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In the Midst of the Night

Chapter 19 – Et Tu Brute?

Severus took in the perfect ink black painting of the sky marred only by the scattered glitter of the stars. He heard a soft sound nearby and turned around to see Baruch's figure come into focus.

"A letter has arrived for you, Master Severus," said the elf, and Severus took the proffered piece of parchment.

The potions master sighed, knowing that it was just past midnight by now, but not feeling. "Thank you, Baruch," he told the green creature quietly, before unrolling the scroll to read its contents.

…emergency meeting regarding Mr. Bane's possession of Thaddeus Nott…your presence is required as soon as possible…

With a heavy sigh he stood up and barely restrained the urge to jump in alarm when he heard Baruch's unearthly voice wash over him. "I will await your return." Severus turned around shaking his head in dismissal of the idea, but the elf's figure was already fading away.

"Very well done, Agnes," said Derrick with a smile that was only a ghost of the one he usually donned. Her red cat eyes glimmered eerily, as if she was trying to look deeper into the pools of blue in his eyes.

"I've really no notion as to why you associate so much with that one muggle man with those cloudy eyes, Derrick, love. Look at what's happened to you," she murmured her shimmering hand skimmed over his cheek, but did not touch it.

He rubbed his face. The young Necromancer was still a handsome one, but he had lost the look of life in his eyes and the pink tinge of the living in his flesh. "It's not Lucius – blast…I don't know what it is," he whispered brokenly.

He put a hand to his ears suddenly and cried out. The wind in the room seemed to pick up, and Agnes took a step back from the hundreds of eyes that smirked and smiled maliciously at her. She only caught snatches of voices, of mocking laughter from the dark shadows, but the sound seemed to be excruciating to the man before her. An aura of sheer nothingness surrounded Derrick for a short moment before the wind and the sounds dissipated completely. The Necromancer fell to his knees breathing heavily, a hand to his heart.

"What was that?" questioned Agnes, her eyes boring into Derrick's. The man scowled, though it was not borne of anger, but of utter fear. He didn't answer but stood up. "They were whispering, Derrick, they -," but he abruptly cut her off.

"Don't speak of it!" he screamed and shot a burst of power at her that sent her sprawling against the alley's bricks. For a moment, she was solidified enough to feel the impact and she howled angrily and painfully. Derrick turned away as Agnes righted herself. "Don't ever speak a word of this," he hissed forcefully, and sent tendrils of power to wrap around his beloved specter.

She didn't fight, she knew better, and it pleased him that at least some thing in his life was constant. When at last, the vines of dark power withered away to nothingness, she didn't even question their weak state but began to fade away herself. "You've something on your lip, by the way," she said, trying to regain her composure. She looked at his turned back, the muscles of his shoulders tense. That was when she felt a strange tug and she shivered. "Oh!" She laughed and he turned to look at her. "Seems our boy Aden is trying to dislodge me," she told her master gleefully.

And then she disappeared completely.

Derrick brushed a finger against his lip and pulled it away red with blood. He used his hand to wipe off the rest and felt his eyes go wide with horror. What was happening? Why was he bleeding? He tasted the liquid on his tongue and spat upon the asphalt. When his glance landed upon the puddle of crimson blood, he swore and looked upon the bright color of the band on his wrist. It frightened him that it should be a dull color, now that he was in control of himself and of Jonas.

It frightened him too, though, that the body his spirit inhabited was dying.

Aden rubbed his chest as Maura tucked him into bed. "Still hurts?" she whispered as she brushed away a stray strand of his hair. He shut his eyes tightly and bit down on his lip. She was worried about him – worried about how silent he was this afternoon after their visit with Thaddeus.

She kissed his forehead and hugged him tightly one last time before she stood up to leave the room. Aden watched her walk away and before she left, he said, "Dad's going to be fine."

Maura turned around and smiled at him. "Of course," she replied, and closed the door softly behind her.

She shivered as she walked to the bedroom. That look in Aden's eyes as he said Thaddeus would be all right…it stirred a feeling of apprehension in her. He said it with such a somber conviction that she had no heart to say anything other than what she did.

Could it be she knew something that she did not? He had been awfully silent on the way home – even the prospect of a birthday combined with a get well party had not made a smile appear upon his face like it usually did.

She sat down at the edge of her bed and rested her head in her hands. It was so hard without him here. Thaddeus had always been the anchor that had kept her in place – now she felt as if everything was falling apart. Every time she thought about him now, all she could see was the untainted joy that brightened his face when he was with Aden…and now he couldn't enjoy the fact that they finally had a son of their own.

Shaking her head, she slipped under the covers and turned over on her side. It was strange, lying here without him. All she ever could remember – ever wanted to remember – was that she had always been with him. She liked the way he knew what she felt, the way he knew just what to say at just the right moment. It made her feel secure, as if he would always be there to make things right in her life, despite the fact that things in his own life had never been perfect.

To her, it seemed as if he was making up for all his past mistakes. They'd have a nice day and he'd smile, but at night he'd get up from bed. She'd feel the movement and watch as he'd walk to the bathroom to soak his face in cold water. When he'd come back, he'd slide over to her side and hold her near him.

She felt best when he did that – as if he needed her there, always.

Maura closed her eyes, sighing. She tried to think of good things. She thought of Aden, his smile…but then she thought of how his chest had been hurting recently. She thought of that awful silence that had been so thick in the air on the way home. She thought about the awful clarity in his eyes as he said that Thaddeus was going to be all right and how instead of having an undertone of hope in his voice, all she heard was the terrible sound of pain.

And that was when she heard him scream.

Severus soon arrived at Malfoy Manor via floo powder and as soon as his feet landed, he was faced with a semi-circle of masked faces. He stepped out of the fireplace slowly, the back of his neck tingling in apprehension.

The foremost of the cloaked and masked Death Eaters before him took a few steps forward, his wand in hand. Lucius muttered under his breath and the fireplace became sealed. Severus looked around at them all and his eyes narrowed as they met Lucius' ice cold eyes.

"You requested my presence," said the potions master, his voice void of any emotion.

Lucius slowly slipped off his mask to reveal a smirk – it was an expression that Severus had seen many times before. They had grown up together and lived in the same world. They had both had dark parents and learned to grow up following the same dark path. Severus had questioned it, Lucius had not…and that smirk seemed to embody that difference between them both.

"My friend," drawled Lucius slowly, and behind him, Severus couldn't help but notice the others shift slightly. "My dearest and most loyal friend." The smirk upon his face grew, and Severus thought that it was almost a smile. "I'm afraid that I may have neglected you, in light of recent events."

He looked at Severus as if awaiting a reaction, but the professor merely stood still and silent. The dark haired man had never heard that tone in his old friend's voice before. Somehow there was a pained undertone as well as anger laced with every word. There was a sparkle in Lucius' eyes that said that the world could fall to hell and he'd still smile…and then there was the tension in his jaw that bespoke of a refusal to comply with anything.

Lucius turned away. "By recent events, I mean of course your involvement with the Potter boy." He laughed and it was a familiar laugh that made Severus remember the things from long ago – the things that had made him willing to follow Lucius, his beloved friend, to the very depths of hell. Lucius had lost his smirk by now, and all that was left was the mere curl of his lips on either side. It drew Severus' eyes like a moth to a flame, and he couldn't help but feel as if he was on his way to meet his death in the midst of the light. What he didn't know was that he was slowly, deliberately being drawn closer and deeper into the midst of the darkness of night.

And then even the small smile fell from his face and everything stilled. "Do you remember our days at school?" Lucius asked, and he seemed again like the boy who used to be Severus' best friend. "How we were such a pair? It was always you and me, Sev – just you and me," whispered Lucius, his eyes bright.

Severus suddenly felt frozen to his spot. This was the man that Severus had admired as a child. This was the charismatic older boy that stood up for him before that fool Potter and his cronies.

He tried to speak, but he seemed to have lost his voice. At last, he cleared his throat and said curtly, "I remember."

Lucius smiled in earnest now and Severus couldn't help but see a bit of Draco's innocent smile there. "Of course…" The blonde headed man looked down at the wand he held. "Do you remember how close we were when we played Quidditch together?"

Severus dropped his gaze, feeling like he was just a fourteen year old child again. "Of course I remember," he said softly, raising his eyes again. Though his expression was cold, he felt as if he was on fire. "Of course."

Severus scowled at the other end of the field. The red clad players of Gryffindor were laughing at some other antic of that twat Potter just before the match was to start. Couldn't those fools take anything seriously?

He grasped his broom tightly and walked back to the Slytherin lockers. He felt sick again – he always felt sick just before the matches against Gryffindor. Turning, he walked to the bathroom stalls only to run into someone. He looked up and saw Lucius there, smirking down at him.

"All right there, Sev? You look as if you've seen a ghost," said the boy, and then he grinned wolfishly as the Bloody Baron soared by.

Severus attempted a wavering smile, but then he quickly gave up and dashed around Lucius to make for the loo. He got there just in time. His head was just over the bowl when his breakfast came heaving out from his stomach. It felt like everything inside him was pouring out and it seemed as if his entire body was jerking to help get his insides dislodged. It was then that he felt cool hands steady his head and soon it was over.

Shakily, he rested his hands on the sides of the bowl and slumped down to sit on the chilly tiles of the floor. He spat angrily into the toilet before flushing it. When he glanced up at Lucius, his gaze dared the older boy to say anything.

And of course, Lucius did. "Coward," said the Hogwarts prefect, his voice soft but somehow all the more menacing. "You're a bloody coward." And Lucius laughed – it was a nice laugh, on the outside cold and detached…it was the way Severus liked Lucius to laugh at him because he was the only one who could see inside it. It was like a fire, on the outside it burned slowly and painfully, but on the inside it was a bright light, quick to burn – a fierce flame that burned you fast and easily. The pain only registered afterwards.

In the end, most chose to bear the pain of the orange layer of a flame so as to last longer – Severus was the only one who would end things quickly by throwing himself into the middle of the consuming fire. Severus suspected that this was the only reason Lucius liked him.

The Slytherin prefect held out a hand and Severus pushed it gruffly away. He stood up on his own and that made Lucius laugh again. "I'm no coward," said Severus in as equally a cold voice as Lucius' was.

The older boy looked down on him, for he was a great deal taller and muscular. "Oh?" was the response. "Aren't you? I ought to tell the rest of the team you vomit yourself silly before every one of these matches," drawled Lucius, his tone mocking.

Severus stood as tall as he could and did his best to look down at Lucius, despite the fact that the other boy was taller. "Sure, you ought to…but you haven't, not since you found out two years ago." He scowled. "And why haven't you? Blackmail?"

And Lucius had laughed again, but this time his face was open with mirth – and expression that Severus seldom saw and therefore cherished all the more.

He put a hand to his heart as if hurt. "Sev, my brother," at this, Severus couldn't help the flush that crept up his neck and to his ears and face, "it pains me that you'd think such a thing." The sound of footsteps met their ears and Lucius dropped his hand as two boys walked in.

The smaller of the boys glanced at Severus' flushed face and grinned. "Is little Sevvy worried about the big bad Gryffindors?" At this, Severus clenched his fists in anger. Avery and Hughs were always taunting him. Just because he was constantly bullied by Potter and Black didn't mean he was afraid of them!

"No I'm not," said Severus in a poisonous tone.

"Aw, don't cry! Or should we start calling you Snivellus too, eh?" jeered Avery.

The mere mention of that name had Severus lunging at Avery with flying fists, but Lucius calmly held him back with a hard yank on his shoulder. "No, Sev, grown men don't respond to children's taunts," he told the boy coldly, though his eyes were trained upon the two boys before them who glowered at the insult. They had drawn their wands menacingly, but neither had overlooked the fact that Lucius had drawn his own as well.

"Look at the boy, Malfoy, I don't know why you hang around with rot like that. He can't even stand up for himself before the Gryffindors!" exclaimed Hughs with a frown.

Lucius looked down at him with icy eyes. "That may be because there are four of them and one of him. Tell me, what is wrong with that picture?"

To Severus' surprise, both Avery and Hughs shifted uncomfortably. Avery looked up and glanced at Severus with unease. "Well, he seemed all right by himself to begin with…"

Hughs nodded quickly, seeming to want Lucius' approval despite the fact that he was older than the prefect. "Aye, what with those nasty hexes – but then Black lost his temper and did away with his wand to use fists."

Severus knew they were talking about this morning, he had had to go to the infirmary for his swollen eye and broken jaw after his mini-brawl with Potter's gang. He wondered though, what Lucius was talking about. He didn't think that the older boy had been there, but he felt ashamed at the thought of Lucius seeing him get beaten up so badly.

Lucius scowled suddenly and Severus was glad that it wasn't aimed at him. "And where were you?" Avery and Hughs both looked away, as if guilty. "I do hope you haven't forgotten where your loyalties lie," said Lucius in a deathly quiet voice.

Avery's head shot up and he glared. "Of course not! It's just…"

"It's just what?" wondered Lucius, his tone daring Avery to continue.

The other boy seemed to try to gather his nerve. "For Merlin's sake, Malfoy! Do you honestly want – him – to be a part of -," but a part of what, Severus never heard for Lucius cut him off with a backhanded blow across the face. Avery toppled to the ground, one hand clutching his cheek, his eyes fiery with anger. Hughs looked wide eyed at him before taking a step back from Lucius.

"If you dare to mention it again," Lucius spat, his face livid with unrepressed anger, "you will wish that I had dealt you a mere slap like that. You're lucky no one heard you because you know it wouldn't be only me you'd have to face. Now stop crying and face it like a man, you fool." Avery slowly stood up and brushed off his robes, looking at Lucius as if he was trying to sear his eyes out by mere mental power. Lucius pushed past them roughly and turned to look over his shoulder only to say, "Come, Severus."

And Severus followed.

They walked around the field for a moment. It was a short while yet before the match was to start and after a minute, Severus glanced up at Lucius to see if the older boy had calmed. To his surprise, his friend's face was back to it's normal cold mask. He opened his mouth to ask what they had been talking about back at the lockers, but Lucius beat him to it.

"Loyalty," said the Slytherin prefect. Severus blinked blankly and the corner of Lucius' lips turned up slightly as he glanced down at the smaller boy. "You asked me why I didn't tell anyone about…about your pre-game ritual. It's about loyalty."

Severus felt his cheeks heat up again and he scowled. "You know you've had mine since we were little, Lucius. You needn't blackmail me into it."

And he was surprised again when Lucius laughed. "Of course you've been loyal to me! And it's not about blackmail." He stopped walking and turned to look at Severus face to face. "It's about my loyalty," he said slowly, his eyes meeting Severus' gently. He put his hands on the smaller boy's shoulders and ducked his head slightly so as to look at Severus eye to eye. The dark haired boy thought that it was the strangest feeling, being touched like this, and the emotions he felt in response were ones he had never felt before. "I wanted you to know that you had my loyalty," Lucius told him softly.

Severus swallowed, but couldn't bring himself to tear his gaze away. No one had ever said anything of this sort to him, nor had they ever treated him this way. Stranger still was that it was Lucius who was doing all this. Sure, he thought of Lucius as a friend, but he always thought that in the older boy's eyes, he was merely a follower. He finally broke his eyes away.

Loyalty was a common thing among Slytherins. If anything, they were loyal to one another, and fiercely so. To Severus, it was something that had been instilling in him since he was a child. He was loyal to very few people, his father and mother, a favored uncle, and…Lucius. He trusted fewer people still. And now…now he felt as if it would be all right to trust this boy who had never given a reason for mistrust to begin with. Severus had always turned a cold shoulder to those too eager to become his friend – they only ever wanted something from him. He had thought Lucius had been the same.

He supposed now that he had been wrong all along…and he had never felt so good about making a mistake before.

Finally, he glanced up to see a small smile on Lucius face, but in his eyes, there was a hint of uncertainty there as well. It was as if this older boy was seeking for his approval! Severus didn't doubt the sincerity that was etched in every word Lucius spoke and he felt a smile brighten his face.

With a small laugh, he pulled out of Lucius' grasp. "Of course I knew that," he said arrogantly, and he liked the sound of that special laugh of Lucius' that only he could see inside.

Lucius had always stood by that loyalty, and it was from that day forth that he had enveloped Severus into the fold of the rest of the Slytherins. It had been the first time that Severus felt what it was like to have friends – real friends, and he found that he didn't much need to envy Potter for the devotion he seemed to inspire, for he himself seemed to inspire it on his own.

That memory was what made it so hard for Severus to meet Lucius' eyes once again. The man stood looking at him, the Death Eater mask gone from his face and all that was left was the boy who had taken Severus under his wing.

"I remember," repeated Severus again.

Another Death Eater stepped forward. "Enough with the past, Lucius, let us move on to the future!" exclaimed the man.

Lucius whirled around, his easy expression quickly twisting into one of fury as he shouted, "Crucio!" The man, whom Severus believed to be Goyle, fell to the ground writhing in agony. Breathing rather unsteadily, Lucius looked around the room and said in a strained voice uncharacteristic of him, "Don't interrupt."

And then he turned back to Severus, but this time, the mask was back on and business was just about to start.

Luke, finally sober, scratched his head as he looked at himself in the mirror. Having just botched the job of shaving himself, he was busily trying to heal the small cuts that marred his chin area. When that was done, he grinned at himself goofily before turning and walking out the door.

It was only after he was halfway down the hall that he remembered he had forgotten his wand. He walked back inside and thought that it was lucky he'd forgotten it or he'd never have noticed he had left the door open.

Soon enough, he arrived at St. Mungo's and was on his way to Harry Potter's room. He passed Skye on his way and she smirked at him. "No more ale?" she asked with a smile. He grinned back rather boyishly and she threw her arm around him in a quick hug. "Good, because no brother of mine's going to end up an old drunk bachelor. The only thing left now is to find you a good wife to settle down with!" she exclaimed and laughed at his stricken expression. "I was only joking, brother dearest."

Luke frowned and looked at her. Her hazel eyes twinkled gaily and strands of light brow hair kept falling into her eyes. She grinned at him and pushed them away. "D'you get a haircut?" he asked suddenly.

She laughed. "Oh, Luke. You're so oblivious sometimes." She shook her head and pushed her hair from her face again. "Yes, I got one a month back. It's still a bit too short, but I kind of like it." He liked it too.

He looked at her mischievously. "Speaking about settling down…" he said, glancing to the counter where the Hr. Jemison Grant that Skye was forever speaking of stood.

Skye turned bright red and punched his shoulder. "Luke!" she hissed. He laughed as she quickly walked off.

Luke could help but smile as he continued down the hall and finally, he stopped at the door to Harry's room. He peeked inside through the window and saw the figure of the tiny little boy who lay prone on the bed. He pursed his lips, silently glad that Severus was no longer there, and he walked in.

Draco put his hands on his hips and looked at Pansy. "You need a dif'rent name," he declared after a minute.

She frowned. "Why?"

He rolled his eyes heavenward with an exaggerated sigh of exasperation. "A 'cause! You just got to. Pansy's a girly name!"

She straightened the shirt, trousers, and robes he had let her wear. "So? I like it, my mummy and daddy gave it to me."

"Well…how 'bout I give you another one? A nicer one – like Draco Malfoy. 'Cept not Draco Malfoy a 'cause that's mine," suggested Draco, cocking his head to the side as he let her think about it. After a short while, he got tired to waiting and said, "It'll help you do magics better! Like this!" He pulled out his wand and said, "Wingardium Leviosa!" A book on his desk rose two shaky feet before falling loudly upon the brown surface once again.

"Wow!" exclaimed Pansy. "D'you really think I can do magics better?"

"Mhmm," said Draco confidently. "Much better. It's a 'cause I'm a man too, just like I made you!"

She pursed her lips then nodded decisively. "All right then, give me a name!"

Now it was Draco's turn to frown. All he knew was that Pansy needed a new name, but he hadn't gone so far in his plan as to think of what name Pansy would need. "Umm…"

"How about Hilda, like from the Prophet's comic "Broom Hilda?"" suggested Pansy excitedly. "I like Hilda. You can call me Broom Hilda too!"

Draco made a face. "No, that's a girl's name you dork!"

Pansy puffed up like a balloon. "I'm not a dork! You're – you're a dork!"

The little boy grinned. "No, I'm a man and I can do magics. You can't – not 'til you have a good name. Now be quiet before I magics you!" He waved his wand threateningly and Pansy shut her mouth with a loud 'click.'

"How about…Charlie?" suggested Draco, looking at Pansy in calculation.

Pansy wrinkled her nose and shook her head. "Mm mm," she murmured and Draco rolled his eyes.

"All right – but it has to be a special name, like mine." He put a finger to his chin and walked around Pansy. She turned her head to keep him in view, but finally got dizzy and toppled to the floor. "Stay still or you'll get dizzy," said Draco absently. She frowned and folded her legs Indian style on the floor. "It has to be very special…" and then he jumped. "I've got it!" he exclaimed joyously. He pulled out his wand and tapped it onto her head. "I now name you…Bob!"

He smiled at her happily as she slowly stood up and brushed off her new clothes. "Bob?" she asked. "What's so special about Bob?"

He sighed, shaking his head as if she were a particularly slow student. "If you spell it backwards, it's still Bob!" he told her.

She looked at him silently, blinking before she said slowly, "Maybe I don't want to be a man…"

Draco's eyebrows rose at this and he looked down his nose at her. "Fine then." And he turned around and crossed his arms.

Pansy stood staring at his back for a long time before she sighed loudly and pulled on his sleeve. "All right, my name's Bob!" she told him.

He turned around and smiled. "All right, Bob! We have to go on our first adventure together. Later, you can meet my best friend Harry and his other friend Aden. They're magics too and they're men!" he said with a bright grin.

Pansy couldn't help but smile at that. She had never had a friend like Draco before. He was funny and interesting and he promised to teach her magics. And now, she was going to have two more just like him. She couldn't wait!

"What's there to do? Papa said that we have to stay here and be quiet," she told Draco.

"Don't worry, Bob," he told her consolingly, patting her shoulder. "We'll think of something."

And that was when they heard the first scream.

Aden dreamed.

He dreamed of his father lying prone on the hospital bed, just like his best friend Harry. And he tried to wake them both.

Only Harry woke up though. The boy smiled, his green eyes bright. "What are you doing? It's still night time!" said Harry with a laugh.

Aden tried to smile, he really did, but he was stuck next to his father. "I can't wake him up."

Harry looked at Thaddeus from the other side of the bed and frowned. "He's not going to wake up," said the boy, shaking his head.

"Of course he is! Mum said we're going to have a birthday party!" Aden cried. Why would Harry say such a thing. And then the strangest thing happened, Harry's eyes turned red and he began to glow white. Worried, he asked, "What's wrong, Harry?"

Harry didn't answer, he merely smiled – but it wasn't the smile that Aden knew so well. "Nothing's wrong, Aden." And that wasn't the voice that Aden remembered so well.

Next to him, Thaddeus twitched and jerked convulsively. Aden slipped his hand into his father's smaller one in fright. "Dad?" he whispered.

"He's not going to wake up, Aden," laughed Harry…except it wasn't Harry anymore.

The red eyes and the white seemed to have taken over his friend and whatever this new creature was, Aden knew that it had never been Harry. It hovered over his father's chest and sat there, staring down at him with a menacing smile.

"Who're you?" asked Aden, his voice shaking with fright. "Where's Harry!"

"Hush now, my darling," whispered the creature. It was a woman, beautiful with the most melodious voice. "Harry's asleep, like he always has been." She laughed and it was like bells ringing.

Aden couldn't seem to turn away from those red cat eyes that stared so intensely at him. "Get away from my dad!" he yelled suddenly, hating her being near his father.

He lunged forward and tried pulling her off…only, when he did, he seemed to be stuck. The woman laughed and this time it was the most beautiful sound he had ever seen, and also the most painful. It seemed to surround him, it overwhelmed him and poured into his nose and his mouth. He screamed, and then he couldn't breath suddenly. He tried to fight her off, but all he could hear and feel and see was that red eyed, glowing woman and her beautiful laugh.

And then everything went black.

She heard him scream and felt her heart jerk excruciatingly in her chest.

Maura jumped up from bed and wrestled with the covers as they got tangled on her legs. "Aden?" she whispered, fear overwhelming her. "Aden!" screamed the woman as she scrambled to her feet.

She dashed down the hallway and burst into his room. All she saw was the most brilliant white light she had ever seen and she fought to concentrate as a laugh like angels' voices washed over her.

"Don't fight, love, don't fight me," whispered that beautiful voice.

And with one last scream from Aden and an expelled breath, everything stilled at once.

Maura rushed over to where Aden lay spread-eagled on the floor, breathing shallowly with a pool of blood on the floor around him. With a muffled scream, Maura picked him up and stumbling, she raced out of the room and to the fireplace.

"St. Mungo's!" she cried.

Skye continued her rounds and stopped at Thaddeus Nott's room. She walked inside and pulled his file from the foot of his bed. As she began to check his monitors, she noticed the strangest thing. He had an abundance of magical output, the difference had shot the points upwards when the effects of the Crucio curse should have exhausted them. She checked the strengthening potions being fed into his body and they were all constant. With a frown, she looked down at the patient and pulled out her wand.

"Where…" but she cut herself off quickly when she noticed the slightest movement of his hand. When she looked at it again, it had stopped. She waved her wand over his body to manually check his symptoms. First she checked his breathing. That was slowly increasing…as well as his heart rate. As both steadily increased, Skye saw that movement in his body began in earnest once more – this time all over and progressively getting more violent.

It was during times like these when Skye's training took over. She mentally calmed herself in the span of a couple of seconds before she put up the alarm in the room to alert Sr. Hr. Jem Grant who arrived soon afterwards. Together, they secured the patient's body to the bed.

As this was done with the calculated precision of their profession, Skye reported her findings. He glanced at her as he pulled a muscle sedative from the cabinet to the left of the bed. "Any theories about where this sudden magical output is coming from?" he wondered.

Skye took a sterilized swab and wiped the inner side of the patient's elbow before she shook her head. "No, it's unreasonable – the patient is not allergic to any of the potions being used to keep him healthy, and enough time hasn't past yet to recover his magical reserves. It doesn't make sense," said Skye, trying to sound professional.

Jem inserted the needle into the big vein on the inner side of the arm and avoided her gaze. When he finally finished, he allowed her to clean the spot before he threw away the needle.

He sighed and rubbed his face. "Well, we'll just have to monitor him carefully. Maybe it's just a one-time deal, otherwise we're going to have to go over every potion over again." Skye nodded and after a moment, she saw that the patient's convulsions were slowing.

Sighing with relief, she brushed the man's hair out of his face, finally able to see him as a person again, rather than a patient who needed a cold and calculated professional. She looked at Hr. Grant with a slight, somber smile. "Poor man, he doesn't even know that his newly adopted son has fallen ill as well – apparently with the same illness," she murmured, looking down at the handsome face of Thaddeus Nott.

Jemison's head shot up with surprise. "What?"

Skye blinked at him. "Didn't you know? Oh," she said, "right. I think he's Sr. Hr. Bukovsky's patient."

The senior healer frowned, his stomach churning uncomfortably. Lucius had said that Thaddeus was going to be the only victim…but now his son was going to be suffering? He bit down on his lip and beads of sweat began to form upon his brow. "The boy's name, what is it Skye?" asked Jem hurriedly.

As if stunned, she stood there, surprised that he spoke so urgently and so familiarly. "Er – Aden Nott, sir," she replied in a flustered tone.

He raced out of the room and ran to the counter and demanded to see Aden Nott's file. The nurse fumbled around her desk before puling it out for him. "Sir," she said, "he just checked in a few hours ago. Hr. Bukovsky's got this one."

Jem ignored her and took the file. He walked down the hall to where Aden Nott's room was.

He wouldn't let another patient suffer because of his past mistakes. His past years were filled with torture, for others, but also for himself. Long ago he decided that he would make up for all the pain he had caused by trying to heal.

And now, Jemison Grant was first and foremost a healer, and he would not be the cause of yet more suffering if he could help it.

Skye stood staring after him in shock. She had never seen him so troubled as he had been. He was always calm and collected and above all, he was the embodiment of everything she wanted to be as a healer. Worried, she picked up Thaddeus Nott's file and turned to walk to the door.

That was when the monitors all became alive with activity and she felt a wave of sheer magical power rush through the room. Her papers went flying and she was pressed to the ground by the magical surge.

With wide eyes, she looked at the bed to see Thaddeus Nott sitting bolt upright, shaking spastically. Just as quickly as the magic exploded, it seemed to be sucked back into the man as he visibly pulled himself together, swung his legs off the bed, and slowly stood up. Soon, the magical outpour was gone and all that was left was a very conscious and healthy Thaddeus Nott standing, staring down at her.

"My son," he whispered brokenly, his eyes clouded with fear, "they've done something to my son!"

Severus couldn't help but take a step back at the look in Lucius' eyes. He had never been subject to the full, cold glare of the older man. He always remembered being glad that it was never trained upon him, but now, it was. Lucius withdrew his wand from it's aim at Goyle's twitching body and focused it solely on Severus.

The professor supposed it was going to come down to this sooner or later. Lucius laughed suddenly, and randomly, which was strange coming from him. "Do you remember, Sev?" His smile was strained and ruthless as his eyes bore into Severus. "Do you know what loyalty is?"

"I do," snapped Severus. It was odd, just the mere mention of the memory made his blood boil. It made him angry to think of how quickly things changed, how drastically.

"No, I don't think you do, old friend." Lucius lowered his wand and pocketed it. "You had my loyalty from the start, you know," said the man in a quiet tone. It was almost his typical drawl, except for the faintest bit of pain that etched every word. Severus doubted that anyone else heard it.

There was no mistaking it – even if it was barely noticeable – that slight nod of his head. A Death Eater moved forward with brutal precision and Severus steeled himself for the battle that was to come. He would either be alive when it was over, or dead.

"You always had my loyalty," hissed Lucius suddenly, his lips curling in disgust, but his eyes were alive and fiery with the anger of the betrayed. "And you betrayed me. You owe me loyalty, Severus – and you will pay for it with blood." He held out his hand and Severus looked at that open hand for a long time. He pulled his wand out and stared at the ebony wood before he met Lucius' eyes. The icy gray dared him to make a move – any move, for the consequence would be instant death.

But to not make a move…that would lead to torture and inevitable death as well.

Severus had no choice – he dared to make that move that defied all he had pretended to stand for his entire life.

With the swiftness of practiced ease, Severus blasted the Death Eater with a fierce hex. Two more step forward and after the many duels he had faced in his life, he was quicker than them both. They went down moments within each other.

He felt detached from himself in those few moments when he battled old friends. These were the men and women he had sworn loyalty to, under an ultimate master. He was bound to these people by a gruesome brand, an ugly scar that would forever mark him as a beast. And he fought like a beast. He spat curses with brutal precision and cold clarity and dodged them with a speed that no one would have thought he possessed. His face was contorted in a twisted mask of fury as each of his opponents went down.

Severus didn't know how long he lasted, but all too soon he felt the pull of exhaustion on him. Curses and hexes became dark magic when the intent becomes as such, and those take much more power and magic than light magic. His curses soon began losing their flawless aim and he found himself having to move more often than not to avoid curses rather than send them away.

All too soon, the first hex met it's mark and he was thrown against a wall. When he slipped to the ground, another hit him, making him curl in agony and a scream escape from his lips.

Past the red haze that overtook him as his muscles convulsed so painfully, the only thing Severus could see was Lucius looking down on him, his eyes livid with the pain and anger of betrayal. And he noticed that it was not Lucius' wand pointed at him, his old friend's wand was still pocketed.

"You always had my loyalty."

Draco felt his heart freeze in his chest and he turned to look at Pansy, who had stopped in her tracks to look at him with wide eyes.

"What is that, Draco?" she asked, her voice trembling as the screams went on and on.

He bit down on his lip and stared at the knob of the door with fear. "I don't know, Pansy," he replied, forgetting about their earlier game in his state of dread. "Come on," he whispered. He slowly opened the door but stopped when she tugged on his arm.

"Papa said that we're not s'posed to leave the room," she murmured. She suddenly felt really small in her man's clothing and suddenly wanted to don her little girl clothes again. Draco could be the man now, she just wanted to make the screaming stop and hide in the closet.

He frowned. "No," he said. "We have to see what's happening. Someone's hurt – we should help."

Pansy looked at him for a moment and then she nodded slowly. Yes, that was a good idea. Draco was so smart. "You're very brave," she told him, her eyes admiring though still filled with fear.

He glanced at her in surprise before a shaky smile made its way to his face. He patted her shoulder awkwardly. "Don't worry," he said, and led the way outside. She slipped her hand into his as they walked together down the hall and he looked at her again and squeezed her hand. "Don't worry," Draco said again.

She nodded, but he was already leading the way to the staircase. As quietly as they could, they slipped down the steps, watching carefully for any sign of…anything. The screams were getting louder as they progressed on their way and soon, they stood before the door to the parlor. Draco rubbed his face with his hand as if that would help to clear his scary thoughts.

And then the screaming stopped. In its place was a silence worse than that terrible screaming and driven by a curiosity formed from irrepressible fear, Draco swung the door open and he heard Pansy scream.

Luke walked into the room. He wasn't quite sure why he was here, it just seemed like the right thing to do. His gaze wandered to the little boy on the bed. The poor kid was dwarfed by it and the sight made Luke smile lop-sidedly. He carefully brushed stray locks from the child's face.

He had been afraid at first when he met the Boy-Who-Lived. Anything and everything associated with the monster that made his past a living hell frightened him these days, even the little boy who defeated and therefore conquered his fears.

As he looked down at Harry, he couldn't help but wonder how such a tiny wisp of a boy had enough power to do such a thing as prevail over the most powerful dark wizard ever.

And then he noticed the small blips emitting from one of the spell-monitors. The charts were going wild – first veering upwards and then soaring back down again.

Then all at once they rocketed skywards and kept on going up and up and…up.

A swell of magic burst from the little creature on the bed making Luke duck instinctively and reach out to hold the kid down. He yelled in surprise and fear as he was overcome with the sheer purity of the magical power that surged around the room. The lights exploded and windows cracked. Papers went flying and were pressured down to the floor. Luke felt as if he was one of those things, and his entire was being crushed down into the bed next to Harry.

If he had been a little less distracted by the chaos erupting in the room, he would have noticed the healers trying to barge into the room.

But the door had slammed shut with such power that the walls were cracking and chipping. The flowers resting on the bedside table exploded in little bits of color and Luke soon felt as though he was about to end with the same fate.

Heavens help me! he thought wildly, grasping onto Harry's hand.

Harry felt his breathing hitch. Suddenly he was in a room and he could see everything. He sighed happily. He hated the darkness he was always surrounded with. After that first dream he had – the one where Severus said that he'd save all those people, the one where he saw Draco, Sirius Black the dog, and Derrick Ban's nice brother Jonas – he had been quite alone.

He was always scared, he found, when he was stuck in one place. Most times he could walk around in the darkness, but today, he was stuck. It was soon after that that he was moved into a new room.

There were people here and he wondered if he'd see one of his new friends.

What he saw instead was something very different. They all had magic sticks – no, wands – and they seemed to be recovering from some fight or other. He saw Draco's dad standing ever so still and staring down at someone, who screamed so awfully and so loudly that it hurt Harry's heart and forehead.

Everything seemed muted at first, so silent, but then the screams changed from being a whisper to an amplified, deafening, roar that Harry couldn't seem to escape from. He found himself stuck to his spot, just watching everything as if from a distance, but he was somehow terribly near as well.

Draco's dad was so angry, yet so pained, and he stood there watching as the witch beside him hurt the man on the ground with her magic wand. He had to stop that screaming! The pain kept increasing with every passing moment and all he could do was cry and plead for it to stop…but no one heard him.

He suddenly realized who it was that was writhing in utter agony upon the floor and screaming so painfully – it was Severus. Harry's heart skipped a beat and he fought harder to get to his friend. He needed to get there to help him! The curse went on and on as did the pain and one particular gust of energy from the bad witch made a searing, burning feeling race through his chest.

"Stop it!" he cried desperately. Severus was spitting up blood now and Harry knew that he was dying. Both of them were. With all the desperation and fear inside him, Harry screamed as loud as he could, "Stop!"

And then he felt a tug as if a hook was pulling him from deep inside his chest and he could suddenly move.

All of a sudden, the painful magical pressure in the room disappeared and Luke sat up. He looked around and froze when he saw that little Harry Potter sitting bolt upright in his bed, started screaming, "Stop it!" with his eyes shut tightly. Luke shouted in surprise and just as the healers outside finally managed to barge into the room with their wands raised, the Potter boy shrieked one last time, "Stop!" and disappeared with a rush of wind and a 'pop'.

And Luke, unfortunately attached to his hand, disappeared with him.

Severus had felt pain before, many times before, but somehow…the pain this time was the worst pain he had ever felt. It seared and burned and cut deep inside of him. He coughed and choked as he tried to hide from the pain. His eyes seemed to be locked on Lucius' and he knew then that he would die today.

It was finally over.

He shook uncontrollably and couldn't help but feel slightly relieved that soon, the pain, the fear, the guilt…would all be over soon.

And then the strangest thing happened. He heard the high-pitched voice of a child shriek, "Stop!" Small, cold hands touched his face and then tiny arms wrapped around his waist. He felt his raw throat relax as the need to scream faded away with the pain that had attacked him so viciously. Blinking, he coughed up more blood and spat onto the floor beside him. He looked up in shock and saw that Lucius' face was white as a ghost. Too weak to sit up, he lied there exhausted and holding onto the smallest bit of life that he could.

The sound of sobbing filled his ears and he looked down to see a mop of black hair buried in his chest.

There was a flurry of movement and he looked up to see Lucius aim at him with a finger and yell desperately, "Finish it!" to another Death Eater.

Severus closed his eyes. He was imagining things – he was probably crazy in his last moments what with seeing Potter here, and now it was all going to be over.

"Goodbye,"he said impulsively, and he felt the sudden urge to laugh.

"Hush, Severus!" cried a voice, and to his surprise, it was not the voice of a child. "It's not over yet!" He looked up and saw a man his age standing there, wand in hand, trying to keep the Death Eaters from attacking them.

Was that Lucas DeMay? What the hell was he doing here? thought Severus sluggishly.

Then the words, "Avada Kedavra," resounded in his ears and he felt as if a hook was tugged roughly behind his naval.

As he spiraled away into nothingness, he thought, if this is death, it isn't so bad. And then everything went black.

Author's Note: Those of you in my yahoo group may have gotten my update special about this new post and you may have seen that little preview list thing that I put on there. If you have any questions about those things, just ask and I will explain them for you. :o) I hope you liked this chapter! It sure took long enough to get out here and for that I apologize.

Replies to reviewers from Schnoogle:

Babyducke: hi! I'm glad you liked the bit between Draco and Pansy. There's a little more of that in here :o) I can't remember if I added you to my mailing list, but if I didn't, please feel free to email me and I'll do it for you.

Hele: Thanks! I'm glad you liked Draco's scene from last chapter. He's a bit silly, but you gotta love the kid!

LeChatOuiGardeLaLune: Thanks! Sorry about the long wait though!

BrennaSH: Lol, your review was funny!

Evildiorama: I love your name. Anyway, thanks, I'm glad you like Draco's characterization. I was thinking that he's a bit too silly in this chapter, but things for him are changing and he needs a bit of light stuff. Towards the end of this chap he goes through a tough spot, but he made a new friend! Thanks again!

Sayralouise: thanks! If you have any questions about the story in particular, I'll be glad to answer them for you.

Horsehead: thanks so much! It makes me really happy – what you said about liking Draco's personality. That part where he finds out that his parents aren't all knowing and perfect was probably my favorite part with him because it's a realization on his part about what life is like. It changes his character and you'll see more of that later on.

Coolcat76: I hope I added you to my mailing list…

Dragonlassie2003: I noticed that sometimes some of the words stick together when I upload the chapters, it's probably just a transition error or something. Thanks for telling me though! Lol I'm glad you like Draco's mispronunciations.

AurelusJean: Harry's not quite okay…but he kind of popped out of whatever it was that ailed him for a bit of this chapter. Nott Sr. woke up in this chap, but Nott Jr. is now in a terrible predicament.

Kittykat91413: thanks! I'm glad you like my characterizations of my OC's! not many people say that and it means a lot! Thanks again!

Born to Fire: sorry this took so long! But I'm glad you like it!!

MinnieMcGonnagal82: I'm glad you've stuck with this story of mine!

Gurlie852 and lex7636 and mari416: thanks guys!

Ronneem: I'm so glad you like Draco's changes and the way they've progressed! I'm glad you've gotten more interested in the OC's!

Replies to reviewers from fanfiction:

DragongirlG: you've stuck with this story for a long time now! I always look forward to your reviews! I'm glad that you enjoyed Morgan's story! I like that vampire! She's cool – I'm also happy that you liked her story of her relationship between her and Jonas. They're cute together. She'll play a part later. I'm sure you'll like that too. I'm ecstatic that you think Derrick's character is well developed. He and Jonas will both be explained further in upcoming chapters. I love those twins! They're like good and evil, but both are shades of gray because of what they are and their allegiances. I hope that makes sense. Thanks again!

Fire'N'Ice: Aw! You hate Pansy? Why? I think she just needs more development is all! Lol thanks for reviewing!

Witchblade Hell: I'm so glad you came back to read my story a second time!

Terra4: hello again! I'm glad you like what's going on so far, you seem very worried though. Well…Severus got himself into a tough spot, eh? Lol, I hope you liked how this chapter went!

Sweetest thang: I kind of just think about one of my cousins. He's four and, poor tyke, can't quite talk very well so I think of him when I write.

End of Innocence and ranger2 and Honor and lacy and Layce74 and Victoria and Padawan Jan-AQ and Eizoku and water-drifter and shortnsassy and tati1 and Alexa and Romm and futago akuma-tenshi01 and Madam Moony and Mortis Dead and Jarvey and Howling Wolf1 and HarrySlytherinSon and TexasJeanette and honeyduck and Professor Potter-Malfoy and Slytherinheart and dalpin crage and Hermione Malfoy Potter and Shadowface: thanks!