Not Alone in Their Suffering
A/N: I have a great love for Book 7 Hogwarts stories…I feel like we missed so much. So this little drabble plagued me for a while so I finally wrote it. If anyone has recommendations for good Book 7 fics that take place at Hogwarts, please let me know!
Neville Longbottom awoke from his restless slumber by thin hands shaking him awake. His eyes snapped open and he sat straight up in the bed. It took him a moment to recognize the stark white of his surroundings: the Hospital Wing. The trembling hands that were still on his arm belonged to the pale, wide eyed Hannah Abbott. The blonde pressed a single finger to her lips to silence any question he was about to ask and pointed to the entrance of the hospital wing where Madam Pomfrey had lit several lamps with her wand and was pulling on her apron.
"A patronus woke me up. It had Professor Sprout's voice. Something about being prepared," Hannah whispered.
Before the two could speculate further, the door to the wing opened and Madame Hooch entered the room walking backing backwards. She appeared to be levitating a stretcher. It was hard to see who was on it because Professor Sprout was obscuring their view. She was waving her wand frantically over the person on the stretcher. Her voice trembled with despair when the matron rushed over. "I lost her pulse on the way here. I haven't been able to get it back. I've been trying to pump her heart…"
"Lay her down." Madam Pomfrey began to cast diagnostics over the body as Sprout continued her ministrations. "What happened?"
"We weren't there," answered Hooch as she hovered at the foot of the bed. "Apparently she was defending Aurora. Our best guess was the Cruciatus."
"The Cruciatus doesn't do this," said Sprout in confusion, still moving her wand up and down at a steady pace. Neville realized in that moment that the Herbology Professor was keeping whoever was on that bed alive with every wave of her wand.
Madam Pomfrey scolded, "I told her to be careful. After those stunners, her heart can't take the trauma."
Hannah grabbed his hand at the same moment that Neville felt his breath catch in the back of his throat. They were talking about Professor McGonagall; that's who was lying without a heartbeat on the bed. Every part of Neville's mind screamed out in protest- she couldn't be dying. Snape and the Carrows had been slowly stripping Hogwarts of its heart and soul, but there were still those left who embodied the spirit of Hogwarts that no Death Eater could ever touch. And Minerva McGonagall was the pinnacle of that spirit.
"Rolanda, help me get her out of her cloak," ordered Madam Pomfrey. Hooch instantly did what she was told and the two peeled back the outer layer of McGonagall's clothing so Madam Pomfrey could get a better look at the scars left by the stunners two years ago. The dark red scar was just visible above the neckline of McGonagall's underdress. Thin, silver, spider-web shaped lines reached out from the original scar, covering most of her shoulder.
Madam Pomfrey waved her free hand at the other two professors and said, "I've got her blood circulating so there's no permanent damage. Pomona, you can stop. Let me work."
Sprout stopped working on her friend, but didn't move. Hooch, sensing that Pomfrey would want the area clear, placed a supportive hand on Sprout's shoulder. "Come have a seat, love. You've done your part."
Sprout allowed the elder witch to lead her to a nearby chair and sat down. Hooch ran her fingers through her gray spiked hair before sighing and pulling put a silver flask from somewhere in her robes and handing it to the anxious woman next to her. "Here, have a sip. It should calm you down."
Without a second thought, Sprout accepted the flask and took a short drink. Just as she was handing it back to Hooch, the Hospital Wing doors opened for a second time that night. Professors Slughorn and Vector entered, almost carrying the woman between them. Professor Sinistra had tear tracks running down the dark skin of her face and seemed to be in shock. There was a cut bleeding on her forehead, but other than that, she looked unharmed.
"Oh, Aurora," murmured Sprout, but her voice was almost masked by the string of curses that Hooch had let loose at seeing the young woman. The two Slytherin professors walked Sinistra over to one of the beds where Hooch and Sprout joined them.
"There now, just sit down, child," soothed Slughorn as he and Vector managed to get her to sit on the bed. Slughorn then hurried over to one of the potions cabinets and began rummaging for something. In the back corner of the hospital, the two students huddled together. Neville had pulled Hannah onto his bed and had his arm around her shoulders.
Sinistra was shaking as she stared at Madam Pomfrey working vigorously over McGonagall. Her eyes were wide with fear and the blood from her wound was mingling with her tears. Hooch grabbed a damp washcloth from the bedside table and started to blot away the blood.
An abnormally concerned Professor Vector sat on the bed beside the younger witch and asked, "You think you can heal that?"
"Yeah, I've seen far worse cuts on the Quidditch pitch," muttered Hooch. "What the bloody hell happened?"
"I think Alecto hit her." Vector was now undoing Sinistra's hair from her bun. Neville found the Arithmancy teacher's actions very maternal, which was a trait he had never associated with her. But Sinistra was a Slytherin, much like herself. Say what you wanted about the Slytherin house, but they looked after each other.
Hooch studied the cut closely before replying, "My very limited medical opinion is that Carrow backhanded her and her bloody ring cut her."
Slughorn had found whatever he had been searching for and poured a sky blue liquid into a cup. "Have her drink this. It should put her out for a couple of hours. And it'll help with the shock."
"Thank you, Horace." Vector took the cup from him and gently pressed it into Sinistra's hands. "Aurora, drink this- it will help."
With a watchful eye, Slughorn supervised Sinistra drinking the potion. Glancing nervously at McGonagall's body, he mumbled, "I'll go keep Filius company. He's guarding the hallway. I'll go help." The elder potions master shuffled out of the room quickly.
"Is she…is she alive?" Sinistra's voice took the other three woman by surprise.
"Now dear, you just worry about yourself," soothed Vector, removing the cup from Sinistra's trembling hands. She and Sprout guided the young professor into a laying position on the bed.
"I tried to stop her…"
"Hush now. Just close your eyes."
It didn't take long for Slughorn's potion to take effect and Sinistra's eyes fluttered shut and her breathing slowed to a normal pace. Vector covered her with a blanket and then looked at the other two professors. "How is Minerva?"
"Every time I think I've got her heart beating, it stops again," answered Madam Pomfrey. "She needs to go to St. Mungos! They have better resources."
"We can't send her. Snape would never let her come back."
"Well, we can't just let her die!" protested Hooch.
Madam Pomfrey waved her hand at one of the cabinets and the doors flew open. "Pomona, there should be a small purple vial on the third shelf. Bring it here."
The little vial was quickly thrust into Madam Pomfrey's steady hand. The nurse's lips were drawn in a thin line and her blue eyes were determined as she tilted McGonagall's head back. With a quick flick of her wrist, the purple viscous liquid slid from the bottle and down the elder witch's throat. Once Madam Pomfrey was satisfied the potion had entered McGonagall's system, she took a step back.
"Well?" asked Hooch anxiously. Sprout hovered at Madam Pomfrey's shoulder and was shifting nervously from foot to foot. When the matron didn't answer, Hooch asked again, "What did you do?"
Madam Pomfrey glared at her and snapped, "I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. But it's up to Minerva now."
Seconds ticked by and it was as if all the air had been sucked out of the room. Suddenly, McGonagall let out a gasping breath, arching her back as she struggled to breathe. Coughing violently, she struggled to gain consciousness as Madam Pomfrey and Sprout rushed to her side. They forced her shoulders back onto the bed as she tried to sit up.
"Minerva? It's alright, you're safe. We're here," soothed Sprout as she and the matron struggled to calm her down. After a minute, McGonagall finally stopped resisting them and settled back against the bed. Darkened eyes watched as Madam Pomfrey began waving her wand again.
After a few rough, uneasy breaths, McGonagall rasped, "Aurora?"
"She's fine," assured Madam Pomfrey as she cupped the woman's cheek with her hand. "Everyone is just worried about you. You gave us quite a scare."
"Didn't mean to," McGonagall mumbled and winced in pain.
Sprout grasped her hand and whispered, "Where does it hurt, dear?"
McGonagall made a face and replied in a clipped tone, "Where doesn't it hurt?"
Hooch approached the edge of the bed now and put her hands on her hips. "Well that's your own bloody fault now isn't it? If you'd listen to Poppy every once in a while, you'd stop ending up in the hospital!"
Sprout glared at the flying instructor and Vector quickly spoke up, "Rolanda, now isn't the time."
"When is the time? She doesn't listen! Woman has bloody death wish and-"
McGonagall's bloodshot eyes squeezed closed and she murmured, "Sorry."
A hush fell over the group. The anger that Hooch had exhibited faded quickly at the sound of defeat in McGonagall's tired voice. Normally, there would be speeches about standing up against the Death Eaters, being strong for the students, or holding Hogwarts together. But her newest brush with death had apparently taken the wind out of McGonagall. Hooch slumped back in a chair, her exhaustion clearly displayed.
"We just don't want to lose you," comforted Sprout. She and Madam Pomfrey shared a glance that confirmed that McGonagall was no longer at risk of dying.
Normally, Madam Pomfrey would take this time to remind her patient that she needed rest to heal and should take it easy for the next few weeks. But she knew that was useless. Therefore, all she said to McGonagall was, "Please be careful," before shuffling away from the bed in an attempt to hide the glistening tears that had begun to form.
In the back of the room, Neville's heart had returned to its normal beating pattern. Hannah was still clinging to him, but he didn't mind. He wasn't sure he wanted her to let go any time soon. In silence they watched Madam Pomfrey scuttle about the medical wing, pretending to clean, and Sprout and Hooch keep a silent vigil over McGonagall, who had drifted back into a calm unconsciousness. Vector was sitting in an equal silence beside the sleeping Sinistra, brushing her hand through the young woman's hair.
Sleep would take the two students within the hour and when Neville finally woke to the morning light, he was alone. Hannah was already dressed for the morning and was setting out his robes for him. After dressing, he looked around the Wing, but they were the only two patients remaining. Taking Hannah's hand silently, Neville nodded his thanks to Madam Pomfrey as they exited the Hospital Wing for breakfast. Snape and the Carrows would surely notice if they weren't there.
He was about to ask Hannah if she knew where they had moved McGonagall when they entered the Great Hall and saw the woman in question seated at the head table. Her pallor looked better than it had when she had been brought in near death last night, but there was a hallow look in her green eyes. Back straight, she was sipping on her drink as if nothing happened last night.
Neville took his seat at the Gryffindor table and Hannah left to sit with the Hufflepuffs. He ignored the questions about his health as he scanned the Professors' table for Sinistra. She was in her seat between Slughorn and Vector with no mark on her head. She was eating slowly, but otherwise gave no indication of last night's events.
"Neville!" Ginny hissed into his ear, punching him on the shoulder at the same time. Startled, he turned to his best friend who asked, "You ok?"
"Yeah…just a couple of bruised ribs," he replied and Seamus cussed across from him. He hesitated to tell them what he and Hannah had witnessed just hours ago, but instead poured himself some juice.
Ginny narrowed her eyes and prompted, "What happened?"
His eyes glanced back to where McGonagall was sitting. Neville couldn't believe she was at breakfast this morning after what had happened last night. She had nearly died; in fact, her heart had stopped beating. Now she was eating breakfast just chair away from the people who had almost killed her just a few hours ago.
"Last night…" he tried to begin to explain, but he trailed off, leaving his fellow Gryffindors and members of the DA frowning at him in frustration. Neville continued to stare and now noticed that McGonagall wasn't speaking to anyone, nor was she eating. In fact, it looked she was using every ounce of self-control to maintain her composure. It was a farce; McGonagall was sitting at the table to keep up appearances.
Then the realization of the situation dawned on him. None of the other students besides himself and Hannah knew what had transpired last night. The panic and anxiety the other Professors had gone through dealing with the attack on Sinistra and McGonagall seemed to have vanished. But if he studied them closely, he could see the uneasy glances they were giving each other. Neville's throat felt dry and his stomach clenched in a sudden realization: they had done this before. This was not the first time one of them had spent the night in the Hospital Wing only to resume normality in the morning.
This entire time, Neville and his friends had been trying to keep the terrible experiences they were enduring at the hands of the Carrows a secret as to not endanger their professors. But now he knew the truth. The witches and wizards sitting at the high table with Snape and the Death Eaters were suffering just as their students were. But they couldn't fight back or scream in indignation. There was no place for them to rebel or take revenge. If the members of Dumbledore's army were caught, the torture would be painful and they may even be expelled. But if one of the professors acted out, they weren't just facing death. They were risking another Death Eater to take their place.
Now he understood why Madam Pomfrey hadn't sent McGonagall to St. Mungos last night. If McGonagall was seen as unfit to teach, she could be replaced with someone far worse than the Carrows. Neville visibly shuddered at the thought. So there she was, the strong Gryffindor, hiding her pain and suffering for the sake of her students. He knew she wouldn't cancel classes today; McGonagall would likely take potions to make it through her grueling day. And it was all for her students.
Swallowing his guilt, Neville whispered to his friends, "We aren't alone."
"What?" asked Ginny, obviously not following his train of thought.
"We've got to be careful. We aren't the only people who are suffering."