Chapter Seven 

The First Path 

By Raven Dancer

rating: PG

disclaimer:  All characters belong to J.K. Rowling except for the Drs. Barnes.  I receive no monetary compensation for these works.

Summary: The first path...

The move to Dumbledore's rooms went without notice.  It was Saturday night and most people took advantage of a late dinner to socialize.  Ravenclaw was busily celebrating their win over Hufflepuff;  Hufflepuff being Hufflepuff had joined them.

Snape didn't eat again until the next day, he was so successful at shutting everything out he slept and slept and then slept longer.  Lupin had returned to his own quarters for the night and returned the next to check in and report he was going to inventory the potions in the dungeons before lunch.  

They both attempted to wake him later on in the morning.

"Do you think this could be a timed hex?" Lupin asked.

Dumbledore shook his head slowly.

"I don't know, Remus.  Could be.  He could just be physically


"Maybe we should contact a healer in Hogsmeade," Lupin suggested.  Dumbledore's sharp eyes flicked over him.  He was not too keen on letting outsiders into his small sanctuary.  Then again, he wasn't too keen on Snape reenacting Rip Van Winkle.  The last curse had been quite complicated;  nearly impossible for him to find until it had actually began to eat away at the Potions Master.

"Convince me over lunch," he finally relented.  "Harry was going

to stop in.  He'll sit for us."

Lupin smiled.  "How much do babysitters make now a days?"

Waking once again was an interesting experience.  

Softer.  Definitely softer.  Airy.

He could feel a breeze playing across his face, stirring the hair on his cheek.  Early spring, cool and fragrant breeze.

Snuggling into the warmth he delighted in the contrasts.  The only negative he could pinpoint was his rumbling stomach.  A new scent warmed the breeze, fresh bread.  His stomach's grouching became louder.

"Professor Snape?"

Hmmm.  Not Lupin nor Albus.  A student?  

"Harry?"  he queried and opened his eyes.

"Good morning, professor!" the pleasant voice chirped.

Snape raised an eyebrow and focused.

"You've gone very formal on me, Potter.  Have I been a bigger

ass than usual?"

The young man laughed.

Oh, no, Severus!  You've just been verge of waking for the

past forty minutes or so.  You hadn't responded to anything

before that!"

Snape grunted in understanding and slowly rolled over onto his back.  The breeze continued to tease his warmer skin.  He looked about.  Albus's bedroom, of course.  He'd slept here on a few other occasions.  None of them because of pleasant memories.  Although waking here was always wonderful. 

They were the only times he could really remember feeling totally safe.

Harry moved to the edge of the bed.

"I think you're hungry in any event.  Your stomach was so

loud Dobby heard it.  He's brought up a nice luncheon for us."

"Am I allowed out of bed?"

"Why not?"  Harry chuckled.  "I'm just suppose to make sure

you don't over-exert yourself.  I doubt eating lunch will do that."

"Cheeky brat" Snape groused and slowly sat up.

He then bent forward, dizzy, closing his eyes.   Harry placed a hand on his shoulders to steady him.

"Remus said to be careful because you haven't eaten much

and you might be disoriented."

Snape snorted inelegantly.  With help the warm covers were tossed aside and he swung his legs out of bed.  Slippers appeared, complete with house elf.

"Professor Snape is awake?  Professor Snape is hungry?"

Professor Snape jerked abruptly, deja vu, as the elf smiled confidently at his knee.

"Washroom, please," he managed and the elf cackled while it put the slippers on the correct feet.  Harry stood and helped him stand (with a fair amount of pulling on his part) then walked him into the lavatory, sitting on the edge of the tub while Snape gave him an evil glare.  Nonplused, Harry waited and then helped with the washing up when Snape couldn't quite manage.

A robe was shrugged on fiand loosely belted.  Finally the Potions Master approached lunch.  They sat at corners, Harry poured out tea and began to hold serving dishes for his fussy companion.  Snape quickly grew frustrated with his weakness.

"Did either Albus or Remus have any reasons why I should still 

be as weak as a bloody kitten?" Snape hissed out then cursed emphatically when his fork dropped again.  Harry's eyes widen slightly but he put the fork back by Snape's hand.

"Uh, they mentioned something about that, Severus.  The

Headmaster thinks he's missed a hex.  But neither he nor Remus

are full healers so Remus is trying to have him send for a healer

from the clinic in Hogsmeade."

Snape lowered his head.

"Oh, joy," he whined pathetically.  Harry allowed him a moment of self-pity then pulled on his sleeve.

"Severus!" he chastised, "eat.  It's better to go with someone

outside.  Anyone but Pomfrey!  Just trust me on that."

He busied himself with his tea refusing to meet Snape's eyes when he lifted his head.

"A point to consider," Snape allowed softly.

"And," Harry shook a forkful of cold curried chicken salad under his nose, "Dumbledore will be checking it all out.  You'll be fine."

He pushed the salad into Snape's mouth and let loose.  Snape took hold of it and removed the metal part chewing thoughtfully.

"A second valid point," he said then focused fully on his plate.

"Where's the curry?" he asked, then spied it on Harry's plate and quickly stabbed another mouthful.  Chuckling, Harry moved the curry closer to him and let him eat quietly for awhile.  He was very hungry and plowed through his plate as though it would disappear.  Harry kept nudging different oddments closer so he'd eat enough.  

Dobby returned, nodding happily as he checked plates, removing most dishes and replacing them with desserts and a fresh pot of blackberry tea.  Snape sighed happily as he sipped at the sweet fruity drink and looked over the caloric choices.  He settled on fresh berries with a thick sweet whipped cream, licking the spoon decadently as he went.

Harry continued to eat, kept the tea mug filled, noted how the man was getting more and more sleepy as he ate.  He deftly snagged the spoon from his hand as his head dipped and quickly jerked up.

"I don't know why I'm so tired," Snape said by way of apology.

"Eating is hard work," Harry said seriously.

Snape regarded him a moment, wondering sluggishly if he were teasing him or placating him.  But the lethargy creeping over him made it impossible to care.  Even if he could take points from Gryffindor for the act.

"Think I'll take a small nap," he announced.  

"Let's get you on to the couch, then, Severus."  He readily agreed and let the young man help him up and walk him to the couch.  The robe was removed and he felt himself lowered onto the cushions, hair smoothed back from his face and a pillow put under his head.  A couple warm, knitted afghans were tucked around him and he reached out to hold onto Harry's hand.

"I'm just so sleepy, Harry.  I ... don't ... understand ..."

And that was it for Snape.  He was deeply asleep and limp in a moment.   At least his breathing was normal, neither shallow or struggling.  His heartbeat felt strong enough under Harry's hand and his energy levels, although low, were acceptable in any case.

Dobby began cleaning the table and Harry stood to ask him to leave the tea and sweets when the sneak-o-scope on Dumbledore's mantle began spinning and whistling madly.  Dobby dropped the dishes and looked about madly as another scope-like object began spinning and shrieking.  Afraid, Harry pulled his wand out and back into the couch, looking around the room.

In the great hall Lupin tossed his napkin down in mock anger.  

"Headmaster!  You aren't listening to a word I'm saying!"  The man in question smirked.

"I have, Professor.  I just wish to wait and see if our sleeping

beauty has woke on his own first.  I still think he might just be..

.. tired..." voice trailing off Dumbledore watched a flight of owls tear through the hall hooting loudly.

"Strange, they usually come at breakfast..."  Lupin began.

Dumbledore sprang up 

"Remus! move it!" and bolted out of the room.  Age certainly meant nothing for Lupin could not catch up until they hit the door of Dumbledore's study.

And hit it they did.  It would not open at first.  The noise coming from inside was deafening between the various sneak-o-scopes, wards and shrieking house elf.  The Headmaster with eyes flashing waved his wand and flung out an opening charm bursting it backwards allowing them to enter.

As soon as he crossed the thresh hold everything stopped .  The noise ceased, papers flying in a tight tornado wafted gently to the floor.  Sneak-o-scopes rattled, one fell crashing to the hearth.  

In the middle of all the torment was the couch.  Dead center in the room, dead center between every ward and charm that was laid down for protection.  It contained one sleeping Potions Master, one very pale student, wand upright, with a blazing lightening scar on his forehead and one enraged house elf hissing and baring extremely sharp teeth.

The student sank down holding a hand to his forehead in pain; the sleeping man had wrapped himself neatly around the young man as if in protection.  The house elf lips slowly covered fangs and he ceased hissing although he looked extremely fierce and sat next to the student holding him as well.

"For gods sake what happened in here?" Lupin turned in a full circle trying to get a look at the destruction.  A bomb could barely have done less damage.  Dumbledore raised his wand again and with practiced ease put most of the mess in order.

Harry sat and stared dumbfounded, the headache lessening as the two adults made towards him.  He felt Snape's arm tighten around him.  In his sleep the man had tried to get up, to fight whatever had a hold of him.  He'd fought out "STAY ON THE COUCH HARRY!" and "DOBBY! PROTECT", before collapsing again into the malaise that controlled him.  

Neither Harry nor Dobby had any desire to move from their spots.

Dumbledore looked the room over very carefully, pointed out finally a warding charm that was torn.  Not destroyed, not compromised, merely torn as if a sharp knife had cut it.  It was damaged but had held.  Quietly a new charm was woven over the old, first mending the tear then covering it with new.  All shimmered for a moment then disappeared into the fabric of Dumbledore's sanctuary.

Finally Dumbledore approached the couch and the three inhabitants.  He smiled soothingly and carefully pulled a chair closer without actually touching anything on the couch.  He motioned to Lupin to do the same.

"Don't touch anything, Remus," he said very quietly.  "Let me have a

good look at it all."

Harry thought that very strange.  The entire room had been completely trashed and reassembled without much interest except for the warding charm.  Now he sat trembling slightly as the Headmaster looked him over bit by bit.  Sharp blue eyes missing nothing.


"Yes sir.  Nearly gone, though."

"Dobby?" the Headmaster turned his considerable attention to the elf.

The house elf trembled but said nothing.

"Dobby?" a kinder, softer voice, but still no response.

Dumbledore opened his arms to the house elf.

"Dobby."  The large eyes were filled with tears as he stretched long arms out and moved quickly to his master's lap, hiding his head in his cloak.  Dumbledore rubbed the creature's back and soothed him for long moments.  Harry had seen Dobby cry before, but this wasn't the wailing sobs, this was quiet and frightened seeking comfort.  Dumbledore gave as much comfort as  the loyal creature needed.

"Dark magic, master.  Very dark," he finally managed to get out.

"Voldemort?" he asked gently and was given an angry hiss in answer.

"No, not the one-who-is-not-named.  NO.  A dark wizard.  Angry.

Could not get in."

Dumbledore continued to calm the creature until he was nearly settled.

"Go fetch some hot tea, hmm?  Take away the broken crockery

and bring up fresh.  You can stay up here then, if you want."  Dobby nodded, ears flapping madly, then he went to clear the table.  Dumbledore turned his considerable attention to Harry.  Harry cleared his throat.

"Severus had just fallen asleep, sir, after eating a large meal.  He

was acting a little strange, like he was fighting the sleep but 

couldn't.  The last thing he said before going to sleep was that

he didn't understand."  He still sat on the couch in Snape's grasp and neither man tried to touch him.

"Anyway, the sneak-o-scopes went off first.  Dobby started to

shriek like a banshee and I backed up onto the couch.  Severus

pushed up for a moment and grabbed me," he glanced down at the sleeping man clutching him still.

"and he shouted to me to stay on the couch.  Yelled something

like 'Dobby protect' and Dobby jumped on the couch next to me.

Your whole room buckled.  That's the only word I can think of, it

just shook itself out and around but the couch stayed still in the

middle.  Just like the eye of a hurricane.  There was a ripping noise,

like fabric tearing or being sliced and my scar started to throb.

Dobby went berserk, to put it mildly.  Through it all Severus had

this death grip on me.  It still hasn't loosened."

Dumbledore just looked at them.  Lupin followed suit noting the white knuckles.

"Ok, Remus, go get your healer," he sent the Dark Arts Professor off, waiting for him to clear the door.  Only then did Dumbledore reach out and gently stroke the clenched hands, soothing the rigid muscles.

"It's ok, Severus, child.   You've done a wonderful job.  Just

let Harry go now," and he continued the soft litany until Harry was freed from the tight clamp.  He took the chair Lupin had just vacated and watched as Dumbledore continued to stroke and pet the sleeping man until his muscles did unclench and the face relaxed.  He adjusted the covers and bent down whispering over the sleeper's head, brushing a light kiss to his forehead.  He then sat back down, although he'd pulled his chair against the couch so he could touch Snape freely.

Dobby returned and poured out fresh tea, giving both Harry and Dumbledore cups.  He put the pot on an end table and moved it close to them.

"Dobby go to kitchens for awhile.  House Elves are upset, sir."

Dumbledore nodded kindly and watched him disappear.  He sat thinking quietly while Harry sipped.  He noticed Snape's hand twitching slightly and picked it up, rubbing it gently a moment before just holding it.

"Someone wants in, rather badly in fact," he mused aloud.

Harry sat up a bit straighter.

"Do you think they want Severus?" he considered a moment, "or


Dumbledore looked at him carefully.

"I don't think getting to you was the reason, nor getting Severus

actually.  No, someone wants in and it may not be Voldemort 

directly.  It could be one of his death eaters testing, trying to

bring a prize to solidify his place in Voldemort's camp."

"And cursing Severus?" he asked

"Keeps him weak; keeps me weak.  Also affects Remus.  They

are clever enough to know about, or to have caused, the problems on

staff in regards to Severus.  We must get everyone up to 

strength as soon as possible."  He looked at Harry's scar.



"Good.  perhaps you should go back to your friends for now,"  Dumbledore sighed and ran a hand over Snape's lax face.

When Severus doesn't come to class you can let out he was

ill the night you went to serve detention.  I also think you might

share your thoughts with Hermione and Ron.  It's difficult 

keeping secrets and they will be of enormous help in the long


"They already know Severus's is sick; they helped clean the 

dungeons this morning.  But I'm glad it's ok to confide in them.

Hermione is a wiz at figuring out things and I'd like her help!"

Dumbledore smiled at him.

"Just you three, then.  Keep me informed via Dobby if needs

be.  I don't have to warn you how dangerous this is becoming."

Harry nodded and stood, going back to his friends.