It took them a long time to get the sticky, syrupy blue potion cleaned up and the cauldrons washed, and even longer to repair the glassware that could still be saved. Most of it they just swept up and Vanished.
They had just finished with the job when a silvery-grey patronus of a fat greylag goose flew into the room and spoke in Madam Pomfrey's voice. "The young muggle lady is waking up."
Hermione and Snape were on their feet and out the door in a raced up to the hospital wing, with Snape striding quickly along behind her, cloak rippling out behind him. Madam Pomfrey met them at the door.
"She's only just awakened," the matron told them. "But she's badly confused and in a lot of pain. Professor Dumbledore says we need some information from her, or else she'd have been obliviated and sent to a muggle hospital. Right now he's petitioning the Ministry for an exemption/exception to the Statute of Secrecy. If it's not granted, or if she breaks it, she'll be Obliviated anyway."
"May we see her?" Hermione asked.
Madam Pomfrey stood aside and let them both enter.
Priscilla lay on her back, pale, wide-eyed, and twitchy. She started violently when she saw them, but then recognized Hermione.
"Hermione!" she cried. "It was terrible! It was your friend from Christmas. Is he all right? Did he end up here, as well?"
Hermione's eyes filled as she shook her head. "They killed him, Priscilla. We just got word a little while ago. But what about you? Are you going to be all right?"
Priscilla's voice started shaking. "I don't know how to put into words what happened to me," she said, starting to cry. "I'm sure I'm going mad, since most of what happened simply can't happen at all. It's impossible! No one would ever believe it!" She broke into sobs.
Madam Pomfrey nudged Snape aside and handed the young woman a vial. "Here you go, luv. This will dull the pain for a bit, so you can tell Hermione and the professor what happened." In an undertone, she muttered to Snape, "It's a Draught of Peace. Harmless to muggles."
He nodded and waited until Priscilla had drunk the draught and had calmed slightly before he stepped forward.
"Oh!" Hermione remembered her manners. "Priscilla, this is Professor Severus Snape, a good friend of mine and Remus'. You're in the hospital wing at my school in Scotland." She turned to Snape with a formal air. "Professor Snape, this is Priscilla Hardwicke, the dentist who bought my parents' practice and our house."
Snape nodded to the blonde woman on the bed. "Ms. Hardwicke, I wish we could have met under better circumstances; as it is, I assure you, we are quite disposed to believe almost anything you could tell us about your experiences."
"How can you, when I don't believe them myself?" Priscilla sniffled, shaking her head. "I'm surprised I lived through what they did to me, and here I am only a little battered. How can you believe me, when most of what they did didn't even leave a mark?" She took a deep, shuddering breath, and looked up at Hermione. "How did I get here? In the middle of all that blood, I suddenly wind up at a school?"
"Hogwarts isn't an ordinary boarding school," Hermione told her. She darted a quick glance at Snape, who merely gave her a shrug and a twitch of his head that looked almost like a nod. She guessed that even if Dumbledore's exception didn't go through, whoever had attacked Priscilla had already broken the Statute of Secrecy in a big way. In for a penny… "It's a school of magic," she continued. "It's also the safest place in Britain."
"School of magic?" Priscilla's eyes widened, and her tone was tinged with incredulity.
"There is a community of magical folk, genuine witches and wizards, living alongside the non-magical folk in Britain," Snape explained curtly. "Those we call muggles. A civil war is currently taking place in the magical community."
"One side wishes power and education for only the magically-bred citizens, the 'purebloods,'" Hermione clarified, "while the other side wishes all magical people to have equal access to power and education, whether their parents were magical or muggle."
"I see," Priscilla said, blonde brows drawn together in consternation.
"Miss Granger and I are on the side of equality for all magical folk, whether muggle- or magical-born," Snape said.
Hermione noticed with pleasure that he used her terminology of "magical-born" instead of the more commonly-used "pureblood." She stepped closer to Priscilla's bed. "It was the pureblood faction who killed my parents," she told the older woman. "In buying their house and practice, you apparently became a target. I'm so terribly sorry, Priscilla. If I had known what would happen…"
"This is beyond belief!" Priscilla muttered to herself. "A magical world? Next thing you'll be telling me that pigs fly."
"Uh, no, not exactly," Hermione said. She didn't think this was a good time to mention Lacreethas, the tiny, winged, wild ursines who inhabited the treetops in the Amazonian rainforest.
"How else do you explain your presence here?" Snape asked matter-of-factly.
"I don't know!" Priscilla said, her voice rising, her words coming out in a rush. "One minute I'm in my house watching the telly, the next minute I'm in the middle of a forest getting beaten and attacked by a bunch of goons in masks and robes, and the next minute your friend Remus is there with a stick in his hand, moving things around with telekinesis or something. And he sends this button over to me with his telekinesis, shouts 'Porthos!' and the next thing I know, I'm here. Now, I ask you. Do you believe me, or am I going mad?"
"Alas, your story is a familiar one in the magical world," Snape replied quietly.
"How did they get their hands on you, anyway?" Hermione asked.
"They rang the ruddy doorbell!" Priscilla cried. "Three of them, in black robes. I thought at first they were some sort of cult, there to ask for money, but they just grabbed me."
"Then what?" Snape asked.
"Then something … weird … happened and we were suddenly somewhere else," Priscilla said flatly. "See? Told you you wouldn't believe me."
"On the contrary, we do. The name for that sort of travel is Apparation. They Apparated you somewhere. Do you have any idea where?"
"Apparation." Priscilla seemed determined to remember the word. "I don't know where—a clearing in a forest somewhere. The air felt cool, like it does here. Not like London. Then they started, uh, hurting me. Somehow. They'd point their sticks at me and yell 'Crucifix' or some such thing, and then I'd be in agony until they stopped pointing at me."
"The Cruciatus is an Unforgiveable curse in our world. It's a torture curse," Hermione explained.
"Your world has magical ways to torture people. Lovely." Priscilla closed her eyes. "After they 'Cruciatussed' me for a while, they started to get a bit more hands-on with the torture. Hands on, and then some. They took turns cutting me up, and some of them took turns... you know... with me. Your nurse seems to have healed most of it—with magic, I assume?"
Priscilla continued. "I don't know how long I was there. It all just blended in together—a mass of beatings and … and worse, until all of a sudden your friend was there, all tied up. There was this guy wearing some sort of mask that made him look like a snake or an alien, and there was a big dog—it looked almost like a wolf, actually—who attacked him. During the confusion, your friend got loose and waved his stick around for a bit—that's when he sent me the button. Then they overpowered him and tied him up again. That's when he shouted that word at me, and then the thugs were gone and I was in a big room with an old man with a long beard. Then I had a dream that I was floating, and then I woke up here."
Snape frowned. "It would be helpful for us to know exactly what happened," he mused. "Would you be willing to allow Miss Granger and I access to your exact memory, Miss Hardwicke?"
"H-how could you do that?" Priscilla wanted to know.
"There are two ways," Snape said. "One is through a sort of magical telepathy, and the other is for us to extract the entire memory and view it externally."
"You can do that? Take a whole memory out of my head?" Priscilla asked. Snape nodded. "What will happen then? Will I remember?"
"You'll still have the memory, but the emotions surrounding it will be significantly dulled," Snape said.
"Oh, God. Do it," she ordered. "Please!"
"Very well." He drew his wand. "Please start at the beginning—when they rang your doorbell, and continue thinking about the whole thing until you awoke here and saw us. You'll feel a tickling sensation as I draw the memory out of your mind."
Priscilla closed her eyes and furrowed her brows for a moment. She hesitated, then nodded. "I'm ready. Go ahead."
Snape touched his wand to her temple, and then slowly drew it away. A few threads of silver followed it, and Hermione quickly conjured a flask to seal the memory in. Snape drew the threads further away until they broke and hung, fluttering, dangling from his wand. He took the flask with a nod of thanks, and carefully deposited the memory in it.
"Thank you, Miss Hardwicke," he breathed.
Priscilla shook her head, eyelids drooping. "I should thank you, Mr. Snape. I feel better already. If, uh, if you don't mind, I think I'll get some sleep."
Hermione patted Priscilla's arm. "I'm so sorry this happened to you, Priscilla. If you need anything, Madam Pomfrey can reach me anywhere in the castle. I'll be back to see you a little bit later, all right?"
"Fine," Priscilla said, without opening her eyes.
Hermione and Snape stopped briefly for a low-voiced conference with Madam Pomfrey. "If she needs anything, just send a Patronus, Madam Pomfrey," Hermione said. "She and I may not know each other well, but she may need to simply see someone familiar, in the face of all this madness."
"Yes, dear, I will do," the matron replied. "I'll take good care of your friend, Miss Granger."
"Right, then," Snape said crisply. He tilted his head sharply toward the door. "Dumbledore." Hermione held up the vial of memory strands and nodded.
The two of them took Priscilla's memory and headed straight back up to the Headmaster's office.
Dumbledore seemed to have aged years in the last two hours. "Minerva is seeing to Remus' arrangements," he told them without even greeting them first. "Probably a small funeral, and we'll mostly likely hold it here at Hogwarts. Remus didn't... I mean to say, there weren't many people..."
"He didn't have many friends because he was a werewolf," Snape summed up.
Dumbledore nodded. "Nor family. I was hoping that perhaps, since you both worked so closely with him this year, one of you might be willing to deliver a short eulogy."
"Oh, of course!"
"Tonks is just devastated, of course, but she thinks she might be able to say a few words as well. What have you got there?"
"Priscilla's memories of what happened when she got kidnapped last night."
"We wanted to borrow your Pensieve to view them, and thought you would want to see them, as well," Snape said.
Dumbledore's blue eyes, shadowed with grief, suddenly cleared and snapped up to meet theirs. "Definitely," he said. "Now."
He stood up with alacrity and led them over to the cabinet where he kept his Pensieve. Swirls of various memories undulated through it, which he gathered up with his wand and put all together in a large canning jar beside the giant stone bowl.
"Now, then," he said.
Snape uncorked the vial and emptied the memory into the bowl. He gave the vial a little shake to get the last little wisp of memory out of it, and then glanced up at the other two. "Ready?"
The three of them bent over and were drawn together into the memory.