In Defense Of

David the Steward found where they were and offered to show them to the guest quarters. After bidding the women good night, the two Snapes and one Prince followed the steward down the hall. Harry recalled the room he had stayed in last time as a guest of the Society and discovered this one was just as comfortable as the last one he had been in. Only this time there were four rooms in the suite—two bedrooms with double beds, a connecting bath, and a sitting area with couches, a recliner, fireplace, and several bookshelves as well as a table large enough to have breakfast on if they so desired.

There were perches for the ravens in the bedrooms, and Severus instructed the boys to get ready for bed, while removing his outer robes and hanging them on the rack provided to the right of the door. Severus quickly used the bathroom first, and then retreated to his own room to turn down the bed and give Skull some food—sometimes the raven grew hungry at night, and Severus didn't want the bird roaming the castle and getting into mischief.

While he was doing that, Harry and Dante went with the fledglings to brush their teeth and get into pajamas. Dante carefully placed his fyrewing egg in a small crate filled with straw that Francesca had provided for him and put it on the hearth. The fire was banked for the night, but the warmth still lingered and would serve to keep the egg warm. Dante patted straw over the egg and then whispered, "Good night."

He returned to his room and eyed Harry curiously. "So . . . are you going to ask him about writing the letter to the Board? Or should I do it?"

Harry quickly nodded. "I think . . . we both should do it. Since we both have had class with Lockhart the Eternal Idiot."

"Okay. Let's do it." Dante urged.

They found Severus in the recliner, wearing simple black trousers and a lightweight green shirt. He was perusing a potions manual and Skull was perched on the back of the recliner, preening himself.

"Dad," Harry began. On his shoulder, Loki ruffled his feathers.

"Yes?" Severus put the periodical down and looked up at his son. "You ought to be in bed."

"I know, but first I wanted to ask you something." His son said quietly.

"We both did," Dante clarified.

"Go ahead. I'm listening." Severus urged.

"We're all ears," chimed in Skull, looking at the two alertly.

"Well, it's about Lockhart . . ." Harry began, then he told Severus all about how they had planned to write letters to the Board complaining about Lockhart's abysmal teaching methods and using the ravens as witnesses to what had gone on in the classroom.

"The letters were my idea," Dante clarified. "Sort of like a protest."

"Oh?" One raven brow rose but Severus was not angry, merely surprised. "And how many students have gotten their parents to write letters?"

Harry named all his friends and their siblings and Dante agreed and said that as far as he knew, everyone in his third-year class was also doing so.

"So, we were wondering if . . . if you could write a letter too," Harry said, his green eyes shining hopefully.

"Skull, did you observe the class also?" Severus asked his familiar.

"I did," the raven responded promptly. "And I can tell you that I have never seen a more useless excuse for a Defense professor in forever!"

"Now that I can believe," snorted the Potions Master. He waved his wand and summoned some parchment and an Everfull Quill. He looked over at the two apprentices. "I shall write a letter tonight and have Skull deliver it tomorrow to the Ministry Education Committee."

"Awesome!" cheered Dante.

Harry grinned. "Thanks, Dad."

"You have no need to thank me yet," Severus waved off the praise. "While I desire greatly to see that buffoon pack his bags and leave the school, I shall wait till it happens before accepting any accolades. Now—it's time you were in bed."

"Okay, Severus," Dante agreed.

"Night, Dad," Harry said, feeling elated and tired at the same time.

Snape waited until he was certain the boys were asleep before he began to pen the letter. He had spoken to Albus a week ago, unbeknownst to the children, about the way Lockhart was failing to teach anything meaningful in Defense. To Snape's irritation, Albus had shrugged off his concerns, saying that Lockhart would reveal his true worth soon. Snape had rolled his eyes and snorted, wondering if the revenant's draining of the other had somehow affected the older wizard's wits. The Potions Master and former spy did not know what game the Headmaster was playing now, but it was not right that Albus waste the students' schooldays with a teacher who was plainly a fraud. Lockhart had managed to not only irritate all the staff, but also his students, until by now the only ones who could stand the smarmy man were the teenager girls who only saw his dashing smile and pretty face.

Snape hoped the Clarity Draft he had spiked Albus' dish of sherbet lemons with helped the Headmaster see that retaining Lockhart was a huge mistake for everyone concerned. But just in case not, he was going to do as his son and ward had requested.

His quill moved rapidly over the high grade parchment, writing neatly.

Dear Lucius,

It has come to my attention that the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, has been masquerading as certified duelist and Defense specialist. If Draco has not already informed you about this, I am taking the opportunity to do so.

Both my son and my cousin have approached me and informed me that Lockhart does not teach Defense, but rather fashion design, and calls it Defense. His curriculum is non-existent, and when I substituted for two days when Lockhart contracted laryngitis, I discovered all the students were woefully underprepared to defend themselves against the mildest dark creature, let alone face a true dark practitioner who meant them harm. It is disgraceful and I am deeply concerned about my son and ward's education, or lack thereof.

Here Severus paused and nudged his familiar awake, asking Skull to provide details of the classes he and the fledglings had witnessed. After listening carefully to the raven's testimony, Snape included it in his letter.

From the above examples, one may conclude that our children are at risk of learning absolutely nothing from this year, and such a thing will set them back greatly with regards to OWLS and NEWTS. I find that intolerable, and have implored the Headmaster to do something about this idiot, to no avail.

Therefore I am writing to you, both to inform you of the situation and to ask that you move to declare Lockhart unfit to be a Hogwarts professor due to his sheer incompetence and fraudulent claims. I guarantee if you were to investigate his so called claims of defeating all sorts of dark creatures—that he writes about in his biographies—you will find that they are mere fiction without a drop of actual truth in them. The fool cannot defend himself against dust motes, much less an actual banshee or werewolf, and he puts all of our children at risk every time he steps foot inside the classroom.

I have considered tutoring Harry and Dante privately if this keeps up.

Your fellow Slytherin and parent,

Professor Severus Snape

The professor sealed the missive and pressed his seal to the green wax. His signet was a cauldron with a snake rising from it, symbol of all Potion Masters. He then addressed the letter and asked Skull to deliver it tomorrow morning.

"Will do, Sev," the raven said. "You could have dictated it, you know."

"I know," Severus murmured, caressing Skull's head. "But Lucius will need the letter as evidence."

"Very well. I shall deliver it tomorrow morning." Skull promised.

"Good," Severus said with satisfaction coloring his tone. Covering his mouth with a hand, the professor tucked his quill and ink pot away in his satchel then sought his own bed, Skull perched like a dark sentinel upon the headboard.

*~*~*~Page Break~*~*~*


At breakfast Saturday morning, Hermione, Daphne, Randi, Ron and Neville all were discussing when the Dueling Tournament would occur. "Have you heard anything?" Ron asked, after eating a mouthful of blueberry pancakes.

Hermione and Neville both shook their heads. "Professor McGonagall hasn't said anything that I can recall," the bushy haired girl murmured, eating her yogurt and granola.

"Neither had Professor Sprout," Neville added, quietly eating his poached eggs and spinach on toast.

Daphne eyed the moon-faced Gryffindor and remarked, "Neither had Professor Snape, and we'd be the first to know, since he's supposed to be teaching it."

Randi nodded in agreement with her Housemate, then observed, "Are you on some kind of diet, Neville?"

Longbottom sighed. "Sort of. My gran wrote Madam Pomfrey and asked her to monitor what I ate, she thinks I eat too much when I'm stressed. So she came up with a list of suggested foods and meals I ought to pick from." He gestured to his plate. "I like eggs and whole wheat toast and spinach, so that's what I'm eating this morning."

Ron made a face. "No bangers? Or bacon? Sounds bloody awful, mate!"

"I can have them," Neville explained. "Just not everyday or a lot of them. I decided to save them for tomorrow." He drank some tea.

"That makes sense," Hermione said approvingly. She glanced over at Ron. "Maybe you could try and eat a little healthier too, Ron."

"No thanks," the Gryffindor replied. "I'm fine how I am!" and he speared a piece of sausage and ate it.

Randi chuckled. "It's not so bad, Ron." She indicated her own sandwich of egg whites, cheese, a tomato, and thinly sliced ham. "This tastes good and isn't filled with fat or carbohydrates either."

"Say what?" Ron goggled at her. "Speak English, Cummings."

"I am," Randi laughed. "My mum's a nutritionist. That's a lady who makes her living helping other people eat healthy and exercise right. A lot of women and men in Britain and American have trouble doing that."

"And people pay her to do that?" Ron sounded skeptical.

"Loads of them," Randi told him. "Anyway, what I meant was this—" she indicated her sandwich,"—is good for you because it has protein, veggies, and some carbs. It will give me energy through the day until lunch and I won't feel tired or bloated like when you eat something with a lot of sweets or heavy with bread and fat. That—" she indicated Ron's breakfast. "—is only okay sometimes, because if you eat like that all the time—eventually you'll gain weight and develop other health issues."

"You sound like a Healer already, Randi," Neville chuckled.

The little Slytherin flushed. "Umm . . . thanks. But that's just common sense, Neville."

"Which a lot of witches and wizards don't have," Hermione commented.

"Let's get back to the dueling tournament," Ron quickly steered the conversation back to what was important. "Who would know besides our professors when it's going to start?"

"Dumbledore would," Daphne said calmly, eating her scrambled eggs, crispy potatoes, and bacon. "Maybe you could ask him."

"Capital idea!" Ron grinned. "Hermione and I will do that and tell you later."

"We will?" Hermione raised an eyebrow.

"Uh huh," her Housemate asserted. "Because you're always the one asking questions about everything so it won't look odd."

Hermione huffed but at last agreed, then they all finished their breakfast and went off to relax in some way, leaving the two Gryffindors to go up the stairs to find Dumbledore.

Inside Dumbledore's office:

Meanwhile, unknown to the two students currently ascending the staircase, Lena had entered moments before, carrying a new batch of amulets in a moke-skin bag. "Professor, here are the latest batch of amulets that Filius and I have made," the library witch greeted softly.

The Headmaster turned from contemplating the sun streaming across the grounds from his lofty view, his purple moon and stars robe rustling softly. "Ah, thank you, Lena." He smiled at her genially. "You may put them upon that table there." He indicated a medium-sized rosewood table to the left of his desk by a bookcase. "Your efforts are invaluable to everyone here at the school. Myself included." He patted the amulet that he himself wore.

Lena looked slightly embarrassed. "It is only right that we all work together to protect the children, Headmaster."

"Please, there's no need for formality here. Call me Albus," Dumbledore invited. "Shall I ring for some tea?" He clapped his hands and Zippy, one of the school elves appeared in the room.

"What does Headmaster Dumbledore sir be needing?" the elf asked, bowing.

"I need a tea tray for two, Zippy," Albus murmured. "And a bowl of fruit for Fawkes," he added as the phoenix rustled its bright feathers and squawked gently.

"Right away, Headmaster sir! Zippy will fetch it!"

As Zippy blinked away, Albus gestured for Lena to sit down in a brocade chair before the fireplace.

No sooner had the two done so, then the flames flared green and a medium-sized witch wearing a fine silk cloak made of crimson with gold lining over a fancy two-piece skirt and blouse stepped through the flames. She wore a pin upon the cloak that was made of gold with diamonds of a crane flying over a mountain of gold. Her light brown hair had been washed with golden highlights and swept up to give the illusion of height.

Lena did not recognize her but her whole ensemble screamed money and attitude and made the hairs on the back of her neck prickle in warning. In her experience, a woman like this meant trouble, and in this case she was right.

Dumbledore, in contrast, did not bat an eyelash. "Ah, Mary. How nice of you to drop in."

The woman sniffed haughtily. "This is hardly a social call, Dumbledore. I've come to find out why you have treated my son like some pariah over a mere Slytherin half-blood child. I find that most unacceptable!" She gave the Headmaster a withering glare.

Lena stiffened at the other witch's words, which smacked of precisely the entitled attitude she detested. This must be that little wretch Craven's mum! Now I see where he gets it from!

"Why don't we discuss this over tea?" Dumbledore said calmly, and at a wave of his wand, a third chair pulled itself up to the table.

Mary Craven's lips pursed together in distaste. "I'm not here for tea and crumpets, Headmaster! I'm here to tell you to remove the unfair ban you placed upon my Stephen—"

"Now, Mary—" the elder wizard began.

At the same time Lena spoke up, unable to keep silent any longer. "It was hardly unfair. . . Craven was caught red-handed by me and Professor Snape trying to force-feed an experimental potion to a first-year girl—"

"I don't recall asking for your input!" Mary declared, glaring sharply at Lena. "Whoever you are!"

Lena's eyes flashed with temper at the other's condescension and rudeness. "My name is Lena Rosario. I am the assistant librarian here, Mrs. Craven!"

"Oh? Then why don't you run along back to the stacks and stick your nose back in your books where it belongs?"

Lena gritted her teeth. "What are you implying?" her eyes narrowed as she probed lightly at the other's mind, finding it a mass of anger and contempt mixed with a need to protect her son from the unfair treatment he had received. Lena quickly withdrew, slamming her shields up.

"That you ought to mind your own business!" Mary said snottily.

Before Lena could respond, Dumbledore did. "Mary, this matter is Lena's business, as she witnessed the incident along with Harry, Daphne, and Severus. Furthermore, you are a guest here, now do sit down."

Though the man never raised his voice, the last was unmistakably a command.

Mary hastily sat down, though she was still indignant and angry.

Lena fought to keep from smirking at the other witch's discomfort. Humph! Put you in your place, now didn't he, you arrogant bint? Behind her glasses, her hazel eyes glinted slightly with satisfaction.

Mary Craven cast her a withering look, then turned back to Albus. "Well . . . as I was saying . . . Stephen wrote to me about how you have put him on probation and have him serving detention in the kitchens—of all places—" she huffed, saying the word kitchen like someone else might say toilet. "—taking the word of some nobody Slytherin witch who tried to curse him as well as his corrupt Head—"

Lena stirred, her nails digging into her palms.

Albus' eyebrow rose into his hair. "Mary, I beg to differ. Firstly, Stephen brought his own consequences down on his head by wrongfully trying to harm a first-year. Her name is Randi Cummings and she did not try and do anything to him or his friend Zacharias except escape him when they cornered her in a corridor on her way back from the library. I have since spoken with both Randi and Stephen regarding the incident, along with Lena, Severus, and Severus' son Harry, as well as Daphne Greengrass and come to the conclusion that your son was bullying Miss Cummings—"

"He was not! It was a joke!" Mary protested instantly.

"A joke?" Lena cried. "I'd wager if someone had tried such on your son you wouldn't say that. Did he also tell you what else he said to Randi? That she was nothing but a nasty snake and no one would miss her if she died after he gave her the potion? Your son is not the innocent little angel you make him out to be, not by a long shot!"

"I didn't ask for your two Knuts—"

"You don't need to!" Lena flared, her eyes locking with the other's. "I don't need you permission to speak, my lady. The Headmaster was right in giving your child probation and detention, especially because he not only terrorized a younger student but also was blatantly disrespectful to Professor Snape and totally unremorseful about what he had done."

Mary swallowed sharply, for the look Lena was giving her was reminiscent of an angry Pendragon. "He told me that it was all that Hufflepuff Zach's idea, and as for respecting Snape, that greasy scoundrel ought to be locked away for what he did, not allowed to work at a school!"

"That, Lady Termagant, is a lie. We all heard Stephen admit to wanting to test his potion on Randi because of a bet he made with his friend Zach. He admitted that fact to both myself and the Headmaster. He also was babbling some ridiculous nonsense about Severus being an assassin and poisoning students." Here Lena snorted. "I can only assume that he was repeating something he heard at home. From you, perhaps?"

The witch stiffened. "Everyone knows Snape was in league with You-Know-Who years ago! Only somehow his forked tongue got him off—"

"You are repeating rumors and not facts, Mrs. Craven," Lena pointed out coldly. "If I had a Knut for every time someone said "everyone knows this" I'd be richer than Croesus by now. Professor Snape was never convicted of anything, as I'm sure the Headmaster could tell you. Or are you too as blind and intolerant as your son seems to be regarding those who come from Slytherin House?"

"Intolerant?" Mary sputtered.

Before she could respond, Zippy returned with the tea tray.

"Ladies, please," Albus began. "There's no need to be hostile. Why don't we all calm down and have some tea?"

Mary looked like she was about to say something derogatory, but then thought better of it and reached for the teapot instead.

Lena bit her lip from adding she would sooner have tea with the devil, and quietly added sugar and cream to her cup.

As she was biting into a Queen's cake, Mary turned to Dumbledore and said angrily, "You have no right to punish my son while letting that Slytherin viperess off, Headmaster!"

Albus shook his head. "You disappoint me, Mary. I have every right to discipline the children under my care, and I assure you that Miss Cummings did nothing to warrant any sort of punishment. She was a victim, not an aggressor."

"Stephen told me she taunted him—"

"That's a lie," Lena interjected. "Randi did nothing of the kind. I know, I was there."

"Don't you call my son a liar!" Mary flared. "He is a good boy!"

Lena snorted. "Last I checked, Mrs. Craven, good boys don't go around force feeding potions to little girls! Or do you also condone bullying as long as your son does it?"

"How dare you?" Mary sputtered. "You must have been a Slytherin too, with the way you defend them! It figures!"

Lena arched an eyebrow. "Actually, I was a Ravenclaw. Not that it matters. Except to narrowminded people such as yourself—who seem to want to carry on with schoolgirl rivalries until you are old and gray."

"I am a proud Gryffindor!" Mary retorted.

Lena rolled her eyes. "Obviously, and you've taught your son to be also—as well as intolerant of others. It shouldn't matter what House you are from once you leave school—only that we all work together as equals to make this world a better place for everyone."

"Not everyone deserves a better place," Mary sneered. "You sound like an idealistic fool—like our American cousins."

"I happen to believe that the Americans are right," Lena interjected smoothly. "It's those who put blood status and House preference above common decency that are mistaken. Like you."

"You don't know anything! I was tormented by two Slytherins who later became Death Eaters," Mary growled. "Like all their misbegotten kind!"

"Ah . . . so you agree that bullying is wrong?" Lena demanded.

"Well, of course!" Mary sniffed, not seeing the trap she was running headlong into.

"Good, then you ought to feel sympathy, not contempt, for Randi Cummings, who was also a victim of bullies," Lena pointed out.

"I . . . but . . ."

"But what?" The librarian's eyes narrowed sharply. "It's different when it's a Gryffindor being tormented by Slytherin boys? It only counts when it's you? Frankly, madam, I see no difference between you and Randi. Except this—it wasn't a Slytherin doing the bullying this time."

"For once . . ." Mary began weakly.

Lena snorted. "Oh, don't try and act like your House is some bastion of chivalry, madam. For I can tell you it's not—nor is any. All the Houses are flawed. You might have been a few years ahead of me in school, but I remember well that a group of four Gryffindors roamed about back then pranking and casting illegal hexes on anyone they thought deserved it . . . simply because they could. I believe they were known as the Marauders."

Mary gaped at her. "But . . . they . . . they were popular . . .everyone liked them . . ."

"Everyone meaning you and your House? Because I assure you, their victims did not like them," Lena said coldly. "One of those victims was of my House . . . and there was nothing amusing or funny about what was done to him."

"It was pranks," Mary insisted.

"A prank is something that both prankster and victim can laugh about. Having one's brain enlarged to three times its size is no laughing matter! It's cruel and wicked. But I suppose, according to your philosophy, cruel and wicked only apply to Slytherins."

"How dare you lecture me?" snapped the other, incensed. "Who do you think you are? A mere Muggleborn librarian?"

Lena arched an eyebrow, ignoring the stinging tone. "At least you got the librarian part right. I wondered if you were paying attention. But I'm a half-blood, not Muggleborn. Not that makes a bit of difference. My Muggle father, who happens to be a professor at Oxford, taught me that all people are to respected as equals. Pity your own father didn't teach you the same. It would explain why your son has such a huge superiority complex though." Lena gestured to the bookshelf. "Like mother, like son."

"I beg your pardon?" Mary was growing angrier and angrier at Lena's barbed comments, her face flushed red as if she had sunburn.

Outside the office door, Ron and Hermione remained frozen, their mouths agape, listening to the repartee with bated breath.

Unable to respond to the witty Ravenclaw witch, the flustered Gryffindor spun on the Headmaster. "Dumbledore, I demand that you dismiss this . . . insolent servant so that we may have a proper conversation about my son!"

"I'm afraid I cannot do that," the Headmaster responded serenely, his eyes twinkling like stars behind his glasses. "Lena is not a servant, she is one of my volunteer staff and as such I have no authority over her."

Lena hid a smirk behind her teacup. I do believe you are enjoying this little sparring match, Albus Dumbledore! She thought wickedly.

Mary looked as if she had swallowed a vomit flavored Bertie Botts. "That—that is . . . you can't be serious!"

"I assure you, madam, I am quite serious," Dumbledore answered in that same maddeningly calm tone.

Furious, Mary turned back to Lena. "You need to leave! Right now!"

"Why? Are you bothered by my mere presence?" queried the librarian quietly, but with an edge to her words that was like a sword drawn.

"What? Of course not!" she blustered. Recovering slightly, Mary spat, "Very well then! If you are too ill-bred to depart when told to, then at least hold your infernal tongue! I don't need to hear any more of your defense for your pet Slytherins!"

"They are not my anything, but please, carry on, darling!" Lena drawled.

Behind the office door, Hermione and Ron were smothering laughter behind their hands.

"Ahem! As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted, you need to change your disciplinary policy. Stephen should not be put on probation for a mere prank, it is unfair—"

"How so, Mrs. Craven?" queried the old wizard. "By his own admission, your son sought to harm another student. For no other reason then the fact that he disliked her House. He furthermore talked his friend into aiding him in his mischief, and when confronted with his wrongdoing sought to shift the blame to his friend. He furthermore used an offensive term in the presence of myself, Lena, Professor McGonagall, and Professor Snape."

"What term?"

"I hesitate to speak it, but since you wish to know details . . . Stephen called Randi a half-Mudblood."

Mary gasped.

Dumbledore nodded. "Furthermore, he attempted to hit her, and was prevented only because Professor Snape stopped him."

Quickly getting over her shock, Mary snapped, "You allowed that slimy no-good Death Eater to manhandle my boy?"

"On the contrary, madam. Your son hit Severus instead of Randi," Dumbledore corrected.


"Oh indeed," the Headmaster said gravely. "Were this twenty years ago, I would have been within my rights to expel your son for attacking a professor. But I felt justice would be better served if he were put on probation and served a two-week detention in the kitchens, as well as being forbidden to come within sight of Randi again. Why are you so surprised? Didn't Stephen tell you all of this?"

"No . . . I . . .I didn't know . . ."

Lena observed that the other woman looked as if she were about to sick up all over the carpet. Good! About time something punctured that holier-than-thou bubble she surrounds herself with!

"I see. I hope this puts things in perspective." Dumbledore said, drinking his tea. "That being so, given the gravity of the situation, I shall not be changing my ruling."

"You won't?" Mary coughed, caught off-guard.

"No. Both Stephen and Zachary will serve the full sentence of their punishment. In the past, I was perhaps too lax in the way I handled certain individuals. But no longer. Those days are done. And I shall not permit a return to them, no matter what."

The Headmaster was all sweet reason, but there was a core of steel behind the words that had not been present before.

Lena wanted to cheer. But she restrained herself. Ha! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, you arrogant hag!

Visibly deflated, Mrs. Craven attempted to maintain a façade of dignity. "I see. I suppose you must do as you see fit."


Not just as he sees fit. But what is right, Lena thought. She thanked Merlin that Dumbledore had not given into the other witch, but had stood firm. The librarian stood, setting her cup and saucer upon the table. "Thank you for the tea, Headmaster. But I must be getting back to work. The children will be coming to the library soon and they will need me to help them with their research."

"Of course, Lena," Albus gave her an approving smile. "Your help is, as always, invaluable to the students and this school."

Lena turned to make her way out of the office, her head held high, coloring slightly at the glowing praise. She turned slightly with her hand upon the doorknob. "I shall see you later, Headmaster."

"Good riddance!" she heard Mary mutter spitefully.

Her Italian temper flaring, Lena spun. "If I may, I shall leave you with some words of wisdom, Lady Craven," she growled, making it clear the title was not given as a term of respect. "If you wish to be worthy of respect you ought to treat people as you would wish to be treated. For the mark of a true lady can be seen in how she respects others, both high and low."

With that, Lena sailed out the door, leaving a sputtering Mary in her wake.

As the librarian shut the office door, she heard Stephen's mother cry in outrage, "Are you going to allow that—that upstart to get away with that? Surely, you see now that—"

"I happen to agree with her," Dumbledore responded, and there was utter silence in the room.

When Lena turned around again, she saw Ron and Hermione staring at her as if she were Boudicca the warrior queen come back from the dead. "Hello, Ron and Hermione!" she greeted them. "If you've come to speak with the Headmaster, I suggest you wait a bit. He is otherwise occupied with a parent at the moment."

"Err . . . guess we'll come back later, right, Ron?" Hermione flushed, giving the boy a nudge with the toe of her shoe.

"Uh . . .right!" Ron gulped, still gazing at Lena with hero-worship written all over his face.

They followed the librarian down the staircase and out the sliding door into the corridor.

As soon as they were out of earshot, Ron blurted, "Lena, you were bloody brilliant!"

"Ron!" Hermione gasped.

Lena chuckled. "I ought to tell you it's bad manners to eavesdrop, but I thank you any way, children . . ."

"We didn't mean to . . ." Hermione began, looking uncomfortable. "We wanted to ask Dumbledore a question about the Dueling Tournament."

"Perhaps I can answer it instead," Lena suggested, as they accompanied her down the corridor. She listened as the two talked, hoping that her last sally had put paid to Mrs. Craven and her intolerable bigoted attitude. With a mother like that she almost pitied Stephen. Almost. Well, if nothing else, I shall have an interesting story to tell Severus when he returns from Ravencrest castle. I hope he found the potions recipe he needed and was able to brew it, for we need every edge we can get against the dragonelle.

A/N: I know this was a long wait but I've been having issues with my laptop and also my carpel tunnel of late, which makes it difficult to sit and type for long periods. But hope you enjoyed this chapter! If you did, please review!