Author notes: Kind readers, I have a small surprise for you... The blot bunny, I could not resist it. Here is the sequel to my short story "Obligations." Thank you, as always, for your kindness.
Warning for use of sharp implements. Blood. Pathos. Helpless!Snape.
Aufero Diligenter -"remove carefully"
Logospilgrim, the quiet professor
Snape was not quick enough. Not this time. Too many sleepless nights, too much worry and firewhiskey. His reflexes were not what they once were.
Even as he tried to shove the suit of armor between himself and the enchanted daggers that McGonagall had hurled at him with a flick of her wand, one of them sank into his right shoulder, penetrating all the way into the stone wall, holding him fast.
He gave a strangled cry and was struck by a swift succession of blows, a dagger piercing his left hand, another running through the flesh beneath his rib cage on the left side of his abdomen, yet another stabbing him in his right thigh. He was pinned against the wall like a dark butterfly.
His wand slipped from his fingers and rolled upon the floor.
Everyone stood still.
Snape's eyes were wide open, and his mouth was gaping. Short, painful breaths were forced in and out of his chest; his face was deathly pale and shining with sweat; his eyes were dazed.
Harry removed his invisibility cloak, taking almost all present by surprise -especially the Headmaster, who made as if to move and then choked back a cry of agony. "P- Po... Potter... Harry..."
The young Gryffindor took a step towards Snape. The latter appeared to be struggling against unconsciousness; he swallowed and blinked repeatedly.
"You murdered Dumbledore," Harry said, his voice cold and hard.
But Snape shook his head. "N... No..."
"You're going to die like the coward you are," Harry said.
"Listen... to me..." Snape croaked. "Before it's too... too late... Please..."
A slight frown creased Harry's brow. "I don't have time for your lies, Snape."
Snape shook his head again. "I've... a message," he said, and drew a shuddering breath. "From... From Dumbledore..."
"Liar!" Within a couple of seconds, Harry was standing face to face with Snape, his wand gouging the taller man's throat. "You're nothing but a liar, and I hate you, I hate you!"
Snape looked as though his eyes couldn't focus. "Let me show you... m- my... Patronus," he said, the words barely audible. Blood was pooling at his feet, and seeped from the corner of his mouth. "Little time..."
Harry's firm resolve began to waver. "I trust Snape," Dumbledore had told him over and over. But it was Snape who cast the spell that ended the elderly wizard's life. Snape who had tormented him since he'd first arrived at Hogwarts. Snape, the Death Eater...
Snape's breathing was growing more irregular. Harry stared at him and said, "If you try anything, I swear I'll kill you."
"Potter!" McGonagall cried as Harry picked up Snape's wand.
"Keep your wands trained on him," Harry told the nearby adults. He handed Snape his ebony colored wand, but the Headmaster could not quite curl his fingers around the handle; his suffering was too great.
To Harry's shock, he heard Snape murmur, "Help me."
Harry closed his hand around Snape's, so that the Headmaster could grip his wand. Snape took a few shallow breaths, as if gathering what was left of his paltry strength, and said, "Expecto Patronum."
He was unable to sustain the spell for longer than a moment, but everybody gasped at the sight of the gentle, brilliant white doe that emerged from his wand.
Harry's jaw dropped, and his eyes locked with Snape's. "It was... You?"
Snape gave a feeble nod and passed out, his head hanging forward.
Harry snapped into action. "We have to those things out of him... Hurry. Whatever's going on, we need him alive."
"Potter, are you sure?" McGonagall said. Then she looked at Snape and whispered, "Severus... I don't understand..."
Luna went to Harry's side and said, "I'll help you, Harry."
McGonagall, Flitwick and Sprout glanced at each other and joined Harry and Luna who were considering Snape's limp form.
"We have to be careful," Luna said softly. "That wound will have to be looked after right away." She indicated Snape's abdomen, into which the largest of the daggers had been thrust.
"Let's remove those from his hand and leg first," McGonagall said. She pointed her trembling wand at him and said, "Aufero Diligenter."
The daggers slowly slid from his thigh and the palm of his hand.
"Now... The shoulder," McGonagall said. "Hold him up, Potter."
Harry stepped closer to the Headmaster, preparing himself to bolster the man he had spent so many years loathing. He gripped him underneath the left arm and could feel Snape's cheek pressed against his shoulder. "I'm ready."
"Aufero Diligenter," McGonagall said.
Blood flowed from Snape's shoulder as the dagger eased itself from his body, inch by painful inch, then he slumped into Harry's awaiting arms.
"I've got him," Harry said. "Get the last one out of him."
"There might be more blood this time," Luna said. "My father and I have taken care of lots of injured magical creatures, you know..."
"Pomona, see if you can find Poppy," McGonagall said.
The stout witch nodded and raced down the hall.
McGonagall pointed her wand at Snape one more time, carefully dislodging the dagger that still affixed him to the wall. An alarming quantity of blood gushed from him when he was at last set free, and Harry heard a faint groan escape Snape's lips.
"Put him on the floor, Potter," McGonagall said, her features almost as pale as Snape's.
With McGonagall and Flitwick's assistance, Harry lowered Snape until the latter was resting upon the stone surface. Luna knelt next to the Headmaster and began loosing his cravat.
"We have to try and control the bleeding," McGonagall said.
Flitwick muttered a spell, and a curtain hanging in front of one of the window started ripping itself into a series of long strands, which flew across the corridor and piled neatly alongside Snape.
To their astonishment, Snape's eyes suddenly fluttered and he drew in a sharp, agonized breath.
"No... Calling me... God, no..."
"Severus, try to stay calm," McGonagall said, as she herself attempted not to panic. She kneeled next to him and promptly wrapped a strip of fabric around his bleeding hand.
His features contorted into a mask of pain.
"Poppy will be here in a moment," McGonagall said, turning her attention to his leg, while Harry pressed a bunched up mound of cloth below the Headmaster's ribs.
Snape's head was rolling from side to side on the cold floor, and he could not prevent the tears that seeped from the corners of his eyes.
"We'll have to lift him a little, so I can bandage his shoulder," Luna said.
No sooner had she and McGonagall raised him slightly from the floor that he cried out and lost consciousness again.
"We should get those robes off of him," McGonagall said, a sheen of sweat covering her face.
Harry, Luna and McGonagall managed to remove the robes, which were a bloody, tangled mess, from the inert Headmaster, and then they unbuttoned his coat and shirt. McGonagall tugged the soiled garments halfway down his arms, so that his shoulders were exposed, and she and Luna wrapped bandages around the injured one, while Harry did the same to Snape's abdomen.
The sound of running footsteps echoed further down the hallway, and a second later, Pomfrey and Sprout were hastening towards them.
"What in Merlin's name happened here?" Pomfrey said. She dropped to her knees beside Snape, drew her wand and waved it across his body. "What have you done to him! Severus!"
"Oh... I'd say it was a misunderstanding," Luna said as she serenely continued to coil bandages around Snape's shoulder. "The Headmaster will explain everything when he's better."
"I know he's on our side," Pomfrey said tersely.
They all gaped at her.
"What?" McGonagall said. "Why didn't you tell m-"
"Because he didn't! But we haven't got time for this now. I have to mend these wounds or there's no chance he'll live much longer, let alone get better," Pomfrey said, moving her wand in swift, abrupt motions over his chest and muttering one spell after the other. "His stomach has been punctured through... He's bleeding internally."
McGonagall's eyes were watering. "It's my fault... But I didn't know... I thought... Dumbledore didn't tell me anything, and Severus... What were we supposed to believe?"
"We still don't really know what's going on, professor," Harry said. "Once he tells us Dumbledore's message, then... You did what you had to do." He gazed at Snape. "I'm sure he'll agree."
"Minerva, give him this," Pomfrey said, handing her a vial. "Blood replenishing potion. I've got the stomach wound under control..." She cast yet more spells. "Yes, he's responding well..."
McGonagall pointed her wand at Snape and said, "Ennervate."
The Headmaster's eyes barely opened.
"Severus, can you hear me? Swallow this."
She poured the liquid into his mouth little by little, allowing him to ingest it safely; at last the vial was empty.
"That's it," McGonagall said.
His eyes opened a bit more and he looked at her with an intensity that belied the weakness of his state. "Potter... Minerva, where is... Harry Potter..."
"I'm here, professor," Harry said, leaning closer to the stricken man.
Snape began to shiver. "Potter... I... I..."
McGonagall transfigured Snape's bloodied clothing into a warm blanket and wrapped it snugly around his upper body.
"We need to take him to the hospital wing," Pomfrey said.
"This can't... wait," Snape said. He shuddered with the effort of speaking, but did not relent. "You must trust... trust me..." he said, glancing at Harry before letting his eyes drift shut.