Chapter 5 - Afflictive
Snape was sound asleep and barely heard the insistent knocking on the door to his suite. At first he had been certain that it had been nothing but a figment of his now faded dream. When the knocking continued he reluctantly disentangled himself from his warm bed, out of his bedroom and into his sitting room.
The knocking continued as Snape took his time putting on his robe and getting to the door. He was the one being inconvenienced here, so what did it matter that his uninvited guest had to wait a little longer? When he finally could stall no longer he flung open the door and was surprised to see a somewhat frazzled looking Dumbledore.
"Headmaster," Snape said in surprise. "Are you ill?"
"Not physically. May I come in? Something has happened," Dumbledore said gravely.
Snape stood to the side and gestured for him to come in. "May I get you some tea?"
"Yes, please," Dumbledore said as he sat down. He waited until Snape had given him his tea and sat down before he continued. "A student was attacked tonight. Petrified, just as Mrs. Norris had been."
Snape felt his stomach drop. "Which student?" he asked hesitantly.
"A young Gryffindor first year named, Colin Creevey. It seems as though he was trying to visit Harry in the hospital wing." Dumbledore conveyed.
Snape was most irritated with himself as he realized that he had been terrified for a moment that it had been Harry that had been attacked. Blast that child! What was he doing to him?
"Do we know whom he was attacked by?" Snape asked carefully.
Dumbledore sighed. "I am not entirely sure that he was attacked by a whom. I am more worried that it may have been a what."
Snape just stared at the old man trying to understand what he was trying to say. He was not sure he knew of any objects or creatures that would be capable of petrifying a person. Maybe several plants, but none that would be commonly found in this hemisphere of the world.
"What are you thinking, Albus?"
"I'm afraid I do not know. But we need to be vigilant. Perhaps we should increase the night patrols. I don't think one staff member is enough at least until we get a better idea of what we are dealing with," Dumbledore suggested.
"I agree. I can draw up a new schedule first thing in the morning," Snape offered. "For now, I can finish out the night since I have no classes until the afternoon."
As much as Snape hated the thought of giving up any precious sleep, he knew that he would be too much on edge to sleep anymore tonight.
"You are most accommodating, Severus," the old man said with a small smile. "Your dedication to the safety of this school is unequaled to any other." Snape snorted. "Or perhaps your current uneasiness has something to do with a particular young man currently held up in the hospital wing?"
He knew that there was no hiding anything from this man. He just wished that he would learn to keep his mouth shut from time to time instead of unnecessarily pointing out things that were better left unsaid.
"There just seems to be an awful lot of unusual things that have been happening centering around Mr. Potter, and I can't help but think that perhaps this Creevey child was not the intended victim of this attack considering recent events," Snape spat defensively.
"There is no need to justify your rationales to me. I know that I count on you to do what you feel is necessary to keep Harry and the rest of the students safe from harm," the headmaster said warmly. "Which is why I came directly to you before anyone else."
Snape stared at the man certain that he had been teasing him, but was somewhat surprised to find that he had been most sincere with his words. He watched as Dumbledore chuckled quietly to himself, set his now empty tea cup down and stood to leave.
"Thank you for alerting me," Snape said. "I will notify you immediately if I uncover anything."
"I know you will, Severus. And go easy on the boy. I'm sure he's frightened enough right now," he warned lightly.
Snape shot him a glare as he escorted him to the door and out of his suite. Honestly, what did the old coot think he was going to do to the boy?
As it turned out, Snape didn't have to say a thing to Harry. Immediately after Snape had arrived in the hospital wing to check on the newest resident, he heard the small voice from across the room summoning him.
"What is it, Potter?" he replied as he approached the boy's bed.
"The house-elf was here," he said quietly.
Snape froze. "What house-elf?"
Harry looked up at him from the bed looking so much more like his mother without his glasses. The startlingly green eyes made his heart skip a beat and caused his breath catch in his chest.
"Dobby, sir. The one who came to my house and got me into trouble," Harry replied softly.
"Are you sure you were not dreaming, Potter," Snape asked knowing full well what the answer was going to be, but hoping that he was wrong.
"Quite sure, sir," he said as he struggled to sit up. "It was right before Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall brought Colin in here."
Snape pushed Harry gently back into a lying position, "Quit straining yourself or those bones will never grow back and Madam Pomfrey will skin us both alive." He summoned a chair from across the room and sat down beside him. "What did this house-elf want?"
"He – He – well, sir, he wanted me to leave Hogwart's. He said that it was dangerous for me here and that terrible things were going to happen. And, sir, he told me that it was him that stopped the barrier from letting Ron & I through! Then he said that when he realized that I had gotten here anyway, he sent the bludger after me!" Harry said getting more and more animated and forgetting to whisper.
"All right, no need to get yourself worked up," Snape said hushing him. "Did he say anything else?"
"Um…Well kinda…He started to say something about the Chamber of Secrets being opened again, but then he started hitting himself over the head with the water jug and saying that he was bad and refused to say anything else. Why would he hit himself like that, Sir? He did the same thing when he had come to Privet Drive and got me in trouble there." he asked.
Unable to hide the shock on his face Snape tried to explain. "Well…house-elves are a very old breed of magical creatures that were bred with the specific purpose to serve and take care of wizarding families. Actually, the practice of breeding them has all but died out ever since the ministry stepped in to regulate them. Now there are only a couple hundred or so left," Snape informed him. "Only the oldest and most wealthy wizarding families keep house-elves anymore. Most elves have been with he same family for generations and are privy to the families deepest and darkest secrets. House-elves are required to swear a blood oath to the families they serve, which prevents them from disobeying their masters or revealing their secrets in anyway. Obviously this particular elf was acting against his master's orders by being here and talking to you which is why he would have been hitting himself with the water jug."
Harry shrunk back into his pillow and whispered, "That's awful. So how do we find out who his master is?"
Snape glared down at the child, "We? We aren't going to find out anything. You are going to keep your mouth shut about this and concentrate on your classes. I will see what I can do to look into this elf. If the elf returns I expect you to come find me immediately. Do you understand me, Potter?"
Harry nodded reluctantly. "Sir? Is Colin going to be ok?"
"I believe so, yes," Snape said with a nod. "Professor Sprout has several young mandrakes that when they are of age can be ground up to make a restorative potion that will unpetrify him."
"How did he get like that? Everyone thinks that I had something to do with it," Harry rambled miserably.
"Surely you aren't allowing the idiotic ramblings of your foolish classmates to upset you?" Snape asked with only a small hint of condescension.
Not meeting his teacher's eyes he said, "I'm am just sick of everyone pointing and staring at me all the time. I just want to be normal."
Unsure of how to respond, Snape busied himself examining the copious amounts of goodies and treats that dominated the small table next to Harry's bed. He sincerely hoped that he had eaten something other than just candy for dinner. Maybe he should suggest to Madam Pomfrey that he resume the nutrient potions. He supposed that the boy looked healthier than he had over the summer. Perhaps a weekly dose of the potion would be better suited for him.
Looking down on the child he realized that he was awaiting some kind of a response from him. Frustrated he said, "Honestly Potter, do you not realize the level of hero worship that you have inspired since the Dark Lord vanished? You will continue to be the subject of everyone's talk regardless of what you do. You might as well just get used to it."
Harry's slammed his good fist on the bed in aggravation. "But I didn't DO anything! I don't know what happened to Voldemort! I had nothing to do with it! I was a baby! Why do they want to worship me for something I didn't even do? Don't they realize that my parents were killed that night?! I would do anything to go back and undo the things that happened on that night! I don't want to be remembered for it, I just want to try to forget about it!" he said with an angry sob. "And now for some ridiculous reason they seem to think that I am responsible for the attack on Mrs. Norris and probably will assume the same about Colin as well! I don't understand!"
Snape was out of his element. This was not something that he was accustomed to and truly wished that Madame Pomfrey or even Professor Dumbledore would jump in to rescue him from this dreadful position. Realizing that he was not going to be getting any help he quickly tried to calm the child the only way he knew how.
"Potter! Quit this incessant blubbering at once!" he said as sternly as he could manage. "None of this will cease the actions of your classmates or aid you in learning to ignore them!" He waited as Harry pulled himself together and composed himself before continuing. "Now, there is nothing that you can do to stop any of these dunderheads from continuing the petty gossip they engage in on a daily basis. The only thing that you can do is to learn to look beyond it, ignore them and do not do anything to encourage them to talk more. I am speaking of course about your continuing determination to uncover information about this house-elf." Harry looked up in protest but Snape continued on before allowing him to voice his complaints. "You are dealing with powers well beyond your current capacity to understand, Potter, and you will need to trust that I will do whatever I can to get to the bottom of this situation. Can you do that?"
Harry looked up reluctantly at his least favorite professor, studied him for a moment and then replied, "Yes, sir. But what do I do if it returns or continues to try to hurt me or get me into trouble?"
"You will report to me immediately. If for some reason you cannot find me then find Professor Dumbledore or McGonagall. Do not attempt to find or confront this creature yourself, Potter. It is obvious that this elf is not in it's right mind and is acting very peculiarly. It should therefore be treated as unstable and unsafe. Do you understand?" he asked menacingly. Harry nodded and Snape continued, "Make no mistake, Potter, when I say that you are not to concern yourself with this elf. I will not hesitate to take appropriate disciplinary actions if you disobey me."
Harry gulped. "Yes sir. I understand."
Feeling satisfied that he had gotten through to the boy he stood and said, "Good. Now get yourself to sleep. You will still be expected to turn in all assignments on time regardless of how lengthy your stay here will be. I'm sure Miss Granger will be happy to help you in collecting your assignments for you."
With that Snape turned away from Harry's bed and stalked away towards the doors to the hospital wing. As he opened the door he stopped and squinted in the darkness towards the small form huddled under the blankets that he had just left.
"One more thing, Potter," he said with a commanding tone. "You will not consume that disgusting mass of sweets that your friends have so generously lavished you with. In addition, you will be reporting here to Madam Pomfrey once a week for your nutrient potion."
Harry sighed deeply in the dark. "Yes, sir."
Feeling satisfied with himself and making a mental note to talk with Madam Pomfrey in the morning Snape left the hospital wing. He glided along the darkened and empty corridor now anxious for the sun to rise so that he could be getting some answers to these bizarre events that were becoming increasingly more concerning and ever more confusing.
Unfortunately, in the following weeks Snape had no luck uncovering any information about the house-elf's owners or any documented incidents of other elves behaving in such a manner. He had exhausted all avenues available to him at the school and was hesitant to search elsewhere for fear of calling unwanted attentions to himself. This left Snape feeling increasingly more frustrated and irritable which was easily vetted upon the delinquent students that were taking advantage of their classmates paranoia for their own financial benefits.
Following the news of the attack on Colin Creevey, an underground black market of bogus talismans, protective amulets and a variety of other such objects began to surface at the school naturally prompting collections of muggle born and even a few students who should have known better, to be foolishly deceived. It hadn't taken long for Snape to uncover the secret selling of these objects and had hoped that the whole mess would fizzle out on it's own, but when finally felt forced to intercede when the abundance of these objects continued to grow larger.
Tracing down the sellers of the counterfeit objects hadn't been difficult for Snape. He was not even the slightest bit surprised when the culprits turned out to be students from his own house. Slytherins, whether by nature or nurture, tended to be what Snape would describe as opportunists while others would call them swindlers or cheats. Their abilities to keep their eyes open and remain on the constant lookout for "the next best thing" has been taught to them by their pure-blood families since infancy. So many of them had most likely watched their own parents getting ahead in life by taking advantage of "lesser" individuals that they would think nothing of doing similar things themselves.
Nevertheless Snape was forced to discipline students that he had found to be participating in the sale of the phony protective items. Since he was loathe to take away a large amount of house points he settled on just 10 points for each seller, as well as 5 points for each student that had been naïve enough to purchase said objects, and he also administered two weeks of detention for each seller.
It was during one of these detention sessions that he was visited by Professor McGonagall who was anxious to talk to Snape and determined that it could not wait until that evening. Sighing heavily he begrudgingly left the students who were scrubbing away at a massive pile of dirty cauldrons and chopping potions ingredients for his personal stores.
After stepping just outside of his classroom and casting a quick muffliato charm, Professor McGonagall let loose an irritated stream of rantings that Snape strained to understand and keep up with.
"I can't believe…why did he dare…what is that man thinking? Did you know anything about this?" she sputtered.
"What in Merlin's name are you talking about?" Snape scoffed.
Professor McGonagall took a deep breath and said, "I am talking about Lockhart starting a dueling club for the students! That idiot knows nothing about dueling! All that he is going to do is put more students in the hospital wing!"
"I don't believe I have ever seen you so riled up like this, Minerva," Snape said with a smirk. "However, I will speak with Albus. I am certain that he is not truly aware of what he intends to do or the dangers associated with Lockhart's inability to perform the most basic of spells. That's not even mentioning the potential for backlash from concerned parents who wouldn't want the children involved in such activities or the inevitable increase of dueling among students outside of the structure of this 'club'."
"I'm afraid that he will not listen to you, Severus," she warned him ominously. "Both Filius and I have already tried talking to him about this and he was dead set on allowing it to continue."
Snape smiled at her. "I am certain that I can talk sense into the old man without much difficulty."
Despite Professor McGonagall's lengthy employment and association with the headmaster, Snape was quite confident that his opinion would weigh a bit heavier with the old man than hers would. He had been very careful over the years of his employment, to not show the slightest bit of interest or attention on so many of the trivial and meaningless issues that so many of his colleagues had concerned themselves with, making his attentions to this issue much more significant in comparison.
Professor McGonagall gave him a skeptical look, which Snape blatantly ignored. He assured her that he would go and speak to him as soon as the students in his office had completed their assigned work for the night. As he watched his delinquent students working diligently, he thought about everything except his forthcoming talk with Dumbledore since he already considered it a battle he was sure to win.