A.N.: Hello once more! With no ado, I give you the latest chapter of my story! Things are getting tense and diverging from the book while emotions go haywire. But is there something that Harry can do this time to save the day? I hope you'll enjoy this chapter and don't forget to review!
Disclaimer; I own the plot, alright? Just that. I fear everything else is borrowed from the amazing J.K. Rowlling.
A KIDNAPPING AND A RAT
The walk to the Headmaster's office was fast but less frantic than the one to the dungeons. Infinite possibilities pooled inside Harry's mind. The Dark Lord will rise again with his servant's aid, greater and more terrible than he ever was… It was really happening then. Maybe not today but someday soon. And as he stood at the entrance of Dumbledore's office next to Severus, he swore he'd be ready to face him when the time came. He'd do anything. Somehow, he'd make it.
"Severus!" Albus Dumbledore greeted the potions master of his school with a smile. "And young Harry?" He asked, his face turning perplexed and the serious as he observed the solemn faces of the two people in front of him. "What happened?" That seemed to be the question of the day, Harry thought sarcastically.
"Harry has heard something that you should be informed of immediately." Severus stated icily; there was no other way to this than just approaching it straightforward. And this was once prophecy Dumbledore needed to know. Harry nodded and repeated again what had happened during his encounter with Professor Trelawney. The Headmaster looked at the boy almost disbelieving at first before his expression turned grave.
"Would you mind it, my boy, if you showed me that memory?" He pointed at his pensive that was place on one of the many selves in the office.
"I wouldn't mind." Harry stated simply as he approached the pensive.
"Now focus on the memory of that incident." Albus asked and Harry did as he said; he could cast the spell needed himself but the Headmaster wasn't going to know more than what was absolutely necessary. He felt the tip of a wand against his temple as he thought of the prophecy he had heard only a few minutes ago. A silver thread, a copy of his memory of the event locked on the wand and Dumbledore carefully placed it in the pensive; he motioned Severus to step closer and soon the two men were immersed in the memory. Once they had watched the whole incident, Severus looked back at Harry compassion colouring his otherwise icy façade. The Headmaster was too absorbed at what he had seen to notice.
"Do you want me to call Lupin and Black?" Severus asked, his tone betraying none of his feelings.
"Yes." The Headmaster stated. "Please do, Severus. And escort Harry back to his common room. I'll call Lily and James." Harry was about to protest; he wanted to stay! He should stay! But how could he request such a thing? Severus cast him a glance that showed his understanding and silently conveyed a promise to tell him everything that happened. Soon. Harry gritted his teeth and nodded. At least Severus understood.
"Professor Dumbledore, sir?" Harry said as he turned to leave.
"Yes, Harry?" The Headmaster didn't even look at him as he spoke, his attention focused on his pensive and the swirling memory the teen had just provided. The green eyed boy felt anger rise inside him; was it too much for him to spare one look?
"Please notify my brother." He said. "Adrian has to know." Maybe that would stop him from doing something reckless as he feared his brother was planning. The Headmaster finally tore his eyes from the pensive long enough to look at the young wizard briefly and nod.
"If your brother is at the common room send him here. If not wait for him to return and tell him to come find me to moment you see him. Don't speak of this to anybody." Harry nodded once and left the room, following Severus. The potions master could practically feel the anger radiating from the teen in waves. He could relate; that old fool! How could he be so blind?
"Harry?" Severus called as they walked. Not wanting to respond in case his answer was less than pleasant, the boy just looked at him, indicating he was listening. "He's a fool and a blind fool at that." The potions master stated. "You'll just have to knock some sense into him one day." Harry smiled slightly, feeling some of his anger leaving him.
"One day I will." Harry promised him. "You just watch me." Severus nodded and left Harry in the Grand staircase; the teen headed to the common room while the potions master went to inform the two Defence teachers. Harry had to practically drag himself up to Gryffindor tower and, when he reached the common room, all he could do was plop onto a couch and lean back staring at the ceiling. His brother wasn't in the room but he would be back soon; were could he go after all? It's not as if the Dementors would let him pass them by; a wanted criminal sure, but definitely not a teenage boy, he thought bitterly. Neville walked in then, his eyes zeroing immediately on the forlorn form of his best friend.
"Harry." He said as he sat opposite him on the couch. "What's wrong?" Harry sighed and looked at his friend helplessly; now more than ever he wished he could just say what had happened. And, caution be damned, he had to say something of what it was that bothered him before he exploded.
"Adrian might be in trouble, Nev." The teen stated simply, fingers running over his eyes and through his black locks. "We all might be."
"I suppose you're not going to elaborate?" Neville asked, a small smile appearing on his face.
"I can't Neville." He couldn't just blurt out everything about the prophecy he had just heard. He refused to panic Neville for one and two, maybe it was too soon for him to talk about it too. He hadn't even come to terms with what he had heard himself.
"I can't, Neville." He simply stated, lowering his eyes. Maybe he didn't deserve such a loyal friend, he thought.
"Am I right to think you weren't even supposed to have told me what you just did?" There was some humour in his voice, so Harry's eyes snapped up from were they were locked on the floor and locked with his friend's brown ones.
"Technically, I promised not to breathe a word to anybody." Harry admitted, a soft smile finding its way on his face, noticing how Neville didn't appear to be mad at him.
"Well then." The teen said, pulling out his Herbology textbook. "If that's the case, I'll just sit here and read, keeping you company, while we both pretend you told me nothing." And he winked at Harry who grinned back at him.
"One day, Nev, I'll explain everything." Harry promised and his friend smiled, nodding once. Harry knew Neville didn't understand the gravity of his promise but he would keep it nonetheless. "And thank you for understanding."
"I'm just amazing that way." Neville said shrugging, causing Harry to laugh for the first time since the prophecy incident.
"Yes, you are." Harry agreed as he closed his eyes, falling silent, the latest problem he had found himself in unfolding inside his head once more.
His mind battled with all the possible scenarios, one idea darker than the next. Voldemort coming back could only mean one thing; war. He had heard the stories of what it was like back at the first war against the Dark Lord. If he was supposed to come back stronger than he ever was, he couldn't dare to think what would happen this time around. His mind remained immersed in dark thoughts for the next couple of hours as he looked at the sum move outside the window. It was noon before he knew it and soon he was supposed to go to the Great Hall for lunch. Not that he felt like it, but he had to eat. Well, he thought without making an effort to move, there's always dinner. Neville didn't move from the couch either and Harry took some comfort from his best friend's presence.
It wasn't until after the first students started returning from the Great Hall and Hogsmead that his mind was able to move past the shock and realise what was wrong with this whole picture. He rose from his spot, his heart picking up speed again; he looked at the faces around the common room. All familiar of course, but not the one he was looking for. Where the hell was his brother? Harry jumped up and approached Ginny who was studying on a desk next to the fireplace.
"Ginny, have you seen my brother?" The girl looked at his troubled expression and decided to skip pleasantries.
"Not since breakfast." She said and watched in fear as the usually pale teen blanched even more. "Why?" Harry opened his mouth to speak when two cheerful voices called him from the entrance. Fred and George had returned from Hogsmeade with their hands filled with tricks from Zonko's and their faces flushed.
"Hey Harry!" George called him, dropping his staff on a desk, a little further away. Harry moved closer to them; he might as well ask them to. But before he could utter a word, Fred leaned in and whispered conspiratorially;
"Back already?" Harry's eyes widened in surprise.
"Back from where?" He asked. George and Fred shared a roguish look.
"Of course." George stated as if Harry's question had settled everything. "If someone asks you were here all morning. Gotcha!" The green eyed teen looked at them infuriated; he really didn't have time for this.
"What are you talking about?" The twins looked at him surprised. They looked at each other again and then at back at Harry; the look on his face seemed to make something click in their minds.
"But…" Fred looked at Harry confused. "Weren't you in Hogsmeade? With Adrian? Didn't he take you along?" Green eyes opened wide and his heart skipped a beat. Adrian was in Hogsmeade? Right now? Today of all days?
"What?" He spat shocked.
"He didn't tell you?" George asked. "Blimey Harry, we thought that after we gave him… we thought that he would share!" Harry tried to process what he had just heard; the twins seemed to have given something to Adrian that allowed him to leave the castle at will; they easily could do that as he had seen them bringing things sold at Hogsmeade more than once. They had suspected he would share that something but he obviously didn't. Well, he thought bitterly as he looked back at the hushed conversations with Ron, his brother hadn't shared it with him.
"Listen carefully." Harry began, his voice dark. "Tell me what you gave my brother that could lead him out of the castle. Tell me now." His voice never rose, but the icy tone he had used made the twins talk faster than a shouting mach would have.
"It's a map we found at Filch's office, a map of the school." Fred explained as Harry's heart fell. It couldn't be…
"It marks the exits from the school, secret passages and stuff." George added.
"Adrian looked so down, we thought it would cheer him up and…"
"You gave him the Marauders' Map?" Harry asked, interrupting a confused Fred.
"You know about it? But Adrian hasn't shown it to you?" Harry didn't even spare them another look. He completely ignored their calls; he simply cursed in Gobbledegook and ran out the common room again only sparing one backwards glance towards Neville who nodded in understanding. He headed back to the Headmaster's office, reaching it in lightning speed and shouting the password at the entrance; he entered the office without even knocking. Severus, his parents, Sirius and Remus as well as the Headmaster were there, all looking grave and shocked at the youngest Potter twin's sudden entrance.
"Adrian went to Hogsmeade! He's not in the school!" He gasped out. "And he hasn't come back yet!"
"What?" James asked stunned. "Harry, what are you talking about?"
"Fred and George Weasley had the Marauders' Map, they got it from Filch's office somehow and gave it to Adrian a few days ago." Harry explained hastily as realisation dawned into everyone's faces; even Severus had heard of the map through Harry. "I just met them in the common room and they asked me if I had returned from Hogsmeade already; they said that Adrian had gone and they had expected me to be with him."
"Merlin!" Lily exclaimed, covering her face with her hands and falling down on a chair.
"Are you sure, Harry?" Dumbledore asked.
"I didn't even know the Weasley twins had the map, let alone that Adrian had it but I haven't seen him since breakfast." Harry stated. The Headmaster nodded and sprang into action.
"We must look for him immediately." He stated. He turned to his phoenix. "Fawkes, inform the staff." The phoenix trilled and disappeared in flames. "The protocol dictates all students should gather in the front gates of the castle in cases of emergence. We shall go there first and look… not for Adrian but for Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger as it's likely the boy has the cloak with him. There's no time to lose, I fear." They all nodded and left, leaving Harry back in the office alone with a disbelieving potions master.
"I can't believe they just left me here!" The boy seethed at Severus.
"And I must go too." The potions master said. "Harry, I know you want to, but you can't follow this time." Harry was about to protest but realised he really couldn't; the passages were filled with anti-animagi wards and the Dementors guarded all other exits. Severus could walk out of the castle if he went along with Sirius and Minerva but, should Harry try to leave the castle through one of the passages, the alarms would ring and turn the attention to him. And even though Harry was fairly certain he could outrun the professors and exit the castle, there simply was no way Harry could let them stop looking for Adrian just to chase after such a distraction.
"Bârzuln!" He had reverted into cursing in Gobbledegook again and Severus offered a tight lipped smile.
"I have to go." Harry nodded. "Go back to the common room and hex that brother of yours something awful if he gets back safe on his own before the search is over." Harry nodded and Severus walked to the door. "I'll bring Adrian back." Severus stated. "Do you trust me with this?"
"Of course I do." Severus nodded once and left the office in a hurry. He had to catch up with the others and resist hexing them something awful himself; how could they just leave Harry like that? He might just have saved his brother -again even if they didn't know that- and they had just ignored him? It was a wonder why he still wanted to help sometimes… He ran down the corridors in a frenetic state, finally catching up with the rest of the search party in the Great Hall.
"What took you so long, Severus?" Lily asked agitated. For the first time in his life, Severus looked at the beautiful woman in front of him with incredulous irritation.
"Your son." He stated simply.
"My son is out there, probably in danger!" Lily exclaimed seriously. It was her desperation talking at the moment but still… Severus had never really looked at Lily and found a flaw. But now… Not knowing what to say to her or how to react he was for once relieved at Sirius's interruption.
"We're ready to go, Lily. The students are gathering." The redhead turned and run out the doors immediately. Severus tried to do the same when a hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"What is it, Black?" The potions master asked irritated. He really didn't have time for the dog's antics at the moment.
"Thank you." That completely caught Severus off guard. He looked at the man in front of him curiously.
"For what you did just now for Harry. There might still be hope for you after all, as much as it pains me to admit it." Severus's eyes widened but he nodded once. Sirius nodded back and let go of his shoulder just as Remus walked in. The werewolf stopped and nodded his thanks at the potions master too before asking them to come out for the search. Severus just watched the two men leave the hall running, his head reeling.
"There might still be hope for you too." He muttered softly, hasting to catch up once again.
The search seemed to be going on for ages, as far as the Head of Slytherin was concerned; they had all the students accounted for but Adrian and his two friends. Severus was ready to commit murder and the most possible victim was one Albus Dumbledore for more reasons than he cared to relay. At the moment it was the fact that he just stood lost at the middle of a search while the rest of the world was panicking. And he had given a promise to Harry.
"He's not here…" James muttered. "Where can he be?" Severus approached the Headmaster, passing by the panicking Auror; he didn't even wanted to think what he would have been doing had Harry gone missing instead. But Harry would never be as irrational as to just throw a cloak over himself and run; he hadn't been raised like that.
"Call the Aurors, Albus." Severus offered hastily. "Have them comb the forest as we search the village." The older wizard regarded the young man blinking once, twice before regaining his wits.
"James!" He called strongly. "Summon the Aurors! We're widening the search!" Severus exclaimed in relief as he joined the team that would search the village; Lily and James joined the Aurors that apparated just outside the gates, spreading around the school in search for the missing students; Molly and Arthur arrived soon afterwards, Severus noticed, adding yet another frightened pair of parents searching for their children.
He was getting restless, walking around Hogsmeade, checking every road and alley; it had been almost half an hour and the group of three -himself, Remus and Sirius and who would have thought that would ever happen?- were searching the lower part of the village. He was seriously contemplating to demolish a wall that was simply in his way when he heard Lupin's voice from the next alley.
"Over here! Hurry!" He called, his voice resonating in the empty streets; the village had been evacuated, all inhabitants transported temporarily in Hogwarts. Severus ran over to where the werewolf stood, hunched over the prone form of a girl; it was Hermione Granger, Severus realised as Remus cast an Enervate spell on her. The girl opened her eyes and stood still for a second before starting to panic, looking around frantically as if she was searching for someone.
"He's got him! Please go find them! Please!" The girl cried out in fear as Remus tried to hold her down. Severus was just about ready to run off to the direction the girl pointed out but he realised that he didn't even know who had taken whom and where. All this could end up being something completely different. He hoped it would. Sirius brushed past him and kneeled down to face a crying Hermione.
"What happened, Hermione?" The man was shaking but his voice was calm; if the situation wasn't that dire, Severus might even have admitted that Sirius was acting his age for the first time ever in his presence.
"Ron and I were walking out of the Three Broomsticks. We were…" Her voice wavered and broke, fresh tears spilling from her eyes. "We were arguing about something silly and then we heard Adrian's voice calling out to us. I was shocked but Ron knew he would come; they said they wanted to surprise me." She wiped some of her tears away but new ones just came pouring down. If Severus wasn't certain that a comforting word from him would unnerve her even more, he would have done just that, facades be damned; the poor child was breaking down in front of his eyes.
"You saw Adrian?" Remus asked, giving Hermione some time to compose herself.
"No." She mouthed. "He was wearing his invisibility cloak. We just followed his voice and once we turned into an alley he took the cloak just a little off to prove he was him. We walked around for a while, Adrian invisible again, and I was trying to convince him that he should return to the school; the outing was almost over anyway but he said that nothing could happen with the cloak on. We walked for a little more before we heard the teachers calling us to gather in the front gates. Ron said something bad must have happened and Adrian ran off to a side street saying that he would go back to the castle. Ron and I walked forward and that's when…" She started crying again as Remus patted her comfortingly in the back.
"Was it Pettigrew?" Sirius asked. She nodded it was. "And he has taken Adrian?" The dog animagus had gone completely pale. Severus's head was spinning a little too. How could it all have gone so wrong?
"No!" Hermione whimpered, as three pair of eyes zeroed on her. "He took Ron!"
"Ron?" Sirius asked confused.
"He didn't realise Adrian was with us! He jumped up on Ron and grabbed his wand. He pointed it at him and grabbed him from his shirt. He said that when I woke up I should tell Adrian and only him what had happened and then warn him that, if he wanted to see his best friend alive, he should come at the Shrieking Shack alone." She started panicking again. "But I saw Adrian in the corner, he'd pulled out his wand and the cloak rippled for a while, before Pettigrew stunned me!"
"So Adrian attacked him?" Remus asked terrified.
"I don't know!" Hermione shook her head.
"Can you walk, Hermione?" The girl nodded once decisively. "Good; I want you to go and tell everyone where we are; the next team of Aurors is looking for you guys close to Zonko's. You think you can walk that far?" Sirius asked.
"I think I can."
"Go and tell them to wait outside the Whomping Willow, okay?" The girl looked perplexed but decided to just go with the instructions she was given. She stood up with Remus's help and took off, casting one last glance at the three men. Sirius conjured his patronus to send directions to James and prepared to apparate.
"The Whomping Willow?" Severus asked. "The Shrieking Shack is just a mile from here."
"You can't enter it from Hogsmeade." Sirius explained. "Albus warded it when we were kids; the only way in is hidden in that blasted tree." Severus nodded and apparated with the two friends. Their feet touched the ground of the forest the very moment a group of five men led by James walked out behind some thick bushes and towards them; Sirius ran to inform them of what had happened exactly as they all marched, wands in hand, out of the forest and towards the tree.
Severus was certain something would go wrong; everything was going too fast. They had all gone from naught to one hundred and fifty faster than the Firebolt and they had no plan whatsoever. Pettigrew was waiting in the Shrieking Shack, that was sure; if he wasn't they would have found the Weasley boy already, the potions master figured. Dead of course, for if he had Adrian he would have gotten rid of any spare weight.
The potions master lit the tip of his wand; night was falling and the castle's lights were too far away to help them. He watched carefully as Sirius transformed into a black dog and deftly crawled around the assaulting branches to press a knot on the trunk. The tree stopped moving in an instant as the rest of the wizards approached; Sirius turned back and stood straight, walking back to the group.
"Listen now." James began, addressing the Aurors of his group. "One child is definitely in there along with a wanted and unstable criminal. It's possible that my son's there too." He stopped for a second, trying to get to grips with what was happening. "The passageway is too small for all of us to go at once so we'll have to enter one at a time. Andrews, Hunter," two of the Aurors nodded. "I want you to inform the rest of the groups and guard that entrance; if Pettigrew comes out before we do, stop him. Kill him if you must." The Aurors nodded and James turned to the rest of the group. "Now Sirius you and I go first and…" Severus tuned James out, his attention captured by something at the bottom of the tree, his eyes widened as he pointed at the sorry excuse of a man that had just appeared.
"You!" Lupin exclaimed; the werewolf had seen Pettigrew too. Everyone turned to the convict who stood frozen, nobody moving for a second. Most were just shocked; Severus was making sure the two boys weren't with him before he cast a spell; the clouds parted and Lupin growled. He growled? And all hell broke loose.
As the moonlight bathed everything in silver everyone burst into motion; Remus fell on the ground, his back arching as the transformation began; this was going to be very bad, Severus immediately realised. Remus hadn't drunk his potion that day. How did he know? Simple; he'd never got around to deliver it. A frantic Harry had burst into his office just as he was preparing to do so and, needless to say, it had slipped his mind afterwards.
"Stand back!" Sirius, who must have had the same thought, yelled. "I don't think he drunk his potion today!" Everyone did as instructed while he turned into a dog for the second time in a few minutes. The transformation was almost complete when a second one began; Pettigrew, taking advantage of the situation transformed into a rat himself; Severus moved to hex him when Adrian -a gash still bleeding on his face and looking generally ruffled- exited the secret passageway and stepped right between the potions master and his target. The boy noticed Pettigrew changing into a rat and making his escape and did just what Severus feared; he ran after him.
"Adrian, no!" James called and chased after his son. Severus took one look behind him; Lupin had fully transformed and was at the moment fighting with Sirius while the Aurors had run for cover. He ducked and rolled away as Lupin turned his attention to him, barely avoiding getting hurt by the werewolf's claws. He dodged for a little longer until Sirius regained enough strength to keep distracting his out of control friend. Severus stood up and looked towards the Whomping Willow; there was no sign of James or Adrian.
Borrowing a page from Harry's book, he cursed quite fluently in Gobbledegook and began his pursuit; how far could they have gotten? He was running towards the general direction James had headed to. The darkness didn't make his job any easier and the fact that they seemed to be headed towards the lake, trough yet another patch of thick forest, didn't help either. He mostly used James's calls to his son as a guide, but even that wasn't enough to aid him catch up. No, what truly pointed him to the right direction was the cold; the lake was close to the school's borders. That meant it was being patrolled by Dementors. Dementors who wouldn't care if the person they hunted down was a convicted killer or a student; all that would matter was that someone was trying to pass through them.
Not quite believing he was running towards Dementors, Severus picked up his speed and headed for the lake. The cold was getting stronger as he marched through the snow and he forcefully pushed all the dark thoughts in his head away; he had promised Harry he would bring his brother back. And since that promise wasn't exactly a happy memory, it couldn't be taken from him; it kept propelling him forward. The scene he faced once he reached the lake almost stopped his heart.
Adrian had passed out, laying on the pebbles by the frozen lake while James was standing over him, conjuring a patronus over and over; the silver stag that erupted from his wand only worked for a while before it wavered and disappeared, hitting the seemingly unbreakable wall of Dementors. Because gliding over the lake and slowly approaching the two men were dozens of the dark creatures, coming closer to the two forms menacingly.
Severus cursed as yet another of James spells flickered out of existence and the man fell on his knees, his breath coming out short; facing so many Dementors alone was practically suicide even when one wasn't in emotional turmoil and frightened for their son's life and trying to do just that had already taken its toll on James who cast one last patronus and then fell on the ground next to his son. Severus watched as the silver stag flickered and fainted; one suicide attempt coming up, he thought mock cheeringly and stepped out from the trees where he was standing.
The Dementors were still heading for the two prone forms on the shore, quite unaware of a third wizard approaching the scene; it had been ages since Severus had cast a patronus. It had been on the grounds of the school again, but he was still a student back then. Still, that didn't mean he couldn't do it; Harry had trusted him and he would never let his son down. Focusing just on that, he called his patronus and had it charge towards the Dementors; it cast a silver light over the frozen lake, making it look almost beautiful as it went. But that wasn't what had caught Severus's attention.
Everything is turning into wolves tonight, he thought numbly as he observed the silver creature carefully; there was no mistaking that for a doe. It was a wolf, tall and proud, abut the same size as Harry's patronus but not quite identical. It was a little leaner and maybe just a tick shorter, just as Harry was when he transformed into a wolf. That sudden realisation brought along a much greater internal change than what Severus had expected. At that very moment he felt… free.
It was as if his axis had tipped over and he finally realised that he didn't have to keep on going ruled by his past. A ripple of joy shimmered through him and the silver wolf shone brighter, taking down the screeching Dementors one by one. That patronus was his future, shining bright and promising; he could never forget his past, that was certain. But he wasn't ruled by it anymore; unconsciously he had understood that already, it seemed, as the silver wolf chased away the last of the Dementors from the lake. It was time he made a conscious decision to let go too.
The patronus approached him, having finished its work; it was taller than he was but bowed its head, gently leaning into Severus's touch as the potions master ruffled its fur. It spared him one last look and disappeared, leaving a smiling Severus in its wake. He looked at the two prone forms by the lake and approached them speedily, coming up with a viable alternative story of what had happened that could tone down his involvement; he hoped that James was really out cold by the time he summoned his last patronus. The potions master chuckled once again as he made sure both Potters were breathing and cast a rain of green sparks from his wand for the rest of the teams to spot them. He just couldn't wait to tell Harry what had happened, he thought, as he waited for the search groups to arrive.