Chapter Eleven: Dark Wolf
To say he was furious would be one of the biggest understatements of the last three centuries at least. One week ago there had been what could only be described as a slaughter in the House of Commons with that thing Potter had told him was called the Dark Mark left hanging over the building. That wasn't what had angered him however. In fact it had made his life that bit easier without those interfering idiots around. It had been the message that had been left there, crudely scrawled across the wall in blood that had been the start of his fury.
For every one of us that falls, so shall a thousand of you.
Courtesy of Lord Voldemort.
P.S. Sorry about the blood, I didn't have a pen and paper handy.
That was all he needed, a psychopath with a sense of humour. And a psychopath who had been working rather diligently at making good on his threat. So far the death toll rang at four thousand three hundred and seventy two and it was climbing by the day. It was mainly personnel from the armed forces and civil servants, though there had been a few civilians as well. Every murder had been found underneath one of those skull and snake apparitions and it was starting to irritate the hell out of him.
The worst thing however, was that if any of his magic combat units managed to catch up with one of these so called Death Eaters (Gods what a ridiculous name, you could tell this Voldemort had been twelve when he came up with the basics for his campaign), the witch or wizards magic would be completely unaffected. He had seen some CCTV footage of one of the fights. Twelve of his men against one witch with quite mad long black hair. She had seemed to be quite enjoying herself as she sliced, diced, combusted and otherwise wreaked havoc. There had been one more interesting point about the fight. At one point she had unleashed a flash of green light that seemed to kill instantly. It was a spell he had never seen or heard of before and that worried him. If a freak like her could kill with a single, clean blow, it meant they were being purposefully messy every where else. No doubt to create panic. He would have to write to Potter and ask if he recognised the spell or the woman. The boy was turning out to be a rather useful source of information.
Severus had been restlessly pacing for almost half an hour as Hermione practiced the four spells he had shown her. They were surprisingly benign for Dark Magic. More protective than something used to inflict damage. Thankfully the rest of the houses inhabitants had found out about her second apprenticeship and none of them really seemed to care given the circumstances. Over all people seemed to think the more spells you knew, the more likely you could find one that could affect the muggles who were trying and, for the most part, failing to hunt them down. It seemed that while they knew about the Salldren and the Wizarding world, they didn't know how to locate the people they belonged to. At least not efficiently. They had found a few of the more active Death Eaters, but they had never managed to capture any of them. Or kill them.
Her wand made a complicated zig zagging pattern, leaving a trail of lilac light in its wake. Yet still he paced. She knew why. Tonight was the night before the full moon. The night his shape would change for the first time. He was nervous. Nightshade kept growling and snapping at who ever tried to talk to him. Not out of savagery. More out of fear for what would happen soon. He was acting more like a terrified cornered animal than any of them wanted to admit. And he had been muttering about something not feeling right. Something being out of balance.
The light brightened slightly, then faded. As it had every time she had tried to cast the spell. It wasn't often Hermione came across a spell she had trouble with. This one however simply refused to cooperate. She turned her eyes to Severus. He was still pacing, his eyes fixed to the floor in a sort of half glare she had come to associate with worry. He hadn't even noticed her failed attempt, which wasn't like him at all. Over the last week he had been swift to point out what she had done wrong and reset her course to better effects.
With a heavy sigh, Hermione pocketed her wand and turned to watch the Dark Wolf. She had no idea what to do to ease him. Remus had spoken with him yesterday. It had done nothing for his nerves. Severus had been twitchy and distracted ever since. But the more she watched him the less nervous he seemed. It was another emotion that had brought about this behaviour.
He was afraid of what would be happening soon. In only an hour and a half in fact. She couldn't blame him. She would be terrified if she was about to become a savage wolf for the first time. Yet how to go about comforting him? Or at least trying to.
Almost nervously, Hermione took a few steps closer to the path of Severus Snape and waited for him to stride towards her. Before he could pass her, she grabbed his shoulder and he stopped, looking at her with a raised eyebrow. She wasn't going to lie and say everything will be alright. Truth be told she had no idea what to say. So she didn't say anything.
Instead she threw her arms around his neck and pulled him close to her. He stiffened instantly but she refused to let go and flooded her connection to Nightshade with caring and warmth. Hoping that it reached Severus as well. Hesitantly, his arms came up to wrap around her tightly. She could feel his arms shaking even as he pulled her as close as he could, burying his face in her shoulder. Now they were so close she could feel the fear rippling not only from Nightshade who had been actively trying not to let her feel it, but from Severus as well.
"I'll brew some healing potions," Hermione said softly, not relinquishing her hold on him. "Should I go by the book or use my instincts?" He didn't reply for a while, but his body had slackened and he was leaning against her more fully.
"Use your instincts," he mumbled into her blouse. "I trust you." It was wrong. Severus didn't mumble unless he was saying an insult under his breath. Mumbling was far too meek a mannerism for Severus. Frowning, she held him all the more tightly. She no idea how long they stood there like that, with the hug being close to bruising, but at some point Hermione felt Severus start to play with her hair. It seemed like he was reluctant to release her. Perhaps he wasn't used to people trying to comfort him or perhaps he was just glad for any distraction at that point of time. Hermione certainly didn't mind the closeness of that moment. The only part of it she could place any regret on was its cause.
She didn't know how long they stood there like that, neither particularly willing to let go of the other, but she could feel the reluctance with which Severus first began to pull away. A reluctance that halted him once their eyes met, with their arms still wrapped around each other and their faces a mere inch apart. She could feel his breath tickling her lips as his blue-black eyes, half closed as they were, stared into her own. Looking as captivated as she felt. For some reason Hermione found her breath quickening. Something intoxicatingly heady made everything outside of Severus's face blur and swim, but it didn't matter. All she needed to focus on was him. She felt her mouth dry out as he tilted his head slightly and was surprised to find that she had tilted hers as well. Then he was moving closer. Slowly, hesitantly and painfully so on both count.
A violent tremor ripped through Severus, tearing him out of her arms. He stumbled away, doubling over and breathing harshly. His eyes turned to her, panicked, afraid.
"I have to go," he gasped before running from the room half crouched.
Pushing off from the wall he had crashed into with his shoulder, he took the stairs two at a time. His heart pounding like a beating bass drum in his chest and every breath pulling fire into his lungs. His vision sharpened to an agonising level that made his eyes burn. The scent of humans overwhelmed his sense of smell. Prey, something foul within him growled.
There was a sickening shifting sensation in his mouth, a dull ach a thousand times more intense and twisted than he had experienced at the home of the Salldren. His newly pointed teeth nicking his thinning tongue as the door to the attic came into view. Safety. Not for him, but for Hermione. His feet began to ach, feeling as though they were crushed and stretched all at once. He grabbed hold of the handle just in time to see his nails thicken and blacken. Kicking his shoes off he threw open the door and flung himself into the bare room beyond.
The door slammed shut behind him. The walls, ceiling and floor began to glow as he scrambled to undo his shirt, the collar choking his thickening neck, but his fingers were getting shorter. A low half growl half scream tore from his throat as his entire lower face, from just under his eyes right down to his jaw extended as though being pulled out. His nose and lower lip becoming near indistinguishable.
Attempting a single step had him falling to the floor. The sound of creaking and scraping bones shrieking in his ears even as they were pulled to points. He felt his feet be stretched even as his lower legs were crushed shorter. The collar of his shirt burst open, closely followed by the rest of his buttons as his bulk expanded. The ripping of fabric joined the screech of his bones and he watched in horror as thick, dense black fur began to sprout from his skin.
Agony didn't come close to describing the fire of pain that washed through his entire body as his joins were shattered and reformed. His limbed lengthen or forced ever shorter. His throat burned even as he began to cry out in pain, reconstructing his very voice box as Severus felt his consciousness draw away into himself.
Hermione collapsed to the floor of the makeshift lab. On her knees she clamped her hands over her ears, knowing it wouldn't block out the fear, the horror the sheer agony that radiated towards her. On a physical level it left her completely unaffected. On a mental level it tore her apart. "Stop it," she murmured quietly to herself as she squeezed her eyes shut. But that only sharpened her mind to the sensory onslaught. "Please stop it."
Long before his arms wrapped around her, Draco's mind was there. Trying in vain to soothe her. Wrapping her in warmth, in happy memories. Then he was a physical presence. Gently rocking her as he stroked her hair and whispered soft words to her. It didn't work. Still there was pain. Pain on a level that left cuciatus curse for dust on the starting line. Pain that buzzed at every nerve ending like a swarm of angry wasps refusing to stop their attack. Pain that burned with fire, reducing everything to cinders yet still destroying. No comforting whisper could bring her away from her awareness of such a horror. No calming rocking sway her from knowing every gram of the atrocity.
A scream echoed through the house, though if she heard it with her mind or her ears she couldn't say. But it didn't stay a scream or long, soon it was an animalistic howl of pain.
Then, as soon as it had started, it stopped. There was no pain, there was no horror. There was only absolute silence with Hermione limp in Draco's arms, panting heavily and her brow misted with sweat. The silence didn't last.
Another howl found her ears. Yet this was no howl of pain. This was a howl of power, of dominance. And in that howl Hermione heard words.
Panting, he lay on his side surrounded by scraps of cloth. He blinked once, twice, and then climbed shakily to his paws. A single tremor rippled through his large strong body. Stillness swept over him as he felt the ecstasy of absolute control trill through his body, his body, after a near month of imprisonment. A joyous snarl came to his lips and, taking a deep breath; he threw his head back and howled out his declaration.
"I am LABURNUM!"
Look around. Look around. Must escape. Can scent humans. The door. The door did not glow. In an instant he rushed at it, his four padded paws pounding against the wooden floor. Saliva flying from his wide open mouth as he loudly snarled. He jumped. Front paws slamming into the wood. Claws scraping downwards. No mark. NO MARK! Must escape. Must KILL!
Again and again. Against the door. Slam it. Bite at it. Bite at shiny metal. Turn to open. Won't open. Slam again. Claws. Use claws. It gives. But still no mark. Claws again. Try again! Humans past door. HUMANS! The filth. The weak ones. Want to rip. Want to tear. Want to . . . taste.
New attack. NEW ATTACK! Destroy door. Destroy it. . . Claws again. Don't work. Don't make wood splinter. Slam! Slam it. With head. Now with body. With body. FASTER! Harder. Pads away. As far as can. RUNS! Door doesn't give. Why doesn't it give? Why doesn't it DIE! Need to kill. Wants to kill. MUST kill.
Anger. Anger. ATTACK! Bite at it! Bite! To taste blood must bite. . . Claws. BACK CLAWS! On chest. Dig. Dig for blood. Dig for meat. Smell it. SMELL IT! Not human. BITE AGAIN! Rip. TEAR! Destroy. Humans weak. Humans to bite. Humans to kill. Humans to rip. Pain. PAIN! Keep digging. Keep digging. All claws. Use ALL CLAWS!
Something rough and wet lapped at his cheek as Severus forced his eyes open. Blearily he turned to look up at the dark shape by his head. He felt and uneven ground beneath him. So he was lying down then? A whimper sounded from the dark shape and it nudged him, feeling cold and damp. Expect the whimper had a word. It didn't sound like English to him. More he simply understood. "Alpha?" Yet in that understanding was a familiarity almost like recognising a voice.
"Nightshade?" Slowly, his vision began to un-fog. The dark shape became more defined. It sharpened. A wolf? Strongly built with thick black fur and eyes like his own. The only break in the black being the small white patches under its eyes. He reached up and laid his hand against to wolf's face, burying his fingers in the soft fur. Nightshade leaned into the touch and liked his wrist. He wasn't a small wolf, but nor was he of massive proportions. He was large, yes, but only as large a normal wolf could hoe to be.
Taking his hand from the wolf, Severus pushed up to his feet and took in his surroundings. Finding himself in a forest deprived of all colour. Instead black, grey and white in their various shades showed the trees and fallen leaves. The light that sliced through the canopy above was silvery and as sharp as a blade. "Where are we?"
"My home Alpha," the wolf told him. "This is the part of you I live in. You must come here when the moon is full."
"But if we're both here, then who has control of our body?" The wolf gave a wordless whimper and knocked his head against Severus' leg. "Perhaps there was another part," he continued, reaching down to pet at Nightshade's head, scratching with nails he only just realised had lengthened to claws. "One that was buried deeper. It would explain why neither of us knew about it and why we would be so violent on the full moon."
"Laburnum." This time the sound was a vicious snarl.
"Laburnum. The other. I can hear what he hears. I know how this place and the link works, how to contact the body's mind. He howled his name."
"Another poisonous plant," Severus found himself mumbling. Out of curiosity he ran his tongue along the bottom of his teeth ad sighed when he found fangs. So this place gave the fragments of him their true shape. Nightshade a wolf and himself a vampire. What then, was this Laburnum? "Do you know what he's doing?" The wolf gave a whimper and tried to move closer to his hand without knocking it away.
"Trying to break through the door you sealed. He's mad. Absolutely insane." He paused for a moment then gave a low whine. "I can't reach Alpha Female."
"Can he?" Panic gripped his heart. He didn't want Hermione getting dragged in to this. She had been through enough without an insane thing latching onto her mind.
"I don't know."
"Is there any wa-" Pain slashed through his right leg, sending him crashing to the ground with a gasp. Nightshade let out a yelp and dashed to his side. Sniffing at his leg.
"No blood," the wolf whimpered in confusion and worry. "He's attacking himself." A cry ripped from Severus' throat as fire seemed to slice like razors across his stomach and chest. Panting, he collapsed. He had neither the will nor the energy to hold himself up in even the slightest way.
Through the haze of pain he realised Nightshade had lain beside him, as close to him as possible with his wolf's body pressed against Severus' vampire one. His arm trembling, he reached over the wolf to hold it tight, burying his face in its fur, taking the comfort offered to him.
Worry saw to it that Draco's brow was creased. He sat in the corner of the lab watching Hermione as she sliced some sort of tuber so finely the slivers she created were almost transparent. As usual she had her mp3 player on to block out all distractions. Only this time it was on so loud he could hear the music, almost enough to pick out the words. Yet he knew she hadn't managed to block out what she had been trying to.
Through her, he had an awareness of what Snape was going through, the pain he was inflicting upon himself. But compared to Hermione's ocean of feeling, agony and ravings, his knowledge amounted to a mere drop. He had had a quick glimpse of the full level of what was happening and knew that she felt exactly what Snape was going through. She felt the hot trickle of blood from his self inflicted wounds, she heard every insane growl and she was there to experience the frenzy of this new part of Snape.
Laburnum it had called itself according to Hermione, who, being a potions apprentice, had known exactly where the name had come from. "The full Latin name is Laburnum anagyroives," she had said once she calmed down. "It's a tree that has yellow flowers and every bit of it is poisonous but it takes quite a while to kill the consumer through its symptoms."
"Which are?" he had asked with not so subtle reluctance.
"Coma, intense sleeplessness, vomiting, convulsions, frothing at the mouth and unequally dilated pupils. It isn't a pleasant way to die, especially considering how long someone would have to ingest it before they actually did die. Though it seems odd that Nightshade is the more gentle of the personalities and yet the plant is a more potent poison. Then again nightshade offers a quicker, far less violent death than laburnum."
"What about nightshade? What does that do?"
"Hyper excitement quickly followed by death. As I said, faster and less violent."
Draco couldn't help but wonder what the choice of names of the two broken away fragments of him said about the Potions Master. Both had picked poisonous plants to go by. Did the attributes of the poisons match the attributes of the two different wolves? Laburnum, slow and violent. Violent most definitely, he wasn't so sure about slow though. From what he heard through Hermione it seemed more likely he would quickly tear anyone limb from limb or rip out their throat. Nightshade, fast and no where near as violent. He wasn't sure about either of those attributes fitting the calmer wolf. Draco had spoken to him a few times and he had been more overprotective and mild mannered than anything else. He certainly couldn't picture that wolf as being any sort of killer unless he had no other choice or someone he cared about was in danger.
Hermione was stood by the softly bubbling cauldron now, holding a bowl with the tuber slices in and her fingers coated in some flour like powder. With great care she picked out one of the slivers and slowly lowered it into the cauldron. He heard the bubble increase, as though the mixture had been put onto a rapid boil. One by one she added the tuber slices. A sweet scent began to cloy the air in the room, becoming sweeter and sweeter with every added slice until finally, as the last slice was slowly lowered into the bubbling brew, the sweetness crossed the border into a scent that was sickly. She then used a pale, almost white, wooden stirring rod and began to mix the concoction in a pattern that was bewildering to watch. Before quickly removing her instrument to wipe it clean using a greying rag.
He had never seen anyone, bar Snape, brew anything as complex as this potion. Everything was about timing, pattern and perfect rhythm. Yet even with the complexity of this potion he knew she was no where near the level of a Potions Mistress. Though to Draco the gap between practitioner and apprentice had never looked clearer to him than it did now. She had been an apprentice for less than two weeks and yet she had already improved more than most people could hope to between first and seventh year.
Wiping her damp brow with the back of her arm, Hermione used her wand to turn the heat down on the cauldron then moved back to her work bench to collect long sprigs of some sort of dried budded herb that she had tied to thin wires. The wires had weights on each end with as many of the sprigs tied to them between as she could have managed. With a sigh, she lowered the first set of sprigs into the cauldron with the weights hanging down to keep the wire taught over the vessel's brim. She had made about twenty of the sprig wires and somehow she managed to get everyone to fit over the cauldron with the budding parts of the dried herb submerged in the potion.
This was the first time he had seen her work so diligently and so quickly. Hermione worked over hard. That was a simple fact that everyone who knew of her was well aware of. And it showed in her grades in every subject she did. But this was more than over hard. This was utterly absorbed. She was drowning herself in her work in a desperate bid to block out Laburnum and in the most likely false hopes that these potions would be able to heal Snape's wounds.
After ten minutes she removed the first wire of springs and, using her bare hand, stripped the buds now fat and squidgey looking into to a large black marble mortar and began to grind them into a pulp with a matching pestle.
She had heard what he looked like when he came back from Death Eater meeting having fallen foul of Voldemort. Shaky and unsteady but in otherwise good condition. Now though, as Severus slowly limped down the stairs covered in his own overly rich and dark blood, Hermione found herself wishing she had seen him on those occasions if only to prepare herself for this. He was wearing the loose white shirt and black trousers he had stored in the room before he had changes, though the white shirt was clinging to his front and to the entire length of his for arms with thick, dark crimson. He was bracing himself against the wall with his hand, his arm out straight and level with his shoulder as he leaned against it. Blood welled at his wrist before dripping like red syrup to the stairs.
That was all the invitation she needed. Hermione ran to him. He looked to her with half closed eyes as she wedged herself under his arm and wrapped her own around his blood free back, her hand holding onto his waist, blessing it with his blood. "You don't . . . have to do this." She ignored him. Taking his hand from the wall and insuring his arm was well placed over her shoulder. She couldn't hold onto his arm because of the wounds hiding beneath his shirt, so she held onto his hand to hold him in place instead and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
He leaned against her, obviously exhausted, and allowed her to guide him. She only hoped she had made enough of the salves and gathered enough bandages. She would go back and clean his blood from the floor once she had seen to him. Eventually they reached his room and she helped him onto the wooden chair by his desk. She had piled all of the salves, poultices and bandages on the desk, her logic being the less Severus had to move the better. "You can go now," he murmured, sill not fully opening his eyes and breathless from the short journey. "I'll do the rest myself."
"Don't be absurd. Get your shirt off."
"What?" Oh Merlin, he didn't even have the energy to sound properly offended or shocked.
"You aren't in a fit state to do anything yourself at the moment, not to mention you don't know the strength of any of this," she told him briskly, gesturing to the healing paraphernalia piled on his desk. Trying to stay impersonal to save his dignity in his own eyes. Oddly enough, he complied without further argument and that scared her far more than any amount of blood seeping from him ever could. He wasn't supposed to agree, at least not until he had exhausted every argument available to him. He even let her help him remove his shirt when it became apparent he was having difficulty with it.
"Merlin." There had been something oddly detached about him wearing a bloody shirt. Now with the offending garment on the floor the reality of his injuries hit her like a blow to the stomach.
To say they were horrific would be an understatement. His chest stomach neck and under his chin seemed to be little more than pulped bloody meat. The savage carcass of some dead animal. Except he was still bleeding and the dead didn't bleed. His blood welled in time with his pulse and she knew any one else would be long dead. In three places on what was left of his chest she could see the white of bone. His arms hadn't fared much better. From the elbow down to the wrist they had been gnawed at mercilessly, though at parts there were defined teeth mark, at others there was the same deep welts and unrecognisable red flesh. The bone showed more clearly there and in larger patches. These weren't all of his injuries. She knew his right ankle had suffered a similar fate and she would need to see to that as well.
He was leaning forward slightly, still breathing harshly. A drop of blood was gathering on his chin as Hermione took up her wand to clean him up one bit at a time so she could apply the salve. She gave an involuntary wince as the blood dripped down from his chin in a long flow to land on his trousers and seep into the fabric. Still, his chin wasn't the worst part. Again she took hold of his hand and with a silent spell got rid of the blood on his wrist. "This might sting a bit," she told him softly as she laid her wand aside to take up one of the bowls of pale yellow salve.
He didn't reply. Not did he react when she began to gently apply the thick, cream like salve. She used it generously, using her fingers to spread the cool balm and ensure it got into every crevice of his extensive wound. It took her a while to clean up and smother the whole of his lower arm, about fifteen minutes most likely. The she took up a role of clean cotton bandage. Starting once again at his wrist, she wound the rough material around his arm and fastened it in place once she had covered the wounds there. His other arm didn't take quite as long but the amount of bone of display deeply unnerved her. Would he scar from this, she wondered.
"Lean back." Again he did as he was told and leaned back against the wooded chair. This part would be more difficult and take much longer. Perhaps it would be best to start at the top? At least that was the blood wouldn't seep down into the bandages. A sigh escaped her as she decided that Severus' chin would be the best place to start. This certainly hadn't been in the job description for becoming his apprentice, but regardless of that she refused to let anyone else near him.
Again she started by cleaning up a small part of him and since under his chin was a small part of him she cleaned it all at once. The salve was trickier to apply in that area, but she was getting the hang of it and soon she was taping one of those square bandages in place. The rest of him was more difficult, not for the cleaning or the application of the salve, but for the bandaging. The neck was inherently awkward, as was most of his chest, but she managed and soon moved onto his ankle.
The wound there wasn't any where near as bad as his others, most likely because Laburnum had decided it was better to use his back legs to injure himself rather than to injure them. Unlike the rest of him, the bites there were well defined and obviously canine. It didn't take her long to see to that wound and soon she was rolling his trouser leg back down. Frowning, Hermione rose to her feet and cast her eye over Severus. His eyes were still half close in exhaustion and his head was nodding. Not only that, but his arms were hanging limply by his sides. He almost looked pathetic to tell the truth. Not at all the domineering proud man she knew he was. The bandages didn't help either. That made him look as though someone had started to mummify him but got bored half way through.
Shaking her head, she started to help him back to his feet. "Come on, let's get you into bed. You need some rest." Again he gave no protest and willingly limped over to the bed with her. He didn't even kick up a fuss when she helped him lay down on top of the covers, though he did shift so that he was lying on his side. In fact he didn't react at all.
At least not until she moved to leave him. Hs hand snatched her wrist faster than she though he would ever be able to move in the state he was in and looked up to her with heavy dark eyes. "Will you stay," he murmured. Tiredness clear in his voice. "Just until I fall asleep." She didn't move. She didn't speak. What on Earth was she meant to say to that? "Please." Severus Snape saying please? She could exactly say no to that. Biting her lip, she gave a slight nod and he relaxed his grip on her wrist. It was then that Hermione surprised herself.
She lay on the small bed next to him. Also on her side so she could face him. With all of his injuries there was no way she could lay her arm over him or place her head on his shoulder. He seemed to know what she was thinking though as he reached out and took her hand in his. It had been a long three days. Severus hadn't been the only one not to sleep. Hermione hadn't been able to either. And the bed was comfortable. As was the grip Severus had on her hand. Or was that reassuring. She could feel his eyes on her, yet she didn't care. And she was so very tired. So was it really any surprise that her eyes slipped closed and her mind slipped away?
A/N Sorry for the wait, I've been more busy than I thought I would be. The editing is still in progress, but it's getting there.
Anyway, thank you to killing u with umbrellas, F75, Silverstar's Shadow, poodlehair92, teddy240b, Nadrek, Pinkwafflegirl and Professor.Bat for being kind enough to review for me. I really appreciate the input and it's always nice to hear from people who've read my story.
So, anyone like Laburnum?