"Lucius," Narcissa mumbled, almost too tired to be exasperated. "Is your mark of servitude bothering you?"
Lucius turned agitated eyes over to look at her. She knew how much he hated his scar being called that, but her judgement was dulled thanks to how late in the evening it was. "Yes, one could say that," he hissed, while harshly presenting his forearm outwards.
Narcissa couldn't help but let out a small gasp.
Now fully awake, she couldn't help but stare at the small, inky, poisonous viper that was crawling up and down Lucius's skin.
Severus Snape threw dark Death Eater robes over his shoulders. He put his mask in one of the expansive pockets, so he could put it on right before apparating to the site where the Dark Lord wished for him to appear.
Tonight's calling felt especially painful. Usually, when the Dark Mark flared up, it felt like someone had lit his arm on fire. This time, however, gave him the feeling that someone was pressing a hot iron onto his flesh. Severus desperately hoped the Dark Lord wasn't angry… especially not at him.
A niggling thought at the back of his head warned him to not go to that night's meeting. He ignored that voice, pushing it back. If he wasn't spying for the headmaster, what was he good for? He had no other life purpose. But what if you do?
He ignored the voice, yet again.
Severus scribbled down a message to Harry on a piece of parchment, in case the young man were to wake up and notice he was gone. It explained that he was away at a meeting. He would know what that meant. He left the note resting on the table in front of the mirror close to the front doors. Typically the man avoided looking at the mirrors in his house, but something… drew him to look at his face. Something about it seemed different. Severus never was a vain person, but something did look markedly disparate. Did the stress lines on his face look less severe? Or maybe his mouth appeared less downturned? He couldn't really tell, not in this terrible lighting.
He silently strode out the front doors. He was careful to be quiet, lest he disturb the three inhabitants inside. He knew that Harry was a very light sleeper. He cautiously let the door close.
Severus disapparated with a very audible pop.
Harry sat up, startled. Nagini's head rose sleepily at his sudden movement, curious. A loud sound had woken him up, and his mind was filled with a sense of foreboding. As if in a dream, he pushed back his covers and set his feet on the floor. It was moments like these when he was glad that he slept with a shirt and trousers on.
Nagini uncoiled as best as she could from the bedframe. Harry couldn't help but wonder if it was hard being such a huge snake. Her muscles shuddered as she stretched out as far as she was able. "What issss it, Army-Leader?" she hissed quietly.
"I heard a noissse coming from outside," Harry responded. "I think it'ssss worth invessstigating."
Careful not to wake Dudley, picked up his wand tip-toed out of the room. Nagini did the best she could. It sounded like the sound came somewhere near the front doors, so he made his way over there. There didn't seem to be anything amiss with the scene he saw. He shot a confused look over to his snake, and placed his hand on the doorknob.
Before he opened it, however, his eye caught a slip of white paper that was resting on a table that was about waist height. He picked it up, not really expecting to see anything other than a blank sheet. Surprisingly, it had writing on it.
Harry, if you are reading this, you must have woken in the night to see me absent. I will be succinct- the Dark Lord has called me to a meeting. You have no reason to worry. DO NOT COME AFTER ME, LIKE I KNOW YOU ARE PRONE TO DOING.
~ Severus Snape
Harry's brows furrowed. Did Severus think he was an idiot? Of course he wouldn't go after him. (A/N: Oh, really?)
He relayed this discovery to Nagini, who had been waiting patiently for what the paper had said. The snake curled in on herself, seeming anxious. Did she know something he didn't?
Before he got the chance to ask, a muffled thud came from upstairs. Stuffing the paper inside his pants pocket, he quietly tiptoed over to the staircase. He paused at the banister, wondering if he should investigate or not. Probably was just the house settling in its foundations, his mind supplied helpfully.
Yeah. He shook off the creeping sense of foreboding that snuck up his spine. He made it about half the way up before another sound came echoing through the room. He raised an eyebrow, rationalizing that it would be best to look and see what it was. Surely, Severus had put spells around the house to prevent things with malicious intent from entering. Right?
Against better instinct, he went all the way up and turned left. The next time the thump happened, he saw a wardrobe in the hallway shudder. It startled him some, making him jump a few inches in the air. He glanced over at Nagini, and she shook her head vigorously. He pursed his lips as the closet rattled again, and curiosity won out over the inclination to run.
He held his wand to the side as he threw the closet door open. Harry immediately jumped back in shock as a mass of black fell to the floor. He almost hexed the thing before it let out an awfully familiar groan.
Sure enough, a black hood dropped down to reveal a face he knew all too well. Severus had blood all over his face, and was convulsing on the ground. To Harry's horror, the man began to weep inconsolably as a pool of blood grew around them.
Casting his wand to the side, he knelt down next to the suffering man. "Severus, Severus, what happened?" he asked frantically. He nearly started to hyperventilate, but he calmed himself just in time. The potions master needed him to be calm and level-headed.
He picked up the wand he had discarded, and with a shaky hand, he cast "Scourgify" in an attempt to clean the blood and tears from his face. To his surprise, nothing seemed to happen. He cast the spell again, worried that he had accidentally messed it up. Still, nothing occurred.
Harry blinked and put his wand down. He grabbed his sleeve in his hand and tried to wipe the blood manually. Once again, nothing happened. "Severus?" Harry tried to call to him, but the man didn't seem to hear him. "Severus!" he tried louder, but still, he didn't respond.
It was then that Harry realized something was amiss. No matter how much pain the professor was in, he would have communicated with him at some point. He took a deep breath, and noticed that he had come from a closet. He began getting flashbacks from third year Defence Against the Dark Arts class.
Harry suddenly knew what he had to do. He picked his wand up again, pointed it at 'Severus,' and shouted "Riddikulus!" The pseudo-Severus convulsed once on the floor, growling at him. Oh, yeah. To really get rid of a boggart, one had to think of something funny it could turn into. But.. how on earth could he make this funny? He hoped that the blood soaking the floor wasn't permanent.
Nagini was frozen, strickenly staring at the man that seemed to be bleeding out on the hardwood. Harry grimaced and thought of a fish flopping on the ground. "Riddikulusssss!" he shouted, unaware that he had slipped into parseltongue.
A blue light shot toward the boggart, surprising both Nagini and Harry. The light wove around the creature, with a faint whistling and clicking sound. The light faded somewhat, and Harry saw the salmon that he had imagined wiggling on the floor. Clicking with a happy tone, an azure blue dolphin playfully circled around his body.
Harry chuckled, delighted. What an adorable creature! The dolphin nudged his jaw, and it felt like his worry was drained away, leaving his muscles relaxed. The aquatic mammal then turned its snout towards the boggart, who was still flopping on the ground.
The dolphin charged the boggart, and when its snout touched it, the evil creature burst into a cloud of black, billowing smoke. A shrieking scream was let out as the smoke dissipated, and only the brilliant bottlenose was left behind.
With a friendly chatter, the dolphin bowed its body towards Harry and Nagini. It touched its nose to Harry's wand, and dissipated into the air. Harry sighed as the creature's calming aura swept over them one last time.
A few moments later, however, the good feelings started to trickle away. What he had seen was… disturbing, to say the least. He couldn't help but worry for Severus.
"What wasss that?" Nagini asked, looking concerned.
Before Harry could answer, the door at the other end of the hallway opened. Dudley stepped out, with a look of foreboding on his face. When he only saw the young wizard and his snake, his visage morphed into one of confusion. "What was all that noise I heard coming from here?"
"It was a boggart," Harry answered. He also relayed this information to Nagini. She nodded her head, suddenly understanding. "They take the shape of your worst fear."
Dudley blinked, stunned. "There is a lot I don't know." He shrugged. "I dunno why this is hitting me suddenly, but…" The large boy went backwards awkwardly. "I'll just- you know what? G'night." He vanished into the room, and shut the door.
Harry felt like there was some humor to be felt in this situation, but what he had just seen was jarring. His worry for Severus's well being increased tenfold.
"Hey, Nagini?" Harry asked.
"Yessss, Army-Leader? What isss it? You look worried." She nudged his thigh with her nose, concerned.
"Do you think Sssevere-Ssstern is okay?" Harry feared the absolute worst when she didn't reply. "Nagini, do you know sssomething? Issss he...?" He started to pace.
Nagini opened her mouth, seeming to contemplate what she was going to say. "Well… one night in the infirmary, I felt the presssenccce of the Forsssaken One in my mind. Sssevere-Ssstern was sssiting next to your bed, and I am unsssure if thisss did anything to hissss trustworthinessss in the Forsssaken One'sss mind."
Harry groaned and slid down the wall. "Why, why doessss it have to be thisss way? Why doessss he have to put himssself into danger every other night?"
Nagini twisted part of herself around his body, squeezing slightly. "I don't know, Army-Leader. All we can really do is hope that he'ssss okay."
The letter of warning that Severus had given him was all but forgotten, crumpled up in his pants pocket. Harry felt like the inevitability of Severus's death was impending, coming upon him unbidden. He felt a panic attack coming on, but the weight of his companion's body grounded him. Harry focused on the texture of Nagini's coils… totally not on how Severus could be experiencing the same torture he had happen to him… enough, enough. I don't need to think about that, and do something rash.
No matter how much Nagini tried to comfort him, he kept getting more and more anxious. Eventually, he jumped up and started to pace, yet again.
I remember the thing that happened in Hogsmeade. What if that was a trap set by Voldemort? I want to go after him, but if I do, that might make things worse. But, if I'm inactive, that ALSO could make things worse… if I'm supposedly the boy who lived, why do I feel so scared? If that dumb prophecy was truly about me, would I even hesitate?
With a rapidly beating heart, Harry made a decision. He silently walked back to his room. Dudley had already fallen back to sleep, unaware of the dilemma Harry was going through. He gave a long look at his vacant bed, contemplating his choice. Then, solidifying his resolve, he grabbed his Firebolt and went back out.
Harry stood before the doors that led into Severus's room. Biting his lower lip, he wondered if there were any protective spells that guarded this entry. There probably were. Is this a good idea? he doubted for a split second. Then he shook his head to rid himself of those thoughts.
He glanced at Nagini, and raised his arm. "Alohomora!" An awfully familiar chittering sound erupted from his wand. A black and white creature leapt out at the door, making Harry jump back in a bit of surprise.
It was a raccoon, and instead of glowing, the animal seemed to suck all the light from the surrounding area. His mouth dropped slightly open as the raccoon's fingers seemed to elongate. It stuck the fingers into the lock on the door, and a split second later, it clicked open. The creature had broken the locking spell on the door, as well as dismantling all of the protective spells in place.
Wow, Harry thought. This magic is really powerful. The raccoon, with one last chatter, vanished into smoke. The remnants of the creature sped back into his wand.
Harry readied himself to cast yet another spell. He breathed deeply and took a wide stance. Holding his wand out, he whispered, "Accio invissssibility cloak!"
As he was expecting, light did come from his wand - but this time it was yellow. A shaggy golden retriever barked as it went to go get his cloak from the interiors of Severus's room. Harry cringed as the dog loudly burst through a closet door and came back with the silvery cloth.
Harry couldn't help himself. He knelt down and said softly, "Aww, who's a good boy? Or girl? You are - that's right," he grinned as the dog rolled over to show its belly. He rubbed it for a few seconds, before getting up. "I'm sorry, but I have to go now."
The dog seemed to understand him. It stood up, mouth stretched into a friendly grin. The retriever touched its nose to the wand, and vanished.
"Army-Leader, what isss happening? What are you doing?" Nagini inquired, confused.
"I've decccided that I'm going to do sssomething about thisss sssituation. He's probably being tortured thisss very ssssecond, and I can't jussst sssit here, can I?"
"I don't think thisss isss a very wissse decccision," She insisted, but Harry was all but deaf to her words. The fact that her hatchling was ignoring her made her slightly agitated. She followed him down the stairs, hissing softly. She was quietly cursing Harry's tendency to be a bit bone-headed.
"If you are ssso determined to do thisss little ssstunt of yoursss, I am coming with you. That isss non-negotiable."
Harry absently nodded. "Yes.Yesss, you can come."
He went back into his room and pulled a random cloak of his out of the closet. He threw it over his shoulders, meeting Nagini outside of his room. The snake was looking apprehensive, but Harry couldn't blame her.
He went downstairs as quietly as he could manage, and scribbled down a message for Dudley. It was for if he woke up and saw the house empty. It read:
Hey Dudley, I've gone away to do something. Don't worry about me, I'll be fine.
Harry scanned the letter for spelling and grammar mistakes before setting it where he had found Severus's letter earlier. He briefly wondered if it was too vague, before shrugging. Silently, he opened the door and waited for Nagini to exit, before following her.
After casting a feather-light charm on the serpent, he allowed her to wrap herself as best she could around his body. Without thinking much about his decision, he mounted his firebolt and launched himself into the sky.
Dudley tossed and turned in his horribly creaky bed. He had heard and seen many very questionable things tonight, and he was having a hard time getting to sleep. After he had woken up to an awful wailing sound and went to investigate, he had gone right back to bed. That was… too much.
He had heard the room's door open again. Harry (at least, he guessed it was Harry - his eyes were closed) had walked in and grabbed something from his closet. Soon after the person had left the room, he heard a dog bark a few times, before everything was silent again for the rest of the night.
He didn't hear Harry come back to his room that night, but he was too exhausted to care.
RIP to my sleep schedule while writing this. These last few nights have been spent on writing and revising this last chapter. Maybe I'll actually get some sleep? Lol, probably not. I'm too addicted to reddit for a good night's sleep : )
Although, I am kinda proud of finishing this one. I've been having a few family issues lately, but they've all settled, thankfully!