Sorry folks, I've lost my backups of Widdershins in chapters, I only have the backups of my fics I made when I took all the fics down to start my life over from scratch. So all requests to re-upload as chapters will be ignored.
If its harder to read in this format, you can always download it, and then as you read a part in word, remove that section from the document, so that you always start where you left off.
Category: Books » Harry Potter
Language: English, Rating: Rated: T
Published: 09-05-07, Updated: 04-09-10
Chapters: 13, Words: 47,710
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
-I debate about posting my stories sometimes. I give myself far too many projects to finish. But at least the writing comes in a nice steady stream, even if it never gets finished.
But this story is something I've been wanting to write. Disability and illness has run rampant in my family and in my life for as long as I can remember. Cancer and mental illnesses and all sorts of disorders are in my family blood. I went to a small town high school and some of my most poignant memories were of disabled children, usually mentally disabled kids, being teased and harassed. This list of kids included me. I remember also one kid who was so overweight because of a thyroid problem that he could barely walk. They laughed at him, threw pennies and food at him, and the teachers avoided helping him if they could. He was always the first they admonished for doing something wrong. I swear there were times when I was growing up that I had pyromaniacal urges towards my school that I could only fulfill in my science and welding classes.
Hopefully this story will help me with the healing aspect of being disabled.
I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And I am not ashamed, nor should I be. Nobody should be made to feel ashamed of themselves for what isn't their fault. That is what this story is about.
Light sparkled across the clear glass windows of Number 4 Privet Drive, sending cascades of rainbow colors across the little rooms of the house, reflecting off of glass ornaments and portraits and blending into dazzling beams of light which were reflected in every smooth surface.
But unfortunately this sparkling effect was entirely wasted upon Harry Potter, who was laying face first in his bed, with a blanket over his head, moaning. Disused tissues lay strewn over the bedspread, spilling over onto the carpet and into the very full waste paper basket next to his bed. The curtains were drawn in as tightly as they could possibly be, but for some reason the bright light of late morning just could not be kept out of his room.
Down in the kitchen Aunt Petunia was humming merrily as she made lunch. Although her workload had increased under the onslaught of the sudden sickness of her son and nephew, she seemed the least bit perturbed by it. The fact that a teenage wizard could get a normal head cold, keeping Harry well out from under foot, seemed to make her even happier than normal.
But Harry wasn't happy. He was miserable. And he wasn't so sure that this head cold was in any way normal. Without a pepper-up potion to clear up his aching sinuses, without any sort of magical cure for his exhaustion at fighting this illness, he was trapped. Trapped at the Dursleys until somebody with some sense of mercy came to rescue him. Trapped in the cycle of headaches and alternately running and stuffy noses, the tightness of his chest and breathing passages, the relentless coughing and aching joints. Trapped.
But Arthur Weasley's missive had been all too clear.
I'm sorry Harry, but with us busy with wedding preparations and all the noise and chaos of this house we think its best for you to stay at home. With something like this ailment you described it is best just to wait it out and we've all agreed that you're probably better off where you are. Take the Muggle pills that their doctor prescribed for you and try to get some rest. We'll be there to get you the moment the DeLacours have left and the house is back to a normal schedule. We're sorry you couldn't come, but maybe Hermione will drop by your house for a visit.
Harry's sickness had put an end to all their plans to escape their families this summer and go Horcrux hunting. Even now Harry was wondering if they'd ever get the seemingly monumental task completed.
At least Voldemort hasn't made any sudden moves against the Ministry. I wonder if he's sick too?
The image of Voldemort in bed with crumpled tissues all around him and an ice pack on his head made Harry grin.
It wasn't too bad being sick. At least the Dursleys were being marginally nicer to him. Nothing magical had occurred to him. And whenever Dudley took sick Aunt Petunia gave him chicken soup and he would sleep quietly in his own room, which kept him away from Harry. Aunt Petunia had now been bringing them both trays of soup and sweetened tea on a regular basis. She seemed not the least bit put out by this and Harry was grateful for it.
Takes me getting laid out on my back sick for her to care even a shred. But I'll take it for all its worth. She seems to enjoy caring for sick people. Maybe because its easier then preparing a full course meal.
Dudley's whining and complaints could be heard almost constantly and so Uncle Vernon mostly did yard work outside, a fact that Harry was grateful for since Uncle Vernon was miserably grouchy lately, even more so than Dudley.
Maybe Hermione will come and visit...though I wouldn't want her to get sick too. In fact I should write her and tell her not to risk it. We can start researching Horcruxes during the school year. I bet Hogwarts' restricted section has loads of information hidden away somewhere. Where else would Riddle have discovered them?
Thinking about Horcruxes had taken up most of his days, and all of his dreams. But as much as he thought and dreamed about Horcruxes, any solution to the problem of finding them was short circuited. He was starting to admit, vaguely, that maybe he needed outside help.
And so he had owled Remus Lupin, if only to give Hedwig something to do this summer.
I just wanted to let you know I'm down for the count, this bronchitis is horrid. Don't come near Privet drive, whatever you do, we're all contagious here.
I have a few puzzles I've been trying to riddle out on Dumbledore's orders and I've been grasping at some straws. Although he made me promise to keep most things secret, he let me confide in Ron and Hermione. So I figure I can cross check things with you and you can keep Hermione and Ron in the know about it too. We three, together, are so far stumped.
This first riddle has to concern with somebody who fought against You-Know-Who. He (or she?) had the initials R.A.B. Possibly this person is dead. Do you know who that might refer to? Hermione had been researching into this a bit before school ended but we're still stumped. Too many R.A.B's!
I know I should be resting, but you know me, I can't get this stuff out of my head. If you have any suggestions, just let me know, and make sure Hermione and Ron know since they aren't sick and they can do further research if they need to. They've been owling Madam Pince for research materials over the summer, since Dumbledore told her we could do that before...well you know.
I hope things are going all right with the Old Gang, is everything okay? Anything bad happen? Anything good? Let me know so at least I don't have to worry so much.
See you soon, I hope!
So now he was in bed, sick, waiting for a response from Lupin, and all the while pondering the mystery of R.A.B., The Horcruxes and the whole bit.
"Mum," Harry heard Dudley whine from the next room. "I feel really horrible."
"You'll be all right Diddy-Dums," said Aunt Petunia brightly. "Have some more soup."
"Not hungry," Dudley complained. "Make my stomach stop hurting!"
Oh now that was a bad sign if ever there was one. Harry heard a sort of commotion coming from Dudley's room as Aunt Petunia tried to haul him into the loo to throw up.
Now hold on...this is bronchitis. Why would Dudley be vomiting?
"Goodness Dudders you're putting on some extra weight. You aren't snacking on junk food when you're supposed to be resting, are you?"
"No Mum," Dudley complained. "I can't eat anything, I feel horrible!"
"I'll have to call the doctor and see what we can do," Aunt Petunia said. "Back to bed now and sleep."
"No, wanna go to the doctor now!"
Harry heard Vernon stomp up the stairs and heard his grouchy complaint.
"Great Scott Dudley you are putting on weight! Is everything all right Petunia?"
"I'm sure everything is fine...to bed Dudley!"
Harry was now beyond curious. He pulled himself out of bed with many aching groans and stumbled to the hallway to peer out at the scene.
Aunt Petunia was trying desperately to keep Dudley standing up but was having trouble. Uncle Vernon tried to help her, but then had fell over himself. Harry found himself staring at Dudley in alarm, eyes as wide as his cousin's upon spotting him.
"No human is able to gain that much weight in just a few days!" said Harry. "What is wrong with you Dudley!?"
Dudley was huge. His face looked beyond pudgy. He was now so bloated he looked like a beached whale. Petunia suddenly looked highly alarmed.
"Its your fault!" she cried, pointing her finger at Harry. "This is your doing somehow!"
"Its not my fault!" said Harry, coughing and holding his chest. "Wizards can barely do any magic at all when we're sick, we have no energy! I couldn't even say a simple wand lighting spell this morning! No energy means no magic at all!"
But Dudley looked enormous. He started crying and it was the seriousness of the situation that Vernon didn't complain about Harry's talk of magic.
"Back to bed with you," he said, pointing at Harry. "We're going to take Dudley to the hospital. This can't be normal. Not with bronchitis."
Harry stared as the two Dursleys tried to lift their son and help him down the stairs. By the time they got him down they were too exhausted both of them to drive or even move for the moment, and Dudley had swelled even more in proportion.
"I said go to bed!" Vernon roared at Harry from the bottom of the stairs. "Don't stare at him like he's a..."
Freak? Harry wanted to say, but instead he smirked. "Want me to call the ambulance from the phone in the guest bedroom?" he asked, since Dudley's whole girth filled the stairwell and made going down to the living room impossible.
"Well...yes all right," said Vernon. "Hurry up about it!"
Harry nodded, and turned to head into the guest bedroom. The phone was old and slightly disused. Aunt Marge always unplugged it when she visited so it wouldn't ring while she napped. But Aunt Petunia sometimes liked to come in here and call her friends without being disturbed by anybody. Now Harry lifted the receiver and dialed the emergency number with a feeling of disturbance in his chest.
Maybe he had caused Dudley to get sick. Maybe something was wrong with his magic because of his sickness and it had effected Dudley? If that were true, he had to leave the Dursleys, there was no question about it. He couldn't let his magic hurt other people, even if they were the Dursleys.
"St. Mungos hospital," said a female voice suddenly in his ear. "How can I be of assistance?"
"St Mungos?" asked Harry, staring at the phone. "But I called the Muggle hospital!"
"You're a wizard child, if you call any sort of emergency number you will always be redirected here. Please state the nature of the emergency and we can redirect you if needed."
"My cousin Dudley is getting very sick," said Harry, and he quickly described the situation and his fear that this swelling sickness might be his fault.
"We'll send an emergency ambulance to your residence right away. You are correct in thinking this could be a magical problem, but no it would not be your fault. A wizard as severely ill as you sound could not possibly have caused such a problem. Magical sickness can hit Muggles from time to time without their knowing it and we try to keep it covered up as best as we can."
"Oh," said Harry. "All right thanks. Any chance I can go to St. Mungos to? I don't want to be here sick at home...alone."
"We'll bring your whole family. This sort of thing is contagious."
Harry thanked her then hung up the phone. He went out to the stairwell and breathed at deep sigh.
Now the hard part. Telling his Uncle Vernon that they would be going to a wizard hospital.
But neither Uncle Vernon nor Aunt Petunia seemed to be angry about this. Nor did they blame Harry. Dudley was now big enough that he was stuck in the stairwell, his face almost fully engulfed in his own pudgy flesh. He glowered at Harry under the folds of skin, but then blinked, and his eyes widened.
"Did you know your nose is bleeding?" he said, pointing a fat finger at Harry.
Both Vernon and Petunia jerked there heads in time to see the dribble of blood that ran down Harry's nose. Harry touched the droplets of red with his fingers and pulled them down to stare at them and the crimson stain there.
It was then that vertigo finally hit him and he dropped to the floor in a shivering lurching ball.
Upon watching her nephew faint, bleeding from the nose, Aunt Petunia squealed and climbed quickly over Dudley to climb the stairs and go to him. Heaven forbid anything horrible happen to the boy on her watch, not with the agreement she had made with those wizards that she would look after him.
Harry was shaking and twitching. His eyes were dilated and blood was dribbling down his nose to his cheek and chin.
"Where is that ambulance?" she cried. "Vernon go check outside!"
But the ambulance didn't stop at their house from the road. It drove magically right through the wall and landed inside the living room with a lurch, knocking aside the furniture and tracking skid marks on the carpet. Two wizards popped out of the doors of the ambulance. Both wizards were glowing with a blue light that Petunia tried to place the source of. Then she realized that it must have been a spell of some kind. She quickly lifted her nephew, he was so light, and carried him down the stairs where the two men were examining Dudley, amidst Vernon's angry complaints about the carpet and the furniture.
"Well what have we here?" said the first man, ignoring Vernon. "Looks like a normal swelling spell, but with this sickness of his it could also be...the curse. We'll have to take him to St. Mungos."
"Curse?" said Vernon with a squawk. "Dudley's been cursed?"
"Oh yes," said the wizard, pulling out his wand to light it and examine Dudley's ears. "Its been going around all over the place, mainly children, effects them the worse. No cure, not yet anyways."
"No cure?" Vernon shouted. "My son is sick with this wizard magic stuff and you don't know how to fix him? What good is magic for if you can't fix him!"
"Now just calm down," said the wizard. "We don't have a cure yet, but we're working on one right now."
"My, but what is wrong with this boy?" said the second wizard, pointing to Harry.
The first wizard pulled out his wand to examine him and clean up the bloody nose. The wizard cast a spell on Harry, some sort of diagnosis spell perhaps. Upon being touched with the magic Harry began to lurch and twitch in violent spasms, blood coming up out of his nose.
"He's got the curse too Ralph," said the first man, shaking his head. "What is his name?"
"Harry Potter," said Vernon gruffly. "My nephew."
"Harry Potter?!" said the one named Ralph. "Good God!"
"Yes," said Petunia, looking annoyed at the two men, who were now blanched white. "Why?"
"Oh no, no matter," said Ralph nervously, and he turned back to Dudley. "Now then, no need to feel alarm, you'll be lifted like you were flying, right into the ambulance and we'll put a feather light charm on your so you won't feel your own weight. Much easier this way. John? Think we need to expand the ambulance?"
"Might be a good idea," said John, when they tried, and failed, to fit Dudley inside it. "The Healers will know best how to further treat him," said 'John', who was concentrating very hard with his wand now as they leveraged poor Dudley into the ambulance, where he was wedged in there neatly like a jello into a mold. "Now about young Harry..."
"No use for it, John, we can't take off the spell. Gotta get him into the ambulance quickly, they'll bring a gurney and a nurse maybe to help him."
Both wizards put on gloves, likewise glowing blue with the same spell that was on them both, then bent down to touch Harry gently with their hands and lift him. Harry's green eyes opened and he lurched the moment the magic touched him.
"Hi Mum," said Harry deliriously. "Missed you."
"Oh no I'm not your Mum," said Ralph. "I'm the ambulance attendant and I'm a man!"
"Can I have a chocolate frog?" asked the boy, looking sorrowful.
"No, no magical objects I'm afraid. We'll have to put you in the front seat with us away from your charmed cousin."
"Now we'll give you directions for driving to St. Mungo's so you can meet us there," said Ralph to Vernon. "There's a trick to getting in..."
"I know how to get there!" Petunia said suddenly, feeling rather annoyed with the two men now, "My sister was a witch you know!"
Suddenly Petunia wished she could be a witch too, so she could blast both wizards into next Wednesday. What kind of morons were these men, who had thought hurting her nephew was a better idea than risking their own skin to whatever this curse was? And what about Dudley, wedged inside the ambulance like a sardine, they weren't exactly going to pains to make him comfortable!
"Well then, right right," said the man named John nervously. "We'll just be going along then, no worry ma'am, no worry. We'll find the cure eventually, yes sir, but until then they'll be in quarantine at St. Mungos. Can't have it getting around."
Oh. They must have been waiting to tell them this once the boy was in the ambulance out of hearing range. Petunia watched forlornly as the wizard ambulance flew back through the wall. She turned to look at Vernon, who looked highly disturbed as the mess of their living room was suddenly instantly cleaned up and put back to rights. This was why she hated Wizards. They didn't want to explain how anything they did worked, and they always created chaos and destruction everywhere they went. She hated to think of her Dudley all alone in that horrible flying ambulance! What if it crashed? And Harry! He may have been a wizard himself, but he was a boy, a dying sick boy! She may not have ever liked Harry, but he was still human.
"Er, Petunia," said Vernon, looking a sickly shade of green. "You don't think this has to do with that...er...Voldewarts business that Dumbledore bloke told us about, do you?"
"Why ever would you think of that?" Petunia snapped, very horrified by all that had happened.
"Well, it just seems, uncanny, that we're supposed to protect the boy because of all this, and then, they just happened to recognize who he is and all that. I mean, how did they both get sick with this thing if they've been here at home all summer?"
"Yeah, I suppose...I suppose," Petunia said, flushed. "I'm going to get the boy's owl and send a letter to those people telling them what happened. They should have come to get him in the first place, he might not have gotten himself and Dudley sick if he'd been with his lot to start with! I'm not entirely convinced that this isn't his fault!"
"Good idea," said Vernon. "I'll go start the car."
Petunia went up to the bedroom and found the owl waiting with a parchment envelope for Harry in her beak.
"He's gone to the hospital," she told the bird, hoping the owl would understand. "I need to write to his friends to tell them where he's gone."
The owl dropped the envelope and flew over to Harry's desk, where his papers and ink pot was. Petunia went over to the desk and wrote a letter, remembering that she was now sending letters to 'The Weasleys' instead of that 'Dumbledore' fellow, and the owl willingly took the letter away.
"Now...to Dudley's room for his things."
But she was now curious. What was in the letter that the owl had brought to Harry? Vernon's comment about Voldemort had her thinking. Why would the boy be getting mail if he were sick? Why would he be getting mail if he were in danger and was in hiding? She was highly confused and curious, and finally reached out for the parchment and opened it, feeling invasive but feeling that she needed answers to anything, anything at all that could tell her what was wrong with her son and nephew.
This letter was from a man named Remus Lupin.
Things have not been well on our end, to be honest. Hogwarts is closed for good now and with due cause. Voldemort had developed a weapon, a sort of biological spell that is hitting children and nobody knows the cure for it, only that the spell's final target seems to be you Harry. Voldemort is trying to get you infected with this thing by having it spread around.
Whatever the case, this is the reason why we haven't come to get you. If you were to catch this illness then all hope will be lost. Its safer for you to stay locked up at the Dursleys for the summer if it means you won't be exposed to anyone who might be carrying this virus. Voldemort is bound to know that you go to the Weasleys during the summers so he might have targeted you there as well. I know this is rough on you Harry, but you are the Chosen One, and if you were to die I'm sure that Voldemort would take control of the Wizarding World, and then after that the Muggle world as well. Its time to live up to that responsibility, no matter how terrible it seems.
Voldemort has already started his plans for world domination. The new Muggle Prime Minister that was elected is really a wizard with pro-Voldemort leanings. He's already starting to draft laws that would make it harder and harder for Muggles to lead their normal lives. Strict curfews and heavy fines for minor offenses, the sorts of things that many dictators start with to start keeping people under their thumbs. Replacing important people in governing positions with wizards. Removing memory charms on muggles who have had their memories modified in order to slowly leak the existence of magic out to the world. Revealing their own powers to supporting muggle politicians with promises that they can share in on the wealth. Plans are in motion to inform the whole Muggle world about the existence of wizards, and to instate wizard supremacy over the world. Muggles don't out number us as much as we like to make on, and in recent years we've been finding it harder and harder to hide in society.
Lets hope that countries outside of England can bring about a proper fight against this. Lets hope we can fight off Voldemort and destroy him once and for all. You have the information about how to do this I assume. Dumbledore entrusted his secrets to you. Any help I can give you in any capacity I will do. It is all that I can do.
As for the mysterious R.A.B. well I have in mind that this could refer to Regulus Arcturus Black, Sirius Black's brother. He was once a Death Eater, but he was the first Death Eater spy for the Order of the Phoenix before Snape, and he fought against Voldemort...to his death. Perhaps he's the person these initials mean. Is this somehow involved in Voldemort's undoing? I won't question further if you'd rather not say, but Regulus and I knew each other well through Sirius and I could answer any questions you may have about him.
Please don't feel that you are restricted to only Ron and Hermione for help. Although you have made a promise to keep Dumbledore's instructions secret, a time may come when you may have to confide in others. A time may come when you will need us to know. But for now I respect the secret you are keeping, and I hope that you will soon find the good health you need to fulfill your obligations.
Remus J. Lupin.
Petunia re-read the letter several times, her heart pounding fiercely in her chest. Suddenly the swelling of her son seemed so much less important than the nosebleed of her nephew. Suddenly she wished she had been a better aunt, a better foster mother and a better friend to Harry.
Suddenly she wished she had been a better sister to Lily.
She folded the letter back into the envelope, knowing that she would have to give it to the boy, he needed this information she was sure of it, then packed it and some clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste into a suitcase for him, as well as a suitcase for Dudley, and carried them down to the car where Vernon was waiting. It wasn't the best she could have done for Harry, but it was a start. Whether it was too late for such gestures would soon be decided.
But at least now she knew. The fate of England rested on her nephew's shoulders. It was all she could do not to curl up in the passenger seat and cry for all the terrible things she had done to Harry. She couldn't help but feel that somehow, no matter how absurd it seemed, that this was all her fault.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Harry felt like he was dead. He didn't feel as if he had a body, floating upon the surface of the foggy waters of his brain, floating through a timeless dream space where he felt no hurt, no pain, only serenity.
He opened his eyes and sighed. Death looked weird. It was foggy and gray. He looked left and right until his eyes found themselves upon a strange muggy blue and brownish blur.
Harry reached to the bed side table and found his glasses there and put them on. The room suddenly came into refocus and he discovered he wasn't dead after all. He was in a hospital room and the room was gray because it was dark and his bed was curtained off on all three sides. The blue and brown blur turned out to be a person, a person with familiar bushy brown hair who was layered in a misty blue spell of some kind.
Hermione had her face in her hands and her body was bent over, as if she were crying over him. Maybe he had died. Maybe she thought he was dead...or that he soon would be...
"Hermione?" he said, and his voice cracked.
She jerked her head up, and tears instantly sprung to her eyes.
"You're awake!" she said tearfully. "How do you feel?"
"Dead actually," he said. "Or that I was dead."
"No," she said, though she did squeak when she said this. "You've been passed out for almost two weeks."
"Two weeks?" said Harry, alarmed, then winced as pain filled his brain and throat. "Damn. This is one bad cold."
"Its not a cold Harry," said Hermione. "Its a curse."
She then told him the details.
"Voldemort has been killing Potions Masters to keep them from finding a cure so that it can keep spreading. All the Hogwarts senior students with high marks in potions have been assisting here at St. Mungos to treat those who were infected with it. Whenever I get the chance from brewing cures I come here to watch over you. But this thing is so contagious that I have to wear this quarantine spell around me when I visit, since they can't put it on you. Its the only thing that can stop wizards from spreading it. The worst cases have been sent away from St. Mungos into isolated quarantine sites to protect the rest of the world from the curse, but muggles have been getting it too so its been hard to keep it a secret."
"Is that how I got it? From Dudley?" said Harry, looking alarmed.
"That's what they think. You couldn't have gotten it otherwise, you never left the Dursleys."
"Oh," said Harry with a gulp, feeling suddenly nauseous. "So whats going to happen to me?"
"We really don't know," said Hermione, sniffling. "Every time they used magic or a potion on you your nose would start bleeding and your lungs would start filling with fluid. Its different for each wizard who becomes infected. But with everyone else the symptoms were silly, oversize ears or blowing up like a balloon. So far we've done nothing for you because magic just seems to make it worse! Its...its just terrible!"
"Oh..." Harry had a feeling he would be saying this quite often. "I see."
"Harry," said Hermione, eyes wet. "We were keeping you at the Dursleys to protect you from this! We were so sure you'd be safer there...now, now you can't use magic or it could kill you! I'm sorry Harry, I'm so sorry!"
Harry nodded, feeling his stomach turn a little, and closed his eyes against her grief so he could indulge himself in his own.
Great, thought Harry. No magic. Just great. Well I suppose I could kill Voldemort with a butcher knife or something!
The thought had merit.
"What are we going to do?" said Hermione mournfully. "How are we going to fight You-Know-Who? How can we destroy Horcruxes without magic?"
"Hermione," Harry said shortly. "I can't hunt for Horcruxes if I can't do magic, but you still can. Dumbledore made me promise not to tell anybody, but I doubt he could have expected this. We're going to have to get more help somehow."
"So who should we tell then?" she asked, rubbing her wet eyes. "Who can help us?"
"Try asking Lupin about it, I already asked him about R.A.B."
"Oh I know, I mean, he told me," she said, and picked up a letter from the bedside table to hand to Harry. "Your Aunt found this in your room when she sent Hedwig to the Burrow with a letter and she said you should have it. Its important. She stayed here for a few days with you Harry. Before they...modified your Aunt and Uncle's memories and sent them home."
"Modified their memories?" Harry squawked.
"Yes, there's no reason for them to know about you or magic anymore Harry," said Hermione, then she looked down at her hands, and the tears started again. "Because Dudley died."
"He died, his heart burst from the swelling," Hermione said, sounding just as horrified as he was. "So the Ministry modified your Aunt and Uncle's memories of all memory of magic, otherwise they would have blamed you for it, and possibly tell other Muggles. Couldn't let it get out that their son had died of a magical ailment that was meant for Harry Potter, otherwise people would be angry at the Ministry for protecting you."
Harry stared at her highly alarmed and horrified all at once. Before he knew what was happening Hermione had put a bed pan under his chin for him to vomit in. Once it was finished he breathed heavily and closed his eyes, letting the waves of nausea pass.
"So...am I going to die?" Harry asked, chest heaving and feeling like he knew the answer.
"I don't know Harry!" Hermione cried. "We're trying to find a cure, but magic of any kind could kill you so we haven't risked using any experimental potions on you! Its really vicious, Voldemort knew what he wanted when he developed this curse. All he has to do is cast any small spell on you to do you damage. A tickling charm could probably kill you right now Harry."
Harry nodded and turned his head away from her to look at the curtain. It all seemed surreal. A week ago he had a cold, or so it seemed. But now, he could possibly be dead with any magical accident, and he'd had many in his life. Now his life was on the line and it was all he could do not to start crying. He didn't want to be weak, he wanted to be brave.
"Ron is at Hogwarts doing research mostly for Horcruxes," she continued, wisely changing the subject to something less painful. "Though he's a poor researcher and McGonagall and Pince keep questioning him about his need to enter the restricted section every other day. Maybe Lupin can help get them off his case. The Ministry won't let me leave St. Mungos, since Voldemort has been killing off Potions Masters, so I can be here to visit you every day. I'm here if you need me."
Harry sighed and turned to look at her and her eyes were brimming with tears.
"Don't worry Hermione," he said, feeling a fierceness suddenly filling his chest and heart with its burning strength. "I'm not dead yet. If worse comes to worse I can always kill Voldemort with a shot gun. Meh, or maybe I can find a way to give him back his own curse."
But it wasn't fierceness that was suddenly filling his chest, it was vomit, which shot out of his mouth and nose and stained the sheets in sickly hues of blue and purple.
"Oh dear Harry," said Hermione, looking at what was left of whatever it was the hospital had been feeding him. "I think maybe you'd better just rest and let us handle Voldemort from now on. I'll go find your nurse."
Harry moaned, lying his head down on the pillow with resignation.
Well, Dumbledore did say that Prophecies are only fulfilled if the people they are meant for don't choose to fulfill them. If Voldemort doesn't want to face me as a wizard then I don't have to choose to face him. I can just lie here on my arse and forget that Voldemort and that darn prophecy exists if I care too. So he can't do anything about it. Let everybody else kill him, if they want to. I quit!
Harry knew by the end of the week that things weren't going to change for him. Every day Hermione would come in and chatter with him about their hopeless search for Horcruxes. She told him how Remus was helping them in their search for Slytherin's Locket and getting some of the Order members to help. It was possible that the locket had been stolen by Mundungus Fletcher, who had disappeared weeks beforehand. Dumbledore's portrait had conceded that more help was probably necessary now in light of things and was now holding Order meetings himself in Headmistress McGonagall's office at Hogwarts. But everyone was being run ragged because of the disease. Family members were becoming sick and dying. Word had it that Percy was stashed away at one of the Quarantine stations somewhere.
Severus Snape had surprisingly turned himself into the Ministry upon getting this disease. It was ironic that once Voldemort had invented the thing, he hadn't bothered to try and find a cure to protect his own followers. He himself was somehow immune, possibly due to his magical nature, so his own Death Eaters were now sick or dead. But even that didn't make Harry feel any better. Wherever Snape was now, they didn't tell Harry, but he hoped the sonuvabitch was in Azkaban now.
One evil psychopath down, a whole bunch more to go!
Other people dropped by to visit him, when his nurse permitted them. Ron came with news from Hogwarts and brought him a sweater his mum had knitted by hand for Harry, since her magical knitting needles would have left a magical trace. It was such a thoughtful gift that Harry hadn't bothered to complain about how mismatched the sweater was. Tonks and Remus both visited and told Harry about their engagement to one another. Remus would tell Harry about what the Order was doing about Voldemort's current attempts to take over. The skirmishes between wizards and Voldemort were slowly coming to a standstill based on the equal balances of power between the Death Eaters and The Order and Ministry combined, so he was pushing all his resources into controlling the Muggle government, but was having trouble since the Ministry of Magic had always had a strong hold on this area of the Muggle world.
Everyone is miserable because of me...why can't I be anything but a nuisance to everyone? A burden...
So therefore Harry knew that he was in trouble when the Minister for Magic walked in, a stern and sorrowful look on his face.
"Well Harry," said Rufus Scrimgour. "You certainly are going to be a trouble for us now aren't you?"
"Beg pardon sir?" said Harry.
"People are protesting your being at St. Mungos. So we now have plans to move you out of St. Mungo's away from wizarding areas to one of the quarantine stations where one of our Potions Masters is working on developing a cure."
"Quarantine station? But why can't I stay here with the sick people at St. Mungos? Why does it matter where I am?"
"It does matter Harry," said Scrimgour, sadly. "We can't risk that any magic we do could kill you. We have to get you away. It'll be easier for you to do accidental magic if you are responding to circumstances in a Magical environment..."
"You mean...I can't have my wand back," said Harry, feeling a gut wrenching pain somewhere in the vicinity of his heart.
"Understand that if you were to instinctively reach for your wand and cast magic you could kill yourself," Scrimgour said sympathetically. "Accidental wandless magic is less likely for an adult wizard like yourself with the years of wand training you've experienced, but we can't take any chances. Don't worry though. Miss Granger has made sure to inform the Ministry that your wand is the brother of You-Know-Who's wand, and we have instructions from Dumbledore's portrait and the Order to keep it safe until someone in the Order will need to use it."
"Someone...in the Order..." said Harry, feeling more heartsick now then he had felt one the first day he had woken up. "Oh."
He did not want to leave the wizarding world. He did not want to be without his magic. But after seeing what this curse had done to Dudley, and after seeing the lengths they were going to keep him protected, he knew now that he hadn't any other choice.
On the day that Harry was to leave St. Mungos he had packed all the clothes and things into the suitcase Aunt Petunia had packed for him and carefully stored away the letter from Lupin, the last thing that Aunt Petunia had given to him before her memory had been modified. He was thankful, no, supremely grateful, that he was still allowed to have Hedwig, who hooted at him from her cage near his bed.
"Not too long now," he said to her, then went to her cage to brush her fluffy feathers with his fingers. "Are you excited?"
She didn't make any sort of interested gesture or acknowledgment and so Harry sighed.
"Neither am I."
Eventually Rufus Scrimgour came into the room to dismiss the Muggle nurse, who was only too happy to be returning to her work with Muggle patients. Once she was gone Scrimgour smiled.
"You're ready then? Its a long drive; since we can't take a portkey we'll be bringing you there by an ambulance. Are you feeling ill still? Dizzy, headaches, nausea?"
"Yes to all..." said Harry, grabbing Hedwig's cage and his suitcase. "But I'll be fine. I'm feeling a lot better now."
"Well, no need to take chances, you'll be able to lie down in the ambulance at least, and get a nap. Use the loo if you need to. Its a long drive."
It was a long trip. Harry found himself nearly falling asleep on the gurney as the time flew by. He could vaguely hear Scrimgour in the front seat with the driver boring him with conversation about Ministry policies on controlling and tracking the newly discovered species of Krumple Horned Snorkacks. Harry felt a twinge of sorrow at this reminder that Luna was out there somewhere, all his friends were, doing magic, enjoying the magical world, and he was off somewhere Muggle and unfamiliar and possibly never to return to Hogwarts again.
This has got to be the worst day of my life. If this is a dream please wake me up!
The motions of the vehicle lulled him into sleeping and he only woke when a loud thump and the sound of doors opening and closing alerted him to the fact that they had stopped.
"Oh," said Harry, sitting up and rubbing his eyes just as the back doors of the ambulance parted.
"We're here now," said Scrimgour, poking his bushy head in to look at him. "Come along then."
Harry stepped out of the ambulance and looked around. They were standing outside a large fenced property out in the country, every inch of which was covered in signs that said 'QUARANTINE' 'KEEP OUT' 'IDENTIFICATION AUTHORIZING ENTRY MANDATED BY LAW'. Amongst other things. These signs and paper posters covered every inch of the fence so that nobody could look in, and nobody probably could look out. Like a prison.
"What is this place?" Harry asked, feeling his stomach going vaguely sick at the site of the signs.
"Used to be a Muggle primary school," said Scrimgour. "Since we haven't been able to hide this curse from all the Muggle populous a Muggle location was chosen for quarantine. More accessible to Muggle parents who want to visit their children. And by the by, the Muggles living in here know they have a magical ailment, as do all the staff, so don't worry about hiding magic from them. The only thing I must caution you upon is to not mention to them that you are the reason they are sick. None of them know about Voldemort or the Death Eaters and that's the way it should be."
Harry nodded, feeling almost sick to his stomach now, and followed Scrimgour as they approached the metal entry gate. It was rather cold out right now in this part of England, and rain was dripping down now upon their heads. Hedwig had pointedly buried her head under her wing to protect herself from it. Scrimgour hit a button on a box next to the gate, sounding a buzzer that was entirely too loud for Harry's comfort. The two of them waited for many long moments, with the ambulance attendant keeping his distance from the gate. Eventually there came a sound of footsteps and the gate swung open and Harry found himself staring at a familiar face.
"Bill!" said Harry. "What are you doing here?"
"I work here now," said Bill Weasley, pulling on his ponytail bashfully. "I'm a Cursebreaker so my services are being used here in some capacity, and Fleur is teaching French to the children here. But what are you doing here? Come to visit have you?"
"No, I'm afraid he's here to stay," said Scrimgour, passing Bill a folder. "All the necessary documents are in there. Keep this low key if you can, we don't want any problems from Harry being here, most of the wizarding world isn't aware that he's ill yet. We need to keep Harry's true location a mystery as long as we can. Let them assume he's still at St. Mungo's."
"Why isn't he still at St Mungos though?" said Bill, looking extremely suspicious now as he accepted the folder.
"Magic makes his sickness worse," Scrimgour explained, then went into more detail upon it before finally saying, "So absolutely no magic is to be used on him or by him, and he is to be permitted no wand or magical objects, understood?"
"All right," said Bill seriously, taking the folder and reaching out to Harry. "Not even a bumbershoot for you though huh? Come on inside where its warm and dry. We'll get you up to the nurses right away to sort you out."
Harry nodded and followed Bill, noting that Scrimgour barely gave them a nod before heading back over to the ambulance. Inside the gate the view was quite a contrast. The dark wall of white signs on the fence made the old school yard seem small and confined. The old school building with its brick walls and iron barred windows was like a prison to his mind. The expansive car park was mostly deserted save for a few rain damp vehicles parked very close to the school, and an old rusted school bus that looked like it had seen better days.
"Gee Harry, its nice to see you and all, but I was hoping you wouldn't get sick. We need you the most," Bill said, as they walked down the white cement walkway towards the school entrance doors.
Harry quickly told Bill all the details and Bill stopped dead at the doorway to listen to Harry in horror.
"I suppose Scrimgour is highly correct in making sure that these children don't know you're the cause of their sickness," said Bill sadly. "Most of them are angry and upset, and rather miserable. It would only make them miserable towards you."
"But what if I somehow hurt them?" said Harry, voicing his distress. "My cousin died after giving it to me! He died!"
Bill scratched his chin.
"I don't know Harry, I don't think Scrimgour would have brought you here if he thought you were a threat. But I guess we'll find out won't we?"
Harry didn't like that. He didn't like that at all. But Bill pulled open the paint chipped metal and glass doors and ushered Harry inside.
The interior of the school was brightly lit with fluorescent lighting in the ceiling. The stone brick walls in here were painted all in a cream white, with purple and yellow striped lines of paint winding their way along the walls to each classroom. Each hall of classrooms had racks and hooks for clothing outside of them, but there were no coats or hats hung anywhere along these halls. On the walls without racks there were hung bulletin boards for announcements, decorated in paper borders of colorful autumn leaves. According to a big calender board by the office September was a rainy month, a month for numbers and for Autumn words, all of which were highlighted in various ways on the bulletin boards along the halls. The boards and posters decorating the halls had everything from cartoon children wearing yellow rain cloaks and jumping into water puddles to rubber ducks carrying umbrellas as they did math problems with chalk. It was all very muggle, and had the feeling of a primary school.
"We've converted the staff offices into a medical station," Bill said, as they walked towards them. "Second floor classrooms are all dormitories. We use the classrooms on the bottom floor for regular lessons. There's a cafeteria which doubles as a gym for physical education. Its just after lunch so most of the kids are probably napping or in a lesson somewhere. We'll put you into lessons too, I bet your mathematics are woefully behind."
Harry moaned and followed Bill into the office. The place where the secretary station should have been was piled with boxes of medical supplies that an old woman with a clip board seemed to be counting. Harry recognized her at once.
"Ah, good morning Arabella," said Bill, approaching Mrs Figg with a smile. "Find any of that sellotape they were looking for?"
"Nope," said the woman, shaking her head. "I've put my cats on the prowl hunting down whoever stole the tape, but I think we just may need to go to the basement and see whats down there. We already did our order for this week."
"Mrs Figg," said Harry. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh hello Harry, are you here to help?" asked Mrs Figg. "I'm working as a secretary here. I always work at schools during the year as a substitute teacher. But they have me as a secretary here now, a step up!"
Ah, so she's been promoted, Harry thought.
"I'm afraid he's here as a patient Arabella," said Bill sadly. "I'm taking him in to see the nurse now. We'll get him registered and find a room for him."
"Oh that's not good," said Mrs Figg, looking at Harry through narrowed lids. "Madeleine is on her break, so Brenda's taking over, and watch out for old Mr Sour Puss," she added with a chuckle.
"I will, and people shouldn't call him that, its not...nice..."
But Bill was smiling so hard that Harry had to wonder if Bill wasn't as amused by this mysterious Mr Sour Puss as Mrs Figg was.
The old school offices were indeed set up as a clinic. Each wooden office door had a big colorful poster of some kind on it and a name plate, and the chairs outside the doors lined up along the way must have been for patients to sit in here and wait their turn to see the nurse. One person was indeed sitting out here, a tall skinny red haired boy who might have been about fourteen or fifteen years old, who was holding onto a rather tattered looking stuffed giraffe. He reminded Harry painfully of Ron with all the freckles on his nose. Upon spotting Bill the youth squealed in a childish way, and held up the giraffe.
"Hello Terry," said Bill at once, then turned to Harry and whispered quietly to him, "Harry, this is Terry Wood, Oliver Wood's brother. He's four years old, and he's a squib."
"Four?" Harry said, then turned back to look at the boy, whose mind may have been four years old, but whose body resembled that of a teenager. "Um...hi Terry. My name is Harry. I knew your brother in school."
"Oh," said the boy, who proceeded to chew on the giraffe's ear while looking at Harry suspiciously.
"Is your Mum in there Terry?" asked Bill, smiling brightly, as if talking to an oversized child was his every day occurrence.
"Uh-huh, Uh-huh," said the boy. "Yup yup. And Mister Sour Puss too."
Bill laughed loudly.
"Now, you shouldn't call him that! But hm, maybe we'll see him too. Come on Harry."
Bill gently knocked on one of the doors, and a female voice gave him leave to ever. Inside was a small modern muggle doctor's office of sorts. An examination table was here, with privacy curtains attached to the wall. There was a counter with a sink and every table surface was covered in medical supplies and equipment, medical charts and posters with descriptions of medical ailments and cures. A woman was sitting typing on a computer at a desk in here, looking somewhat peeved by whatever information she was trying to input.
She was a strikingly beautiful woman with green eyes and long red hair. She was wearing a pink knitted cardigan sweater and shapely blue jeans and she had on a pair of pink high heel shoes. She had little pearl earrings in her ears and a simple gold cross necklace around her neck.
She looked painfully familiar.
"Mum?" Harry said, then squeaked when he realized he'd said it out loud.
The woman looked up just as Bill gave a nervous chuckle.
"Harry this is Brenda Wood, Terry's mother. Brenda, this is Harry Potter."
Brenda Wood smiled, showing off a set of pearly even white teeth.
"Hello Harry," said she. "Did you just call me Mum?"
"Uh," Harry scratched the back of his head. "You look like her, from the pictures of her I've seen I mean."
"Brenda," said Bill with a smile. "Harry's a new patient, and he's a wizard, all the information is in this folder."
Brenda opened the folder and looked through it.
"No magic? Well that's not good. Oh dear, nose bleeds, hm, my my," then Brenda suddenly raised her voice, as is she were yelling pointedly for somebody to overhear. "I think old Sour Puss should have a look at him! Though I daresay he's probably enjoying his break, the lazy old bugger..."
"Who are you calling lazy and old?" said an angry, familiar voice, as a dark head and a rather long, hooked nose poked itself out of a nearby door. "Who is it again who put her filing off for the last three days because her 'old bones ached'?"
But Harry made an angry shout and all motion suddenly stopped. None of the adults spoke as Harry glowered at Snape and repeated himself, searching his pockets as if trying to find a wand.
"What the hell are you doing here?" shouted Harry. "Why aren't you in Azkaban?"
Snape scowled, looking rather comical with a nose that more resembled a banana now then the vulture's beak it used to be thanks to the curse. Brenda Wood covered her mouth, as if she were trying to stop herself from laughing. Apparently this was not a new reaction.
"Potter?" said Snape, ignoring the question pointedly. His eyes were going wider and wider and his eyebrows were at his hair line. "No. No. You can't be sick. You can't!"
Now this was interesting. Snape was horrified. Harry crossed his arms.
"Well I am."
"Sorry Severus," said Bill pointedly to Snape. "I could have warned you ahead of time, if I had been warned first. Scrimgour just dropped him off here right now without telling us he was coming. I'd like to stay around but I have to go oversee the lot in the gymnasium. I'll see you later Harry. And I'll take Hedwig to the owlery for you if you like."
Harry handed over the cage begrudgingly. He really wished Bill would have stayed, because Snape had come fully into the room, long nosed face in both his hands, looking hopelessly miserable at this situation. This was not the reaction he would have thought Snape would have upon finding out that Harry was dying.
In fact, though Snape had always wanted him expelled, he had never wanted him dead. Had saved his life a few times too. And hadn't he stopped that Death Eater from trying to curse him?
"Potter," said Snape. "You do realize this condition is terminal, don't you?"
"Yeah," said Harry bravely. "Nothing I can do about it."
"What about...the task that Dumbledore gave you?" Snape said, startling Harry completely. "How are you going to complete it if you're here?"
"What? You know about that?"
"Certainly, I was in on it. My job was to keep Draco Malfoy from becoming a Death Eater. Murder is one of the requirements of joining the Dark Lord's ranks, and I prevented Draco from performing it. Though I was supposed to get his help on getting into Malfoy Manor to steal Hufflepuff's cup and bring it to you. But...I failed...obviously. The Dark Lord caught me and gave me the...sickness...as punishment."
So the Cup was now at the Malfoys. He'd have to give that information to Hermione later. But Brenda coughed pointedly, bringing Harry out of his trance.
"You two can discuss everything about everything later," she said, then smiled. "Severus, since Harry here is a wizard and a male I'll let you do the examination. No magic though, his folder says Muggle examinations only. I'll do the computer input."
"Since when do you give orders around here, huh?" said Snape, whirling upon her, though his eyes weren't the least bit furious.
"Since you're the only person with Medical training on staff right now, and I'm the only secretary here that is willing to put up with your temper for more than an hour," Brenda said, eyes twinkling when Snape scowled in resignation. "And check him for the kidney stones too, his folder says that there's been some blood passing in his urine and Madeline has been complaining about the youngsters passing stones..."
"I can't use magic on him if he's reacting badly to it, how do you expect me to examine...oh Merlin not that!"
As the two of them argued it suddenly dawned on Harry just exactly how Snape would have to examine him for kidney stones.
"No way!" said Harry, backing away from the two of them in alarm. "Absolutely not! I'm not letting him touch me!"
"Would you rather have a woman do it?" said Brenda impishly, her green eyes crinkling together.
Harry glowered at her and mumbled under his breath. In response Snape grabbed Harry and dragged him over to the examination table.
"All it involves is my feeling for lumps Potter," he snapped, picking up a muggle tongue depressor from one of the jars on the counter. "Now open your mouth, and say 'ah'."
"Ah?" Harry said, feeling a little nervous to be letting Snape poke around in his mouth with the depressor.
"How's it look?" said Brenda, as she typed the information from the folder into her file.
"Mouth is clean, surprisingly no cavities that I can see, no ulcers," Snape said. "Your breath smells rancid...ever hear of breath mints Potter?"
"Ey!" Harry protested. "You try to have good breath when you're vomiting all the time!"
Harry was then put through a rigorous physical examination where lights were shone into his eyes, his ears, and a very cold stethoscope was pressed to his chest. Snape seemed to be enjoying his discomfort, until something made him pause.
"His heart sounds off," said Snape suddenly, causing Harry to stiffen. "I don't like the sound of that rattle in his lungs either. Potter, don't hold your breath or I won't be able to hear anything."
Harry let out his breath and Snape continued to stick the stethoscope at various points on his back under his shirt. Harry vaguely had to wonder at the fact that Snape, of all people, was examining him like a Muggle doctor.
"Here, let me listen," said Brenda, getting up and putting the stethoscope into her own ears. "Oh, that does sound bad."
"Nausea and headaches and dizziness," said Snape. "And nosebleeds. That blood isn't coming from his nose I'd wager. Possibly a lung tumor, or a stomach ulcer of some kind."
"He's been throwing up too," said Brenda with a sigh. "We'll have to do x-rays later. I'll write a note for Madeline."
"I'll do his blood pressure next then," said Snape.
The examination continued this way for awhile, with his arm being squeezed into the blood pressure testing device, his height and weight being measured and his knees and elbows being hit repeatedly with a small rubber mallet to check his reflexes.
"All right Mister Potter, time to check your kidneys. Up, on your back."
"My back?" said Harry. "I thought I'd be...bending over..."
"Don't be immature, your kidneys aren't in your arse, and I have to check for swelling of your urinary track."
Oooooh, I see now! Harry thought, blushing as what part of his anatomy would be involved.
Harry pulled down his trousers and climbed up onto the table, laying down so that he was staring at his ceiling, arms on his chest.
"Don't be a baby Potter," Snape said, sounding rather amused as he snapped on a pair of rubber gloves. "I'm sure some lovely young girls have seen this part of your anatomy before."
"Actually no," said Harry, rightfully angry. "Unless you consider Aunt Petunia or Madam Pomfrey lovely young girls."
Snape scowled and pushed his fingers against Harry's stomach, stilling him in his motions. The thought of his Aunt and his now dead cousin brought fresh misery to Harry and so he decided to concentrate on Snape's fingers, which were feeling around his private area, lifting and poking and looking for anything abnormal.
"You need to gain weight Potter," Snape said sharply. "You're too short for your age, and too lean."
"Sorry," said Harry, highly uncomfortable to have Snape's fingers on certain bits of his anatomy.
"So, stone or no stone?" said Brenda, lifting her head from her typing.
"Yes, right here," said Snape, and when he pressed upon Harry's pelvis Harry whined at the uncomfortable pressure on his bladder.
"Stop!" Harry whined. "I have to pee now!"
"Good, you can give us a urine sample while I fill all this out," said Brenda, pulling a little empty plastic jar from a cupboard. "Bathroom is the door to the right."
There was a bathroom there and when Harry went inside he found that he could still hear them talking on the other side of the closed door, which made it difficult for him to concentrate on getting his urine sample.
"When shall we do the x-ray? Tomorrow?" said Snape.
"Sounds good to me," said Brenda. "Should we have him do blood work too?"
"I don't want him fasting in his condition, I want him to gain weight first."
"What sort of diet then?"
"High protein, vegetarian," said Snape immediately. "Eggs, milk, beans and tofu, lots of lentils and grains to help him put on some layers. We'll ignore fats and sugars as much as we can and concentrate on the vitamins that he's obviously lacking. Vegetables, fruits, light snacks."
Harry came back out into the room just as they were going over his daily schedule.
"Naps I think," said Snape, not bothering to look at Harry. "Two a day, an hour each. He needs more rest than normal to conserve his energy towards healing. Which is good with a vegetarian diet, it'll allow him to process the large quantities of fiber..."
"I don't want to be a vegetarian!" Harry protested at once, handing the plastic sample jar to Brenda. "I don't want to take naps either."
"Well too bad," said Snape firmly. "Because you will be and you are."
Harry scowled and Snape's lip curled up smugly.
"Since when are you in charge of me?" Harry demanded, suddenly reminded of all the horrible things this man had put him through all his life.
"Since I'm the only Potions Master left with the experience to develop a cure for your illness, who hasn't yet died of it. The Ministry feels that this is a more worthy occupation for me than rotting in Azkaban. I have jurisdiction here Potter because I'm the only hope for the children. Do you understand?"
"Only hope? But...Hermione said..."
"They have students doing potions at St. Mungos," said Snape. "What does that tell you? There is nobody else. Miss Granger is probably the only competent one of the lot, and believe me, I know, I've taught them all."
Harry stared at Snape and the man pressed forward.
"And no doubt you are now formulating a plan in your mind to get out of this place, or make my life miserable in some capacity as revenge for what I've done over the years. I highly advise that you don't. You are only hurting the children here if you do by taking my precious time from my hands and devoting it to mischief. Everyone here has the sickness, that is why we are here Potter. That is how contagious it is. It just so happens that the adults are stronger than the children in this instance, we can be ill and still do our daily tasks. But if you give us the run around you distract us from the people who really need the help here. The children. So you follow the schedule we give you, the diet, all of it, and maybe, just maybe, you will survive this, and lets hope you do, since it was you the Dark Lord meant to kill with this curse in the first place."
Harry stared at Snape for a few moments. Snape stared back at Harry as if expecting him to say something angry and arrogant.
He probably hadn't been expecting Harry to start crying his heart out. Tears ran like blood from his cheeks and he hiccuped around choking sobs, not bothering to hide his misery. Brenda got up in alarmed panic.
"Severus!" said the woman hotly. "He's just a boy! Gracious! You should know better!"
"N-no he's right," Harry choked, rubbing his eyes. "Its my fault they're all sick and its my fault people are dying, and its ungrateful of me to be angry about vegetables of all things. I like vegetables!"
Harry was crying so hard that Snape started to look pointedly embarrassed.
"Its...not your fault people are sick and dying Potter," said the man, having the grace to look ashamed of himself. "You're as much a victim here as the rest of them."
"That's right," said Brenda pointedly, glaring at Snape. "Now I'll show you to your dormitory where you can rest for awhile."
Harry nodded miserably.
"Thank you," he said. "And Snape? Thanks for pretending to care..." he added, "It makes me feel like I'm not such a waste of space after all." Then turned to follow and astonished Brenda Wood out of the door.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
"Oh Severus, why on earth would you treat him that way? You've never been that coarse with the other children."
Severus put a hand to his head and tried not to look at Brenda. She looked too much like Lily Potter, and sounded too much like his own Mother for comfort.
"Potter...hits a nerve..." said Severus wearily, looking down at the folder with Potter's papers in it. "I was his teacher, but in many ways he reminded me of his father. His arrogant upstart father who abused me all through school, and always got away with breaking the rules. It was much the same for the son, always breaking the rules and being praised as everyone's favorite student. I hated it. I hated him. I think I still hate him."
Brenda stared at him. Stared at him as if she couldn't believe him. Then suddenly she was right beside him, whacking him over the head with Potter's chart.
"Of all the arrogant idiotic things to be mad at the boy about!" she said hotly. "Because of his father! Thats about as stupid as all the other stupid reasons that people hate him! That he's the reason Voldemort is killing people, he's the Chosen One...and you hate him because he happens to look and behave like his father? You sound just like the rest of them, honestly grow up!"
Severus covered his head protectively but allowed her to whack him until her frustrations had ebbed. She had done this to him often, it was only a sign that she cared. She didn't bother lecturing people she didn't like.
And there were very few people that Brenda Wood didn't like. She was the Mother of Oliver Wood, successful Quidditch player and father of two. She had a smaller second son who was suffering from this disease and growing taller every day at an alarming rate, yet she didn't cry on anybody else's shoulder unless they happened to catch her crying. Usually it was Severus whom she cried on, which bothered him to no end.
"I'm sorry," said Severus, pushing his now messed up hair away from his face. "It is stupid and immature of me. I need to put my feelings for the boy aside and think of his health."
"You need to develop warmer feelings for him," said Brenda firmly, sitting back down at her computer. "Now I have to figure out a way to convince the staff that Harry Potter isn't anathema. Many people are blaming him for this illness, and I'm not entirely convinced that the wizard kids haven't told the Muggle ones how it started."
"Dear Merlin," said Snape. "Did you put the boy in with Wizard patients or Muggles?"
"Neither, I put him with the youngsters," said Brenda, causing Severus to sigh in relief. "He has those naps so I figure he can nap with some of the other kids here already napping. And since he's almost seventeen I finally have a dorm Prefect to look after the smallest kids."
"Good grief!" Severus choked. "Potter a Prefect!"
"He'll be less embarrassed about taking naps if he's doing it with the children," Brenda pointed out. "He'll soon come to feel protective of them and want to watch over them himself."
"Ah, now this is sensible," said Severus. "He'll be the dorm Prefect for them willingly out of the need to be a hero and look after the innocent."
"It gives him something to do to keep his mind off his sickness too," said Brenda pointedly. "And lets hope we can get him involved with the older students in the projects around here. He seems like the type to isolate himself when he's in pain."
"Definitely," said Severus, and sighed. "For now, I have to continue work on the children's potions. And figure out just how we're going to treat Potter for this illness without magic."
"Poor dear," Brenda sighed. "Well, I'll just be in here imputing these files. They've stacked up beyond help."
"And whose fault is that?" Severus said, smirking at her from behind his long nose.
"Yours you sour git!" she said hotly, whacking him with a folder and chasing him into his office. "Always bothering me and poking your nose in at me all day!"
Severus laughed and retreated into his work room in order to let her get things done. He knew he should have been worried about Potter. But in many ways he was feeling lighter than he had ever been simply because of Brenda Wood's temper. When her temper flared up, he knew he was cared about, and that was something he had never truly felt in many years.
If we were younger, and she was a little less married, I'd have been interested in her...I wonder if Oliver's father would let me borrow her for a decade or so?
He looked around his workroom with some trepidation and sighed.
Well Potter...it looks like you've given me something new to think about with my brewing. But then again, you always give me something new to think about, don't you?
Harry rolled over in bed and stared at the ceiling. He could faintly feel and hear the sounds of many small people in the beds in here breathing softly in their sleep, and tried very hard not to wake them.
Nap time. Brenda had brought him into his new dorm during nap time, and he had found in his dorm no less than twenty young kids sleeping here in their beds. Brenda had directed her own son Terry back to his bed, which he had impulsively left in order to find her, and then went about setting up a cot for Harry.
"Shhh..." she had said, and pointed to the cot. "Nap time for you too Mister Potter."
Harry had scowled at her but had climbed into the cot and let her pull a blanket out of a storage cupboard to cover him with. This was where he now was, lying on a cot, surrounded by other cots, and staring at the ceiling.
This was once a classroom, but the desks were all gone. The blackboards had various childish drawings and writing on them done by the children in this room, some of these drawings were in permanent marker and crayon. The walls had colorful posters on them and the racks in here for coats and hats were being used for all clothing and storage. All the cupboards held personal possessions and toys. Harry had a vague feeling he was not going to get much privacy in this dorm, with all the kids in here.
They must all be about four or five years old, these kids, he had thought.
But no. Brenda had informed him that other than Terry these kids were in the six to eight year range of students, and that he was now their Prefect and guardian.
"They look small because the illness causes them to either lose weight or gain it, dramatically, depending on their body type," Brenda had told him. "And the larger sized kids are all housed on the ground floor for their convenience. We only have the one elevator here and its not big enough..."
Harry couldn't imagine how big the larger kids must have been that they couldn't even fit in an elevator. He looked around at the children in his dorm that he was now in charge of and sighed.
I can't do it...I can't be a Prefect for all these kids...a mentor.
Harry found his head turning to look over the sleeping children with pain. One girl named Julie, that Brenda had pointed out to him, had caused his stomach to twist. She had to be no older than six or seven, yet she was having to deal with something that must have been horrible; her hands and feet had lengthened out into ropes, her fingers nothing more than little nubs on the ends of appendages which were boneless, and probably quite capable of being tied into knots. She slept restlessly, one of her brown curls on her cheek giving her a look of pure innocence. But Harry could quiet imagine her life was one of pain and despair now.
Terry Wood's long body was the opposite of the one boy in the cot next to Harry, who looked like a miniature of himself. He was curled up on his pillow, his body not even taking up half the child-size cot he was sleeping in. He looked like an elf. But this child, Brenda had told him, was at risk of his internal organs being crushed, or stop functioning, if he shrunk too much more. Harry could barely look at him without thinking of Dudley. Dudley to whom the opposite effect had caused his heart to fail.
Harry lay on the cot looking around at all these children in their various stages of sickness. From the blond haired boy whose ears were tied on top of his head in a bun, to the girl with the long heavy nose that could have rivaled Snape's in its exaggerated proportions. One red haired girl had hair growing out of her nose and arms and every other embarrassing place it could grow from. And the boy with the horrible sounding rasp to his breathing, whose head was flat on top, his eyes buried under his eyebrows to make room for the rest of his face...
A heat suddenly filled Harry's chest. A nauseous feeling of sticky anger that swelled inside of him. It was a rage that filled him, and threatened to spill over in a magical manner.
Harry suddenly knew what he had to do. Suddenly he understood all too clearly why Snape had warned him against running away. Because thats exactly what he was going to do. He carefully and quietly slipped out of bed and into his running shoes. He ignored his trunk, he didn't need it anyway, and stealthily slipped out of the dormitory.
The halls were empty. He tiptoed passed the other rooms, not bothering to peer into them to see if there were children inside them. The stairwell echoed as he went down it and his sneakers caught on the rubber treads on each step. He tried the emergency back exit, but it was locked. He would have to leave from the front door.
The heavy metal door handle made a loud clunking sound as he pushed it inwards to open the door that led out to the hallway. He peered around and saw very few people. Some students going from one classroom to the next. These students had very similar symptoms to the children in his dorm, but they were much older, ten to seventeen, and barely spared Harry a glance as he went down the hallway towards the front exit.
A hand on his shoulder stopped him just as he got to the door.
"Harry," said Bill, entirely too loud for comfort. "Aren't you supposed to be sleeping right now?"
People were coming out of doors now, a great mass of them, and Harry moaned. He just had to plan his escape just as classes were ending!
"I'm going," he hissed at Bill. "I'm going to find him and make him pay!"
"Who Harry?" said Bill, though he must have known, for he had a sad look on his face.
"Voldemort!" Harry said, his voice a fierce whisper from not wanting the other people in the hallway to hear him. "I'm going to make him pay!"
"They're children!" Harry said, now no longer able to keep his voice low. "They're just children! How could he Bill? How could he?"
Harry found that he was crying, he was weeping hard, and his nose was bleeding again under his shaking. The lights were flickering above him and Bill panicked.
"No Harry! No magic, no magic! You'll kill yourself!"
Harry could feel the ball of anger and pain swelling in him. He wanted to attack, to lash out! His world swam in red, black and gray. His vision was failing. But that didn't matter! Voldemort! He wanted to kill Voldemort! He wanted to destroy him!
But suddenly his face burned with a shock of sudden pain and he blinked back into proper thought and awareness. He found himself looking not at Bill, but at the horrified and angry face of Severus Snape, whom had been the one to slap him.
"Come out of it Potter!" Snape said, voice shaking, and raised his hand as if to slap him again.
"He's awake now Severus!" said Bill, grasping his wrist. "Look, he's back to himself...Harry are you all right?"
Harry sat up unsteadily and shook his head, crying and shaking and just letting go of all the pain he was feeling. It didn't matter if it was Bill and Snape that he was venting to, he just needed to let it all out.
"No I'm not...I'm not," he said. "Why can't I do what I'm supposed to? Why can't I do what Dumbledore wanted me too? Why can't I get rid of that monster?"
"Because you're just a boy," said Snape pointedly. "A sick young boy who has all the world on his shoulders that he shouldn't have had to carry in the first place. Come on..."
Harry was highly alarmed when Snape lifted him into his arms as if he were as light as a feather, and carried him towards the infirmary. Brenda Wood rose startled to her feet when Snape entered her office with him, and put him onto a chair.
"We'll clean you up, and put you back to bed," said Snape quietly. "But I'm going to add daily council sessions with our school councilor to your schedule Potter. You need somebody to talk to about this and that is what she's here for."
Brenda didn't say a word, just helped Snape clean up his bloody nose and gave him a glass of water.
"I'm sorry," Harry said suddenly, looking down at the glass of water in guilt. "You told me not to run away and that was the first thing I did."
"Good," said Brenda, startling both Snape and Harry. "You've done it once and got it out of your system. Now we know you won't do it again."
Harry jerked, and nodded, then handed back the glass.
"I feel much better now," he admitted.
"Well, nap time is over now, so I suppose you can go to classes," said Brenda. "Severus?"
"No, let him have this day free of classes. He can start in the morning, or even the day after. It'll give him the chance to just watch the children and see how they live without having to think about math and history."
Harry was then shuffled out of the infirmary by Brenda, with one last look at Snape, who had his face in his hands. He looked like he was going to be sick.
What have I done? thought Harry. I've made things worse already! Why can't I do anything right?
Alone, and walking through the hallways, Harry pondered.
He pondered this school, and the kids who had shuffled passed him into their classes with barely a second look. Most of them looked upright and in stable condition, but some of them looked painfully ill. Harry had watched the overweight ones try, with much difficulty, to get quickly to their classes and catch up to their slimmer companions. But the slimmer kids looked severely thin. It made Harry wonder just what he himself looked like, and so he slipped up to the dormitory floor away from the bustle of the lower level halls, in search of a bathroom and maybe a fresh shirt from his trunk.
It was here, in the hallway just outside his own dormitory, that he found her.
It was the girl, Julie, sitting in her wheelchair crying. The source of her upset was immediately obvious to Harry, for he couldn't understand how anybody expected the girl to wheel herself around the school without being able to hold the wheels of her chair.
And he was doubly dismayed to note that the girl's long feet were now tied into an obvious knot, which she was trying, and failing, to untie.
What nerve! thought Harry. Who did this? Don't they understand that everyone is suffering here?
Harry approached her and bent down to her level.
"Hey, no, don't cry, its all right," said Harry. "I'll help you. What's your name? Mine's Harry Potter."
The girl gave a squeak and looked up at his forehead.
"Julie Bones," she said with a sniffle. "Are you really Harry Potter? My sister goes to your school."
Oh, so she's a witch, thought Harry. Or a squib.
"Yeah well, I'm here now," said Harry. "You need help with your...feet?"
She nodded, two fat tears rolling down her pale cheek, and Harry bent down to examine the knot in her legs. She winced as he untied her and her lip trembled. Finally she was free of knots and she sobbed.
"Oh thank you! Thank you Harry!" she cried. "Those horrible mean older boys always do this to me! It doesn't hurt to tie it but it always hurts to untie it! And they leave me here all alone! I don't have any friends here, and its not fair!"
She rubbed her eyes and Harry patted her shoulder, and went quickly to the nearby bathroom to get some toilet paper so she could blow her nose.
"There, all better now?" he asked, then smiled. "I'll take you to where you're supposed to be now."
"We have to take the elevator down," said Julie, looking so much happier now that she had a friend looking after her.
"Where's the elevator?"
She pointed and he wheeled her over to it. It did seem rather small for an elevator and they squeezed in together as best as they could, with Harry being squished behind Julie's wheelchair.
"Going down," said Harry, smiling when the girl giggled.
"You're funny Harry," she said.
Finally they came to the main floor, but it looked like the hall was deserted.
"I knew it," said Julie pouting. "I'm late for class! Mrs Wood will be cross!"
"Brenda?" said Harry. "No, she's nice. Come on, I'll make your excuses for you."
He wheeled her to the classroom in question then knocked, and finally poked in his head.
Brenda Wood sat on her desk, with many kids Julie's age in here all sitting around her doing math problems from the board. She spotted Harry and Julie and smiled.
"Come in, come in, I was wondering where Miss Bones was," said Brenda, not looking the least bit angry.
"She's had a bit of a bad day," said Harry, wheeling Julie over to her chair. "Some of the older boys tied her legs in a knot."
The kids all gasped and Julie bowed her head. Brenda's eyes flashed red.
"I imagine I know who those boys are," she said, then sighed. "Harry, would you mind watching my class while I go find Professor Snape. He'll be able to..."
"No," said Julie. "Harry already untied my legs," she said. "Can he stay anyways though?"
The kids all looked up at Brenda, who looked over at Harry startled.
"Harry...did you use magic again?" she asked, looking alarmed.
"Oh...did I?" Harry said, looking down at Julie's legs. "I didn't think I was using magic to untie her."
"Thats how Mister Snape does it," said another boy, the tiny elf sized one. "He uses his wand."
"Well I just used my hands," said Harry.
"Hmm," said Brenda. "I'd better get Severus just in case. You stay here."
Harry soon found himself staring at the bunch of young kids in their desks while Brenda went in search of Snape. Julie was smiling at him in adoration and the tiny elf boy raised his hand.
"Um, yes?" said Harry pointing to him. "Whats your name?"
"Benji Prewitt," said the boy. "Are you really Harry Potter? Do you have the...scar?"
Harry nodded, then lifted his fringe to show them. The kids all clapped.
"And you fight You-Know-Who!" Julie piped. "But...why are you here?"
Harry stared at them, and they all stared back, and he shrugged.
"I'm sick too," he admitted, and sighed with relief when the kids actually smiled.
"So you're going to stay here with us!" said the boy with his ears in a knot on his head.
"But he's supposed to fight Mister Meanie," said the girl with the long hair growing everywhere. "How can he do that while he's here?"
That almost made Harry laugh right out loud.
"Wait wait wait," said Harry with a chuckle. "Okay, what are your names? You and you."
The kids then introduced themselves.
"Cassandra Witherspoon," said the girl with the excess hair. "And don't listen to Leo Malfoy, he's a big liar."
"I am not!" said the young Malfoy.
"Malfoy," said Harry with shock. "Is your...do you have an older brother named Draco?"
Leo Malfoy immediately jumped up and down in his spot nodding, the ends of his ears bouncing up and down like a bow tie as he jumped.
"Yep! He's very smart and handsome my brother! I want to be just like him when I grow up!"
Harry was nonplussed by this stirring description of brotherly love towards whom he knew was a Death Eater. He was going to say something in retort when the door opened and Brenda came in with Snape in tow.
Snape approached Harry and bent down to look at him, then up his nose, and then stared deeply into his eyes. Harry stood stock still as he did this, the dark black eyes boring intently into his own.
Something in the pit of his stomach stirred, some unidentifiable feeling, but before Harry could say anything Snape had jerked himself away to stride over to Julie and examine her legs.
"Does it hurt?" he asked her gently, surprising Harry completely.
Harry had never seen Snape behave so gently to anyone. He was almost being...dear.
"Not anymore sir," said the girl, smiling. "Harry took care of that."
Snape nodded, looking up at Harry, then down at the girl.
"Well I'll be," said Snape. "It looks like Harry can use magic, but only if he's using it to heal others, not himself."
Harry jerked and Brenda's eyes widened.
"Are you sure Severus?"
"I'm perfectly sure. And this may help me with my research. I'd like for Harry to come to the lab after classes for an hour tonight so we can test this theory."
"All right," said Brenda, and smiled. "Thank you Mister Snape, and you too Harry, you don't need to stay in class with us any longer."
But he did stay, if only to help Julie with her math problems since she couldn't hold a pencil. It didn't occur to Harry until much later after classes that Snape had called him by his first name, without any derision in his voice.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
"Didn't I tell you? Trouble with a capital T!"
Brenda threw up her hands in exasperation, but Severus stared her down. The effect was wasted on her, mostly due to the oversize nose making him look more comical than menacing, which he still wasn't used to yet. In contrast to the long nose and skinny bones of Severus Snape, Brenda could almost feel herself getting plumper every day, the only sign of her illness being that she was often mistaken as being pregnant by the children. And speaking of which...
"Every child has an off day now and again," said Brenda pointedly.
"With Potter, off days are more often than not" Severus retorted. "And he's seventeen, which means he's a man in the wizarding world..."
"A young man who is still adjusting to his situation," Brenda continued firmly. "But he did an admirable job with my class, and with young Julie, and you have to admit, that healing trick of his has promise."
"It does," Severus said, features pointedly lightening. "It means that I can teach him all those fiddly healing spells I have to use on the children everyday, and thus free myself more time to research."
"Severus...I meant for his own healing!"
"Maybe," said Severus nervously. "I'm not crossing my fingers just yet. He's a long way from being in fatal condition, but anymore stunts with magic could quickly send him in that direction."
Brenda nodded and fingered her keyboard. This filing that she had put off for three days had taken her almost the entire afternoon to finish. Now she was sure she would never hear the end of it from the staff.
But darn it she was tired! Enough was enough. All the hard work in the world couldn't take from her the three days of respite she had been able to pull up for herself. She had earned it.
"Speaking of fatal conditions...how is...Mister Goyle doing?"
It wasn't just her imagination, but Severus's face turned dark and pained.
"I warned him, years ago, that his over eating would result in something horrid. I only hope he can lose enough weight to recover. None of us could have predicted what would happen to that young Muggle."
Brenda nodded, looking morose.
"Harry will come across the worst case children soon enough," Severus continued. "I hate to think how he'll feel about it."
"He'll survive. It isn't his fault," Brenda pointed out, and shut down her computer for the night.
"No, it never was," Severus agreed. "But they aren't likely to see it that way are they?"
Brenda sighed and nodded, and turned to look at the now black screen of her computer. Her hopes, and her previous good feelings from the day, were now holding their court inside that screen and fading to black.
Harry Potter rolled over in bed, temporarily unsure of where he was. It was brightening in the room, the sun was rising and the churning feeling of hunger knotting in his stomach was drawing him up from his slumber.
Food. The need for it clawed at him. He had skipped all meals the day previous due to his exhaustion and nausea, but now he couldn't put it off any longer. He would have to eat.
And that meant going to the cafeteria and confronting the scads and scads of children who were sick because of him. Not just the little ones, but the older smarter ones who might have figured out by now who was at fault for their despair.
Harry rolled over the other way, resigned now to his fate, and put on his glasses. He stretched, and turned his head, and found himself staring into the bright brown eyes of Julie Bones.
"Good morning," he said to her. "What are you looking at?"
"Good morning Harry," She giggled.
Somewhere to his right Leo Malfoy piped up,
"She's gotta crush on you Harry!"
"I do not!" said Julie.
But her tiny face turned bright crimson at this.
God, and only six years old...they start so young!
"I'm too old for you," he said to her plainly. "Come on you lot, up and at 'em, its gonna be breakfast soon and I'm hungry."
All at once kids were giggling and rolling out of bed and talking in loud voices, causing Harry to cover his ears. A pillow fight ensued between the too-tall Terry Wood and the knotty eared Leo Malfoy, causing the feathers to fly. Julie spent a good deal of time just trying to get dressed and into her wheel chair, with the hairy Cassandra helping her here and there and all the while chiding her for getting herself tangled during sleep.
Harry found himself overseeing this chaos, pointing out messy cots and commanding each kid to pick up after themselves, all the while hunger twisting a hole in his stomach. He was starting to sound like Aunt Petunia, he knew it, but he was grumpy.
"Another Mister Sour Puss!" said Terry Wood, pointing at him.
Harry groaned, and smacked his face.
"Okay, fine, just get dressed, leave the mess," he put his hands up. "You have to sleep here I suppose you can do what you want in here!"
He pulled on some clothes, after having to find his clothes in the mess of the room, and ushered the little ones out of the door, making sure that Julie and her wheel chair made it to the elevator, and that the blind Jonathan, the boy with the flat topped head, didn't fall behind the group.
It must have been an amusing sight to the older kids to see the parade of children that shuffled into the cafeteria, followed by a bedraggled looking Harry, who had a horrible case of bed head.
"Good morning!" said the cafeteria server to them, a round faced old woman with purple hair on top and a very warm look in her crinkled blue eyes.
"Good morning Miss Madeleine!" the children chorused and Harry smiled.
So this is the mysterious Miss Madeleine!
Each child was given a tray according to their nutritional needs, and once Harry came to the woman she sighed.
"Well I have special instructions for you," she said. "Since you missed last night you have a double portion of fruit."
"Oh thank you," said Harry, staring as she loaded his tray with things he never would have thought could be breakfast food. "What is this?"
"Fruit salad," she said immediately. "Cream of wheat with strawberries, and orange juice. Enjoy."
Harry stared down into the bowl of mixed fruit, remembering with a groan the last time he had had sausage and mash, and slid his tray pointedly down the row.
All motions were interrupted by the timely arrival of Severus Snape, who strode into the cafeteria dressed in the most peculiar clothes: a flannel striped night gown and trousers, and a stocking cap on his head. He had a hysterical expression on his face.
"Madeleine!" he said to her. "You just put some coffee on that tray, black as pitch, black as the darkness of my heart!"
"Goodness Severus!" she laughed. "You know you can't have coffee," she said pointedly. "What's put you in this mood?"
"Well I don't expect you to understand what its like to have your entire cauldron of experimental potion blow up in a cloud of green fumes, destroying your entire workshop and the clothing off your back, but I expect you would understand that I need coffee. Now!"
They stared down one another, Madeleine's blue eyes crinkling in amusement under the stormy black gaze of Severus Snape. She shook her head.
"No. I don't brew coffee anymore. And you're not supposed to have any caffeine, your blood pressure is atrocious. But I have some nice caffeine free green tea brewing, if you like?"
Snape glowered at her and she filled him a tray of breakfast. His tray was exactly like Harry's.
"I don't suppose you could have mercy on me and give me some chocolate?" Snape crooned at her.
He actually did croon. Harry stared at this new change in tactics on the part of Snape. He almost sounded desperate.
"Sorry, Severus, no caffeine," she said firmly. "And if I gave you chocolate I'd have to give it to all the children, you know that."
Snape moaned pointedly, then turned with his tray. This was when he noticed Harry and his group of staring, giggling children.
"Good morning Potter," said Snape curtly. "Don't keep these children waiting to sit and eat."
"Did you know you're wearing your pajamas?" Harry said pointedly.
Every person in the room was staring at them. Brenda Wood at the staff table was actually giggling pointedly.
"Hm, well, yes," said Snape stiffly. "Go on now. Shoo."
Snape turned and stalked towards the staff table, with Brenda Wood giggling from behind her hands at him and Snape glowering in return. Harry shook his head, then turned to look at his kids.
"You lot know where to go, so show me."
"Kay Harry," said Leo Malfoy pointedly. "All right you lot follow me!"
Harry moaned, and did indeed follow the young Malfoy. He tried pointedly to ignore the gazes of the older wizard students following him wherever he went.
But try as he might he could not ignore the steely penetrating gaze of Blaise Zabini, which followed Harry as he sat down with the young children at their table. Zabini was sitting with Pansy Parkinson and a Ravenclaw student, Michael Corner. Harry had a sickly feeling in the pit of his stomach that these may have been the 'older kids' responsible for Julie's tied feet, though he wasn't entirely too sure about that.
"Just ignore them," Leo Malfoy said grandly, reminding Harry very much of the boy's older brother. "They're just jealous that they don't get to sit with Harry Potter!"
Harry, wisely, did not say a word.
Harry poked his head into the history classroom with trepidation. He was first to class, and feeling nervous decided to quietly sit into one of the desks off to the side, as discreetly as possible. Unfortunately for him the Muggle Professor noticed him immediately and looked up from where he was carefully writing notes upon the blackboard.
"Ah hello there, Mister Potter, I was told I would be meeting you," he said, formally. "My name is Pierre Nibbs, Mister Nibbs if you please."
"Yes sir," said Harry.
Nibbs was a tall thin man that reminded Harry of a stork. He had a pair of glasses sitting on his long nose and tiny beady eyes that were exaggerated in size by the bifocals. He stared down at Harry for one long moment, as if trying to impart that he did not like shenanigans in his class, then turned back to writing on the black board.
The other children around Harry's age started slowly spilling into the room and Harry finally had a chance to see up close all the teenagers that had been affected by the illness.
For wizards there was of course the darkly beautiful Blaise Zabini. The only sign that he was ill was the lack of nose present upon his smooth chocolate brown face. Harry tried hard not to stare at the boy, even though said Slytherin was staring back at him. Michael Corner had long ears similar to the young Malfoy, but not long enough to tie in a bow on his head like the boy had.
As for girls, Pansy Parkinson was here, looking almost as if nothing had changed about her. If something was wrong with her she was hiding it well, though she did look underweight. Next to her sat a Ravenclaw named Lisa Turpin.
As for people that Harry had been friendly with at Hogwarts, well, there was only one. Romilda Vane pointedly gave Harry a smile as she sat down next to him, though it was hidden under the nest of hair that was growing on her face.
"We heard you were here," she whispered to him. "Guess I'm not the only Gryffindor here anymore after all. No Hufflepuffs yet either."
Harry nodded. That was all he needed to know. Just the two of them from Gryffindor. None of the other student wizards from Hogwarts gave Harry even a friendly glance. The rest of the room was composed entirely of Muggle children, who came into the classroom giggling, laughing and seemingly not the least put off by their strange affliction.
They were loving it. One girl, with many freckles and crinkly red hair, had a problem that was very similar to Julie's, only it was just one arm that was affected, and it was currently coiled in a fanciful rope around her neck like a scarf. A boy with black hair and a nose that hung straight down to his knees sat in the desk front of Harry and bent his head back to introduce himself.
"Lawrence Miller," said the lively boy. "Nice to meet you."
Once all the students were in the classroom Nibbs pointedly closed the classroom down and made hushing sound.
"Quiet!" he said, very firmly. "Thank you."
Harry quickly found that Nibbs was not much different then Binns in his ability to make History really really boring. However, the pointed difference was that Nibbs was fully alive and fully capable of making students miserable if they so much as giggled in his class. He taught very much the same way Snape did, giving no pause or pity during his lecture.
As a way to alleviate this boredom the students passed notes, and what notes they sent! Harry found himself in the receiving end of many. Zabini was the first to send him a note, demanding that they talk after class. Romilda sent him a note asking him if he was still dating Ginny Weasley. The Muggle girl with the long arm curled around her neck, whose name was Prudence Mayfair, sent him a small drawing of a cat and some writing above it that didn't seem to make sense.
'Want a peep at my cat'? thought Harry, in confusion. Want a peep at my...oh my god no!
Harry nearly laughed and hastily shoved the notes into his desk when Nibbs briefly turned his head up in Harry's direction.
Once his head was turned Harry sent back a scribbled note.
Sorry...not my type.
The girl's eyebrows shot up and she sent back another note, pointedly not the least bit subtle with her answer.
Not a witch?
Harry stared down at the note for a moment, then back at Prudence, then looked up at the board for a moment where Nibbs was writing something down.
Eh, why not? No need to hide anything here... Harry thought pointedly.
He scribbled, 'No, not a boy' on the paper and quickly passed back the note, which of course everyone who passed it down the row read. Each person in the chain stifled giggles and once Prudence had the note in hand she looked up at Harry with a wide amused grin and giggle of her own. He hadn't been gay very long after breaking up with Ginny, but he knew that Muggles were a bit more open with their prejudices than wizards so the fact that the girls were mostly just giggling was a bit of a relief.
'I know a guy you'd like,' was the note sent back to him by Prudence, and all the kids on the row had written down names.
Zabini's name had been pointedly written in big capital letters, with little floaty hearts around it, which was what made Harry himself start to chuckle pointedly.
Not in a million years!
Harry was going to send back a reply, but Nibbs suddenly turned around to glower at the class.
"Enough with the giggling! If I hear one more peep I shall put you all in detention writing lines!"
At which point, much to the teacher's dismay, the whole class starting roaring with laughter.
"Not the least bit subtle are you Pru?" said Romilda Vane with a laugh.
It was after History class and Harry found himself walking down the hallway with a small tangle of students, most of them muggles.
"Oh come on Rommy, Harry's cute, and I wanted to get first pick! Its a shame he's queer..."
Harry blushed at this reminder of the notes they had been passing in class and kept his head down.
"Nothing much to do in this backwater besides screw," said Lawrence pointedly. "Come on, if we're late for gym that'll be the end of us."
Harry was just about to get in line behind the bunch when a hand shot out and grabbed him, pulling him away from the group.
"Did you not get my message?" Zabini hissed into his ears. "A word if you please."
"I don't forget," said Harry pointedly. "I remember that you and your arrogant prat friends are blood purists who would sooner spit on people like me then look at me. I don't just do whatever you want me to the way your little Slytherin buddies would."
Zabini's face turned positively red and he glowered.
"You're the reason we can't use wands anymore," said Zabini, getting to the point. "And I'd like to know why!"
Harry stared at Zabini, who scowled at him pointedly.
"Aw layoff Zabini," said Lawrence pointedly, coming up beside Harry with a smirk. "Without your fancy stick you can't threaten us any. Go on!"
Zabini jerked his hand back and glared at Lawrence pointedly, then he grinned nastily.
"Better not sleep tonight Miller, or Mary Kindle will bite your feet!"
The girls squealed and Zabini turned to pointedly stride passed Harry into the gymnasium, followed by Parkinson and Corner.
"Don't listen to him Harry," said Lawrence. "He's just having on with you because he doesn't get to use his flashy magic stick anymore."
"But he's right," said Romilda softly. "We can't use wands anymore, because Harry proved that magic can ill effect this sickness in some ways."
Harry nodded and looked down at his hands. Then he paused.
"What was that he was on about? Who is Mary Kindle?"
"Oh, she was a girl here," said Prudence, looking highly alarmed. "She went missing a while ago. Nobody knows where she went."
"They'll find her," said Lawrence, lifting his long nose and throwing it over his shoulder. "Come on, Bill Weasley's waiting for us."
Harry smiled and followed them into the gym, glad that at least for one class he'd have someone familiar teaching him.
"All right!" called Bill as soon as everyone had entered. "Snape has given me orders that everyone is to exercise today! So we're going to play dodge ball. And Harry, Snape wants you to have regular breaks so you can sit out every other game. All right?"
Harry stared at Bill, embarrassed beyond belief by being singled out, then Bill took Lawrence and Zabini and had them choose their teams. Zabini looked highly bored as he pointed to all his usual friends.
It amazed Harry to no end when he pointed to Harry first after Pansy and Michael Corner. It must have surprised everyone else too, cause they grew a little more quieter when Harry stomped over to Zabini's side.
"Why?" Harry hissed.
"You're small and fast," said Zabini pointedly. "From Quidditch. We'll win."
Of course, thought Harry. He's a Slytherin. He could just be picking wizards.
But there wasn't enough wizards to go around and so Zabini eventually had to pick Muggles, a job he seemed to detest. Harry groaned when Prudence came over to them and snuggled herself right into Harry's side.
"Blaise seems to have a thing for you," she whispered to Harry with a grin.
"He has something for me, I'm not sure its what you think," Harry retorted acridly.
Finally they lined up on either side of the gymnasium, and Harry soon learned the point of dodge ball. To avoid being hit by the many balls that came flying at him from the other side of the room by their opponents. Hence the 'dodge' part of dodge balls. Zabini's strategy went down the tubes immediately, for Harry was the first to get hit by a ball and have to go stand behind the other team. Only now he had a better chance of hitting the other team. From this side of the room he had to catch the balls they missed and hit one of them successfully in order to return to his own side.
Maybe Zabini isn't such an idiot after all, thought Harry as he quickly caught the balls that came at him and eventually hit one of the kids on this side of the room.
But Zabini was throwing balls like a mad man. When Harry returned to his side he found that Zabini was almost coveting the balls. Half the other team was now standing behind their team, and half their team was behind the other half. Zabini was almost completely being held off by Lawrence, who was running back and forth to avoid the balls that were being heaved at his head.
God, he's at it like a maniac!
As more players moved to and from sides it came apparent that Zabini was aiming as if to kill. Harry had had enough.
"Zabini stop!" said Harry. "This isn't Quidditch, its a game, you don't have to win!"
"So says you!" said Zabini with a huff.
Suddenly a ball came at them from out of nowhere and hit Zabini smack in the face. The teen stared for a moment, as if not sure what happened, then fell backwards onto his butt on the ground.
"You ass!" said the youth, now crying like a child. "If I'd still had a nose that could have broke it!"
"Aw knock it off Zabini," said Lawrence, coming over to the pair. "You're a wizard, its not gonna kill you. Besides, you shouldn't have been so hell bent on winning, just because you're a wizard and all."
Harry jerked up and glowered at Lawrence.
"As a matter of fact," Harry said thickly. "It could have killed him! Since he can't do any magic without a wand!"
"Which is all your fault Potter!" said Zabini, suddenly riled up. "Its your fault we're all here! Your fault!"
Harry felt his stomach twist into a knot, but immediately Romilda was at his side.
"It is not Harry's fault, its Voldemort's! You and your dumb family can go join him as far as I'm concerned, you Slytherins are all rubbish!"
"My Mum isn't a Death Eater!" shouted Zabini. "And we're not rubbish! Just because we know better to fight something we can't win against!"
"Sounds like your an excuse making coward to me!" said Lawrence.
That was all that was needed to make Zabini snap. He launched himself at Lawrence, before Bill could so much as move from where he had been watching the argument.
"Don't call me a coward!" Zabini said with a shriek, in an ironic imitation of Snape. "Its not my fault wizards have to hide from Muggles! We're better, we're so much better, we should be the ones in charge! I hope You-Know-Who DOES win! That'd teach you! That'd teach you!"
A jolt of magic suddenly came out of nowhere, causing Zabini to be thrown backwards against Harry, who caught him instinctively. Lawrence flew the other way and was caught by his team mates.
"I still have my wand!" said Bill, pointing it between them at the spot where his spell had flown. "And you are out of order!" he said. "This class is dismissed. Mister Zabini will stay behind to put away these dodge balls back in the storage cupboard. The rest of you proceed to your next class quietly. I'll be reporting this incident to Mister Snape!"
"Sure," Zabini muttered under his breath. "He doesn't do anything until he has an excuse to punish me only but not the Muggle."
"You shouldn't have said that," Harry said, helping Zabini to his feet, but not sure why he was doing so. "You know its not their fault they don't know about magic."
"Well they do now," said Zabini pointedly. "Leave me alone Potter. Go play with your Muggle friends if they're so important."
Harry did. He turned and went after Prudence and Romilda and their friends, leaving Zabini alone.
"Why did you have to mouth off like that?" Romilda said, as soon as they were out of earshot of the class. "You knows it'll just get Zabini riled up!"
"Are you defending that prat?" Lawrence said. "After what he said?"
"No, but you should have expected it by now."
Lawrence didn't have anything to say to that. Harry had an itchy feeling that Lawrence wanted desperately to fight with somebody right now, but didn't dare fight with his friends. The target of his aggression was currently behind them in the gym putting away dodge balls under Bill Weasley's supervision.
"I wouldn't want to be Zabini right now," said Lawrence, sounding a little smug. "When Snape gets a hold of him he'll be wishing he had been a Muggle."
Harry wasn't so sure about that. He knew that Snape was prone to looking over the misdeeds of his Slytherins. But even so he didn't want to be there when Snape found out about what had happened. He wasn't too sure that Blaise Zabini would be coming out of that meeting unscathed, no matter how Slytherin he was.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Morning. Blaise Zabini woke, and rolled over in his his cot.
And almost threw up as a bitter taste filled his tongue.
"God! What did you assholes put in my mouth this time?"
A chorus of young laughter filled the room and Blaise scowled, spitting whatever it was onto the floor without looking at it, grabbing his shirt and stomping down the corridor to go join Pansy Parkinsin and the other girls in the girl's dorm. They accepted him without complaint, having heard the laughter, and Pansy pointedly hugged him before letting him slip next to her in the cot.
It wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair.
Its not my fault I don't have a nose to breath through at night anymore! Damn the lot of them!
Slytherins would never behave this way. Slytherins were dependable. Like a good pair of shoes.
They're like baboons the lot of them! The sooner I convince these stuff shirt teachers that I won't do anything detestably male to the girls the sooner I can sleep in a room with people who are somewhat civilized.
But he didn't see that as happening anytime soon, and buried his shoulder into Pansy's shoulder to cry, which she always allowed. He was in too much trouble, and even Snape was cross with him, which he rarely was.
Traitor, damn traitor, giving medicine to this pack of overbearing selfish muggles!
But his heart wasn't in the mental etipath. He had long ago stopped believing in the stuff that his parents and grandparents spouted about Muggles. It was just instinctual to think that way. Like a mental tick.
It isn't right though, letting them get away with things, just because they don't have magic.
Blaise finally found some semblance of sleep, for a time, until the ward matron herself Miss Madeline came to try and shoo him out of the room.
"Pansy isn't my girlfriend, she's like my cousin!" he protested. "I'd rather sleep in the intensive care with Goyle and Black then in that room with that wild pack of..."
"Don't say it," said the matron. "Go. Now. Before I summon Snape."
"Do you know what they put in my mouth while I was sleeping? I could have choked to death!"
Blaise took his blanket, tears breaking into the corners of his eyes, and left the room again, much to the protest of Pansy Parkinson. But he couldn't sleep anymore. The damage was done.
So he did the thing that always cheered him up. He went to visit the person that only he knew about, that he held in secret in his heart...
The basement stairs echoed with strange sounds in the night, and he paused while listening to make sure he wasn't being followed. Sometimes people followed him when he left the dormitory, especially if he snitched food from the kitchen like he did tonight.
But not tonight. He hated the echo of his footfalls going downwards. The muggle construction of these buildings left nothing to discretion. Stone stairs were quiet. Stone stairs muffled sound very easily. But not these stairs, these metal and plastic and cement stairs almost haunted him with their sounds.
Yet sounds or not he knew there would be one person awake tonight that would welcome him. Who would listen to him talk and share his pain, one person who wouldn't tease him, or make fun of him.
Because he knew her secret. He knew and he could tell anybody at any time. But he hadn't because she was his friend, she listened to him, and he brought her food and company.
He slipped down into the cold basement, passed the old caretaker's office (who slept up in the attic now) and ignored the gurgling of water pipes and the old gas heater. Down the rows he went, empty basement hallways, where everything was stored away and hidden. Where things they needed were put to rest until they were made use of. Boxes and boxes of text books. Old diagram scrolls and even a full sized model plastic skeleton. Past globes of the world and all the other junk that had been moved down here to accommodate them, down to the old wood and coal room, which was no longer made use of due to the school upgrading to the new modern furnaces. The door was supposed to be locked, and was hidden behind a large pile of boxes that he had to slip behind in order to get to the door handle.
It was in here that he found her. She shuffled away from the wall, twirling a strand of her wiry black hair in one finger, her other arm laying stiff and lifeless at her side. She was a living skeleton, nothing more then flesh and bone, a skeleton, no longer human, almost completely invisible from the lack of any fat or flesh on her body.
It wasn't that she didn't eat, Blaise always snuck her down enough food to last her for a week or more, and she herself came up at night to steal from the kitchens.
No, this gaunt unholy creature that stood before him was thus because not because of the curse. This was not what had driven her underground like a young Gollum afraid of the sunlight. No, the word of this weight loss had come after, long after the event that had driven her into fleeing for her sanity from the cruel touch of the world above her, her worst fears realized in her own unkind flesh.
She did not want the world to see how ugly she had become because of her rape, nor did she want them to look upon the fetus that was eating her flesh alive. It was the only reason she still lived. It was keeping her alive, driving her into eating so that it could reap of benefits of her lost health.
She kept purposely out of the light, anxiously eyeing the box food he'd brought down for her, the vegetables, the loaf of bread, the big bottle of what muggles called 'cola'. The carton of milk. He put all these down on her cot, and turned to her, putting on an air of friendship and trust before turning to look at her as if he were looking at the most beautiful creature in the world.
He knew better then to show her how repulsive she really was to look upon. It was not every day you met a woman who was growing a baby on the outside of her body, like some sort of demented rosebud trying to derive nutrition from a dead weed.
She had named it Buddy.
"Hello Mary. Did you sleep well tonight?"
She never answered of course, because she could only do sign language now. Sign language that he had taught her, after fumbling conversations with pen and paper. Her voice had died along with her beauty and health.
"I have good news Mary," said Blaise. "Harry Potter has come to the school. Won't it be fun for us to torment him? Of course he's going to be the key in healing all this, you can just bet. He's the 'chosen one' after all."
He couldn't hide the derision from his voice. Mary nodded vigorously and reached for the food, shoveling as much into her body as she could get. He ignored the repulsive gesture and continued on cheerfully.
"The kids were vicious to me again, Mary. They tease me all the time. But you don't tease me."
She quickly signed 'I friends with you' and reached for the bottle of pop.
"Thats right. We'll be friends forever. I promise you. And you'll be beautiful again. Once we're cured we'll go out all over the world, us and the baby. Paris, Rome..."
Blaise always promised her this, and this always seemed to make her happy. But he didn't think they would ever be cured. He didn't think he would ever take a muggle around the world with him, though the idea had promise. A muggle friend always kept people from thinking you were one of Voldemort's followers. Not that he was, but better safe then sorry.
He imagined her beautiful again. He imagined her dressed in the finest designer garments, all the most fashionable clothes that the wizarding world had to offer. He imagined that they'd both have handsome husbands and they would be neighbors. Maybe he would find a pro-muggle wizard to marry her, somebody who didn't mind that she already had a baby. He imagined putting little rings on her fingers and drinking tea with her in the parlor and teaching her how to waltz...
Mary Kindle lifted her head to look at Blaise, and her face was covered in the red juices of the fruits and the crumbs of the bread she had eaten. Drool was dripping down her chin to the floor and her frizzled hair was now dank and giving off an odd odor.
"We'll do great things together," he lied, smiling brightly. "I promise."
But he knew those things would never come true, for himself or for Mary Kindle. They would never be free of this curse. They would share this tormented cycle of lost beauty and stained flesh until their flesh were rotted away to nothing but bones.
He couldn't believe that there would ever be a respite for them all. But it was all right to pretend.
"I have to go now Mary," Blaise said, putting just enough sorrow into his voice. "When do you want me to come back?"
She signed 'tomorrow night' and reached out to hug him. Though it was disgusting to touch her he allowed it, then nodded to her and quickly made his way out of the basement. He knew she would cry once he was gone, weep for her precious beauty lost, for the hardness and bitterness of life that had hit them both.
But he would never tell her secret. He would protect her from their harsh criticisms and their horrid stares. They had made fun of her before, many times before. Insulted her. Called her scarecrow and bean legs. They had made fun of Mary Kindle.
But wouldn't they be surprised when Mary Kindle finally rose from the darkness of her hell to scare them all out of their bloody gizzards on Halloween night. Wouldn't that be the sweetest revenge for Blaise Zabini and Mary Kindle?
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...my mother was right. Lawrence Miller will regret the day he touched Mary Kindle, for there is a fiery Blaise ready to light her into the fury of hell's revenge like nothing this world has ever seen. Our revenge will be sweet and beautiful. We will feast upon their fear, and then make our exit from this dank prison once and for all.
Morning. Another morning. Severus Snape rolled over in his cot and groaned.
Every day, another day, another failure...
After losing most of his experiments the previous day due to an ill timed mixture, he was forced to concede that maybe he needed more help. But finding other potions makers to help him would be difficult.
The children are all too ill to help me. Weasley came here to help me but he's been so busy looking after the children. It doesn't work!
Unable to put it off anymore, Severus rose and stretched, and went looking for his clothes. Remembering that his usual clothes were now a pile of ashes in his work room, he decided that a simple robe might be better, if he could figure out where they stored the spare clothes. He'd find some more proper robes later.
My own damn fault for wearing the same robes day after day, year after year. It was bound to come back on me. But first things first, food and medication for the intensive care patients, start my cauldrons boiling, assemble my notes, start the base serums, then run to the cafeteria for food, before coming back here...thank god Madeline is back! She can take care of the medical needs of the children for now. And, oh damn I have that appointment with Potter to teach him the spells for the kids. How the hell I'm going to teach him a spell when he can only cast magic when its being used to heal another person is beyond me! And we still don't know if its true in every instance, and...
Severus found himself moving down a normal path to the quiet still rooms of the intensive care ward, moving carefully and quietly so as not to wake the occupants. He made his way passed the three cots in here, shaking his head in dismay, and finally found the cupboard with the muggle medications. He was going over them, and assessing what might no longer be working, and which children might need a higher dose of what, when a timid voice spoke up gently from the midst of the room.
"You're wearing pajamas professor."
Severus turned to look at Gregory Goyle, and tried to hide the wince that automatically came to his features, but the boy noticed it and nodded vaguely, as if expecting it.
"I've decided to go informal today," Severus told the boy, ignoring the rolls of fat that completely obscured the young man's once bright and cheerful face. "Its much easier this way, don't you think? Never have to change your clothes, always wear the same thing..."
Poor Goyle would know-he could no longer wear proper clothes. They'd been expanding them with magic almost every week to the point where it looked like he was wearing a dark gray circus tent. It seemed there was no end to the growth, but at least his growth hadn't been as instantaneous as Dudley Dursley's.
This was slower, more agonizing.
"You'll wake Bethy with all the jabber," said the youth. "Is it breakfast time?"
"Yes," said Severus. "I have a mind to put you on what muggles call a "raw' diet. It might work better. No dairy of any kind, no meat, nothing cooked..."
"I don't think its food thats gonna cure it," said Goyle pointedly. "But I'll try anything at this point sir. I wanna go home. What home I have left."
Severus nodded, and then winced as a tiny bell like sound, like the coo of a dove, interrupted his thoughts.
"Morning," said a small voice, and Severus turned to smile gently at the tiny little girl in the cot by the window.
Bethy Ann McCormick had some of the worst symptoms he had seen so far, though he had to force himself every day not to let her know it. She was a bright shining child with curls of blond hair all over her head and a tiny nose that even a battle hardened guy like Severus just wanted to tweak and make a wish on.
But her small nature had not helped her at all, and her small nature was what had cursed her. Her pretty face had stayed the same, perfect picture in every way. But her body had shrunk, reversing in age until she had a head of an seven year old girl, and the body of a baby. She couldn't feed herself, she couldn't walk or move very far, and she was on life support because her tiny body couldn't process the same foods that it once could because she had a baby's stomach.
Exactly the opposite of Terry Wood. But whereas his body had normal proportions, hers did not, and that was the danger. And she still seemed to be shrinking a little more each day. Growing solutions were barely keeping her alive. And his laboratory was now ruined. He would be brewing all day and night, if only for her.
"What would you like for breakfast Miss Beth?" said Severus, regarding her with his pet name for her. "Bananas? Applesauce?"
"Oooh, applesauce please," said the girl, and she very carefully rolled over in bed so that she was facing the window, where the morning light was peeking through the glass.
"Do you want me to shut the curtains?" Severus asked, worriedly. "Is it too bright?"
"No, please," said Bethy. "I like the sunshine. I miss outside."
"I know," said Severus with a sigh. "As soon as somebody has a free moment we'll take you lot outside again. Jamie are you awake yet you lump?"
"Yeah, thats right, you," said Severus chuckling as he made his way over to the young man in question. "Up and at em. Oh...did your mouth seal shut again?"
"Mm hmm!" said Jamie, and the teenager moaned piteously.
"Well just have to fix that, and get some bran into you."
Jamie was in an interesting state. He was in intensive care because his symptoms were so unheard of, even in the magical world, that nobody was quite sure whether he was safe or in danger.
His skin had taken on a texture that was more like bubble gum then human flesh and his bones were now like rubber. Some charms were being used just to keep his body together in a semi-human shape and to protect his organs from potential damage.
But he wasn't in danger per say; he wasn't showing any signs of stress to his brain or vital organs, and his rubber skeleton was still keeping his body somewhat protected, and he could even walk sometimes when he wasn't busy bending his limbs into weird shapes..
Their biggest fear at first was that he would fall and damage an organ. He had proven them all wrong when he had fallen and bounced like a rubber ball, completely intact. But his texture and skin hadn't changed even an inch since he had come and no treatment had proven effective in any way in reversing this problem.
Severus stared at the boy for a moment and finally groaned. It was clear that Jamie had been having fun with his putty face and that was why he didn't currently have a mouth. His features were almost completely obscured now by the fact that his features were all over his head. His eyes were in two separate places on his face, his nose had sunk down to where his mouth was.
"Sot. You do this on purpose don't you? Just for that I'm giving you salad for lunch."
The boy protested, since he couldn't chew with his rubber teeth. Severus t hen spent ten minutes rearranging the boy's face back into place and opening his mouth so that the boy's rubbery beige teeth were visible.
"You could damage your vision if you do that," Severus told the boy, though he had a feeling that the seventeen year old wouldn't listen to a word he said. "And your sense of smell."
"Gerrof id I'm fine," slurred the boy, and stretched his arms up, like rubber. "Can I ged oud of this dungeon doday?"
"If you promise not to fall, I'll take you down to the cafeteria with me," Severus said.
"Hod dang!" the boy chortled. "Whad about Beffy and Greg?"
"We'll be fine," said Greg, knowing that they were unlikely to ever just 'go down to the cafeteria with Snape' "Go on and have some fun, we can't all stay cooped up in here."
"Well, I have an alternative motive," Severus smirked, passing them out their day's pills, and glasses of water, which he helped Bethy to drink. "I plan to introduce Jamie to Harry Potter."
"Potter's here?" said Goyle. "Blimey."
"Yep, and he's got some healing magic which might be a sight better then I'm using, so I'm going to teach him all the spells Jamie needs, and maybe you'll be able to leave intensive care for good."
"Hod dang!" said Jamie. "Wahoo!"
"Don't get your hopes up," said Severus, and he pointedly open the boy's mouth with his hand so as to gently rearrange his teeth into proper speaking position. "Potter has a weird problem himself. Magic he casts, or any magic cast upon him, damages him. Sometimes to the point where his lungs are bleeding. He can only use healing magic."
"I get it," said Jamie wisely, much more understandable with all his teeth in place. "I'm practice right?"
"You got it," Severus said apologetically. "For all odd your condition is, the staff has agreed that you are the least likely to be badly effected by his magic if it goes off course, and being a squib you can't do magic on Harry accidentally in retaliation."
"But he won't hurt Jamie!" said Bethy hotly. "You won't let him right?"
"I trust Harry Potter," said Jamie immediately, almost harshly. "I mean, he's like my brother right?"
Severus turned to look at the boy with softly regarding eyes. His chest hurt to even look at the teen; the dark black hair, the gray eyes, and that mischievous grin that could light up a room. Jamie looked just like his father in every way, and Severus wanted to say something to him, to impart some important gift of secret languages into the young man's head. Instead he only put on a mock glare and crossed his arms in front of his chest.
"God brother!" he said firmly. "And don't you forget it James Thadeus Black! Blood brothers can hate each other, fight to the death, but a god brother is...in many ways...special."
Jamie grinned, and put both his thumbs up.
"Great! Then take me to him, I bet we'll have loads of fun!"
Yeah, great, thought Severus, dreading the conversation he was going to have to have with Harry Potter upon this unexpected meeting. I only wish things could have been under much better circumstances. Darn you Sirius Black! Why didn't you tell anybody you had a son? Why did you have to die and leave me to deal with this burden all on my own?
Severus couldn't get any answers dwelling upon these things in his head, so he picked up the seventeen year old as if he were picking up a very young child and left intensive care.
Now all I need to know is this; will Harry Potter be willing to help me bear this burden?
And with trepidation in his heart, and the realization that both of them were wearing pajamas, he approached the cafeteria doors...
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Harry was bent over his tray, poking at his vegetarian soy bacon strips, and thinking that he wanted to poke his fork into the eyes of a certain Potions Master for putting him on this diet, when said Potions Master entered the cafeteria.
"Oh looky, its Jamie!" said Julie with a happy hum. "He looks very solid today too!"
"Solid?" Harry queried, noting the emphasis on the word.
"He's the rubber band boy," said Leo Malfoy promptly, whilst picking his nose. "I wonder if he'll turn his arms into a skipping rope for us again?"
Harry just had to see this! He stood to his feet in order to see over the tops of people's heads and grinned. Snape was being followed by a teenager with straggly black hair, who was tottering almost with fragile careful steps, being held by the hand by Snape and pulled gently along. He did look sort of rubbery, like a gummy worm.
"Your steps are getting better," Harry heard Snape say. "Soon your bones will be solid enough to support you on their own."
"I hope so," the teen said. "I hate being so wobbly. But the rubber part is tons of fun! Look what I can do!"
Snape and Harry, and the whole cafeteria, all stared as the boy turned his head around...and around...and around.
"Now stop that!" said Snape. "I'm not going to untangle you one more time today! I swear...JUST like your father!"
Now where have I heard that before...Oh, they're coming this way!
Snape and teenager passed by the row with the food and came straight over to their table, Julie making squeaking noises as they approached. She must have really liked the boy for she bounced right in her seat, reaching out to him with long curly arms.
"Hi Jamie!" she squealed. "Its nice to see you out of the IC!"
"Me too," said the boy, and then he turned to look at Harry. "Hi!"
His gray eyes looked vaguely familiar. The hair looked familiar. There was something very familiar about the boy named Jamie. Harry didn't have to wait too long to find out.
"Harry James Potter," said Snape pointedly, looking highly bemused. "This is James Thadeus Black, your god brother. Jamie this is Harry Potter. And before you even ask Potter I had no idea that Black had children until I came here and met my first patients, of whom he was one, so I wouldn't have ever been able to tell you and ergo are not responsible for your lack of knowledge. That esteemed privilege goes to Remus Lupin thankfully."
"Yep," said Jamie looking at Harry excitedly, and a little sheepishly. "I was here at the school first! Then Mary Kindle and Gregory, we were the first bunch, then Mary ran off and we got Bethy and Julie and Terry and..."
But Harry wasn't listening to either of their refrains. He hadn't heard a syllable passed the words 'god brother'. He was staring at Jamie Black as if the boy had two heads.
"So...wait...you're Sirius Black's son?" Harry squeaked. "And he never told me?"
"I'm a squib," said Jamie pointedly. "I was a baby when he went to jail, so I never met him. My mom remarried to a muggle but I stayed a Black. Mostly cause my wizard family, you know the Malfoys? They threatened to take custody if my mother tried to deny me my wizard heritage you know? Because they thought I might end up a wizard, but I never did..."
"And my parents didn't want a squib in the family," Leo finished. "Too bad for them, sit next to me Jamie!"
But Harry still wasn't listening. A light bulb in his head had burst and he felt dim, and strange, and almost locked into tunnel vision with this boy across from him, who was very much the picture of Sirius Black, but healthier, not gaunt, and much much younger. Yet it had been Harry, not Jamie Black, who had inherited Grimmauld Place. Harry, not Jamie Black, who had been the source of interest to Sirius Black. Yet that wasn't right! Harry should have known about this boy!
"I...I have a brother?" Harry said.
"Well, god brother really," said Snape, but Harry shook his head, tears coming to his eyes.
"I have a brother," he repeated, and reached out pull the unstable rubber boy into his arms, an action which caused the dark haired boy to squeak and untwist his head pointedly.
"Harry, its okay, don't cry. Yeah, we can be brothers. I've never had any wizard brothers before, just my step brother Carl, and he's an arse. We'll do lots of great fun stuff together Harry, like cricket and music, and playing games and I bet you could teach me things to, what do you think?"
"Okay, sure," Harry said, and buried his face into Jamie's hair in order to hide his tears. "Brother."
"I had forgotten how important family, any family, would be to Mister Potter. He's lost so many of them already."
"Oh Severus," said Brenda, lifting her head from her computer work. "At least call him by his first name like you do with everyone else."
Severus coughed, and paused from what he was doing; doling out the doses of muggle medication for the afternoon meal into each plastic cup.
"I really have to hand it to you though," Brenda continued, as she finished typing the latest newsletter for the school. "Bringing those two together was a good idea. Jamie has been smiling all morning in his classes, now that they're going together."
"I'm just glad he's able to GET to classes now. Somebody to help him get where he needs to go...Exactly what I was hoping for."
"And that reminds me..." Brenda rose from her chair, wincing as the beep of the printer invaded the general quiet of her office. "Harry has been doing an awful lot of work around here already. Helping Julie get to all her classes, looking after the younger students, as well as his own studies, and now Jamie...Are you sure it's a good idea to be taking him out of regular lessons to teach him healing magic?"
"The sooner the better, I say," Severus looked up at her. "Harry Potter is happier when he's helping people. Lessons will quickly become a chore for him, and he'll end up like Lawrence and all those other muggle kids who are constantly skipping to go outside and neck. No, I think if Potter...Harry...is doing magic on his god brother and learning the spells I've been using on him and the other children, he'll be kept busy, keep his mind of his illness."
"Well, it helps that September is over," Brenda sighed, moving towards the window to stare out onto the grassy schoolyard where the older kids were playing baseball. "The kids will be able to keep themselves occupied with preparing for Halloween and all the candy that comes with it."
Brenda returned to the printer to pick up the stack of long newsletters that were spooling off, while watching Severus move around his work area pointedly. She stared at him for a moment, and hmmd.
"Did you know your nose is longer today?"
Severus lifted his head and glared at her, and she smiled back. Until he spoke.
"Did you know your face is chubbier today?"
"Okay stop that," she said, warningly. "I was just trying to point out that your symptoms are becoming more visible."
Severus nodded sheepishly, and put the caps onto all the pill bottles.
"Nothing like a healthy dose of reality to wake a person up. I...don't need all these problems."
"How can having a longer nose hurt?"
Severus seemed to have been waiting for this argument for he stood to his feet and started to recite his list of reasons why he shouldn't have a long nose.
"To start, a longer nose interferes with my potions making, gets in the way of my eating, makes it impossible for me to properly smell the potions to determine their safety and proper brewing. Any longer and I shall be bent over under the weight of darn thing."
"Like Lawrence Miller?"
"He could use a lightening charm on that elephant trunk of his. And by the by, have you heard about the arguments between him and Blaise Zabini?"
"Those two," Brenda moaned, and shook her head. "Blaise is not taking well to this school, and to being in a purely muggle environment, and Lawrence is enjoying being superior to Blaise, an obvious homosexual."
"The term gay is generally the normally acceptable term."
"Hm," Brenda shrugged. "Whatever the case may be, they aren't getting along. Blaise keeps asking to be moved into the girl's dormitory, and I'm very close to allowing it."
"Why not?" Severus snorted. "You have the younger kids, male and female, all in the same room..."
"Yes, but the younger kids don't make out when the adults aren't looking."
"Ah, I see."
"I'm glad," Brenda said, smirking. "So where should we put Mister Zabini?"
Severus scratched his chin thoughtfully, and was about to speak when a loud crash of breaking glass filled the room, from the direction of the outer office.
Both of them rushed out to find not only the offending broken window, but also the rather innocent looking baseball lying in the room looking as if nothing horrible had occurred. Severus picked up the ball, and Brenda went over to the window to look outside. The children were all crowded by the window...
...And there, standing like the picture of innocence with a baseball bat in his hands, was a very guilty Harry Potter.
"Sorry!" he said. "Didn't know my own strength!"
"Strength indeed Potter!" said Severus, approaching the window glowering. "That's a weeks detention you've gotten for yourself!"
"But it was an accident!" Harry protested. "You can fix that window with magic anyways!"
"I'd rather not expend my magical energy in such crude fashion every day of the year thank you, which means you children should have been playing at the baseball diamond in order to prevent such a disaster from occurring. That is the designated place for such activities is it not?"
The teenagers all looked at one another, and nodded sheepishly.
"Then you've all earned detention!"
Brenda couldn't help but smile as she watched Severus Snape compound upon the terms of their detention; washing all the school windows. Yes even the tall ones and the ones on the second floor. The children all scrabbled to a run to go put the baseball equipment back as the afternoon bell rang.
"Oh Severus," Brenda chuckled. "You certainly have a way with children."
"At least this time Potter won't feel as if he's being singled out for abuse. Actually, I was looking for some unsuspecting students to lay that duty upon. Detentions are a wonderful thing."
Brenda just smiled.
"Why do we have to do this stuff?"
"Cause Snape couldn't get anybody else to volunteer, the git. Its usually what he uses detentions for."
Harry looked down the ladder he was precariously standing on, down at his newly discovered brother Jamie, who was sitting on one of the desks watching as they all scrubbed the windows. He seemed very happy and well rested, for all his strange condition, and was currently letting Julie and Leo braid his rubbery fingers, since the younger kids didn't have any classes after lunch. The two youngsters were supposed to be napping, but Julie wanted to stay with Harry and Leo had snuck out of bed to follow her.
But having a brother was strange. It hadn't quite hit him yet that Jamie was his brother, for they were mostly hanging out in the school like new found friends. Harry had spent the morning going around the school with Jamie to his classes, listening to the boy blather on about music that he wanted to try playing on his saxophone, the t.v. shows he liked to watch and how much he missed his cricket team. He was the best! Well according to him anyways.
"You're lucky that you're a rubber band boy Jamie," complained Lawrence as he stuffed a sponge down into the bucket of suds. "Getting out of chores like this."
"I told you to play at the diamond, but you didn't want to try and avoid all the rain puddles."
"We should have told THAT to Snape," Prudence pouted as she snapped on a pair of rubber gloves. "Oh look who's coming to glare at us and make fun, Mister Nozini!"
Blaise Zabini had a glower on his face as he approached them. Harry glared down at him, until Jamie offered a wave to the boy, happiness on his face.
"Hey Zabini get over here! Duh! You look like shit!"
"Its Snape's fault," said Blaise, sitting down in the desk next to Jamie. "He had me helping him cut up potions ingredients all afternoon for my...detention. Frogs and worms and weird maggoty things, slugs, eeeeuucch!"
Lawrence snickered and Blaise jerked his head to glare at him.
"What are you laughing at?" he snapped.
"You," Lawrence replied drolly. "I'd complain about how snotty you are but...without a nose, there's no snot to be had..." he let it trail off.
"Whereas you have an overabundance of the stuff lately haven't you Miller? Sneezed all over Penny Watersworth did you not? Made her think twice about dating you!"
"Don't make me knock you in the place where your nose should be again, Zabini!"
"Stop it you guys!" Romilda complained. "We're supposed to be getting along!"
"Yeah," Jamie agreed, ruffling his hair with a free hand. "When did you two get so pratty to each other anyways? I haven't been in IC that long!"
Both boys glared at Jamie, and Harry soon found Lawrence angrily passing up a sponge of sudsy water to him, splashing him and causing their ladder to teeter precariously.
"Hey pay attention will you?" Harry complained. "I don't want to fall!"
"Sorry," Lawrence muttered. "Lets just get this over with! We only have to do one classroom a day anyways."
Harry mumbled and quickly sponged down his window, then reached down so that Lawrence could pass him up a squeegee. Jamie and Blaise were now bent head to head, chattering with one another and whispering, and Harry had a weird feeling that the two of them were friends. He wondered at this, and when he finally stepped down from his ladder to take a break, he plodded over to the pair.
"So Zabini, since you've nothing to do maybe you can help us get things done faster."
"Not on your life!" Blaise huffed.
"Ah c'mon Blaise," Jamie said. "The more help we do around here the easier it is for the grown ups to help us. And you've been complaining about how dirty the detention was so go stick your hands in some soapy water and get over it."
"Well," Blaise looked down at his hands, then up at Harry. "Only if Harry will go out with me."
"Whaaaat?" Harry said, and stumbled back. "No, what? Wait, I'm not gonna...wait, Jamie what are you laughing at?"
"You...and Blaise! Hee hee hee! About as suited to one another as pearls and baseball cleats!"
Blaise glowered and Harry growled and he jumped to the unspoken challenge immediately.
"Fine, if Blaise will help us with all our window washing this week, I'll go out with him."
All the kids in the room stared, and Blaise turned beat red.
"All right then," said Blaise.
"Its not like there's anywhere to go 'out' to," Romilda pointed out. "Except the jungle gym for a quick make-out session."
Both boys blushed, and Harry tugged on his shirt sleeves.
"Well, back to window cleaning."
He was feeling rather odd. He didn't really want to go out with Blaise. But he hadn't wanted to let Jamie laugh at them either. And he was feeling funny.
He wasn't sure where that funny was coming from, but when Snape finally came to excuse Harry and Jamie to come practice magic, he soon found himself thinking about other things.
I'll be able to do magic at last, some magic anyways, Harry thought. I'll be able to help all the kids around here, and that'll make all the difference in the world.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
"All right Harry," said Severus pointedly, glaring at the giggling Julie to keep her still. "I'm going to teach you how to stiffen Jamie's bones. If this works then we may be able to use this charm for Julie, provided that we can shrink her limbs back to proper proportions. But for the time being she's just going to watch so that she understands the process and learns not to fear it. Maybe she'll be able to learn a little bit of this magic herself when she's ready for a wand."
They were sitting in one of the empty classrooms. It was morning and most students were in lessons somewhere, or on a break. Severus had decided that this room would be the best for this lesson, since it was free of furniture.
"I like just watching," said Julie. "I've become very good at it sir!"
"Guh, remind me to thank Brenda for teaching you the fine art of sarcasm," Severus said stiffly, then turned to glare at Jamie, who had been whispering to Harry pointedly. "You two pay attention! You've been together all day, one would think that you've fulfilled your day's requirement of chattering and whispering by now!"
"Sorry sir," said Jamie with a big Sirius!Black Trademark grin. "Hey Julie, watch this!"
He then proceeded to tie his ears in a knot. Julie giggled. Harry laughed. Severus just rolled his eyes.
"You look just like Leo!" Julie said. "All you need is blonde hair!"
Jamie then proceeded to do more strange configurations with his facial features. Severus shook his head and smacked his face with his hand. This was going to be a long lesson.
By the end of the lesson with Snape, Harry was exhausted. Stiffening Jamie's bones had caused him to not only stiffen, but become stuck in the weird configuration that his body had been in at the time, so Harry often had to remove the charm so that Snape could put Jamie back into proper proportions. They had done this again and again, with Jamie becoming less and less rubbery with each attempt. Which, fortunately did end up making him a lot more sturdier in the legs then Snape had predicted he'd be, but with an unexpected result.
"No offense sir," said Jamie woefully. "But I think I'd enjoyed being more rubbery. Being stiff kind of...hurts..."
"I understand..." Snape replied, writing down the results of their day's lesson. "But this charm seems to have a stronger effect on you when Harry uses it, rather than myself. This could be significant. It may be that the Dark Lord has given us the very key to all of this by sending Harry Potter right to us!"
Julie was entirely delighted by the idea that Harry would be able to keep fighting Voldemort, even while he was sick. But Jamie left the classroom, miserable beyond all measure. He had begged Snape to take off the charms, which the man of course had refused.
"I'm worried about him," Snape said to Harry as soon as they were alone together. "The more he bends out of shape, the more I fear he'll damage himself some way permanently. I want him to get used to being stiff again, so the charms must remain. What if this charm becomes permanent for him? His body will be stuck in the shape it was when the charm was used. I know he'll find a way to remove the charm himself, its a simple finite incantatum that any magical student in the school can do. He needs to remember not to mess with his body shape too greatly or he could permanently damage himself. Do you think you could keep reminding him?"
Harry could feel very real waves of concern emanating from Snape. The man's dark eyes were awash with a concern that Harry had never seen in him before.
"I'll try sir," Harry agreed with a heavy swallow.
But the memory of Snape's worried eyes distracted him greatly from the rest of the day's classes. To the point that Harry willingly rolled a sleepy Julie back to the dormitory during the nap break so that he could lie down and sort through the thoughts in his head.
This is all so hard to take in...now I have the ability to help Jamie, and fix his problem, but this power causes him more pain than I thought it would. Why does everything I do have to go wrong? And does Snape really think I can fix Jamie for good?
Harry was having trouble with the idea that he could be the key to everything.
Do I really have a special power that nobody else has, just like Dumbledore had said? And what is it really? Some special magic, some spell?
Memories of Dumbledore, and his murder by Snape, suddenly rolled through his head. Had he really so easily forgiven the man who had caused him so much pain? Was Snape really as genuine as he was making himself out to be?
Now I know why its so hard to judge Snape one way or another. He's cleverly protecting himself. I can't trust him, no matter how much he's helping us. Although...he is being rather nice to Jamie, for being Sirius Black's son. I'd think that he'd hate anything to do with Sirius, but he's taking care of Jamie personally.
But then again, did Harry really know what these stiffening charms he was using were meant for? Jamie had been complaining about pain! Maybe Snape wanted Jamie to suffer!
Don't be ridiculous! Harry thought to himself, as he helped Julie into bed. You're over analyzing things!
But was he? Really? Didn't he have a right to be concerned, after all that had happened?
"Oh Harry!" said a haughty voice suddenly, rousing him from his stupor. "If you're free of babysitting duties, we can have our date now."
Harry whirled, and stared at Blaise Zabini for a few moments, almost offended by the memory of having agreed to the date. He'd only done it in order to make Jamie stop laughing, but now he was regretting it. He wasn't sure that Blaise was really his type, despite how darkly attractive the youth was.
"Date?" Harry hissed, drawing his breath in deeply.
"You do remember you agreed to going out with me, don't you?"
Giggles suddenly erupted from the tiny forms in the beds around him and Harry glared.
"Julie," Harry said, startling the dozy girl into looking up at him with a squeak. "Is this one of the boys that tied up your arms and legs?"
Blaise looked horrified by the idea and Julie shook her head a pointed 'no'.
"I would never!" said Blaise with a huff. "That would be...just wrong."
"Okay good," said Harry. "Needed to make sure before I went out on a date with you. Which by the by, I'm not sure I should still."
"Oh come on Harry," said the boy, entering the room, amidst more giggles from the youngsters, who should have been napping. "I combed my hair and everything, and besides, this could be our only chance. Who knows what tomorrow could bring?"
"Hm, fine then, but no snogging."
"Can't really snog," Blaise muttered. "No nose to breath out of. You try snogging with your nose pinched and see how you fair."
Harry had a strange feeling that he might just try that.
Severus Snape had to suppress his feelings of ill tiding as he tucked Jamie in for his afternoon nap. Bethy was looking at him with much angry concern, and Greg had a look on his face that was pure death.
Of course they would be angry, they had every right to be. But these treatments were just too important to the health of all the children to stop now, no matter how much they hurt Jamie.
Then again, they could be seeing something you aren't. Are you really just using Harry Potter for your own benefit? Are you using Sirius Black's only son and godson as guinea pigs for your own experimentation?
Was it true? Was he really just using them both?
But what choice does the ministry leave me? I cannot experiment on infected muggles, or any of these children, without ministry consent, which they won't! So I have Potter, Jamie's brother by inheritance, do the charms instead. I have him be the scapegoat upon which any errors or fatal flaws can be blamed. And what would Jamie care? He has his brother, even if his brother is hurting him with spells. In the end, isn't it enough that we're learning more about this curse? That we're fighting it?
But it wasn't enough. Memories of Potter's eyes, wincing with every hiss of pain from his new found brother, were stabbing their way into Severus's chest. Those globes of tenuous and worried green were piercingly and undeniably Lily's eyes.
But the boy who owned those eyes was nothing like Lily. Nothing like the mother who'd turned down Severus Snape's love right from the off. Nor was he in any way like the father who had been another flavor of the same detestation towards Slytherins that every Gryffindor seemed to be born with.
Harry hadn't cared that his brother was a squib, or that he had been mostly raised by the Malfoys, along with young Leo. Harry had shown friendship and loyalty to them all, instantly taking Jamie as his brother despite knowing nothing about him, becoming a mentor and protector to Julie, and the other young ones her age like Leo.
He was being everything that Albus Dumbledore had always said he was. Mature beyond his years yet still a boy.
A boy, just a boy, and how that boy eats at my soul. Is this what the Dark Lord wanted when he created this plague? To destroy this very essence of goodness that he hates so deeply, by destroying Harry Potter? That line of light and joy that even now is threatening at my defenses? Have I even now, dare I say it, come to care for the boy?
Severus scowled, a bitter scowl, then turned to look at Greg and Beth, who were glaring at him. He grumbled, pulled out his wand, and doused the lights.
"I just have one thing to say in my defense," Severus said, looking at Greg specifically, but including Beth in his gaze.
"I'm doing it for you."
Greg looked angered by the idea, but Beth started to cry.
"But why does it have to be so horrible? I thought medicine was supposed to help people!"
Severus shrugged, and closed his eyes, letting the pain wash through him as it would.
The 'medicine' himself can't even begin to realize just what a gift he's been given. Harry Harry, why must it be you? Why did you have to be the cure for this? I could work with any person, do anything I must, but now...you make me regret! Albus, you knew all along didn't you, you bugger! You knew that Harry Potter would be my downfall! You HOPED he would be!
"All I can tell you," said Severus finally, taking a deep calming breath. "Is that there will be a silver lining to this cloud. The sooner Jamie gets used to having a normal human body again, the sooner he can get out of ICU. My priority is getting everyone into a condition where they aren't in danger and can be active and somewhat healthy. Priority number two will be finding out how to completely erase the curse itself so that you can go back out into society."
"Makes sense," said Greg with a nod. "But...just tell us first if you're going to use either of us for testing a theory, okay?"
Snape stiffened, then nodded.
But he had a feeling that the only testing that would be happening from now on would be done by Harry himself.
Harry is the key...just keep that in mind, and you can do whatever you need to do, regardless of how you or they feel. Just keep that in mind, and you can make it to the finish line.
Harry settled himself by the large poplar tree in the back field with much dismay. Although it had rained that morning, and the weather was somewhat dark and cold, Blaise had opted to have their date outside out behind the school where the younger children would normally be playing, and what could Harry do but follow?
"Nobody will bother us out here. Except for the more stubborn ones..."
Those stubborn ones turned out to be Prudence, Lawrence and Romilda, who were all spying on the two of them from a safe distance.
But Harry didn't mind the attention at all. He was glad that his friends were keeping an eye on things.
"Lets be honest," said Blaise suddenly, coming around in front of Harry to block his view of the school and his 'chaperones'. "Neither of us are really interested in one another are we? But there aren't really that many gay boys in this school to date. Just a few. And I've dated them all already."
"I see," said Harry sullenly. "Then why did you ask me to date you?"
"So that I could be the first," Blaise answered, almost on cue. "The first boyfriend of Harry Potter. For however long it lasts."
"Not much of a thing to boast," Harry chuckled. "The first person I ever dated was a Patil twin. I can't remember which one."
"Doesn't matter," said Blaise. "I still have bragging rights to the gay side of things, even if its only over the small sortie of poofs here who might want to go out with you. Unless we stay together longer than I anticipate, then it'll extend out to the rest of my friends in the wizarding world."
"You have to win everything don't you?" Harry said, totally incensed. "Am I just another prize then? Just another victory for you?"
"Yes," said Blaise without any subtlety. "You're a famous guy, and a famous guy is always going to be a trophy to somebody. Might as well as be my trophy."
"Well excuse me then if I don't fancy you being my first kiss," Harry muttered, and stood as if to leave.
"Wait," said Blaise. "Are you actually angry? You do know that most people are only going to date you because you're Harry Potter? Famous Boy-Who-Lived? I mean, why did Cho Chang cry all over you for most of our fifth year? Because you were so famous and she worshiped you, but her ex-boyfriend was killed because of you. That must have hurt..."
Harry couldn't help it. He smacked Blaise...right on his missing nose.
"Ouch! Hey what was that for?"
"You can say whatever you like, but don't talk about Cedric!"
"Ouch, okay," said Blaise, rubbing his face ruefully. "Didn't know Diggory was such a sore spot. Not to be rude or insulting, but he wasn't the first boy crush, was he?"
Harry blinked, and jerked his head sideways.
"Um...maybe. I never thought about it that way."
"It would explain why your relationship with Chang was such a disaster from the off. But anyways, enough about that. Are you really going to not give me a kiss? This hasn't been much of a date."
"Well..." Harry sighed. "I suppose one kiss couldn't hurt. And since you like bragging rights so much you can be the first guy I kiss...though I don't know what good its gonna do you."
"Oh believe me, I'll enjoy it immensely!"
Harry nodded, then closed his eyes. A moment passed where he was feeling rather foolish, sitting there with his eyes closed. And then a pair of lips met his and he was suddenly feeling rather...happy. A wiggle worm feeling inside his stomach was making its way through his body and he kissed back with a feeling of warmth in his chest.
Yes...this is what I like...boys. Nice boys. Well Blaise isn't that nice, but he's not mean either. Well not mean, but maybe a little mischievous and...oh!
A loud voice was suddenly interrupting their kissing, a voice that was young and frightened. They broke apart in an instant, Blaise's dark eyes turning annoyed, then somewhat frightened at seeing Harry's friends running towards them with a young Leo Malfoy in tow.
"Harry Harry you have to come quick!" said Leo in fright, with the others on his heels.
"What is it?"
"Its Jonathan, something is wrong with him!" said Leo. "Julie started screaming, they made us all get out of the dorm and you weren't there to help! But Julie crawled into a closet and wouldn't leave the closet, and and and and..."
Leo started crying and Harry bent down to try to placate him. Blaise came between them suddenly and took Leo by the hand.
"I'll look after him Harry," said Blaise. "You go back with the others, Snape's going to need you."
"Harry," said Blaise, then kissed him quickly again. "We can always have another date."
"Right," said Harry, a little miffed that Blaise had misinterpreted it this way. "Lets go guys!"
What Harry found when he arrived at the dorm was Snape, bent down next to Jonathan's cot with his face in his hands. Clearly something was very wrong. A few adults were in the room talking in soft whispers, and Miss Madeleine was crying softly, being comforted by Mr Nibbs.
Oh... Harry thought with a slug punch feeling hitting him in the gut. Oh god no.
Mrs Figg was sitting near Snape, singing in a slow Gaelic melody, and her song was filling the room with its sad refrain. Brenda and Bill were crouched down near a closet, whispering gently.
"Come on Julie," Brenda was saying quietly. "Come on out, there's nothing you can do now."
"Not without Harry," said the tiny voice that came from the closet. "I want Harry."
Harry immediately went over to them, well aware that every eye was on him now, and Bill stood to his feet so that Harry could bend down where he had been sitting.
"Here I am Julie," he said. "Come on out now, its okay, we'll go downstairs, I'll even carry you so you won't need your chair."
Julie nodded and crawled slowly out of the closet, enough that Harry could pick her up into his arms and indeed carry her out of the room, followed close at hand by Brenda and Bill.
"We've got all the young ones in the old theater room downstairs, watching cartoons," said Brenda softly. "You can handle her?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine, and Blaise Zabini has Leo Malfoy."
"Good," said Brenda, looking rather pleased. "Where were you though? You were supposed to be napping."
"I...was on a date," said Harry with a blush.
Despite her tears, Julie managed a giggle.
"Blaise and Harry are sweethearts," she said secretively to Brenda, who smiled.
"Well that solves one problem I had."
"Whats that?" said Harry, looking annoyed.
"Where to room Blaise Zabini, since he's having trouble staying with the boys. He can stay with you in the children's dorms. I know you two won't get into any trouble with children around."
Harry turned bright pink and nodded.
"Believe me, I'll stay out of trouble. C'mon Julie, lets go see what silly show the other kids are watching."
Julie hiccuped and nodded, and Harry dutifully carried her downstairs, followed by Bill who was bringing along her wheelchair.
I'm never going to get used to this, thought Harry, wincing. Seeing other people die. Not knowing how to help, being desperate and powerless to stop it.
But he wasn't able to dwell in these thoughts for very long. As soon as Bill left Harry and Julie alone together, in the foyer outside the theater, Julie pulled on his hair.
"Ow, what Julie? What is it?"
The girl was wide eyed and frightened.
"Nobody else saw her," said Julie. "But I did. The Monster Under The Bed. She was under Jonnys bed and I saw her and screamed and she ran away. I chased her under the beds, into the closet, and she disappeared."
"What?" Harry said, feeling immediately that he believed the girl, no matter how childish the story sounded. "You saw something? Did you tell Brenda?"
"No," said Julie. "Nobody ever believes me. I see the Monster all the time. But nobody ever believes me. Ever."
Harry now had to second guess himself. Was Julie just pretending to see some monster, some figment of her imagination?
Even if she was, he couldn't let himself tell the girl that. Instead he put her into her wheelchair and got down at her level to look into her eyes.
"I believe you, and I'll tell Snape and Brenda exactly what you saw. Will you describe your monster to me?"
Julie nodded, and she started to cry, and when she had finally finished describing her monster, buried her face into her arms.
Harry was suddenly of the feeling that Julie couldn't possibly be using her imagination. She couldn't possibly have invented anything so horrific. The sheer description of it, from a child's perspective, filled his stomach with dread.
"She was all naked and dirty, and she had no skin on her, like her body was inside out, and you could see her insides. She scares me Harry! She scares me!"
Harry comforted Julie as best as he could, then took her into the theater to be with the other children, sitting with her through a few cartoons before he felt comfortable leaving her, for however briefly he would.
And then he went immediately in search of Snape. He didn't know why he felt that Snape would be the most trustworthy person to share this information with, but he knew he had to tell somebody.
And beyond it all, at the top of his head, Snape was the first person he thought of that he could trust.
It was like the sound of footsteps in his brain, reminding him of some unknown monster in the back of his head that wanted him to hate and to not trust, to remember pain and hatred and all the evils that had come between the two of them.
Then he realized that the footsteps were real, he were hearing them with his own ears! But when he turned around the footfalls, and their unknown creator, had vanished into the shadows like a ghost.
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
"Time of death?"
"One thirty pm, approximately, on Tuesday the fourth of October..."
Severus Snape put his fingers to his nose as the sounds of Brenda tapping away at her keyboard filled his brain. He dared not look at the small sad care laying on the examination table only a meter away. His heart was still to sore.
"Cause of death?"
Severus shook his head, and finally managed to pull himself up from his chair in order to go and cast a simple examination spell on the dead child. He shuddered slightly, then blinked.
"Well, according to this, heart attack."
"Heart attack?" Brenda jerked her head up. "Because of the brain damage...?"
"No, all the signs of heart failure are due to shock. In fact, the brain appears to have been healing. Ah mercy mercy!"
Brenda stared at him, and he shook his head.
"Whatever shocked him into that heart attack had to be serious."
A timid knock on the door immediately interrupted their conversation and Brenda stood to her feet.
"Who is it?"
"Its Harry Potter, can I come in?"
Brenda turned to look at Severus. He thought carefully for a moment if Harry would be up to the shock of seeing Jonathan lying there, then nodded. Brenda opened the door, and Harry carefully slipped into the room, looking thoughtful, and down at the floor.
"How can we help you Harry?"
"Well, its complicated. But, could I please talk to Pro...er...Snape alone first?"
Severus jerked his head up, completely not expecting this, but Brenda nodded.
"Yes, all right. I'll be just outside if you need me. I think I'm mostly finished this here."
Severus watched Brenda leave the room, feeling tense and tingly. Harry nodded, then turned to look at him. Their eyes stayed connected for a few moments and Severus had a strange idea he knew what Harry was going to say.
"I think I know how he died. Jonathan I mean."
"Oh really?" said Severus, raising an eyebrow.
Harry nodded, then turned to look at the boy on the table with a slight wince.
"Julie said she saw a monster under the bed. Which is something any normal child goes through, seeing things that shouldn't be there. But...she gave a very very accurate description of her monster, and its nothing a six year old should ever have seen."
Harry then began to relate to Severus the things he had been told by Julie.
"A monster loose in the school...Something that can cause one child to go into shock with just its presence, and another child to wake from deep sleep..."
"Sounds a lot like a juvenile Dementor to me," Harry said pointedly. "They start out rather human looking, and can't cause that bone chilling despair, but they do feed on the pleasant dreams of people, the younger the better. Adults wouldn't even notice it was here during the day since they only affect sleeping humans."
"By jove Harry, that's brilliant!" said Severus. "We'll have to start a search in the school right away. And I think I'll back Brenda's suggestion of putting Zabini in with you. Despite all his haughty arrogance he is an excellent dualist, so he'll be quite up to protecting the children with you."
"Comes with the territory I suppose," Harry thought sourly. "He has to win everything!"
Severus stared at Harry for a few moments. But the boy suddenly turned and moved in the direction of the child's body, a sorrowful line to his posture.
"But I can't be angry at him; its my fault," said Harry. "I should have been there to protect the children. But I was gallivanting around the yard with him and..."
"Harry," Severus said, seeing the tears creep up. "Its not your fault. These things happen, by accident or by rote. We all assumed that the children were perfectly safe under the wards of this school. Its as much our fault as any for not keeping a better guard."
Harry just shook his head, then turned to look down at the face of the boy. The folds of skin that covered his eyes under the flattened crown of his skull. The sleeping, almost alive posture. Harry stood a few moments looking at the child, as if he were thinking, then put his hand on the boy's chest.
"I'm sorry Jonny," Harry said gently, closing his eyes. "There's nothing I can do now."
Severus knew that Harry wasn't apologizing for the death of the boy, but for the curse that had led him here. It was one of those chips on Harry's shoulder that he would have to work on helping him get rid of.
"You were so small and helpless, and it was seeing you and the others that made me want to go back and fight Voldemort, made me figure out what power I have to fight him. Love. I haven't forgotten. I am going to find a way to fix this..."
Severus stared as the boy continued to talk to the boy this way, as if the child were still alive. And then he jerked as a soft golden light started to glow from Harry's hand where it touched the boy.
Magic? What in the world...?
Harry continued talking, his face seemed sweaty with a fever, and the glow started to move.
It also grew. It spread throughout the body of Jonathan quickly, moving down his arms and legs to their tips, up his neck passed his crumpled face to his crown.
The glow settled there, and Severus didn't dare breath. Harry was now talking about Quidditch and other nonsense things, the tears flowing from his eyes and a sad smile on his face as he talked, and the more he talked the stronger the glow became until it was so bright it blinded Severus and it must have leaked through the thin layer of Harry's eyelids at last for the youth stopped talking suddenly and stared..
The moment Harry's eyes had opened the glow started to dissipate. Slowly, tentatively, still actively moving around the body as it would before finally returning to the hand from whence it came.
Silence. Neither of them spoke or stirred. There was a great rushing sound of nothing filling their eyes, like a tension building of calm before a firestorm.
And then a small soft sound brought them out of their reverie. A cough so little and small it almost seemed like Severus was imagining it. And then a voice spoke and Severus lost his breath in all one go.
"Harry!" said Jonathan, grinning from ear to ear. "Why are you crying Harry! Oh look at that! I can see things! Did you do that Harry? Huh huh? Didja?"
Harry gave a great sobbing sound of delight and turned to looked at Severus, who had choked back his own exclamations as if afraid that speaking would burst the bubble of this dream and reverse all.
Their eyes met, Harry's were wet and pained, and full of some unknown longing in them that was almost too unbearable, and astonishment that seemed to be misplaced upon Severus himself. Severus suddenly knew why Harry was staring at him.
Tears. They were on his face. Severus reached his fingers up to his cheek to feel the dampness there. He was about to speak but Harry had already covered the distance between them to wrap him in a warm hug, a hug unlike any he had ever been given by a misguided student or associate.
It was purely for comfort this hug. Not knowing what else to do he wrapped Harry up in his arms and held him there, eyes damp and chest heaving with pain. Harry had his face buried into his shoulder, real waves of trust and comfort radiating from him into Severus, a trickle of legilimency he briefly lost control of in their intimacy.
"Why are you two crying?" a young voice interrupted. "I'm okay now! Hey my head isn't flat anymore! Wait'll Julie sees this! She'll totally flip!"
Severus chuckled, and so did Harry, and then they pulled apart awkwardly, suddenly realizing just how tightly they had been embracing.
"Well, I guess we'd better tell Brenda," said Severus. "Though she'll be annoyed now that she has to start her incident report all over from scratch I'm sure."
And they both laughed.
The next morning the school was abuzz with the news: Harry Potter had cured Jonathan, and brought him back to life!
The Four Magical Humors, Severus thought bemusedly as he walked Jamie down the hallway to the cafeteria. I really should have paid much more attention in my History of Magic classes.
In History Binns had taught them that early wizarding medicine was based upon four magical humors; sadness, laughter, anger and joy. That any or a combination of these emotions could have various effects when used in conjunction with magic and physical contact with the patient. Modern healers of course scoffed at old methods of medicine in favor of wand techniques and potions.
But now Severus decided that he was going to owl St Mungo's and Hogwarts for these old materials, even if he was going to have to get permission from the redoubtable Headmistress to use Hogwarts' books.
"But I don't get it," Harry had said that night, after Brenda had been brought in and much laughter and tears had been had. "I understand the healing bit, but how did I bring him back to life?"
"Well muggle medicine has shown instances of where someone has died, and then had their heart start up again through resuscitation and CPR," Brenda had hypothesized. "The magic must have given Jonny's heart a kick start!"
It was a bit bewildering, Severus had to admit. So many factors were now playing into this. How would Harry be able to use this new found skill of his for good? Was the sadness magic he used the previous night capable of working on others? Did Harry have to feel emotional closeness to the subject for his magic to have an effect?
Which is why the stiffening charms aren't working on Jamie properly! Severus thought with astonishment. Harry knows they cause him pain, and probably secretly liked Jamie being a living gummy boy!
Severus quickly deposited Jamie at a table, then went running to the infirmary in search of Harry, who was currently trying to reproduce what he had done the previous night on Julie. He found the young man bent down in front of Julie's chair with her legs in his hands, telling her a story about Little Red Riding Hood.
"Its useless sir," Harry muttered the moment Severus stepped foot in. "Nothing works. I don't know how I did what I did last night, but its not happening now."
Julie gave Severus a look that told him exactly what Harry had been trying, and sighed.
"You are trying too hard," Severus said. "Last night it was your emotion that did the healing, and right now your emotion is frustration."
Harry nodded, letting go of the girl's feet, and leaned back on the floor on his elbows.
"I need a break too. I didn't get much sleep last night."
Nobody had. Severus had sent for all the teachers and they had celebrated. Madeleine had surprised them all with a lemon meringue pie, of which Jonathan was given a generous first slice.
"I actually do have a subject to broach you about. Julie why don't you head out of the office where Brenda is. She'll help you get to the cafeteria for some breakfast."
Julie perked up at the mention of breakfast, then used her long curly legs to try and pull herself along. Most of the time other people would wheel her around, but Severus wanted her to be a bit more independent.
"She needs stiffer legs," Harry said morosely once she was gone. "She can get around more easily."
"Yes, and speaking of stiffness, I want to talk about the reason why Jamie isn't doing as well as he should be with those charms."
Harry jerked, and then blushingly listened to his appraisal of the situation.
"So I have to really want to help the person in order for it to work?"
"Yes, I do believe the emotion and intent are what are working together here," Severus said, and scratched his nose. "At least that is what I gathered from my memories of History of Magic. I won't know much more until I get the research materials sent. But until then it can't hurt for you to put some more healing intent into your stiffening charms. And try duplicating the charms without a wand since physical touch seems to have more of an impact then a wand."
"Really? I don't see how it makes a difference."
Clearly he was uncomfortable with the idea of touching people skin to skin.
"Remember when you untied Julie's legs? You had to touch her to do it, and you had better results then when I did the same with my wand."
Severus of course knew exactly why Harry was so nervous about this; neither of them had yet mentioned the hug they had shared. Like a buzzing fly it rested on the back of Severus's brain ready to take flight. They were keeping things ever so neutral between them, because they both knew in their minds that if Harry was going to heal Severus in any way they would have to touch again.
"I suppose then you could..."
"Sir! Sir!" a loud voice interrupted them and Severus turned just in time to see Leo Malfoy come into the infirmary, his long ears swinging. "Bill sent me to get you sir! There's a problem in the boy's dorms!"
"Oh?" Severus said, lifting his head. "What is it?"
"Its Zabini sir!" said the boy, sounding gruff. "He won't get out of bed! He absolutely refuses! He's burried himself under blankets and Bill's all worried and mad!"
Severus shook his head. Then got to his feet.
"Come on Harry, I have a feeling I know whats wrong."
The boys were all huddled around the outside of the room, all of them whispering and gossiping conspiratorially. Bill was looking extremely upset with them all, and had his hands in the air.
"Listen boys, you've all been doing no favors to anyone with your behavior! Don't you even think of starting to laugh Miller! I know you're part of the group who tied Julie's legs in a knot, don't even pretend you don't know."
"Bill what's going on," said Severus, noting the horrified look Harry was giving the young Lawrence.
"Something is wrong with Zabini's face, from what I gathered, and this lot started teasing him," Bill said. "Next thing I knew Zabini has himself buried under all the blankets and sheets he can grab. You think you can get him to come out of there so we can sort this all out?"
"Well, for starters, this lot can get down to breakfast, I'll have a talk with them later," said Severus, jerking his head at the boys in the hallway when they started to groan. "March!"
As soon as they were gone Harry slipped into the room, and Severus followed. A mountain of sheets and pillows were piled up in the middle of the room like a mole hill. Severus turned to look at Bill, and Harry approached the pile.
"Blaise?" said Harry. "Are you under there?"
"Yes," came the sniffling voice of Blaise. "Are those jerks gone now?"
"Yes they're gone, come out let us see."
A soft huff from under the blankets followed, and Blaise started to emerge.
It wasn't pretty. Blaise had a lump on his face where his nose would normally be. It stuck out and made him look a bit like a clown.
"Its horrible!" said Blaise in anguish, touching the bump with his fingers. "I must look dreadful! And they all started laughing."
"But don't you see?" said Harry, reaching out to touch the bump. "Your nose is growing back."
"Must have been from your kissing," said Bill with amusement. "If Harry's got the healing touch then a kiss just about does it I'm sure."
Blaise gave a sniffle as a reply and nodded his head. Severus looked between Harry and Blaise for a moment, amused.
"Kiss? Really? I didn't know your taste ran to Slytherins Potter..."
Both boys glared, and Severus felt his triumph curving on the smile on his face.
But in his chest he felt a heat like nothing he had ever felt before. Something was smoldering and burning within him, like a titan ready to kill. He wanted to take the Zabini boy and launch him into the next country never to return.
Instead he just smiled, turned, and walked out of the room in order to give the 'sweethearts' some private time alone. He passed Bill and the man gave a grateful smile.
"I have a feeling that we're going to be seeing more strange things as the day goes along," Bill admitted.
"Any sign of your quarry?" Severus said, wanting to turn the subject away from the kiss that Bill had mentioned.
"Yes and no," said Bill. "We haven't seen the creature, but we have seen sure signs of its existence. Whatever it is, it may or may not be human. But there is definitely something crawling through the ventilation system at night."
"This explains why food has been going missing...wait a moment..."
Severus suddenly turned, and ran into the direction of the cafeteria, where he found Brenda with all the other youngsters, who were listening excitedly to the silly stories of the newly cured Jonathan.
"Brenda, can I talk with you a moment?" he said, knowing that Bill was right behind him.
"Well, of course Severus..."
As soon as they were alone, Bill's expression practically passed the point of agitation, Severus started questioning her.
"Remember how you told me things had started going missing from the dormitory this week? What things have been going missing?"
"Oh I don't know, just some things. Clothes, mostly."
"What sort of clothes?"
"Well, Terry's old clothes for one thing. I brought them so he'd have something to shrink into once we cured him," said she, looking morose. "Some of the toys, mostly clothes though. An entire case of canned baby formula from the parent donation boxes...why?"
"An infant dementor is what," said Severus breathlessly. "Harry said that the creature Julie saw was female. She could be a dementor herself...or...?"
Bill caught on immediately.
"A woman," said Bill. "Dementors deposit their babies in human women. A permanently maintained source of soul matter and physical nourishment until the infant is ready to separate from her."
"It makes sense," said Brenda, biting her nail. "If a woman had a baby, but didn't know it was a Dementor, she'd been trying to raise it like any human baby. She might even grow to love it."
"Exactly," said Severus. "So now all we need to do is find the infant and its mother."
"Won't be easy," said Bill. "We've followed all the vent systems around and checked the basement, everywhere."
"Maybe she's somewhere else on the property," said Severus. "Meanwhile we need to put locks on the air vents to keep it from getting to the children..."
"Or," said Brenda, looking bemused and fervent all of a sudden. "We set a trap for it."
"The Halloween party we're planning this month," said Brenda smoothly. "With everyone in the gymnasium dancing, and the young ones all in bed, it'll be a perfect time for an intruder to go splunking the rest of the school for supplies."
"Ah!" said Severus laughing. "So we could go looking for the creature while everyone is dancing. Maybe use invisibility cloaks so it can't see us coming. I'll have Harry owl to Hermione Granger to send his if he's willing to lend it."
"Good idea," said Brenda smiling. "I was going to suggest obscuring charms. But while the children are all having fun we can invisibly search the empty school for the hostile party."
"So its agreed then?"
But Severus couldn't help the feelings of deep dread he felt as he walked down the hallway, and the very real sound of invisible feet seemed to be following along behind him.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
Halloween. A time of candy and costumes...and dancing.
The Halloween party for the younger children was taking place in one of the classrooms, where Miss Madeleine was currently supervising, doing Halloween arts and crafts with them.
Harry would have volunteered to help, but Blaise had insisted he come along as his date for the dance that the older kids were throwing in the gymnasium. Blaise, still self-conscious about his newly forming nose, had chosen an Egyptian mummy costume, wrapping his face in bandages and then a paper mache Anubis mask and a toga wrap.
It was a rather clever costume. Harry, defaulting to absolutely no creativity whatsoever, had chosen a sheet with a hole for his head to go through.
"Harry, we know ghosts don't really look like that!" Blaise had complained, as they entered the orange and black crepe paper decorated gymnasium.
"So? Nobody's gonna care."
It was even more embarrassing, since Julie and the other kids had signed their names on his sheet in crayola markers in order to give it some color. Jonathan had drawn a big mouse on his stomach, but due to the boy's very bad drawing skills it looked more like a...
"Blaise! Harry! Over here!" called Jamie. "By the punch bowl!"
Jamie was dressed in cape and fangs a la the vampire Dracula. He wasn't happy to be stiff again, but Harry had thoughtfully put more effort into his charm sessions with the boy and so Jamie could now walk on his own, and was now occupying the bed in the boy's dorm that Blaise had finally abandoned.
"You two gonna dance?" said Jamie as they started to wander around the room, appraising people's costumes and trying to guess who was who.
"Nuh," said Blaise. "In fact I might just watch. Why don't you two dance?"
"What?" said Jamie. "I'm not gay!"
"I'm not either," said a female voice coyly from behind. "You can dance with me."
It was Prudence. She was dressed as a gray tabby cat with a big pink bow on her head.
"Oh, hello Pru," said Jamie with embarrassment, looking down at her. "Wannadancemaybe?"
"I just asked you!" she laughed. "Come on!"
She grabbed him and pulled him awkwardly to the dance floor. Harry suddenly got the distinct impression that Jamie was no longer upset with being stiff again, now that he had girls to dance with.
"So do you want to dance?" said Harry, looking at Blaise and thinking he didn't want to dance at all.
"No," said Blaise. "In fact, I think I see some of my friends. Do you mind if I...?"
"Took off?" said Harry, feeling annoyed. "No, go for it. I may go up to the kids party and help out."
"Yeah," said Blaise. "Bye."
Harry stared at the boy as he nervously wandered away. Harry sighed, and then turned around.
And was suddenly poked in the stomach by somebody wearing a big trash bag.
"Dance?" came the hissingly soft female voice. "Dance?"
"I..." Harry was about to reject her, but he looked into her eyes.
He didn't recognize those eyes, and there was a strange smell coming from the girl. She was wearing a trash bag, and vaguely smelled somewhat like garbage too. She may not have been asked by anybody to dance for that very reason and he felt pity for her.
"I...okay," he said, wanting to be polite but not wanting to dance with her at all.
"Dance!" said the girl, and they were on the dance floor.
It was soon apparent how awkward this girl was with dancing. It was also becoming apparent to everybody how badly she smelled to everyone for the dancing couples were avoiding the two of them.
"I don't know you," said Harry, hoping to avert her attention from the fact that they were alone on the dance floor. "What's your name?"
"Mary," came the reply.
"Mary?" Harry whispered, as the music came to a stop and it was apparent that she was not going to stop dancing with him.
"Yes," she replied. "Yessss..."
Suddenly a loud voice shouted,
Harry jerked as the trash bag costume was pulled from his dancing partner and Mary had revealed herself in all her hideous glory.
A shriek rang through the hall at the sight of anyone so disgusting. Surely this had to be Julie's monster-under-the-bed. Surely this was who had nearly dealt death to young Jonathan. And now she was gripping Harry in vice like pincer fingers, eyes wild and hair tangled, and the smell was so pungent that Harry felt like he might vomit.
"Now Mary!" said Blaise Zabini. "DO IT!"
And then Mary kissed him. No, she wasn't kissing him...it was...
The dementor! Its trying to...to...
His mother's screams were filling his ear, a dying thrum of his father warning her to take Harry and run, and Lord Voldemort...the killing curse...
A large silvery snake patronus suddenly came between them, shoving Mary aside and setting Harry off balance.
"No don't hurt her!" said Blaise in an agonized voice. "Run Mary!"
She did. She shrieked and fled, jumping over the punch table and sending food flying across the floor. The students who had all been crowding the exit in panic now scattered as she headed straight for it, jumping over their ducked heads and fleeing in skittering motion down the hallway.
"Are you all right?" said a voice near him, as an invisible arm lifted him to his feet.
"Yes," said Harry, hearing the comforting sound of Severus Snape's voice. "Thanks."
"Not a problem," said Snape quietly. "Brenda and the others will be herding her off in another direction now. It'll be all right."
"Blaise said not to hurt her," said Harry. "Severus, it was Mary. Mary Kindle, the girl they all talk about."
"Easy Harry, you've had a nasty encounter," said Snape, reacting with a slight jerk to his name. "We'll take you to Brenda and have a look at you."
"They won't hurt her will they?" said Harry. "She needs help."
"Come along Harry."
Suddenly he was able to put two and two together. Why Zabini had wanted him at the dance at all and yet not wanted to dance. And the fact that Harry's kiss had brought back his nose...
He had wanted to cure Mary Kindle by kissing Harry. Only he must not have known she had a dementor's baby in her belly.
"Come on," said Harry suddenly. "We have to see if kissing me had any effect on her!"
"What?" said Snape, but soon they were both tearing down the hall, Snape's snake patronus gliding along the halls with them in search of the dementor.
"She went that way," said Brenda, pointing down the basement stairwell. "Into the basement."
"We've sealed off all the air vents and windows with spells," said Bill. "She can't get far. There's no escape."
"Brenda," said Snape. "Harry says the girl, the dementor's mother, its Mary Kindle."
"Oh Mary!" said Brenda. "How horrible! No wonder she ran away!"
"Lets not frighten her," said Harry suddenly as they slipped down into the basement. "She's probably just protecting her baby. It must have been Zabini's idea that if my kiss fixed his nose it might fix her."
"I see," said Snape. "But why was he hiding her all this time?"
"We'll have to find that out later," said Bill. "Lets find her first. Spread out."
They went in pairs in different directions. Brenda and Bill to the left hallway, Harry and Snape to the right, and Professor Nibbs with Mrs Figg down the middle. It was dark and spooky in the basement. The air seemed stifling with dust.
"Imagine, she's been living down here all this time," said Snape, sounding somewhat pitying.
A wave of vertigo suddenly hit Harry and he couldn't take another stop.
"Lets stop for a moment," he said. "Please. I'm tired."
"Oh right," said Snape, and helped him to a large pile of boxes to lean against. "You nearly had your soul kissed out of you."
"Too right. I feel like my brain has been sucked out through my nostrils."
"One second," said Snape, sounding amused. "I have some chocolate."
Harry felt a square of a sweet chewy Hershey bar being slid between his teeth. He sucked on it for a few moments, then looked up at Snape in thanks.
Their eyes met. The flickering lights of the loose bulb in the socket above them was causing shadows to dance around them. Snape's eyes were dark and penetrating as always. And yet a sparkle of something new was there. Something needy and possessive, a deep intense hunger was throbbing in his eyes. Snape was breathing deeply through his nose, giving no sign at that moment of hesitation or restraint. He wasn't even bothering to hide his obvious attraction.
At once a pair of lips were on Harry's and his breath hitched in his chest. Deep, throbbing, a thousand times more intense then the kiss of Blaise, he felt as if his soul was very pointedly being caressed by Snape's exploratory tongue. It melted the chocolate in Harry's mouth, spreading the sweet flavor between them. Fires were being lit in Harry's brain as the kiss was dragged on past the point of no return.
Harry came out of the kiss gasping for air like a fish for water. Snape leaned over him panting, breathing deeply before pressing his face into Harry's hair to whisper softly to him.
"I...have hardly been able to control myself," he said, as way of awkward explanation. "I have felt closer to you then I ever have another...Who else knows me better? It may be sentimental, but I fancy you Harry Potter. I rather do."
"Snape...Severus," Harry murmured. "Mmm. I think, its the same with me. You know me just about as much as Hermione or Ron, or more. You know my pain. My loneliness. You understand. So maybe I fancy you to."
They stayed there, leaning against the boxes for a moment, just resting in the presence of one another. Comfort like neither of them had ever felt, just being able to tell somebody they cared for them.
It was in this quiet pause that they both heard it. A shuffle. Behind the boxes they were leaning on.
Both of them stood up, and not daring to breath walked around the pile of boxes, Snape with his wand drawn, his other hand clutched to Harry's.
"Is anybody there?"
Nothing. There was a gap between the boxes and the wall, and Harry could just make a door behind the boxes, slightly ajar. Snape's snake patronus slid behind the boxes pointedly and after a few moments a female voice started crying.
"No no! G'way!"
Harry jerked, then pulled free of Snape and slipped in the gap behind the boxes. Snape started pushing the boxes away as best as he could so he could slide in too, and soon Harry had slid inside the door.
Chaos. A world of stolen toys and hastily piled laundry, old rotten banana peels and food wrappers. An empty carton of milk, spoiled and stained lay on the ground. The smell was absolutely overpowering and Harry covered his nose.
And there, backed up against the wall on a cot in the corner, was Mary Kindle, being held at bay by the patronus.
It was obvious the patronus caused her pain, or rather, the dementor infant that was attached to her body on her belly. It was a rotted and congealing thing and the miserable muggle girl was doing her best to protect her stomach from the snake.
She couldn't see it. Muggles couldn't see dementors. She only knew she was pregnant, her belly swollen, and she was being attacked by a silver snake!
"Mary! Mary!" said Harry gently. "Mary Kindle! Its all right! You're safe!"
She jerked and looked up at Harry, frightened.
"Don't be afraid Mary. I'm going to help you," he said. "I'll take you to a doctor. You and your baby will be all right. Come on Mary, come on out."
The snake backed away slowly. Snape now stood in the doorway, wand at the ready. Mary looked at him, then at Harry, and started crying, collapsing on the bed in a ball of sorrow.
"Mary," said Harry. "Come on now."
"No Harry. She's scared," said Snape. "I'll get Brenda. Stay here with her. I'll leave my patronus with you in case she tries to kiss you again."
"She won't," said Harry, looking at the curled up and crying form of Mary. "She understands now. She understands we're here to help."
"Hep me," she whispered, looking at Harry with wide desperate eyes. "Peees hep me. Peees."
"Yes yes," said Harry, and he went over to her and lifted her to hold her, ignoring the horrid smell and just comforting the poor girl. "I'll help you."
A soft glow filled the room. Snape breathed a deep breath and when the glow dissipated they both knew...
Harry had helped her, the only way he could; with magic, and the magic had done the rest of the work. The dementor baby was now a normal human baby inside a normal human stomach.
And Mary's eyes were smiling. She knew now that she was going to be okay, and she hugged Harry tight.
"Thank you. We fwends now."
"Yes thats right," said Harry, knowing it was now the truth. "Friends."
-Yay! A chappy! :) I liked writing this. No, I haven't forgotten Voldemort or the rest of the wizard world. I am going to be dealing with that eventually. My point in this story is to more concentrate on the disease and the people who have to battle with it and I think I've been able to do that so far.
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
- All chapters have been re-proof read. It seems every time I read through them I find some new error to correct. Good thing I use google docs now. And I'm glad to be writing again. I know I'm just going to exhaust myself during NaNoWriMo and have no time or energy afterward to want to write anything, so maybe I can get some fanfiction in before the big event on November 1st! Also, we're going to learn a lot more about this disease in the next chapter. Not too long now until this fic is finished, but we'll see. It may be much longer than I indended!
"You're getting rather well practiced in using this sympathetic magic Harry, if you can change the magical nature of a baby in the womb," said Brenda as she typed in Mary Kindle's report into the computer. "But we aren't going to put the dementor baby in the report."
"What?" said Severus, looking up from where Mary lay sleeping at his examination station. "Why not?"
"Imagine what the ministry would do," Harry said, beating Brenda to the punch. "If they locked us up just for being sick, imagine what they would do to a baby dementor!"
"It's still racially a dementor," Brenda admitted sadly. "but Harry altered him so that the human race of his mother takes precedence. Thus the baby doesn't require sucking his mother's life force from within the womb. He may never develop enough dementor abilities to Kiss anybody either. He'll be for all intents and purposes human, with a bit of gloominess about him wherever he goes."
"Still, that was a clever trick," said Severus said, looking softly at the sleeping girl. "It deserves some credit. It saved Mary Kindle needing an abortion."
"And now I have to ask the two of you a question," said Brenda, looking up from her computer with a faint flush to her cheeks. "Did either of you feel, well, rather amorous in the basement tonight?"
"What?" said Severus, looking alarmed. "Why, uh, what do you mean?"
"I mean," said Brenda. "That last night Mrs Figg and Mr Nibbs found themselves distracted by something other than the dementor and its mother. And it was all I could do to keep Bill off of me, both of us being married to other people. There's something funny about the basement...some sort of magic."
"Oh Salazar," said Severus, covering his face. "You mean we really weren't, I mean, attracted to, each other?"
Brenda looked up impishly.
"Well, maybe you two were and the magic simply encouraged you. But with teenage wizards around I've learned that magic can be used in a room to heighten the attraction of the male or female partner, and sometimes they forget to remove the charms."
"Oh Merlin," said Harry, red faced. "That sounds just like something they'd do. The basement is the perfect make out place, so closed off as it is."
"Well, we'd better double check," said Severus, "No Brenda, I'll go alone. So we don't do any anything we'll both regret."
He left, and Harry looked down at his hands, sorrow on his face.
"Oh Harry," said Brenda. "I'm sorry. I'm sure he won't use this as an excuse not to continue..."
"No, he will, if I know him well enough," said Harry. "I really thought, I mean, he said last night he hadn't been able to control himself. If he was lying...But he couldn't have been. So maybe it just encouraged us like you said. I don't know, I mean, the only other guy I've only kissed is Zabini. Kind of new with this gay thing really and I never thought I could be attracted to Snape...Severus."
"Imagine poor Severus," said Brenda sadly. "He probably feels like a sexual predator or a pedophile with his attraction to a 17 year old. But you are legally over the age of consent, he has nothing to worry about."
"No, its not that," Harry stood up. "I don't think Severus is well...any more experienced than I am. He probably has no idea what feelings are real or fake."
"Only one way to figure it out then," said Brenda, "Talk to him, alone, someplace that isn't magically enhanced in some way. See if there's still a spark like the one you had last night."
"Yeah," Harry sighed. "I'll try."
"And I shall finish this paperwork. Poor Mary," she turned to look over at the sleeping girl. "She's been so convinced of so much misery for so long, how will she ever find human happiness again?"
"Well, I think Blaise might be a friend to her," said Harry. "But considering that he was hiding her down in the basement doesn't bode well for their friendship."
"She has a friend in you Harry," said Brenda pointedly. "Maybe you could look after her too?"
"Julie, Jamie, Mary, Jonathan, and all the small kids, I'm gonna be a teacher soon and I haven't even graduated school!"
"Well," said Brenda, shrugging. "Nibbs says you're pretty adept in all the classes you've taken. Maybe you should take the high school equivalency test. The muggle one."
"Really?" said Harry, crossing his arms. "I thought being in a magical school for so long that I'd lost out on any kind of muggle education. You think I should take the test?"
"We can all help you study for it. If you take the test and pass you won't need to go to classes at all and I can make you an assistant full time to help with the little ones. What do you think?"
Harry paused, and put a finger to his chin.
"Deal! I'll tell Severus when I see him."
"Good. And Harry? Talk to him. I'm sure you'll see eye to eye on your feelings. Severus is a bold man and goes after what he wants, even if he does tend to close his emotions."
Harry chuckled at the thought of Severus at the brash hero on the cover of some steamy romance novel. Then he found himself wandering the hall in a happy daze, thoroughly distracted by this thought.
By mid-morning the next day, Harry hadn't had a chance to speak to Severus. He had spent a lot of time trying to answer the students' questions about Mary Kindle, especially the muggle girls who had been her friends, and telling them it was safe to visit her and to not be frightened, she was healed now of her curse, if rather weak still from it, and that she was pregnant. Friendship was needed for her now. He could tell the girls were still afraid even after his talk, especially after seeing Mary the way she had been last night.
And then there was the other frightening aspect, that which associated the terror of Mary Kindle with Blaise Zabini, a wizard, who was being ostracized by the muggles for keeping Mary locked up in the basement like a pet. Magic was now a scary thing to them, whereas before this curse had been rather amusing. At least to the older kids; it had been the youngest kids who had taken it more seriously.
Harry wasn't sure what to think of this, but he did find Blaise crying in the bathroom, and took him pointedly to Miss Madeleine for councelling. There was no point in blaming anybody for anything anymore, the important thing was to find the cure and cooperate. But he was sure the muggle kids didn't see that. They now associated magic with poor Mary's plight, and were avoiding the wizard kids like the plague.
I'll probably have to council the wizard kids on how to handle muggle prejudice. I have too much experience in that area.
It was about lunchtime, and Harry still had not found the suspiciously missing Severus, when the man's voice came on the school speakers and announced to all the students that Love Madness was effecting the school and that all students of opposite genders would henceforth be quarantined until a proper antidote to the illness could be found.
"In particular, dark rooms seem to trigger the Love Madness, so all the school lighting will henceforth be kept turned on at a level still comfortable for sleep."
Harry ran towards the school office just in time to see Mary being escorted towards the new quarantine section of the school they were setting up for the girls. She looked so much more healthier now that Harry almost didn't recognize her. And she was with Prudence and a couple other muggle girls.
Good, thought Harry firmly as he entered the offices. They'll help her recover, and give that half-dementor baby a source of kind emotions other than his mother. It won't drain her so much, and it will barely effect the girls, they'll just thing that they're a little depressed for some reason or another. Though, I should ask Brenda about how having a baby-dementor around will effect people's emotions.
He found Severus still in the speaker room, the former principal's office, and he was sitting at the desk with the microphone with his face in his hands.
"What's Love Madness?" Harry asked, as soon as Severus realized he was there.
"Its a standard magical illness that occurs mostly to adolescents, magical or muggle, but can affect adults too," Severus answered, not looking at Harry. "It spreads by way of touching contaminated surfaces and people," Severus finally looked up at Harry pointedly. "Mary Kindle must have had the sickness and spread it around the basement, and that was how our group were affected. I've given all the staff instructions to clean all surfaces and to wear gloves and long sleeves so as not to touch anybody else skin to skin."
Severus was in his full Snape robes, with white gloves on, and looking not the least bit happy as he passed Harry a set of gloves.
"Oh," said Harry, putting the gloves on. "So uh..."
"Potter," said Severus, pointedly using Harry's last night. "Don't think about it. Its pointless for us to explore what happened last night."
"But, we have feelings, real feelings! Not just this Love Madness!"
"I'm a criminal," said Severus, hard and fierce. "The minute I leave this quarantine station, do you think the Ministry will let me go free? No, they'll keep me on a leash, or put me into Azkaban, which means I'll have to escape or run away somehow. It would never work out between us, you having a hidden lover, always having to pretend you're single..."
Could a relationship between them work out? In his mind Harry had been thinking of his sensual feelings, his new found infatuation was deep and needy, very sexual. But could it ever be anything long term?
"No," said Harry glumly. "You're right. It couldn't work out."
Severus nodded firmly, but Harry grabbed his sleeve as he tried to pass him to leave the room.
"But I'm still attracted to you. I know you are attracted to me. There's no hope for a romantic relationship, but..."
"But a physical one?" said Severus, raising an eyebrow archly. "Hm, I shall have to think about that...but it is an entertaining notion."
He bent down and kissed Harry, testingly. When they didn't start tearing off each others clothes they knew they were still somewhat in control, despite the Madness. Not that they didn't want to tear each others clothes off, they simply knew that they could control it.
"We're going to have to behave ourselves," said Severus with a dark hungry look. "If we can't make a good example for the students then I fear we'll have an epidemic on our hands."
"Add to the fact that its November, they'll all be holed up inside out of the snow keeping their hands off each other. While you and me, on the other hand..."
Severus cackled, and bent down to kiss Harry again.
"Mm, warm lips, a warm body to curl up with. I think I like that idea."
"You can help me study for my test, Professor," said Harry huskily, and he explained quickly Brenda's high school test plan to Severus as he unbuttoned his collar.
"Mmm hmm, that sounds like a good idea..."
Suddenly, without so much as a knock, Brenda flew into the room, causing both men to jerk apart in opposite directions. She flew passed them, grabbed the microphone off the speaker desk and pulled on it until the plug came flying out of its socket.
Harry turned beat red understanding immediately what had happened. Severus on the other hand turned pale as a sheet. Brenda, red with embarrassment for her intrusion, and huffing from having run all the way from her office, smiled.
"We all make mistakes," she said. "But I have a feeling that one of you will have to stay in the girl's section of the quarantine for the duration if Nibbs has anything to say about it."
Harry frowned at her and Severus protested and in the end she conceded the point. They could stay together only if they promised to study.
And to babysit the first through fourth graders, who were as of the time being unaffected by the madness.
"Damn!" said Severus as she left the room. "Thats as good as putting a matronly old chaperone in the room with us!"
Harry chuckled then moved over to kiss Severus on the cheek.
"She can't keep us in the room with them twenty-four seven," said Harry. "I have the personal understanding that there's many nooks and crannies in this school we can escape into to have fun."
And they kissed again, deeply and with much heat. It was a good five minutes of necking later before they managed to untangle themselves enough to go face the world again, buttoning up their shirts and remembering to brush back their hair. Sex would have to wait...for now.
Severus and Harry didn't get another chance to be alone together for many more hours as the quarantining of many angry, hormonally crazed teenagers, of which the muggles didn't want to be mixed in with the wizards, kept them distracted for the better part of two days.
And when they finally managed to end up in the same room alone together it was for a totally unexpected and unwelcome sorrow.
Severus woke from where he had collapsed on his cot the night before, cursing himself for not thinking to put a quarantine spell on the teacher bathrooms the day before after having to pointedly separate an amorous Nibbs from an exhausted Mrs Figg, who had been trying to get away from his attentions for days. He had then collapsed into the cot next to Harry in the children's room, Zabini on the other side of him, and hadn't even bothered to change into pajamas, nor try to convince Blaise to watch the children so that he and Harry could sneak away.
The teasing looks of the children who had all overheard their exchange on the speakers was more than enough to quell any amorous intentions between the pair. So this morning, as he stretched out, feeling the aches and pains of the previous day, he was not surprised to find that Harry had already dressed and left with the children for breakfast, Zabini too, leaving him to rest. That had managed to sleep through the chaos that had to be getting small children dressed for the day was a small miracle.
"Better get to it Severus," he said to himself, rose, and decided to take the long way to the ICU. "You're late and you have potions to brew."
He was feeling apprehension and dread as he approached the room where the intensive care kids were. He knew that Jamie wasn't there anymore, and was probably with his brother in the cafeteria helping feed and entertain the hungry youngsters. It wasn't a school day and Severus knew they would all be bored out of their skulls with not being allowed to go out into the snow and play.
He slipped on his work robes, slid into the infirmary office to grab his notebook and his medical supplies, and snuck down to the ICU, wondering if perhaps the pair sleeping in there were still asleep, or if they were ready for breakfast.
A soft crying sound could be heard, barely, from the door. He cursed the heavy muggle soundproofing on this building, designed to quell any sound from straying outside of these offices to the students, and opened the door.
Severus stopped in the threshold and stared in horror. Bethy Ann McCormick was in bed, crying her heart out whilst trying pointedly not to look at the puddle of melted flesh and bone on the floor that had once been Gregory Goyle.
"He tried to stand up," the girl cried upon spotting Severus. "He tried to get off the bed, he said he'd felt strong enough, that he'd lost enough weight, and then...he was so happy! Then he just melted!"
Horror and revulsion spread through Severus as the girl started to bawl her eyes out. Terror and pain of loss, all these emotions at once threatened to sweep his feet out from under him. But before he could submit to them he remembered the girl, and horrified that she had been in the room with this body moved her at once. He hadn't thought to put emergency spells or something of a muggle nature in the room so that she or Gregory could contact him. She might have been hours in the room with nobody checking on them. Hurt and guilt filled his chest as he carried the girl directly to Brenda's room, pounding on the door and screaming for her to wake up.
But she wasn't there, and she usually locked her door to keep the older children from taking her test notes or money, so he couldn't get inside. And having no strength left to keep himself from it he collapsed onto the ground weeping.
Brenda arrived at her room with Bill, to the dubious sight of Severus sitting outside it, with Bethy in his arms, like a little boy holding a baby doll. The two of them were shaking and crying, and it was Bethy who told them what happened. Bill shook his head miserably and Brenda put a hand on his shoulder. Severus was in shock, too horror stricken even to speak. Brenda would have to deal with this herself. She sent for Harry immediately, had Mrs Figg take Bethy somewhere else, then sent for Mister Nibbs to take Severus someplace private. She then went to the ICU with Bill to deal with the remains of poor Gregory. There were no life signs in the puddle of flesh, and when Harry Potter arrived he set to work trying his sympathetic magic, no revulsion of any kind in his eyes at touching the fleshy ruin that had been Gregory Goyle.
He has seen too many horrors in his life, Brenda decided. He's too accustomed to disaster.
But there was no body left for Gregory to come back to, as there had been with Jonathan. And no way to putting him back together again in this form. He was irreversibly dead.
"This is terrible," said Brenda, covering her face. "We all had a duty to Gregory and Bethy Ann, and we left them alone all day and all last night while we had to deal with some teenagers and their raging hormones."
"There wasn't anything we could have done, Brenda," said Bill gently. "We didn't know what walking would do to his unstable condition. We might have even encouraged him to get out of bed!"
"You're right, I'm just frustrated. And frustrated that Bethy was alone with him in this state for so long, and angry that Severus had to be the one to find them that way..."
Bill took her into his arms, allowing her to cry, and then stood to his feet.
"I'll deal with the body, you contact young Goyle's relatives, what relatives he has on the legal side of the law, and we'll let Harry deal with Severus.
"Me? Oh...OH! Okay," said Harry, flummoxed completely.
Brenda had almost forgotten that he was there. She smiled sadly at him, the first smile she had given anyone since discovering Severus at her door. Then she sent him off in the direction of Severus Snape and she picked up the office phone that was directly connected to the Ministry of Magic.
This was not going to be easy to explain. But she hoped that Gregory's Grandparents would be forgiving in nature. This wasn't a hospital, and that they didn't have the equipment to monitor all the children all at once the way a hospital would was not their fault.
But the fact that Bethy Ann had been awake with the body half the night and nobody had known about it was a sour and painful thing to think about, and she kept these thoughts bitterly in her chest as she dialed the number.
Severus seemed to have drawn into himself, from what Harry could tell. Nibbs had taken him to an isolated room away from the infirmary, while Mrs Figg had seen to it that Bethy was sharing a room with Mary and the other older girls, so that they could take care of her. Mary had wanted practice in caring for a baby for when hers arrives, and Bethy was half a baby and more than willing to volunteer to play 'doll' so Mrs Figg was willing to let Mary give it a try. Bethy's requirements were very similar to a baby's, the only difference was that she could talk, instead of cry, and she could choose which sort of baby food was fed to her or which bottle she wanted to drink from. She liked the one with the kittens.
Harry shook his head of these thoughts as he sat next to the weeping Severus, talking to him about everything good he knew about Goyle. His knowledge was limited to Quidditch. But then Severus interrupted to share memories of his own. The memories of a foster father that Severus had become to all the Slytherins who had needed a source of friendship they hadn't gotten from their own parents.
Memories of Goyle learning how to read, admitting to Snape in his second year that he cheated on tests with Malfoy's help; he was illiterate. Severus patiently worked with Goyle every night to try and improve his writing skills, and gave Malfoy the go ahead to do quill dictation of Goyle's homework for him, and help him study for tests, though he did not allow the cheating any longer.
He always failed the tests, but Severus had ignored the worst of his test scores when deciding his final grade in potions. Goyle, it turned out, hadn't enjoyed Potions much anyways, he just needed the passing marks so that he didn't have to repeat a grade.
It was in practical work in his classes that he had the most success. It turned out that he had really loved Care of Magical creatures, and since Hagrid rarely gave written tests he had passed that class with flying colors.
He had been a bit of a joker. He had that James/Sirius mischief about him, but without going overboard the way they would. More his jokes were like the Weasleys with sneezing powders in the shower heads and sticky charms on the sheets.
None of this was ever seen outside of his House. Goyle had very much had a great deal of House pride, and only played pranks on people he cared about.
"His last real words to me were, 'You're doing great sir,'" Severus sniffed. "Great. If I was doing so great, he'd still be here. He'd still be here!"
Harry shook his head, and wrapped his arms around Severus to hold him. To hell with their decision to keep neutral. Severus needed emotional comfort.
He was stopped short of taking advantage of their fragile emotions when Brenda came into the room looking sad and concerned.
"The Goyles are on their way here, Severus," she said quietly. "We told them that there was nothing identifiable left of the body, and that they should spare themselves the pain, but they wanted to see you, so they're using the excuse of having to identify the body for the Ministry. Oh Severus!"
"I'll be right down," said Severus pointedly. "I think I know why they want to see me."
"Severus," said Harry, as soon as Brenda left. "Are you really up to this?"
"Yes, I think so," said Severus, rubbing his face. "Losing that boy has hit me hard, no doubt. I want to find Crabbe and Malfoy and the other Slytherins and hug them. The urge to do so is horrible."
"Well, there are Slytherins here you can hug," said Harry gently. "I don't know how close Parkinson or Zabini were to Goyle, but they could use friends right now regardless...the wizard students are being so rejected right now. Its sad, but maybe now the muggles will start feeling less adverse to wizards, that they can see how badly we're affected by this too."
"Hm, you're right about that, as horrible as it is. People might stop fighting and realize that we're in this together. People will be comforting each other now, and hopefully we can prevent anymore kids from being forgotten in the rush of trying to take care of them all," his breath hitched, his eyes water a bit, probably thinking of poor Bethy Ann who had witnessed the horror of Goyle's death. "But first...Gregory's family."
Severus went to console Goyle's Grandparents at the gate as soon as they arrived, and they willingly embraced him despite the blue glowing quarantine charms they were wearing.
Harry had the dubious pleasure of overhearing Grandfather Goyle say, in a most humble voice,
"I suppose I no longer have any excuse to stay in retirement, Severus. Gregory is gone but I still have a granddaughter in Bulgaria and a niece I haven't heard from in awhile and her children, as well as my own belligerent son. I still have family that could be effected by this..."
"Preston," said his wife softly, her gray curls limp and haggard from her mourning. "Does this mean...?"
"Yes," said Grandfather Goyle. "I shall go put in for volunteer placement at St Mungo's or with whoever is working on a cure to fix this."
"You're looking at him," Severus said, red eyed. "Though my attempts have been less successful than Harry Potter's. Perhaps you can find a way to put magical sympathies into potion format, though if you work here you'll have to take off the quarantine charm I'm afraid. But my formula for trying to make a potions form of the magical humors has hit a bit of a snag. Maybe you'd have better luck with fixing it."
"Perhaps I will," said Grandfather Goyle, sounding suspiciously confident. "Perhaps I will."
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
Severus Snape was flying towards the cafeteria at a dead run, vials in his arms and a winded Grandfather Goyle fumbling along behind him.
"Now see here Snape, its too dangerous to test this potions on the students yet..."
"I'm just bringing them as a precaution, so we won't lost another student."
"Not with all those charms they've put down in every inch of the school," said Goyle. "Saved that Zabini lad...we got to him on time just fine..."
Blaise Zabini had locked himself in the bathroom, not willing to come out, offended an angry at the loss of his boyfriend to his former Head of House and painfully hurt by Mary Kindle's sudden rejection of him and wizards in general. By the time they had found him he had nearly bled to death from his wounds.
"I just don't want to leave any doors closed!"
Severus ignored him and flung himself down the hallways. The cafeteria doors flew open before him and Severus pushed the vials into Goyle's hands before rushing over to the group of students huddled over a curled and twisted body...a student, suddenly quite recognizable.
Harry Potter's face was ghostly white, and he was clinging to his godbrother's hand as it it were a lifeline. Severus could feel the magic draining from Harry, keeping the other youth alive. Suddenly the youth began to cough, black bile coming out of his throat, and Severus swore again.
"I warned you what would happen James Sirius Black, I warned you," Severus swore as he quickly got to work with charms, trying to put Jamie back into the right shape. "I warned you if you removed those charms you could damage yourself!
"Sorry...wanted to see...if I still could...be rubber..."
"Which was stupid," said Severus with a scowl. "With all the stiffening charms and magic...you should have known you wouldn't be able to shift back!"
"Hurry!" Harry said morosely. "My sympathy magic is barely doing anything!"
"Thats because this isn't the curse causing it, his lung is twisted and bleeding. Goyle, the anti-coagulant."
A few potions later and the young Black was breathing properly again, and gripping his brother's hand tightly as Severus worked to untie the knot his body was in and put him back into shape. It was harder this time because of all the magic they had already used to try and stiffen him had taken effect.
"Sorry...Sir...just...wanted one more...show..."
"Just like your father!" Severus hissed angrily. "Of course!"
"I wish you would stop saying that about us!" Harry shouted at Snape. "I'm pretty sure you've probably got some of your dad's traits in you! And everybody else! You don't have to use that as a weapon against us!"
Severus glowered at Harry.
"Lad has a point," said the elder Goyle, conjuring a stretcher. "And we should get back to those potions as soon as possible. The sooner we have a solution that works without side effects the sooner these kids can get back to normal...shape."
No doubt. Jamie was finally unstuck from his former knotty shape and was crying.
"I just," the boy whimpered. "Finally had a magic power of my own...I was finally special. I didn't want to lose that. Its not fair!"
Severus jerked his head and looked at the boy. He could see the real hurt and pain in the lad's eyes. Harry looked like he would messily murder anyone who belittled his brother's tears.
"Jamie," Severus got down and took the boy's hands. "Being special doesn't come from a magic power or ability. I have all the magic power any man could want and there are things I still can't do. True power comes from believing in who you are, and trusting in your own self. Its about whats inside, its about your strengths. You have many talents I lack. Music, sports...friends. Don't...don't ignore your own personal strengths trying to be something you are not."
Jamie didn't look convinced. He looked crushed and pained.
"My father left me with nothing. And gave everything to the wizard son. You can't say the magic doesn't count. That's why we're all here, because wizards don't like us muggles."
Severus wasn't sure what to say to that. He didn't have to.
"If wizards didn't like muggles, we wouldn't be helping them," said Grandfather Goyle. "The minority of us do hate muggles, and they are the cause of this. But the majority of us don't think the way they do. We can never go back to the days when wizards were a secret to muggles. And quite frankly I'm glad. It means we can share our talents and abilities with each other. I have no idea how to use a fellytone, or was a fellovision is, and you probably have never seen a real unicorn or dragon. So we have things to share, its a new world."
Jamie stared up at the elder Goyle. It would have to do. It didn't satisfy the boy one ounce, but he had calmed down enough to a point where he would let them carry him out of the cafeteria on the stretcher. Severus breathed a sigh of relief and bundled up all the vials of potions they had brought.
"See, there was no need for those," said Goyle as they walked along after the stretcher.
"Not yet anyways," said Severus. "Harry...is that your owl?"
Harry jerked his head up in time to see Hedwig soar towards them. He reached up to catch the falling letter she dropped as she soared out another window. From what Severus understood, Hedwig had become the regular mail carrier between the Order and Harry, and he was getting updates on the search for the horcruxes by his friends Ronalds and Hermione.
This letter was another matter entirely.
"Oh...my...god..." said Harry.
Goyle nodded at Severus, silently indicating he would take the Black boy to the infirmary alone, and Severus turned to look at Harry, who was staring at the paper in horror.
"What is it?" said Severus.
Harry looked up at him with a face that was filled with fear, dread and anger. A silent ghostly breath escaped him.
"Remus Lupin has the sickness...and tonight is the full moon. They're bringing him here."
"WHAT?" Severus reached for the paper. "Surely they must realize that we have nowhere to put a werewolf."
"It doesn't matter. Hermione says she barely had the chance to send off a letter to me. He's on his way now!"
"Damn! Has the Ministry lost their minds!"
"There's more," said Harry, swallowing. "Between the lines, in writing only I can read."
Severus looked back at the paper. There was nothing there that he could see so he looked at Harry for explanation.
Harry's face was crushed, hurt, and betrayed. Severus waited patiently.
"They're sending Remus here to kill me," said Harry. "I'm a horcrux."
Nightfall. It was almost time for Remus Lupin's transformation. The only problem was, the werewolf in question wasn't there yet.
"We've manage to isolate the entire basement and seal all the exits," said Bill. "Remus will have a comfortable place to make his change."
They were all of them sitting in the cafeteria, waiting for the gate bell to ring. Bill and his wife Fleur were sitting together, followed by Mr Nibbs, Mrs Figg, Miss Madeleine, Brenda Wood, Mr and Mrs Goyle, Severus and then Harry. They all had pensive looks on their faces as they waited, knowing that just above them there were children sleeping, unaware of the danger to them.
"He won't have the benefit of wolfsbane," said Brenda pointedly. "It probably interferes with the curse..."
"Or doesn't have any effect because of it," said Severus. "Where are they? Did they change their minds?"
"Maybe," said Harry, looking pale and sick from the trouble filled day he'd had. "Or maybe they are waiting until the last minute...until he's ready to transform, before dropping him off inside the gates..."
"You mean...to keep us from having time to lock him up?" said Brenda nervously.
"We thought of that," said Bill firmly. "Thats why I sealed all the outside doorways but the front entrance. And if we post a guard there, and he comes and he's transformed, we can immediately seal that doorway too."
"I want to move all the children from downstairs up to the second floor just in case," said Brenda immediately.
"I vill help," said Fleur.
"Me too," said Mrs Figg, and she was quickly followed by Miss Madeleine.
As soon as the women had left, Severus chuckled.
"They flock to the children like mother hens..."
"Good," said Mrs Goyle, still sitting firmly next to her husband. "Other than Mrs Weasley the rest are not magical and should not be involved. No offense Mister Nibbs."
"None taken. But I do hope that I can be of some help here with this problem despite not being a wizard."
"Certainly," said Severus. "We'll need somebody to stand guard on the stairwell between the second and first floor. Why are all the floors connected by one stairway, honestly?"
"Because its convenient in a non-magical school to have quick access to all exits," said Nibbs. "Not so convenient in a situation like this."
"What's the risk that Remus might not even come into the school? What are the chances that he'll escape into the muggle neighborhood instead?
"High," said Severus morosely. "That fence is just a short leap from freedom for a werewolf."
"Then...we'd have to lure him into the basement," said Nibbs, looking frightened. "How?"
"If we make a closed corridor between the front door to the basement stairs..."
"Then we could lure him down there, and close it off behind him," Bill finished.
"Well," said Bill. "There's that room Mary was using, thats connected to the first floor with air vents. Someone could lure Lupin down to the basement, then escape through the vents the way Mary always did. A werewolf would be much too large to fit through the vents."
"But who here is small enough and quick enough to do it?"
Silence. They looked at each other, and turned to look at the lone person who had raised his hand.
"I'll do it," said Harry. "I've outrun Remus as a werewolf before."
"You're too valuable," Severus protested, but Goyle caught his arm.
"The boy is right. He's the fastest and he can fit in those vents. And on top of that, we'll need you and each of us working the corridors in case the werewolf doubles back and breaks loose somehow."
"You're...right..." Severus admitted, then looked up at Harry, who didn't meet his eyes. "But if anything happens to Harry, the sympathetic magic he has will be lost to us, and we still need him. Right?"
The tone of Severus' missive was directly mostly at Harry, who didn't return his gaze, but just nodded.
Before another word could be spoken a long lone wolf's howl filled the distance and Severus jumped to his feet.
"Egads!" said Bill as they all ran from the cafeteria. "Was that a real wolf? Its not sunset yet?"
Bill looked at Severus whose face twisted angrily.
"So...this is what the curse does to a werewolf. Makes them change permanently."
"I had been curious as to why an untransformed, or even a temporarily transformed, werewolf would be a proper means of execution for a helpless boy. Then I realized; if the werewolf is always in the wolf form then he would wreak havoc here, for more than just a night."
"We have a serious problem then," Bill said as they reached the front door. "Our wards will only keep him contained so long."
"We'll just have to cure him too," said Harry firmly, and then he stepped out of the school into the rainy mist.
"Hurry! Get the smaller children into the history room and barricade the door!"
A shattered window and a low howl informed Brenda all that she needed to know: Harry had failed to lead Remus Lupin to the school, as he had found his own way in.
"Hurry! Its coming up the stairs!" shouted Nibbs, barrelling through the double stairwell doors that led to the second floor.
Brenda and Nibbs both rammed against the double stairwell doors and locked them just as a heavy furry body slammed against them with a snarling howl. Brenda breathed a sigh of relief that these heavy metal stairwell doors only had thin rectangle windows on them that the creature couldn't fit through. The windows shattered and a large paw came through, causing both muggles to jump three feet back.
"Grab some furniture from the classes!" Brenda shouted at the older kids waiting in the hallway. "We need to make a barricade!"
The werewolf behind the door scrabbled against the metal barrier between it and its prey, its claws scraping and shrieking along the paint. Brenda pushed Nibbs and the children back, and made a hushing sound.
Silence now, save for the children gathering furniture from the classrooms, and the growling and scraping of the werewolf just a meter away.
"What happened Nibbs?" Brenda said quietly, panic and fear rising in his chest.
"It came through the library window. Don't know what happened to Mister Potter," Nibbs wiped his sweaty head with a hanky. "They told me to run upstairs while they were trying to fight it, but the beast only avoided the wizards and came after me. I don't understand..."
Brenda shivered, feeling the very real terror in the man next to her filling her own body.
"Its all right, they'll come soon."
A rucous suddenly filled the air as the wizards had arrived. Magic crackled through the air and Brenda pulled Nibbs down to the second floor stairwell for a moment.
"If it gets in here we have to lead it back downstairs. We have to run and keep it away from the children," she said, noting the fear radiating from the man. "No, I'll do it, you go upstairs and get the kids into the classrooms, and don't let the wizard kids use their wands, that could only hurt them or attract the werewolf."
"R-right. Good luck."
But luck was with them, the werewolf didn't break through the barricade. It was now being driven away from the double doors, the sound of magic spells being cast echoing through the hallways.
Brenda left Zabini at the door to come running and tell her if the creature somehow got into the stairwell, then set about the rest of the teenagers to barricading the rooms where the younger kids were hiding. If the werewolf broke through the wards on the first floor set of doors it could simply come up to this floor and find them.
"But they'll lead it down to the basement, hopefully."
A soft whimper suddenly broke into their conversation and they both turned to the first floor stairwell.
Brenda stared in horror. Somehow, someway, Harry had gotten into the warded stairwell, possibly through emergency exit, and was now trying painfully to climb the stairs, bleeding from vicious looking wounds on his chest and face.
"Harry!" said Brenda, and she ran over to Harry to look at him.
"D-don't touch the w-wounds! I c-could be in-fected..." said the boy in pained stuttering voice. "W-was amb-bushed. Help m-me..."
Immediately Nibbs and Brenda grabbed his shoulders and legs and carried him up the stairs.
A growl. Low, hissing and virulent. A werewolf. It was in the basement. She could hear it beneath them, trying to figure out the door wards and failing.
"But how did it get down there!" Brenda squeaked.
"Was ambused..." Harry repeated, more clearly now. "They both came at me at once...got hurt. Had to run. Remus followed me like planned...But Greyback went through the library window..."
"TWO werewolves?" said Brenda in horror.
"Two," said Harry morosely. "Two. Two. T-two.."
"Enough," said Nibbs, shaking the stutter out of Harry. "Lets get you upstairs and let the others try and get the other werewolf rounded up downstairs."
Harry nodded, hissing as they moved him quickly up the stairwell.
"Bill forgot about Bill..." said Harry softly. "He was scratched like I was a long time ago...but he was fine...he wasn't affected by the full...moon. I saw him with the others...he was fine...I'll be fine...wasn't bit...Only scratched...Only..."
"Scratched...more like sliced open," said Nibbs with a huff. "I'll get Madeleine."
After awhile they could hear no more sounds of wizard battle coming from below them. Madeleine and Brenda managed to stop the bleeding and get Harry's wounds stitched up. Harry's face was a mask of pain and despair. He looked like he had lost all hope. All joy. Brenda kissed his forehead and started wrapping the neatly stitched wounds in bandages, while Madeleine fetched some dry clothes to replace Harry's torn soaked ones.
"There now, it'll be all right," said Brenda as she helped the lad dress. "You'll be all right."
"No I won't," said Harry, misery in his face. "I'm a horcrux. I was so tempted just to let the werewolf have me. How many more people are going to be endangered by people trying to kill me?"
"Well," said Brenda, helping him back into bed. "That Voldemort fellow has been trying to kill you."
"And people keep getting in the way!"
"Boy, Voldemort has been murdering people since before you were born," said Nibbs, suddenly in the room. "Or so we've been told. It wouldn't matter if you were here or not, he would still murder."
"But I'm a horcrux. I'm keeping him alive by being alive."
"I don't know what a horcrux is," said Nibbs, sitting on the edge of the bed. "But I understand a bit about this magical sympathy Mister Snape keeps trying to explain to us. And I understand that YOU may be the only thing keeping the children here alive. So don't give up on life so quickly."
Harry nodded, and Brenda covered him with a warm blanket.
"You get some rest, and try not to think about it."
Harry nodded, and curled up in an unhappy ball.
"I'll stay with him," said Nibbs softly. "Go Brenda...you're needed now downstairs, and you won't like what you find."
Brenda looked at Nibbs oddly, then turned to run from the room. Fear filled her, the thought of the second werewolf that had nearly gotten upstairs suddenly present in her mind.
Did somebody else get hurt?
"Of all the pigheaded, arrogant, brash things to do Bill Weasley, that was the worst!"
"Hey, you aren't expendable Severus," said Bill bemusedly, as Brenda and Fleur both worked to try and stop the bleeding from the shredded stump that had once been Bill's wand arm. "I already have the curse, as least partly, so I thought..."
"You thought you'd be the hero and take the bite," said Severus thickly. "Not realizing that Greyback could bite your arm right off!"
"As soon as Goyle cuts my arm out of the creature's belly you can put it right back on," said Bill with a huff. "Whats the problem."
"The problem is we might not be able to if the curse interferes with the magic we need to use," Severus snarled, and then wrenched himself away from Madeleine, who had been stitching a cut on his head. "Save your sewing thread for Weasley Madam. I must go upstairs!"
"Oh no you don't," said Brenda with a huff of her own. "Harry is sleeping and needs his rest! And his wounds have been taken care of the muggle way, so don't you dare make things worse with magic without knowing how it can effect them!"
Severus scowled, then slumped back down in his chair, and hissed when Madeleine poked him with her needle again.
"So can anyone explain to me one thing," said Bill, flexing his stubby arm and hissing. "How did we not realize they'd send more than one werewolf to do away with us?"
"Us?" said Severus sharply.
"Sure. I'm assuming this was an attempt to end the plague by getting rid of all of us. Then they could claim the werewolves broke in and they would execute the pair of them in vindication to the parents of the children who were slaughtered."
"Except Greyback rarely kills anybody he bites," said Severus. "He's the only werewolf capable of some thought while transformed and he bites to transform, not to kill."
"I don't know about that," said Bill, with and ugly nauseous look on his face. "He did seem like he was trying to kill someone."
"We were between him and his real prey," said Severus pointedly. "Harry. He was working for Voldemort. Or the Ministry. Miss Granger said they think Harry Potter is a horcrux."
"Well that explains it then. Harry came out of a vent into the stairwell," said Brenda worriedly. "That's why he came after us, he couldn't get into the double doors downstairs with their one way wards, so he tried a different route, all to get to Harry."
Severus nodded, and let Madeleine wrap a bandage around his head. They were soon joined by Grandfather Goyle, who had Bill's arm wrapped up in a blanket.
"I think we can fuse it back on," said Grandfather Goyle. "I'd like to have young Potter try some of his magic on this while we're doing it..."
"No love," said Mrs Goyle. "Poor Harry Potter is injured and in bed."
Severus stared at Goyle and his bundle of arm, and at the people crowded in the infirmary tending the two wounded adults. Finally he thrust to his feet and threw his arms in the air.
"I can't stand it! I can't stand sitting here while Harry is laying up there in pain! I won't wake him if he's sleeping but I must seem him! With my own eyes! I have to make sure he's okay!"
"Brenda!" Severus countered. "If it was someone you loved and cared about what would you do?"
Silence. And Brenda smiled.
"Go on then Severus. If you really care all that much about him then I'm not going to get in your way anymore."
Severus looked at Brenda, and she gave him a sad smile, reaching for the cross at her neck, and he turned and ran for the stairwell.
Leave it to Brenda Wood to try and protect Harry Potter like a mother. I'd better not abuse this new trust she's given me...muggles really do have some old fashioned prejudices. But then again, he looked around at the mix of confused wizard and muggle children he was now running past. So do we.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
~This is the shortest chapter I've written for this story so far. But it answer's Cassandra Witherspoon's question in chapter 3; "But he's supposed to fight Mister Meanie. How can he do that while he's here?"
Here is the answer to that!
Darkness. Harry fest his breath start to quicken in the dark and he felt a strange pull within him. Was this is? Was this the curse?
Harry, follow me now. Downstairs, he lay sleeping, now is the time to try. Now is the time to see.
Try as he might, Harry could not contain the urges within him. He stumbled down the stairs, supremely concious now of his own frightened breathing, and slipped into down into the basement.
Silence. Save for the breathing of the sleeping werewolf occupant. Harry was aware that Remus Lupin did not have control of himsely anymore, aware that, despite the fact that the werewolf was sleeping, that what he was doing was risky at best.
What else can I heal besides the Curse? Can I cure lycanthropy?
We can try. Keep going, he's sleeping so soundly now...
The Power in him had been growing steadily since that day when he had brought Jonathan back to life. Despite all the science lectures he had been given by Severus and Goyle, he knew that something deeper, more ancient was working through him now, and he gave that Power its way, giving it control of his magic.
Whenever it asked him. Something within this Power was sentient, working through him now to some unknown end, and he was just along for the ride.
Remus Lupin's fur was stained with blood and ichor from the previous battle. He knew this man would not want to live with this disease much longer. The life expectancy of werewolves was rather low, Greyback and Remus being the long lived exceptions. So when Harry put his hands to Lupin's chest and felt his heart beating he felt a sense of relief fill him that he was still alive.
Every full moon is one moon closer to suicide for the tired werewolf, The Power told him. Now focus on him, on change, transformation, and the separating of the canine from the primate.
Harry closed his eyes, concentrating. He felt the fur beneath him move slightly as the werewolf stirred, but he was not afraid. The scent of his blood may have woken Remus, but the werewolf chose not to attack him. The werewolf was waiting, patiently, as if in expectation.
Silence, the soft stirring of Harry's heart in tremulous joy and relief as he saw the tired ragged features of Remus Lupin the man form where the wolf had once been.
"Thank you," Lupin croaked tiredly, stretching his hand out to touch Harry's head. "I don't know how you did it, but thank you."
"Neither do I really," said Harry, then he turned to look up at the startled eyes of Severus Snape, who had, of course, been following him. "The Power seems to have a mind of its own. I'm just going along for the ride."
"So the humors have solved a problem that has plagued us for a very long time," said Grandfather Goyle quietly as he made the tea. "But why so upset Severus? The curing of all werewolves through our humors research is something we should be happy about."
"I'm worried about Harry," said Severus, pacing the floor agitatedly. "He's starting to see the humors as some sort of benevolent being, a sentient being, and I don't know what this will do to his state of mind."
"You think that Lord Voldemort could try to slip into Harry's mind through the horcrux link, and that Harry could mistake him for this being he has invented."
Severus nodded glumly, and accepted a cup of tea from the elder Goyle with thanks.
"So the question here becomes this; how to rid Harry Potter of the horcrux, if he hasn't found a way himself."
Severus stopped in his pacing.
"What do you mean?" he said, turning to glare at Goyle. "You think the humors could have...?"
"No, the humors could not break the horcrux link, but Lord Voldemort himself could do so, if the alternative was to possess a body with a disease he does not want to catch."
"Disease? You mean lycantropy? But Harry wasn't bitten!"
Severus stared at Goyle in horror, the man's eyebrows up in question.
"Harry was lying..." Severus said, stuttering in panic. "But he hasn't, I mean...the humors! He could heal himself!"
"Probably already has. Unless he's still waiting for Voldemort to realize that he is a lycanthrope. Then he'll break the link. And Harry will be free to cure himself."
Severus made a sound of horrified dismay. But Goyle shrugged.
"We have until the next full moon to figure this out. And by then we can only hope that Voldemort breaks the link, otherwise we'll have to come up with our own cure by then. We still need Potter; he's the only real wizard who can work humors without complex potions after all."
Severus didn't care about potions or humors. His heart beat in shattered agonizing rhythms of panic at the thought that his lover was now a werewolf, the one thing he, Snape, had loathed for many years.
And he had taken the disease on willingly. Had willingly volunteered to lead Lupin into their trap. Had been told only the day before that he was a horcrux.
How could Harry work all this out himself? He knows nothing of horcruxes?
The note. It had to be. The notes from Granger he had been getting for months now, they had to have contained information about horcruxes!
Damn! thought Severus, as he stalked through the halls in search of his lover. When I get a hold of Granger...Damn damn damn!
Harry was floating now in his dreams. The Power was calming him now, assuring him that this was the right course to take. Assuring him that this was the correct path to take, that this would end it all. That he was doing the right thing.
He followed the horcrux link down its line of trembling magic, as he done once before by accident many years ago, and found himself once again looking out from behind the eyes of Nagini the snake. The snake did not want to be inhabited by Harry, and told him so. But she knew he meant no harm to her, and so agreed to his request to communicate with her Master. Harry took full control of the snake's body now, feeling Nagini's own mind slide away from him as he reigned control, the power of Voldemort's control over Nagini temporarily blocked.
"Na-gi-ni..." said a hissing voice, and Harry looked up into the face of Lord Voldemort.
And his chest filled with bile and sickly horror upon the sight of him. Faces. Many faces. Hundreds of eyes and snakey noses and any many mouths, all trying to speak at once...it was a wall of flesh, filled with faces, the body of Voldemort lost within the tangle of confused features.
"So this is what happened to you, you weren't immune to it, you were the most vulnerable!" Harry hissed in parseltongue.
"Why are you here? To insult me?" Voldemort replied, and the many mouths repeated this in chorus.
"I come to ask you to break the link between us," Harry said peaceably. "The link is no use to you, I'm a werewolf, my body is a slave that you will never be able to master."
But just looking upon the ruin of Lord Voldemort, Harry had to know; he would take any body he could get besides his own.
"I will not trade. I can take Nagini just as easily..."
"But look how easily I control her now, and I could control you too..."
Voldemort hissed and his many mouths howled at him, howled in grief and anger.
"Break the link between us, and I will heal you," Harry offered.
"You have no power!" Voldemort scoffed. "Kill me now, and I shall take host within my new body, Nagini, and break our bond. "
Harry did just the opposite. He left, in Nagini's body. He was going to make sure Voldemort never took control of her again. He now knew it didn't matter whether or not Voldemort wanted to take over her body or Harry's, as long as Harry was in control of Nagini the bond between them was in Harry's power not Voldemort's.
Now, as Harry set off on his journey, one vital question remained; how could he use this to his advantage?
This question remained as he slithered off into the mist, leaving the horror of Riddle manor and Voldemort's ruined body behind him.
"HARRY JAMES POTTER!" Severus bellowed, as a groggy Harry stirred from where he was sleeping inside the muggle school bus parked in the driveway.
And with him, curled up in the next seat like a sleepy kitty, was Nagini the snake.
"Hi," said Harry, grumpily. "Guess you're wondering what happened."
"Its clear what happened!" Severus shouted. "You have lost your bloody mind!"
"Easy now Severus," said Remus Lupin, coming around Severus from behind to look down at the snake. "I can guess what happened. You used your link to destroy the horcrux, and take control of Nagini."
"That's right," said Harry with a yawn. "Hermione told me there was a trick to destroying the horcrux when the host was a living creature. There's a risk in killing the host, but basilisk venom is particularly good for this. But adult basilisks are highly poisonous, deadly."
"So your point?" Severus said exasperated.
"So, what do you think Nagini is," he said, pointing to the still sleeping snake.
"An...an infant basilisk?" said Snape in horror.
"That's right!" Remus laughed, "Young basilisk's don't paralyze with their eyes until they turn one hundred years, and can't kill for a few hundred after that!"
"Yep," Harry said. "All Nagini had to do was bite herself," Harry said, pointing to the bandage on her tail. "After biting me," he added quietly, and it was then they noticed the bandages on Harry's head. "So um, yeah. I think that worked well. And the venom won't kill us, but it makes things bleed a lot. Oh, and I'm not a lycanthrope, by the way. Never was one."
"You...weren't?" Severus said, startled, and relief filling his face completely.
"I overheard Grandfather Goyle telling you his hypothesis and thought that would be a good bluff for my conversation with Voldemort. But it didn't work," Harry's face suddenly turned sickened. "Voldemort has...become something of a...I don't know what to call him, but the sickness has warped him into something short of human. I should have killed him...I can't imagine living that way."
He explained Voldemort's transformation to them warily, then was grateful when Brenda came with Madeleine in tow to heal his head, and Nagini's tail.
"We can keep her in the cellar I suppose," Brenda said, shivering at the lazy look of amusement the young basilisk was giving her. "At least she can help with the rat problem we've been having."
"If you find one with a silver hand bring him to us," Severus told the snake pointedly as she slithered passed him out of the bus after Harry. "Bah! Next thing you know he'll bring a dragon into the place!"
But Severus couldn't stop smiling all day afterwards.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
~This should have been a part of the last chapter. The whole fic is done, it just needed this. If there's anything I missed I'm going to just add it in, edit, fix things, go back, etc. From now on, never consider my writing finished, even if I have it set Complete. I may go back and fix things later. I know this story ends far too idealistically, too easily, and without any punch. I want to write new things, so I'll have to just come back to this and improve it at another date. I hope this tiny ending is enough to satisfy you, I'm trying to avoid any more plots that are far too tangled for me to tie up all the loose ends.
'The Ministry of Magic announced today that a cure had been found for what is now being dubbed the Riddle Curse, after its creator the late Tom Marvolo Riddle, who, as we previously reported, was found dead two days ago in his home in Little Hangleton, which the Ministry has declared to be suicide. Researchers for the Ministry were only willing to release the potion to the public upon negotiating a full pardon for the potion's creator, former Death Eater Severus Snape.
Mister Snape has dubbed his cure 'Harry's Sympathy Solution', or more simply, Harry's Sympathy, in a nod to the young man whose natural sympathetic magic helped lead to a cure. Besides curing the Riddle Curse, Harry's Sympathy has been found to cure many other ailments from Lycanthropy to laryngitis, (see our list on page 3.)
Meanwhile Messers Snape and Potter have formally announced their intentions to remain employed at the Ministry research station. Mister Snape has already been contracted to brew four thousand units of Harry's Sympathy for the Ministry of Magic, and Mister Potter will be doing his Apprenticeship Healer training under his [Snape's] tutelage.'
Severus Snape rolled his eyes largely and tossed down the paper, reaching for his cup of tea.
"So now they're calling this place a 'research' station. The Ministry has always been exemplary at covering up their murderous behaviour."
Harry was bent over his study materials, moaning in complaint about his decision to become a Healer for the third time that day.
"Harry," Severus sighed. "Isn't it just about time to feed Nagini?"
"Jamie volunteered to do it," Harry complained. "She really likes him. I don't get it. He can't speak parseltongue...but she likes him better!"
Severus chuckled at Harry's clear jealousy and went over to the man. Tentatively he put his hands on Harry's shoulders.
"Your brother would have been popular with my old crowd, despite being raised by Muggles," Severus chuckled. "And now you know why I was always at odds with your godfather. He was always more popular, and handsome, and had more friends..."
Harry smirked, shrugging the hands off his shoulders. Ouch. Then he got up and put his arms on Severus' shoulders.
"We're just a couple of jealous folks," Harry said. "But I know Remus has been grumbling like mad every time he sees us together. We're not the only jealous ones."
"He needs a girlfriend or," Severus paused. "I suppose if he's jealous of us he need's a boyfriend. He's been spending an excessive amount of time with Mister Nibbs."
Harry made a choking sound and Severus took advantage of the man's distraction to kiss him.
"Do you think we have time for a quickie before the Goodbye Party?"
Harry winced, and Severus knew that he was not looking to saying goodbye to the many children who were approved to go home. Each week a new group of children was tested negative for the Curse and was approved for release back into the society at large.
"Remus will know," Harry mumbled. "Despite being cured of transformations and all he can still smell like a wolf..."
"All the more reason to indulge ourselves," Severus purred, pulling Harry in for a passionate kiss.
A soft quiet giggle filled the air and both men reluctantly parted. Of course it had to be little Julie Bones, who had started walking on her own the day before for the first time in months. She still had one of her long curly arms, meaning that she'd need a few more doses of Harry's Sympathy before she could leave the quarantine station.
"Mrs Wood says its time for the party," Julie said with a sad frown. "I don't wanna say goodbye again! Too many have left already!"
Harry immediately went over to the girl to hug her and comfort her, ending any hopes Severus had to get in quick sex with his lover.
"It'll be all right Julie, you'll see. And you'll see a lot of your friends again at Hogwarts when you finally go. I'm sure of it."
Harry looked at Severus with a little grim. Amidst the many side effects of the Sympathy cure, apparently one of the ones affecting younger muggles was a sudden ability to perform some types of magic, including the Sympathy magic. The Mininstry of Magic was keeping it all hushed up, but one thing was for sure; many Muggleborns would be attending Hogwarts next year. And former squibs too. Jamie had been practically in heaven with some of the things he could do. Severus had ten to one odds in their betting pool that Jamie would follow in his father's animagus footsteps.
"You go on ahead, Julie, Professor Snape and I have some things to finish up."
Julie giggled and ran out of the room. Harry made sure the room was locked up tight before he returned to his lover.
"So, shall we be chaste and go now, or do you want to get in some sex now before we go?"
Severus responded by kissing Harry passionately, pulling him into his greedy embrace.