Disclaimer: Nope, not mine, but that isn't too bad, is it?
- Home again -
First shades of light pearly blue were becoming visible on the eastern sky, when they finally reached Hogwart's gates. Never had Molly been more relieved to see the broad, imposing building.
At least this night of horrors finally reached an end, even if she still felt as if she'd gotten stuck somewhere along the way. So many, many things to ponder, to reevaluate – but first came her family who had to be out of their minds with worry by now.
Second on her list was sleeping.
Long and deep and preferably dreamless.
Heaving a sigh of relieve, Severus Snape began the last arduous track from the gates to the castle, concentrating completely on remaining upright. He knew that should he stumble and fall he wouldn't be getting up on his own.
The injuries weren't too bad, he had sustained worse on other occasions, yet they weren't harmless either and it would be best for all involved if he'd take care of them soon. Preferably, before Dumbledore or Poppy could fuss over them.
He couldn't afford spending time in the infirmary for recuperating, there were several things to take care of. A plan of action concerning the Malfoys – no matter what Lucius and Narcissa were telling him, he'd never trusted them entirely. They were friends, certainly. But friendship in terms of Slytherin was an elusive, intricate phenomenon.
Voldemort's latest demand was also there and since the sun was already rising, time was running short. By sunset today the potion had to be finished and presentable – regardless of the fact, that he had classes to teach in the meantime.
But right now he could soak in the pre-dawn silence enshrouding Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest. Forget about a throbbing head, broken wrist and other countless injuries, the Malfoys, the Dark Lord's lunatic schemes, the Order and everything else altogether.
Half-way up the track, just past the lake, his knees gave out.
The resulting thud also shook Molly out of her stupor and chasing away all pleasant thoughts concerning bird songs and her family. Worry seized her, demanded actions, none of which she could perform. She couldn't even call for help.
The professor wasn't moving. And she was completely helpless; damned to watch how his breathing became more and more shallow and irregular.
He hadn't been hurt that badly, had he?
Molly's memories were to blurry and – she had to admit – filled with too many gaps, phases of inattentiveness. There was no way to tell, what else could have happened within one night.
Only that it was worse than she had assumed.
Her worries increased, when he all of a sudden started coughing violently, a dry, hacking, chest rattling sound. But even while he was gasping for air, he drew himself up on his knees until he could breath again, heavy, but still Molly felt relieved. One hand came away bloodstained, making her resolved to find out what was wrong with the professor as soon as she was restored to her original state.
What obviously wouldn't be long, seeing as Rubeus Hagrid was approaching fast, his thunderous steps shaking the ground.
"Professor!" ,he yelled, crouching down besides Snape, "Are ye all right?"
The reply was one scathing glare, that never penetrated the Half-Giants skin.
"Ol' Dumbledore was sick with worry. Told me to keep watch, ye know. 'was some Order business, that had all upset – kept thinking you could help them out, ye see."
Snape nodded silently, concentrated on regaining his balance and standing up without betraying his dizziness. He still couldn't avoid swaying on his feet, but decided to ignore it. Hagrid took the clue and said nothing.
"There is indeed a matter that requires the Headmaster's attention at once." ,said Snape and Molly heaved a sigh. All of a sudden she felt inexplicably tired and worn out, only wanting to sleep – when she was certain, there were a lot of questions that had to be answered tonight.
Her family – a prickling sensation within her, something warming her up from the inside. Only a few moments until she could hug them all again, just a couple more minutes until this night's horror would come to a final end.
She'd be home.
Had she been in human shape, the familiar warm walls of Hogwarts would have brought tears to her eyes; she'd be running towards the Headmaster's office. They were going to slow, but that couldn't be helped. Snape's breathing was laboured and he stumbled every once in a while.
And then finally the door opened and they were moving up on the spiralling staircase and there was Dumbledore approaching and everybody was talking at once. And then she saw the others, Remus and Arthur, Shacklebolt and Tonks and Charlie and the twins, all looking pale and drawn – and she felt simply overwhelmed.
Molly didn't even notice how a few words were spoken – and all of a sudden she stood in the middle of Dumbledore's Office, human once again.
For one moment there was silence, then the room exploded into cheers. Arthur had tears in his eyes, was holding her as if he never wanted to let go, Lupin kept dabbing at his with a handkerchief, while Tonks had spontaneously thrown her arms around Shacklebolt (who was slowly turning a nice shade of blue).
It took her awhile before she could make out what everybody was saying – her mind was still reeling, bathing in the sensations within. The relief, the… happiness, the feeling of a burden that had all of a sudden dissolved – it was too much to comprehend.
Against all odds she'd survived.
"We've been so frightened. When we hear about the attack … and Arthur had said…"
"Don't you ever scare me like this again! Do you hear me? Never, never again!"
"We knew they couldn't take you down." ,she heard one of the twins say over the noise and couldn't help but chuckle. Trust those two to remain optimistic.
"We'll go and tell Ron and Ginny. They'll be here in a matter of seconds!"
The poor dears must have been sick with worry, Molly couldn't help but thinking. And once again, she began to grasp, just how lucky she had been this night. How close the encounter had been, how…
"… we were all fearing the worst, when we heard there were no survivors and you'd been seen entering but never coming out…"
She saw those other faces, scared, pale and desperate. Young and old alike, women and men – none had ever left the place alive.
A simple shopping trip turned deadly – it were cruel times indeed, when people were whisked away so suddenly. Molly felt tears in her own eyes. Truly, if it hadn't been for the Professor she herself would be dead or worse…
She closed her eyes and swallowed, while letting herself being led over to a huge, comfortable armchair. Somebody pressed a teacup into her stiff hands and she gratefully accepted. When she opened her eyes again, Dumbledore was regarding her with something akin to worry, but the sparkle in his eyes remained.
"If you feel up to it – would you mind sharing with us, what happened?"
"So Snape saved you?", Moody asked, completely bewildered. People were starring at her, faces scrunched up in mixed states of astonishment and confusion as if nobody had expected this to happened. Only Dumbledore smiled – but an ill feeling within Molly's stomach remained.
She herself had never liked the man, but seeing the disbelieving looks of her colleagues she couldn't help but wonder if his disdain of them wasn't justified somewhere. Perhaps there was a reason to his bitterness besides the tales of one old schoolboy grudge.
And then – she closed her eyes, remembering. An attractive vampire, Voldemort's and Malfoy's trust; all that power beneath the tip of his fingers – and the man chose fighting for a cause that didn't offer himself anything. Declined power and immortality for people who were openly hostile, accused him of crimes and…
Horrified, she stopped her train of thought. She herself had felt the attraction of the dark and the mysterious, promising freedom and power beyond imagination.
A shudder wrecked her frame and she shook her head. Looking Moody directly into the eye she said: "He did. And why isn't he here?"
Her sons were blinking at her strangely, wondering if she had perhaps been hit on the head – most present were glad to be out of Snape's presence after all. Alastor even appeared astonished by her question – the order members could be one ungrateful bunch of people, Molly realized.
Tonks was shuffling her feet and Remus, visible ill at ease, declared he was going to fetch the Professor.
"More like brave his temper…", somebody from the back of the room muttered and earned a few barely suppressed chuckles.
Indeed, when Remus re-entered the kitchen following on his heels was a very disgruntled looking Snape, levelling everybody present with one scathing glare – some even took a step backwards or were all of a sudden quite concerned about the pattern of the floor tiles.
Pacing to the other side of the room, whirling around in a flourish of billowing robes and eyeing the small party suspiciously, Snape asked:
"What is it that you want?"
There were some sharp words lurking on the tip of his tongue, only waiting for the right moment to be pronounced, but Dumbledore intervened before verbal bloodshed could begin.
"Why, we only thought you'd like to say something about tonight's events…"
Said the man with sparkling eyes, and was rewarded with one prolonged glare, before the exasperation settled on Snape's features.
He was exhausted, Molly noted, more so than herself. Well, he'd additional duties with teaching and whatever else he was doing – potions research, if she remembered correctly. All that made for little sleep or even leisure time and she couldn't help but frown.
"What exactly do you want to know?", Snape asked and the group lapsed into embarrassed silence. Molly had told quite a detailed tail, but…
Trust Moody to remember all the unanswered questions. All of a sudden, everybody was interested, even Dumbledore watched curiously.
"Mrs. Weasley said they knew you. I'd like to know how."
Snape rolled his eyes, fixing Moody with one particularly sharp glare.
"I fail to see where that concerns you, the ministry or anybody else present – but for the sake of your satisfying that unhealthy obsession with my private life of yours; Miss Borgia is a very, very distant relation…"
And very, very quietly Fred turned to George, stage whispering: "I've always said it."
Molly couldn't deny that it was quite a fascinating subject; but perhaps now was not the right moment to approach it. Snape looked a hair's breath away from losing his temper, fingers clutching his wand tightly beneath the folds of his robes.
Dumbledore managed to prevent Alastor Moody from asking further questions via one subtle comment that had the two men involved in a heated discussing at once. Tonks shot shy glances into Snape's direction, but kept whispering in low, exited tones to Kingsley beside her – none of them possessed the courage to approach the professor directly. She needn't worry about her children – they were more concerned about creating the strangest rumours from a grain of truth. Currently their discussion revolved around the topic if their professor also spent his nights hanging upside down…
All those antics brought a smile to her lips, made her feel warm and at home, yet nothing managed to completely dispel the cold horror of the gone night. Terrified curiosity and awed fascination remained. Voldemort, Vampires, the Dark Arts – there was more to each of them, more than she had imagined, more than anyone in this room considered possible.
This wasn't simply a black against white battle within some dualistic world; that was only the simplified version the ministry told and that children believed. No, for her, the chess pieces had started a revolution, showing shades of grey beneath their white and black cloaks.
Tonight had opened her eyes; left her with many questions she wanted to ask.
But when Molly turned around once more, she found that the professor had already left.
Yep, and that's all.