To Face The Wolf
a Harry Potter - Silmarillion crossover
Disclaimer: I own neither Finrod (who belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien) nor any of Harry Potter characters (who belong to J. K. Rowling). I just put them in my cauldron and stirred them a little.
1. Severus Snape
It was a night of the full moon. At a quarter past eleven, the Hogwarts Potions master entered the dungeon where he kept some of his viler supplies. The dungeon door had no lock, but the supply cabinet was strongly warded and well-protected: if anyone but Snape himself so much as touched it, they would be cursed with itching red hands for forty-eight hours in a row. Thus, trespassers would be unmasked and punished to put the fear of Severus Snape into all and sundry except the Headmaster (who could bypass the wards). After, all, one couldn't be too careful in a castle full of irresponsible dunderheads, and the arrangement had proved effective on several occasions.
Striding to a green cabinet bearing the inscription In Cauda Venenum in letters of glittering silver Snape almost stumbled over a large obstacle. He stopped dead and stared down. There was a body lying at his feet.
The body, draped across the stone floor like some discarded rag, was naked, male and quite badly mauled. Those patches of skin that weren't covered in blood looked dirty and unwashed; the long blonde hair was filthy and tangled. There was blood at the corner of the mouth, too, as if the man had chewed his lip in pain - or maybe he had suffered internal injuries?
For a moment, the Potions Master thought the body belonged to Lucius Malfoy. A dead Lucius. His heart skipped a beat, until he realised it was a stranger who'd had the evil courage to invade the storeroom with his unwanted presence in order to breathe his last -
Except that the stranger didn't seem to be entirely dead. Drawing his wand by way of precaution, Severus knelt down to verify this observation. As so often, he turned out to be correct: the chest was moving, be it barely. Though far from well the invader was alive. The Potions Master found himself gazing at the worst of the wounds, near the collarbone. He touched it briefly with the tip of his wand before aiming it at the stranger's forehead, muttering a spell.
A dimly lit tangle of fur and skin rolling around on a dirt floor. A slavering jaw. Sharp, flashing teeth closing on naked flesh.
He shuddered and shook himself; he knew enough. Resisting the temptation to speak the Avada Kedavra he withdrew his wand and rose to return to the hearth in his living room and to his jar of floo powder.
2. Poppy Pomfrey
'Careful, Albus!' Poppy Pomfrey warned automatically when the Headmaster levitated the injured stranger to the infirmary bed. From the moment she set eyes on those wounds she had feared that even if she'd be able to save his life, it would be a close call. 'One jolt too many and he may die.'
Albus nodded, lowering the body carefully onto the bed. 'You can examine him now, Poppy,' he said.
Poppy stepped closer, filled with apprehension. There was more amiss than met the eye here, as she'd noticed on touching the patient's clammy skin. It wasn't only blood that coursed through his veins, but something else, too. Some kind of venom - or something infectious.
'Those are tooth marks,' remarked Severus Snape, who was standing several feet away and gazing at the patient with a look that was definitely on the wrong side of clinical. 'If you ask me -'
'I noticed the marks, Severus,' Madame Pomfrey said with some asperity. 'I've seen bite wounds before.' Most of them had marred the body of young Remus Lupin after nights of the full moon, more than two decades ago now. But there was no way that she was going to mention him in Snape's presence.
'One wonders,' mused the Potions Master in a silky voice, 'what could have caused those marks. Maybe Lupin could tell us more?' And wouldn't Snape be outrageously happy if it turned out that Remus had finally succumbed to the urges of the wolf, and done the thing that would lead to his destruction? Poppy knew how Snape felt about the wolf.
'Remus has locked himself inside his rooms tonight for reasons we're all aware of, Severus.' The Headmaster's blue gaze turned toward his Potions Master, while Poppy turned her back to Snape to cast some cleaning spells and subject the patient to a thorough examination. 'I am far from sure he will be able to shed much light on this affair, and I doubt that a rampaging werewolf would neatly close the door on his victim.'
Snape scowled; he probably regretted mentioning the closed door. 'Who can tell what Lupin is capable of?'
'Even if he takes the Wolfsbane Potion you are so kind to prepare for him?' Dumbledore wanted to know.
'How do we know he actually takes it?' said Snape, who seemed to be gathering momentum for a bout of ranting. 'So far, he has never done so in my presence!'
Frowning, Poppy tried to concentrate on her work, which was difficult enough without Severus Snape souring the atmosphere behind her back.
'I'll ask him,' she heard the Headmaster reply. 'Once he has transformed back, and has recovered sufficiently to answer my questions.' His voice became slightly more authoritative. 'Apparently you've drawn your conclusions, Severus - but I say that Remus deserves the benefit of the doubt.'
To Poppy's satisfaction, the Potions Master subsided. But her smile dissipated soon. The results of her diagnostic spell were not to her liking. Also, she'd noticed that, in addition to the crusted blood at the corner of his mouth, the patient had dried blood under his fingernails as well - and hairs.
As if he'd been in a fight with something furry.
Suppressing her agitation, she brushed some strands of filth-encrusted hair from the patient's neck and the upturned side of his face to see if there were more wounds hidden underneath. Her hand stopped in mid-motion and she found herself staring at the ear she had just uncovered. Instead of being round, the ear had a pointed tip - somewhat like the ears of a house-elf, though not nearly as large. Peculiar, for otherwise he looked perfectly human.
Oh well, it was probably just a freak of nature, Poppy decided. A minor freak.
She straightened. 'Severus, could you provide me with a universal antidote? Whatever it was that bit him, I suspect it was poisonous, and the venom has entered his bloodstream.'
'You're thinking of werewolf saliva?' Snape's black eyes glittered with a different kind of venom.
'It's too early to tell yet,' Poppy said impatiently. 'Do you have what I need, yes or no?'
'If you would be a little more specific about the... condition you wish to treat, I'd be able to serve you better,' Snape replied, his voice insinuating, 'though if we're dealing with werewolf bites, we all know there's no cure, don't we? If you insist on an universal antidote, though, I'll have to brew it first, which will take some time. And it will be somewhat less effective, as it will have to cover a multitude of afflictions. I shall need twenty-four hours.'
As Poppy doubted he spoke the truth she looked at the Headmaster, but he didn't give Snape the lie, and it didn't really matter anyway, if her diagnosis was correct. At last she said: 'Then bring us what you have.' As long as you leave NOW.
The Potions Master turned back to Albus Dumbledore. 'You may want to use legilimency on this stranger, Headmaster.'
'Rest assured that I'll do everything within my power to shed light on this matter, Severus,' said the Headmaster in a tone of finality.
Snape swept away.
When he had left, Poppy took a deep breath and said. 'I'm afraid, Professor Dumbledore, that we may have a werewolf infection on our hands, however much I'd like to deny that the patterns of these tooth marks remind me of werewolf bites, and however much I want Severus to be wrong. I've just seen to many of those injuries while Remus was a student here.'
Dumbledore sighed. 'Though I do not doubt your diagnostic qualities, Poppy, I do hope you are mistaken. It's a fortunate coincidence there are no students in the infirmary tonight, for under the circumstanstances it is better to keep the presence of this stranger a secret.'
3. Remus Lupin
'I assure you, Albus, that I took several doses of the Wolfsbane Potion during the days preceding the full moon; I've been doing so since you appointed me as a teacher here. I never left my rooms last night; at some point I even fell asleep on the hearthrug, only waking up when I transformed back.' Remus Lupin cast Albus Dumbledore a resigned glance. 'Unfortunately, I can't prove this, for lack of any witnesses. I suppose it doesn't help to claim there's no way I could have handled a door that opens outward.' It was rather difficult to disprove what you hadn't done.
Albus Dumbledore sighed, and Remus understood why. The benefit of the doubt was more than most others would grant a werewolf. Without it, he'd never have been appointed as a teacher at Hogwarts. However, under the circumstances he had no right to expect an immediate declaration of unqualified trust from the wizard who was responsible for the wellbeing of the entire student population. And it isn't as if I'm entirely trustworthy, Remus had to admit to himself.
He hated to feel so tired. As always, the monthly transformation had demanded its toll. But right now this was a minor concern; his very life could be at stake here. 'Do you want to interrogate me while I'm under Veritaserum?' he asked when the silence started to get on his nerves. Not that he was eager to do so, but the chances the Headmaster would ask any fatal questions concerning the escaped Sirius Black were slim enough to accept the risk.
Dumbledore shook his head. 'Not yet. We will wait and see what happens to our patient during the next full moon.' His eyes found their twinkle back. 'Let's remain optimistic. Maybe Poppy's suspicions will turn out to be wrong.'
Remus wondered whom it was the Headmaster was trying to fool; if anyone was able to recognise a wound caused by werewolf teeth, it was Madame Pomfrey. But all he said was: 'So the patient is going to survive?'
'Things look better than they did last night, I'm told. Severus was kind enough to bring us several of his potions. Poppy managed to make him drink something, and it seems to be helping,' replied Professor Dumbledore.
How co-operative. Severus must be absolutely convinced it was me. He's probably dying to see me accused. A dangerous desire, for the Potions Master was perfectly capable of deciding that the victim's memory needed some aid. For obvious reasons identifying the werewolf who bit you was notoriously difficult. Suddenly he imagined a werewolf in the witness stand, under the influence of the Wolfsbane Potion and supervised by Severus Snape, pointing a shaggy paw at the equally wolfish defendant. He coughed to hide a nervous chuckle and asked: 'Can I see him? I need to visit the infirmary for a check-up anyway.'
'I don't see why not.' The Headmaster rose. 'You won't do anything rash, will you, Remus - like leaving Hogwarts?'
'Of course not,' Remus replied somewhat stiffly, pushing the resentment back into the undesirable emotions compartment. From the thin lips of Severus Snape such a question would have been an insult, but Dumbledore's face showed only benign and genuine concern - for which a werewolf with a guilty conscience ought to be grateful. Good intentions must be allowed to make up for a slight lack of tact.
It was a quarter to twelve when he entered the infirmary. Madam Pomfrey's examination yielded nothing that wasn't to be expected after a transformation. She prescribed more rest and the extra bar of chocolate Remus would have allowed himself regardless of her advice, and he thanked her kindly. Then he broached the subject of the possible werewolf victim occupying a bed in the staff section of the infirmary.
At that, her gaze became somewhat evasive, as if she didn't really want to establish a connection between the resident werewolf and her unknown patient. When Remus took out his wand and tried to hand it to her to prove that his motives were harmless, she waved it away. 'It's just that... it could be painful for you... and we don't know yet if he's infected...'
Remus smiled. 'I won't break down, Poppy,' he reassured her. 'I'm not as frail as I look - as you ought to know.' He put his wand away. 'Can I go in? I'm really curious to see him.'
She nodded, still looking troubled. 'But don't touch him, and don't wake him. He'll pull through, I think, but he's still weak.'
So much was obvious. The victim was stretched out in the infirmary bed, pale as his own sheets. Alabaster, Remus thought, even though it wasn't like him to think in stereotypes. The part of the shoulder bandage visible above the covers was pink, though, so he was probably still bleeding a little. His breathing was regular.
Remus sat down on a stool beside the bed to observe the still, white face. It was surrounded by long, golden hair, neatly combed as if the owner had died and was laid out for burial. Apart from a scratch across one cheek the face was unharmed. And despite the scratch it was fascinatingly beautiful, like the classical sculpture of an immortal god - which was, of course, merely another stereotype. Who was this? What had happened to him?
I did take the Wolfsbane Potion, Remus reassured himself. I'd stake my life on it.
He flinched. His life was worth less than a knut if the potion hadn't worked properly. How could he be sure he remembered everything he had done last night? Without that potion he was unable to remember the nights he spent as a werewolf. What if Snape had made a mistake, or worse, had deliberately tampered with it? If he has, I'll kill him before I kill myself. He hoped he could bring himself to do it.
He squeezed his eyes shut. It was illogical. Ludicrous. Not even Severus Snape would endanger a school full of children to get back at an old enemy. And yet -
Voices in the main room of the infirmary made him look up.