Snape's Worst Nightmare
Gryffindor v Slytherin
The cold, brisk winter air was completely still, the gentle snowflakes falling didn't deviate at all during their slow, graceful descent. The intense flurry of snow earlier in the evening had slowed and now, early in the silent December morning, only a light dusting drifted down.
The immense, graceful castle sat silently on the slight hill. Poets in the wizarding world had time and time again attempted to describe the beauty of its reflection on the massive lake, and all had failed.
The tall graceful spires, the imperial splendor of the arched ceilings, the proud battlements, they all blended together to give an impression of honour, grace and immortal calm.
At least to someone who didn't know of the castle's recent history.
The scars of the final battle with the forces of darkness had been all but erased.
A sharp-eyed viewer from a high vantage point was able to pick out the patches of young trees in the Forbidden Forest that corresponded with the vast areas that had been devastated by fire. Enormous balls of flame that had been hurled by Death Eaters to disrupt the centaur army's path of attack. The same viewer could make out the deep pits and scars on the upper areas of the ancient castle's battlements, evidence of curses hurled at defenders hiding behind the crenellations.
Had it not been buried under three feet of snow, the viewer would easily have been able to make out the patch of ground where the duel took place, the very place the Dark Lord Voldemort fell, poisoning the ground. Even now, over a decade later, not even weeds grew on that cursed patch of earth.
Yes, under a thick blanket of powder snow, Hogwarts Castle looked serene and calm.
The sharp-eyed viewer flew through the crisp air on an almost two decade-old Firebolt broomstick, his dark, unruly hair whipping around. With a tight grin, he knew that the calm would not last much longer. Not with the long line of red-headed students making their way out of the castle towards the Quidditch pitch.
As the eldest of the Nightmare Dozen, Chris Weasley wielded some vague measure of authority over the rest of them. Not that it mattered when any of them decided that mischief was necessary.
With a wide grin on his cold-kissed cheeks, he turned to his twin brother Zach. As difficult to tell apart as their father and their Uncle Fred had ever been, the pair were virtually inseparable.
Without saying anything, Chris merely raised his eyebrows questioningly. Zachary nodded, tilted his head to one side as if listening, then smiled and shrugged. Chris' grin widened.
Brianna shook her head at the antics of the pair. As an only child surrounded by her cousins of twins and triplets growing up, she had been vaguely jealous of the fact that some of them could communicate vast quantities of information with each other using nothing more than a smile, grunt and a wave of their hand.
Intellectually, she knew that the ability was simply a matter of genetics, a common reference point, and an extended period of enforced company. Still, it was annoying when a silent conversation was going on all around her and she couldn't participate.
"Irritating, isn't it?"
Brianna turned to face Bill, Uncle Charlie's eldest son. "Quite. I think they do it deliberately, just to prove to others that they can."
"It doesn't help that there are only three of us who weren't part of a multiple birth."
Brianna nodded, looking over her shoulder at Heidi, the third cousin born alone. "At least you have some siblings. Mum doesn't want any more kids right now because she has her career to think about."
"Some career. I almost hurt myself laughing when I read that she moved Malfoy's lawyers to tears when he tried to get the courts to reinstate Damien's prefect status."
"Yeah. Dumbledore was particularly surprised when she turned up out of the blue to the hearing to defend McGonagall's decision to un-prefect him. Took her all of ten minutes to have the complaint dismissed. Uncle Harry told me that there had been several attempts to bring WWW to the courts over the last few years, but Mum has had every one of them tossed out. Dad says that any lawyer stupid enough to go up against her will definitely need a change of trousers before she finishes her opening brief."
"What did Aunt Hermione say to that?"
"Nothing, she just blushed. It's gross to think about, but when she wins a case, she and Dad disappear to 'celebrate' alone."
Bill made a face. "You're right, that is gross."
Someone tapped Bri on the shoulder. She jumped slightly and turned to look into twin pools of emerald green. "Stop thinking about your parent's sex life and help us, Bri. We need the lock on the broom closet open but-"
"-looking like it hasn't been touched. I know," sighed Bri. "Look, Sirius, I-"
"Jimmy," said the young Potter with a grin.
Brianna stopped walking and gave him a level gaze. "As I was saying, Sirius, I know what we are doing, I help come up with the idea in the first place."
"No, really. I'm Jimmy."
Brianna sighed. "It didn't work with Snape, it certainly won't work with me."
Sirius sighed as though wounded mortally. "It hasn't worked with any of the teachers. They can all tell the difference between us perfectly. I don't know how."
"Then it's obvious Remmie got the brains in your family."
Sirius turned to face Chris and Zach. "What do you mean?"
Chris smiled. "Haven't you seen the way the teachers always look at the roll before picking out which one of us is which?"
"But we're first years." objected Sirius. "The teachers always have to look at a roll before they know everyone."
"We were also famous, well, infamous before the first class. They know who we are, but I'd bet my inheritance in WWW that Uncle Harry has charmed the parchment the roll is on to tell the teachers which of us is which."
Sirius looked pained. "Damn, Dad," he muttered to himself. "Why?"
"Why what?" asked Isabella, having caught up with the small group.
"Sorry to interrupt your scintillating conversation," said Arthur, his tone not sorry at all. "We do only have a limited amount of time to conduct tonight's mischief. I do realise that Sirius here has the attention span of a particularly retarded flobberworm, but surely the rest of you have the intellectual capacity to understand that being caught near the Quidditch pitch the night before a big game will have serious ramifications on our future freedom.
"In other words, move it."
With the exception of Sirius, who was spluttering his objections to being compared with a flobberworm, the group made their way towards their destination.
Chris, Remus and Brianna all drew their wands and aimed them at various parts of the door. For several nervous minutes, the 'brains' of the group gently twisted and probed the warding charms on the door to the equipment shed. Normally, only the professors and prefects had the password for the door, but Brianna had noticed a loophole in the password protected locking charm, and the three now slowly stretched the ward out of the way.
"Right, you should be able to open the door," whispered Chris, perspiration running down his face and freezing on the tip of his nose.
James nodded and reached between the three wands to try the door. Without even a creak of the hinges, it swung inwards.
Chris, Remus and Brianna all let out their collective breaths.
"Now, you all know what charm you are to use, so I want to organise you into a circle where as one charm is complete, you can pass the broom onto the next person," said Heidi, her tone taken straight from her father.
Sirius, still disgruntled at no one backing him up earlier when his attention span was insulted spoke up. "Who put you in charge?"
Arthur gently kicked him in the shins. "Sirius, as much as I admire your devious mind, your incredible imagination and your indisputable loyalty, you could not organise a one man production line should your life depend on it. Heidi however, is quite capable of ensuring these brooms are properly charmed, the door is properly locked, the footprints in the snow are properly concealed and if necessary, that Hogwarts castle is completely disassembled and rebuilt three feet to the left by morning."
Heidi blushed at the unexpected praise. "Thank you, Arthur."
Arthur nodded. "No problem," He turned back to Sirius. "Now, grab a broom, grab some floor and do your work."
Sirius sneered, the twitching of his lips the only give away that he wasn't serious. "Or?"
Arthur shrugged. "Or I shall taunt you a second time," he replied in a silly French accent.
The pair snorted with repressed laughter, only to be hushed by the others. Sirius and Arthur sat down side by side and began working.
After a while, Sirius leaned over and whispered in Arthur's ear, "Now you've got me thinking, and I can't remember, is it my mother or father that smells of elderberries?"
The bitterly cold December night had faded to a brisk winter morning. The pennants depicting the Gryffindor lion and the Slytherin serpent snapped and waved in the breeze. Over a thousand students, teachers and Hogsmeade townsfolk braved the sub-zero temperatures to turn out for the most highly anticipated game of the year.
Margaret Potter sat in her mother's lap and wordlessly flapped her arms like a bird, the scarlet and gold Gryffindor flag held in one hand roaring with each wave. The three year old girl seemed far more interested in the gift her Uncle Fred had given her than the impending game itself.
Ginny smiled and kissed the top of her daughter's head. On her left, Lily scanned the still growing crowd, desperately looking for a sign of any of her three brothers. A pair of Hufflepuff witches went to sit down in the large empty space in front of them.
Lily spoke up. "Excuse me. Those seats are saved for my brothers and cousins."
The pair looked at her blankly, then with a flash of recognition smiled at her. "You must be Lily," said one of them. "You poor girl." The pair slowly made their way to other seats.
Lily grinned to herself. Her brothers had tried to torment her all her life, but according to her father she had her mother's temper, and her grandmother's vocal range.
"I can't see them, Mum. Where are they?" she asked nervously.
Ginny snickered and took her hand. "Probably bargaining their way out of a detention so they can come down and see the game."
Lily rolled her eyes but didn't argue. From what her father had told her over the last few months, her brothers had gotten into more trouble than Uncle Fred and Uncle George ever did.
"I always knew you had the Sight."
Ginny and Lily turned to face the newcomer. With a yell, Lily jumped out of her seat and threw her arms around her father's neck. "Daddy!" she squealed.
Harry closed his eyes, savouring the sensation of hugging his exuberant daughter. "If you squeal a little louder, I'm sure my eardrums will burst," he teased.
Lily giggled, but squeezed her father tighter. "I missed you, Daddy."
Harry leaned back so he could look into his daughter's hazel eyes. "I flooed home and tucked you into bed last night!" he objected.
Lily gave him a wicked grin. "I know, but I'm allowed to miss my Daddy."
Harry smiled and kissed her on the forehead. "I love you, princess."
Lily gave her father a big smile at this, and took his hand, skillfully maneuvering him so he sat between his wife and daughter.
Ginny leaned over and kissed him. "I told you when she was born that she'd wrap you around her finger."
Harry smiled and lowered his head to kiss the side of Ginny's neck. "I know," he whispered in her ear. "But I don't care."
Ginny giggled at his warm breath tickling her skin. "What were you saying about me having the Sight?"
Harry grinned. "Twelve first-year students are as we speak, busily scrubbing every toilet in the castle. If they finish to Filch's satisfaction, they will be allowed to come down to watch the game."
Ginny's eyes widened, but Lily just laughed. "What did they do this time?" the girls asked together.
Harry laughed out loud at his family's dual question. "I caught them at three o'clock this morning coming back to Gryffindor Tower."
Ginny's eyes narrowed dangerously. "What in Merlin's name were they doing out at that time?"
Harry shrugged unconcerned. "I didn't think to ask them."
"Harry?" Ginny said, her voice low and drawn out.
Harry turned and gave her 'that' smile; the one he knew made her knees go weak. "I took care of it, my love. Don't worry, they all seemed particularly eager to see today's match. They'll be here."
Ginny sighed and leaned her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes in contentment as his arm slipped around her own shoulder. Only the loud roaring of her youngest daughter's flag kept her from complete relaxation.
"What's that you've got there, Maggie?" Harry asked.
Margaret just blinked and stared at her father. She held out the flag and said, "Present."
Harry's eyebrows shot up. "Who gave you the present, Maggie? Who would risk your mother's wrath like that?"
Margaret bit her lip. "Uncle Gred and Uncle Forge."
Harry smiled as Ginny rolled her eyes at the twin's attempts to corrupt her daughter. "I see. Do you have a kiss for Daddy?"
With a big smile, Margaret nodded and kissed Harry's cheek as he leaned in. "Thank you, Maggie. I really needed that."
Margaret nodded to herself, happy that she had helped her father. She turned back to the empty field and again began waving the flag, emitting more roars.
"You know, Maggie, if you wave it in a circle, it makes a different sound." Harry told her.
With a small frown, clearly indicating that her father knew nothing about how important it was to make as much noise as possible, Margaret started waving the flag in a circle. Immediately, the flag started building up the chant.
With a squeal of excitement, Margaret explored this new facet of her gift. Ginny sighed and looked up at her husband. "Why did you tell her that?"
Harry smiled and drew out a few pairs of tiny foam objects. "Put one of these in each of your ears," he said.
With a frown, Ginny waited until Harry had placed a couple in his own ears before inserting her own. Harry finally gave the last pair to Lily.
Instantly, Margaret's flag became almost silent. Harry smiled at his wife. "Testing plugs," he explained. "Fred and George are developing several loud products, and these need to be tested themselves. Hermione's office is in their main headquarters, and with all the noise from the testing she was on the verge of hexing them all the way round the world until they developed these. Any Wheeze that makes noise is all but filtered out. You can hear normally, but all the bangs, howls and yells of the products don't get through."
Ginny's relief was evident. "Have I ever told you I love you?"
Harry smiled. "Not in the last few hours."
"I love you. So, how many of these exist?"
"Not many, only about six pairs. And they are not for sale. The twins would be so upset if they became general issue. All their hard work would be down the drain."
With a calculating smile, Ginny placed a hand on Harry's chin and gently turned his head to face her. "I expect that a single pair of these would be worth quite a bit." She kissed him.
Harry returned the kiss. "I expect you could probably buy several professional Quidditch teams from the proceeds of that single sale. Especially if you sold them to one of the teachers here."
Suddenly, a loud voice covered the field and stands. "Witches and Wizards, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome one and all to the latest installment of the most intense rivalry Quidditch has ever seen."
With the start of the commentary, the roar from the crowd drowned out all the conversations going on. Harry smiled to himself, and placed his free arm around Lily's shoulders.
"Compared to today's teams, the Wasps and the Cannons get along like best friends. Compare their history with England and Scotland, and the wars between the two countries don't seem to be too bad. Even when Australian and New Zealand sporting teams play each other, they don't actively try to kill their opposition. None of them even come close to the tensions between the Gryffindor and Slytherin Quidditch teams, nobility verses cunning, courage verses ambition, good verses evi-"
The roaring crowd covered the commentary being suddenly cut off by the deputy headmistress. Harry could make out the stern professor trying to wrestle the enchanted megaphone from the resident commentator, Ravenclaw Miles Sommerville. The parts of the crowd waving green were booing, the rest were cheering. Harry turned to his left and watched his daughter yell and wave her fist at the Slytherin section of the crowd.
"Yet another Quidditch hooligan in the making," he whispered in his wife's ear. Ginny grinned and nodded, her head returning to his shoulder.
Sommerville managed to keep control of the megaphone. "Anyway, would you please welcome the team members for Gryffindor, led out by their Captain and Keeper. Wood, MacDonald, Turpin, White, Jordan, MacKinley aaaaaaannnnnnnd Richards!"
Seven scarlet and gold blurs flashed onto the field in perfect formation, performing some incredible aerial maneuvers. They peeled off to the edge of the field and did a lap of the pitch, flying so close to the spectators that the wind of their passing knocked hats off some of the crowd.
"Now, please give a warm welcome, luke warm that is-" sounds of a struggle could be heard from the commentary box as the Slytherin section of the crowd roared their disapproval. "-for the Slytherin gits-" another struggle, another roar. "I mean team, the Slytherin team! Led out by their Captain and Chaser. Flint, O'Mally, Smithson, d'Aldral, Travis, Travis aaaaaaannnnnnnd Warrick!"
The seven Slytherin players soared out onto the pitch, though without the team discipline of the Gryffindor players. Even with the testing plugs filtering out all the Wheeze products in the crowd, Harry was nearly deafened by the roar of the crowd. With a tight grin, Harry turned to shout into his wife's ear, "Notice that just about everyone not wearing green is making a rather rude gesture?"
Ginny smiled and nodded.
The players finally landed and congregated at the centre of the pitch. Madam Hooch met them and started reading them the riot act. Harry chuckled to himself, remembering the number of times he had to listen to is as a player.
As Madam Hooch waved her finger under the nose of the Slytherin captain, twelve disheveled, dirty, exhausted first-years could be seen making their way up the stairs of the stadium. Harry nudged Lily and pointed out her three brothers.
With a shout, Lily jumped up and ran along the empty row in front of her parents and flew into the arms of her brothers. Startled at her appearance, James and Sirius simply let her hug them, but Remus returned his sister's hug with feeling.
Lily took Remus and Arthur by hand and led them to the space she had been saving for them.
Shouts of "Wicked!" and "Wow, cool seats!" could be heard from her appreciative cousins. Lily basked in the warm words before climbing over the empty seats and sitting back next to her father.
Ginny picked Margaret up off her lap and transferred her to her father. She then leaned forward and grabbed James' left and Sirius' right ears. "Just what were you all doing out at three in the morning?"
James and Sirius wore identical, if mirrored, pained expressions as they each had one ear pulled painfully. "Hey! We've already been punished for that!" James objected.
"By your father perhaps, not yet by me!" she growled. "Now spill! What were you doing out of bed?"
Harry leaned over and firmly but gently prized Ginny's vengeful fingers away from his sons' ears. "Gin, Love, as they said, I've already punished them for being out late."
"You didn't even try to find out what they had been doing!" she hissed.
Harry just smiled and handed back Margaret. "I'm sure what they were doing will eventually become apparent. In fact I'm positive."
Ginny felt her anger leave. Her eyes narrowed. "You already know," she mouthed.
Harry nodded. "As a matter of fact," he continued out loud, "I'm sure we will find out exactly what they were doing out of their dorm once the game is underway."
Only someone specifically looking would have noticed the immediate stiffening of twelve students in the row in front of Harry. The sudden intake of breath by each of the Nightmare Dozen was drowned out by the roar as Madam Hooch blew her whistle signaling the start of the game. More obvious was the number of furtive looks they each gave one another.
"White has the Quaffle as the Gryffindor chasers assume a perfect three point diamond formation. Travis sends a bludger to try to break it up, but- NO! What's this? Slytherin Seeker Warrick has tried to piggyback on Chaser Turpin's broom, but now appears to be having trouble controlling his broom. O'Mally is distracted, White passes to MacDonald, she shoots, she scores! Gryffindor open the scoring!"
Madam Hooch's whistle could be heard calling the foul on Turpin. The Slytherin Seeker was obviously uncomfortable on his broom, going to the extent of grabbing the handle with both hands, crossing his ankles on the handle behind him and lifting his haunch from the seat.
Flint signaled time-out, and the Slytherin players landed.
Ginny frowned. "What's going on?"
Harry shrugged. "Oh, I'd say that when Warrick tried to commit that foul, the comfort charm on his broom was temporarily negated."
Sirius, Charlie and Arthur, who had been taking the opportunity to have a drink, all coughed and spluttered in unison. Arthur scrabbled for a handkerchief to wipe up the pumpkin juice he had coughed through his nose at Harry's comment.
Ginny didn't notice. "That's ridiculous! What on Earth makes you say that?"
Harry grinned at her. "My outstanding talent for Divination."
Ginny rolled her eyes, but noticed the increasingly nervous looks her sons were exchanging with her nieces and nephews. A slow grin appeared on her face. "You know, you could be right."
"It's possible," said Harry, as the game started again.
"Well folks, it has been a fascinating game so far, with the score poised at 170 to 10 to Gryffindor. We are used to games where poor sportsmanship causes the match to stop and start again, but that is usually because of the fouls called by the referee. Not because the brooms are cursed. White lines up to take another penalty, he feints, shoots, SCORES! 180 to 10 Gryffindor!"
Harry could make out Professor Snape arguing with Madam Hooch on the pitch. Harry grinned to himself and stood. "I'd better go down there, before Severus has an aneurism."
Ginny nodded and watched him leave. She turned back to her sons in front of her. "Right, whose idea was it to put a swelling charm on the broom to activate when the player tries to ram another?" she whispered in James' ear.
"Why are you asking me?" James asked innocently.
Ginny raised her eyebrows. "Because of the way you reacted when your father said that d'Aldral was sitting on two balloons."
James looked at her nervously. "Are you angry?"
Ginny's lips twitched. "No. Surprised, yes. Proud, yes, a bit. But not angry."
Sirius turned around to face his mother. "I thought you'd be furious."
Ginny smiled. "Let's just say that if my idiot brothers didn't think this one up while they were here, and you lot managed to pull it off in your first year, then I have all the teasing material I need for the next decade." she whispered.
The crowd leapt to its feet as Richards wrapped her fingers around the snitch.
Even after the infamous 'popping clogs' incident, Harry had never seen Snape more livid. The Potions Master's face was a deep purple, with veins standing out from his forehead and neck. Knowing that his presence would be most unwanted, Harry sauntered up to his as Snape continued to lambaste Madam Hooch.
"I WANT THE GAME REPLAYED!" Snape shouted at her, his face less than two inches from her own. "THE BROOMS HAD BEEN TAMPERED WITH!"
Harry cleared his throat. "I don't recall any rule in Quidditch that states that a game needs to be replayed if a player's equipment has been tampered with. You didn't make such a big deal after my broom had been hexed by Quirrell."
Snape spun round to face him. Harry was only mildly surprised to see the amount of foam collected at the corners of his mouth. "THIS DOES NOT CONCERN YOU!"
Harry shrugged. "I disagree. Any time an object has been charmed to cause harm to another student, the Defense instructor has an obligation to investigate." Harry held up two brooms, one in each hand. "These are the two brooms used by the Seekers today."
Dumbledore and McGonagall silently arrived as Snape paused his hysterics, if only to catch his breath, letting his colouring slowly return to normal. "So?" he snarled.
"I examined Warrick's first. Turns out that there are in fact several triggered charms placed on it. Swelling charm if the rider tries to ram another player. Temporary negation of the flight charms if the rider tries to physically assault another player. That sort of thing."
"What caused Flint's broom to shrink?" demanded Snape.
Harry grinned, knowing it would irritate his colleague. "When he spat into MacDonald's face, that particular charm was activated."
"And when Smithson became ninety years old?"
"Aging potion coated on the handle activated when she shoved her own player into MacKinley."
Snape snarled. "And Travis being covered in oil so he couldn't hold his bat?"
"Actually, I believe the oil just covered his hands, so he dropped his wand after sending a hex at Wood to distract him from the shot Flint made. Dropping his beaters bat was an unintended side effect."
"Just what do you intend to do about this?" Snape demanded.
"I'm not sure what you expect me to do? It was a level playing field after all."
Snape's colouring returned to purple. "WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? IT WAS MY TEAM THAT HAD CURSED EQUIPMENT!"
Harry nodded at Madam Hooch. "Actually, they weren't. As I was saying, these two brooms were the ones used by the seekers in the game. They are both Firebolt Mach IIs. Both six years old. From the registration numbers, they were both from the same batch."
"They are both cursed."
Madam Hooch finally got a word in. "Both?" she asked.
Harry nodded. "Whoever did this, did it to all the brooms used in the game. Any time a player tried to break the rules, the charms on the broom would activate and immediately punish the player."
Dumbledore and McGonagall looked intrigued. Madam Hooch looked delighted while Snape looked livid.
Again, Madam Hooch spoke up. "Are you saying that the brooms have been charmed to ensure fair play? That no matter which player it is, the one who causes the foul will be 'punished'?"
Harry nodded. "It is quite amazing. The layering of the charms is quite skillfully done."
Snape interrupted. "I don't care if it is the work of a genius! When will the rematch take place?"
Drawing herself to her full height, Madam Hooch addressed the Potions Master. "Professor Snape. Each and every player today were suffering the same restrictions on their game play. I see no reason to declare this match null and void."
As Snape started sputtering his objection, she continued. "As a matter of fact, I believe I will petition the headmaster to play all future matches under these conditions. It will promote better game play, and get some players used to following the rules of the game."
Snape was the only person who didn't have a benign expression on his face.