Hi, everyone. Thank you for being so patient with me. Here is the next chapter.
Side note: I know the summer started off at the wrong month. I can't fix that now without rewriting the whole thing and I've already tried that twice. So please simply ignore it. ^_^
Harry Potter and the FOLD
The Learning Path
The peircing light from the fake window reminded Severus that he meant to move it so it didn't shine on the sofa so brightly. Late morning light was very insistant and his stirring headache reminded him that he was in pain too much to remain asleep.
Devoting a moment to his senses, he concluded that there was no other human in the vicinity and let a soft groan out of his throat. Pushing himself up caused what few muscles that could, to protest and he opened his eyes to find a glass of water in front of him.
Controling the response to jerk back he gingerly cradled the glass in his hand and looked at the person who he hadn't noticed earlier. Usually he was fairly good at picking out at least other presenses in the room he was in by virtue of magical cores if nothing else. It was an innate skill that came with his ability in the mind arts that he had perfected as a student. Hard for those blasted Marauders to sneak up on him if he knew the instant they entered the room.
Of course, he had never applied any of that to a house elf, like Misty who was waiting patiently for him to sip the water in his hand. His hand trembled violently as he lifted the glass, but Misty steadied it. He bit back a snarl, a defensive measure he really shouldn't direct her way. It wasn't her fault he was vulnerable in front of her.
"Potter?" He used the question as a distraction while he asked his body whether he could sit up. It seemed to disagree with the idea most heavily and he gave it up for the moment.
"Master Harry is still in trance. Master Harry wills wake before dinner. Misty will have big dinner for Master Harry." Severus nodded, wincing. He barely noticed the glass being removed from his grip.
"Potion's Professor should take potions Miss Madam left. They is help." He scowled at the creature. He knew he should and would as soon as he reacquainted himself with the world of the living.
"Why are you doing this?" Misty gave him a truly puzzled look. "Tending me as well as Potter." The little elf tilted her head a moment.
"Does Potions Professor know house elf magic?" Severus Frowned.
"Some, not as much as there probably is." Misty glanced at Harry again before shaking her head.
"House elf is wanting Master to be happy. House elf sees magic. Mas-"
"Wait, you can see magic?" Misty nodded.
"House elf is seeing all forms of magic when house elf wishes. House elves sense someone with good magic for Master, House elf try to help." Severus was looking at her suspiciously.
"You sense my magic is good?" He was truly baffled. He knew the Dark Mark had a magical signiture, it was how he had identified most of the inner circle. Misty nodded gently.
"Potions Professor has magic that says Potions Professor could be good for Master Harry if Potions Professor tries. Master Harry's magical core and Potions Professor Snape's magical core are more stable when helping each other. Misty sees this. Misty helps wizard who is good for Master Harry. Master Harry is Misty's Master." She tried to hand him the potions again but he didn't take them. He looked over at the boy. This little creature thought he was good for the boy. Harry needed an adult in his life, even Severus could see that. But it couldn't be Severus. It could never be Severus.
"You will only tend to your Master from now on. I will not have you looking after me!" His cold voice didn't seem to phase the little elf. She gave him a winning smile.
"Potions Professor is not scary to house elf." Suddenly Severus felt he blood drain from his face.
"Can house elves tell when someone is lying?" Misty blinked at him a moment before looking at her toes.
"House elves not read wizards mind. Is forbidden to read wizards minds. Very bad house elves read wizards minds. Even disobey masters before read wizards minds." Severus blinked at the elf a moment.
"I am an accomplished Occlumens..." He trailed off at she shook her head slightly.
"House elves is not using wizard magic. House elves can not use wizards magic. House elves use elvish magic. Controlling thoughts and memories not stop house elf magic." He glanced at her, still alarmed, but also intrigued.
"How do elves read minds then, if not memories?" Misty glanced at Harry uncertainly, shuffling her feet.
"Misty helps Potions Professor, Potions Professor helps Master Harry?" Severus raised an eyebrow.
"I didn't know House elves could bargain with a wizard." She gave him the house elf version of a glare at his wry statement.
"Potions Professor not Master or friend of Master. Master Harry not say house elves must obey Potions Professor." He glanced over at the boy in exasperation. Trust Potter to forget something so simple.
"What help are you asking for?" Misty cocked her head and seemed to considering his question a moment before nodding.
"Potions Professor Severus Snape must promise to always believe Master Harry when Master Harry tells facts." He snorted.
"As opposed to fiction?" She glared at him.
"As opposed to opinion." He looked at her. She was serious. She wasn't asking for time or actions, just thoughts. Then he stopped. Potter had told him many things over the years he didn't believe. Lots of students did.
To give him more time to think he asked the little creature why. It wasn't terribly important, but he had to think this promise through. He didn't make promises he couldn't keep if he could help it. It turned out that the reason was important however.
"Master Harry hates liars. Master Harry says people always lie to him and then Master Harry has to learn the truth alone and then peoples get mad at Master Harry for trying to learn truth. But Master Harry says they were mad before when Master Harry didn't know truth anyway. Master Harry not like when people Master Harry likes is mad at Master Harry." Looking back, Severus conceded to that point. Most of the times he was saving the brat's skinny hide was because he was indeed attempting to find out something he should have been told anyway.
The first year was sketchy and he would love to hear the brats perspective. He rather thought it would clear up some mysteries from that year. His second year had tried Severus' nerves, not just with the boy-who-lived-to-draw-trouble but his own snakes. Between the danger to his students and the blame heaped on his house, he had barely considered Potter in anymore danger than anyone else. At least until he had found out the brat had gone after the problem. At least that year he took a teacher. Granted even he should have known Lockhart was no DADA, but that was step in the right direction. But Black's escape could have been much less dangerous if someone had sat down with the brat and told him about his father's little friends and they could have helped him through it. If he hadn't known who had supposedly killed his mother, who was there, even after knowing the Dark Lords wrath had caused great suffering, he would have been furious.
Then this last year was one disaster after another. Some of it could have been avoided if Potter had had a teacher he talked to, but from what Severus had heard in the teacher's lounge, even Minerva had been so proud of the boy, he doubt she had heard a single word he had said all year. Even Albus had been preoccupied. The only teacher who seemed to listen was Moody, brilliant. Severus understood the reason behind Misty's request. The problem wasn't its sensibility. It was its viability.
He shouldn't be the one to do it. First Harry didn't trust him. Second he didn't have the time with two masters, both at odds. And third...
He felt his heart tumble at that. No he had already failed her once. He didn't think he could bear to do so again. And he would fail in this. Misty wasn't just asking for him to believe, but for him to listen.
"I cannot make that promise." Misty shook her head so fast her ear flopped.
"Potions Professor is the only wizard who can make promise." He raised an eyebrow.
"Why is that, exactly." Misty looked at him, completely serious.
"Potions Professor Understands."
Poppy downed a pepper-up potion just as the moon started to disappear. Not that her weak human eyes oculd see it in the bright glare of the sun, but Anya assured her it was still there. Further proof was that the pack was still furry, albeit mostly asleep. Some oft he younger ones were playing under Victoria's watchful gaze and Verity and Ray were holding the newborns since Victoria was holding her own infant. Anya told her the child was barely eight months old.
Ralph was still at the wall, as close to Martha as he could be, though he had settled into sleep after she came close enough to start petting him. Poppy had watched as the big scary wolf whined at his mate like a puppy and then when she finally gave in a petted him, he had plopped himself down and gone right to sleep. Although Martha still wanted her children desparately, petting her husband seemed ot sooth her yearning a bit.
She cast another diagnosis charm on the dozing mother. All systems were healing normally. She shouldn't move about much for another few days, but she would be find. She wished she could do the same with the twins, but not knowing what werewolf pups were supposed to be like at this age, she couldn't tell much. Anya said Victoria wasn't too concerned so she took that as a positive and had set herself to wait until moonset.
She had used the time to talk to Anya. She had learned much about Werewolves and Vampires in the last few hours. Her year was changing shape as she learned about who the community veiwed the pack and their monthly foray into the wildside of things. She also learned a great deal about why Remus had such a terrible time as a child. She would recommend to Albus that when the man was back in town, he should come talk to her.
She had also learned that most of the fears about Vampires were silly. Yes they drank blood, as a part of their normal human diet. They did crave it, in the same way humans would crave meat. She even found out a few were vampire vegitarians, not drinking blood. There were serious health consequences of course and most of their brethren thought them nuts, but they weren't dead. And they were still persecuted.
She also found out that contrary to popular belief it did infact have to be human blood. Althought Anya said she liked the taste of cows blood and could survive on it for a time, eventually she would go off her rocker. Bloodlust was another thing they discussed. She explained that it wasn't a lack of blood that caused it, but a lack of blood during physical or mental distress. Vampires who hadn't drank blood had a harder time with wand type magic and it irritated them.
They also discussed vampire wards and allergies, for lack of a better term. Anya had laughed. No vampire liked the smell of Garlic. Or onions or cabbage or any other of that family. And Vampires fly, so few learned to swim making running water dangerous, but only when it was so deep. She had never actually encountered true holy water, so she didn't know much about it. She did know that the cross thing was made up so that during the hunts people could feel safe. It made hunting them less of a necessity. The brethren corrected that belief as people asked, but no one asked anymore.
They were in fact more sensitive to sunlight, but that came with age. Young Vampires, either newly bitten or newly born, didn't have nearly the problem with sun that her father did. And even he could handle some. She described it rather like an intense sunburn, their skin had absolutely no melatonin in it, so they had no defense against the sun.
She did explain that the brethren's complete hatred of fire though. It was as instinctive as that of a horse, moreso because they knew it could actually kill them. Even Anya shuddered when she mentioned fire. She said that like any student who was afraid of the dark, they would handle it without whining.
She also explained that no vampire drank blood indiscriminately. Drinking the blood of a person without changing them carried certain consequences. First they were tied together for a time. This was less true if the blood was gathered and then drunk. The vampire could understand the person's feeling and motivations for a short time around the drink and the person's personality would effect the vampires, especially younger vampires. Usually a vampire found a few close friends that they drank from as needed and stuck to that. They only needed a sip every week or two. More if they used more magic.
This of course was all taken as completely confidential, not to be revealed to anyone else regardless of the lives it could save. She was to leave it up to a vampire to explain this to anyone. She understood. She was learning some very dangerous secrets. Poppy believed she was a test. For the entire community, she was a test of whether to trust wizards again. Tasha and Martha had explained that once, several centuries ago, elves had trusted humans and that was the end of their civilization. Vampires tried ever century or two and werewolves in small groups and isolated instances. This was the next chance for the magical creatures of britain to come together.
Poppy hoped she was right person for the task.
She stretched her back as she checked the time. Severus should have awoken a few minutes ago. She hoped he and Misty didn't maim each other before she returned. Moonset would be complete soon and she wanted to check over her youngest patients before leaving. Plus, she wanted to be on hand to heal any scratches the pack had, though they were probably quite proficient at healing them themselves.
A growl took her out of her reverie. The pack was stretching much like she had just done. Even Ralph was moving away from Martha and shaking out his fur. A growling keen rippled through the air as she watched them all seem to shrink. Victoria, Verity and Ray all placed the infants down as they two lost their fur and reverted to a more human form. Many of the pack shook themselves out as they stumbled on their suddenly shorter legs. The adults seemed content to gather their clothes and the children who were most happy to chat and run around.
The infants were back in the arms of their family almost immediately and Ralph was at the gate waiting anxiously to be let out. She saw Anya scan the complex with Tasha before both nodded and the gate was opened. Ralph and Ray were beside Martha instantly with the twins. Poppy was next to them, cast diagnostic spell after spell over all of the family. The infants were screaming, but that was understandable. Victoria's child was similarily upset and she concluded the transformation was unsettling to the little ones.
Outside of their general unhappiness the twins were fine. Heavier than normal, but even without the lycanthropy, the twin were late, so said the group, so that made sense. Poppy extended the scan to Ray, Ralph and Verity, frowning. Verity was the only one to notice.
"Madam Pompfrey?" She redid her scan, focusing on Verity this time and looking back several years.
"You are fine." Verity cocked her head at the mediwitch.
"Of course. Martha did most of the work, I just held the pups afterward." Verity gazed at her a moment longer with an innocent stare before a grin spread slowly across her face. "I don't have scratches or bites taken out of me. None of us pups do. Our pack would never hurt its pups." Poppy sat down, confused.
Verity was right. In fact, all night she hadn't seen anything that told her the pack was anything more dangerous than a large group of dogs in a paypen like at the petstore. So that left her with a disturbing and burning question. why had Remus Lupin always been so destroyed by his wolf?
Whatever the reason, she didn't think it could be solved until one of the pack actually met Remus, so she pushed it out of her mind and instead turned her attention to asking many of the questions she had come up with throughout the night. She barely noticed the plate of food Tasha placed in her hands as she asked Verity, and Victoria after she came over, question after question. Her year was looking to be quite an adventure.
Severus looked at the cauldron as it simmered. After taking the potions Poppy had left, he had vacated the room for his potions lab. He was replacing Poppy's stock for the school year and he could brew these potions in his sleep. Which was good because his thoughts were definitely not on the potion that was turning purple right now. He added the next ingrediant and returned to his complicated circle of logic that had resulted from his talk with Misty.
He still wasn't sure if he had done the right thing, promising the house elf. But he had been right in that the information the little elf had was invaluable. House elf magic was powerful stuff, he had known that. What he hadn't known was just how versitile it was. He had underestimated the amount of ignorance the wizarding world had instilled in its population about other creatures. Misty had requested that he allow wizards to learn about these things from house elves. Not because it was a secret, but to prevent misunderstandings. Misty said she didn't mind him mentioning to other wizards they should ask their house elves about it, simply to not try to explain it himself.
He had the strange idea that Harry already knew half of what Misty had told him this morning. After that conversation he had needed to brew. He knew Poppy would be checking on him soon, but she also knew how much he needed to brew when he was in convalescence. Speaking of Poppy, where was the mediwitch?
Usually she popped in within an hour af his awakening and it had already been nearly three hours. Concerned he started the spell to bottle the potion and called Twinkle. The mediwitch's house elf popped in immediately.
"Hello Twinkle, do you know where Poppy is?" After what he had just learned about house elves,he decided to be a bit nicer to them. Although he had never abused one, he had never gone out of his way to be nice to one either. That was about to change.
"Madam Poppy is returned to infirmary five minutes ago. Madam Poppy is in her office." The squeaky answer did little to dispell his confusion and concern. Had something happened while he was out. He knew that when he took a Dreamless sleep that he had brewed, he was out but good. Anyone was. He was proud of his dreamless sleep potion and Poppy said that it never failed to put people under completely for the prescribed time.
"Please ask her to visit in my lab when she has a spare moment." The elf jumped for joy and popped out. Severus blinked as his own personal elf came to mind. Rose had always been content to run the manor and only appear to him if he specifically called, whether he was in danger or not. She hadn't been happy about the danger, but she had complied. After he spoke with Poppy, he'd call her and talk about it.
"Severus?" He looked up to see Poppy come through the door. His lab fireplace was most certainly not connected to a floo. "Is everything all right? I was going to pop by in another hour to see if you wanted more potions from my stores. I was pretty sure I'd cleaned you out after that horrendous tournament." Severus shook his head.
"I am fine Poppy. Your magicking has healed me as it always does. The potion regiment you prescribed is working its magic." She nodded happily and scanned him anyway. "Is everything all right?" She stopped reading the scan to gaze at him curiously.
"I rather expected you to be in the castle this morning." Since he really didn't need her checking on him like a child, and he thought asking why she wasn't there when he awoke would sound too much like complaining.
"I was called away last night and didn't return until a few minutes ago. Twin birth, a bit complicated I'm afraid." Severus frowned slightly.
"They all right now?" She smiled and nodded. He let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding. Poppy could be very upset when she lost a patient. he hated seeing her upset. Aside from his mother, she was probably the only person he let take care of him when injured. Well, and now Misty.
"Severus, has Albus told you about the transfer students yet?" Severu looked at her warily. He recognized that tone. It was the same one his mother used when she was about to talk about something he and she were both certain he did not want to talk about.
"Not yet. Minerva handles the transfer students. They'll tell the rest of us when it comes time to test them into their years." Poppy bit her lip. "Why?" He hadn't meant to put a dangerous edge to his voice, but it was there.
"Albus said he was meeting with the head of house yesterday, but I guess he hadn't gotten to you before you left. These transfer student are quite different." Severus gritted his teeth before growling. "I do think you should let Albus explain." He glowered at his cauldren a moment before taking a deep breath.
"If you will watch Ha-Potter, I think I'd better go and find out what our esteemed headmaster has done this time." She sighed and nodded. He magicked the cauldren into the sink and swept out of the lab and into the hallway. He knew Poppy knew her way around his lab. What mediwitch worth her salt didn't. He also knew she wouldn't do anything but read next to his fire and watch over Harry. She might get Twinkle to bring her some work even while he went and participated in a practical exercise in not strangling one's employor.
Neville ducked as the soft ball flew through the air. Since Harry wasn't due home until late, they had decided to see what they had learned. The two sets of twins plus Smarten had spelled the balls they used in Dudley's beginning lessons to bombard them unless a certain spell was cast. Some balls required expelliarmus, some diffindo, some simply required stunning. A few required summoning, which Neville thought was a great trick. The ball were color coded, which helped some. If you were hit by the ball, they covered you in powder.
The entire fold had gotten into the exercise. After two runs, most were successful at cast the spells on command and dodging the aerial missles. They had changed the game. This time they were after each other. The first game they divided into four teams. The second game the slytherins had an idea. They drew lots for teams, but no one knew what team you were on. The goal was to have the most team members 'alive' at the end of the game.
Neville had drawn the blue team. He had located three other people on his team and nearly gotten hit by two who weren't. He ducked back and watched as Twiggs whispered with Ginny a moment. He already knew they were on different teams, and neither on his. Then he watched as Twiggs yanked her out of the way.
Thinking on this, he settled back to watch a moment. So far he had thrown himself in whole-heartedly to learn and practice all he could. It occurred to him, he could learn something by watching as well. Harry had mentioned that in every person there was a bit of each house, but sometimes you needed help to find them. He told Neville that if everyone tried to find each piece of themselves, it would work much better. Maybe it was time for him to try to find the Slytherin piece of his soul.
He watched as Twiggs and Ginny worked together to take out a group of the Red. Ginny was green and Twiggs was yellow. They were joined by three others and they surrounded the red encampment. Shortly before they attacked one of those in red, Susan, turned and started casting stunning spells on her teammates. The resulting confusion utterly decimated the group. Neville watched curiously to see what would happen next. The others in the 'ambush' were green like Ginny. Susan joined up with them, one arm trailing, covered in blue dust, thus unusable. The dust made you rather numb.
Neville saw some members of his own team creep up behind them and just as they were about to attack he shout a disarming spell, distracting the group. His teammates made a good run of it, but they were eventually taken down and he sat on the ground watching as the group prepared to hunt down the remaining members. Susan suggested splitting up into groups of three. Nevile watched intrigued as Twiggs and Susan were in different groups and mangaged to disarm their groups as soon as they cleared the treeline. He had an advantage from the tree. They took out another group as the rest of yellow arrived. The 'battle' was over quickly and everyone was called to rise and help look for anyone stunned.
Neville shook himself off before gingerly climbing down from the tree and making his way over to Susan and Twiggs. Although they had taken out much of the group, they had not been 'alive' at the end of the game.
"Twiggs, question." Twiggs was a year ahead of him and in Slytherin so they hadn't interacted much. Still the teen stopped and waited for him. "Why'd you and Susan not try to end up in the same threesome at the end there? You could have made it." Twiggs gave him an approving smile.
"Watching, were you?" Neville shrugged. "Our goal was to have the most in our group at the end. We didn't have to be part of the alive group. Any chess player will tell you. Pieces get sacrificed." Neville narrowed his eyes.
"Are you saying we should be willing to sacrifice ourselves in this war?" Twiggs stopped when Neville did, many of their friends listening at that last statement. He saw hostile curiosity in many eyes. Twiggs looked at him seriously.
"I'm saying the Dark Lord doesn't care whether his followers survive. We should expect them to sacrifice themselves. My tactics here surprised you, but they shouldn't have. There is no penalty for dying in this game, simply if your group dies. That is how the Dark Lord sees his followers. A group that must preserve all of its members is at a disadvantage in such a competition. Since we are, we should learn to predict this pattern to counter the disadvantage our will to live brings to the table." Neville could tell he was serious. He looked around him and saw that many of the Slytherins and Ravenclaws in the group seemed to agree, though with varying degrees of disgust.
"You think our will to survive is a weakness?" Twiggs shook his head.
"Our will to endure is a strength. Our distaste for sacrifice isn't a weakness, it's a disadvantage. It becomes a weakness when we ignore its existence." Ron stepped forward.
"He's right about chess. Our first year, when we played against McGonagall's chess set in order to win we have to sacrifice a few pieces. One was me. To protect the school, we knew Harry had to be the one to go forward." They looked at each other and saw many frowning. Draco was the next one to speak though.
"Ron's right. If we don't want to sacrifice anyone, we need to learn strategy against someone who is willing to sacrifice pawns." Neville glanced at Susan and Hermione who nodded enthusiastically. Hannah placed a hand on his shoulder in question. He glanced at her and nodded. He looked over at Luna. She gave him a strong smile, quite different from her normal relaxed expression. She nodded firmly.
"Let's start learning."