The phone rang four times before I picked it up. I sat in bed, benumbed and lobotomized, feeling as though I had just had my eyelids pried open Clockwork Orange-fashion, and had been forced to watch The Sound of Music at top volume. It took me a moment to answer the operator.
“Are you there, sir? Sir?”
British accent. At some level, I knew what was coming. The cheap bastard was doing it to me again.
“Yes,” I said, shaking off my mental haze. “Yes, I guess I am here after all.”
“I have a Mr. Snape here, sir — excuse me, a Professor Snape. Do you accept the charges?”
I sighed, rolled my eyes for Karen’s benefit, pointed at the phone and mouthed the word Snape.
“Oh, all right, then. Go ahead.”
Though he was over five thousand miles away, Snape’s voice had that same absinthine quality I remembered so well from my brief time at Hogwarts, or from the last time he’d called me collect.
SS: Did you just see what I saw?
DH: I kind of doubt it.
SS: No, you did, I’m sure of it.
DH: Damn it, Professor. Have you been scrying my bedroom again?
SS: “Sixteen Children and Moving In.” Am I right?
DH: Look, that’s impossible. There’s what, five time zones between us?
SS: TiVo, you fool. (Sigh.) That woman is a vision.
SS: Her ruby lips, upturned in a perpetual smile; her beautiful eyes, so glassy and unblinking; her hips —
DH: Let me get this straight. You have a jones for Michelle Duggar?
SS: The husband has set his glamour upon the woman, mark my words. I know the work of a dark wizard when I see it. We must free her from —
DH: (squeaking) We?
SS: — his eldritch enchantments. I will have her! She will be mine!
DH: Slow down, Professor. Maybe you ought to sleep on this. Mrs. Snape might not be too happy about your plans, and you know what happens when Mrs. Snape is unhappy.
SS: (darkly) Indeed.
DH: But I know what you mean. I think there is evil afoot in that household. Did you hear what the eldest son said when Mom was talking about having a number seventeen? “There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.” Put shivers up my spine.
SS: But did you hear what that paragon of fecundity said? “I’d love to have more if possible.” I’ll have her, I tell you. I’ll give her sixteen more children.
DH: What about Mrs. Snape? Let her bear your children.
SS: Mrs. Snape hates children.
DH: You hate children. Honestly, this makes no sense.
SS: (quietly) Did you see . . . their new pantry?
SS: You should see my potions reliquary. It’s a bloody mess. Yesterday, I couldn’t find No Snivellus potion to save my soul. But with Michelle, here at Hogwarts, commanding her crew of infernal rugrats — anything is possible! I could reorganize the reliquary.
DH: Not to mention their home construction skills. Seven thousand square feet, and it only took them three or four years.
SS: We could build that new Dark Arts wing I’ve wanted for aeons.
DH: And you wouldn’t even have to buy any hard hats or eye protection for the kids. God knows Michelle and her husband didn’t provide any.
SS: And TLC could arrange for donations of furniture and decorations.
DH: Yes, I agree, it’s an attractive plan. But you might get some resistance from the kids.
SS: Nonsense. Michelle Duggar rules those puny serfs with an iron hand.
DH: I dunno. Did you hear what little Josiah wanted the most in his new house? “A spot where I could hide and so no one would find me.” Turn him loose in Hogwarts and you’ll never see him again. That’s why, with a new seven thousand square foot house and sixteen kids, there are only two bedrooms — a girl’s dorm and a boy’s dorm. It’s a control issue.
SS: I have ways of controlling children, too.
DH: Professor, you wouldn’t —
SS: It would be no worse than the enchantments of that dark lord, Jim Bob Duggar.
DH: Sssss! Don’t say the name!
SS: Iron collars with magical bolts. That will keep them in line. (Sigh.) “Saying there’s too many children is like saying there’s too many flowers.” Ignoring the horrific lack of agreement, there’s magic in those words. I can see it now. Forty, fifty little Duggars, each assigned a section of Hogwarts. We could clean this place up in no time.
DH: And what would you do with, um, the Dad Who Must Not be Named?
SS: We’ll put a collar on him, too. Deprived of his powers, he would be nothing more than one of Michelle’s clever drones. Hagrid would at last have someone to muck out the hippogriff stables.
DH: I must admit, the whole thing is very appealing.
SS: Excellent. I shall send you a draught of Polyamory Potion posthaste. Find the woman. Slip it into her food. And make sure mine is the first face she sees once she awakens.
DH: . . . And how am I going to manage that?
SS: Buy a movie poster. Show her one of my videos. Find a way, you cretinous toad!
DH: Same old Professor Snape. I knew there was a reason I left Hogwarts.
SS: Oh? The fact I had you expelled for carnal relations with Moaning Myrtle had nothing to do with it, eh? She was thirteen, for pity’s sake —
DH: She died years ago. She was well past the age of consent.
SS: Too bad for you that Albus didn’t see it that way. Anyway, you will do as you are told.
DH: I’m not your student anymore. You can’t just order me around.
SS: Make a good job of it and I’ll send you a draught of Polyamory Potion.
I covered the phone with my hand and looked at Karen. “Have you given any more thought to, um, you know?”
“A threesome with Jessica Alba? No. Uh-uh. Ain’t gonna happen.”
I uncovered the phone.
DH: You’re on.
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