphinx-like pose. "Donít look at me like that."
She flicked an ear and continued to give me the same glare.
"Thank you for giving me twenty five points, Mr. Filch."
Bleary-eyed, I turned to look at Ginny Weasley, whoíd come into the hospital ward with my cat. "Youíre welcome, Ginny."
"Neville, Parvati and Dean told me what happened! How do you feel?"
I felt tired and sore, but I didnít want to discuss it. Instead I managed to smile at her. "I suppose the Unicorn and the Maiden were glad to have their painting back again?"
She nodded. "Yes, they were. And those men were glad to be back at their banquet. And the old woman was glad to be back at her distaff..."
"You were very clever to have put an Unbreakable Charm on those crates. I didnít even realize youíd done it," I said.
"I wasnít sure it would hold," she confessed. "But we did such good work, Neville, you and I. It would have been terrible to have lost those paintings."
She stayed with me for a while, chattering away comfortably enough, until I drifted off to sleep again. Evidently, the potion hadnít worn off yet. I heard Ginny talking, but it wasnít to me. "Poor Mr. Filch. He looks so frail. Will he ever be completely well again?" Her voice sounded sad.
"I donít know, child," Madam Pomfrey answered quietly.
I knew they werenít just talking about my little mishap with the porcupine quills. Brave Ginny was asking Poppy a question that I hadnít dared to ask. Not since Iíd awakened for the first time, after the Death Eaters had gotten through with me. I was afraid of her answer. Or perhaps I already knew it.
"He needs more time, more rest and he needs to stop doing foolish things. Even so, he may never again be as strong as he was," Poppy said. I felt her gentle hands adjusting fresh poultices on my back.
"She knows, doesnít she?" Ginny asked. "Donít you, Mrs. Norris?" I heard the answering purr of a sleepy cat. "Thatís why she doesnít like to leave him alone."
Donít be sad, Ginny... I think, maybe, this old man may still have a few years left.
When I woke again, the ward was dark. I heard frantic voices.
"Severus! Whatís happened to the poor child!?"
Professor Snapeís voice was harsh with fear. "The girls were working in the corridor by my office. One of those cursed vines had gotten caught in a crack in the flagstones! We thought they were all dead! But a piece of creeper still had some life left in it!"
His voice changed, softening. "Itís all right, Gehenna, child. Donít cry!"
I lifted my head from the pillow. I saw Severus cradling mousy little Slytherin first year, Gehenna Morgan. Barely conscious, the child clung to him, weeping silently.
"It wrapped around her throat, a piece as thin as a wire. She couldnít breathe, she couldnít cry out for help," Snape said, raggedly. "If her sister, Lilith, and Pansy hadnít seen and screamed for me..."
"Look at your hands, Severus. Youíve burned them..."
"I had to rip the cursed vine off her throat! Damn my hands! Help the child..."
Poppy took Gehenna into her arms and rocked her, murmuring cooling charms, healing charms. Her wand was held gently over the childís heart.
"I wonít allow them, any of my Slytherins, back into the corridor where my office is, until Sprout and her Badgers have gone over it, inch by inch!" Snape was snarling. "I thought it was safe or I never would have..."
Pushing off my blanket, I slid myself gingerly out of bed. The poultices slipped from my back. I didnít even disturb Mrs. Norris. Carefully, I hobbled over to Severus.
The Potions Master sat, rocking slightly, as if to help Poppy soothe Gehenna. His burned hands were held away from his body, face white with shock and pain, dark eyes huge. If Neville and Ginny, or any of the Gryffindors could have seen him now, they wouldnít have recognized him. But if they were to see him now, he would never have forgiven them.
"It would have taken them, Argus..." he said, looking up at me. "The littlest ones. Just like that. Swiftly, silently. No chance even to scream. None of us knew that the parts could keep twitching for so long after the brain was destroyed. None of us knew! Well, Albus knows now. And Sprout. And it will be dead, every last bit of it!" He took a deep breath, slowly winning his battle for control.
Poppy stood up, cradling Gehenna. She carried the child over to an empty bed and tucked her in. Then she fetched salve and bandages for the childís burned throat. Afterwards, I helped her bandage Snapeís hands. As soon as we were finished, he stood up to leave.
"Donít say a word!" he hissed at Poppy. "Lilith is awake, waiting for me to bring news of her sister! Iím going back to my children."
Poppy smiled, and didnít argue with him.
"Argus?" Snape said, a little more calmly. "It may be that the protective curses in my office are a bit... unnecessarily... harsh. If I were to ask Flitwickís advice, would you consider resuming your efforts on my behalf?"
"Of course, Professor," I told him.
The next morning I felt so sore that I didnít protest when Poppy told me that I was to rest instead of returning to work. I lay on my stomach in bed and brooded.
"There, there, Argus. Youíll be fine in a few days." Poppy said comfortingly, as she gave me a dose of a mild pain-killing potion. Then she added briskly, "I need a favor from you. Would you go and talk to Gehenna Morgan for a little while? Try to cheer the poor child up a bit?"
I turned my head to give her an incredulous stare. "W-What? Me...? No! I canít..."
Folding her arms, the medi-witch looked down at me in exasperation. "Of course you can. Please do try. Sheís been fretting about Severusís hands all morning."
"Havenít you told her that heís going to be all right?" I asked.
"Yes," Poppy said. "And, for that matter, so has Severus. He came in to check on her before he went to the Slytherin-Ravenclaw match." Her voice softened. "He spoke to her, but the child barely took her eyes off his bandages. Sheís blaming herself for his injuries."
She sighed. "`The Professor needs his hands!í Thatís what Gehenna said to me, after heíd left."
"Foolish child!" I muttered. "How can she think that Severusís burns are her fault? She didnít ask the vine to wrap itself around her neck, did she?"
"Thatís the spirit," Poppy said. "Since you seldom make an attempt to be comforting, perhaps the shock value alone will be enough to get Gehennaís attention."
I could see Poppyís point. Slytherins, even ones as small and quiet as Gehenna, do require careful handling. Sometimes a sneak attack is the only way to console a troubled serpent. "All right," I sighed. "Iíll do my best."
"No one could expect more of you than that," Poppy smiled. "And it is an excellent way to get you to stop feeling sorry for yourself," she added.
I sputtered indignantly.
"I need to go and mix some more ointment for you," she said. "It will take me a little while. Go into the front ward and have a nice chat with Gehenna."
A few moments later, I was standing uncomfortably by Gehenna Morganís bed. The small mousy Slytherin first year looked pale and feverish. Drowsy with pain-killing potions, she blinked up at me with large, sad eyes.
"Hello, Mr. Filch," Gehenna said, sleepily. Her voice was hoarse. It hurt her to talk, but pressing a hand to her bandaged throat seemed to help.
"Youíre missing the match, too," she observed. "Slytherin against Ravenclaw. The Professor went to watch. I hope that Draco will catch the Snitch."
"I hope so too," I said, honestly. The poor, jumpy Slytherins could certainly do with a victory.
There was a long silence. Scolding some sense into an injured child takes effort, even for an old curmudgeon like me. Scowling, I was trying to work out what I wanted to say, when Gehenna asked,
"Are you feeling better?"
"Yes," I replied, gruffly. Thinking about the last time that Gehenna had seen me was embarrassing. And Poppyís remark about me feeling sorry for myself had stung. Of course I knew that my wounds were nowhere near as serious as the poor childís burned throat. But it wasnít the physical discomfort that really bothered me... it was the shame of being considered a thief.
The child was studying me with sympathy. Yesterday, she and the other Slytherins had thought Iíd deserved what Iíd gotten. To a fair number of Slytherins, getting caught is the worst crime of all. But Gehenna wasnít the sort to gloat.
"Iím glad that youíre feeling better," she murmured. "Yesterday, you yelled so loudly that the Gryffindors thought you were being murdered."
"Lil and I were afraid too," she confessed. "But Pansy and Millicent told us that Professor Snape would never do anything permanent to you. He was only teaching you a lesson."
"You would yell pretty loudly too, Missy, if the same thing ever happened to you..." I grumbled.
"Iíd never go into the Professorís office without his permission. And I know the countercurses, in case he ever sends me in there," the child pointed out. Then Gehenna remembered that knowing Snapeís countercurses wouldnít have done me any good whatsoever. She looked chagrined.
I didnít mind what sheíd said. Sheíd given me the opening I needed. "Professor Snape makes sure that you Slytherins know his countercurses. Why do you think he does that?" I asked her.
"He trusts us," Gehenna murmured.
"Yes," I agreed, "and he wants to keep you safe. Iíve known Professor Snape since he was your age. Heís always taken his obligations and responsibilities as seriously as the best of you serpents tend to do. Heíd risk his life to protect any student at this school. You know that, donít you?"
She nodded. Of course I did not have to explain the proud and subtle intricacies of Slytherin honor to one of Salazarís chosen.
"Well, it goes even deeper than honor for him where the children of his House are concerned," I said. "Seeing any of you hurt tears him up inside."
"As completely UnSlytherin as it would be for him to admit it..." I couldnít help adding.
Gehenna studied me, looking grave. She didnít dispute the truth of what Iíd said. She didnít say anything. I sighed, wondering if I was getting through to her at all.Gehenna isnít one of the children that I know well. Sheís a rule-abiding child who has never had a single detention.
What little I do know about her Iíve learned from her sister. Lilith Morganís overwhelming ambition is to write plays. She and her closest friend, Mallory Crippen, also a Slytherin second year, receive frequent detentions because they often talk and pass notes in class.
Ambition, that most famous of Slytherin traits, comes in many forms. From a stream of Lilith-and-Mallory chatter, I had plucked the tidbit that Gehenna wanted, more than anything, to be an expert brewer of potions. So I understood what Gehenna meant when she held her small, pale hands out in front of her.
"But his poor hands...!" she said sadly. "It was too much of a risk."
"The Professor would tell you that it was a calculated risk. Using `Incendioí on a vine wrapped around your throat... that would have been too much of a risk. The slightest miscalculation would have killed you. He had less than a second to decide what to do," I said.
"Professor Snape trusted that Madam Pomfrey would be able to heal his hands. But not even Madam Pomfrey can raise the dead. If you had died, then he never would have forgiven himself. Ever. Do you understand, Gehenna?"
To my relief the girl nodded. Her hands were relaxed, resting on her coverlet.
"Good," I said, gruffly. "Itís all right, then."
Gehenna was studying me again. "Mr. Filch?" she asked wistfully, around a sleepy yawn, "if you had gone to the Quidditch match today, would you have sat with the Gryffindors?"
"I would have had trouble sitting with anyone," I said ruefully. "No," I added, after a moment, when I realized what the child was truly asking me. "The Gryffindors never seem to lack for supporters. I would have stayed with you Slytherins."
"Some of the others wonder why you always like to cheer for us at Quidditch. Iíve heard a few theories. One guess is that you used to be a Slytherin," she told me, drowsily.
"Hmm. Iíd imagine thatís enough to utterly horrify some of you," I said in a very dry voice.
"There are those who think that you must do it out of loyalty to Professor Snape. Or because you lost a bet with someone years and years ago. Or because youíd rather support us than any team with Fred and George Weasley on it. Of course, that doesnít explain why you didnít choose to support Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff..."
"Why do you suppose that I cheer for Slytherin?" I asked, a little distractedly. My feet ached from standing. Borrowing a pillow from an empty bed to use as a cushion, I lowered myself gingerly into a chair.
"I think that you probably just like to keep all of us wondering," she murmured, closing her eyes. "Itís really almost Slytherin of you."
"Coming from you, child, Iíll consider that a compliment," I said. "As long as you promise to never say that about me in front of your Professor. He wouldnít be amused."
"I wonít," Gehenna promised. She fell asleep, with a smile on her face.
I stayed beside her until Poppy returned.
END OF CHAPTER ONE.