Title: Shrekody, a Snarry Tale
Word Count: 22, 319
Rating: PG-13. Dude, it's PRE slash, because I suck.
Warnings: My insane muse, a few swear words, and loads of implications. Oh! And several people who died in Deathly Hallows are still alive. Just saying. Be brave: Implied warnings: *beastiality, super!Harry, bondage and role playing, shamelessly excessive sighing, wanna-be Dark Lord!Lupin* [highlight to read]
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended. Shrek is owned by Dreamworks and Disney, depending on whatever the state of their divorce settlement was, and I don't own them either. Nor do I own any of the movies I ruthlessly warped to fit my story. I make no money or friends for my effort here. I sincerely apologize for writing this, in fact.
Authors Note: Inappropriate amounts of love go to dracosoftie for her Overall Superior Awesomeness, and faeryqueen07 for staying up till one in the morning and coding half the damn story in HTML for me. I adore you beyond words. A shout out to etbhsb even though she vanished off the face of the earth (tear), and to my Bizan lovelies: Branny, Carrie (Luna4917), and Jess (hdpryncessflyffy) for rallying with Shrek quotes and not mocking me when told what I was writing.
Summary: Severus *sighs* Grand Challenge using the terms long journey and bump in the night. Harry has vanished and Lord Farquaad is out of control. The only person who knows where Harry is isn't telling. Therefore, it is up to Snape, as always, to fetch the brat, muzzle the wolf, deal with Gryffindors, and save the day with limited recognition for his work. Woe.
Shrekody, a Snarry Tale
Part One: A twisted fairy-tale unfolds...
The world was a much nicer place when everything was muted and slightly out of focus.
Severus reflected upon this as he blinked lazily at the ceiling. People were leaning over him, invading his personal space and generally making a nuisance of themselves. He wanted to curse, find the perfect words to tear them apart and make them bleed metaphorical tears… was that even possible? He frowned slightly, trying to imagine whether the tears would be as red as blood or as clear as venom. Perhaps black and green, like the little snakes he worked so hard to protect at school. The thought of green and silver snakes pouring out of opened mouths, dripping from inflamed nostrils, and slithering from red-rimmed eyes, was so startlingly funny that he barked out a hoarse laugh. Somehow, this seemed to alarm his captors more than his dour passivity, and they stepped back collectively, exchanging worried glances. Severus' vision didn't seem quite right, though, and he watched in utter fascination as the lights swirled and moved around the room like fairies in flight. Clearly recognizing that if he was comparing lights to fairies he should not attempt cognitive speech, he merely sighed and went back to sleep.
The next time he awoke, he felt better than he had in years. His knees, having never quite forgiven him for the years spent kneeling, dueling, and hours spent immobile stirring cauldrons, didn't greet him with their customary twinge of pain. The muscles in his neck didn't protest him turning his head, and his throat, though feeling suspiciously tender, was nowhere reminiscent of the biting agony he remembered last. All in all… he felt amazing. Suspiciously so. Spying his wand lying on the end table, Severus snatched it up and crawled from the bed. He blinked up a second later from where he had landed on the floor. Clearly, his captors were more effective at torture than he had credited them for, if being this loose and limp was the end result of their treatment. Still, he had survived worse. Gritting his teeth, he hauled himself to his feet and half-limped, half-stumbled out the door.
It took but a few hours to realize the war was over and a bit longer than that to learn he had been lying comatose in the Hospital Wing for nigh on six months under the tender mercy of Madam Pomfrey. The matron had been delighted to have Severus under her undivided attention at long last, and had kept him drugged out of his mind while she vanished and regrew whole sections of his skeletal frame, doctored him with drugs to correct the extensive damage the Dark Mark had done to his nervous and respiratory systems, and corrected any inconsequential injury she happened to stumble upon. The end result was that while he felt better than he had in years, it took several weeks to learn to walk without staggering, and another four to learn that Harry Potter had taken it upon himself to pack up Spinner's End and dump the whole lot of Severus' possessions at Grimmauld Place before vanishing off the face of the earth.
And so it was that eight months after the end of the war, Severus stormed out of Hogwarts, Apparated to Grimmauld Place, and claimed the house as his new residence. Where he lived in solitude, quite happily, for three months before an annoying redhead invaded his sanctuary.
Kreacher served the whelp tea as Severus stood in the doorway and observed the youngest Weasley male poking around his drawing room. "Whoa. Look at that." Ron, unaware he was being observed, leaned forward in fascination and stared at the dead pixies littered atop the rolling desk. "Who'd wanna live in a place like this?"
"This would be my home, Mr. Weasley." Ron yelped, jumped, and fumbled for his wand as he turned around. Severus ignored him, sweeping into the room and settling into his favorite chair before the fireplace before helping himself to tea. "Feel free to vacate the premises."
"Oh, right," Ron offered feebly. He approached his former teacher slowly and let out a braying laugh as he settled cautiously on the couch. "And it is a lovely home, too. Brings back a lot of, um, memories, being here." Ron reached forward and fixed a cup of tea with a lightly trembling hand. "You know, you're really quite a decorator. It's amazing what you've done to the place with such a modest budget. I like that boulder." Severus flicked a look at where the daft idiot was pointing, sneering as he recognized a rock crystal. "That is a NICE boulder."
"Cease your inane babbling and tell me why you decided upon this impromptu visit." Black eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Or are you here as emissary for Potter? Has he decided that after stashing all my possessions here he can presume to evict me?"
"Huh?" Ron shook his head, looking flustered. "Erm, no, Harry didn't send me. I mean, I'm here about Harry, kind of, well, mostly, but, uh, no."
A single eyebrow arched in disdain as Severus sedately sipped his tea. "Would you like to attempt that again in a language similar to one spoken by British citizens?"
Ron looked around the crowded, dingy room in search of further inspiration. "I, uh, guess you don't entertain much, do you?"
Severus didn't move so much as a muscle. "I like my privacy."
Ron paled, leaning back into the sofa as though trying to disappear. Severus reflected that in this house, surrounded by such dark relics, he had a fair shot of making that wish a reality. The braying idiot was saved from his own stupidity by the sound of a crash and muffled swearing coming from the kitchen. Severus withdrew his wand, eyes narrowing in suspicion as he swept from the room. "Let me explain," Ron begged, scrambling up and chasing after him. Severus ignored him, storming into his kitchen and flinging open the door. The sight before him stopped him cold in horror.
"Oh, no!" Snape bellowed, so utterly furious vicious orange smoke started pouring from his wand and casting the room in an eerie light. Everyone froze. Severus took a second to collect himself, relieved that his fury still commanded immediate and absolute compliance, before focusing on the tableau before him. "Dead twin off the table."
"He's not dead!" George frowned at his former professor, moving protectively towards his twin and smoothing back a limp strand of red hair. "Freddie's… sleeping. He'd sampled some WWW products before the battle, and they interacted with the spell that hit him somehow. We just need to figure out how to wake him up." George scratched his head, staring at his brother as though expecting him to wake up and spout off a flash of brilliance regarding how to fix the problem.
"Really?" Severus gave the silent twin an interested look, itching to take a sample of blood and retreat to the sanctity of his lab. Then something crashed overhead and he was reminded of the unwanted intruders all over again. "Well, stick him in there somewhere and I'll deal with him later. Comatose beings have as much business being in a kitchen as dead beings do."
Looking disgruntled, George hefted his twin over his shoulder and staggered from the room. Bill watched his brother go before turning and giving Severus a commiserating look. "I know, sir, that this is an extreme imposition, but ever since Lupin became Lord Farquaad or whatever, and overthrew the Ministry of Magic, he's been a bit… rigid, in his interactions with others."
"Rigid," Severus repeated flatly, trapping Lee Jordan's tarantula in a magically binding cage. Lee gave Snape a sour look, collected his pet, and stormed out of the room after George. "What has the wolf done? Huffed and puffed and blown your dilapidated lodging to the ground?"
"Worse." Percy collapsed in a chair at the table and rubbed at his temples. "He huffed and he puffed and he… sent an eviction notice."
"Eviction notice?" Severus was reluctantly impressed by the wolf's callousness. Many families had been scrambling to hide from the Dark Lord's wrath and had fallen behind on property taxes and whatnot. To capitalize upon that distress… Perhaps he should make Lupin a vat of Wolfsbane free of charge for finally giving in to his inner beast.
"Ginny somehow got Mum to agree to let her stay with her boyfriend," all of the Weasley brothers growled at the word, "and Fleur is converting the spare room for Mum and Dad." Bill pressed the palms of his hands to his eyes and sighed before lowering his hands and flicking a wary look at the door. "Fleur refuses to let the, uh, the twins and Lee stay with us."
"But we –" Percy gestured to his remaining siblings "- have nowhere else to go besides the Order safe houses."
Then again, perhaps Severus would doctor the potion with a generous amount of silver extract. He knew he'd been right to always hate the wolf.
Charlie, the only smart Weasley who had learned to calm rampaging dragons, slowly put his wand on the table, lowered his head slightly, and raised a single hand in a non-threatening manner. "Farquaad will only release the confiscated properties to Harry, and only Dumbledore knows where Harry is."
"Have you asked the senile half-wit to turn over the boy?" Severus narrowed his eyes in sudden suspicion. "Properties?"
"Uh, yeah." Sensing danger, Percy scooted closer to Charlie. "Lupin didn't just go after us Weasleys, and McGonagall is relocating everyone as fast as she can."
Black eyes narrowed, giving the fireplace a look of deep suspicion, as though expecting misbegotten ruffians to come pouring out just to smite him. "Lupin needs to be manacled to the wall and fed poisons."
George, having walked into the room with Lee brushing suspicious pink feathers from his hair, brightened immediately. "Are you going to go find Harry and demand Lupin return our homes?"
A great clamor arose at George's question. Severus felt the muscle over his eye twitch and clenched his jaw in response. Susan Bones popped out of the fireplace just then. "I want to go home!" She sniffled pathetically, turning to look around the dark, crowded room. Her nose crinkled in disdain. "I have to stay here until McGonagall gets this mess sorted?"
"Don't get comfortable," Severus bit out. Susan jumped, paled, and latched on to Charlie. An impressive feat in and of itself as Charlie was surrounded by his brothers and various other idiots. "I shall go to Hogwarts, convince Dumbledore to tell me where he hid the brat, and you will all be returned to your homes forthwith."
The cheer that followed his pronouncement was louder this time, cutting off abruptly as Snape's hands twitched on his wand. Undeterred, Ron waved his hand enthusiastically in the air, practically jumping in place as he begged. "Me! Pick me! Ooh, Professor, please let me come find Harry, too!"
Severus Apparated outside the gates of Hogwarts and stood looking at the gates with disgust. Either the monstrosity hadn't been there when he made his escape, or he had been too close to the taste of freedom to truly recognize it for what it was. He ignored the sound of Weasley Apparating next to him and focused on the lavishly-painted Hogwarts crest now attached to the gates with a red button in the middle.
"What's that button do?"
Not about to touch something he hadn't had a chance to analyze, Severus merely shrugged. "Press it and see." It was a good thing Molly had had such a large litter, Severus reflected sourly, watching as her youngest son foolishly and unhesitatingly pressed a button he knew nothing about. Severus' hand tightened reflectively upon his wand, ignoring the donkey's instinctive step backwards, as a jaunty tune emerged from the gate.
Welcome to Hogwarts
It's the perfect school.
Here we have some rules,
Let us lay them down.
Don't make waves,
Stay in line,
And we'll get
Hogwarts is the perfect school.
Please keep off of the grass
Shine your shoes
Wipe your… face
Hogwarts is… the… perfect… school.
Severus was still standing there, absolutely frozen in place, when an overly joyful voice suddenly boomed out, "Support the Ministry of Magic!" Then, blessedly, the jarring music stopped and the world was once again silent.
For once Ron Weasley echoed Severus' thoughts perfectly. "What the bleeding hell?" He turned shocked blue eyes to Severus. "How is Lupin going to explain this to Harry once he returns?"
Severus shrugged dismissively, opening the gates and patting them consolingly as they shuddered miserably in an attempt to dislodge the musically-charmed menace. He slipped past them, resigned as Weasley tripped after him. "How do you explain Sgt. Pompous and the Fancy Pants Club Band?" He marched up the grounds, uneasily noticing how quiet and still the grounds were. It was May, yet there was not a child in sight, no parchment or broken quill stubs littering the grounds. Hogwarts appeared to be in mourning, were such a thing possible. He reflected upon the singing gates and decided that, yes, a magical building sulking seemed oddly appropriate. Still, they were unimpeded as they entered the front doors and walked down the hallway.
It wasn't until they passed the empty classroom Firenze used to teach Divination that Severus heard a high-pitched giggle. He was perfectly content to ignore the noise, but Ron stopped walking and looked around in confused alarm. "Was that Ginny?"
"Stay here." Severus sighed, oddly resigned to the intrusion. Of course he couldn't simply reach Dumbledore, find Harry, and return to his blessed solitude. Of course there would be distractions and diversions along the way. Sometimes, he hated the sheer predictability of life. Muttering to himself, Severus dismantled the faulty warding surrounding the classroom and cautiously opened the door.
The squeal had indeed belonged to Ginny Weasley. Tied to a tree, looking as though she'd been covered in gingerbread and various sugary confections, she was squealing in delight as a blond-headed boy knelt before her and licked her stomach in long slippery strokes. Severus sighed again. Sometimes he really fucking hated teenagers. Both children turned to look at him upon hearing the sigh. Severus merely arched a brow and waited for the excuses.
"Hi, Professor!" Ginny smiled brilliantly, not in the least perturbed to see him standing in the doorway glowering at her mostly-naked form.
Severus had the feeling the vapid little bint would have waived had her hands not been tied securely to the tree. Severus sighed again. He really should have assigned the foolish girl detention with the Carrows instead of Hagrid during his short-lived tenure as the headmaster. Still, he inclined is head in a parody of a polite nod before turning his attention to his godson. Draco still knelt before Ginny, seemingly petrified in place, gray eyes wide with shock and fear. "I am searching for Lupin."
"He's certainly not in here." Ginny shrugged best she could. "Only Luna has figured out where Lord Farquaad lives. And, well, no one can really understand her nonsensical babbling, now can they?"
Draco gazed at his godfather helplessly. "Lovegood relocated to Sherwood Forest before skipping away with her minions."
"Indeed." His eyes swept the classroom again. "I appreciate your assistance and shall… leave you to your activities."
"We need never mention this again, Draco, Miss Weasley. I shall ward the door behind me."
"Bye, Professor!" Ginny called out gaily. As he shut the door behind him, Severus heard her breathily exclaim, "not my buttons! Not my gumdrop buttons! Oh, you Monster…" Her giggle was abruptly cut off with a flick of Severus' wand.
The donkey was still waiting for him in the hall, craning his neck to see behind the professor's back. Severus swept past him without pause. "Your sister is otherwise engaged."
"Huh?" Ron's mouth opened and closed uselessly as he hurried to match Severus' longer strides. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Severus ignored the braying youth and marched straight to the headmaster's office, determined to burn the castle to the ground before stopping for any more unsolicited distractions. The gargoyle guarding the office seemed relieved to see him, leaping aside when Severus was still several feet away. This did nothing to reduce his trepidation, his feelings of unease only increasing as the sound of irate yelling was discernable from the bottom of the stairs. Severus gave the gargoyle a grim look before stepping onto the revolving staircase and entering the madness.
Molly Weasley's strident voice was clearly audible before he'd reached the door. "But, sir! If you would only tell us where you've hidden Harry, we'll fetch him ourselves and settle this nonsense."
Dumbledore's response was intoned in a deep and forbidding voice. "Know this… Only one may enter here… One whose worth lies far beneath… The Diamond In The Rough."
"The what now?"
Severus paused outside the door, silencing the donkey with a look as he recognized Kingsley Shacklebolt's voice. "The Diamond in the Rough? Is that a person or thing?"
"Never mind that!" Minerva's irritated voice overrode all the others. "Albus, tell us where you have hidden the boy so we can show him to Lupin –"
" – Lord Farquaad," a sleepy voice interrupted.
"Yes, thank you, Mundungus. As I was saying, once we produce the boy, Lupin will end this nonsense and turn Hogwarts over to Harry!"
Interesting, Severus mused, pushing open the door and sliding in. It was little wonder no one noticed, the office was packed. Flitwick's higher-pitched voice piped up. "Why on earth did you conspire to have poor Mr. Potter hidden away in the first place?"
"What a question!" Dumbledore's portrait was clearly in his element, eyes twinkling so brightly his picture looked nearly aflame. Severus pondered, briefly, the likelihood of an Incendio spell going unnoticed amidst all the confusion, before dismissing it. He still held a certain sense of possessiveness towards this office after having lived here for a year, and with all the people mucking about more than a few items would probably be caught in the crossfire. "In order to properly answer this question, I shall need my mirrors!"
"Mirrors?" Pomona Sprout echoed doubtfully.
"Yes." Dumbledore steepled his fingers, fairly cackling with glee. "Mirrors to travel, mirrors to spy, mirrors to remember, mirrors to forget, mirrors to rule the world…"
The group of individuals looked in-between each other in bewilderment. Mundungus appeared to have fallen asleep and was snoring by the fire place. "And, these mirrors…" Filius trailed off doubtfully. "How will they help us locate Mr. Potter?"
Dumbledore's eyes gleamed. "Now, a formula to transform my beauty into ugliness. Change my queenly raiment to a peddler's cloak. Mummy dust, to make me old. To shroud my clothes, the black of night. To age my voice, an old hag's cackle. To whiten my hair, a scream of fright. A blast of wind to fan my hate. A thunderbolt to mix it well. Now, begin thy magic spell."
"Is that…" Hermione Granger frowned, eyebrows furrowing in thought. "Is that from Snow White? The old Brothers Grimm story?"
"It is indeed." Severus glared as everyone's head swiveled towards the door where he stood, the braying red-head half hidden behind him. "To what purpose do you mention the magic mirrors now, Headmaster? Your family sold them to the Evil Queen thousands of years ago when she went on a mad quest to conquer the nine kingdoms." He ignored the confused exclamations as easily as Dumbledore did, eyes narrowing suspiciously when the senile old portrait merely laughed gaily in response.
"Oh, come now, my dear boy. Why so melancholy? A wondrous future lies before you - you, the destined hero of a charming fairy tale come true. Behold - King Stefan's castle. And in yonder topmost tower, dreaming of his true love, the gentle Harry awaits. But see the gracious whim of fate - why, 'tis the self-same peasant, who won the heart of our noble prince but yesterday. He is indeed, most wondrous fair. And now, the gates of a dungeon part, and our prince is free to go his way. Off he rides, on his noble steed, a valiant figure, straight and tall! To wake his love with 'loves' first kiss'! And prove that 'true love' conquers all! HA!"
More than a few people looked utterly disgruntled by this, Poppy Pomfrey going so far as to narrow her eyes and give the former Headmaster a glare to rival Severus'. Hermione was looking at Snape rather suspiciously, Minerva was muttering under her breath and shredding a ginger biscuit, and Molly was hissing frantically to her husband. Severus felt a migraine forming and sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"What's that even mean?" Ron burst out as he scratched his nose. "Can't you just offer us a lemon drop and then tell us where you stashed Harry?"
"Sorry, kid, I don't do that stuff anymore. How about a hug? That's the best kind of magic there is!"
Minerva seemed relieved to have a valid excuse to ignore Dumbledore, moving across the room and latching on to Severus' arm hard enough to leave a bruise. "Severus." Her voice was desperate, her fingers tightening fractionally as she gave him a terribly earnest, beseeching, and disgustingly Gryffindor-ish look. "Please tell me you've come to fetch Mr. Potter?"
Hermione was still gazing speculatively between the portrait and the Potions master. "What do you mean the same peasant who won the heart of our noble prince but yesterday?"
"I could care less whether Potter chokes on a fig and dies." He glared at Minerva, only a faint, very faint, lingering sense of affection towards the woman, and a surplus of witnesses, keeping him from ripping his arm from her grasp and murdering her on the spot. "I care, however, about the fact that my home has been infested by vile, germ-ridden beasts, spreading disease and discourse with every breath that enters their meaningless bodies!"
Molly Weasley turned, horrified, and gazed at McGonagall in shock. "You sent the kids to Severus!"
"Well, he wouldn't answer my owls!" Minerva snapped, throwing up her hands in exasperation. "What was I supposed to do to get him here?"
"You rotten Slytherin!" Severus felt his sense of affection towards Minerva increasing in the face of underhandedness she was capable of. That still did not stop him from sending a Stinging Hex to the hand clutching his arm.
Minerva hissed, eyes narrowing as she clutched her injured appendage. Kingsley edged closer to the door when her follow-up spell went wide and smacked into Mundungus' chair. Dung yelped as his chair disintegrated, standing and running towards the door in one smooth move. "Dirty Hufflepuff!"
"Make her bleed, Snape!" Phineas Nigellus shook his fist and scowled at McGonagall.
"Vile, barren woman!" Snape snarled, summoning Arthur Weasley to use as a shield when the witch sent a blast of red light at him. Arthur crumpled unconscious to the ground, providing Severus with the distraction necessary to send a non-verbal blast of smoky purple light.
"We'll just wait for you in the Great Hall." Hermione ducked, covering her head with one hand and levitating Arthur with the other as she hurried out the door.
"Use the chair!" A portrait of a woman in a green robe bellowed.
"Now, really, is this necessary?" Dumbledore asked, gazing at his two former colleagues in disappointment.
"Worse than the children," Molly Weasley muttered, allowing herself to be dragged from the room by a frantic Ron.
They waited, exchanging curses and blistering threats, until the sound of the gargoyle sliding back into place echoed in the room. Then Minerva stopped, patted her hair back in to place, and smoothed down her gown. Severus straightened his robe and jeered at the woman. "Why you are incapable of telling the infernal busy-bodies to go the hell away is beyond me."
Minerva laughed, stepping forward to pull Severus into a warm embrace. "I missed you, dear. Next time don't stay so long in isolation."
Severus patted her perfunctorily on the arm before stepping away and glaring at Dumbledore's portrait. "Where is the Potter whelp?"
Albus gave a misty-eyed look out the window. "Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin city, to take back the child you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great…"
"What is that supposed to mean?" Minerva looked rather like she wanted to hex the portrait. Having spent a year in this office, Severus empathized.
"It means," he sighed instead, "that he has hidden Potter at his sanctuary on the Isle of Wight."
"Brilliant, my dear boy!" Albus clapped, looking utterly delighted.
"How on earth did you figure that out?" Minerva looked more than a little miffed that Severus had deduced in five minutes what the rest of the wizarding world had been trying to discover for nearly a year.
Severus glared at the humming portrait. "Where else would Dumbledore stash the boy than in the home his family has on the island Muggles refer to as the most haunted place on earth?"
Minerva gave Dumbledore's portrait a look of thin-lipped disapproval. "Well, best be off with you, Severus. And good luck. Bring Harry back to us as soon as you can."
"Oh, hush." Severus huffed as he turned to leave the office.
He made it to the entrance hall before the braying Weasley caught up with him. "All done with your talk, sir?" Ron happily stuffed a basket into Severus' hands. "I'm an old pro at going on these impossible quest thingies, you know," he bragged. "This time I made sure to get the house-elves to pack us some food before we left so's we wouldn't end up eating boiled mushrooms."
Absently shrinking the basket down and sticking it in a pocket of his robe, Severus didn't break stride on his way to the main gates. There were six ferries that led into the Isle of Wight, and all of them extraordinarily popular with tourists and slobbering beasts they tried to pass off as their offspring. The most likely place to attempt entry to the island while avoiding the most people would be to Apparate to Southampton and ferry across to Cowes. No yacht clubs, no construction to return main streets to their original "charming" structures, less chance of being ambushed. Nodding decisively, he turned to the brat beside him and sighed.
"I suppose you have your uses?" He tried, barely, to make it sound like a statement. All the same, he was not too terribly surprised when he simply sounded resigned.
"Of course I do!" Ron looked vaguely insulted. "I've been on quests before, flown on a dragon, erm, watched Hermione make Polyjuice, and done loads of other stuff."
"Very well." Lips pressed together in irritation, he reached out and gripped the boy's arm slightly harder than necessary. To his credit, Ron merely winced but didn't make a sound.
"Professor!" He looked up as the front doors opened and Hermione came rushing out. "Professor, wait! Please! I need to talk to you!"
Not wanting to add a third member to his already annoying trek, Severus merely rolled his eyes and Apparated away before the girl was halfway across the grounds.
"But, Professor!" Hermione bent at the waist, trying to catch her breath. She kicked the ground in sheer irritation and yelled at the heavens as though that would bring Severus back to her side. "But I need to tell you something about Harry!"
Splitting the corpus callosum.
"… And then one time I ate some rotten berries. Man, there were some strong gases seepin' outta my butt that day!"
Left cerebral cortex.
"Seamus and Dean taught us boys in the dorm some fun songs. Want to hear them?"
Left temporal lobe.
"Head 'em up, Head 'em up, Move 'em on, Move 'em on, Head 'em up, Rawhide! Line 'em up, Move 'em on, Head 'em up, Head 'em up, Move 'em on, Rawhide!"
"Knock 'em out, Pound 'em dead, Make 'em tea, Buy 'em drinks, Meet their mommas, Milk 'em HARD, RAW, HIDE"
Left frontal lobe.
"And ooooo—eeeee shut my mouth, slap your Grandma!"
Left occipital lobe.
"I'm blue, ba-ba dee-ba be-dah…"
Left parietal lobe.
"Don't just stand there, let's get to it, strike a pose, there's nothing to it, VOGUE!"
Right temporal lobe.
"Woah-oh-oh-oh-oh! Hangin' Tough!"
Right frontal lobe.
"Dream lover, come rescue me…"
Right occipital lobe.
"Jim-along-Joe's an orangutan…"
Right parietal lobe.
"… I'm eatin' the sun, though my tongue has been burned of the taste… I have been guilty of kicking myself in the teeth…."
"Step by step, heart to heart, left right left, we all fall down… like toy soldiers!"
"If I was your girl all the things I'd do to you, I'd make you call out my name, I'd ask you what belongs to you..."
"He's a cold-hearted snake –OOH!- Look into his eyes. Uh oh! He's been tellin' lies…"
"I'm afraid of Americans. I'm afraid of the world…"
"I wannnnnaaa be… Anarchy!"
While mentally dissecting Ron Weasley was a pleasurable pastime during the best of circumstances, enough was enough. Severus snarled, turning to the braying menace with a look severe enough to shut him up and take two stumbling steps in retreat. "For five minutes, can you not be yourself?"
Weasley scratched his head and offered a hopeful smile. "You mean like under Polyjuice or something?"
I am on my way, Severus reminded himself grimly, feeling his eye beginning to twitch again. I am on my way from misery to happiness today. If one can survive twenty years of indentured servitude with raving madmen, one can survive two days in forced captivity with a Weasley without resulting in genocide. "No, Weasley, I do not mean like Polyjuice. I mean cease and desist your foolish offerings before I decide to chop you up and use your severed limbs in potions."
"Oh." Weasley was subdued for approximately twenty-five seconds before he began twitching again. "So, why couldn't we just Apparate the whole way there?"
Severus closed his eyes, enjoying the damp breeze on his face, and slowly counted to ten. When he reopened his eyes, he was relatively certain he could answer the donkey's question without ripping his head off and having the Obliviators be notified for the Muggles surrounding them. "Weasley, the Isle of Wight is considered the most haunted place in the world. This is largely because of Dumbledore and his despicable relatives. Due to the… eccentricity… that taints their gene pool, the Ministry of Magic long ago put a magic-dampening dome around the Isle of Wight, as well as wards against such common forms of travel like Floo or Apparition. They hoped to encourage the magical individuals to relocate or tame their actions. They failed. Hence, we must travel by ferry to reach the island and either walk or obtain further Muggle methods of transportation."
"Oh." Ron looked around him in renewed interest. "So, where are we going?"
"This ferry will arrive in Cowes. From there it is a thirty minute trip by vehicle to Freshwater, and then a five mile walk to Dumbledore's crumbling mausoleum."
"We have to walk for five miles?"
"We have to do nothing. You are more than welcome to return to Southampton and then Apparate back to your miserable little existence."
"I can't just let you fight for Harry by yourself," Ron said indignantly. Severus gave him a sour look. "Harry will be happy that I didn't abandon you on your quest."
"I assure you, I will be fine without your dubious assistance."
"Nah." Ron shook his head and beamed a smile at Snape. "Harry'll appreciate me sticking with you. Ever since that night at the shack…" Weasley trailed off uncomfortably, looking away when Severus gave him a sharp look. "Well, he'll be happy to know you're okay is all."
By the time they actually reached the wards surrounding Dumbledore's familial home, Severus was ready to spit nails. Preferably at his companion, though any of the insouciant Muggles slowing their way would do. Preparations were in full swing for the island's annual Walking Festival, and tourists had obligingly flocked to the isle by the droves. Eager to show of the island's beauty, the taxi driver Severus had hired ignored the A3020 and instead took them on a winding array of back roads that increased the drive time to nearly two hours. Only the fact that he managed to Obliviate the man and send him on his way with no pay for the day kept him from giving in to his baser urges and lighting something on fire. The donkey followed him in silence, seeming to recognize Severus was hanging onto his sanity by a mere thread.
Still, every man had his limits, and when Severus gazed at the turrets and flowery architecture surrounding a light purple castle complete with moat and fire-breathing dragon… he was ready to simply pack up his belongings, move to the Black Sea, and let Lupin take over Britain while calling himself whatever ridiculous name he so chose.
"Cool." Ron looked delighted. "I bet Harry likes having the dragon around, he's always had a bit of a thing for wild beasts."
"Indeed." Severus straightened his cloak, took a deep breath, and prepared to enter Hell.
The wards parted before him with ease and were convinced to part for Weasley with only a bit of persuasion. They marched across the sprawling grounds, the smell of water and ozone oddly pleasant in the warm air. The dragon was nestled in a crater before the front doors, looking sleepy and slightly annoyed to be kept from its rest. It tracked their movement with a beady eye, looking uncertain whether to attack or simply wait and see what their intentions were.
"Go play with the dragon," Severus ordered. "I shall locate Potter."
"Play with the dragon?" Ron squeaked, backing up a step. "I don't know how to play with a dragon!"
"Sure you do." Severus reached out and grabbed Weasley by the scruff of his neck. "It is in your blood." Unceremoniously, he shoved Weasley forward, watching with vague interest as the braying boy fell screaming on top of the dragon. The dragon turned, wrapped its tail around the redhead, and pulled their faces close together while it studied the wiggly human.
Ron started babbling, hands desperately scrambling on the tail wrapped securely around his midriff. "Oh, what large teeth you have. I mean white sparkly teeth, I know you probably hear this all the time from your food but you must use potions or something, 'cause that's one dazzling smile you got there, and do I detect a hint of minty freshness?"
The dragon let out a noise suspiciously like a purr and nuzzled the side of Weasley's neck. Ron let out a whimper of terror. "See?" Severus nodded, ignoring the boy's look of distress. "You will be fine. Play nicely." Spinning on his heel, he marched through the front doors and began scanning the hallways for a sign of Harry's presence.
"… I don't want to rush into a... physical relationship... I'm not that emotionally ready for a... uh... commitment of this... uh... magnitude!"
"Hey, that is unwanted physical contact! Hey! What're you doing? Okay, okay, okay... let's just back up a little and take this one step at a time... I mean, we should really get to know each other first, you know, as friends or maybe even as owl pals, you know, coz I just love to get a card... Hey, hey, hey, don't do that, that's my leg! That's my body, my personal space, you're gonna tear me apart! I don't give permission to... Oh, no, no, no, no... no!"
Severus ignored the noises floating around him as he spied a portrait guarding a stairwell. The picture was of a girl wearing an alternately pink than blue dress dancing on clouds with a handsomely dressed prince. He had little doubt he was staring at another example of Dumbledore's romantic folly. Sure enough, the stairs spiraled impossibly upwards, an odd window or two lighting the way to a simple wooden door engraved with entwined hearts surrounded by a bouquet of flowers. Severus rolled his eyes, opened the unlocked door, and looked around.
Harry was ensconced upon a ridiculously opulent queen-size bed, looking bored out of his mind as he lay on his back gazing listlessly at the bed hangings. He turned his head as Severus entered the room, blinking in surprise. Severus arched an eyebrow, crossing his arms over his chest as he stared back, waiting for the boy to begin babbling something profoundly useless and nauseatingly thankful. Perhaps there would be tears as well. He sighed, mentally bracing himself.
"Did you come to recite a romantic verse?"
Severus blinked, thankful for his years as a spy. If self-preservation had taught him one thing, it was how to remain composed in the face of sheer insanity. "Pardon?"
"No," Harry continued thoughtfully, shifting on his bed until he was sitting up against the headboard. He looked Snape over with interest. "I can't see you as a romantic verse type of person. Perhaps an epic poem?"
Severus continued to stare at Harry, standing so still he appeared frozen in place. For the first time, light returned to Harry's eyes. A mischievous smirk flitted across his face though his expression remained innocent. Hard-earned experience had Severus' hands tightening instinctively on his wand.
"A ballad?" Harry continued blithely when it became clear he wasn't going to receive a response. "A sonnet? Hell, I'd even take a limerick if you're desperate. Maybe even a haiku… though I can never remember the proper cadence. Something about five and seven? I think whoever invented Haikus was probably really bored." Harry looked around his room and scowled as he finished speaking.
"Potter, cease your mindless chatter." Severus scanned the room again, purely on instinct, reaffirming they would need to exit out the door through which he had entered. "Collect your belongings and come with me."
Harry shrugged, sliding off his bed and stuffing his feet in battered-looking trainers. "I can't believe out of all the people Dumbledore could have sent to help me, he chose you." Harry wandered around the room, grabbing random items and placing them in a book bag as he spoke. "It's bad enough that you, well, hate me and could kill me whenever you wanted." Harry stuffed his Invisibility Cloak in his pocket and turned in a circle, checking for forgotten items. "But knowing Dumbledore and his penchant for romance, he probably thinks that you rescuing me means we're going to fall in love and live happily ever after." Curiously, Harry punctuated this comment by blasting a shiny silver bell with a spell strong enough to reduce it to boiling metal.
"Do not make such comments off-handedly, Potter. I have only recently consumed breakfast and would hate to regurgitate my meal upon your person."
"Always figured you for a kinky bastard, Snape." Satisfied, Harry swung his bag over his shoulders and gave his former professor an expectant look. "So, what now? Are you going to sweep me away out yonder window, down your conveniently transfigured rope, and whisk me away on your noble steed with your sword drawn and banner waving?"
Severus stared at Harry, fearing for his mental acuity. "You are raving." Not waiting for a response as, clearly, the boy was, Snape gave an impatient shake of his head and jerked his head toward the door. "Do I strike you as a closet Gryffindor?"
Harry shrugged again, giving Snape a genuine smile as he followed him out the door and down the stairs. "I've been imprisoned, however indirectly, by Dumbledore. He doesn't exactly leave the Codex Gigas around for me to read." A roaring sound, followed by a rather high-pitched squeal, had both of their heads turning towards the window. They watched as the dragon, holding something red-headed and squirmy in its talons, flew over to a neighboring tower and disappeared inside. "You didn't slay the dragon?"
"Of course not!" Severus gave Harry a scathing look before continuing his descent down the stairs. Being isolated seemed to have irreparably warped the little idiot's remaining brain cells. Perhaps he should offer to resume Occlumency lessons just to see how dangerous Harry had become? It would never do to underestimate the enemy. "Dragons are far more useful alive than dead."
Harry beamed at Snape. "Oh, I'm so glad! I was so worried that Cherry Bomb would be hurt whenever someone showed up to 'rescue' me."
That made Snape pause. "Cherry Bomb?"
"Yep," Harry said happily, practically skipping as they reached the main hall. "My cousin Dudley snuck out to one of those clubs with some of his stupid little friends once and was beaten up by a stripper… excuse me, Exotic Dancer, named Cherry Bomb. Seemed appropriate to name my dragon after her. Hell, I'm rather surprised my Patronus didn't change after learning about that."
"Hmm." Snape had no response, mentally cataloging all the potions he knew that could test for diminished brain activity. Perhaps a valve was acting up and decreasing oxygen to Harry's brain? He glanced at Harry from the corner of his eye, watching as the boy stuck his tongue out at a portrait of a dotty-looking old woman with a beard long enough to rival Dumbledore's. Then again, if he had been made to suffer the indignity of living in Dumbledore's sanctuary… He gave Harry another suspicious look. "You seem to be taking this situation in stride."
"Well, yeah." Harry shrugged, waving at a portrait of a tap dancing bunny. "I've been locked in solitary confinement for eleven months with no one to talk to except for a frustrated dragon and a half-mad house elf. I'd kiss you if I thought it would get me past the wards."
"That will not be necessary, Mr. Potter. We simply need to find Lupin and return to Hogwarts. After that we can consider our liaison successfully concluded and go our separate ways."
"Remus?" Harry stopped walking, placing one hand on Severus' arm to keep him in place. "What's wrong with Remus?"
Severus rolled his eyes and shrugged off the offending hand. "The wolf has gone feral and fancies himself the next Dark Lord."
"Yes, yes." Severus waived his hand dismissively, looking around with narrowed eyes until he was certain of the way to the exit. "It is all quite tragic. Follow along." He ignored Harry's hissed breath and strode confidently towards the exit. If they left now they should reach Freshwater by dusk, use one of the confounded Muggle drivers to escort them to Cowes, and either rent a room for the evening, or, vastly more appealing, catch the evening ferry. One simple Apparition later, they would be closer to Sherwood Forest and he would be one step closer to reclaiming his solitude. He was snapped from his musings as Harry held out a hand and looked at him expectantly. Severus looked at the hand warily before looking back at Harry's face.
"You have to hold my hand to get me past the wards," Harry explained patiently. "Something about making myself vulnerable to my love and showing trust or some such rot. Though I really don't see how holding hands makes someone vulnerable?"
"Hmm." Snape thinned his lips in irritation. "Before we leave you should tell your dragon to drop off the donkey when finished playing with him."
"Donkey?" Harry gave Snape a doubtful look, scanning the man from the top of his lank hair to the tip of shiny black shoes peeking out from under his traveling cloak. "You don't strike me as the type of person who would ride a donkey."
"I am not."
Harry rolled his eyes when he realized he wasn't getting any more of an answer than that, but obediently trotted back to the stairwell to yell out the window. He paused, looking slightly baffled, when a strangled shout of "Harry!" reached his ears. Not willing to wait for Harry to discover his friend in the clutches of a dragon, Severus grimaced and cast a Cleaning Charm on Harry's hand before gingerly clasping it in his own. Harry's hand was warm and lightly calloused. Having not held another hand in his since he was a toddler following his mother, Severus stared at their linked hands in morbid fascination before exiting the front doors and walking across the grounds. He dropped Harry's hand as soon as they crossed the front gate and the wards gave a mournful little tinkle in farewell.
"Well," Harry said flatly, mimicking Severus and crossing his arms over his chest. "You did it. You rescued me." The light was soft, muted by the shadows of the trees, casting gentle warmth upon their faces. A slight breeze ruffled through their hair, birds were chirping out happy little songs as they industriously built their nests, and the overwhelming aroma of wildflowers perfumed the air. Harry and Severus stood there, looking at each other. "Now what?"
"Now we walk, Potter."
"Walk at night?" Harry stopped moving, casting a look of alarm at the cloudless sky. "Maybe we should stay here tonight?" he suggested nervously. "It's getting late. We can get a good night sleep in a comfortable home and start out early in the morning."
Severus sighed, wondering with bitter resignation how Gryffindors managed to survive in life without actually thinking. "Are you mad?" He didn't bother waiting for the long-winded rebuttal full of righteous indignation. "It is barely gone three in the afternoon, there is plenty of daylight left, and exciting though my betterment of the dragon was, it was neither a daunting nor exhausting task. We are leaving now."
"I'm afraid of the dark." Harry sounded slightly desperate. Snape looked down his nose at Harry and stared him down. "Did Dumbledore happen to tell you why he locked me behind his wards?"
"No, Potter, and I simply do not care to hear the doubtlessly thrilling tale. Waiting until morning will only take us longer to reach our destination. Come along."
"We have already discussed this, Potter!" Harry looked confused. Severus blithely ignored the fact his justifications had been in his head and glared at the whelp. "We should reach Freshwater by dusk, catch a ride to Cowes, and wait there until the ferry starts in early afternoon. From there we will be one step closer to your mangy mutt and a stiff drink."
Harry looked mutinous. "Will you listen to me for a minute!"
"No." Severus resolved the matter by freezing Harry and levitating the blessedly silent teen along.
Naturally Potter was able to overcome the spell. Severus promptly Stunned him again when the idiot tried to return to the manor. Did he think Severus liked playing host to a group of ruffians? Did he not realize that the sooner they tracked down Lupin the sooner both of them could return home? Finally, after having Stunned, Petrified, and cursed the wayward brat, Severus gave up and declared they could spend the night in the forest since Harry seemed genuinely wary of being outside after dark. He was slightly less pleased when Potter produced a beaded bag from his robes and, after carefully rummaging about, produced a tent that smelt slightly of cat urine.