Elizabeth’s sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was rapidly coming to an end. The Quidditch season was long since over (with Ravenclaw, despite the best efforts of their slightly fanatical captain, ending up in third place of the highly prestigious and constantly talked about Quidditch Cup), the end-of-year exams were only a few days away ... and Elizabeth had suddenly nothing to look forward to in the course of the upcoming two months but another never-ending holiday spent miles away from her beloved school ... as well as a certain greasy-haired Professor whom she had grown so used to seeing every day for the past year that it had become almost like an addiction to her, with not even the way he had been treating her lately being able to change that fact.
Why in the world did she have to fall in love with the one man who could simply never return her feelings, not even if his life depended on it? Why couldn’t it have been pretty much anybody else? Hermione was going to spend her holiday with Neville (well, part of it, anyway, since Neville was to spend the rest at Hogwarts being tutored by Snape, making Elizabeth, even though she knew she was evidently being stupid, since she would never even dream of trading places with the boy and having to go through all that he had, feel somewhat jealous), Jane was planning to stay with Justin ... while, not counting her parents and her half-deaf grandmother, she would only have a lousy photo of Snape to keep her company. Come to think of it, she might just as well try and take a slightly better one while she still had the chance, just to make her holiday a little more bearable.
Try as she might, however, the perfect opportunity always seemed to slip right through her fingers, causing Elizabeth to soon come to the conlusion that taking a good picture of somebody without them noticing was definitely not as easy a task as she had thought it to be. Especially not when that somebody was Snape, who often seemed to have eyes even at the back of his head. But as the amount of opportunities in any case is by no means endless, Elizabeth soon discovered that even she was slowly running out of time, and therefore needed to act before it was too late.
In the end it was the very last Potions class of the year where she chose to finally try her luck, because even though she was fully aware of the incredible risk she’d be taking, she also knew that it would probably be the last chance she’d ever get.
“Elizabeth, have you gone mad?” Hermione whispered incredulously when the Ravenclaw had acquainted her with what she was about to do just before they entered the Potions classroom. “What if he sees you?”
“Well, I’ll just have to hope that he doesn’t,” replied Elizabeth, mentally forcing herself to sound calm. There was really no need to let her friend see just how nervous she was feeling, after all. “I promise to be extra careful.”
“That’s no excuse,” retorted Hermione as she reached her seat and sank down into it. “You know what he’s like. He can spot anything that’s even the slightest bit out of the ordinary; almost as if he had some sort of sixth sense! And to think what he’d do if he saw you... Why can’t you simply be happy with the picture you already have?”
“Because it’s just not good enough,” muttered Elizabeth under her breath, throwing a quick glance in Snape’s direction to make sure he wasn’t watching before fishing her camera out of her bag and placing it in one of the many pockets of her robes.
Snape, meanwhile, had shut the door with a loud ‘bang’ and gracefully swept over to his desk, where he now waited for the class to settle down, looking surprisingly pleased with something.
“As this is the last time we shall see each other this year,” he said finally, the tone of his voice leaving Elizabeth in no doubt as to the reason of his sudden good mood, “I think a little revision test would be the perfect way to find out exactly how much you have – or haven’t – learnt in the course of the past ten months. So if you would all kindly find your quills and a piece of parchment...” He paused, amusedly watching as the students sulkily started searching their bags, muttering something not particularly polite as they did so. “The questions...” he pointed his wand towards the blackboard, which immediately became completely covered with a mixture of words and diagrams “...are on the board. Start – now.”
Elizabeth took a quick glance at what Snape had thought up for them. Having studied Potions like a person possessed all throughout the year, she naturally knew most of the answers straight off; what bothered her more was whether there was still any chance of her taking the desired picture now that Snape was sure to keep his eyes on them at all times in an attempt to prevent any potential cheating. She watched him silently sit down and give Draco, who was trying to whisper something in Pansy’s ear, a warning look, causing the blond Slytherin to guiltily return back to his own paper. Elizabeth eventually did the same, but continued glancing up every now and then to see whether she could make use of the given moment or not. It seemed like Snape had noticed her sudden interest in what he was doing, however, for she soon felt his penetrating gaze land exclusively on her person ... and, to her extreme disappointment, stay there.
Now she’d done it! How in the world was she supposed to take his picture with him staring at her all the time? Maybe if she pretended to really concentrate on her test, he would eventually leave her alone...
‘And maybe not,’ she thought miserably about twenty minutes later, during which the situation hadn’t changed one bit. Snape’s attention was still mostly on her, her test wasn’t going as well as she would’ve liked it to (mainly due to the fact that her mind was on other things half of the time), the lesson was slowly coming to an end... Plainly speaking – everything was going wrong.
But since nothing lasts forever, even Elizabeth was eventually given her chance: a couple of minutes before the end of class Snape was forced to tear his eyes away from her in order to give Draco and Pansy another warning, leaving the Ravenclaw to readily pull the camera out of her pocket, get Snape into view, and then press the little red button ... just as the Potions master turned back to look at her.
For a short while, he looked as though he didn’t quite believe what he was seeing, but all too soon his expression turned as dark as a cloud before a storm, causing Elizabeth, who would’ve given anything for the ground to swallow her right there and then, to expect the worst.
“And what exactly do you think you’re doing, Miss Woodhouse?” he said slowly, his voice not too far from a whisper and his eyes flashing with fury.
For once, Elizabeth was completely lost for words. What could she possibly say? That she would miss him so much over the holidays that she needed at least a photo of him to get her through the summer? Definitely not ... although it could be interesting to see how he’d react to that one. That...
Fortunately, though, it seemed like Snape didn’t actually expect her to say anything this time, for he glided over to her table and continued speaking without waiting for even the slightest attempt at a reply.
“The camera,” he ordered curtly and, after Elizabeth had reluctantly placed it in his outstretched hand, added: “And detention, Miss Woodhouse. Maybe you’ll finally realize what is acceptable and what is most certainly not.”
And with that, he swept back to his desk, calling: “Two minutes until the end!” as he did so.
But Elizabeth didn’t really care about her test any more; she was too distracted by what Snape had said to her. Two detentions in one semester, and both because of him! And both completely undeserved, too. But that was actually the last thing that was bothering her; her main worry was that he now had her camera ... as well as the picture in it. There was absolutely no way she would let him keep it; she simply had to get it back before the end of the school year, even if she had to beg him on bended knee to return it!
With all these unpleasant thoughts occupying her mind, she didn’t even notice Snape ‘Accio’ her test over to his desk, and only reacted (with a considerable start, too) when she heard him call her name.
“Stay behind, Miss Woodhouse,” he ordered, his eyes glinting with malice. “We need to arrange your detention.”
Elizabeth obediently crossed over to his desk, not even bothering to pack up first in her anxiety to find out what he’d make her do this time. If she ended up with Filch again, she’d probably...
“You will serve your detention with Mr. Filch,” Snape announced smugly, thus unconsciously (or maybe not quite, judging from the knowing look he gave her as he said it) confirming Elizabeth’s worst fears. “I believe he needs someone to help him scrub the floor in the Defence Against the Dark Arts department tonight. You are to meet him there at seven.” And since Elizabeth didn’t react at first, being too upset to speak, he quickly added: “Well? Is that clear, or do I need to repeat it?”
“Perfectly clear, sir,” said Elizabeth quietly, hurriedly turning away and walking back to her table before she could say something she’d probably instantly regret.
The rest of Elizabeth’s day was relatively uneventful compared to what had happened to her in Potions, and as such offered nothing to take her mind off the upcoming detention. She had thought of countless injuries that poor Mr. Filch could possibly become the victim of by the time she’d left her dormitory to go down to dinner that evening, one worse than the other, but apparently none of them had the decency to actually happen in real life.
‘If only he’d trip over Mrs. Norris and get a concussion,’ she thought hopefully as she and Jane made their way to the Great Hall, glumly checking her watch to find that he didn’t really have that much time left to do it ... a little over an hour and a half, in fact.
Her mind infected with such thoughts, Elizabeth almost squealed with joy when she didn’t spot Filch anywhere at the teachers’ table, but her happiness quickly evaporated when she realized that he actually seldom came down to meals, and therefore, to her undying disappointment, was probably still alive and well, thinking up ways of somehow making her detention even more unpleasant.
Returning back to her gloomy state, Elizabeth slowly dug into her dinner, but she had barely taken three bites of her chicken when a huge dark owl with a note tied to its leg suddenly landed next to her plate, surprising her so much that she almost spilled her pumpkin juice.
“I wonder what this is all about?” she muttered as she untied the string, offering the owl a piece of her chicken which it contemptuously refused.
A couple of seconds later, she finally held the unfolded letter in her hand, at first having quite a bit of trouble believing what it contained, simply because it was too good to be true.
Miss Woodhouse, (it said)
Owing to the fact that Mr. Filch has had an accident this afternoon, you will serve your detention with me. It will take place in the Potions classroom; the time remains the same.
“Oh my god,” Elizabeth whispered incredulously, laying the note on the table with a trembling hand. “I wished for it to happen ... and it did!”
“What did?” asked Jane curiously, her mouth full of food.
“Filch’s had an accident, so I’ll serve my detention with Snape instead,” Elizabeth replied shakily.
“Oh, yeah!” exclaimed Jane. “Now that you mention it, Justin told me that Filch’s had some sort of encounter with Peeves, but I didn’t know it was that bad! Sorry, I forgot to tell you!”
“It’s O.K.,” said Elizabeth vaguely, already losing herself in thought. It happened! What she’d been praying for all afternoon has actually happened! Wasn’t Peeves simply the most wonderful creature in the world? She’d definitely have to thank him the next time she saw him, but for now ... for now there was still a detention she had to complete, although no longer with Filch, who was currently probably up in the hospital wing, but with Snape ... which, in her opinion, was by all means a huge improvement. Sure, the work he’d make her do would probably be just as bad (if not worse) as the stuff she’d have to do with the caretaker, but at least she’d be in his company, which was always a welcome circumstance, even if he treated her like he usually did. If nothing, she could at least use the opportunity to ask him to give her camera back.
“Um ... didn’t you say you had detention tonight?” Jane asked uncertainly, eyeing Elizabeth with a look of puzzlement. It was ten to seven, and the blond Ravenclaw was just about to leave the dormitory for her appointment with Snape.
“It’s just that it looks more like you were going on a date,” observed Jane.
Elizabeth froze. True, she had put on some make-up and played around with her hair for a while (goodness knows what had made her do it, anyway), but she didn’t think...
“Is it really so noticeable?” she asked pleadingly. “Please tell me it’s not that bad! I-”
“If you’re asking me whether Snape’ll notice,” smiled Jane, “then I can assure you that he won’t. He’s a man, Elizabeth; the worst thing that can happen is that he’ll realize you’re somehow different, but there’s absolutely no way for him to find out what had caused it.”
“Are you sure?” asked the blond witch doubtfully.
“Positive. Now go, I’m sure you don’t want to be late.”
Elizabeth glanced at her watch, and had to admit that she really didn’t have too much time to spare. In fact, she’d probably have to run most of the way if she wanted to get to the dungeons in time. Which is exactly what she did, in the end arriving only about two seconds later than she was supposed to.
Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the classroom door, and, after hearing Snape’s impatient “Enter”, pushed the door open and stepped inside.
The first thing she saw was none other than the Potions master himself, who was just rising from his desk, where he’d obviously been marking tests, to greet her with a reproachful look.
“You’re late,” he informed her before she’d even had the chance to say ‘good evening’. “Five points from Ravenclaw.”
Elizabeth sighed. She couldn’t have wished for a better beginning.
“As for your detention,” Snape continued, “I want you to get rid of that abominable mess over there,” he waved his hand in the direction of one of the tables, where a spilt potion was steadily dripping to the floor, creating an increasingly larger puddle of green goo, “conveniently left behind by the last class especially for you to clean, and while you’re at it, you can give the whole floor a thorough scrub as well. When you’re finished with that, you will move over to the store cupboard, take all its contents out, wipe them, as well as the cupboard itself, clean, and then put everything back again exactly the way it had been before. And lastly, I want you to deprive the classroom of all cobwebs. Needless to say, you are to do everything without magic. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” said Elizabeth glumly. This was going to be a looong evening.
Not to mention rather dull, too, since neither Snape, nor she looked as though they would attempt to break the silence any time soon. But while with Snape it was quite understandable, since it would have been extremely uncharacteristic of him to suddenly start a conversation, with Elizabeth it was a different story. Her mind was infested with at least a million questions that were simply begging to be asked, but somehow she just couldn’t find the courage to open her mouth and let them out.
‘What is it with you today, girl?’ she asked herself irritably, slowly transferring herself from the floor to the store cupboard and beginning to empty it out. ‘Why don’t you just ask something? He won’t bite your head off, you know. So how about starting with that nagging little question about your camera that you’ve been longing to ask all day? Come on, you can do it!’
“Sir?” she peeped diffidently. “About my camera-”
“You’ll get it back at the end of the year,” said Snape brusquely, not even glancing up from his marking.
‘Cool. At least something.’
Momentarily satisfied, Elizabeth continued working in silence, but not without almost blowing up her little grey cells in a desperate attempt to figure out what she could possibly ask next. After about ten minutes of feverish thinking, she finally gathered her courage, put down the vial she had just finished cleaning, and asked the one question that had been poisoning her mind for at least six months now: “Sir ... why do you hate me so much? What have I done to you?”
This time, Snape did look up, obviously somewhat surprised by her nerve. “That is none of your business, Miss Woodhouse,” he said icily. “Kindly get back to work.”
Elizabeth couldn’t believe her ears. None of her business? She would probably have accepted any other answer, but this?
“How can you say that, sir?” she asked incredulously. “The fact that it’s me whom you dislike kind of does make it my business, you know.”
“I thought,” said Snape in his most dangerous voice, “that I told you to get back to work.”
Elizabeth, however, didn’t care one bit about what he’d said or hadn’t said. Dangerous voice or not, she had let it get too far to back off now. So, in complete conflict with Snape’s orders, she left her place by the store cupboard and crossed over to his desk, hoping to make her point clearer that way.
“If it was the dance that had started it all,” she said gravely, looking straight at Snape and for once, to her surprise, making him look rather uncomfortable, “then I apologize for it. Now I know it was wrong to ask you, and I promise to never ever do it again.”
All of a sudden, Snape stood up, looking like he was having quite a lot of trouble controlling himself.
“Leave, Miss Woodhouse,” he said in a strained voice, looking anywhere but at her when he said it.
Elizabeth was confused. What was going on? Was it something she’d said?
“But ... I haven’t finished cleaning up yet,” she reasoned. Surely he wouldn’t let her off early, that would be...
“Leave,” he repeated, sounding almost desperate.
Slowly, Elizabeth obeyed, but couldn’t help turning around at least once just before she walked out the door. What she saw was definitely strange: Snape was looking straight at her with an expression she was quite sure she’d never seen on his face before – a mixture of sadness, pain ... and something else, which, at this moment, was downright impossible for Elizabeth to place.She was certain of one thing, though: it wasn’t hate.