‘And Odo the hero, they brought him back home THE END
To the place that he’d known as a lad.’
Number Twelve was singing again, as he had been doing ever since Filch got into work at half past eight with a hangover that threatened to split his head open. ‘Be quiet!’ he groaned.
The noise stopped for a few seconds, then started again.
‘Oh, my poor heart, where has it gone?
It’s left me for a spell.
For when you stole my gold away
You stole my heart as well.’
‘Number Twelve, if you don’t pipe down, I’m gonna come in there and… ugh. Hair of the dog,’ muttered Filch to himself. ‘That’s what I need.’ He slumped onto the floor of his office and pulled out a hip flask containing redcurrant rum. Unfortunately, all the vodka and plum brandy Snape had given him seemed to have run out. His monster hangover had prevented him doing his usual morning rounds of the cells, but the Shunpike lad had assured him all prisoners were safely gathered in last night. Including the occupant of cell twelve, whose caterwauling was drilling into his brain.
Charlie Weasley was singing to keep his spirits up until his dad showed up, but happily it seemed to have the added bonus of infuriating Filch. He put on a mock-sultry voice.
‘Oh, come and stir my cauldron,
And if you do it right
I’ll boil you up some hot, strong love
To keep you warm tonight.’
‘Weasley!’ bellowed Filch. ‘If you don’t shut up right now, I’ll double your sentence!’
Charlie shut up.
In Number 12, Grimmauld Place, Harry was woken by a post owl rapping on the window. Blearily, he got up and took the envelope. Inside was an official looking letter, headed SUBPOENA. Harry took it straight to Hermione, who read it with the boys watching over her shoulder.
‘Azkaban?’ exclaimed Ron, looking stunned. ‘We’re being sent to prison for skiving off?!’
‘Don’t be silly, Ron,’ said Hermione, calmly. ‘A subpoena’s for witnesses; an official summons. It’s signed by Snape as Headmaster. He must need us to witness something.’ She broke off and stared at Ron. ‘Your dad! We’re supposed to confirm he was at Lucius’ Malfoy’s party last night. Snape must have recognised me. I did wonder when he asked me to speak French. He knew I couldn’t!’ Her jaw dropped. ‘It was Snape’s writing on the invitation! He’d tried to disguise it, but I recognise it now. Why didn’t I see that before?’
‘Well, to be fair, we haven’t been taught by him in over two years,’ said Ron reasonably. ‘And he never used to write anything more than “Appalling” on my essays.’
‘And we didn’t recognise his writing in my Potions book, did we?’ Harry pointed out.
‘So what on earth’s going to happen to Dad?’ asked Ron weakly.
‘We’d better go and find out, hadn’t we?’ said Harry grimly.
Charlie was getting worried. It was two minutes to nine, and there was no sign of his dad. He hammered on the door of his cell. ‘I demand to see a lawyer!’
‘Yes, yes, all right, all right!’ groaned Filch. ‘Just stop bloody singing! Malfoy!’ he bellowed, which was a mistake, making his head ring.
But Filch’s poor head was to get no respite. As soon as Charlie stopped banging on his cell door, someone else hammered on the front door. Filch staggered over to open it, and once he’d seen who was on the doorstep, hollered for his assistant. ‘Kevin! Get down here!’ Leaving the visitors to make their own way inside, he muttered, ‘Must still be drunk. Seeing double.’ As Kevin came skidding into the entrance hall, Filch hissed, ‘There’s another Mr Weasley at the door.’
‘But Guv’nor,’ protested Kevin, ‘I arrested Mr Weasley myself last night. He’s in number twelve!’
‘At what time?’ Arthur Weasley demanded, striding into Azkaban’s entrance hall.
‘About nine in the evening.’
‘In his house?’
‘’Yep,’ confirmed Kevin. ‘He was having dinner.’
‘With his wife?’
‘Yeah. ‘cept, well, she was quite a bit older’n him, but fair play to her, I thought!’
‘She’s my wife!’
Kevin blinked in confusion. ‘What, you’ve got one wife between you?!’
Snorting with exasperation, Arthur turned to Snape. ‘So I’m in here and out there at the same time?’ he whispered, clutching his head. ‘Severus, I need another drink!’ Then he spotted Culpeo Malfoy cringing beside Filch. ‘And I need your robes. And your wig.’ As Culpeo demurred, stuttering, Arthur lost his temper. ‘It’s your fault I’m here! You owe me a favour!’ Pulling on the lawyer’s official robes and wig, he declared loudly, ‘I’m going to find out who’s been impersonating me!’ He strode into cell number twelve, then, with a strangled cry, staggered out again, to be confronted by a new arrival to the rapidly swelling crowd: his exceptionally angry wife.
He stopped in his tracks. ‘Molly! I… er… Charlie…’
‘Yes, Arthur: Charlie! You were at a party while your son served your sentence! Arthur, how could you?’
‘Molly, dear, I complied with my bail – I was here at nine o’clock. I didn’t know they would come for me early, and I certainly didn’t know they’d arrest Charlie… Hang on; how do you know where I was?’
Molly removed from the pocket of her robes a small, silver pocket watch.
Her husband gasped. ‘You were the Hungarian Countess!’
‘You were flirting with another woman!’
‘I was flirting with you!’
‘You didn’t know it was me!’
Arthur caught hold of his wife’s hands before she could really get into her stride, and kissed them. ‘Molly, I’m so sorry – it was the champagne. I was horribly drunk, and now I’m horribly hung over, but I’m sober enough to apologise.’
‘It’s not me you need to apologise to – it’s your son!’
Charlie staggered out of his cell. ‘About time you showed up, Dad,’ he said, his voice hoarse from all the singing.
Kevin Shunpike shot a look at his boss, who appeared to have passed out at his desk, shrugged and decided to take control of the situation. ‘Right then, sir. If you’re the real Arthur Weasley, I must insist you take your rightful place as the occupant of cell number twelve.’
Arthur drew himself up. ‘I absolutely refuse to go to prison!’ Then his bravado deserted him, and he stared around pathetically. ‘Haven’t I been punished enough?’
‘All right, Severus.’ A voice rang out with absolute authority as Lucius Malfoy strode into the foyer. ‘You’ve made your point. Let him go now.’
Snape inclined his head sardonically. Arthur’s head whipped round from Molly to Malfoy. ‘What’s that, Malfoy?’ he demanded. ‘What did you just say?’
Just then the door of cell thirteen burst open, revealing Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco Malfoy. ‘Bonjour, Monsieur Weasley,’ said Hermione coquettishly, tossing her hair around.
‘’Ow you?’ grunted Ron, and punched his father on the arm.
From the Prison Governor’s desk there came a loud groan as Filch, recognising his cue, hauled himself upright. ‘Shhkål, Fox,’ he slurred, raising his hip flask, then slumped back into unconsciousness again.
Arthur was more confused than ever. ‘Severus, what’s going on?’ he pleaded.
Snape flung his arms wide so that the sleeves of his robes extended like wings. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the third act of my tragi-comedy “The Revenge of the Bat”.’
Arthur couldn’t take it in. ‘Revenge? What for?’ he asked looking around in bewilderment. Then his face fell. ‘Merlin’s beard! I thought you’d forgotten all about that, Severus!’
‘You were all in on it?’ said Arthur, blinking stupidly. ‘Lucius? Culpeo? Molly?’
‘That was a rotten trick to play on poor Severus, Arthur,’ said his wife severely. ‘We were all trying to make him feel welcome, and you took advantage. You deserved a taste of your own medicine.’
‘I can’t believe you were all in on it,’ repeated Arthur weakly.
‘I wasn’t!’ protested Charlie.
His mother went over to him and put an arm around his shoulders. ‘I’m so sorry about that, dear. You arrived out of the blue, and I didn’t have time to explain. Perhaps you’ll give me a bit more notice when you want to come home in the future. And you, Arthur! I hope this will teach you once and for all not to tinker with all that Muggle rubbish in your shed!'
‘But Molly, dear; you were inconsolable when I came home from court. If you knew it was all a ploy…’
‘Well, that just shows you how I’d feel if you really were arrested, Arthur!’
‘I’ll sell the car, Molly, I promise. I’ll take out all the adaptations first,’ he added quickly, looking at the lawyer, who, since he was now standing shivering in his underwear, wasn’t doing much to represent the awful majesty of the law. ‘But how did you manage it?’ Arthur asked Snape. ‘All this, the party, the Wizengamot?’
‘I have friends in high places,’ replied Snape coolly, indicating Lucius Malfoy. His gaze fell on Harry, Ron and Hermione. ‘And as Headmaster, I still have a certain amount of influence, no matter how much you try to undermine me.’
Arthur suddenly perked up. ‘So I really don’t have to go to prison?’ he clarified delightedly.
Lucius Malfoy decided to take control once more. ‘Indeed not. Well, ladies and gentlemen, since no-one is actually to be incarcerated today, may I suggest we all repair to my house once more. There should still be several bottles of champagne left. If my son hasn’t drunk it all, that is,’ he said, looking sidelong at Draco, who hadn’t uttered a word and appeared rather green. ‘We can celebrate the Triumph of the Bat!’
Under his breath, Snape sighed. It seemed he was never to be free of his unofficial title. And he doubted he would ever be invited to the Weasleys’ house again. But, he reflected wryly, watching Arthur Weasley being laughed at by his friends and chastised by his wife, “The Bat Who Got His Own Back” was, perhaps, a title he could live with.
A/N: This is, as some of you have recognised, a Harry Potter version of ‘Die Fledermaus’. According to Glyndebourne Opera Company, there was a fad among fashionable people in 19th century Europe for playing practical jokes. To be the victim of one and not to get your own back could ruin your social standing forever.