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Chapter Two: Branches and Broomsticks

Taking an inexpert measure of Snape's condition, Harry hesitantly offered the comment of, "It'd probably be better for you to try and stay awake," taking a step back in expectation of having his head bitten off by the man he'd dragged into the space inside the tree. When moments passed without comment Harry decided to not look a gift horse in the mouth and quickly took his leave.

Harry scampered back up the short incline to the road, watching for signs of movement and gathering an armful of leaves from the forest floor as he went. Coast clear, he jogged across the asphalt and back into the trees; a run was too much to ask of himself at the moment but the near-to-emotionless haze that had occupied him since the end of his fourth year at Hogwarts seemed to be retreating a bit at the disturbing sight his Professor had presented. Strategies needed to be decided upon, and some inner part of his mind demanded that he paid attention. This detachment seemed to be working wonders for his clarity of thought.

The trail he'd left while dragging Snape away from the crash site was a pretty obvious one, and he started to obscure it by shuffling the thick coverage of leaves on the ground over it, and dropping some of the leaves he carried over the results. Muttering both curses and blessings at the desolate state of the area, Harry noted to himself that while it looked like he wouldn't be getting a lift from a friendly face in the near future, the area was untouched and heavily wooded enough that the leaf coverage of the floor seemed a permanent fixture to be present during late summer. Yet another pair of opposites to add to his life; he'd both thought it too good to be true to be brought along on the summer trip to America the Dursleys had taken, all the while silently bemoaning the time spent with them when he managed to summon the energy to do so.

Gathering more leaves from off of the path to aid in his visual deception, he continued carefully shuffling the coverage around while contemplating the last words Vernon Dursley had uttered while Dudley had gleefully shoved him out the door of the car. "Good riddance! And now for our vacation home in Majorca!"

With a pause for breath, Harry realized that yet again his thoughts had become circular, running around and around with the same repetitive thought until he stopped realizing what he'd been thinking. But this time it almost cost him as he suddenly heard someone approaching, loudly muttering to himself about his surroundings. Harry had to abandon his efforts at covering the trail but wrenched his pattern of thought around quickly enough that he grabbed a fallen branch and dragged it behind him to make a trail in a different direction before the man got within sight.

Running lightly, Harry directed the trail back around and into the woods as swiftly and quietly as he could while trying to keep himself out of immediate sight. The desolate state of the area again received blessings rather than curses this time as he used the thick cover to his advantage. Eventually, he turned back towards the road a good distance from his hiding place and stopped dragging the branch, making it appear as though the trail continued south along that road. Carrying the branch with him, he hurried back into the forest's cover and circled around to avoid the other man on the newly created trail, eventually dropping the branch he'd made the trail with.

Normally he would be silently praying to any and all powers that might be that the man wasn't an expert tracker, but he merely made his way as silently as possible back to where he had left the broken broom. It was his hope that the thing was still functional or could be fixed by Snape when he came back to his senses. No doubt Snape would have his wand; his own was in his trunk back in England despite his best efforts at retrieving it before they'd left on their trip to America.

All the while, he couldn't help but linger over Snape's condition, and wondering why the man had left Snape where he had. He must've been looking for something. For that matter, what were he and Snape doing in the area to begin with? He tucked that question away as he spotted the fallen tree and snuck over to retrieve the broomstick. Mission accomplished, he moved off into the forest again in the opposite direction he'd come from and circled back around to the road and the tree in which he'd hidden Snape away.

The boy headed back towards the road, leaving him to his pained confusion. He felt his eyelids drooping with a desire for the escape of unconsciousness, but he stubbornly kept them open as he tried to sort out what was going on. The period of time before he awoke to find himself being dragged backwards by the boy was a blank haze; one he was only barely aware of as being unusual.

His attention wandered to the source of his discomfort; an unpleasant conglomerate of his right leg and his head. Putting a hand to his head, he found what felt like a swelling knot there, but no blood despite the tenderness of the area. Feeling suddenly dizzy and nauseous, he lowered his hand again and carefully rested his head back against the innards of the tree in which he rested. As he took several gulps of calming air, his gaze strayed to his right leg. Focusing upon it gave him something besides nausea to be occupied by. It looked straight enough, but the level of pain emitting from the leg convinced him that all was not well with it. Trying to shift it once swiftly convinced him of the wisdom of not repeating the attempt.

Thankfully the overwhelming pain he had experienced as the boy was moving him had subsided to a degree that he found he was able to manage. The air he breathed was fresh without any of the smells associated with a city or even a rural area that was regularly traveled. Birds chirped unconcernedly in the near distance, and the occasional warm breeze played with strands of his hair. From those two facts the man received the impression that wherever he was, it was in the northern hemisphere during the summer.

To his perceptions, an unknown amount of time passed during which he struggled to retain consciousness and think about something other than his current perplexing situation, but he found it difficult to concentrate on anything for long periods of time. Eventually he heard the sound of someone hurriedly approaching his tree and the boy came into view, crouching down to talk with him while trying to catch his breath.

"I've led him off the track, I think," the boy gasped as he carefully leaned an object against the tree. Upon closer inspection, the man was puzzled to note that the object was a broom with its handle nearly broken off. The boy must have used it in whatever he'd been doing whilst he was away. His muddled confusion grew again when the boy asked, "Could you fix the broomstick, Professor? I don't have my wand."

The total lack of recognition in response to his request startled Harry. The lack of improvement in Snape's condition and the pale sheen to his face concerned him. The blank look in his black eyes and the lack of a sneer or scornful stare from Snape frightened him. Harry remembered his surprise at how light the Professor was when he'd first lifted him. If it hadn't been for the differences in size between Harry and Snape, Harry would have been able to lift and carry him. Taking another look at Snape, Harry got the feeling that Snape might have been better off if he had. With another hesitant pause, Harry asked a question guaranteed to get a rather loud reaction from Snape. "... Are you okay?"

The absence of a sneer continued as Snape only looked muzzily up at Harry and murmured, "Hurts. Something's wrong with my leg, too." He gestured in the general direction of the aforementioned appendage before letting his hand fall again to his side. Harry was further shocked to see what looked like a cautiously uncertain expression briefly cross Snape's features as he looked at him before they settled again into muddled pain. His next question of Harry was the clincher. "Who are you?"


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