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Chapter Forty-Three: Fluxweed and Frustration

Once Harry had hung the basket over one arm, he swiveled around to make his way to the door and out, for all intents having the mien of a someone who is manically eager but anxious. Shaking his head with a mixture of amusement and annoyance, Severus followed the boy out of Hogwarts and to the Forbidden Forest.

On the way, Harry asked, "If I find a likely plant in my research that grows around here and might help Neville's parents, would you come out and help me harvest it?"

Severus kept his reply as factual as he was able, "Of course, so long as it does not interfere with my duties or plans. You are not to come out here- even during the daytime- without supervision. I expect you'll be doing a great deal of research in the library beforehand."

Producing his wand, Severus cast a faint Lumos spell, intending to extinguish it before reaching the site of the Fluxweed plants, explaining to Harry on the way that they are particularly sensitive to light which is why they dwelled in the deeper parts of the forest and needed harvesting at night. He demonstrated to Harry the proper method of digging up the plant at the roots so as to not cause a shock to its system which would have an effect on the potion they were added to. Once Harry was occupied with the task of digging carefully amongst the old and roughened roots of the nearby trees for the plants, Severus went to search for another clump of Fluxweed near to the site of the original.

After Severus found another site for digging not too far off, he returned to find Harry to be humming quietly as he worked. Severus found it somewhat annoying, but more importantly such noises were notorious for attracting the beasts of the wood. Readying himself to take Harry to task, Severus scowled and stepped out from behind the tree separating him from the boy.

The creature heard the humming from a distance, and at first it was uncertain as to whether the humming might be a sprite or other mischievous creature which drew creatures to their dooms by the sound of their voice. Cocking its head, the creature considered the sound and guessed against a supernatural nature as it felt no compulsions. Instead, it decided to follow the sound of its own volition and investigate.

Slowly, the large form pushed through the lower branches of a stand of pine trees in order to keep its sound to a minimum, padding afterwards under cover of the surrounding darkness, its curiosity growing.

Something ... seemed familiar about the sound and the accompanying scent, and its original purpose was forgotten for the moment at the intrigue of this puzzle. What its nose was telling it just couldn't be true. Twilight lengthened the shadows, and the beast blinked as its eyes adjusted further to the very minimal light available from the sunken sun.

A boy. There was a boy digging in the earth near the roots of a few large trees, and the boy was humming the tune. A basket rested just at his side, and the boy carefully placed whatever he was digging up into that basket, arranging it carefully before beginning the process again.

Harry? The large black grimm of a dog sniffed the air, disbelieving of what the scents told him. But it wasn't an illusion. The dog padded closer to the sight of his godson happily digging something from the ground.

The scene became more of a nightmare as suddenly a tall, dark form loomed over the oblivious Harry, casting shadows behind it like the specter of Death. Worse, the dog thought. Snape, scowling as he snuck up behind Harry, obviously intent upon doing him harm!

The dog that was Sirius Black growled and barked as he ran at Snape's form, tackling the ghoulish specter bodily against the tree behind him and pinning him there. Snarling, Sirius bared his teeth at Snape and was very surprised at the lack of response as Snape slumped in his grasp, deadweight.

Uncertain whether this was a feint of Snape's to get free, Sirius transformed from his animagus form in order to get a better grasp on Snape's robes. As he focused upon the other man, Sirius faintly heard protests from Harry, but disregarded them for the moment to concentrate upon the present danger before him. "Snape," he growled, "What were you doing?" Sirius gave Snape a shake to encourage him to drop the act and speak, but got no response. Snape's greasy hair hung in front of his face, his head lolling bonelessly. Finally, Sirius turned to check if Harry was all right, especially as he was tugging at Sirius' arm.

"Put him down, Sirius," Harry protested, "You've hurt him, and I don't think he's fully healed from last time." Harry didn't seem to be harmed, just upset, Sirius decided. Understandable since it seemed he was forced out into the Forbidden Forest of all places by the Greasy Git. Getting angrier at the thought of Harry's imagined abuse, Sirius shook the unresponsive man again to wake him from his nap. When that didn't do any good, he lifted and slung the other man over one shoulder despite Harry's further displays of frustration and growing anger. Harry wanted to get out of the forest, Sirius was sure.

"C'mon Harry," Sirius commanded, not caring when Snape's dangling head and arms made rough contact with the nearby tree again, "Let's get out of here and get you safely in Hogwarts."

Harry had never felt this sheer amount of frustration. His anger at Severus' treatment wanted to be unleashed against the one who did him harm, but the fact it was his Godfather, Sirius, kept it restrained. Severus had made an aborted sound when his head made sharp contact against the old tree, and Harry feared for his previous concussion being exacerbated by the new injury. The frustration soared to new heights when his efforts to get to Severus and to explain to Sirius that things weren't what they seemed proved fruitless. At least Sirius was taking them back to Hogwarts now; perhaps Harry could get Sirius to take Severus to the Hospital Ward. Sirius himself looked like he could use a bit of rest there. That and some food.

Having snatched up the basket of Fluxweed before Sirius could get too far, Harry was well positioned to try and sneak up behind Sirius, to try and touch Severus' dangling form. The weak aura flickers from him made Harry feel almost nauseous in sympathy. But before Harry could touch him, Severus was swung away from Harry as Sirius turned in mid-stride to look at him. "You've grown some," Sirius commented warmly as his gaze traveled over him measuringly. Seemingly satisfied as to his condition, Sirius turned to continue the trip to Hogwarts. onversationally, he continued to look at Harry as he walked, "You're all right? Snape didn't do anything to you, did he? What are you doing here in the Forbidden Forest- or for that matter, here at Hogwarts? Not that I'm complaining any, I'm glad to see you here and away from those Muggle relatives of yours. Lucky to have run into you, too; I've come back to report to Headmaster Dumbledore. He'd had me sniffing around a bit," he finished with a wry grin.

Once the rambling monologue concluded, Harry tried to reiterate his earlier protests while making an effort to touch Severus without Sirius noticing. "He wasn't trying to hurt me, Sirius. I was helping him harvest some Fluxweed for a potion. Sev- Professor Snape brought me here when I was abandoned in America by the Dursleys-"

"Abandoned?" Sirius exclaimed, halting again as his temper climbed once more. "By the Dursleys? Likely Snape was sent by Voldemort to come and get you, but got waylaid by the Headmaster." The glance Sirius cast at Harry was faintly puzzled, perhaps from Harry's slip on Severus' name.

Harry was about to continue when his thoughts brought him up short. Severus certainly had been waylaid. But it was harm caused by the Death Eaters and Voldemort himself. Frowning, he went on while he had Sirius' attention. "I think Voldemort bribed them to leave me there. But Professor Snape found me before the Death Eater did; Dumbledore sent him." Harry hesitated at that small rearrangement of the facts in guilt but went on. "He'd been hurt though- hit on his head badly. It took us a while to get out of America and back here; Dumbledore sent us a Portkey. We've been here a few days, recovering."

"Well, we'll see that you never get sent back to those muggles again," Sirius growled. "I'll ask the Headmaster if he could help me get a hidden house set up, and you can come there for the rest of the holidays and during Winter Break as well. That is," he added with a touch of apology, "If the Headmaster doesn't need me during those times."

And so, on top of his worries about the rents in Severus' pained aura, Harry found he now had to decide whether he should let the proverbial cat out of the bag, or be torn by the necessity of hoping that Sirius would be on dangerous missions.

It was enough to make him tear his hair out.


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