Eighty-Seven – The Eye of the Snake; St. Mungo's Hospital For Magical Maladies and Injuries
"Professor!" called a distant voice impatiently, accompanied by merciless pounding. "Professor – "
McGonagall pulled herself up from her bed too quickly and, for a moment, could only see black and white dots and only hear her own blood pulsing.
"Professor!" the insistent voice shouted. "Professor, you've got to get up! Harry's not well! He's muttering about Ron's dad and blood and – "
McGonagall did not recall moving from her bed to her door, but in a flash stood in her doorframe looking down at Neville Longbottom. "What's the issue, Longbottom?" she asked, squinting. She had left her glasses on her bedside table.
"Harry was thrashing around in his bed like mad, and Ron woke him up, and he threw up and then started telling Ron that Mr. Weasley had been attacked – Professor, something's really wrong!" Neville finished.
"Wait here," McGonagall ordered, her mind quickly kicking into overdrive. She flew back into her room and snatched her glasses, wand, and bathrobe. "Lead on, Longbottom," she said, nearly poking herself in the eye as she jammed on her glasses. As Neville took off, she began stuffing her arms into her bathrobe.
By the time Neville shouted the password at the Fat Lady, McGonagall felt as if her heart were ready to burst, it was pumping so furiously from trying to keep up with him. Despite a certain tightness in her chest, McGonagall followed Neville up the stairs of the boys' tower, taking two steps at a time.
"Over here, Professor…" said Neville after throwing open the door.
McGonagall strode to the side of Harry's bed, opposite Ron. "What is it, Potter? Where does it hurt?" she asked frantically, desperately hoping that Harry was actually sick, rather than what she feared.
"It's Ron's dad," said Harry, showing his incredibly pale face covered in sweat and sick. "He's been attacked by a snake and it's serious, I saw it happen."
Somehow, McGonagall's heart began to beat more ferociously. "What do you mean, you saw it happen?"
"I don't know…. I was asleep and then I was there…"
"There? No, no, no!" McGonagall thought desperately. Hoping against hope, McGonagall continued her questioning. "You mean you dreamed this?"
"No!" said Harry angrily. "I was having a dream at first about something completely different, something stupid…and then this interrupted it. It was real, I didn't imagine it, Mr. Weasley was asleep on the floor and he was attacked by a gigantic snake, there was a load of blood, he collapsed, someone's got to find out where he is…"
McGonagall simply froze. It was happening. It could not be much longer before You-Know-Who figured out what happened, and that doors open from both sides…
"I'm not lying, and I'm not mad!" Harry insisted, his voice growing louder. "I tell you, I saw it happen!"
McGonagall felt her tongue unlock. "I believe you, Potter. Put on your dressing-gown – we're going to see the headmaster."
Harry leapt out of bed, threw on his robe, and shoved his glasses onto his face.
"Weasley, you ought to come too," said Professor McGonagall. She briefly entertained the idea of gathering the rest of the Weasleys, but time was of the essence. If what Harry said was true, Arthur's time was running woefully short.
McGonagall left the tower, Harry and Ron in pursuit. At one point, Mrs. Norris saw the small group and set her malignant eyes on the professor as she began to hiss. "Shoo!" McGonagall bit out. The cat returned to the shadows, undoubtedly to report to Filch, who very well might report to Umbridge. McGonagall picked up pace slightly.
"Fizzing Whizbee," McGonagall said to the gargoyle guarding Dumbledore's office. She could feel her heartbeat in her fingertips once more. She threw aside all thoughts of her physical pain and stepped onto the moving staircase, willing it to move faster.
McGonagall gripped the griffin knocker of Dumbledore's door and pounded with it three times. The headmasters, the dead and the living, that had been speaking silenced at once, and the door opened.
"Oh, it's you, Professor McGonagall…and…ah," said Dumbledore, quickly glancing at Ron's shocking red hair before returning his attention to his deputy.
Not wanting to waste any time, McGonagall dove right in, "Professor Dumbledore, Potter has had a…well, a nightmare. He says…"
"It wasn't a nightmare," said Harry quickly.
McGonagall turned to look at Harry, the corners of her lips pulling into a frown. Fearing the situation might only escalate by letting Harry communicate with Dumbledore directly, she spoke again, "Very well, then, Potter, you tell the headmaster about it." Time, or a lack thereof, was more important at the moment than keeping peace.
Dumbledore looked down at his fingers as Harry began his tale. Certain that no attention was on herself, McGonagall stepped out of her students' line of sight and set some of her weight against a wall, taking slow, deep breaths. The fingers of her left hand twitched, and she quickly wound them into her hair, feeling her pulse even in her scalp and becoming more and more certain she would soon have a massive headache.
"I was the snake," said Harry in response to one of Dumbledore's questions. "I saw it all from the snake's point of view…."
McGonagall's attention snapped back to the discussion before her, incongruities beginning to manifest themselves. How could Harry possibly have seen things through the snake's eyes? His connection was with You-Know-Who, not a pet, terrifying as the pet might be.
"Is Arthur seriously injured?" Dumbledore asked, his tones now cutting as opposed to soothing, though he still failed to look at Harry directly.
"Yes," said Harry emphatically.
Dumbledore stood in the blink of an eye. "Everard?" he said sharply. "And you too, Dilys!"
Two of the slumbering heads opened their eyes.
McGonagall pulled herself from the wall back to her original position as Dumbledore dispatched the two former heads to find Arthur. She glared daggers at Dumbledore as he went on about how Everard and Dilys could flit between their other portraits. It was not a history lesson that was needed at the moment.
Harry seemed to feel the same way, as he burst, "But Mr. Weasley could be anywhere!"
"Please sit down, all three of you," said Dumbledore, as though Harry had not spoken. "Everard and Dilys may not be back for several minutes…."
McGonagall very nearly snapped at that point. Arthur was the father of seven children, and sole provider for the family. Stealth be hanged, he needed to be found as quickly as possible.
Dumbledore must have sensed his deputy's growing unease, as he distracted her discreetly. "Professor McGonagall, if you could draw up extra chairs…"
McGonagall whipped out her wand and produced three chairs simultaneously. Once sure that Harry was seated without issue, McGonagall fell into her own chair with as much grace as she could manage in her current state.
Dumbledore set Fawkes to keep watch, undoubtedly on Umbridge, then pulled out one of his various silver instruments and brought it to life with the tap of his wand. McGonagall watched intently. Dumbledore had yet to show her how his various trinkets worked. Such lessons would have to wait, however. A war was brewing, after all.
Just as Dumbledore was putting his trinket back into its proper place, Everard returned.
"What news?" said Dumbledore at once.
Everard rattled off his report, ending by saying that Mr. Weasley did not look well at all, that the man was covered in blood.
McGonagall stole a glance at Ron as the boy twitched horribly at the news.
"Good," said Dumbledore, "I take it Dilys will have seen him arrive, then – "
McGonagall waited with baited breath for what seemed like a quarter of an hour before Dilys returned, though she knew in truth it would have only been a few minutes.
"Yes, they've taken him to St. Mungo's, Dumbledore…. They carried him past under my portrait…. He looks bad…" said Dilys.
"Thank you," said Dumbledore. He turned toward McGonagall. "Minerva, I need you to go and wake the other Weasley children."
"Of course…" said McGonagall somewhat faintly. Once at the door, however, McGonagall's knees locked and she turned her head around. "And Dumbledore – what about Molly?"
"That will be a job for Fawkes when he has finished keeping a lookout for anybody approaching," said Dumbledore. "But she may already know…that excellent clock of hers…"
McGonagall closed Dumbledore's door and drowned her thoughts of poor Mrs. Weasley by focusing on her newest task.
"Minerva!" came an uncharacteristic bark.
McGonagall doubled back slightly to see Snape striding down a hall toward her.
"What's happened?" he demanded, gripping his left forearm.
McGonagall glanced over her shoulders quickly. "Arthur's been attacked while on guard duty," she said very quietly. "He's at St. Mungo's now. I'm off to get the rest of the Weasleys – "
"St. Mungo's?" Snape said confusedly. "You mean he's not dead?"
McGonagall punched Snape in the shoulder. "No! If we're lucky he'll stay not dead!"
"Then it wasn't the Dark Lord that attacked him?"
"Evidently not!" McGonagall snapped. She looked at his right hand gripping his left arm. "'I'll cover for you for the toad, if she asks, and let Dumbledore know."
Snape nodded curtly and the two professors went their separate ways.
McGonagall burst into the Gryffindor common room and took half a moment to calm herself before climbing the boys' staircase to wake the twins.
"Weasley!" she whispered, gently shaking Fred's shoulder.
Fred opened his eyes and seemed about ready to make a jest until he caught the look on his professor's face. "Is something wrong, Professor?"
"Wake George quietly and get down to the common room. Put on your dressing gowns and slippers."
McGonagall did not waste another moment, but hurried down the boys' staircase and up the girls' to wake Ginny, which proved to be a much more difficult task than waking Fred. Ginny remained breathing evenly even after McGonagall had shaken her shoulder and called to her several times.
"Miss Weasley!" McGonagall snapped, still at a whisper, trying her hardest not to wake any other students. "Get up, now! Your father's been injured."
That got Ginny's attention quickly enough. She leapt out of bed and ran down to the common room without her robe. McGonagall snatched it for her and handed it to the girl as she led the way back to the headmaster's office, half the Weasley brood trailing behind her.
"What do you mean, Dad's been injured?" Ginny asked shrewdly the moment the portrait hole shut.
"Potter witnessed your farther being attacked. He's safely at St. Mungo's now," she added quickly, "but he's not in good shape."
All three Weasleys began asking questions at once.
"Enough!" McGonagall snapped, desperate to be rid of whatever noise she could avoid. "Professor Dumbledore will answer your questions once we get to his office!"
Soon enough, McGonagall showed the twins and Ginny into the headmaster's office.
"Harry – what's going on?" asked Ginny as soon as she was through the door. "Professor McGonagall says you saw Dad hurt – "
"Your father has been injured in the course of his work for the Order of the Phoenix," said Dumbledore. "He has been taken to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. I am sending you back to Sirius's house, which is much more convenient for the hospital than the Burrow. You will meet your mother there."
As Dumbledore showed the students the portkey he had made, McGonagall could not help but dismay at the idea of defending his illegal move once the dust of Arthur's disaster had settled.
Flame flashed for a moment and a feather slipped through the air toward the floor.
"It is Fawkes's warning," said Dumbledore, catching the feather as it fell. "She must know you're out of your beds…. Minerva, go and head her off – tell her any story – "
Without hesitation, McGonagall turned and left the office. Rules and consequences be hanged. Dolores Umbridge would not stop the Weasleys from leaving.
"Oh, Professor McGonagall!"
McGonagall glared at Umbridge and the filthy woman's bright pink nightgown. The horrid frog had taken the exact path McGonagall had expected – one that involved no secret passages or hidden doors.
"Dolores," McGonagall said tightly.
"What on earth are you doing out and about at this hour?" Umbridge asked sweetly.
"I could ask you the same question, Dolores."
Umbridge sighed dramatically. "Very well, Minerva, as it seems you're in no mood to play games…." The woman's smile melted away, making her look more frog-like than ever. "Where have you taken Potter and Weasley?"
A thousand excuses flew through McGonagall's mind in half a second. "Weasley's ill," she said confidently. "Longbottom got me from my office, and I brought Weasley to Poppy. What with break only two days away, I thought it might be best to send Weasley home, rather than have him infect all the rest of the students and send them home sick, but Poppy's going to look him over first."
"And I suppose Mr. Potter's gone with him, then?" Umbridge said, her forced smile creeping back onto her face.
"Weasley threw up on the boy. There's no chance Potter will avoid catching whatever Weasley's got at this point," McGonagall explained. She braced herself for the next question.
"And you decided to rouse the rest of the gingers while you were at it?" Umbridge asked, her smile becoming more fixed with each second.
McGonagall felt her wand hand twitch. "In my considerable experience, Dolores, if one child is sick, their siblings aren't far behind. Yes, I sent the rest of the Weasleys to the hospital wing, also."
"How convenient that they should get sick tonight," Umbridge said with a false air of carelessness, and she began walking once more toward Dumbledore's office.
Desperate for more time, and eager to lessen any damage possible, McGonagall decided to play the fool. "What do you mean by that?"
"Haven't you heard?" asked Umbridge sweetly.
"Heard what, Dolores?" McGonagall asked. "I was woken by Longbottom's summons and I've been volleying between Gryffindor Tower and the hospital wing since."
"Oh, no matter. I'm sure you'll learn soon enough."
"What news could there possibly be to hear at this hour?" McGonagall asked.
Umbridge stopped, sighed heavily, turned to face McGonagall once more, and stepped toward the Transfiguration professor.
"What reason could there possibly be for Arthur Weasley to be at the Ministry at this hour?"
McGonagall felt her heart skip a beat, but succeeded in hiding such a hiccup from Umbridge. "I can't even think of a reason for Mr. Weasley to be up, much less so than for him to be at the Ministry."
"Indeed," said Umbridge. "Well, I see no harm in telling you, Minerva. Arthur's gone and gotten himself torn up, and right outside the Department of Mysteries. Tell me, what would he, who spends all his time with his Muggle toys, be doing down there?"
Despite everything going on, McGonagall found it difficult not to laugh as Umbridge tried to glare intimidatingly at her. The toad just barely passed her hips.
"What do you mean, torn up?" McGonagall queried.
"I haven't a clue. I've just been told where he was found, sitting in a pool of his own blood."
McGonagall felt her own blood rush at the realization that Umbridge seemed to be enjoying Mr. Weasley's grievous injury.
To keep with the ruse, however, McGonagall let her eyes widen in shock. "They've got to be told," she said faintly before rushing off, back toward Dumbledore's office. She walked furiously until certain she was out of Umbridge's sight, then continued at her own pace, confident the toad's short legs would work to her advantage.
When McGonagall entered Dumbledore's office again, only the headmaster was present. "She's coming," she warned.
"She's too late," said Dumbledore, seating himself behind his desk. "They're safely off."
"Ron Weasley threw up on Potter, and I couldn't have the whole of Gryffindor getting sick two days before break, so I brought them to Poppy and suggested sending them home," McGonagall informed. "At this juncture, I believe it's safe to say Poppy agreed to sending them home. You also agreed, and decided to ship off Ginny, Fred, and George as well, as a precautionary measure. Also, she thinks I heard about Arthur from her."
Dumbledore bowed his head slightly toward McGonagall, then picked up the sham where McGonagall had left it, all for Umbridge's benefit.
"Minerva, I haven't a clue what ill luck has befallen Arthur, but I am confident that the healers of St. Mungo's will see to his needs," Dumbledore was saying when Umbridge strode in to the office without invitation.
"So you've heard?" Umbridge asked furiously.
"Yes, of course," said Dumbledore. "Dilys has a portrait at St. Mungo's she likes to visit. She saw Arthur come in and knew that he had children here. Naturally, she informed me immediately.
"And the Weasley children?" Umbridge prompted.
"Minerva and Poppy were quite right in their reasoning about Mr. Ron Weasley. Even if Mr. Weasley had not been injured, we can't have all the students going back home to their families sick. Mr. Potter and the Weasleys will only miss a few days of class. They'll catch up on their work and be back in January, ready for another semester, and this way they'll be able to see their father as soon as he's stabilized."
"That is not the point, Dumbledore!"
"I was going to inform you once I had the chance to change and shower," said Dumbledore calmly. "I'm afraid Mr. Weasley did not completely empty the contents of his stomach back in his dormitory. While I have already cleaned my rug, I have not had a chance to clean myself, and I would hate to get you sick, Dolores."
"Have you no concern for getting sick yourself?" Umbridge countered.
Dumbledore smiled. "I've been here so long, Dolores, I doubt if anything can get me sick anymore."
"And you?" Umbridge asked, rounding on McGonagall.
"I've spent all but thirteen years of my life here, Dolores," McGonagall answered. "I've gotten just about any illness you can get. As it is your first year here, however, I highly recommend that you go back to your quarters, shower, and send your clothes off to be washed before it's too late."
Umbridge gave a prissy huff, then left the office, slamming the door behind her.
McGonagall heaved a sigh of relief. "Any updates on Arthur?" she asked, leaning back in her chair.
Dumbledore shook his head. "Bill's joined Molly. They're waiting for news.
"Marvelous cover story, by the way, Minerva," Dumbledore continued. "I think we've had enough excitement for the night."
McGonagall raised an eyebrow. "Really? From where I stand, we've still got a lot of work to do! The rest of the Order has to be notified, a cover story for Arthur's got to be arranged – "
"Minerva, go to bed."
"Oh, and Severus was called, so he's gone for the night – "
"I am not going to bed until I know if Arthur's going to make it or not!" McGonagall snapped. She stood and took a deep breath. "I'm going to go leave a note for Granger to see you first thing in the morning, then I will wake Madame Bones to inform her of the situation and have her wait to alter any documents that might need doctoring to help keep whatever cover you come up with for Arthur. Once that's done, I will notify the rest of the guard so they can begin working to cover Arthur's shifts. Then, if there's been any news on Arthur, I will go to sleep.
"What should I tell the rest of the staff?" McGonagall asked.
"If they have questions, I will answer them," Dumbledore replied.
"As you answered Harry's?"
"You are trying my patience, Minerva," Dumbledore warned, the twinkle missing from his eyes.
"Well someone's got to get you back for all the patience you try, old man," McGonagall said with a sigh. "No matter how many times you explain it to me, Albus, I don't know if I'll ever come to your way of thinking on the subject, and I still think you should talk to the boy."
"As you've made abundantly clear," said Dumbledore, relaxing once more. "And, if I may, you've no right to call me old."
"Is that so?" McGonagall queried with a quirked brow. "Remind me what year you were born in?"
"You nearly collapsed brining Harry and Ron up here."
"I did no such thing," McGonagall snapped quickly.
"They might not have been able to see you, Minerva, but I could," said Dumbledore. "Are you alright?"
McGonagall drew her eyebrows together and crossed her arms. "Do you really want to open that can of flobberworms, Albus?"
"Very well," Dumbledore conceded. "If you're going to be so snappy about it, I won't push the matter. For my own peace of mind, however, please go see Poppy tomorrow."
McGonagall felt her nostrils flare. "I've got a list of things to tend to, and I'm sure you do also," she said as she made for the door.
"So long as you add seeing Poppy to your list, I'm – "
McGonagall closed the door before Dumbledore could finish his sentence and muttered to herself the entire way back to her office.
Yaaaaaaay drama! Next chapter will provide a bit of relief. ;)
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