Alternate Routes

Chapter 13

~Major Incursions

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Lupin thought long and hard the next few days trying to reconcile the Headmaster and the Potions Master. They danced around each other, alternating between arguing and being affectionate towards one another. Always in private for once they walked out of those rooms Snape would firmly entrench himself in the bastard mode'.
Then they were absolutely cold towards one another and it was hard to believe there could ever be anything more than strained civility between them.
He also wondered about Dr. Barnes. He'd been brought in to heal the initial curses and was now deep in therapy with Snape. Whatever they talked about was not open for discussion. Period. Snape, again in private, accepted Barnes' touch nearly as easily as Dumbledore's. There seemed to have been an easy acceptance on Snape's part, totally against every other instance he could think of when another person got too near, him included!
How did Barnes insinuate himself so quickly and firmly in their relationship? Lupin did not know any of the history of the young doctor and the Potions Master nor did he know much of Dumbledore's relationship with him, either.
So he hung on the fringes, making sure he stopped in for breakfast and in the afternoon he alternated between picking Snape up at his office or up in the tower walking him to dinner. He did not realize he helped continue the deception of a much weakened Potions Master.
Dumbledore treated him kindly as always. Willing to discuss whatever was on his mind. Snape alternated, depending if he were in the tower or public, but especially depending on his mood, which could get dark indeed. Lupin supposed if he'd been a death eater, if he'd seen the abuse, torture and murder, if he'd been subjected to Voldemort's sexual advances, he'd be a bit moody too.
It was Barnes who'd solved a bit of his puzzlings, explaining as Lupin was walking him down the road to apparate how he'd met Snape in the beginning and touched on the other time he'd bonded with the man (although he didn't get into the grindlylow incident). It made Lupin feel better; Barnes had assured him that relationships took a long time to develop and deepen, especially with a man like Snape, there was so much pain from before he even joined Voldemort that trust was the issue. Lupin was gaining his trust.
Dumbledore was easy to become friends with, a trusting nature who looked for the best in people. The relationship with Snape was convoluted, but Barnes had mentioned they always struck him as meeting each other's needs, sometimes acting as parent and child, protecting, loving, offering safety and shelter. Most of the time as the closest of friends who enjoyed being with one another.
So Lupin supported and joined in as he could, removing stray curses as often as possible and watched out for Snape. Dumbledore had impressed upon him the need to keep the Potions Master healthy. This included keeping himself healthy to work with them to protect the school: children and staff.
Two weeks dragged by. Snape had taken up walking the halls until all hours of the night, snatching sleep as it came. Dumbledore for the most part allowed the man to ramble, occasionally securing him in sleep if he became too tired, watching his dreams so he wouldn't be disturbed. Nightmares plagued him.
Snape needed to know what, what Voldemort had planned. As time went by he found himself more and more wired, unable to sleep well at all. He was grateful when the Headmaster charmed his dreams but he would not allow him in every night because Dumbledore needed his rest, too.
Finally, the week before the full moon, Barnes put an end to the ramblings and the weakening of both men by providing a simple sleep draught. He lectured the two of them on being healthy, that each was necessary to the cause against Voldemort. If they didn't take care of themselves, he'd come and sleep with them, too. And he'd bring his bunny slippers.
Allowing himself to be amused, Snape had agreed to the sleeping potion. He still wandered a bit, checking out wards and protections throughout the castle (as well as finding stray students who were sent back to bed with 10 points deducted for being up) but then returned much earlier to the tower to sleep.
Hermione finally drew detention, taking a spilled cauldron and purple smoke filling the dungeons to anger Snape sufficiently. They had a perfectly wonderful row, Malfoy in particular enjoyed Snape putting the mudblood in her place. He'd written his father about that little incident.
His father had barely made note of it in his response, saying other people would be put in their place soon enough. Cryptic; but then his father generally was. He smiled the better part of two days thinking of Granger scrubbing floors without magic.

Hermione worked diligently, learning the proper phases of the moon for harvesting, preparing and brewing the wolfs bane potion. Lupin had been with them the entire time worrying about the brewing process. The moon's phase was such that Hermione was there to add the flower petals (during her detention) and learn the last smells that came from the cauldron. Even Snape was pleased with her progress, apologizing that he couldn't give her house points.
Two days prior to the full moon Snape managed to get into a shouting match with Lupin in the hall; Dumbledore had gotten inbetween them to stop them. Students were shocked and even more hateful of Snape. He encouraged that hatred, taking points off all three houses for every minor infraction he could find. Of course, he managed to add to his house's score as often as possible.
Lupin did not bounce back gracefully from the argument and stomped about the castle the following day glaring angrily whenever he caught sight of Snape. Snape patently ignored him, and seemed to pick less on the students.
Dumbledore knew how tense Snape was. It had been nearly four weeks since the encounter with Voldemort and the promise of claiming his own. They sat together that evening, the younger man staring moodily at the fire while Dumbledore read through the muggle papers he had delivered weekly. Occasionally he'd glance at his silent companion, sometimes adding tea to the cup near his hand.
After one refill Snape stirred himself and glanced at his friend, offering a tentative smile.
Sorry, not much company tonight, he murmured.
A lot on your mind, the older man replied.
I'd best take a gobletful of wolfsbane down to Remus, Snape sighed. He hasn't been up today. I really ticked him off.
He isn't used to the deception, Severus. Emotions are
hard to turn on and off, Dumbledore commented.
came the sarcastic rejoinder.
Which would explain why you haven't eaten much today, the older man observed. Stomach upset?
Snape lowered his head slightly.
Yeah, kind of, he moved his hands over the emptiness.
Well, you should eat, you turkey, came a petulant voice from the doorway, You're too damned skinny! Lupin growled as he entered the room. Both men looked up at the DADA professor walking towards them. He stopped by Snape and ran a hand over his face with a grin.
What about a shake? You probably could handle that.
Snape smiled slightly, leaning into the touch.
You're probably right. I'll call for Dobby. Want anything?
Lupin smiled wickedly.
Yes! Dinner. I didn't eat tonight cause I was practicing
my stomping out of the room.
I noticed that, Remus, commented Dumbledore. You did
a pretty good job, but you need to get your robes to
billow out behind you more.
You had a nice, rigid stance, added Snape.
Lupin grinned and watched as Snape rang the bell for Dobby. After ordering the three men moved the tea service to the table and waited for food to appear.
Steak and kidney pie appeared in front of a delighted Lupin. Snape just raised his lip in disgust. He couldn't tolerate that particular dish. Probably because he'd diced his share of kidneys and livers over the years. He reached for his shake when he felt a hand on his knee.
Professor Snape needs to eat, admonished the smiling Dobby. Professor Snape will turn into a ice cream shake!
A long finger waved back and forth as Dobby clucked at him.
Professor Snape needs to be fed, and the elf leapt lightly onto the table and picked up a smaller serving bowl filled with chicken in gravy and something that suspiciously looked like flour dumplings. He liked dumplings. The elf brought the bowl under his nose so he could smell the savory aroma; his nose twitched and he felt his mouth moisten with saliva.
I can feed myself, he said haughtily. The elf shook his head negatively.
We not see you feed yourself at all. You drink and drink
and lick away milky mustache. Never eat! EAT! and Dobby picked up a fork and began to feed the shocked Potions Master.
This scenario amused Dumbledore and Lupin to no end. The house elf was in complete control of the situation and remonstrated them for teasing poor Professor Snape'. Deciding he could not over-ride Dobby, Snape settled back and ate nearly the entire serving bowl and drank all the vanilla shake that had been brought up. For the first time in over two weeks he felt full but not nauseated.
He allowed the elf to smugly wipe his mouth and leave, taking empty dishes with him.
Professor Snape very good. Ate all his vegetables, teased Lupin after he thought Dobby had left.
Professor Lupin not nice at all. No dessert for him! came the house elf's voice and the plate of ice cream vanished from in front of the astonished DADA Professor.
Dumbledore had melted into helpless laughter and after a moment Snape actually joined him.
After a few minutes of mindless mirth, Snape shook himself and waved his tin of candy over. Selecting a whole piece of divinity for himself and a chocolate cream for Dumbledore he pushed the last three pieces to Lupin.
Knock yourself out, Remus, he said stifling a snicker. They sat sipping hot tea and quietly devouring the last of the sweets.
Snape slept well for the first time since he returned from Voldemort. Full belly and the comfort of Dumbledore snoring softly beside him lulled him into a feeling of total security. He woke refreshed and went down to teach the full day. He set up Wednesday to be a research day for his classes since he'd be up late with Lupin tonight. The day went smoothly.
Dumbledore was grumpy at dinner. He'd received an urgent' message from Fudge. This time he totally ignored it. He was not leaving on the full moon period. Snape made a few impolite comments about Fudge's incompetence which drew the ire of Sinistra and Flitwick in particular. But Sinistra had ceased hexing Snape since most of the time it bounced back to her. Flitwick merely disagreed with Snape, he held no animosity for the man.
Lupin's change was again practically painless, although he was more tired than normal. Snape attributed this to an extra portion of foxglove and chamomile. He had been tweaking the potion slightly trying to get the best possible mix for his friend. They all got to bed early, Snape once more full with a favored curry dish Dobby insisted on feeding him. (If Professor Snape would eat in the Great Hall Dobby not have to do this for him!' the elf had groused, stuffing forkfuls of the mild vegetable and chicken dish into the submissive man). Dumbledore was of the opinion Snape was rather enjoying being bullied into eating by the diminutive elf.
Late in the afternoon, while Snape read yet another mystery book and Lupin slept, Dumbledore received an owl from the Ministry. Snape watched the Headmaster's face as it clouded over.
What's wrong, Headmaster? he asked, noting the agitation gathering in his friend.
Well, it looks like I'll be heading over to the Ministry
after all. Seems that Fudge has collapsed, he stood and retrieved his cloak off the still singed rack. Snape stood and crossed over to him, taking the letter to scan himself. It seemed genuine.
I have a bad feeling about this, Albus, he said. Dumbledore looked at him quizzically.
You do? I certainly don't. It's yet another ploy by
Fudge to control me! he complained.
It doesn't feel right, Snape insisted. The Headmaster took the letter from Snape's hand.
It's just a summons. Nothing big. I'll go by floo and be
back in a couple hours, he fastened his cloak about him and added;
go down to dinner for me, ok? Just be a presence at the
head table. Snape nodded.
Certainly, Headmaster. Gives me a chance to not eat again, he smirked at Dumbledore who grinned back at him.
Dobby will be pleased, he replied. He walked to the mantle and took out a handful of floo powder.
Take care, Headmaster. Watch your step! Snape admonished one last time.
I will, Severus. Quit worrying! he tossed the powder into the flame and stated Diagon Alley', stepped in and disappeared.
Snape watched the flames consume his friend. He knew Dumbledore preferred to go to Diagon Alley first in case there was a trap at the Ministry. It was safer and he could check out the gossip first before he went into the Ministry.
He checked the clock: about thirty minutes until dinner. He glanced at Lupin. Sure thing he wouldn't be going downstairs! He smiled. They would eat later together.

Harry and Ron entered the Great Hall almost late, scurrying quickly to open seats next to the staff table. Hermione smirked at them; she liked being near the teachers whereas they preferred mid-table. Neville was next to her smiling happily. It had been a good day for Neville, no potions class to upset him. He was also still pleased from Tuesday. He had brewed the cleaning potion correctly and Snape had subtly praised him, letting him take the bottled results to Mr. Filch.
All in all a good day. As plates filled Ron grinned. Meat loaf. That meant meat loaf sandwiches for lunch tomorrow. Although he made sarcastic remarks about his mother's meat loaf sandwiches, he actually found them comforting. He placed a couple slices on his plate and added mashed potatoes. Gravy followed and he slipped into shear bliss.
Harry smiled watching Ron. His friend would never admit he was enjoying the meal, and certainly not because it reminded him of his mother. He sighed and began to eat his own green beans. Snape, he noted, was sipping tea again, sitting in the Headmaster's seat. Dumbledore must have asked him to sit in for him. He hoped the Professor was eating enough somewhere because he rarely ate at mealtime.
Hermione looked up at him,
Malfoy's missing, she said quietly. Harry glanced over at the Slytherin table and noted the empty seat by Goyle and Crabbe. That was strange, Draco never missed a meal. Not because of the food, but for the social interaction. He used the time to make connections with older and younger students.
Shrugging, he resumed eating. Neville was displaying some new wizards cards to Seamus, probably deep in negotiations to trade. All these things happened and dinner progressed easily, as dinner should. Dessert came up, pudding and cake. He noted Snape took some pudding, tapioca. McGonagall was applying herself to a wedge of chocolate cake. Some students began to leave.
It was the slamming of the doors of the great hall that first alerted them to danger. Then the wailing of the ward protectors. Snape rose, drawing his wand and looked around the room. His fellow staff reacted slower, although he noted Flitwick and McGonagall took out their wands, too.
The great doors should have held against any assault. Students started to scream as the first loud bangs hit, the hinges actually straining against the blows.
Minerva, get the students away from the doors! Snape called, and moved down the staff table, directing professors to get wands out and get ready to protect the children.
Harry and Hermione stared at the bulging contortions on the doors' surface, then looked at each other, then across to Snape.
We need to get to Severus, Harry said, Hermione nodding in agreement. She grabbed Ron's arm and he stood up, following them down to the staff table.
Snape was nearly where he wanted to be when the doors burst open, hinges twisted from the force, and in streamed masked wizards. Students screamed, recognizing the death eaters for who they were. The lead wizard nodded to Snape and then began throwing hexes at the rest of the staff table.
Masked wizards continued to flow in until 13 death eaters formed a loose semi-circle attacking and driving students and staff alike into the far corner of the room. Judicious applications of expellaramus divested many frightened people of their wands.
Several Professors realized Snape was being spared in the attack.
YOU BASTARD! shrieked Pomfrey and she whirled to send a hex at him. A quick flick of the wrist and a masked wizard snatched her wand in mid air.
he began, wand pointed at the cowering witch.
PETRIFICUS TOTALIS! Snape shouted, and the death eater toppled over unmoving. Pomfrey stared at Snape in amazement.
Waving his wand again, he send a shield charm over a fallen McGonagall. Pomfrey watch two curses bounce off the witch, striking the perpetrators.
Several death eaters noticed Snape was not running to their sides, in fact, he was slowly taking their comrades down! Two were paralyzed and a third was flattened by his own binding hex that had rebounded.
The battle began to shift away from the students as Snape went on the attack, hitting them hard with several more hexes. He positioned himself in front of the tight knot of dark wizards and threw up a hasty block, frustrating his attackers.
Harry moved carefully, low to the ground. It was a cinch Snape was getting tired, defending and attacking. He now had taken out 5 wizards when a stray bolt caught him hard in the left arm, throwing him backwards, nearly on top of the three Gryffindors. Dazed, he shook his head. Instantly Harry and Hermione reached out and sent surges of energy into him.
Harry, Hermione, he gasped.
You ok? Harry asked quickly. Can we help you?
Snape looked at them carefully.
I need to weave a special charm. We can't let any of
these creatures escape! Get behind me and try to knock
their wands out of their hands, he crouched before them and made sure they were shielded by his body. Noting Ron, he gave the boy a tight smile.
Be careful, Weasley.
Grinning, Ron scooted behind him with his friends.
Snape shot straight up, throwing several bolts of lightening at the standing dark wizards, driving them closer together. Before they could send out another hex, the three students popped out and threw expelliaramus curses hard and fast. Several wands went flying across the room.
In the meantime Snape began chanting under his breath, wand above head describing concentric circles. Hermione noticed air beginning to swirl around them as though drawing up power from around them. Ron felt the hairs on his neck stiffen as though filled with electricity.
Harry saw flashes of light in Snape's eyes and pulled his friends back as the Potions Master let loose a tremendous bolt of concentrated energy at the death eaters.
OBRIGESCO FINITUMIt flew straight and true, hitting the lead wizard exploding, enveloping the entire cluster. There was a loud sizzling sound and then silence.
Total Silence.
The wind swirled around Snape, his robes billowing as if in a storm and he sent a second blast,
a great green wave that started low at the ground then rose like a large hand slamming down hard lay waste to his enemies.
Turning slightly, he noted a figure attempting to slide out of the hall and quickly sent yet another blast
PETRIFICUS TOTALIS, catching the escaping death eater.
Into this maelstrom Lupin ran, wand out. He saw the glowing light around Snape and stood gaping. The summative power was nearly overwhelming and he felt his knees shake. Snape sought his eyes from across the hall.
FOLLOW THE SOOT! without a word Lupin turned and followed orders.
The entire population of the hall not unconscious or bound was staring at Severus Snape. He was like the avatars of old they had read about. Descending from above to lay waste to his enemies.
Snape wanded once more, bringing all the masked bodies to one heap, then flicked quickly, removing all the masks at once.
Look at your enemies, they are not all-powerful, he spat out.
They are wizards, men, fallible and blinded by their
greed and ambitions. He lowered his wand. All 13 enemies were contained. The light dimmed as the wind died down. He shuddered, full body, and swayed slightly. Harry was up on his feet in an instant, taking hold of the wizard's arm. Ron firmly grabbed his other arm.
This is the part they don't talk about in the books, he whispered weakly,
where the good guy collapses in a pool of vomit and
Hermione shifted Harry over a little.
Well, Professor, before you actually fall, let us lower you
down until we can get you some help. They gently brought the swooning man down to the ground; Harry held him in his lap, leaning against his shoulder.
I am going to vomit, he apologized. Ron quickly snagged a serving bowl and held it firmly while the man lost the contents of his stomach. Gently Harry wiped his face clean when he pulled back.
You're right, Severus, I don't recall the good guy collapsing
in any of the books, he stroked hair out of his eyes and mouth. Hermione offered a goblet of juice. Snape drank gratefully.
Well, it is so unheroic, he whispered. Harry began sending in a slow energy feed.
Suddenly there was NOISE all around them; Ron and Hermione leapt to their feet wands out. The death eaters were still contained, not dead but petrified or bound depending on which hex had caught them. In through the door streamed security wizards, wands out ready for battle. The stopped short at the tableau before them, no enemies left to fight.
Dumbledore pushed through the line and looked at the destruction of his hall. The pile of unmasked death eaters, the students starting to get up and help one another. Staff members tending to the hurt. Ronald and Hermione standing ready to protect. Ready to protect who?
Oh gods, not Harry, he managed to get out and ran as fast as he could to the stalwart students. He pushed them aside and fell to his knees ready for the worst.
he called, voice cracking. He saw Snape, eyes unfocused, sickly pale, limp against Harry's shoulder.
Headmaster, I must protest. You did not indicate I would
have to protect your hall, only that I should watch over it, the sarcastic voice was weak and trembling.
I don't recall this being a part of my professorial duties, he continued, closing his tired eyes. Thank gods Albus was here. He was so tired and just wanted to slip into unconsciousness, heroic or not.
Dumbledore gathered his friend in his arms and held him tightly against him.
I prefer breathing, Headmaster, he complained from his new position against the older man's robes. He was shifted carefully back, promptly succumbed to exhaustion and passed out.
Hundreds of voices began talking at once. Lupin returned to the hall and reported straight to the Headmaster.
They came in the fireplace in the second visiting room
off the main entrance. The floo was opened. I closed
it and placed an extra warding charm on it. Oh Severus,
he suddenly leaned over to touch his fallen friend's face.
He was amazing, Albus. Amazing, he shook his head sharply.
I've already sent messages into Hogsmeade, a special
one to the clinic for medical help. Should we get Severus
We have to get the students to their towers and calm the
staff, Dumbledore said regretfully. He looked at Harry.
Take Professor Snape upstairs and stay with him until
I get back. Do not under any circumstances leave him
with anyone else, even if they said I sent them. Mr. Weasley,
Ms. Granger, please accompany them and wait. Dobby will
bring you anything you may require.
Dumbledore gently stroked the Potions Master's face, leaned down and kissed his forehead before he stood with Lupin and took control of the hall.
Which left the three friends to gather up the Professor and go up to the Headmaster's tower.