Chapter Twelve: Moons
Harry's stomach churned as he set out in search of Remus. He'd gotten only a couple hours' sleep in the last two days, and then only when Neville had relieved him of Snape-vigil for it. It was still not wholly certain if Snape would fully recover. He'd live, but knowing Snape, if his hands didn't heal he'd probably rather be dead than crippled to any extent. The conversation by Floo he'd just had with Dumbledore replayed itself in his mind, every word of it weighing him down more heavily by the second.
Harry had been given the "holding" of the Wards of Hogwarts as well. The strange connection to the castle had made his headache worse. Hogwarts was nearly a sentient being. The ancient castle had been built with powerful magics and had absorbed untold amounts of magic in the centuries since, as its walls contained the practicing and misfired spells of its students. The constant hum of the castle in the back of his mind was wearing on the tired boy.
Madam Pomfrey had arrived shortly after eight the morning before, with fifteen injured and nearly a hundred children and elderly left temporarily homeless by the attack on Regis Isle. Seamus and Blaise had been enlisted by the mediwitch and hadn't set foot out of the hospital wing in thirty-six hours or so, to the best of his knowledge. Remus had been in and out of the forest trying to gather emergency potions ingredient replacements. No one could get into Snape's personal stores in his private lab, and the students' supply closet in the classroom hadn't been restocked yet; it was the middle of summer holidays, after all.
Hagrid and Grawp were keeping vigil at the apparition point. Sprout hadn't been able to return to Hogwarts yet. She was being held at the Ministry for questioning, her crime returning to England on a bad day, it seemed. Karkaroff had been left under watch of Filch and a couple of House Elves somewhere. Where, exactly, other than somewhere in the castle, Harry didn't know nor care. He, Seamus and Neville had won that argument with Remus--until they could dose Karkaroff with Veritaserum and assure themselves that he wasn't going to actively bring harm to the castle, he was a prisoner. Neville had pointed out that the begging-for-refuge tactic had brought down more than one safe house of the Order's during the first war, citing his mother's diary as the source of the information when Remus wanted to know how Neville could possibly know that.
Fudge was declaring that the attack wasn't a Death Eater attack--after all Voldemort had never done such a thing in the last war. No specific target, just a blitz of fire-starting and explosions. The idiot was trying to call it a "muggle terrorist act".
Regis Isle was a wholly magical place, not on any muggle map and unable to be reached by anything but magical means. Further, Muggles did not wear black robes and shout "Incendio!" Muggles certainly hadn't covered Snape in hexes, nor did muggles cause Harry's scar to burn for hours on end.
The Daily Prophet Harry had caught a glimpse of a couple hours earlier had had a huge article titled "MUGGLEBORN TERRORISTS ATTACK REGIS ISLE," which at least was more credible than Fudge's declaration of plain, ordinary muggles. The ministry was up in arms and split every-which-way over who was to blame for the attacks, and whether Regis Isle should officially be helped or not. They were not part of Britain, they were an independent principality, and who cared if muggleborn terrorists were attacking elsewhere? They had Voldemort to deal with.
Dumbledore was attempting to reason with Fudge. The school board was only slightly more united than the Ministry, though a good half of the board had relatives of some sort or another that lived on Regis Isle, so at least they weren't arguing the opening of Gryffindor Dormitory for a week or two.
Harry stifled a groan and turned to see who had called him. "Luna?"
"My Dad sent me early, figured I'd be safer ... the Portrait of Lady Elsinora said you were down this way..."
"Have you settled in yet?" Harry asked, cutting off her explanations.
The girl shook her head. "My trunk is in my pocket, I just arrived and--"
Harry sighed. "Millie should be in the Great Hall, and if not there, look in the transfiguration classroom. She's been trying to sort out the lists that we have on missing, injured, and dead. I--I've got a few other things to take care of."
"Sleep, hopefully?" Luna asked pointedly, eyeing Harry's disheveled state. His clothes were rumpled, stained, and had obviously been worn for more than a day. His normally messy hair was a veritable rat's nest and there were dark rings from lack of sleep under his eyes.
"Not tonight." Harry shook his head. "Go on, find Millie, and see what she needs help with, alright?"
"Can I help you?" Luna offered.
"No," Harry shook his head. "Dumbledore left me with this one myself."
"Millie who?" Luna frowned slightly.
"Bulstrode, from Slytherin, my year."
"Which one is she?" Luna asked, unable to place a face with the name.
"Tall, about six foot, brown hair..." Harry tried to describe the Slytherin girl.
Luna nodded, looking a bit uncertain. "Are you sure you--" she tried once more to offer help.
"Yeah," Harry nodded. "I gotta do this myself."
Luna reluctantly accepted that and headed for the Great Hall.
"Remus!" Harry called, finally finding the man beyond the greenhouses and heading for the forest.
"Come back inside." Harry hurried to catch up to Remus.
"But--" Remus protested as Harry reached him.
"I know, we don't have time to waste arguing. The Room of Requirement will make itself secure for you. The Shrieking Shack and Forest are too dangerous. It is possible to get into the deeper parts of the Forest; the wards don't extend through it all. The Shack isn't warded and Wormtail might think of it," Harry said quietly. "Dumbledore said so," he added lamely.
Remus nodded tiredly. "Lead the way," he sighed.
The two talked softly as they made their way back into the castle. There were now only fourteen patients in the Hospital wing, as a ten year old boy with severe burns had died that afternoon. Harry updated Remus with what there was to update on the still unconscious Snape, and on Dumbledore's news.
"Muggles?" Remus murmured, disbelieving. "Is that man insane?" Harry's report was the first Remus had heard of Fudge's latest stupidity. Remus had studiously avoided the Prophet for weeks now, and he'd spent more time in the Forest gathering ingredients for Madam Pomfrey than in the castle that day, so had not heard any of others talking.
"Fudge is a moron," Harry muttered tiredly. "Here we are." The door swung open, and both Remus and Harry winced at the bare room with magical chains in the center of it, anchored to the floor. "We don't have to--"
"It's probably for the best, just in case anyone is foolish enough to open the door," Remus said in a too-calm, too-even tone of voice, very obviously distressed by the sight of the chains.
"But, really no one should be up here--" Harry protested.
"Harry, just..." Remus said, pleadingly.
"Alright, well, we haven't much time. I will be back for you at sunrise, you aren't spending a second more in those than necessary," Harry said firmly, unable to keep arguing with the broken, defeated look in Remus' eyes. He realized dwelling on the subject of the chains was only making the entire situation that much worse on Remus.
Remus swallowed and quickly stripped down, so his clothes wouldn't be ruined when he transformed. His face burned with humiliation as he allowed Harry to fasten the enchanted chains which would change with him, keeping him secure without injuring him as the wolf. "You'd better go, Harry. It's almost sunset."
"I'll be back at sunrise," Harry said firmly. "Wish I was already an animagus, so I could stay with you." Even if he were an animagus, he knew he wouldn't have been able to keep Remus company this night. There were simply too many other things he was responsible for at the moment, and they both knew it.
"Go on." Remus shook his head. "I can feel the sun setting. Go, now, Harry."
Harry nodded and reluctantly left Remus, sealing the room and heavily warding it.
"No ... no ... damn ... no ... no ..." Someone gave a heavy sigh. "Another one ... no ... no ... injured ... no ... no ... crap."
The soft voice droned on near him, breaking through the haze of pain that threatened to overtake him as he struggled for consciousness. He nearly wished it had when he managed to get his eyes open. At the side of his bed, seated on the chair from his desk, leaning over a pile of parchments and scrolls on the nightstand, sat Neville Longbottom.
"I've died and gone to muggle hell," Severus croaked out.
"Well, the git's gonna live if he's back to insulting me already ... no. No. Another dead..." All of a sudden Neville's head snapped up, eyes huge as they fixed on Snape. "You. You're awake. You said ... I said ... Oh, Merlin!"
"Longbottom. Water." The words were laced with pain.
Neville looked at the small clock. "Been long enough since your last medications. Here, they're from your stores, I didn't make them. It's just a nutrition potion. You lost a lot of blood, that's partly why you're so weak. None of us knew how to give you a transfusion, though, and Pomfrey hasn't been able to get away from the hospital wing to come down here..."
Severus obediently drank down the potion. It was rather like trying to drink a runny pudding. He wondered briefly how they had managed to get any down him while he'd been unconscious. He probably didn't want to know. How long had he been unconscious? He wasn't sure he wanted to know that either, and couldn't summon the energy to ask. Just trying to drink down the nutrition potion was exhausting. Oh, Merlin, he hurt. Why didn't they just let him die?
"Harry went to secure Remus, and grab a bite to eat. He'll change your bandages and do the salves." He took another sip of the thick drink. "Er, you don't have to use that do you?" the boy asked, sounding horrified, pointing to a urine bottle nicked from the Hospital Wing.
Merlin! Severus did, but not so urgently he couldn't wait. Perhaps in a while he could summon the strength to manage on his own. Or at least--Circe, was there no end to his humiliation and suffering?--wait for Potter. Potter was no more humiliating than Longbottom and at least wasn't likely to faint in the process. Longbottom said Potter was securing Lupin--that meant it was the full moon. Only two days had passed while he was unconscious, if that was the case.
The bedroom door opened quietly. Severus couldn't see who had entered but Longbottom's "He's awake, Harry," told him before his pain clouded mind could begin to wonder who it was.
"Glad you're back with us, Professor," Potter's voice came softly, exhausted. "Neville, you go on. Get something to eat and see what Millie needs help with. Luna's here. She's evidently the other one of us."
"Did Tonks bring Malfoy back?" Neville asked. Malfoy could fall off the face of the earth and it wouldn't bother him a bit as far as Neville was concerned. Snape, however, would wear himself out demanding every scrap of news they had about everything that had gone on the last few days. Harry caught Neville's quick glance in Snape's direction and quirked the corner of his mouth in understanding.
"No, his parents funeral is tomorrow, Dumbledore said. Still got another day of sorting things out with the solicitors after that. Petrus Parkinson came forward with a marriage contract and is threatening a lawsuit of some sort. I think Malfoy's going to end up married to Pansy before he gets back here by the sound of it. Dumbledore's working with the school board to get the allowance for Apprentices to marry, or at least an exception for Draco and Pansy."
"The minute Malfoy leaves the school, the way things stand, he's going to have the Mark on his arm, Nev." Harry said quietly. "He's too much of a spoilt little snot idiot to have a clue what that means. Lucius sheltered him a LOT. If Parkinson wins and the school board doesn't make the allowance, Malfoy and Pansy will both be leaving school. Parkinson will have control of the Malfoy coffers and by extension--so will Voldemort. Since Parkinson's contract was signed first, the Apprenticeship contract could be invalidated, especially the way Fudge and his cronies have been trying to run things."
"Think Dumbledore will win?"
"Yeah, this time. The school board has the final say on the marriage exception, and they're too pissed at Fudge to consider doing anything he'd want them to. If it goes the way Dumbledore expects, it should be left to Parkinson to try to break the marriage contract, which he won't do after all the fuss he's making. Dumbledore's going to argue that the Apprenticeship is no different than any other employment and there are no conditions on what Draco will be employed as in the betrothal contract." Harry nodded tiredly. "Dumbledore and McGonagall will hopefully be back tomorrow night if they can get Sprout bailed out. Flitwick's going to stay on with the lot rebuilding at Regis Isle two or three weeks. They're going to need his charms expertise with rebuilding."
"Who's holding the castle officially with Remus..."
"Me," Harry said with a horrified squeak. "Dumbledore's brilliant idea."
Dumbledore had lost his mind! Severus could not believe the wards of one of the most important places in Britain were turned over to a foolish, half-trained BOY! Lupin he could see holding the wards in an emergency. Werewolf or not, Lupin was a fully trained wizard and he was also certainly powerful enough to hold the wards. That the safety of Hogwarts was left in the hands of a half-trained boy was disturbing. Albus' disregard for the boy's well-being shocking as well--and Lupin for that matter! Lupin was at least fully matured and trained magically, though his ability to control the wards would have been diminished by the full moon being so close. Potter had yet to fully develop magically, and physically, his training was sketchy at best thanks to the string of DADA professors the past years and the Ministry mandates on curriculum. While it wasn't likely to happen, if Hogwarts was attacked and Potter needed to actively connect with the wards, as young and untrained as he was it could possibly kill him. Albus' faith in the Brat Who Didn't Die Like A Normal Person was terrifying.
"Bloody hell," Neville muttered. "Last sip," he said to Severus, pouring the last little bit of the nutrition potion into him. "This is all I've given him--you said this first."
"He's got to have something in him to help recover from the blood loss." Harry nodded. "Go on and grab a bite yourself, then find Millie."
"You want me to come back down later--so you can get some sleep?" Neville asked, concerned. Then he said apologetically, "You look like hell, Harry."
"I'll sleep tomorrow. Promised Remus I'd come for him the second the sun went up. If I sleep now I won't get up 'til noon."
"You sure, Harry?"
"Yeah." Harry nodded, actually pleased to see Snape glaring at the two of them for talking over him as they were.
"Alright. Glad you're awake, Professor. Night," Neville said, and left quietly.
Severus remained silent, not having the energy to talk, as Harry helped him get three more potions down for pain and general restorative purposes. He noted that while the boy wasn't giving him anything that was going to particularly help that much, it was not going to harm either. The brats had actually shown a bit of sense. The potions, while not overly helpful, would help make him more comfortable without interacting or doing harm.
Harry kept up a quiet-voiced monologue as he changed bandages and applied healing salves, then assisted the mortified potions master to relieve his bladder. Pomfrey hadn't been down to see Snape at all. (Snape hadn't needed to be told that, as if Poppy Pomfrey would set foot in his dungeons.) She was too busy up in the hospital wing. (Severus was too tired to give that the snort of derision it deserved. She would have found time for anyone else.) Harry and Seamus had done most of the original patching up, Lady Ygraine (the Gray Lady) had talked them through the worst of it, as she had been a healer several centuries ago when she was still living.
Severus concentrated on the boy's even voice, willing down the pain and keeping his eyes closed. He was unwilling to look and see just how badly he'd been injured yet. Harry gave an abbreviated version of the events of the past two days. Severus was told that he was not to be concerned about Remus; that Dumbledore had contacted Harry earlier, and that Remus was now secured with magical chains in the secured and sound-proofed Room of Requirement, which had dutifully transformed into the cage for a werewolf that they had needed. Harry had seen to it personally, as he was the best with the spells for securing the chains. While he was probably one of the last people Remus would ever want to have to see him naked and chained, waiting for the transformation, he was the best choice of those available to take care of it.
"Wolfsbane is on my potion's study list. We have to have someone other than you that can brew it. And have a way to access it if you've already brewed it up. No one could get into your lab to get Remus his last two doses."
Severus tried to summon irritation at the boy's tone, telling him just what was going to be what. Harry's words were nothing short of an order. The boy had a point though, more than a point, and had just chained up the man he considered a favorite uncle, or some such Gryffindorish sentimental nonsense.
"Pain potion," Harry informed Severus, holding up a small vial of potion in the man's line of sight. Severus opened his mouth obediently and swallowed down the tablespoon or so of foul-tasting potion. The action was repeated with the sweet tasting child's sleeping draught. Potter had obviously lied about all the potions they were using being his own, Severus noted. The taste indicated it was properly made, though, and given a student's knowledge of potions rather than a Potions' Masters or Mediwitch's, it was likely the only sort of relaxant they could come up with that they'd been able to brew that wouldn't cause reactions with the other potions. Despite his insomnia and the fact that the sleeping potion he'd been given usually did little for anyone over the age of five, Severus was out like a light a few short minutes later.
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