Chapter Twenty Nine: In Which Severus Enjoys His Freetime

Anyone who ever thought teaching might be an easy gig with copious free time deserved to be Crucioed, Severus thought, only a few days later. As if he didn't have enough trouble keeping the dunderheads from trying to kill themselves in class, as if he didn't have to grade all of their inane essays, he found with every passing day his so-called 'off hours' dwindled.

To his smug amusement, Slytherin House was on its best behavior for almost a month after they all got off punishment duty. That wasn't to say they didn't get up to mischief; in his experience, the little brats were always up to something. However, they played by the rules he had set forth, targeting the other Houses for their pranks and games and anger, at least pretending that they didn't all hate each other.

He didn't exactly appreciate just how often he was being summoned to the Common Room, as one duel after another was issued. Potter was called out for a week straight after the House-wide punishment had finished. All by children of Dark families, all of whom tried to slip some darker spells and hexes his way as they fought.

It was almost depressing how easily Potter blew through them all. Lupin and Shacklebolt had been effective in their teachings over the summer, as after each fight, there were less students willing to step forward.

The one fight Potter had lost, Granger had finished. She'd been his Second in all of his duels, most of the time not even bothering to draw her wand. After she'd blasted Bole out of the dueling ring and into the wall, knocking him unconscious for over four hours, the challenges had vanished.

"Hermione, what spell did you use?" He questioned her the following day, when she'd come to his office hours to practice her wandless magic. "He had to wake up naturally; I thought I was going to have to get Pomfrey. The Reviving Spell didn't work."

Hermione was practicing Charms wandless that night, levitating various objects around his office and Banishing and Summoning them when they fell. She didn't look up from her work as she answered. "It was a modified Bombarda. Vaisey used it when he attacked Harry and from I was told, he couldn't have learned it without Bole's help. I didn't want to blow him up though and disarming him wasn't enough, so that modified hex just blasted the area around his feet. It generates enough force to throw a grown man off his feet- Andromeda taught me that. I thought the dueling ring wards would hold though, I didn't expect him to hit the wall. She said the force was amazing; she never let me try it on anyone."

Which would explain, Severus thought, why the girl had looked horrified when Severus had been summoned. Most duels, the Sixth or Seventh Years could clean up themselves, healing whatever damage had been done. Severus was only summoned when they couldn't fix the problem, as while the Slytherins were allowed to duel each other freely, no one outside of the house knew, so they couldn't go for the Hospital wing.

"You could have killed him." Severus warned the girl. "The dueling rings are only powered by Seventh Years and none of them practice as extensively as you do. You overpowered their wards."

She snorted. "In that case, their wards were pathetic."

Severus grinned before letting her be. He might not have ingredient preparations, but there were always essays that needed graded. He wasn't sure she needed to know that the strongest warders were always used for building the dueling rings, nor that the Knight girl had been accepted for a Warding apprenticeship. Magic was a tool that most Witches and Wizards didn't particularly bother to use more than they needed to. Hermione was actively trying to build her magical power, which was raising her abilities well beyond that of a normal Seventh Year.

He had always thought that her wandless magical abilities were going to give her an edge when confronting Bellatrix, but he was starting to believe that she might have had the ability to defeat the woman even in a wanded battle.

If his times with Hermione were some of the calmest, his times with young Potter were amongst the worst. Knowing now that the boy had mastered some rudimentary Occlumency, Severus kept him coming to his office for meetings.

They weren't going well. Severus was waiting for the boy to skive off, more than willing to throw him in detentions until his fingers bled. He'd give the boy this much: he was practicing, as much as his stunted academic abilities would allow him. He'd confessed that clearing his head was the only thing that got him to sleep most nights. Severus was glad that something inspired him to put an effort in, even if it had to be the death of his godfather.

As Severus had suspected, when he agreed to this whole cockamamie scheme, Dumbledore was not pleased that his Golden Boy was suddenly a Slytherin.

"Ah, Severus!"

Severus held back a sigh when the door to the staff room opened and Dumbledore waltzed in. Dumbledore had been seeking him out every few days to ask how "dear Harry" was holding up in the Snake pit.

"Hello, Albus." Severus put his quill down, knowing he'd get no more work done until he finished whatever inane conversation the Headmaster needed now. Honestly, he'd never leave his own rooms, but then he got complaints that he was being unsociable.

They didn't like it when he told them he was unsociable.

Apparently he really had been worrying a few of them with the books he was checking out, as he'd noted lately, he was never alone for long in the staff room. He had checked for Alert spells that would tell others when he was there, but saw none other than the one they had to alert professors if a student had showed up in the room.

He wouldn't put it past any of them to still have him registered as a student in the school, not a one of them. He hadn't been able to prove it yet, so he just had to put up with one of the other three Heads mysteriously popping in after he had shown up.

On the plus side, the fact that the Headmaster was never able to catch Severus alone was hilarious.

Sure enough, his face fell as Pomona piped up from the couch in the back corner. "Hello, Albus, what brings you our way?"

"Oh, uh, hello there, Pomona," Albus said, dredging up a smile. "I was just wandering about this reSort. The board of governors are sending letters on a daily basis asking about it. They are, of course, most concerned with how Slytherin House is managing."

"Of course." Severus muttered darkly. Merlin forbid Potter be left alone for too long.

Pomona just smiled brightly. "Well, my reSorts are doing just lovely!" She informed them both. "Neville and I just have a blast discussing Herbology; I've gotten him to talk to some of the others about the greenhouses that are behind the Longbottom fortune. You wouldn't believe how involved that boy is already with the growing and cultivating. He's brilliant; I have him tutoring some of the Firsties who are having problems."

"Ah, lovely." Albus beamed at the news. "Neville is quite a gifted young man, wouldn't you say, Severus?"

Severus scoffed. He'd certainly never seen any talent. "I'm afraid that talent never came out in Potions." He said, ignoring Pomona's scowl.

"And the, uh, others?" Albus gave in to Pomona's bright grin, turning her way. "How are they doing?"

"I think Roger misses the Ravenclaw library," she admitted. "But, he's an apt tutor, he's having great fun coaching some of the Fifth years who are starting to worry about OWLs." She giggled. "I don't think he quite knows how to calm down. Hufflepuff House isn't nearly as quick-paced as the Ravenclaw house. But really, Albus, tell the governors to calm down. They're all doing quite well. We utilized this practice for decades and no one was ever worse off for it."

"Well, yes, of course." Albus gave her a grin. "I just worry that, well, the world being what it is."

Pomona let out a sigh. "They are children, Albus. Let them be children."

He opened his mouth, no doubt to explain to her why he should be allowed to meddle, when the door opened again and Minerva and Rolanda walked in, giggling together like they were decades younger.

The giggles quickly dried up when Minerva saw the Headmaster. She was still quite offended by his actions. "Here to help with some homework grading, Headmaster?" She asked, sitting in her seat stiffly.

"Headmaster, I've a bone to pick with you!" Rolanda shot a glare around the room. "None of the Quidditch teams have full rosters yet!" She exclaimed. "How are we supposed to begin a season? None of you are even trying!"

This last remark seemed to be aimed Severus's way. "We have a full roster." He said mildly, grinning at her. "Just because Saint Potter isn't on it doesn't mean it's incomplete. He was invited to try out, he declined."

"Now, Severus," Albus chided. "Harry loves flying! Why would he decline?"

"He made this decision himself, Headmaster." Severus pointed out. "Both in deciding to be reSorted and refusing to try out for the team. Believe me, Ms. Hale is very upset with his decision. But, last I was told, he refused on the grounds that he wasn't sure that he could trust a team up in the air. A Seeker isn't very good without Beaters, Albus. I would think you'd want the boy to stay grounded."

"With all that's happening, I just think he should have something he enjoys in his life." Albus tried a wounded expression. "Maybe you should have a talk with the team, Severus."

"I absolutely will not." Severus already talked to those little dunderheads enough. They were always trying to steal the field off of someone else, which he approved of in the abstract, but not when it meant they kept coming to bother him. "Albus, this was his decision. Our tryouts are open to everyone and he knew that. He made the decision; I will not fight him on it."

"I don't particularly think this is any business of yours, Albus." Minerva interrupted before Albus could respond. "The students are allowed to decide if they want to try out for a team or not- you may be interested to know both Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Weasley are trying out for our team. This isn't a matter for the Headmaster to deal with. Perhaps you should focus your attention on other matters."

Pomona grinned. "He was just inquiring about our new students." She informed the Gryffindor Head of House. "In preparation for the governors." She added, looking as sly as Severus had ever seen her.

And for good reason, apparently, as Minerva stood abruptly. "And when did you decide to involve yourself in this matter?" She demanded. "I was under the impression that I was to meet with the Governors once a month to discuss the reSort. Am I performing in an unsatisfactory manner?" She demanded.

The Headmaster quickly made his excuses after that. Severus began to stand up as well, which only caused Minerva to turn her attention his way. "We didn't mean to chase you away, Severus." She told him. "Rolanda and I were going to work out the Quidditch schedule we hope to have for the year, if you'd like to join us. The Houses should all have a full team by the end of the week."

"No, thank you." Severus had never been the Quidditch addict that Minerva was. He could fake it, for a while, but not around so many people and definitely not around Rolanda. "I have several meetings I need to get ready for."

It wasn't a lie; he often had meetings with his House and they well knew it. But really, he had to get out of there before- he winced when the door opened again and both Lupin and Moody walked in. Lovely. Much like when he was in school, the idiots all hung out together.

"Not joining us, Snape?" Moody sneered as he settled down into a chair beside Lupin. "Too good for the likes of us, I see."

"You just missed your good friend Albus," Severus shot back, tucking his ink away and gathering his papers. "If, of course, you haven't been replaced by a Death Eater again."

"Severus!" Minerva scolded him.

"Then again, maybe he has been replaced and that's why he's avoiding him." Severus shot Moody a grin. "Worked last time after all."

"No, only one Death Eater in this room." Moody sneered. "Of course, you did your best to send all the next generation into the other Houses."

"We think there's only one Death Eater." Severus corrected. "But then again, we thought that last time too, didn't we?"

"Really, Alastor," he could hear Minerva's scolding as he left the room, "Must you antagonize him."

The door closed on Moody's wheezing snickers. He'd never understand that man.

And of course, because his days weren't eventful enough as he tried to keep his House from culling one of their own, he was summoned to the Dark Lord's side as September fell.

"My Lord," Severus bowed deeply as he Apparated to the site that his Mark had directed him, so he only saw that he wasn't alone with the Dark Lord when he rose. Instead, a number of other Death Eaters were there, including both Lucius Malfoy and his lackeys, Victor Crabbe and Gregory Goyle the first.

"Severus!" The Dark Lord smiled as widely as his serpentine face would allow for it. "Our friends and I were hoping for an update on the reSort. It's been a few weeks now, how are things going?"

Severus grinned at Lucius, who he hadn't been able to bother lately. "How's having a Gryffindor son going, Luce?" He asked.

Lucius rolled his eyes. "Draco is having a blast." He informed the other man drolly. "Apparently McGonagall isn't nearly as strict as that mean old Professor Snape," he teased his friend.

"Sounds like a bastard." Severus laughed before turning to his Lord once more. "I have to say, my Lord, the reSort has certainly caused chaos. Theodore Nott keeps forgetting to go to class, lost in Rowena's library. From what I've heard, young Draco is wooing all the girls in his new House, much to the displeasure of the youngest Weasley boy. Millicent has a gaggle of Fourth Years following her in her new House. She's tutoring them in DADA and gathering herself quite a collection. You may be in danger, my Lord."

Riddle let out a faint chuckle. "What do you think, Marwinn?" He asked the head of House Bulstrode. "Is your daughter looking to unseat me?"

"No, my Lord." The large burly man said, bowing deeply. "Millie is doing her duty, as ordered. I've told her to make friends with the younger students. Even if the ones in her year trust her, which I doubt, she won't be able to make inroads with the Seventh Years quickly enough. She's not charismatic enough. But she's strong, and she's a big girl. More than able to protect the little ones, to draw their loyalty. She's a good girl, my Lord."

Millicent was his only child, despite three marriages. She wasn't a result of any of the marriages, but of a dalliance Marwinn had once had with a Muggleborn. Or possibly a Muggle, if one listened to rumours. Severus had never quite been able to piece together how Marwinn had ended up in possession of his daughter, as he didn't keep in touch with many of his lovers.

Still, despite her status as a halfblood, Millicent had very few troubles in Slytherin. She was strong enough, physically, to intimidate many and had a few dangerous spells her father had made sure she mastered.

He just wasn't sure she had the patience for the plot her father was attempting. If it worked, though, it was Pomona's fault for encouraging older students to mentor the younger ones. She was just asking for them to exert their own influences over the impressionable younger ones.

"Interesting." Riddle was no doubt comparing what Marwinn had said to what Severus had told him about the girl. After being called back and proving his loyalties again, Severus had given a full account of everyone in Potter's year, as well as the children of all the Death Eaters.

"And how is young Potter faring in our own House, Severus?" Riddle asked curiously. He had seemed as shocked as everyone else when he'd heard that not only had two Mudbloods ended up in the House of the Snakes, so had his young enemy. Mutters of discontent were rippling through their world, as no one knew how to react to the Golden Boy himself being reSorted into the Snake Pit.

Severus smirked. "He's holding his own." He admitted. "As we all knew last year, he and his ragtag bunch were running their own Defense prep; it's certainly paying off for him now. Several of the children from Darker families have challenged him and the one he couldn't finish Granger did. Young Bole. Whatever spell she used, it's not one I'm familiar with, but she knocked him unconscious for several hours. We couldn't revive him, she overpowered whatever she sent at him. It didn't even slow her down."

"That isn't information I received!" Henley Bole snarled, from his position further back. "She received no punishment for this? The jumped up little Mudblood."

Severus rolled his eyes. "Maybe it's been too long since you were at Hogwarts, but this was an in-House dispute." He explained in his most supercilious tones. "I don't care if she's a Mudblood or not. She's a Slytherin now and a damned good one. No one's made a move against her since then. She's backed up Potter at every turn and it hasn't changed since they moved Houses."

"Yes," Riddle interrupted, voice low and thoughtful. "She's been a surprise find, hasn't she? Do you think she's the reason he went to Slytherin, Severus?"

Severus let out a huff. "Honestly, my Lord, even with all these years of teaching, I still never know about these children. They're in some sort of romance; they're always holding hands and keep sneaking off together. I don't care to find out more. But her spells are getting darker and his are following suit. She's brewing again, outside of classes. I let her find a warded room down in the dungeons and I can assure you, they're not Healing potions."

Riddle laughed. "Fascinating." He said. "We may not even have a chance to corrupt the boy before she does. Keep an eye on her, Severus. What about the other Mudblood?"

"Thomas?" Severus shrugged. "Keeps his head down. The boy's fascinated with drawings; he's quite good with the charms needed to animate them. I wasn't present for the boy's career goals session, but if he keeps the interest up, I believe I shall have him sent to one of the Masters. He doesn't seem to be overly fearful of vampires; most of the Muggleborns aren't."

"You certainly seem to be chumming up quite nicely with these Mudbloods, Severus." Perseus Parkinson sneered at the halfblood in their midst. "Sound just like old Slughorn, you do."

"I have to say, my Lord," Severus turned to face the pug-faced man who was glaring at him. "While I can understand their desire to show Potter his place, I am quite disappointed in the other Slytherins. They're not showing the least bit of subtlety, of slyness. Of course, Parkinson couldn't even manage to get herself resorted into Hufflepuff. That's shows an appalling lack of imagination, not that anyone who knows the girl is surprised."

"You bastard!" Perseus drew his wand. "How dare you speak about my daughter like that!"

"Your daughter is an idiot, though with you and that wench of a wife as parents, I can't blame the girl." Severus drew his own wand and that was enough to make the others all draw back. As a halfblood trying to prove himself in Slytherin, Severus had fought more than his fair share of duels and they all knew the likely outcome. "If she couldn't get herself reSorted, she could at least be trying to make friends with Potter and Granger. But she's not. In fact, she's breaking Slytherin rules to try and avoid them, likely on Daddy's orders. Trust me, Perseus, you're not smart enough to plot. Don't drag your daughter down with you."

Riddle let out a small chuckle. "He's right, Severus, you do sound like Slughorn. Planning the boy's future, are you?" He teased his spy.

Severus grinned. "As he said it, I was appalled to realize it was true." He admitted. "I still think it would fascinating to meet up with the old Masters. But I must apologize, my Lord, as I haven't given you all the information I possess. I forget that you've never seen the boy. Lucius, have you ever taken the time to look over Dean Thomas?" He asked curiously.

As a Governor of the school, Lucius had been in and out of the school on a regular basis.

"I'm afraid I haven't looked up all the children in Draco's year." Lucius admitted with a smile. "And only Potter's mudblood. Why would I bother with the rest?"

Severus shook his head, unable to help himself. Purebloods. So arrogant. "Curiosity isn't a crime, Lucius." He lectured his friend. "Because if one took the time to look the boy over, they'd see something quite interesting. In that, he is the spitting image of an old school acquaintance. His mother may be Muggle, but I assure you, his father wasn't."

"Really?" Riddle looked them both over curiously. Severus turned to face him, allowing the Dark Lord to stroll through the carefully-selected memories Severus had ready for him. "I must admit, I see no resemblance."

"He would have had a beard by the time you met him, my Lord." Severus turned his memories to the older man that Dean had never been able to meet, earning a gasp from Riddle.

He waited, carefully not moving until Riddle pulled out of his memories. "Denton Macnamara." He explained to the others when he could finally move. "He was four years above me in Hogwarts. A Hufflepuff, actually. Amusing, considering that he could have taken another title whenever he pleased."

"He was the last Heir of Gryffindor!" Lucius's face was rapidly paling.

"Until you killed him." Riddle turned angrily to Lucius. "When I believe you were sent to recruit him!"

"I don't know how the boy is so ignorant of his father." Severus tried to deflect attention away from Lucius. "But as he was killed before the boy could even speak, I think it's safe to lay the blame on his Muggle mother. She remarried and has several other children, none of whom seem to possess any magic."

"You have the last Heir of Gryffindor in House Slytherin." Riddle threw his head back, laughing. "That's brilliant. Perseus! Your daughter will make this boy's acquaintance. Halfblood or not, there is power in his blood. Gaining his father would have been an immense coup. His son will have to do."

Severus shook his head. "That's going to be difficult, my Lord. The girl has gone out of her way to alienate all of the newcomers," he admitted. "Nor does the boy seem to possess any special talents."

"Talent isn't always fully nurtured at Hogwarts." Riddle did not seem concerned. "That comes later for many people. He isn't too close to Potter , is he? Interesting that they shared a House for so long and haven't managed to connect. A few generations back, the Potters could claim the same Heirship. This boy, I will have to keep an eye on him."

Severus swallowed hard. He didn't like putting another child in danger, but this was exactly the boon that he needed. The Dark Lord's focus had to be scattered and it most definitely needed to stay off of Hermione. He was more than willing to sacrifice Dean Thomas if he needed to. This was, after all, Denton's fault. He refused to go to anyone for help, on either side, and had actually thought leaving his infant son with an uninformed Muggle would keep the boy safe. It might have, had the idiot not gotten himself killed by Lucius almost immediately afterwards.

Severus was used to making the hard sacrifices. They had been expected of him his whole life. Still, he'd planned a goal for the boy for a reason. There were a number of Wizards who had made deals with vampires in order to avoid death, to allow them to keep up their crafts. There were only a handful of them left, talented beyond compare at their chosen professions. If he could get the boy a vampire Master, he would be able to keep up his skills and, more importantly, he would be safe.

At least one of his Snakes would be.

Surprise! I've read a number of fascinating backstories on Dean Thomas and while mine if far from original, this was always the one that I leaned towards. There were so few in their class, I always thought they all should have more prominent backstories. I'm sorry; I know some of you are upset that Dean and Seamus were split up, but I wanted the other so-called Muggleborn to get a little more prominence. And I also never got why Riddle's schemes took a whole year to come to fruition unless he actually had a number of other schemes going on that Harry simply didn't know about. Let me know your thoughts!