Behind Doors and Masks
Summary: When the Carrows go too far, an unexpected person steps in to save Neville's life. But when detention keeps Neville in Snape's office after hours, the truth he discovers is stranger still. Can the two of them work together to protect the students of Hogwarts, and each other, without revealing their strange alliance?
Chapter One: Blood and Lives
Madam Pomfrey looked up as the doors to the Hospital Wing burst open, and McGonagall came in, almost running, a limp body floating in the air behind her.
"Minerva...what is it? The Carrows..." Pomfrey shivered. She'd treated all too many students for the injuries the Carrows had inflicted in the past few weeks, and she was beginning to dread it. Then she saw the body being levitated behind the Gryffindor house head. "Mr. Longbottom!"
McGonagall set the boy down on the bed, her face set in tight, tense lines. "It was the Carrows. They said he refused an order one of them gave him...who knows what it was this time! And this...this was their answer." She waved a hand at the child, anger being replaced by concern, and not a little fear. "I knew they were vicious...but this..." She stopped the words with an effort, then spoke softly. "Can you mend him?"
Pomfrey was already bending over Neville's unconscious frame, her wand out, muttering a series of rapid spells. The first was a cleaning spell. Cleansed of blood, the gashes on Neville's face, neck, and arms were all too apparent, as well as other marks, the results of repeated and vicious cursing. Her face went pale, and she cast a quick succession of healing and diagnostic spells. She turned and flicked a wrist, summoning half a dozen potions from her stores. "Help me get these into him, Minerva."
McGonagall nodded, noting the Blood Replenisher, and several other healing remedies. The two of them spelled the potions into the boy, then Pomfrey summoned a salve to put on his wounds, and bandages by the yard. McGonagall gave a small gasp of pained shock as Pomfrey removed Neville's robes, revealing the worst of the damage, then levitated him so the bandages could be wound around him. As soon as the bandages had been wrapped, the med-witch summoned a hospital robe, then laid the youth back on the bed and covered him gently with a blanket.
"Will he be all right, Poppy?" McGonagall's voice was quiet with concern.
Pomfrey sighed. "I don't know, Minerva. The damage done to his body, and to his magic...it's very severe. His body's been so traumatized..." She pushed back a sleeve, revealing a bandage that was already stained. "He's bleeding, and I can't stop it, because it's the after-effects of so many curses. They just...they must have simply cursed him randomly until he stopped moving. Without knowing what all the spells were, I can't counter them, and the side effects..." She shuddered, her throat tight and tears shining in her eyes, though they didn't fall. "I'm not sure."
"Surely...there must be something you can do?" McGonagall looked devastated. "We can't...to lose a student like this..."
Pomfrey's lips tightened, determination in her eyes as she swiped away the beginnings of tears. "I'll do everything I can, Minerva. We'll have to pray he survives it."
Just then, the door to the Hospital Wing swung open again. Both women looked up and tensed, almost identical expressions of anger on their faces. Pomfrey spoke first. "Headmaster Snape." Her words were stiff, tight, her tone and voice indicating she'd like nothing more than to call him something far worse than Headmaster. "What brings you to the Hospital Wing this evening?"
One eyebrow rose, and then he was moving, striding toward them. "I'd heard...a student was sent to the Hospital Wing?" His voice was low. "Something about a punishment from the Carrows." The tone had almost no inflection, no sign of emotion, almost as if he asked about the weather.
McGonagall's jaw tightened. "Indeed! As if you care, Severus Snape!" She jabbed a finger at the form lying on the bed, fire in her eyes. "Since you're so interested..." The words dripped sarcasm. "Your friends, the Carrows, cursed Mr. Longbottom into unconsciousness! We aren't even sure what they used on him...or if the boy will survive his injuries!" She gestured again. "So then, Headmaster..." The venom in her tone twisted the word into an insult, as vile as the term 'Mudblood'. "See what your new teachers...your little friends, have done to the boy! And on your head be it, if he dies!" She spat the last word. "I'm surprised you even came, as he isn't one of your precious Slytherins!"
"That...will be quite enough." Snape's voice was still that cool, level tone. "Please restrain yourself." He moved forward, one eyebrow rising again as he studied the still form before him. "Mr. Longbottom, is it? I shall have to have a word with them. The Dark Lord was quite specific, that the Pureblood lines be left...unharmed."
McGonagall glared at him. "Is that really all you think of this? I knew you didn't care for the boy...but this...to think I...that Albus ever..."
"That is enough." Snape's voice sharpened on the words, his face paling ever so slightly, fire snapping in the black eyes. "I think, Minerva, that it's best if you...return to your House." The sharpness was gone as quickly from his tone as it had appeared, but the paleness of his face, and the anger that darkened his eyes, remained.
McGonagall bristled. "I'll do no such thing! If you think I'm going to leave one of my students here, after an incident like this...who knows what those brutes may decide to do!"
"Precisely why I am ordering you to return to your House." Snape shifted slightly, almost as if he was looking down his nose at her. "At present, the rest of your students remain...unguarded." A cold expression twisted across his lips, a shadow of a sneer. "And who knows what the Carrows may do? Obviously, they haven't quite learned to pay attention to orders yet. Especially not when the students insist on...disobedience." The last word was low, smooth, the tone implying the students were entirely at fault. "I'm quite sure Madam Pomfrey is capable of managing one single patient without your assistance. I shall, of course, give orders that she inform you of any change in Mr. Longbottom's condition. I shall even see that the Carrows have duties elsewhere, for the evening." One dark eyebrow rose. "I trust it will suffice?" His voice had lowered again, once more taking on that tone of cool indifference.
McGonagall stiffened under his tone, her eyes flashing fire. She clenched her jaw, then finally spoke. "I suppose it will have to, won't it...Headmaster." The word was full of acid, sharp enough to burn, and Snape paled just a fraction further. "In that case...I trust you will keep me informed, Madam?" Pomfrey nodded. "Then I wish you a good evening." She shot Snape one last, venomous glare, then turned and strode out of the Hospital Wing.
Snape waited until she was gone, then turned back to the boy lying in the bed. His fingers reached out, brushing across the bandages. His face was tight, paler than usual in the light, his jaw set in grim lines. He frowned at the stained bandages. "What, precisely, is Mr. Longbottom's condition?"
Pomfrey glared at him, but after a moment, she spoke stiffly. "He's been cursed several times. I don't know what was used, so I can't provide the counters. His wounds are proving resistant to normal treatments, and the bleeding won't stop."
Snape nodded. "You've applied the standard remedies, and Blood Replenisher, I suppose?" His voice sounded as if he was bored, more than anything else.
Pomfrey stiffened under the cool tone. "I have done everything I know how to do!" She stepped forward, her eyes flashing. "Yes, Headmaster Snape, I have supplied Blood Replenisher. And I will keep supplying it, as long as I can. But it does little good when his blood and magic is so damaged from the effects of what your colleagues call 'discipline'!"
"Indeed. I would hardly call those two my...colleagues." The word held the echo of a sneer. "You would do well to remember, they reside and teach here on the Dark Lord's orders, not mine. Of course, you're free to debate the matter with him. Though I recommend against it. Highly." The sneer had been replaced with a dry, almost emotionless tone, but there was an echo of uneasiness to it, barely discernible.
"Indeed." Pomfrey mimicked the Headmaster's inflection. "Well, tomorrow, you can most likely take to him the report of the death of one of your students!"
"I think not." Snape's voice was soft, so soft she almost missed the lack of biting arrogance, the sneer that usually lingered in his words. His fingers brushed the wounds again, dark eyes thoughtful. "I assume you've attempted to cleanse his blood of the influence of the curses?"
"Half the effects are contradictory to the other half." The anger drained out of her, leaving her numb with fear. "You know as well as I do, multiple curses usually result in a mix of conflicting symptoms."
"Indeed. In that case..." Snape was frowning. "The boy's blood needs to be cleansed by an outside, non-magical agent, I suppose."
Pomfrey glared at him. "I've tried potions, and a few of the generalized apothecary remedies Muggles use! If you've a better solution, Severus Snape, then speak up! What does the high and mighty Potions Master and Headmaster of Hogwarts recommend?"
"You're familiar, I suppose, with the Muggle theory of blood transfusion? I understand St. Mungo's has been experimenting with wizarding applications of it." One dark eyebrow was raised, but he seemed not to even notice the bitter sarcasm she'd flung his way.
Pomfrey blinked. "I...of course. I had studied it. But I wasn't aware they'd perfected a method yet...and the risks..."
"The Muggle method should suffice, provided it is done efficiently." The tone was bored, but there was a tense undercurrent running through the man's words.
Pomfrey blinked again. "But...we'd have to find a donor, match the blood types. Surely, if you know about the technique, then you know how easy it would be to give the child blood poisoning!" She saw Snape move to unwrap the bandage from one of Neville's arms, and moved forward to seize his hand. "You may be Headmaster, but I will not allow you to endanger the boy this way!"
Snape regarded her with a cool look. "I suppose you'd prefer he died in your Infirmary, of bleeding to death?"
Pomfrey flinched, her face paling as her lips tightened into an angry line. "Of course not! But I will not..."
"If you will allow me to continue..." Snape's voice was low, tense, with an edge that made her fall silent. He held her gaze with his, eyes filled with tension, annoyance, and something that resembled fear. "I am well aware of the risks. However, I would not have proposed such an outlandish notion, unless I knew of a solution. You are aware, of course, of the universal donor type?" One eyebrow raised, the cool look suggesting she might not know.
"Of course. But...that's a rare type! And how we're to find one, in a school where most students only know their blood is red...and what lineage it is...!" She sighed. "Besides...the amount needed, to affect enough change to save the boy...you know how risky it would be to ask even an adult to give so much, let alone a student!"
"Calm yourself. I know of a candidate, both able and...willing." There was a slight hesitation on the last words. The he shrugged, turning away. "I trust you can procure or conjure the necessary apparatus for this little treatment?"
Pomfrey nodded. She watched him push up Neville's sleeves, then begin to unwind the bandage from one arm. Then her eyes flicked back to the pale face. "Severus...who will you ask to do this? I will not make a request from an unwilling donor."
"I believe I already said the candidate was willing." Snape moved to set aside the bandage, and Pomfrey grabbed his arm again.
"Who, Severus?" She looked up into the black eyes. "Who?"
"I should have thought it was...obvious." The last word emerged slowly, almost reluctantly. "Given the severity of Longbottom's condition, I've no choice but to volunteer myself for this madness." He scowled.
Pomfrey let go, startled. "You? But you...you hate the boy."
The scowl deepened. "The issue of my dislike for Longbottom is not important. The Dark Lord gave strict orders for the Purebloods in the school to be left relatively unharmed. I am not willing to report to him that I have failed. Nor am I particularly inclined to suffer his wrath for the Carrows' mistake. To say nothing of the backlash within the school of the brat's death." He shook the black curtain of his hair away from his face, his eyes sharp and challenging. "Do you intend to continue this pointless argument or save your patient?"
"Of course...if you're willing." Pomfrey took a deep steadying breath, then flicked her wand, summoning a bag, two needles and some flexible tubing. "I'll need...which arm?"
Snape scowled again, then shrugged the long black robes from his shoulders. His jacket followed it, leaving him in his shirt and pants. He hesitated a moment, then unsnapped the cuff of his right sleeve and began to roll it up, revealing the pale skin of his forearm, and the blood vessels underneath the surface. He rolled the sleeve past his elbow, then extended his arm, his expression set in stone. "Begin."
Pomfrey nodded, and poured a disinfecting potion over a cloth, scrubbing his elbow. She felt him flinch slightly at the contact, but he remained silent. Working quickly, she cinched a tourniquet around his arm, then probed lightly at the joint until she found a blood vessel. It was the work of seconds to insert the needle, and Snape didn't even flinch, though she heard the hiss of indrawn breath. She hung the bag, both of them watching as it began to fill with his blood.
When the bag was full almost to bursting, she stopped the blood flow and used a charm to suspend the container above Neville's arm. It took only a minute to set the IV in the boy, and then Snape's blood was dripping down the tubing, into the unconscious student. Pomfrey waited until a quarter of the bag had emptied, then ran a diagnostic spell on the youth. If Severus had been wrong, it would show.
There was nothing wrong. The youth's body accepted the clean blood, allowing it into his system. A little color returned to Neville's cheeks.
"Will that be sufficient?" Snape spoke, his voice quiet, but biting.
Pomfrey frowned. "Another half-unit would be better, but it should suffice..."
Snape made a soft sound, then flicked his wand. Another bag appeared. Without a word, the Potion's Master connected it to the tube still attached to his arm, then whispered an incantation, and blood once more began to flow. When the container was half full, he pulled the needle from his arm and hissed another spell, stopping the blood flow once more. "I shall require a bandage."
"Of course." Pomfrey summoned a length of cloth, then blinked and stepped forward. "Here...let me..."
"I shall. It is, after all, your job to render assistance. And I have done quite enough tonight." The words were bitten out between clenched teeth. Pomfrey looked up from bandaging his elbow, startled at the tone, and saw the white tinge to Snape's complexion. She looked down. The Potion Master's hand was shaking slightly.
"You should drink something, or eat. After such blood loss..."
"I assure you, I shall be fine. I shall eat when I have returned to my quarters." Snape spoke the words, his voice soft. "In the meantime...you shall say nothing of this, to anyone."
Pomfrey blinked again. "Headmaster..."
"Tell Minerva you were able to find the proper antidote, or figure out the counters. Whatever you wish. Tell her you stole a vial of Phoenix tears from the potion stores if you must. But you shall not tell her of what I have done tonight. Mr. Longbottom need only know that you managed to save him. That is all." The words were quietly spoken, but with the same air of command he used on students. Black eyes met hers. "You will swear it, or I shall make certain you can tell no one." His hand clenched on his wand.
"Of course. My word as a med-witch on it. I'll not reveal your secret. But...why? Surely...if they knew..." Her voice softened. "You know how you are viewed, Severus. Surely..."
"No. Say nothing." He shook his head, expression fierce and unyielding. "I have my reasons."
"As you will." She studied the too-pale face again. "At least remain here and rest until we're certain. After that you can leave." She met his gaze. "I'll inform the staff I forced you to remain, as witness in case the boy died. It is true enough."
After a moment he nodded, finished dressing, and leaned back against the wall. Pomfrey half-expected some sharp remark about the waste of time, but he remained silent.
Together, the two professors watched as the last of the blood drained into the unconscious boy. Pomfrey removed the needle, then ran another diagnostic. The results were much better than her initial tests had indicated. She nodded at them, then frowned. "The blood's in his system, right enough. Now if we can just stop the bleeding before it all leaks out again."
She jumped as Snape spoke, a long liquid phrase. Magic blazed between Headmaster and student. Under Pomfrey's eyes, the slashed wounds knit themselves together, and the bleeding stopped, leaving raw, red lines of fragile skin, like new-formed scars. She turned, staring with wide eyes at the dark-haired, still trembling man against the wall. He inclined his head slightly and returned his wand to wherever it was normally stored. "Quite a useful little spell. I trust that will suffice."
"Yes." she spun back to the youth, and rattled off a quick series of healing spells. To her relief, they took, settling over the battered body on the bed, working quickly to cleanse body and magic of the foul after-effects of the curses. She finished with a few more potions, to repair the damage, then ran another diagnostic. "He'll need a few days of rest, but it appears Mr. Longbottom will make a full recovery."
"Then you have no further need of my services." Snape's voice was once more cool, disinterested. "I trust you will remember our...agreement." Before she could say anything, even thank you, he strode to the door, pushed it open, and vanished into the darkened hallways.
Author's Note: This has been running inside my head for a while now. Given Snape's promise to Dumbledore, and Neville's knack for trouble, this just sort of fell together. Hopefully, I didn't get them too OOC, but this was an unusual situation
Yes, the medical treatment is a little awkward, and not quite hospital standards. But it was an emergency, and nobody there had practiced it. So I hope nobody minds too much if it's a little outside medical conventions.
Hope you enjoyed the story so far.