Disclaimer: Were it mine, that epilogue wouldn't have happened.
The Unspeakable Files: Godspell
An HP Fanfic
Chapter 2: Misfire
Late morning, outside the Lovegood residence
Snape cast another round of Incendio, the resultant gout of flames catching on the robes of one of this new wave of attackers. The witch howled as her steel-grey clothes became a bright conflagration of crimson and gold. Another lash of his wand sent a silent Confringo at a group, the blasting spell knocking several back at once.
His ruthless efficiency was a marked contrast to Xenophilius beside him, who thus far had disarmed one opponent, transfigured another's wand into a small flock of birds, and set yet another to singing uncontrollably with a deftly-placed Cantis. All of these things worked, of course, for it seemed that none of their assailants was able to cast without a wand, or the proper usage of their voice. The senior Lovegood appeared most amused by his handiwork, as if the entire ordeal were an entertaining lark for a Sunday morning.
To Severus's own eyes, it most certainly was not. There were another twenty to go yet, and the sheer numbers boded worse news if they survived. Someone with quite a surplus of resources wanted to do them some serious harm, and he was uncertain that the two of them alone would be able to survive this if killing curses began to hit the air.
A stinging hex reverberated off of his Protego Horribilius shield, dashing another wizard with its effects instead. A few more broad-area spells later, the attackers were scattered and defensive, though still numerous. As with all confrontations of this nature, keeping any of them from thinking too much was going to be important, and in this respect, the strange mixture of the ridiculous and the painful being hurtled at them would help.
From his peripheral vision, Snape caught sight of a jet of orange headed for Xenophilius, and knew even his reflexes would be unable to summon another shield in time. The first syllable of a warning had scarcely formed on his lips when a fierce, feminine cry reached him over the din.
"Finite Incantatem!" The sparks vanished in midair, and from behind the house, what appeared to be a string of unconscious bodies in their wake, emerged Miss Lovegood and a grimacing Draco. They were forming a rough circle with himself and his old schoolmate scant seconds later, and though he very much wanted to rebuke the both of them for insubordination and foolishness, he could not deny that the two extra wands were necessary at present, and so he stayed his customary acidic tongue.
Instead, Severus shifted, planting his feet more firmly upon the ground, and shot a look to his godson on his right. The blond youth nodded curtly, and the two raised their wands as one, taking a step forward and hurling a barrage of raw kinetic force. There were several variants on the blasting spell, and they chose theirs at random to avoid a complete block.
Severus followed the trajectory of his own attacks and noted with grim satisfaction that a few of their assailants were on the ground and no longer moving, but at that moment a concussive blast went off far too close and knocked him sideways, ears ringing. Staggering to recover, he snapped his head to the side, trying to pick out the enemy that had gotten so close, only to find that Draco was standing stock-still, a look of outright confusion plastered over his face. The young man's wand seemed to be smoking at the end, and something approaching fear flashed across his features before Xenophilius stepped in front of him to deflect an incoming stunner.
There wasn't enough time to ponder it presently, and Severus turned back to his task, joining Miss Lovegood, whose spells were much more practical than her father's, including one that bewitched several of the garden statues to life. The stone creatures, most of them unrecognizable as anything that corresponded to reality, charged the line of foes, drawing away much of their offensive capability, but not all of it.
Snape hissed like the serpent so many of his students had assumed him to be when the tail of a poorly-aimed flame struck his upper arm. From the way Miss Lovegood was holding her wand, it seemed something was numbing her good hand, causing it to dangle uselessly at her side. Xenophilius was sporting several singed hairs and bleeding from somewhere around his ribcage.
A Bombarda hit the ground near his own feet, and Severus was pelted by shrapnel. "Perhaps now would be a good time to leave?" Xenophilus suggested over the din, and much as he disliked the notion of fleeing, Snape recognized that it was the most strategically-viable option they had.
"Draco, take Miss Lovegood—Safehouse Nine." So saying, Severus swiftly grasped Xenophilius by the elbow and turned them both around, disapparating with a faint pop.
There was, in fact, no Safehouse Nine. Unspeakable and Auror safehouses were generally set up on a rotating schedule, according to the needs of individual assignments. The very reason Severus had taken Draco to the Lovegood home to begin with was because such a location had been deemed unnecessary for their last assignation. Safehouse Nine was a code phrase used to designate Snape's former residence at Spinner's End. Because of the risk of alerting nearby Muggles, it was not usually wise to apparate directly there, and the potions stores in the home were pitiful besides, but they had little choice remaining to them.
His boots hit the flagstones of the street with an air of finality, the space inhabited by no living creature save themselves. Snape relinquished his grip on Xenophilius, who seemed generally unperturbed by the still-seeping wound in his side or the fact that he was in nothing but a housecoat and slippers, both a rather repulsive shade of lavender and covered in debris, scorched patches, and blood.
Severus had a bit more concern, seeing as how the neighborhood was a non-magical one, and such things were likely to draw the kind of attention that required oblivation. Striding to the door, Snape disarmed his wards and swung the door inward, waving the other man in. The elder Lovegood did him the courtesy of casting a Lumos to light the dingy house.
Precisely one minute later, neither Draco nor the younger Lovegood had put in an appearance, and the two men exchanged glances. "Stay here," Snape intoned softly, and Xenophilius shook his head, mouth pressed into an unusually-grim line.
"She's my daughter, Severus." The words were pronounced with every ounce of solemnity Snape would never have thought him to possess. It was still foreign to him, the degree of devotion some parents showed to their children. He was aware that this man's own love for his child had placed him in some rather morally-grey areas in the past, but he would be a hypocrite of the worst kind if he allowed this to color his perception of someone else overmuch.
None of this made his implied suggestion logical. "You are injured," Severus pointed out flatly. "What is more, I intend to go back silently, and that is a skill I know you do not possess." Not actually an insult, but a mere statement of fact. "One of us needs to stay in case they arrive in worse condition than we left them." This, there was no denying, and at last Xenophilius nodded his reluctant acquiescence, and Snape quickly cast a disillusionment charm upon himself. Noiseless apparation was a bit trickier, but still entirely possible.
Location unknown, a forest
No sooner had Draco grasped Lovegood's arm and disapparated them both than he was aware of the ground rushing up to meet them.
The two contacted dirt with muffled thuds, each still connected by a grip on the other's wrist. With the air temporarily knocked out of his lungs, Draco spent a moment attempting to at once get his bearings and recover his breathing. Silence surrounded them, cloaking the young witch and wizard in comfortable ambivalence. Wherever they were, their presence seemed to provoke nothing, which meant that they were probably safe—for the moment. A rustle from beside him; he supposed Lovegood was righting herself. For a moment, Draco entertained the notion of just remaining there, facedown in the dirt and wallowing in his shame, but apparently she wasn't going to have that.
There was an insistent tugging on his wrist. "Draco, it isn't wise to lie there like that. There might be—" she cut herself off as Draco wrenched himself upright, not particularly eager to hear about what manner of nonexistent creature lingered in forest dirt. She smiled serenely at him, but his own face dropped into a scowl, which caused her to tilt her head to one side. "Are you all right?"
The question was so harmless, so completely benign and well-meaning that it rubbed him entirely the wrong way at the moment. "Of course not!" he rasped, his tones losing all of their enforced cool modulation as the stress of the situation took over. "I can't cast a simple blasting spell or apparate, and now I'm in the middle of nowhere with bloody barmy Loony Lovegood and who the hell knows when they're going to find me again?"
To her credit, Lovegood did not once flinch as Draco did what Malfoys did best: attempt to deflect blame and responsibility by personally attacking someone. He thought he'd mostly moved past the tendency, but it seemed that he had not, and some small part of him was displeased by this, a guilty twinge in the back of his mind. For the most part, though, he was just distressed. Distressed, aggravated, and—there it was—ashamed that he seemed to have lost control of his magic. Every spell he'd tried to cast since following her out the back door of her home had gone wrong somehow: his stunner had hurled a man thirty feet and into a tree, his blasting hex had detonated far earlier than he'd intended, his Incendio had burned his own fingers, and he'd apparated them to someplace he did not recognize.
Rather than the vocalized response he would have expected—the quiet verbal lashing Severus would have given him or the more heated diatribe he'd received so often from the tongues of Potter and his friends—he felt the hand still in her grip being gently flipped over, making the burns more obvious. Curious despite himself, he turned his head to see what she was doing.
Lovegood held his hand on her knees, but only with one of her own. Her lips moved in a quiet incantation, and then her other one flexed a few times. He realized then that she'd also been injured, and another small flare of shame made itself known in those little places one keeps regrets. She, of course, didn't seem to notice his well-concealed self-indulgence, and took hold of her wand, speaking again, this time louder. A cool relief spread over his burns, and he watched with unwitting fascination as the charred flesh was made new again. Burn wounds were notoriously difficult, even for some medical professionals, but she handled them with the same odd equanimity as she showed most everything else. Apparently satisfied with her handiwork, Lovegood patted his hand and relinquished her grip, still smiling as though he hadn't just insinuated that she was mad.
Feeling strange, he snatched his hand back and stretched it experimentally. No pain at all. "It's not your fault, you know." She said quietly, and his eyes snapped back to meet her own, narrowing dangerously. He was about to ask her just what she thought she knew about anything when she continued. "I think whatever you were hexed with is interfering with your magic. At first, it seemed like it was just a dream-influencing curse, but now… it may be more than that. Dreams are very close to magic, you know, and if it can damage one, it may be disrupting the other as well."
Draco's left eyebrow ascended his forehead, a small show of what was in fact a raging skepticism. He'd never heard of any such connection between magic and dreams, but if she was right, it meant that there was an explanation for their plight which didn't hinge on him being a complete failure as a wizard, and his ego appreciated that.
It only made him slightly less frustrated, though. "I still have no idea where we are," he groused, scanning the trees surrounding them for anything that might yield a clue. Of course, to him forests all looked mostly the same, and though he knew enough about herbology to say that these were coniferous trees, that didn't really narrow the options.
"Well, that's no problem," Lovegood replied. "I can still apparate us." Draco's teeth clenched at the reminder of his present powerlessness, but he refrained from snapping at her again. He needed her to get where he was going—and he also had to admit to himself that she didn't really deserve his ire. Much as her demeanor baffled him, she was indeed attempting to help him, willingly at that.
"Yes, but you don't know where we're going," he pointed out, trying not to let his aggravation seep through.
"Well, if I took us to somewhere with a floo network, would that do?" Draco considered. He knew there was a fireplace at Spinner's End, but he couldn't remember if Snape had connected it to the floo or not. Since it was possible to protect such entrances, it was often a preferred method of travel for the Unspeakables, but connections could be tampered with if the saboteur were determined enough.
Still, they had little choice. "It's worth a try, I suppose." Draco braced his hands on his knees, pushing himself up until he was standing. His body had undergone quite a bit of abuse in the past few hours, and healing or not, he was going to need some bedrest before everything was repaired.
Lovegood followed, flowing to her feet with a fair bit more grace than he. At his speculative look, she only smiled mysteriously and took his hand in hers. Draco was going to protest, but it soon became apparent that she was doing that thing again, the one where the warm feeling spread from her hand into his very bones, easing the ache and loosening the tension in his coiled muscles.
He supposed that was all right, then.
Severus had returned to the site of the Lovegood residence, only to be both frustrated and relieved by the lack of human presence. On the one hand, it meant he still had no idea where Draco was. On the other, it meant he probably wasn't dead, and Miss Lovegood was likely with him. Of all the people to take with oneself into an unknown situation, a trained mediwitch wasn't a poor selection, though it did make his own life considerably more difficult.
He felt some measure of responsibility for his godson, and though the two did not often speak of it, they were inextricably linked by events beyond their control. From the moment he had taken that Unbreakable Vow upon Dumbledore's orders, their lives were twined in the entire mess that would follow. From there, the Ministry had interfered, and it seemed now that Draco was the closest thing to family Severus had.
Not that he went searching for such things, mind, but in the end and despite the opinions of many a student, even Snape was a human being, and it was not beyond his nature to recognize such bonds for what they were. Draco was his student, his friend, and above all, someone else who knew what it was to gaze upon heroism from the outside, your own hands stained with too much blood to approach and stand in the light with those not so corrupted by years of dirty work. It was a grey existence, on the fringes of everything and at the center of nothing, but for the last few years it had been precious succor that he was no longer the only one that understood this.
His teeth grit together, and he pressed his lips into a firm line as he entered the house again. Xenophilius seemed to have cleaned himself up and repaired his clothes, transfiguring them into daywear that nevertheless looked extremely odd, a clashing of color and pattern that broadcasted his well-known eccentricity. The elder Lovegood was sharp enough to understand the crease in Severus's brow for what it was, and slumped in the seat he occupied.
He was opening his mouth to explain what he had not found when his eye was drawn to the small fireplace at the center of his dingy sitting room. The flames, presumably lit by Xenophilius, flashed a brilliant emerald-green, and he heard the muffled sound of voices. The first, masculine and cultured, gave off a tone of irritation, though the words were indiscernible. They were followed by a much more feminine murmur, and a few seconds later, the figures of Draco and Miss Lovegood appeared in the fireplace, her slender arms wrapped about his waist, presumably from necessity—the hearth was of small Muggle construction, not designed with transport in mind, and would be difficult to fit through.
Hunching, they both stepped out into the living room, and Draco breathed an obvious sigh of relief when he saw Severus, who was privately equally assuaged. Outwardly, however, he crossed his arms and assumed a scathing tone. "Would you care to explain, Draco, why it is that you cannot follow a simple instruction?" He watched with interest as his godson's face took on a pinkish tinge. This apparently prompted Miss Lovegood to disengage from him, and she turned to face Severus.
"It isn't Draco's fault," she explained, expression for once devoid of its customary vague dreaminess. "It seems that the hex is interfering with his magic." Eyes as sharp as flecks of obsidian turned that acuteness upon the young man, and he simply nodded his acquiescence, probably not trusting himself to speak. Draco was rightfully proud of his abilities as a wizard; he had taken to Snape's more advanced instruction with a fervor and understanding that reminded Severus of himself at times. This circumstance was without a doubt an enormous personal blow, but he was going to have to move past that.
For once, the stoic potions-master allowed a hint of his frustration to bleed into his demeanor, and pinched the bridge of his hawkish nose between his thumb and index finger. This meant plans would have to be adjusted. "Very well. Draco, you must return home and assume your ordinary activity for a while. Do not use magic in public. Miss Lovegood, can I ask you to accompany him and do what you can to treat his present symptoms and any that might arise?"
She was halfway through her nod when Draco made a noise of protest. Snape raised an eyebrow in invitation of the coming argument, but his scowl made it clear that the ensuing reasoning had better be worth his time.
"That's not going to work," Draco protested. "She can't be traveling back and forth to the Manor every day. Those people have tracking spells, and unlike this place, most locations aren't warded against them." He crossed his arms over his chest, an old defensive mechanism that his godfather recognized and had learned to dread. It meant he was feeling particularly stubborn.
Severus didn't see the problem, and moved to shut down the debate as succinctly as possible. "Then she stays at the Manor for a while."
Draco shook his head fiercely. "You must be joking. That would draw so many unanswerable questions I don't even want to—"
Snape waved a hand, cutting off his partner. The fact that Draco insisted on maintaining this ridiculous cover identity was something of a sticking point between them. Things would be much easier if he simply went the way of his parents and withdrew entirely from public life. If nobody ever saw him, nobody would think to ask what he was doing with his time. "Invent a story, Draco. You seem to be rather good at that. Would a sick parent not sufficiently deflect suspicion? A live-in doctor is not so unusual that it warrants this much protest."
Draco scowled and looked like he was about to fire back, but Severus's cold look silenced him. He was making this more complicated than it needed to be, and Snape had the suspicion that it was some form of personal problem with Miss Lovegood that was causing it. The older wizard could understand disliking certain people, but that had only stopped him from cooperating with them as he must in his worst moments. It was a lesson Draco had yet to fully embrace, but that did not mean he would be indulged.
The other man smiled in his usual vacant way. "Oh, don't worry about me, Severus, I think I'll be quite fine here. Redecorate a little bit, and it shall be just like home." Snape dreaded to think about what was going to happen to the interior of his house, but said nothing. It was too important to keep Xenophilius out of the line of fire at the moment.
"Fine. I will be going to the Library of Alexandria in a few days to see what your contact there can help me find on the nature of this curse. In the meantime, I would like Miss Lovegood to keep notes on Draco's condition, if you would?" The last words were directed at the young woman in question, and she smiled brightly and nodded.
"Good. In that case, I recommend you both floo to the Malfoy Manor as quickly as possible and inform Lucius and Narcissa of exactly as much as they need to know to stop them from asking questions." Both had a vague idea of what their son did for a living, but of course the Department of Mysteries was so secretive that the vast majority of people had no idea what Unspeakables were even supposed to be.
It was quite a bit more than most would ever guess.
A/N: That was a bit shorter than the last one, but I had to end it there or it would have gone on for far too long afterwards.
Next chapter: Hermoine is introduced, and we slow things down a bit to explore the characters in their daily lives.
Reviews desired but never required.