Author's note: Sorry it took forever and a day to update, I think I'll be able to work on this story more regularly now. Also, thanks to everyone who is still reading! Please don't forget to review.

In Fire Lies Redemption

By Marz

Chapter 19: Unwarranted

Harry woke up with a crick in his neck and someone else's drool on his shirt. Somebody had thrown a blanket over him and Marcus. He twisted around in the chair and saw the three muggle girls had been similarly equipped, and were still snoozing on the couch. He shifted a bit more and the kid started awake. For a moment they just stared at each other, noses inches apart. Harry was worried the kid was going to scream, but after a confused second he released the death grip he still had on Harry's neck and rubbed his eyes.

"I have to go to the bathroom," he mumbled.

Harry sat up and set the kid on the floor. Fawkes was still asleep on his perch and the sky outside was a sickly yellow green in preparation for dawn. The nearest bathroom Harry knew about was down two flights of stairs and one hall over. There has to be a closer one, he thought, patting down his pockets for the Marauder's Map. It wasn't there. For a second his brain was panicked and empty. "It's gone!" was all he could think.

"I have to go to the bathroom!" Marcus repeated loudly.

The girls on the couch were starting to stir.

"We'll go in just one minute," Harry promised. "I just need to find something first. I must have dropped it. It's a piece of parchment about this big," he said holding up his hands to indicate size.

"I don't know where it is!" Marcus declared.

Harry nodded distractedly and went to the door, only to find it locked. He jiggled the handle to no avail. He supposed Dumbledore didn't want the muggles wandering all over the place. But when he took out his wand and tried Alohamora he found the Headmaster intended for him to stay put as well.

"I have to go!" Marcus cried and began doing a sort of panicked dance.

"Right, one more second!" Harry said. He rushed across the room to the door behind Headmaster Dumbledore's desk. It opened and he rushed Marcus in.

"Did you find the bathroom?" asked the dark haired girl as they came back into the room.

"Er…sort of," Harry said.

Fawkes gave him a disapproving look.

"So what exactly is going on here?" asked the dark haired girl, as Harry returned to his chair. Marcus immediately climbed into his lap.

"I wish I knew," said Harry honestly.

"Well who are you then?" she asked.

"Er…I'm Harry Potter."

"I'm Alicia, that's Jolie, that's Mary," Alicia said pointing at the girl with cornrows and the orange-haired girl respectively.

"Nice to meet you?" Harry ventured.

"Yeah. Right," said Alicia. "So where are we? That woman--Tonks?--said she was sending us to some school."

"You saw Tonks? Was she alright?" Harry asked.

"I don't know! She was jumping all over the place and turning invisible and blowing away guys in skull masks, is that alright with you guys?"

"For Tonks it is," Harry paused for a second to think. He wanted to give them some information, since in a similar situation he'd probably be bouncing off the walls, but the Ministry wasn't likely to forgive him if he went chatting away to muggles. They'd probably be obliviated anyway. "Geographically you're in Scotland," he started finally.

"My mum's gonna kill me!" wailed Mary dramatically.

"Shut up!" said Alicia. "How'd we get to Scotland?"

Harry shrugged. "How'd you run into Death Eaters to begin with?"

"Those guys in the masks?" asked Alicia. "We were in the queue out side WashOut-"

"What's a wash out?" Harry interrupted.

"Only the most exclusive club in the entire country!" exclaimed Mary. "We're never going to get another chance at that!"

"Priorities?" asked Jolie with a disbelieving look on her face.

"Anyway!" Alicia growled before continuing her tale. "We were in the queue and suddenly these guys in skull masks were standing next to us. One of them says 'You girls looking for a good time?' And of course we tell the wankers to get lost, but next minute there's this flash of red light and we wake up in a cage with those creeps yelling all sorts of horrible things at us. They dragged in the lady and kid about half an hour later then took them right back out again. Then they bring the kid back and he's crying."

Harry looked down at the kid in his lap, who was listening to the story as if it had nothing to do with him.

"The next thing we know there're lights going everywhere and guys falling down and then this guy appears, only then he turns into a woman and she lets us out of the cage and gives us a watch and then we end up on the lawn and this giant chases us and that old bat with the bun wound too tight drags us up here. Wouldn't let us make a phone call or anything."

"Phones don't work out here," said Harry in McGonagall's defense.

"Well then how do you call people?" asked Mary.

"You don't." Harry said with a shrug. "We're out here to avoid normal people, not talk to them"

"So what exactly are you?" Alicia asked glaring.

Harry shrugged. "What do you think I am?"

"I think this is all nuts and I want to wake up now!" Mary declared.

"I'm hungry," said Marcus, who was doing strange things to the knot in Harry's tie.

Harry pried the kid's fingers loose as he started to strangle. He got up and set Marcus in the chair.

"Anybody else hungry?" Harry asked, thinking the kitchens were probably a much better place to be at the moment. "What do you want?" he asked as the girls nodded.

"How are you going to get food if all the doors are locked?" Alicia asked, giving him a glare almost worthy of aunt Petunia.

He couldn't help the ends of his mouth quirking up as he spoke. "I'm going to stick my head in the fire and ask some elves to bring us up something."

"Whatever," Alicia said rolling her eyes.

"I'm having oatmeal, is that all right for everybody?" Harry asked.

"I want chocolate chip ice cream," Marcus said.

"That's not breakfast food," Harry said.

"I want sausage then, with pancakes and syrup."

"Right," said Harry.

He crossed the room, grabbed some floo powder, and tossed it into the embers in the Headmaster's fireplace. Green flames roared to life as he knelt down and stuck his head in, shouting "kitchen" as he went. He leaned to the side to avoid being clubbed with an iron kettle that was being pushed in to heat.

"Hey! Is Dobby here?" Harry called.

"Harry Potter! You should not be here!" Dobby shouted running up to the hearth.

"Sorry Dobby," he said, confused almost completely.

"Oh please don't be angry with Dobby sir! It is his orders from the Headmaster."

"Sorry, I didn't know. I was just trying to get some breakfast for the muggles in Dumbledore's office."

"Oh, Oh! Dobby will bring up breakfast immediately, but Harry Potter must go and not return. The kitchens is off limits for students from now on!"

"Alright, sorry Dobby. Thank you."

Harry pulled himself out of the fire, still confused, even as he wiped the soot off his glasses.

"You put your head in the fire!" Mary said, with her mouth hanging open.

Harry shrugged. Her reaction was twice as good when the elves arrived.

There were no doors, well not any longer. They had walked him into the room, one hulking Auror at each shoulder, and one in the lead. Remus had already turned over his wand, but they insisted on hitting him with another Expelliarmus and assorted searching spells anyway. It was a struggle to remain polite. When they were finished embarrassing him, they walked out and the door melted away, leaving him in a silence, surrounded by four blank walls. He tucked in his shirt and sat down in the rough wooden chair, the only furniture in the room. It was not equipped with shackles, but he stayed on the edge of the seat just in case. He wanted to put his head in his hands and groan, but that might look suspicious, and he knew they were watching him. He settled for a sigh.

Annie Chapman still had his jacket and he was starting to freeze. He thought that was a little unusual. Whenever a tale of interrogation was related to him, the recipient always complained about the unbearable heat of the room. He folded his arms across his chest, and tried not to think about anything in particular. He'd heard from Kingsley that the Aurors were not above pumping vaporized potions into the air, to "loosen up" the suspect, and he didn't want anything to leak out of his mind.

Two hours later, the door returned. A heavyset wizard with a toothpick sticking out of his mouth sauntered into the room. He acted, very believably, as though he just wanted to get something done. His shoulders were squared resolutely as he conjured a table into existence. He sighed as he conjured up a file folder. "Lupin, R. J. 5342-098-03" was printed neatly in the corner, and the Department for the Regulation of Magical Creatures was stamped in tan on the off-white parchment. The Auror conjured up a chair and sat down with a grunt. Despite his outward appearance of calm, Remus could smell fear.

"Remus Lupin?" the Auror asked.

Lupin inclined his head, and folded his hands on the table.

"I'm Auror Johnson. I apologize for all this, but with all this You-Know-Who business, we have to double check everything," he said, opening the file and paging through it as if for the first time. "You were certainly out late last night."

"I was at a club," Lupin said.

"A club?" Johnson asked mildly.

"It's a muggle name for a dance hall."

"You dance?"

"Not well," Lupin said. "I was meeting a muggle friend of mine there."

"Would he be willing to corroborate your story?"

"She doesn't know I'm a wizard and I'd rather not drag her into this."

The Auror shrugged. Muggle testimony never counted for much anyway.

"So what do you say happened?" The Auror asked, taking a fresh sheet of parchment from the folder and conjuring up a quill.

"I met a friend of mine at the Turn-up Club, about half past ten. We had a few drinks but I was getting a headache from all the noise so I begged off early. She stayed. I walked for a while, to clear up my head before Disapparating. I heard screaming and curses and went to investigate."

"You heard screaming from three kilometers away?" the Auror asked.

"I'd been walking for at least a half an hour. I don't think I was quite that far away."

"Still it's quite a distance."

Remus raised an eyebrow. "I think the explanation is written in bold letters on the first page of my file."

"Lycanthropy, hmmmm, yes," Johnson paged through the file again. "Continue with your statement."

"I heard screaming and Apparated closer. I recognized Tonks. She and another woman were being pursued by a mob, some of whom were wearing Death Eater garb. Obviously the men chasing her were up to no good. I rendered assistance."

The Auror looked at him, as if expecting more details. Remus just looked back. The Auror pushed the parchment over to him. Remus read what the other man had written and signed the bottom.

"Nothing else you want to add?" Johnson asked.

Lupin shrugged. "That's what happened."

"We'll see," said Johnson.

Remus was left alone again. He wasn't sure for how long. They'd left the table in the room. He put his head down, just to rest his eyes, but realized that hadn't worked out when a fist slammed down on the table a few inches from his head.

"Sorry," said an unfamiliar voice. "Were we keeping you up?"

Remus felt the hair on his neck standing up, and couldn't choke back the snide response "Yes, actually."

The new Auror was standing over him. The man was about Remus height, but much bulkier. His face was unusually red, and his patchy beard was flecked with spit. The "bad cop" had arrived.

"Are you getting smart with me, Werewolf?"

"Smart in comparison to what?" Remus deadpanned, giving the Auror an appraising look.

The Auror threw the statement Remus had signed earlier down on the table, ignoring the insult.

"I don't know what kind of crap you tried to feed Johnson, but you're not leaving this room until you tell me what really happened."

Remus sat back in his chair, trying to keep his temper under control.

"I was completely honest in my statement."

"And vague," the Auror growled.

"What needs clarification?" Remus asked.

"You claimed you were at the Turn-Up Club last night?"

Remus nodded.

"Did anyone see you?"

"Hundreds of people, I expect, it's a big club. You should stop by sometime. They put on an…unforgettable show."

"Who were you there with?"

"I already told Auror Johnson. I was with a muggle friend of mine, and since a muggle's word is worth even less then my own, I'm not going to drag her into this."

"How noble of you," the Auror said. "So you heard Auror Tonks and the muggle woman screaming and went to help?"

Lupin nodded.

"And you thought unforgivables were appropriate? You thought you were justified in killing those men?"

"I didn't kill any of those," Lupin struggled for a moment, "-men. I used only stunning curses and a few blasting hexes to convince them it was time to leave."

"So you just frightened away a mob of what you claimed were Death Eaters. The corpses must have happened by later."

"I didn't kill anyone. You've got my wand. Check it."

"We have a wand."

"Tonks can confirm what I've told you."

"But your Ministry required tracking charm says you were elsewhere."

Remus did his best to look surprised, then shrugged.

"Where did the charm say I was?"

"Apparently, you were and still are in your place of legal residence in Nottingham."

Remus shrugged again. "The Ministry applied an untested charm. I'm not terribly surprised its not working. That seems rather beside the point though, since Tonks can confirm my story."

"If Auror Tonks had confirmed your story, then why are you still here?"

"I'd put my money on ministry prejudice, if I had any money," Lupin said.

Still he was worried. Tonks must have been worse off then he initially thought if she hadn't gotten him out of this by now. It was also possible Dumbledore had told her to steer clear.

"Does the poor little werewolf think its being mistreated?"

"The poor little werewolf is getting bored actually. Aren't there more pressing tasks you could be applying your time and valuable Auror skill too? Hunting down Voldemort perhaps?"

The Auror jumped visible when Remus said the name.

"So what do you know about You-know-who?"

"Born Tom Riddle, went to Hogwarts, decided to start a genocidal war against a group that he's a member of? That's who we're talking about?"

"You seem to know a lot about him,"

"And you seem to know disturbingly little for an Auror who is supposed to be hunting down Voldemort and his Death Eaters."

"Are you implying the Aurors are incompetent?" the man shouted in Remus' face, slamming his fists down on the table.

"I thought I had stated it rather plainly, actually."

Two men stood on the other side of the transparent wall. The tall, dark-skinned man stood by the magical monitoring equipment taking notes. The blond man sat in a chair by the wall, staring in and chewing his toothpick. It had looked as if the mood amplifier was working. If the werewolf lost his temper and took a swing at Coreman, or even shouted something threatening, they'd be able to keep him in custody indefinitely, but aside from a few insults and a bit of sarcasm, the werewolf had a surprising amount of self-control. Coreman was close to doing something regrettable, however. Johnson waved his wand at the contraption above his head, turning off the mood amplifier.

"The righteous anger monitor is going off the scale, but we haven't caught him in one outright lie yet," Shacklebolt said.

"Yes, but the half-truth detectors have gone off several times," Johnson said, paging through the transcript of the interrogation.

"I don't think this is worth our time," Shacklebolt said, "But if you want to go to Veritaserum, feel free to start the paperwork."

Coreman sighed. "Alright, I'm getting sick of this too. We'll let Coreman wind down then send the werewolf to the lock up for a few more hours, let him go at the end of the shift with a fine."

"Works for me," said Shacklebolt. "What have we got next?"

"DMLE needs help tracking down a couple of muggles that slipped past the obliviators during a Death Eater raid this morning. Why do those guys always have to leave such a mess? We'll be tracking down third cousins in Devon all afternoon."

Shacklebolt just shrugged.

Overall, babysitting wasn't that bad. McGonagall had taken the muggle girls back to London at a little past noon. Dumbledore left Marcus in Harry's care until his mother was released from Ministry custody. He'd taken the kid on a walk by the lake, and they'd thrown rocks at the giant squid for about an hour. Then they'd wandered around the castle, well away from the dungeons, until a painting told Harry that he had to return to the headmaster's office. He hadn't seen Ron or Hermione or anyone, so as soon as he'd dropped off Marcus he ran at top speed for the dungeons, hoping that the map had just been dismissed as old parchment and ignored as litter.

He retraced his steps, eyes darting hopefully to every scrap of parchment he came across. He was forced to duck into side corridors and behind suits of armor several times to avoid being spotted by the dungeons' residents. He got all the way back to site of the previous night's altercation with no luck. Maybe Filch found it again when he was cleaning, Harry thought.

He searched the area one last time and then turned with slumped shoulders to leave.

"Missing something, Potter?" said Malfoy, stepping out from behind a suit of armor.

Harry glared at him. Malfoy had his wand out and was smirking like there was no tomorrow, but he didn't have the map in his hands. Harry's wand was in his own hand less then a second later.

"Not too bright of you coming down here all by yourself," Malfoy continued.

"I could say the same thing about you," Harry said, slowly sidestepping. "Goons taking the day off?"

"They're waiting further up the corridor actually, in case you make a run for it."

"Trying to start trouble, ferret face?" Harry asked, feeling a terrible anger well up inside him.

"You're the one lurking around outside my common room," Draco crowed.

"And yet, strangely enough, you've no witnesses."

Harry flicked his wrist and green sparks scattered across the dungeon floor, a few struck the hem of Draco's robes and began to smolder. For a moment the Slytherin boy looked frightened, perhaps remembering that Harry Potter had more then enough reasons to want him dead.

"Mr. Potter!" Harry stepped back and pointed his wand at the woman who shouted, belatedly realizing it was his head of house.

McGonagall stormed up to them glowering. "Detention, both of you! Need I remind you that wizards' duels are strictly prohibited on school grounds? Perhaps twenty points from each of your houses will help you remember? Get out of my sight, both of you!"

Harry had never heard McGonagall so angry before. He needed no extra prompting to hurry back to Gryffindor tower. As he hurried up the hall, he saw Malfoy scowling after him.

Minerva McGonagall tried to suppress another angry outburst as the two sixth years fled in opposite directions. She was forming the less then flattering theory that all of Potter's contact with the Dark Lord was starting to scramble his brain. To allow himself to be goaded into a duel with a boy who'd tried to murder him once before…

She knew why she was allowing herself to get so angry a Potter. She was trying to keep depression from settling in. Not that she would admit falling victim to either one of those emotions. Pomfrey had finally convinced the headmaster to transfer Snape to the mental ward at St. Mungo's.

Snape hadn't argued when they tried to explain it to him. Most likely because he still couldn't understand a single word they said. The strange babbling attempts at language had grown worse. Before, he had put words into sentences that didn't make any sense. Now he rarely produced an intelligible word. She was going to his rooms to pack a few personal items for him.

When he was her student all those years ago, she hadn't much cared for him. He was arrogant, aggressive, and cruel, but he was persistent in a way she could do nothing other then respect. She was rather ashamed of her own house's behavior towards him, but never let them chase him away. Now she would give her entire year's salary just to hear him call her students addlebrained halfwits.

"Whiskers," she said as she stood outside his door.

The deputy headmistress' override password unsealed Professor Snape's quarters. The room smelled awful, as usual. Hundreds of jars and baskets lined the shelves that lined the walls. Bits of plants and other…things were suspended from the ceiling, drying. A few long-brew potions were tending to themselves in the corner, but at least one had boiled dry. She disposed of that cauldron before moving on to his bedchamber. This room was just as packed with potions ingredients. She put a few changes of clothes into a suitcase for him, and searched the dresser and wardrobe for personal items. She wanted to find a photo album or the like, but nothing was forthcoming. She was a bit stunned at how impersonal his rooms were. He didn't have even a paperweight to personalize it. A bit frustrated, she took a jar containing a pickled salamander from the nightstand and put that in the case as well. She sealed the door behind her, wondering if they'd have reason to open it again.

"I can't find the map," Harry said, flopping down on the end of Ron's bed.

"What?" asked Ron looking up from the essays he and Neville were comparing.

"I can't find the map," Harry said.

"Where'd you have it last?" asked Neville.

"When we were getting Marcus away from Malfoy."

Ron's mouth dropped open. "You don't think he…"

"That git's been smirking about something all day," Ginny said, as she walked in the door. Hermione was following close behind. The first words out of her mouth were very predictable.

"We have to tell the Headmaster."

"We can't…"

"Harry! The Death Eaters have a map that tells them how to sneak into the school. We have to tell the Dumbledore this instant."

"How do we know Malfoy's handed it on yet?" Ron said. "His father will definitely end up with it, but you know he'll try to make the best of it before he gives it up."

"Maybe we can steal it back," Ginny suggested.

"How? He has the map! He'll see you coming! Not even Polyjuice potions can fool it. Harry, we have to tell," Hermione said.

"How would Malfoy even know how to use it?" Neville asked.

"I don't think I blanked it before I lost it," Harry said, hanging his head.

Ron shrugged. "So we'll just corner him after dinner and bounce his head off the wall until he gives it up."

Hermione glared. "That will not only lose you your prefect's badge, it will get you expelled! Besides, he's got more goons following him. It's not just Crabbe and Goyle, he has seven or eight Death Eaters' kids with him all the time now. I think we could overpower them," she said before Ron could interrupt, "But there's no way we could do it quietly."

"Can't we just summon it, like Harry did with his broom 4th year?" Neville said.

"Not if Malfoy's put the proper wards around it. We could try, though." Hermione raised her wand and the other four Gryffindors did the same.

"On three then?" Harry said. "One…two…three…"

"Accio Marauder's Map!" they cried together.

But after twenty minutes of waiting, no map had flitted its way up to Gryffindor tower.

"You know this is one of the few situations Professor Snape might have been able to help us with," Ginny said drearily as she put her wand away.

"I doubt that," Harry said. "I'll go tell Dumbledore."

"Wait!" said Neville.

He seemed surprised that he'd spoken, and then very nervous as the other four focused their attention on him.

"Hermione?" he asked, sounding more nervous every second.

"Yes?" she prompted encouragingly.

"Would you be able to charm the Owlery? Just until tomorrow so no one can send anything out?" he asked.

"The teachers would notice right away if I blocked up the windows to keep the owls from leaving. And if he does have the map, he'd notice us hanging about up there trying to intercept his mail." she said. Her gaze grew cloudy and thoughtful. "There must be a way around that though…hmmmm…I suppose I could spell the owls…yes! I could spell the owls to think they'd already delivered their mail once they get outside the wards. They'd come right back in, though that's bound to be noticed fairly quickly, too. That sort of charm is harder to take off, though."

"Is that it, Neville?" Ron asked.

Neville shook his head. "I…I…just need until Monday morning. I can't tell you what I'm doing, but if you can give me that long I think I can get it back."

"Oh Neville, you aren't going to do something dangerous, are you?" Hermione asked.

"No, it's just better if you don't know. Can't get in trouble for something you didn't know, right?" he said looking at his hands.

"Whatever it is, we can help you," Harry insisted.

Neville shook his head and got up. "No, I can do this. Just make sure the owls can't go." With that he rushed out the door and down the stairs.

"What do you think he's going to do?" asked Hermione.

Harry shrugged. "I don't know, but we'd better get started on the owls."

Neville came back to the tower just after curfew, looking slightly flushed. His friends all looked at him expectantly, but he would say nothing except that they'd know in the morning. Harry spent the night unable to sleep. He knew the map showed only a little dot with a label, but he couldn't help but feel watched. He was rather afraid to go the bathroom. The worrying seemed for naught however. Harry, Neville, and Ron were greeted by a very pleasant sight when they arrived in the great hall for breakfast the next morning.

"I want my trunk back, Potter!" Malfoy growled.

"I haven't got it," Harry said, fighting the urge to smile at Neville.

"Don't play the fool with me, Potter! I know you have it!"

Malfoy was so angry his face was starting to turn off-white.

"Those are some serious allegations, Malfoy. We should go talk to the headmaster about this," said Ron, not bothering to hide his smirk at all.

"You won't get away with this, Potter!"

"I don't know about that, Malfoy. People are getting away with an awful lot these days," Harry said mildly. "Let's compare shall we? Attempted murder or missing trunk, that's a tough one. What do you think, Ron?"

Ron rested a thoughtful fist on his chin. "That is quite a conundrum."

"As if you know what that means, Weasley!" Malfoy said, regaining his composure. "If you want to go about it that way, I don't really care, but it's on your own head if something in that trunk disagrees with you."

He and his entourage swept past them down the stairs, heading for the dungeons. When the Slytherins were well gone Harry turned to Neville.

"Has anything strange come out of the trunk?"

Neville shook his head. "I haven't opened it. I've got to go check on something; I'll catch up with you in Defense."

He turned and ran out of the hall.

Neville skidded to a stop outside the library. Verdad sat at a desk across from the entrance, half hidden behind a shelf. Quite a few Slytherins were scattered about the entrance as well, so he couldn't approach her directly. He saw Madam Pince at her desk, peering at the students suspiciously, and a less than classy plan formed in his mind.

He dug through his bag until he found a few empty sweet wrappers. He palmed them and then entered. He walked past Verdad's desk, not looking at her. She didn't seem to notice the garbage he scattered under her seat. He noted the book she was going over. Carnivorous Cacti. He wandered the shelves for several minutes before returning.

"Excuse me," Neville said politely.

Verdad glared up at him and several other Slytherins turned to watch.

"I need to check something in that book for an essay I'm writing. Could I borrow it for just five minutes?"

"Up yours, griffindork."

A few of her housemates snickered. Neville shrugged and walked up to Madam Pince's desk. The Slytherins watched him go, exchanging suspicious glances. Neville leaned over the librarian's desk and, in a carrying whisper said "Excuse me, but I thought you should know, that girl over there is eating."

The librarian sprang from her seat as if someone had set fire to her undergarments. She stormed across the room to Verdad's desk and upon seeing the sweet wrappers scattered about her, tossed her from the library and sent her book bag flying after her. Neville picked up the copy of Carnivorous Cacti that had been left behind and took it to the circulation desk. As he walked out with the book, all the Slytherins present glared, and a few even bothered to hiss threats. He felt Verdad shadowing him and ducked down an empty corridor.

"That was a cute little stunt," she growled in his ear.

He jumped and turned, thinking he may have gone a bit to far, but she was smiling at him.

"I didn't think you had it in you," she continued.

He fought the urge to blush. "I-I-I had to talk to you. We just ran into Malfoy. He's been going on about some booby trap he'd put in his trunk."

Verdad rolled up her sleeve. "It was a nasty piece of $#! I'll give him that." Her right hand was blistered with burns and her wrist was covered in welts. "The whole thing went up like a &#'en torch when I opened it."

She swung her bookbag around and started going through the pockets, finally pulling out a singed scrap of parchment about the size of her palm. Neville took it, heart sinking. He recognized the front gates of Hogwarts, where a tiny dot labeled Rubeus Hagrid wandered back and forth on some unknown labor. He could see the front door of the school, the great hall, and a bit of the astronomy tower. But the rest of the castle and grounds were gone.

"Sorry love. I conjured water, but that didn't put it out. It's a real shame. That map must have been all kinds of useful."

Neville nodded mutely. Harry was going to be heartbroken. But at least Malfoy no longer had it.

"Is your arm ok? Do you need me to get you something from the hospital wing?"

"No, its fine."

"Thank you for…you know. Sorry about you arm. I didn't think…"

"No worries. I've got the fact that Galleons don't burn to console me."

They hadn't given him his own room, but he had a curtain at least. As soon as the annoyingly cheerful nurse left, he closed them and lay down on his bed. She'd been pestering him for the last half hour, and though he had no idea what she'd actually said he was certain it was condescending and pointless. She'd gone down the rows of beds to the other patients who warranted a curtain. He recognized them, the woman and the man. He knew their son as well, but he could not produce their names. They wouldn't answer him, even if he did.

He looked to the small dresser into which they had unpacked his suitcase. A jar containing a pickled salamander sat on top of it under the "safe" lamp. He thought perhaps it was someone's idea of a joke. He reached over and turned the jar in the light, staring into the tiny beast's clouded eyes. The shriek was cut off almost instantly, but it was enough of a shock that the jar slipped through his fingers.

He got to his feet and pushed open the curtain. Glass crunched under his slippers and the pickling fluid soaked through. The nurse lay slumped across her desk. Snape didn't respond as they marched up between the rows of beds. He did not respond when they said his name and ordered him to move. He recognized the voices, Nott and Welling and the new recruit Felltown. He was dragged to the center of the roomwithout protest. They said something else, but he could not even begin to guess what. Nott took out a portkey and placed his hand on it. Snape mimicked him.

As the magic looped around him and dragged him from the hospital, a thought struggled to form in his mind. He knew they were taking him somewhere he'd been before, and that he was unlikely return. He knew his life would be significantly shortened if they pried their way into the jumbled mind he was unable to defend. He could not make himself care. Perhaps that required words.