By Raven Dancer
disclaimer: All characters belong to J.K. Rowling except for the Dr. James Barnes and Beryl. I receive no monetary compensation for these works.
They stared at the greasy Potions Master's body. It lie limp on the floor his filthy black robe pooled around him. The lank black hair flung over his face and floor as though he'd hit hard. Air rapidly panted in and out barely touching the struggling lungs.
The students could just make out the beginnings of a tattoo on the man's lower left arm where it extended beyond the tattered sleeve. In gory contrast blood dripped slowly from his chin, the actual wound on his face covered by hair.
Harry was frozen by the discovery. He and Ron had been skulking around the entry to the castle and dungeons much in the same way the Gryffindors accused Snape of doing, waiting impatiently for the professor to return.
This was not what he'd imagined he'd see.
It had been at dinner. Dinner. So long ago... nearly seven hours now... that the student had been sitting with his friends eating. They'd noted Snape had slipped in late. Rude to his colleagues as he stalked up to the only available seat between the Headmaster and Deputy Headmaster. McGonagall had leaned in and spoken to him, receiving a curt shake of the head and a sideways glance. He'd then turned more fully to Dumbledore and spoken softly. Hermione had noted that the older wizard had to bend closer and as the younger spoke. A look of anger seemed to pass over Dumbledore's visage, quick and sharp.
"I can't believe Dumbledore trusts him!" Ron hissed. Both his companions turned to shush him. "Well, look at him! Late! He's always sneaking around and never where he's suppose to be," Ron continued.
"He's just doing his job walking the halls," Hermione said quietly.
"His job?" Ron started but was interrupted.
"Yes, he's a teacher. He's suppose to make sure the halls and all are safe," Harry fitted in. Ron snorted derisively.
"So why doesn't Flitwick or McGonagall catch us? Sneak up on us? It's always Snape!" Ron asserted.
"Well," began Hermione but couldn't finish and looked for help from Harry. He was also at a loss for words.
"Even Filch doesn't seem to be around us much. I tell you, Snape is always dogging Harry," Ron took the offensive. "He is working for him, waiting to get Harry."
Neither Hermione nor Harry had a rebuttal for that. All three eyes turned towards the professors' tables and swept over Snape. The Potions Master was sipping at his tea. He had nothing to eat in front of him although it was soon apparent that both McGonagall and Dumbledore were trying to get him to try something.
Then Snape sat up straight setting his cup on the table missing the saucer. He turned towards the Headmaster and murmured to him before standing and leaving the table without a backwards glance.
Again the look of apparent anger on Dumbledore's face. McGonagall seemed to be concerned but it was likely for the Headmaster.
"Got to go to the loo," Ron said and popped up from the table. He was gone before either could stop him.
The youngest Weasley boy was out into the hallway quickly enough to see the swirl of black robes near the front door. He hurried to get a glimpse of the hated professor. Peering around a tight corner he saw Snape straighten his robes b»efore stepping outside. He wore no cloak although it was cool out of doors. Probably going to use a heating charm Ron decided. Braving to go further he scurried to the huge windows overlooking the courtyard and watched as the man strode away into the gloom.
"He's off to his master," Ron whispered harshly when he returned to his dinner. "Saw him take off out the doors and down the stairs."
"How do you know where he's off to?" Hermione asked a bit peeved that her friend had been spying.
"Well, he certainly wasn't going to be out long. He didn't have a cloak," Ron retorted sharply.
They argued in strident whispers for the rest of the meal not even slowing up for the dessert. The only thing they resolved was to watch for the wizard's return and even that was not unanimous as Hermione snapped her head in a sharp negative gesture as she stomped out of the hall back to her room. Ron had been insistent and hounded Harry until his friend agreed.
And now they stood together, Harry still and Ron trying his damnedest not to squeak as he urged his companion to move.
"NO!" Harry finally muttered. "We need to get him help!"
"Oh, sure, let's just pop up to Madame Pomfrey and tell her Snape's hurt..." Ron mocked, "as if she'd believe us!"
"So then we should go get the Headmaster," Harry said firmly and began to move towards the doorway. The red-head jerked him back.
"NO! We'll be in detention for sure! After curfew and hiding under your invisibility cloak!" Ron moaned. "My mother will kill me!"
"You should have thought of that before you convinced me to wait for Snape!" Harry shot back. "We're here, he's hurt. We have no choice!"
"YES WE DO!" Ron asserted. He struggled with the cloak.
"Mr. Harry Potter and Mr. Ronald Weasley be needing any helps?" a shrill voice sounded behind them.
"Dobby?" Harry said weakly and turned to look at the house elf.
"Dobby be waiting. Dobby be hearing Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley," the house elf said as patiently as a small cyclone could. He suddenly noticed the professor sprawled out on the cold stone floor.
"OOoooooh! Professor Snape! Professor Snape is back! Dobby must get Headmaster Dumbledore!" the house elf abruptly vanished with a loud snap.
"Oh bloody hell," Ron whinged. Harry had to agree that this was not a good thing. But now there was nothing they could really do - stay or go they'd be in trouble. So they stood in their corner watching for the older professor as Snape lie on the ground.
There was still a slow trickle of blood although the frantic breathing was much less pronounced. Snape's body began to tremble from cold and stress. A whispering of clothing as the body slowly tried to curl up into a ball. Then a low moan from deep within full of pain.
"I'd rather be in trouble and DO something," Harry muttered to Ron. He pulled himself out of his friend's grasp but before he could do more than take one step shedding half the invisibility cloak Dumbledore strode through the doorway.
"Mr. Potter... Mr. Weasley... stay there please," the Headmaster said sternly. Kneeling he first ran his hands just above the entirety of the quivering heap. Then hands began to touch lightly, almost like a caress, over the hunched shoulders down to the clenched legs. Finally Dumbledore turned Snape over onto his back and swept away the concealing hair.
From their vantage point they could see that the nose was definitely broken; that was where blood was seeping from although more came from the professor's mouth. There was no bruising but from the ruddy marks they'd soon be blooming. Eyes were tightly closed.
"Albusss?" Snape suddenly spoke startling even the Headmaster.
"I'm right here Severus," Dumbledore said calmly, face betraying his own pain. The Potions Master's body twitched, jerking as it was commanded to move. Somehow the man managed to push himself up to nearly sitting before he collapsed again.¸
"Sorry," Snape swallowed down his cry of pain.
"Let's just get you to Poppy, hmmm?" Dumbledore suggested.
"No. Must alert the Ministry Albus..." Snape turned his face towards the old wizard but still did not open his eyes.
"Severus, you need help now," Dumbledore insisted as he began to stand up.
"NO!" the harsh voice commanded. "Ollivander... Ollivander shop... After him... Kill him... Destroy..."
"Severus... I will hurry," the Headmaster moved up to the door. He paused only long enough to look at the silent watchers.
"For Circe's sake get Pomfrey!" Dumbledore spat out then disappeared in a swirl of robes.
Once more the two boys were alone with the broken man.
"I'll, I'll just go get Madam Pomfrey," Ron managed to get out. He ran out the door before Harry could even respond.
Squaring his shoulders Harry sucked up his courage and crossed over to Snape. He wasn't sure what to do, if he could even do anything, but knelt down next to the man.
"Professor Snape?" his voice cracked.
"Potter?" Snape's eyes flew open and Harry immediately wished he'd stayed in the corner. The whites of the man's eyes were entirely blood red. Definitely had too many rounds of the cruciatus curse.
"Yes, Professor Snape," the younger wizard managed not to squeak again. "Ron's just gone off for Madam Pomfrey. Professor Dumbledore asked us to... help."
"Bloody.... Hell... I can't... even... die... in peace..." Snape spat out harshly. With bloody phlegm punctuating the gasps.
"No sir, I suppose not," Harry sadly agreed. Snape's face tightened into a glare then released as his eyes closed and he turned away.
"Enjoy... Potter... a good... laugh I'm... sh-sure..." Snape muttered.
"No sir!" Harry laid his hand on the torn material covering the trembling shoulder. "Professor Dumbledore needs you. He's very worried aboutyou." As far as comforting the man went Harry knew he sucked.
"No one... needs me. Through," he managed before beginning to cough hard. Blood pooled beneath his face.
"You have to sit up. I think your lung is punctured. It will be easier to breath," Harry pulled firmly. It was going to hurt no matter how he helped but the man had to get upright so he could breathe.
Snape did not fight the move, nor did he help. Harry managed to leverage the man nearly upright leaning against his shoulder. The breathing did ease a trifle although the grinding of broken bones made the younger wizard wince as the older one cried out in agony.
"If... you had... let me be..." Snape gasped against the white hot pain.
"You'd have died," Harry flatly completed the staccato statement. The Potions Master sighed as he leaned against his student.
"I would be... at peace..." he finished quietly.
"You may still get your wish," a fairly breathless voice called from the door. Pomfrey had arrived with a reluctant Ron in tow. She was across the room and kneeling by the injured man wand out and scanning. She muttered and clucked to herself.
"You sound... like... a boiling kettle..." Snape managed. He didn't see the glare from the medi-witch.
"You're dying and yet you still have the strength for sarcasm," she chastised.
"Seeing... that I'm... not allowed... to die" Snape retorted.
"You seem pretty keen on dying, sir," Harry said politely.
"Better..." Snape disintegrated into a coughing fit. Pomfrey pointed her wand at his ribs and murmured a soft chant in Latin. Nearly immediately the injured man's breathing eased and some color returned to the gray face.
"There. That will hold you for the moment," the nurse resumed running her wand over his body.
"Mr. Weasley, as you are up and about at this unholy hour would you please go to the owlry and send a message to the clinic in Hogsmeade? Addressed to Dr. Barnes. Tell him I am in need of his services immediately. Then come to the infirmary," Pomfrey stood up levitating Snape's body with her. "Mr. Potter, you will help me..." The injured wizard groaned in protest but he was ignored by all three.
"Yes ma'am," Harry and Ron chorused. The red head was out the door in a flash followed more sedately by the rest.
When Ron came into the infirmary he noted that the main ward was completely empty. That left the isolation rooms to check. With a sigh he moved towards the three small rooms near the nurse's own room.
"Severus, just lay still," Pomfrey admonished. The red head walked in the first room to find his best friend struggling to hold an agitated, and nearly naked, Potions Master on the bed. Without further thought Ron went to help.
"She needs to drain his lung but he won't... hold... still," Harry grunted out as Snape struggled.
"'k," Ron muttered as he secured the injured wizard's waist to the bed. As soon as he was stilled the nurse carefully waved her wand over his chest. Nearly immediately Snape pulled in a lungful of air, his eyes flew open as frightened, and red, eyes searched the area.
"It's ok Severus. You're safe! You're back at Hogwarts," Pomfrey kept reassuring him hoping to calm him down.
Snape would have none of it. Disoriented he continued to try to get away, to get off the bed.
"I can't bind him," Pomfrey said apologetically. "When Professor Dumbledore gets here or the healer they'll be able to calm him down."
It seemed like forever until an older man walked through the infirmary and into the isolation ward. His warm brown eyes quickly took in the struggling man.
"Well, Poppy, what do we have tonight?" his voice was rich and deep.
"James! Thank goodness!" Pomfrey gratefully rose and let the healer kneel down by the still struggling Snape. "We haven't been able to do much more than drain one lung. He's been very agitated."
"Indeed. Let me have him gentlemen," Barnes gathered Snape up into his arms and pulled him into his lap as he sat back on the ground. The wizard continued to try to get away but soon the Healer had him snug against him his head tucked under his chin.
"sshhh, child. It's all right. I have you," Barnes murmured. Harry and Ron watched as Snape stilled, listening intently.
"James?" the Potions Master's voice cracked.
"Yes, Severus. It's me. Tell me what's happened to you," Barnes asked.
Haltingly Snape told about the curses and hexes thrown at him as well as physical blows and kicks. The Healer hummed softly, his hand running up and down the quivering back of his patient. Pomfrey looked grave.
"I don't know if we can untangle all those hexes James," she said softly.
"You can't," Snape groaned as the Healer touched a sensitive spot. "Four wizards cast together. Don't..."
"I need to look inside Severus. Let me see what's going on," Barnes said.
The room quieted as James began to scan.
In Diagon Alley Ollivander stared at Dumbledore's face in the flickering flame.
"Albus, I just find it hard to believe I'd be a target," the wand maker said. He'd listened incredulously as his old friend begged then demanded that he leave immediately.
"I know! But Severus nearly died getting the warning to me!" Dumbledore explained urgently.
"Severus? What happened to Snape?" Ollivander demanded. The young wizard spied for the Order. If he brought back information...
"I don't know exactly what has happened. He managed to drag himself back to the school but he was badly hurt. He insisted I get the Ministry alerted and get someone there to protect you," the Headmaster said. "You need to leave NOW!"
"Yes, Albus," Ollivander finally agreed. He stood up and swiftly walked the length of his shop. If Snape said the death eaters were after him it was a fair bet they'd be after his wands as well. With a wave of his hand boxes began leaping off the shelves shrinking as they tumbled into two; open carpet bags he transfigured out of a pair of slippers. These followed him as he came towards the front waiting area. Before he walked to his counter a powerful wave of anger swept over him and he stopped cold.
He glimpsed several robed figures beyond the doorway, not an unusual occurrence. But he also saw the flash of a white mask. Pulling the two bags to his sides Ollivander whispered an apparation spell and disappeared from his shop. If Albus wanted him out, then out he'd go.
Dumbledore stared into the flame. Ollivander was gone but he'd left the portal open. By straining his senses he could make out the clatter of boxes and the clicking of shoes on tile.
"Where'd he go?" a gruff voice startled him. Someone else was in Ollivander shop.
"He's here somewhere. He's always here," another voice sounded.
"HEY! The shelves are empty!!" a frantic voice called. Suddenly a jumble of voices came through the flame. Dumbledore cut the portal before they found it open to him.
Dumbledore hoped that Ollivander had really gotten away. He was optimistic since the group of wizards hadn't found him at the shop. He desperately wanted to get back to Snape but he had to wait by the flame until the Ministry got back to him. So he sat by the fire and waited.
After twenty minutes he contacted the Ministry and was met with a different wizard who knew nothing about his previous dispatch. Could not find a message anywhere for the Minister or the aurors. Did not know who the previous on-call wizard had been. Insisted he'd been called in just 15 minutes ago.
Couldn't put through a message immediately because the entire office was in an uproar. There'd been an attack right in Diagon Alley! One of the shops had been completely destroyed and the Dark Mark could be seen hanging overhead.
Thoroughly frightened Dumbledore insisted he be allowed to contact the security department immediately. He was not only refused but completely cut off. Jumping up he grabbed his floo powder preparing to go directly to the Ministry offices.
"Now Albus, you really shouldn't get so excited. I'm sure
that the Healers would caution you against it," a low melodious voice chuckled behind him.
Whirling around Dumbledore discovered that Ollivander, complete with bags, had entered his private sitting room without raising an alarm. Was in point of fact standing in front of him with a bemused smile adorning his face. The Headmaster grabbed the smaller man in a hug.
Ollivander allowed this familiarity because the wizard was a close friend. Denying Dumbledore was tantamount to denying the sun from rising. Long moments later he felt the Headmaster's breath slow down and was released from the tight grip.
"Albus?" a soft voice sounded from the fire. Both wizards turned to see Madame Pomfrey's sad face. "Albus? You need to come now. There's not much time."
"What do you mean?" Dumbledore asked sharply.
"Come down Albus. Severus was asking for you," was all the nurse would say.
"You heard the witch, let's get to the infirmary," Ollivander said as he pushed the Headmaster towards the door.
The isolation room was quiet. Harry and Ron sat in the corner seemingly forgotten. The bed transfigured into a lounge chair with Healer holding a limp wizard wrapped in soft blankets. Pomfrey appeared and latched onto Dumbledore's arm.
"Albus, we've done all we can," she said quietly. "He was hexed by four wizards and we can't untangle the curses."
"I am amazed he made it back," James murmured as he smoothed hair from his patient's face. "The combination caused a great deal of pain. We've managed to make him comfortable but you should sit with him."
"He hasn't been conscious for... for awhile," the nurse added.
"I'm sorry Albus..." James tried, voice breaking. Dumbledore took a few shaky steps towards his dying friend.
"What do you mean, four wizards?" Ollivander suddenly asked, startling them all. The wand maker brushed past the Headmaster and looked intently at Snape.
"Mr. Ollivander! I'm so relieved..." Barnes began and was quickly stopped by an inpatient flick of a hand. The Healer cleared his throat. "From what Poppy and I can see he was hit with four separate curses in close order. None was a killing blow, but together they've caused horrible consequences from a collapsed lung to internal damage. I could heal the outright damage but the curses have to be removed or else they'll just keep destroying all the linings and mucus membranes."
"May I see for myself?" the brusque man made a movement as to magically lift the ill Potions Master.
"I wouldn't advise it. There are traps within the curses. If they are removed it could all backfire on the person trying to take them away," James cautioned.
"We tried. James' wand..." Pomfrey held up a blacken, shattered piece of wood
"Such a shame. Good piece of hawthorne with a dual core: unicorn hair and phoenix ash," Ollivander lamented. He then raised his hand and motioned upward. The limp body lifted off the Healer's lap and the blankets fell to the ground exposing the bruised torso. It seemed not only spells had hit the wizard.
"You might be interested to know I have personally made nearly every wand currently in use in our community," the older man said conversationally. "And the Ollivander family has made wands for centuries. I would like to see which of my wands did this to Professor Snape."
Concentrating the wand maker raised both hands and slowly moved them over the entire length of the dying wizard. He stopped after a long moment and concentrated on Snape's chest and upper stomach.
"Ah yes, Tom Riddle had thee first cast. A brother to your own wand Mr. Potter," Ollivander said without a glance towards the young wizard huddled in the corner.
"mmmm, and Vincent Goyle Sr. had the second toss. A fine wand much maligned," a frown graced the face.
"Well, this is a surprise. Percival Weasley," he turned slightly towards the corner but did not open his eyes. "Mr. Weasley, did you know your brother kept such company?" He sighed then, downhearted.
"And then Lucius Malfoy was given the privilege of final curse. A shame that; he was such close friends with Severus growing up."
"I rather doubt they were," Dumbledore said faintly. "More like Severus had no choice as his father forced him to garner favor with the Malfoys."
"Really? That is interesting to know. Severus was always so obedient to whomever he believed in or trusted. But you knew that already, Headmaster," Ollivander said pointedly, his eyes opening to look the other wizard full in the face for any reactions. Reactions he received as a guilty, pained expression passed over Dumbledore's face.
"Healer, be ready. Severus will need immediate help when I'm through," Ollivander lifted his hand again.
"But you'll get hurt!" Harry blurted out. The guiless gaze pinned him down.
"No Mr. Potter. I made the wands that did this to Severus. I am more than capable to sort it out and defuse the curses," the wand maker said simply. Again his sight focused on the wizard floating before him and one by one he tugged four separate curses out of the body. Each rose out and made a slight hissing sound as it evaporated.
"There now. Madame Nurse? You will need to assist the Healer," Ollivander said as he let Snape slide back down onto Barnes' lap. "And Albus? I would like to stay ∂at Hogwarts for awhile. At least until I can find safe lodgings elsewhere."
"You saved him!" Ron found his voice as he watched the wizard and witch working over the Potions Master's body. Ollivander gave him a tight smile.
"Perhaps, but what I did for him cannot compare to the sacrifice he made for me! I knew exactly what I was doing and was never in any danger whatsoever. Severus," he said, gesturing towards the now trembling wizard, "knew he was dying and had absolutely no hope. And yet he came back here to make sure I would be warned as soon as possible. He's put himself in harm's way every day both here and out there without much thought for himself."
"Ollivander..." Dumbledore broke into his musings, "we should go find you rooms."
"Severus puts more value in life than anyone I've ever met," Ollivander continued as if not noticing the Headmaster trying to move him along. "I would prefer to be in the dungeons, Albus. I believe Professor Snape has ample room for me and my wands." Dumbledore quickly agreed as he watched the wand maker walk out of the rooms. "And the students should get back to their beds. Dawn comes soon and they'll need their rest before classes."
Again Dumbledore nodded and waved to the two young men.
"I'll be back soon James," he said as he herded the three wizards ahead of him. But there was no reply from the Healer.
Once back in the Gryffindor tower Ron and Harry quickly slid onto Ron's bed and cast a silencing spell. They stared at one another for a moment.
"Percy tossed in with Voldemort?" Harry blurted out. Ron looked disgusted.
"Percy is an ass. He doesn't care a bit about anything but rules and regulations. Purity is important to him," Ron said angrily.
"I... I thought you'd be upset..." Harry began again. Ron gave him a weak smile.
"I'm only upset because it's going to hurt Mum and Dad. I'll have to tell them somehow..." Ron trailed off.
"I'm sure Dumbledore will tell them, or at least your Mum at the next meeting of the Order," Harry murmured quietly.
"I can't believe Ollivander was able to dehex Snape so easily," Ron began.
"I can't believe how quickly Dumbledore wanted him out of the infirmary," Harry stated. Ron looked at him thoughtfully.
"Yeah. He practically shoved Ollivander out the door. He didn't give a toss about us!" Ron exclaimed.
"He was acting really weird, I mean, not his normal weird," Harry tried to explain.
"You're right. I wonder if Dumbledore isn't pleased that Snape is alive," Ron said slowly.
"Ron! Dumbledore is very happy that Snape is alive but it seems like something about Ollivander upset him," Harry offered.
"He said a bunch of stuff about Snape and his... uh... his obedience to people," Ron offered.
"And something about putting himself in danger a lot," Harry added.
"It was like Ollivander didn't like Snape being hurt..." Ron muttered.
"More like he didn't like how Snape was being treated," Harry suggested. They mulled this for several minutes.
"I know that if a wizard is willing to give his life for another it creates a powerful debt," the redhead said.
"And Snape seems to have nearly lost his tonight which would put Ollivander in his debt," Harry completed that thought.
"Would Dumbledore be in his debt?" Ron's eyes flashed in realization. "I mean, Snape went back to spy for him. If Snape had paid off his debts to Dumbledore and even to your dad then maybe... he's got the most powerful wizard of the age in debt to him."
"Dumbledore would owe him a safe place to stay at the least. He'll probably catch hell from the Order since Snape can't spy anymore. Most of 'em will want him out of Hogwarts at the least," Harry suggested.
"We need to talk with 'Mione. She's good at stuff like this," Ron commented rubbing his temples.
The first thing the two friends did was convince a very reluctant witch to skip breakfast and find a very quiet place to talk. After retelling their middle-of-the-night activities it was relatively simple to convince her to skip her classes and go to the infirmary.
They slipped across the castle and into the public ward glancing furtively for anyone. Seeing that it was empty they moved to the private room where they'd last seen Snape.
"Well, Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley," said Ollivander smoothly, "and Ms. Granger, a pleasure." The wand maker nodded and beckoned them into the room. Enough chairs were suddenly available and they sat down quickly, all eyes on the bed. Behind them the door clicked closed.
The Potions Master appeared to be asleep, curled up in a tight, fetal, position. The older man was seated up against the bed, hand gently positioned on he sleeper's upper back where he could softly smooth and stroke hair and shoulders. The Hea'ler and nurse were not to be seen.
"He has slept well and the healers have done a good job in healing most of his injuries," Ollivander reported with a lilt in his voice. "Some things will take a bit longer I'm afraid."
"Such as?" Harry asked a bit too quickly.
"The sheer magnitude of the curses have done some damage to his nervous system; that will need time to heal and regenerate. Then the soft tissue damage will need time as well to repair. Pooled blood takes time to reabsorb," he murmured knowingly.
"How about his mental capabilities?" asked Hermione. "From what I've read about the cruciatus there is always the problem of diminished abilities after prolonged exposure."
"I do not think that will be the problem. Professor Snape was awake earlier and was quite mentally capable. It's his willingness to heal that is troublesome," Ollivander allowed.
"What does that mean?" Ron asked as he stared at the somnolent body trembling slightly.
"It means," a hoarse voice retorted, "That I am a liability. I should not have lived."
"Ah, playing possum still Severus?" the old wand maker chided softly, his hand rhythmically running over the ill man. He received no reply.
"It would seem that Severus believes he has outlived his usefulness," Ollivander said as he raised his eyes to the three friends. "His spying days are over."
"The Order will not tolerate my presence here any longer than absolutely necessary," the trembling increased. "I am a target; I will draw attacks."
"Yes, and don't forget the auroras can barely contain their desire to take you to Azkaban for questioning and to 'protect' you," Ollivander said dryly. "Drink this." A glass of liquid floated over from the table but Snape did not move to drink much less show his face.
"Drink Severus. Then you will be able to yell at me as you desire," the older man stuck the straw in the general area of the ill man's mouth. After a long moment Snape lifted up enough to take a quick drink. With a barely suppressed moan of relief he pulled a longer draw of liquid and suckled until the glass was empty.
"Professor Snape, you are not useless and you know it!" Hermione decided to weigh in. "You are still the best potions master in Britain not to
mention a good teacher."
"Even if you are harsh, sir," Ron managed. "You really are one of the best teachers here."
"And since we're on it, sir, I really think I'm a much bigger target than you! Surely Hogwarts can protect the two of us," Harry added quickly. He could see the shaking begin to lessen; the potion must have been more than just to soothe the abused throat.
Flipping the ragged, oily hair back Snape finally opened his eyes and gave them a truly awful glare punctuated by the bloody red of his eyes.
"I was a spy, a SPY, for gods sakes. No one including the Order, wants a used-up spy lying about! Dumbledore has too much to worry about than to defend th≤e likes of me from all those who wish me dead," the Potions Master snarled. "And now I get to look forward to being tortured and killed all over again! How bloody delightful!" He fell back onto his pillow with a prolonged sigh. Ollivander pushed hair out of eyes and resumed stroking the wizard.
"And I am not some damned dog Ollivander!" Snape growled.
"No, you are not," the wand maker said in a bemused tone. "Neither are you a liability although you cannot see that as of yet. There is much left for you to do in this world and some includes this latest fight between good and evil."
Snape snorted and closed his eyes giving into the gentle touches.
"You slipped something into that water," he muttered as the pillow was fluffed and blankets pulled up.
"Of course Severus. A little something to heal both body and spirit. Another good sleep undisturbed by dreams. Then a light meal. You will move back to your dungeons tomorrow," Ollivander said soothingly. "And you will have me as a guest! Won't that be marvelous?"
"Oh bloody hell," Snape managed very sleepily.
"Yes, and I am sure these three young people will be happy to help you as well... Am I right?" he didn't bother glancing at the students but they all readily agreed to be ready the following day.
"Lovely..." the Potions Master just managed as he slipped into an uncomplicated sleep. The four sat quietly watching the ill man moan and cuddle down onto the bed. With a finally pat Ollivander sat up and faced the three friends.
"That went better than the first time," he said. "Professor Snape wanted me to levitate him outside and leave him on the edge of the forest. He certainly has a low self-opinion."
"I think that he's pretty worried about bringing the death eaters into the castle and hurting the students,"
"Not to mention getting sent to Azkaban," Ollivander reminded them. "Neither side has much compassion for him. I'm afraid the Headmaster is not very forthcoming in support either."
"Why not? Professor Snape risked a lot for him!" Ron said, outrage painting his tone. He might not like Snape much, but the man had nearly died several times helping them.
"Risked a lot indeed. Professor Snape has risked life and limb for Dumbledore and the Order for nearly twenty years and they have little interest in his welfare. It is really an unfortunate situation."
The students shifted uncomfortably. Harry braved the question.
"Why don't they care? Professor Snape has done so much for them," he asked. Ollivander looked at them, carefully weighing his words.
"Make no mistake, Professor Snape is a hard man. He has done things that others could not to gain acceptance into Voldemort's circle. Things that would earn time in Azkaban at the least, the Dementor's kiss and possibly death. But he did these things and was able to bring back the best of information to our side over the years. It changes a person and it certainly changed our Severus," the wand maker sighed.
"With the rising of Voldemort for the second time some of us cautioned Dumbledore against sending Severus back. He'd been pardoned by the court after the first fall and it wasn't very secret that Dumbledore himself had offered testimony. Even Voldemort wouldn't be so foolish as to think Snape could lie to the Headmaster! The teaching position at Hogwarts, the various raids being thwarted, the inability to deliver Harry or the wards to him to invade the school... No, it is safe to say Severus should never had been sent back'" Ollivander sighed. "I hate to say this, but to the "good" wizarding world he is tainted. To the death eaters he is a traitor. He has no where to go."
They sat together silently thinking over what Ollivander had told them.
"What can we do sir? He shouldn't be cast out," Harry said quietly.
"I am not sure," Ollivander said. "First he needs to heal,
then get back to work. That will give him some purpose. I fear keeping him here might be a problem..."
"Didn't the Order or Dumbledore at the least make some promises or guarantees if he spied for us?" Hermione asked. This caused Ollivander face to light up.
"Excellent point Ms. Granger! In fact they did. I believe there is a copy in Gringott's..." he looked at the slumbering wizard. Getting that copy might be a bit difficult, but Ollivander had many people that owed him favors. This was one instance he wouldn't mind using up a few.
"Can we get it?" Harry asked interrupting the inner soliloquy.
"Hmmm? Ah, yes, I believe I can," Ollivander said.
"If you can then we could copy it and send it to some of the Order to remind them of their obligations..." Hermione mused. The wand maker grinned wickedly.
"Oh, Ms. Granger, that is a deliciously wonderful notion! I will go and secure the document if you three wouldn't mind staying here with Professor Snape. He will sleep for several hours and the Healer will be back soon," Ollivander said. "I want him to stay here until I return!"
"Should you go by yourself?" Harry asked. "I could..."
"No!" Hermione and Ron said immediately.
"I can go," Ron offered. "It makes the most sense. You'd be a walking target, mate, and Hermione certainly can argue with Professor Snape much better than me!"
"An adult would be best," Hermione pointed out.
"You're right, Ms. Granger, but there is no one to be had. Mr. Weasley will do. I think we can create a believable story to cover our travel," Ollivander mused.
"Perhaps an assistant?" Hermione offered.
"If I were to take assistants then yes, I would want to select a few things for them to use," the wand maker murmured. "Are you offering to assist me?" The three glanced at one another and then at the slumbering, bruised wizard.
"Yes, we'd like to assist you as well as Professor Snape," Ron said stoutly, although his eyes were a bit hesitant.
"Delightful! I just happen to be in need of some able assistants to help organize and catalogue my wands. They certainly were jumbled in the move to Hogwarts," the older wizard said rubbing his hands together. "I also have need of a potions master. Since Severus here is available I will select him as my assistant as well."
"You'd better go before Albus puts in an appearance," a very sleepy voice waft up from the bed. All four wizards snapped their eyes to Snape.
"Hmmm... Dr. Barnes said that would put you under for hours Severus!" Ollivander said in a miffed voice.
"Well, yes, except I have a problem with being 'put under' as you so eloquently state," Snape responded with a long yawn. "I have been drifting a bit. Why do you need me as an assistant..." Another yawn punctuated the sentence.
Ollivander moved back to the ill man and began to gently rub the long planes of his back. It was almost amusing to watch Snape curl down and accept the ∏touches. Almost. Ron waited for the waspish words to sting.
"Sleep Severus. I will leave Mr. Potter and Ms. Granger to study here and Mr. Weasley and I will make a quick trip to Diagon Alley," he said.
"Don't need to go... I have supplies in my rooms..." Snape melted into a long exhale.
"Duermos," the wand maker commanded, watching carefully. "That should hold him until we're away Mr. Weasley. He doesn't know exactly what we are going to go retrieve." Again the intense glance swept over the three students.
"We will wait for you here then?" Hermione asked.
"Yes... Yes, wait here. Please don't leave Professor Snape alone. I'm sure one of the house elves will fetch breakfast for you. Mr. Weasley will have to content himself with a quick bite a little later," Ollivander stated. "We should be back just after lunch. Come..." and the older wizard was up and out the door before any more questions could be asked,
The visit to Diagon Alley was quick indeed. They'd floo'd to the Leaky Cauldron and entered a very sedate alley. He supposed that on a normal business day with all the students gone and people at work it would be quiet. A few witches and wizards going about their business, a few more sitting sipping tea in the outdoor cafes.
The visit to Gringotts was fascinating. They went into the building and were immediately shown to a spacious office on the second floor. Large glass windows overlooked the sleepy streets. As Ron sat in a leather chair with gilded legs Ollivander talked with a very dignified goblin seated at a large black desk. He must have been important because the desk top was clean; only a small :but ornate sneak-o-scope sat on the corner spinning lazily.
"Professor Snape will be needing his personal letter, then," the official commented peering at the old wand maker.
"Exactly. He is in a precarious position at the moment," Ollivander agreed.
"You should know we're not inclined to give such things out without the wizard's expressed permission..." the goblin said.
"He would ask if he were able," Ollivander countered.
"Mr. Weasley, how incapacitated is your professor?" the goblin's gaze suddenly shifted to the red head who gulped and sat up much straighter.
"He... he is bed bound, sir. I'm not sure what he was hexed with but he was bleeding inside last night. Bad. Madame Pomfrey had to pierce his lung to drain it," the student managed.
"And this morning?" the goblin prompted.
"He was too weak to even sit up. And the little he was able to speak was very hard for him. He sounded hoarse, like he'd swallowed glass," Ron gained a little confidence and his own voice didn't squeak.
"Hmmm, Severus Snape is not one to like people meddling in his personal affairs..." the goblin began. "But given what you have told me I am inclined to provide you with copies of the letter you want. If anyone wishes to see the original document they may apply through me directly."
The goblin left the room for nearly twenty minutes. Long enough for Ron to become extremely agitated. Even the cool of Mr. Ollivander seemed to be warming and he began to slowly pace the breadth of the room. Eventually the door opened and the goblin reappeared with a sheaf of paper.
"Ten copies Mr. Ollivander duly notarized. And here is a copy of the insurance policy on your business. If you'd take time to read it over and list to the best of your abilities what you have lost we can send it over to processing," the goblin actually smiled very slightly.
The wand maker accepted the papers carefully arranged in two files. As he moved to the door waving to Ron to follow the goblin stopped him one last time.
"Let Mr. Snape know that if he is in need of employment I would be pleased to have him work with Gringotts. We have sought out a competent Potions maker in the past with little positive result. Mr. Snape would be a great asset. He would have quarters and lab here, in our headquarters," now the goblin smiled broadly. "Safest place in Britain."
"I will be sure to let Professor Snape know," Ollivander returned the smile. "It will please him although I don't think he will accept at the moment."
After a warm breakfast Harry and Hermione had settled down to study in earnest. They were interrupted two hours later by Dr. Barnes, who smiled quietly and moved straight to Snape's bed. With a quick spell the slumbering man had been levitated and snugged against the Healer. He asked no questions simply indicated for them to continue studying as he concentrated on his patient.
It was the arrival of the Headmaster that shattered the calm. Lunch had just been delivered and the Healer was attempting to coerce Snape into wakefulness. A cup of warm broth was being waved under his nose.
"Why are you two here? You should be in class!" Dumbledore remonstrated seeing the two students setting out dishes on a low table.
"Mr. Ollivander asked that we assist Dr. Barnes," Harry said.
"Mr. Ollivander is not a teacher here," Dumbledore said very quietly.
"No, but I needed some help with Professor Snape and Nurse Pomfrey is busy," Dr. James replied. "They were here and have been quite helpful."
"I should have been called," the Headmaster replied as he walked towards the bed. "I am going to arrange a room at St. Mungo's for his recuperation. I would have had a nurse or healer to come sooner if he requires so much attention."
"But Severus has always stayed here until he is able to return to his rooms and on to teach," Pomfrey said from the doorway. Dumbledore turned back.
"Well, I doubt given his injuries he will be able to return to his duties this semester. He will certainly need extra care and Hogwarts doesn't have the staff for it!" concern sounded in his voice.
"Albus! Severus doesn't need any 'extra care' that we can't provide!" Pomfrey chided.
"And I certainly have time to spend with Severus," Barnes added. "Two days will see him well enough to return to his quarters."
An annoyed look flashed across Dumbledore's face quickly replaced by a firm patience.
"Now James, that's too long away from your practice!" he began. "Severus needs better care and away from the bustle and noise of the castle is just what he needs!"
"Professor Snape needs the protection of Hogwarts, sir," Hermione responded quietly. She earned a quickly restrained glare.
"Nonsense! He will be perfectly safe at St. Mungo's!" the Headmaster waved his hand as if banishing the thought away.
"He's a target! You know that Professor!" Harry rejoined. Now he earned a slightly less restrained glare.
"Harry," Dumbledore cajoled, "Professor Snape will have certain people after him. He can be protected at St. Mungo's. I do not want to put any student in danger!"
"The Headmaster is simply performing his duty to keep the students safe," Snape's rough voice wafted from the bed. "There are many people that want me. It will endanger everyone and especially Mr. Potter." The ill man attempted to sit up but could not, collapsing back against the healer.
"Severus! You life is forfeit! He who will not be named will send everyone after you since you thwarted his plans to kill Ollivander!" Pomfrey weighed in her face white.
"I care deeply for Severus" Dumbledore said with considerable distress. "But I cannot allow any student to be harmed! The Aurors will provide protection for him at St. Mungo's"
"The aurors want a piece of him as well!" muttered Dr. James heedless of the glare that was leveled on him.
Silence filled the room punctuated by Snape's painful breathing. Barnes murmured a soothing charm and pulled his patient closer. Harry suddenly shook himself and stood up.
"You're right sir!" he agreed firmly. "None of the students should be in danger because Voldemort wants to get someone here." The Headmaster smiled.
"I am pleased you understand! Professor Snape
knows he cannot remain here. It is much too dangerous for the children," the relief in his voice was palatable.
"I will take my leave as soon as I am able," Snape wheezed. "Tonight if you can provide a portkey."
"You are not in any shape to travel Severus!" Dr. James asserted. "Headmaster! I cannot allow my patient to travel. He needs a few days more at the least!"
"I will arrange for a portkey. Severus will be perfectly safe and will arrive at St. Mungo's unharmed," Dumbledore said patiently. "I will notify the staff and the ministry so everything will be ready."
"Really, Albus..." Pomfrey began to protest.
"No, Poppy, the Headmaster is correct. I am a liability. The sooner I am gone the better," Snape rasped.
"I'd better pack then," HarÈry turned and headed towards the door.
"What?" Dumbledore's head turned so fast in the youth's direction there was an audible *snap*.
"Well, we cannot put the students in danger," Harry said, affecting the patient, caring tones employed by the old wizard. "And I am a much greater target than Professor Snape. It makes perfect sense for me to travel to St. Mungo's. I can study under the Professor and I am sure the other professors will provide study guides for their courses..."
"But Harry! The wards there are not as secure as mine... I mean Hogwarts! You would be putting yourself in great danger! I cannot allow that!" Dumbledore sputtered like a boiling kettle.
"I am sure I will be safe sir. I mean, if it's too dangerous to keep the professor here then it is definitely much too dangerous to keep me here!" Harry said with infinite reason. He reached the door and started to pass the nurse who looked rather shell shocked.
"No! I will not allow it!" Dumbledore forgo all attempts at persuasion and went to outright refusal. Harry turned and lifted an eyebrow.
"You won't allow it? I rather think not. My uncle and aunt emancipated me last summer as you well know. I am in control of my own life, sir. It is no concern of yours where I choose to study and with whom I study," the young man said in a silky voice rivaling the Potions Master.
"Ah Mr. Potter," a musical voice cut through the tension filling the room. "Where it is true you have some control over your life you did enter into a verbal contract with me as my assistant."
Mr. Ollivander chose that moment to make his presence known. He'd listened long enough and knew it was time to end the battle.
He did have the trump as it were.
"assistant???" the Headmaster sputtered.
"Yes, Albus, assistant. Mr. Potter offered to study under me along with Mr. Weasley and Ms. Granger," Ollivander smiled making the entire room brighten. Magic was a wondrous thing!
"In addition I require Professor Snape's expertise in potions to sort out my inventory. I have special needs that he can create for me," he smiled winningly at Dr. James. "And it won't be too taxing I believe. A few hours here and there to brew. And some specialized consulting on creating new cores for wands I have in mind to develop." He walked across the room and sat on the edge of the bed spreading his good will.
"Even with hiring and housing a replacement potions instructor for the term there is more than enough room in the dungeons for us all! A delightful house elf named Beryl was very pleased to assist me in fixing up the space in Professor Snape's lair. I'm sure we'll get on famously!" the wand maker finished with a pat on the recumbent wizard's shoulder.
"Oh gods..." Snape moaned as he leaned more fully into the Healer. Ron Weasley appeared in the door and moved beside Hermione.
"Finished sir!" he positively chirped. "Oh, and here's the copy for you, Headmaster." A rolled parchment was handed to Dumbledore who was still trying to figure how he'd lost.
"I hope you don't mind Severus," Ollivander said quietly yet everyone in the room could hear. "Mr. Weasley and I popped over to Gringotts and secured copies of the agreement you made with Headmaster Dumbledore and the original members of the Order of Phoenix."
"WHAT?!" the Headmaster roared as he quickly opened and scanned the parchment.
"And I took the liberty of having copies sent to several of the current Order members that I know," he once more patted the Potions Master turning to face Dumbledore. "I felt they needed reminding about certain promises they made to protect you should your cover be blown. Especially seeing as how one of the Order blew your cover."
"One of the Order betrayed Professor Snape?!' now it was Harry's turn to return to the battle.
"It does not matter how I was found out," ground out Snape. "I was and I can no longer fulfill my obligations."
"Precisely why it is time for the Order to fulfill theirs," Ollivander said firmly.
Dumbledore stared blindly at the parchment letting everything sink in. He'd been contacted by several key members demanding Snape be removed from Hogwarts now that his position of spy had been ruined. He hadn't wanted to think about who had turned Snape over to Voldemort. He had been quite willing to go along with the overwhelming push to send the broken man away regardless of the danger to him.
"Was it Moody, Severus?" he asked quietly. They waited for an answer but none came. Barnes moved slightly to look at Snape.
"Gaining a room mate was too much I suppose," Ollivander said carelessly.
"He's passed out," Barnes remarked. "He is very fragile and will be for some time. I must insist we keep him in the infirmary for a few days. If you must cast him out Albus, I will take responsibility for him."
With a quick flip of wrists the Headmaster rolled the parchment and tucked it into his sleeve. He pulled his shoulders back and resettled himself. Given how neatly Ollivander had forced his hand, he chose to be conciliatory.
"Severus will not be cast out James. Mr. Ollivander is correct, we owe him a safe place. He has done more for the Order, for me, than anyone had any right to ask. I regret even thinking of sending him to St. Mungo's. I hope he will accept my apologies once he's awake." Dumbledore turned to the students. "Please accept my apologies for being so high-handed Harry. You are right, you are an adult and are in charge of your own life. I hope you will stay here and work with us, study with us, for the time being."
"Yes, I would prefer to stay here at Hogwarts, Professor," Harry said quietly.
"Then perhaps you should be off to your afternoon classes my young assistants!" Ollivander said brightly. "I will remain here to see to Professor Snape."
As the trio headed out the door, with plenty of sandwiches from Dobby, Ollivander called, "Don't forget, stop by the dungeons tomorrow at lunch! We have work to do!"
With a round of smiles and agreements, the new wand maker assistants left.