By the by, this story takes place during Harry's fifth year. It was started before Order of the Phoenix, so it's now AU.
Special Thanks: To Ramos, my Beta Reader. Read her stories when you're done with this one (check out my favorite authors list). She's a wonderful writer, and it's an honor to have her help.
A/N please read: Because I've had so many requests to e-mail people when new chapters come out (and because I don't want to add them to my addy book in outlook in case –heaven forbid- I get one of those nasty viruses) I've finally figured out how to do one of those nifty mailing lists through my website. You can now go to celeste . potionsmaster . net / tgabml . php (no spaces) and subscribe to the Three Gryffindors and A Baby Mailing List so that you'll know when a new chapter is up without having to add me to your favorite authors list. I recommend this since I sometimes go a few months between posting the new chapter, and this way you wont have to constantly check back.
I hope this makes the waiting game easier for all of you. May my muse be beat over the head when its not co-operating.
The Trouble With Toddlers
With another heave Ron struggled to wrench the door to his dorm room open. He couldn't believe Lupin and Sirius had actually sealed them in. When he finally admitted tugging the thing open it wasn't going to work, he decided to switch tactics and try to break through. Ignoring Hermione's suggestions to calm down and think rationally, he pulled out his wand and aimed it point-blank at the door. "FLAMINIS!"
There was a great rush of air in which Ron's ears popped from the sudden change of pressure. His entire wand trembled violently as it prepared to unleash the spell. "Uh oh…" Ron muttered as he felt the vibrations move up his arm as the spell gathered strength.
Maybe that spell hadn't been the best idea…
It was his last coherent thought before the tip of his wand erupted in a ring of blue lightning. It crackled and thundered so loudly that, after the second lightening bolt crashed into Dean's bed, Ron could no longer hear Hermione's continuing cries of 'idiot'.
And that was before the blasting charm actually hit the door.
It was probably his most impressive spell to date- and it was beautiful in that 'oh bloody hell I'm going to die' spectacular sort of way. It collided with the wood, a great lightning storm concentrated in the radius of a few feet. In a split second, the electric blue shimmered into green and red on the worn wooden panels. No normal door could have withstood such an assault.
Unfortunately, this door was rather special, in that it had received the Lupin touch. He hadn't been named DADA instructor during their third year for nothing, and the door didn't even groan under the quick barrage. Instead, it actually expanded a bit- bulging in its frame as if made out of rubber- before it sent the spell ricocheting back.
Directly towards Ron.
Helping Ron to his feet, Hermione was torn between an intense desire to hug him for being relatively alright and smacking him upside the head for trying such a stupid stunt. One look at his face- covered rather cartoonishly with sooty looking smudges- and bugging blue eyes made her think he'd probably learned his lesson. Instead of smacking or hugging him, she calmly licked her fingers and began pinching out the small fires burning sections of his now literally flaming red hair. "That was incredibly stupid, Ron."
"WHAT?" he asked as he cupped one hand over his ear in an attempt to hear better. Hermione realized most of his clothes had been burnt away as well. Luckily, patches of charred school robes and his trousers kept his more private bits hidden. She quickly checked to make sure he had no third degree burns, and satisfied there were no life threatening injuries, she settled for just glaring.
"You are so lucky," she told him primly, simultaneously patting out another small fire on his shoulder.
"WHAT?" Ron turned towards her and blinked. "STOP WHISPERING!"
"I SAID YOU'RE LUCKY! YOU COULD'VE BEEN SERIOUSLY HURT!" Hermione shouted back.
Ron examined his clothes for a second before looking back at her. "FLAME RETARDENT! MOM DOSES US ALL EVERY YEAR! TWINS! ALREADY BURNED DOWN THE BURROW TWICE!"
"Oh," Hermione replied simply. That would be a very smart move of Mrs. Weasley.
Hermione had realized what Lupin's charm must have been as soon as Ron's flaminis had hit the door- a sealing charm that would take her years to master. The sort Bill usually spent hours on in Egyptian crypts. Opening the door was out of the question until Lupin decided to return and break the seal.
Of course, it was too late to tell Ron that since the spell had already rebounded on him. For a terrifying instant, she was sure he'd be incinerated. Instead, he was knocked spinning off his feet into the air, and shoved a good fifteen feet, where he came crashing down through the canopy on Neville's bed.
He still looked a bit dazed, but no worse for wear considering what could have happened to him. Once she was sure all the fires were out, she stood up from Neville's bed and gazed at the ruined room. Dean's bed had been reduced to a smoldering pile of splinters and burning hangings- his trunk had been overturned, the parchments on fire and his belongings strewn all about. Dean's things seemed to have taken the worst of it. Snape's crib and the other beds were fine- with the exception of scorch marks in jagged patterns across curtains and the walls. The floor had three black circles in it where the lightning had probably crashed.
She sighed and began extinguishing the fires with her wand as Ron stumbled around behind her. "IT DIDN'T WORK!" he gaped as he took in the unblemished door.
"Well, I tried to tell you," Hermione snapped as she put out the last flame and straightened up. "You don't just start shooting blasting charms all over if you don't know what spells you're dealing with."
Hermione sighed and rubbed her forehead. "NEVERMIND!"
"WHAT DO WE DO NOW?" Ron yelled.
Instead of answering Ron's question, Hermione began massaging her temple. She felt a migraine coming on.
Down in the dungeons, standing just outside of Snape's quarters, Remus was also rubbing his graying temples. He would likely develop a few more gray hairs before this was all over.
"I won't do it, Moony!" Sirius shouted. He still looked exactly like Snape, and under other circumstances, an irate Snape pacing back and forth angrily yanking at his hair would have given Remus second thoughts about approaching him. Let alone attempting any sort of discussion.
Yet, this wasn't Snape. Aside from Sirius' voice nearly whining petulantly as a clue to give that fact away, there was also the matter of the ripped and decidedly grungy black robes he wore. Robes he'd probably worn in Azkaban from the looks of them. They were even more torn than Remus' own, lacking the patches he had sewn into his own sorry set. Robes one would never associate with the stiff collared and 'Merlin forbid there's a single wrinkle in the precious frock coat' Snape.
The man used more starch in his laundry than the entire population of Britain. Had something to do with that stick, Remus privately thought, or perhaps it was a package deal- starch sold in bulk at a discount.
"You can't wear those robes and expect this scheme to work, Sirius," he stated. "You know how Severus is about his attire. He wouldn't be caught dead in something like that."
"I'm already wearing his skin, do I have to wear his clothes too?" Sirius shot back. The black eyes didn't glitter with hatred, as Remus was accustomed to. Sirius was trying to use the puppy dog eyes. A formidable weapon when they were their normal wide blue- now it was nearly comical, not to mention slightly disturbing.
It was difficult to keep his lip from twitching- but laughing would only send Sirius into a rage. Remus cleared his throat and folded his hands behind his back. "Yes," he simply replied.
Sirius ran a frustrated hand through his hair, and then grimaced as he pulled it away. He looked nearly ill, gazing down at his palm, before wiping his hand off on his robes. After a moment, he finally gave in. "Fine."
He turned and roughly kicked the stone with the small chip in the corner. The wall slid aside with a loud grind against the corridor, and soon the pair were staring at the silver serpent lazily gazing at them. "Passsssword." Sirius groaned and gazed over at Moony.
"You're its master. Order it to let you in," Remus pointed out.
Sirius rolled his eyes before turning back to the snake. "Open up."
The snake was suddenly cut off as Sirius' hand snatched its cold silver body just below the triangular head and began squeezing. "Open up." It was delivered in a soft whisper. A deadly sort of whisper that could nearly pass for Snape's if the voice had been a bit deeper.
With a jerk the snake winced, and then nodded slowly. As soon as Sirius' hand let it go, the lock on the door clicked.
Remus started reaching for the handle, then stopped short as he realized it, too, was silver. He had to wonder if it had always been silver, or if it had been added two years ago. He glanced helplessly at Sirius, who muttered something very unflattering under his breath before turning it himself.
The opulence of Snape's quarters made the both of them a bit sick at Slytherin indulgence. There was something to be said for fineries, yes, but Slytherins always took it over the top. While Sirius snorted at the furnishings, Remus' eyes were drawn towards the floor to ceiling bookshelves.
He couldn't help but skim over a few of the spines before reluctantly tearing his eyes away to search for the door that would lead to the bedroom from the sitting room combination office. He found it in the gap between the giant darkly polished cases, and motioned Sirius to follow him through.
Sirius steps seemed to slow, as if his ankles were weighted, and his eyes turned bleak. It was clear he truly despised every moment in that body. Remus himself never understood why the two had let such a silly school grudge run so very deep and lasting. He suspected they enjoyed having someone other than them selves to despise.
And though Remus would never say it to Sirius, even under torture, he thought the two were very much alike in many respects. Brilliant, short tempered, terribly passionate towards what they truly cared about, rash to take action, disregard for anyone's feelings but theirs, selfish, and stubborn. Both locked in prisons- different prisons to be sure, but not all cells were fashioned with stone and bars.
Too alike, he supposed, to ever be anything but rivals. In the end, they had been so similar they had repelled each other like those muggle magnets. Snape couldn't give up the memory of the popular boy who'd bullied him, and Sirius couldn't see Snape as anything but the dark and twisted little Slytherin.
Perhaps Sirius was still thinking he could have turned out like Snape had he not defied his own family.
Remus watched Sirius as he snatched clothes from the large bureau and tossed them negligently to the floor. Sirius would likely never realize he was different from his family and his heritage, and still ran from it. He'd never have peace with himself until he could reconcile that.
Reconciling with Snape was the closest thing he could come to that now. As Sirius made a face down at the long coal trousers, Remus sighed and thought that was as likely as Voldemort and Harry becoming pals and chumming around at a cozy little tea party.
"Just pick something," Remus finally ordered. "We haven't much time to waste browsing through his wardrobe."
"Browsing? He's got five of everything!" Even as he protested, he did drape the large set of black robes over his arm. "No imagination or style. Surprised he doesn't have a pair of underwear labeled for every day of the week."
Sirius then snickered and pulled out a set of black silk boxers. "Oh, you know no one's going to see them! Why even bother?"
Remus shrugged as he answered. "Bad memories?"
Picking up a shirt, Sirius snorted. "One man's embarrassment is a Marauder's treasure."
Fuming over that statement, Remus flung one of Snape's frock coats at Sirius. He hadn't found it funny at all, and he never cared for that saying James had coined. "Change."
"Alright, alright!" Sirius replied as he made his way towards the bathroom. "No need to get so snippy, Moony," he called over his shoulder. He then stopped and gazed at the wall. "That's just creepy," he murmured. Remus glanced over curiously, and saw Sirius was staring at a portrait before continuing on to the bathroom and shutting the door.
He only rolled his eyes, thinking Sirius had spotted a painting of Snape's parents or Salazar Slytherin, and dismissed it before he began picking up Snape's discarded clothing. He carefully folded and hanged each article, showing the respect for the private property of others. Another thing Sirius needed to learn yet.
A horrified shout from the bathroom made him pause in the act of securing one set of robes back on its wooden hanger. "Sirius?"
"That's just not fair!"
Remus' eyebrows pinched together in his confusion. "What?"
There was a pregnant pause. Then a muffled, "nothing," was growled from the other side of the door.
Passing the incident off in his mind, Remus returned to the clothes. A few seconds later, Sirius immerged with the white shirt hanging open and in the process of fastening the trousers closed. "Bastard."
"Sirius, I don't see what Snape could have possibly done to irritate you when he's not even here," Remus responded calmly as he closed the bureau doors.
The buttons lining the fine white shirt were jerkily pushed through their little slits as Sirius scowled. "It's a damn waste. Whatever higher power there is up there has a sick sense of humor. Unless-" Sirius paused near the collar, turning thoughtful, "unless he used a potion. Or maybe used an engorgement charm on it?"
Not even sure he wanted to know the answer, Remus asked the question anyway. "It?"
Sirius gave him a significant look. "It," he replied solemnly.
"Oh for Merlin's-" Remus cut himself off and counted mentally for a few seconds before trusting himself to speak. "That is so juvenile it doesn't even dignify a response!"
"It's not juvenile!"
Remus gave him one of those level looks. "You're too old to be jealous over something like that."
"Jealous?!" Sirius responded incredulously. "I'm not jealous! I've nothing to be jealous about! I've never gotten any complaints!"
"I don't want to have this conversation," Remus remarked- doing his best to ignore Sirius.
"All I'm saying is giving someone like Snape a tool like that-"
"-is a damn waste! He's never had a girlfriend in his life! Probably pays." Sirius remarked acidly.
Remus frowned. There was no use in saying anything to him. It would go in one ear and out the other. "Just finish dressing, Sirius."
Sirius obeyed, but not without much muttering. It was another ten minutes until he managed to fasten all the 'stupid and useless' buttons. When he finally added the cufflinks, Remus looked him over critically, walking a slow circle around him. Finally, he nodded. "You look like Severus."
"I don't sound like Snivellus," Sirius replied, deliberately drawling the name.
Considering the problem, Remus folded his hands behind his back and began pacing. He was well aware of the clock that was ticking away. Not only for the Polyjuice, but on Harry as well. He gazed over at Sirius. "I don't suppose you can still do your Severus impression."
Sirius rolled his eyes. "That's a caricature- not an actual impression." He folded his arms, and Lupin was left staring up slightly at the familiar pose cast by Snape. "I can mimic his movements, but not his voice."
"Do a lot of Snape watching?" Remus asked with a touch of sarcasm.
Sirius gave him a cheeky grin. "Know your enemy."
Running a frustrated hand through his hair, he was left trying to dredge up something else they could use. "There must be something," he murmured.
"What about that ventriloquist charm? Eh?" Sirius suggested.
"I can't do Severus' voice. Mine is too rough. And if we had Snape at our disposal- he would just interrogate Malfoy himself."
Sirius turned quiet for a moment, his head bent down slightly. It caused Snape's shoulder length hair to fall in front of his face and nearly shield him- except for that nose. Then, Sirius turned back and looked towards the wall partially obscured by the large four-poster bed. A slow smile, which looked sinister on Snape, spread across his face. "Why don't we use him?"
As Remus watched, Sirius pointed towards the painting he had briefly walked by before changing. "Him?"
"Go look for yourself," Sirius replied- smirking and folding his arms. "It's strange in the extreme- but that's Snivellus for you."
Remus moved past Sirius towards the gilded frame of the painting. It wasn't until he was standing in front of it that he was able to see it clearly- and his jaw dropped.
Sneering at him from inside the painting's frame was Severus Snape. He was garbed in the same black robes and old world task master outfit Sirius now wore. It looked as if he had posed for it (and reluctantly- although that could just be Severus' usual shining disposition coming through) in his private potions laboratory. Cauldrons and beakers were all around him, and he leaned rather casually against the long wooden table.
"Severus?" he asked, astonished, and wondering how in the world he had ever missed this before. Then, he reflected, Severus had probably placed a charm on it. Walk right by it, and unless it was pointed out to you, you'd miss it.
Then he wondered why anyone would have a portrait of themselves hanging in their bedroom. Sirius was right, that was a bit creepy.
"Of course it's me, werewolf," the painting replied in Snape's usual cadence of silk over razor blades. "Are you growing nearsighted?"
He hated animated paintings- all the personality of their subjects. "Ah, no. Just- a bit shocking really. What are you doing here?"
"Albus' idea. Which should explain everything," Snape replied, his face an interesting mixture of boredom, loathing, eagerness (probably to get back to one of the experiments bubbling behind him), and irritation. "What are YOU doing here?"
Remus glanced around. "Well, I wouldn't be in here normally-"
"That goes without saying."
"-but you and Harry have been kidnapped-" before he could finish, Snape cut him off again.
"Yes, I know all about it. Bimble is always gossiping with the Fat Lady- and whatever you tell that bint works its entire way around Hogwarts faster than you can say Quidditch." He was silent then for a few moments, as his attention was directed to a cauldron. Snape added some sort of ingredients to it, stirring them in carefully as he did so. After he was finished, he turned and regarded Lupin again. "Well, I can assure you I am not here. Mr. Potter is most definitely not here. And as soon as Black returns my things I'd like you both to be out of my rooms so that no one is here."
Remus pursed his lips together, considering something. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to help us find out where you and Harry have been taken?"
The glare he received was colder than the North Pole. "Not unless I'm ordered."
"That can be arranged," he promised calmly. Threaten was such an ugly word, but could have also applied to the tone of his voice.
Remus and Sirius both spent the next fifteen minutes verbally sparring with the portrait of Snape. In the end, they finally managed to come to an arrangement in time for Sirius to take the final dose of Polyjuice. Remus applied the ventriloquism charm on the painting and Sirius just before Snape left his frame.
Sirius was offended when Snape had sneeringly referred to him as the 'dummy', but Remus had bustled him out of the set of rooms before Sirius could say anything in reply. The walk from the quarters to Snape's office was filled with interjections from Snape, who followed in the frames. Sirius, still looking a mirror image of Snape, began growing red when comments such as 'Sirius Black is a blubbering idiot' kept coming from his lips in the middle of his briefing from Remus.
They were a few steps from the office when Remus was forced to restrain Sirius from ripping the canvas Snape currently occupied to shreds. The eighteenth century ladies who had been quietly doing needle work collectively shrieked in feminine outrage and fear before fleeing their frame. Snape had merely chuckled darkly- that was rather disconcerting since it also came out of a snarling Sirius- before disappearing from the Victorian parlor painted within that portrait.
Remus and Sirius exchanged a glance before opening the office door and stepping inside. Remus hadn't changed a thing, knowing there would be hell to pay from Snape if he did. Given how infuriated Snape was likely to be when he was returned to normal, Remus decided not to push his luck. The strange animals, or just their various limbs and organs, floated as gruesome displays within their pickled jars. The desk was still covered in parchment, and Snape's own fine Raven quill beside Remus' rather shabby owl quill, and the chair had nary a new crease in its black leather.
Sirius moved around the desk and dropped down into the expensive chair. It indeed looked as if Professor Snape had returned to make the students' lives hell. Remus looked up and saw a doctor within the painting of an early nineteenth century oratory hall, busily dissecting a human corpse, just as Snape joined the audience. The Potions Master moved up the theater seats to a higher level, and disappeared further back- blending in with the spectators quickly scribbling note's on the doctor's muffled lecture.
Seeing everyone was in place, Remus drew in a deep breath and grabbed a pinch of floo powder from the small tin atop the mantel. "Here it goes," he told Sirius before tossing it into the fireplace. "Slytherin Common Room."
After sticking his head into the emerald flames without a moments hesitation Remus called out a single name followed by strict instructions. "Mr. Malfoy! Report to Professor Snape's office immediately!"
Still tightly clutching the stuffed werewolf doll Snape had dropped back in the bathroom of The Three Broomsticks, Harry was nearing full-blown panic. Suddenly waking up without the ability of sight, and then relying on one's sense of touch to navigate rocky terrain, was a terrifying experience. He had long since stopped calling out for Snape, as the echoes only hindered his progress- not to mention frazzled his already shot nerves. Instead, he settled for stumbling around.
Time was meaningless to him. For one, he had no idea how long he'd been unconscious after being drugged by Boots. Two, there was no sun or stars to mark the passage of minutes into hours. Harry did not think he'd been here for an entire day, awake at least, but if asked he couldn't have said how long he had been conscious. Two hours? Four? Ten? It seemed an eternity passed with each second.
His feet carried him to an unseen destination, and he even wondered if he was going in circles at one point. The rising pillars of rock he would occasionally encounter with outstretched hands all felt the same. He had fallen so many times, jarring his injured head, he wondered if he had turned around or went left or right. He was trying to walk a straight line, but the very act of attempting such a feat in the darkness was laughable.
The uneven rock below his feet cut into his knees as he tripped once again. Harry grit his teeth as he felt the cold ground dig into his kneecap. Leaning forward, he placed all his weight onto his hands and arms until the pain subsided enough to be dealt with. Once it dulled, he pushed back up to his feet, wincing as he continued forward. He felt battered. Not yet beaten, though.
The air was cold. Even though he couldn't see his breath, he could actually feel it hitting his face- and knew it was coming out in gray steaming puffs. He was glad there was no wind making it worse, but at the same time it seemed to seep into his clothes and his skin to his muscles that shivered uncontrollably in an attempt to generate some sort of body heat. His heavy cloak, with his wand, was back at The Three Broomsticks- and there was nothing but Mrs. Weasley's jumper to try and insulate whatever heat his body did manage to generate.
It wasn't freezing though - if it were, he'd probably have frost bite. Harry could tell because there was a constant dripping somewhere ahead of him that sounded like the leaky faucet in the boy's bathroom on the fourth floor Filch had yet to fix. The dripping sound that had become his only guide through the dark abyss, and an unreliable one with the echo that followed even it.
All in all, Harry was pretty sure he'd never been more miserable in his life. There wasn't a silver lining to this cloud, or if there was, it was too damn dark to see it.
While he continued to stumble along, he had nothing but his own angry thoughts for company. That, at least, took his mind of the pain, this pitch-black pit, and the cold. So far he had decided Boots had definitely kidnapped both himself and Snape. That, of course, led to the question why. What would possibly motivate him to take them away from Hogsmede? The only answer to that was Voldemort. No one else would drop Harry into this place. Well, the Dursleys probably wouldn't mind it if Harry fell off the face of the earth- but they definitely wouldn't go to Boots, another freak, to get the job done.
Although- picturing his Uncle Vernon as some sort of mafia godfather ordering a hit on Harry was somewhat hilarious. Or that could have been the panic again.
Keeping his mind on track as he reached out blindly and took tiny baby steps not unlike Snape's own wobble, he continued with the mystery. The only suspicious behavior he remembered was spotting Malfoy talking to the Hufflepuff the other day in the corridor after Harry had left Dumbledore's office. Harry's lips pressed together as he remembered the sight of the pair. At the time, he thought it odd- now he found it incriminating.
This entire situation stunk of ferret.
So while Harry had kept his eye on the Slytherins, they had gone and recruited a Hufflepuff. He'd made the same mistakes his parents had made- although Maxwell Boots had never been a friend. Never the less, it still stung like a stab wound in the back.
A passage from Snape's journal sprung to his mind. The professor's writing was usually as dry as his sarcasm, but he had been anxious at one point. Snape had worried the swelling ranks of Death Eaters weren't just coming from his house, and that pressure was being applied to selected students who made up the balance of Hogwart's student body. That made sense, really. Pettigrew had been in Gryffindor, and he had still gone to the other side. Probably pushed there by Malfoy's dad or one of his chums. It seemed their recruitment patterns didn't change much from one generation to the next.
But Snape didn't know who those targeted students were, wasn't even sure how many there were- if there were any at all. After all, Snape couldn't call other students into his office for tea and biscuits and make discrete inquiries as to their political alliances like he could with his own charges. Well, Harry now knew of one. Should add an addendum to Snape's journal, he thought bitterly.
If Snape wasn't recruiting, then someone else was, and Harry had a pretty good idea of who that was. The image of Malfoy quietly whispering to the nervous Hufflepuff flashed in his mind again. What a bastard.
Now every time Harry fell, he made a silent list of each bump and scrape to pay back to Malfoy when he got out of this mess. Rules be damned, he was going to duel that little Death Eater wannabe right into the corridor wall next he spotted him.
Harry continued mentally beating the Slytherin to a bloody pulp when he tripped again. This time, however, there was a noticeable difference in what had caught his foot. It had rung out, sort of like a thick bell. In fact, the sound was still echoing.
Feeling around him, his hand hit several cold steel rungs fashioned into long, and sharp, rectangles. When he followed these outwards, he discovered they were connected to two longer ones on either side. As if a metal ladder had been laid down onto the floor.
Tracks. Darkness. Echoing water drops. A cold, rocky floor. Sweet Merlin, he was in some sort of mining shaft.
What the hell?
Pushing himself up once again, he began to cautiously follow the tracks. He had no idea where they would lead him- deeper into the mine or to its entrance? Right now, it was the best he had to go on. Why would they leave him in a mine? Per Voldemort's instructions? And why would Voldemort dump him in a mine anyway?
Harry sighed, the sound echoing for a short way around him, as he continued to mull the questions over in his mind while following the tracks and hoping they'd lead him to the way out.
"Whosssss the cutesssst baby? You are! Yesssss you are! Goochy, goochy, goo!"
Watching Voldemort shake the silver rattle with the tiny green bow above a terrified looking Snape, both Lucius and Wormtail cringed. Somehow it just didn't fit in with the 'world dominating evil' one would usually associated with Voldemort.
Snape seemed to feel the same way. His facial expressions ranged from scared out of his little shoes to just disgusted. When Voldemort grew unhappy with Snape's responses, the tiny toddler would reach up reluctantly and half-heartedly grab the rattle that had to contend with the sound of Nagini's hisses.
Tired of watching the scene, and feeling he might just have nightmares for the rest of his life, Wormtail hesitatingly spoke. "Perhaps he's too, um, old for a rattle, My Lord? He might like a different toy?"
"Yes, much too old for the rattle," Lucius immediately agreed, nodding emphatically.
Voldemort wheezed (the closest he could come to snorting) and stopped shaking the silver rattle. "What do you suggest then?"
Fidgeting nervously with his cane, Malfoy Senior turned to look at Wormtail. Wondering why he was now suddenly the expert on babies, he tried to recall what James and Lily had given Harry. Of course, Harry had still been young when they'd been killed, little more than ten months old. He wracked his brains for several thick silenced moments. "Uh, blocks?"
"Do we have blocks?" Voldemort asked, turning towards the hidden Death Eaters.
One of them, probably Crabbe Senior judging by the grunting voice, stepped out and answered. "I don't believe so, My Lord."
The red eyes narrowed into angry slits. "No blocks."
Crabbe audibly gulped. "No, sir."
In a fit of rage, Voldemort flung the rattle at Crabbe. It whacked the Death Eater right in the center of his mask, and caused him to cringe reflexively. "IDIOTS! I specifically ordered for preparations to be made! How on earth can you run Australia?! You. Can't. Even. Get. Alphabet. BLOCKS!"
Crabbe groveled on the ground, his mask scraping the stone floor. "Forgive my pathetic existence, Dark Lord!"
Ignoring Crabbe, Voldemort turned towards Lucius. "Do we have anything suitable?"
"I believe we have Legos™," Lucius replied shrugging gracefully.
"Colored building blocks that can be assembled into structures. Ah- the box did read only for children six and up."
Voldemort began visibly seething. "DOES HE LOOK SIX TO YOU?!"
"No, My Lord," Lucius replied smoothly.
One of the long scaled fingers began tapping restlessly on the arm of the throne. "The child must be entertained, you worthless excuses for minions." He sighed and turned to Severus. "Good help is so hard to find."
"Ithiut," Snape supplied. "Yuh phult."
"And why can't I understand him?! I can speak four demon languages, and yet I can't understand one syllable that comes out of his mouth!" Voldemort shouted.
"This situation demands rectification, you maggots. Immediately." Voldemort motioned for Wormtail. With obvious hesitation he slowly made his way up to the throne, nervously stepping over Nagini. Voldemort picked Snape up and handed him over to Wormtail- who took the toddler only after receiving a blazing glare.
Snape looked up at him with obvious distaste. Wormtail sighed mentally and backed away from the throne while Voldemort continued. "Lucius, Wormtail- entertain him. If you want anything done right you just have to do it yourself." He stood then, and stepped over the giant snake. All the Death Eaters, aside from Wormtail who was still holding Snape, immediately dropped to the floor. "Crabbe, follow me." With that, the Dark Lord left the throne room with Crabbe cringing after him and simultaneously bowing- looking like some sort of hunchback.
When Voldemort finally left the throne room, everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.
"This is a disaster," Lucius said to no one in particular. "I knew this was a bad idea. Narcissa is more than competent to take care of Sev."
"Shame Bells is still in Azkaban," Goyle grunted as he stepped out of the shadows. "She's the only one the Dark Lord would trust with Sev."
Lucius snorted. "She's mad as a hatter. Was before she was tossed into Azkaban, and I shudder to think how much of her mind is gone now. There's no way she'd be able to care for him."
Goyle took off his mask, revealing his round face complete with jowls. It looked as if his brow had scrunched in thought, but that was rather difficult to say for sure since it was pretty much a long thick line of hair. Besides, Goyle had nothing between the ears. "I thought they had that thing-"
"Not that old story. Maybe if she was so drunk she was falling off her barstool," Lucius replied snidely.
Snape grabbed onto Wormtail's collar, pulling himself up further so that Wormtail had to lay him against his chest. "Shud uph!"
The emphatic declaration made them all jump in surprise. Then, slowly, Lucius' eyes focused on Snape's face. "You understand me?"
Snape snorted in a manner very similar to Lucius'. "Corth."
Lucius stalked forward till his nose was inches from Snape's. The two locked eyes and stared at each other for several seconds. "Not even you are that brilliant, Sev."
"Thartah than you, Yusee," was the derisive reply. "Whas Pooper?"
"What?" Lucius asked, blinking.
Snape scowled. "Pooper! Hawwy Pooper! Wha ith he?"
"I think he means Potter," Goyle muttered- moving his finger as if to poke Snape. When the toddler's lips drew back, revealing two rows of tiny sharp teeth, and snarled- Goyle quickly withdrew the finger.
"He's been tossed down one of the caverns," Wormtail answered. This had to be the strangest conversation he'd ever held.
Snape became silent again, and his eyes darted to the side in thought. Finally he seemed to come to some sort of decision. "Thown!"
"Thown?" Lucius echoed dully.
"Puh meh thown, thuntherheath." He reached towards the floor and began kicking his feet rather painfully into Wormtail's stomach. "THOWN! THOWN THOWN THOWN THOWN!"
"Oh no! You're not running around!" Lucius replied snidely. He pointed towards Nagini who was resting lazily in front of the throne. "We can't be sure she won't eat you. Likes little babies, you know."
Tightening his hold on the once again still toddler, Wormtail gazed at Lucius. "What should we do with him?"
Lucius rolled his eyes. "I don't know. We're supposed to keep him happy." He turned to Goyle. "Entertain him."
Goyle stared at him blankly. "How?"
"I don't know! Sing him a song. Do a little dance. Just keep him occupied until the Dark Lord returns." Lucius snapped, smartly rapping Goyle in the head with his cane.
While Lucius turned and walked back up to the throne, sitting into it, Goyle slipped him a disgruntled look as he rubbed his head. "Right," he muttered. He turned back to Snape. "Uh, how about the rally song?"
Gritting his teeth, Snape glared angrily at him with his large black eyes.
"Oh yeah. You never liked it. Well, blimey. The only other song I know is 'I'm a little teapot.'"
Snape looked as if he was about to deliver some scathing insult at Goyle- then paused. A slow, evil grin spread across his face. "Yeth! Withel Thee Poth!"
"Okay," Goyle replied, already moving one hand to his waist while his other stuck out. He began swaying side to side and bobbing his head. "I'm a little tea pot, short and stout! Here is my handle, here is my spout…"
From the throne, Lucius groaned as if in pain while Goyle continued 'singing' and 'dancing'.
"Here they are," Hermione stated as she pointed to the two blinking dots labeled Lupin and Black within Snape's office.
With his face recently scrubbed clean, Ron no longer looked as if he'd just emerged from a chimney. His eyebrows, however, were nearly entirely gone but for a few red tufts of hair. A couple of spells had cleared up his hearing, which Hermione was glad for since she no longer had to yell in his face.
Ron bent over Hermione's shoulder and peered down at the map. "They haven't spoken to Malfoy then?"
"Looks as if they're about to," Hermione answered. Looking up at Ron, there was hope in her eyes. "There's still time."
"Good," Ron replied already moving away. He walked over to Harry's bed and dropped to his knees before sticking his head under it. When he spoke next, his voice came out muffled. "Think they'll get it out of Malfoy?"
"Positive," she answered before tapping the map with her wand. "Mischief managed."
As the parchment cleared of its diagram, Hermione watched Ron rummage around beneath the hanging maroon curtains. "What are you doing?"
"Getting Harry's broom," came the answer. A rolled up old gray sock was tossed out, followed by an empty box of Bertie's Every Flavor Beans. Finally, Ron gave a victorious 'yes' and dragged out Harry's prized Firebolt.
It was in top condition, since Harry kept meticulous care of it. Not so much as a wayward twig had been left unclipped, and no scratch marred the surface of the wooden handle. Ron stood up, broom in hand, and noticed Hermione's hesitant expression. "Don't tell me you're still nervous about flying."
She was undoubtedly still nervous about flying, judging by the way she was chewing at her bottom lip. "I had a bad experience."
"Nothing safer in the world, 'Mione."
Walking over to Harry's trunk, Ron examined the latch on it for a few seconds before smiling and retrieving his wand. Hermione had to restrain the urge to twitch from the worry of what he was planning now. Instead of any huge spells, a simple alohamora was uttered. Reaching inside, Ron's hand emerged with Harry's Invisibility Cloak that was quickly tucked under the crook of his arm. Ron then walked over to the window and unlatched it. "Door's a no go, that leaves the window. You want to jump?"
She sent him the look. It seemed every woman on earth had it, and every man on earth had been reduced to shame under it. Wisely deciding to drop the sarcastic comments, Ron cleared his throat, and threw one leg over the broomstick. "Well?"
There was obvious hesitation on her part. Finally, with a heavy sigh, Hermione crossed the room till she stood next to Ron. "You do know how to fly with two?"
"'Course. Trust me," he replied. Hermione arched her brow, but did climb onto the broom behind him. "Hold on tight, okay? Leave the rest to me."
"Alright," Hermione answered before hugging Ron so tightly he was worried she might crack one of his ribs.
"Not so tight, 'Mione," he breathed.
"Oh-" her grip relaxed a bit, "sorry."
"No worries. Here we go."
It was a brief period of time before a knock came on the door to Snape's office. Sirius and Remus exchanged a look, before Sirius said softly, "Ready, Snape?"
From his mouth came the acidic reply, "of course, you idiot mongrel."
"Look more… Severus-like," Remus advised when the thunderous expression came over Sirius', or rather Severus', face. On second thought, Remus considered as he moved to open the door, perhaps that is Severus-like.
The arrogant and pointed face of Draco Malfoy greeted him on the other side. It was clear from the look in his gray eyes that he did not enjoy being called upon. Remus was very sure it had something to do with being a Gryffindor Alumni acting as Head of Slytherin or just being a shabby Werewolf ordering a Malfoy about. "You called, sir?"
"Yes, Mr. Malfoy," Remus said, putting a smile on his face despite the way Malfoy made 'sir' seem like a dirty word. "I've a rather pleasant surprise for you."
A blonde brow lifted in doubt. "Oh?"
Still smiling, although the corners of his lips were trying to twitch into a frown, Remus stepped aside and left a clear view of Sirius.
The affect was astounding. Draco's face lit up as if Christmas had come early, and a wide smile bloomed over his features. "Professor Snape!" he began happily, marching past Remus without so much as a look in his direction. "You're back!"
Unseen by Draco, the painting hanging with a clear view of the office above the desk, spoke through Sirius' lips. "Obviously, Mr. Malfoy."
Draco smirked at his Head of House, and Remus knew right there the deceit worthy of a Slytherin would actually work. "I was just writing a letter to Father," Draco began proudly, "that the Gryffindors aren't worthy to lick your boots- let alone care for you during your- ah-" there was a pause, "unfortunate circumstance."
"Indeed," came the answer, Sirius standing and flicking the black robes behind his slim frame as he smoothly glided around the desk. He came to a rest next to Malfoy, arms folded and still towering over the growing boy. "I suppose I'll have to thank you, Draco. Had it not been for your… assistance… I may have been stuck with those inept idiots for much longer."
"I'm not sure what you mean, sir," Draco said innocently, though a smirk twisted his lips.
Remus had to hold back the urge to grab the boy and shake him soundly at the pleased look plastered over Malfoy's face. From the balling of Snape/Sirius's fists, he supposed Sirius was having much the same difficulty. Still, the stone mask was holding firm on Sirius' face, and he continued to stare down the long and crooked nose at his supposedly favorite student. "Of course not."
For a moment the two exchanged a look, Sirius' intense while Draco's was completely self-satisfied. Suddenly, with no warning- not so much as a hand gesture- Sirius' wand was out and directed at Remus. The curse that hit him was one Remus did know, and as he fell back, seemingly into unconsciousness as he slipped to the floor, he commended Sirius' quick thinking. It was fallo stupefy- the false sleep.
From behind hooded eyes, he heard the conversation begin anew.
"I've wanted to do that for days now, sir," came the oily voice of the young Slytherin.
"I'm afraid that is nothing next to the decades I've wanted to hex the sub-human creature," Severus assured. To Remus' way of thinking, it was likely true from the portrait's perspective. "Now, I assure you, you may speak quite freely, Draco. I'm most pleased with your cleverness in helping to capture Potter."
The change from merely smug to positively preening was somewhat disgusting. "I was going to do it myself, sir. As a gift, to show my loyalty- but Potter was watching me too closely. As if he knew I couldn't be trusted with you." Draco laughed in a disturbingly sinister fashion for one so young. "What rubbish."
"Quite. I can say the Dark Lord has taken notice, Draco. I suspect you'll be able to join sooner than expected. Perhaps during the holidays."
There was a conspicuous hesitancy, and when Draco spoke, he seemed much less enthusiastic and pleased. "Is that so?"
A silence stretched for a moment, and then there was the rustle of robes as Sirius moved further about the room. "How did you convince Mr. Boots to go through with it? A Hufflepuff… close to Mr. Diggory if I remember correctly. Quite a feat to accomplish."
"Not really. You know the Dark Lord's efforts are extending, sir. Boots was afraid of ending up like Diggory, the idiot, and was willing to do what it took to stay out of the Dark Lord's way. Of course, a bit of persuasion never hurts."
"Is Potter dead then?" Draco asked so nonchalantly the question could have been about the weather, or perhaps the latest Quidditch scores.
There was another laden silence, and Remus swore Sirius' breathing hitched with the effort it must have taken to control his temper.
"Ah, yes. Potter is gone."
There was another shift of leather and the sound of Draco lounging- presumably in Snape's seat. "Excellent. With Potter out of the way the Quidditch Cup is ours."
"I'm more concerned about the Auror's uncovering any evidence," Snape's portrait murmured through Sirius somewhere near Remus' side. "Since the Prophet is still spinning the story of Diggory's murder."
"In the caverns?" Draco scoffed. "Father said it was an old muggle mine. There are dozens of shafts- I'm sure he can be dropped down any number of them. Never to be found again."
"A mine," Severus repeated slowly.
"An odd place for the Dark Lord, I'll admit," Draco sighed. "My hair won't like the humidity when I'm called to the circle. Perhaps the Dark Lord will move again…"
There was a short moment of silence, and then the sudden rush of movement. A 'finate incantum' later, Remus' eyes snapped open and gazed up to find the reason why.
Severus' elongated face was shifting back into Sirius', the hair slowly lengthening, as if growing in fast motion. A quick glance to Draco saw the boy staring in abject horror as the man dressed as his Professor turned into the wanted murderer, Sirius Black.
"Wasn't hard," Sirius said in his raspy voice, wearing an absolutely nasty smile. "For such a crafty bunch, you can be really dense and naive at times." When Draco's hand shakily went for the Floo powder, Sirius tutted and lifted his wand in Draco's direction "I think not, Malfoy. We're not done with our nice little chat."
He spat the last word, moving towards the usually pale boy who'd now gone sheet white.
"Were you aware of the fact that Harry happens to be my godson?" Sirius questioned in a menacing growl, one hand reaching for the boy's shoulder and shoving him down in Snape's seat. "I'm… protective of him. The thought of anyone harming him makes me a bit," here he leaned his face in close to Draco, who tried to back away unsuccessfully, "crazy."
"Professor!" Draco squeaked, his now wildly scared gray eyes turning from the escaped convict to Remus. "You can't let him hurt me!"
Remus pursed his lips, arms folding themselves over his chest. "I'm afraid Sirius is the better shot, Draco. I don't stand much of a chance."
"But you were Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor!" Draco continued in a pleading tone, shaking in his seat as his face turned imploring to Remus. "Act like it!"
"I was," Remus agreed with a mild nod. "But then, some students spread those nasty stories of my condition-" he cast Draco a shrewd gaze.
Draco audibly gulped.
"I'm afraid you have no friends here, Malfoy," Sirius went on, leaning in closer. "And you know how good I am at getting in and out undetected." Sirius affected a smile that was both charming and rather scary with all the bared teeth. "So why don't you tell us where these caverns are, and I'll just wipe your memory and be on my way."
"He'd kill me," Draco whispered in a tone that was somehow younger and absolutely terrified by the very idea of betraying Voldemort. "I can't."
"You can, and you will," Sirius corrected, the wand now aimed right between a whimpering Draco's eyes. "Or I'm going to get very upset. You wouldn't like me upset. I have a tendency of blowing things up."
"You didn't do that," Draco murmured.
From the flash in Sirius' blue eyes, the young wizard realized that was really the wrong thing to say. The wand pressed into the middle of his forehead, Sirius' face contorting with anger. "So daddy and his friend Peter told you all about that, did they? Well, let me tell you something, boy. Azkaban changes a man, and not for the better. I may not have murdered those people, but after being convicted of doing it- I can promise you," Draco whimpered again when Sirius leaned in even closer, "twelve years in Azkaban Prison taught me how. Without blinking."
Sirius cut him off. "For those we care about? You bet we will." Sirius narrowed his eyes. "How about it? Give me the name of the town, Malfoy. Tell me it, and you walk away. Don't- and I'll still get it, just by less pleasant means. I know a lot about misery and torture."
Remus wanted to believe Sirius was simply scaring Draco, but from the look in Sirius' eyes, even Remus doubted it.
After another small gulp, Draco started talking- and this time, the cockiness was definitely out of his voice.
"There they go," Hermione said, her arm clutched around Ron's waist as if she'd be blown off by a mere gust of wind.
Turning his head to get a better look at her, he saw the map clutched in a death grip by her white fingers. "Where to?"
"Leaving the dungeons," she began, eyes focused entirely on the Marauder's map, "looks like they're both going for one of the utility closets. Just beyond the doors leading to the greenhouses."
"Right," Ron said, adjusting the direction of Harry's Firebolt and sending it back towards the Greenhouses peppering the grounds a bit off from the castle. The invisibility cloak had been thrown over both their heads, and thanks to a handy sticking charm of Hermione's it was assured to stay in place through flight. The two ended up hovering a ways above the exit of the castle, watching with anticipation of the two ex-Marauders making their own appearance.
"Nearly there," Hermione told Ron, eyes still fixed to the parchment.
Just as she had promised, the door suddenly swung open beneath them, giving both a bird's eye view of Lupin's sandy hair (slightly grayed) as he stepped out into the chilled afternoon. What caused them both pause was the fact Sirius followed, dressed in Snape's teaching robes and definitely not in his animagus furs, a motorcycle trailing along beside him.
It sounded as if the two were talking, but neither Hermione nor Ron could hear a lick of what was said. "Go lower," Hermione advised softly.
With a nod from Ron the broom slowly hovered closer towards the ground, and the two finally caught onto the anxious sounding conversation between the two wizards.
"…an hour away," Sirius was saying as he flipped one leg over the seat and gazed expectantly towards Professor Lupin. "Be there before you know it, Moony."
Lupin himself looked doubtfully at the motorcycle, about as hesitant as Hermione had when told she'd be riding by broomstick. "Apparition would be quicker."
"Yeah, and then the Ministry's goon squad would trace me," Sirius argued in a rushed voice. "Just get on. I mean, how many flying motorcycle accidents are there? Hm?"
"That's not a valid question," Lupin argued huffily. "That's the only one that flies!"
"Arthur's car," Sirius pointed out.
"Car. With doors and a roof," Lupin declared, waving one hand at the bike. "All of which this lacks. What happened to the side car?"
"You are such a worrywart, Moony," Sirius muttered while rolling his eyes. "The side car cramped my style. Look, do you want to save Harry or not?"
Lupin threw another distrustful glance at the motorcycle, before uttering a sigh. "All right, but if you do any loops or weave about too much- you're letting me off."
"Fine, fine," Sirius assured him, scooting forward in the seat. "Just hold on tight." With a scoff and another sigh of great reluctance, Lupin was soon sitting behind Sirius, holding onto his waist in a manner remarkably similar to Hermione's death grip around Ron. "And we're off!" Sirius proclaimed, and with a single shove the motor was purring as if it hadn't had a fourteen-year break. The sound almost covered Professor Lupin's shout of dismay as Sirius shot into the air- his hair flying back into Lupin's starch-white face.
It was shear luck that they missed colliding into Ron and Hermione. Hermione's squeak was lost over the roar of Sirius' engine, but Ron began gasping for breath. "Mione… not my neck! Need to," wheeze, "breathe!"
The fly over the Scottish countryside was miserable for not just the two tailers, but the two leading the way as well. The wind may not have been a problem if one were relatively immobile on the ground, but in the air it was causing everyone flying towards the caves to shiver uncontrollably as the breeze knifed through their clothes as well as stiffening the skin on their faces and hands. The invisibility cloak remained on even through the worst of the gusts, and thus Sirius Black and Remus Lupin had no idea they were being followed into a Death Eater's headquarters by two young students.
When Sirius finally reached the spot they must have been looking for, Lupin hopped off the bike and put a good amount of distance between himself and the 'death trap'. Sirius merely loped off with a smooth slide from the seat, and led his 'baby' over to a well concealing amount of brush a ways back from the cliffs they'd landed on. Once in the bushes, Sirius allowed the green perennial leaves to properly hide the black chrome, leaving no one the wiser that anyone had landed nearby.
Keeping the broom steady overhead, Ron peered down at the misty landscape. Apparently the ocean met the Cliffside just below them, where he could just detect the surf being tossed up like raindrops against his skin. A ways to the east they'd passed by a small village. Judging by the shoddy shingling and un-paved roads, it hadn't seen much in the way of money for quite some time. Otherwise, nothing but more small, barely qualifying mountains (more like really- really tall hills) were surrounding this costal region, along with a good amount of autumn-striped forestry and farmland.
But the object which seemed to hold Professor Lupin and Sirius' attention was a large, man-made carving in the face of one cliff held up by a hastily constructed archway of rotting wood. Hammered into the ground was an old sign, one that read 'Danger- Abandoned Mine Shafts' in faded red paint.
Glancing over his shoulder, he shared a significant look with Hermione.
"This is it, alright," Sirius said, nearly entirely concealed by a large tree without much in the way of leaves as he peered over towards the opening into another rocky Cliffside. "Just as Malfoy described."
"Voldemort must be planning something," Lupin added from his own examination mere paces away, "keeping this close to Hogwarts."
"With Harry out of the way he doesn't have much to fear," Sirius said grimly. "Got to get in there somehow. Find him."
"And Severus," Lupin said calmly.
Sirius threw him a positively acidic look, glancing down at the robes about his figure before snorting. "I'm more worried about my godson, Moony. If you want to charge in for that no-good, backstabbing Slytherin- be my guest."
Hermione, apparently in a moment of fury, sucked in a hiss of breath. Unfortunately, for one werewolf, the sound was easily heard- even over the crashing waves. Before Ron could attempt to glide out of sight, amber eyes flickered immediately onto their position above the two quarreling wizards, and they narrowed with a brief flare of the nostrils.
A wand was drawn from his sleeve, and aimed straight for them. " Reveal yourself," Lupin said dangerously, even as Sirius was pulling out his own wand.
"Don't hex us," Ron said quickly, almost missing the look of shock and then brief anger on Lupin's face upon recognizing his voice.
"Ron?" he asked, slowly, wand never drifting away.
With a sigh, and a yank, the top of the invisibility cloak was pulled down, revealing his head to them. Instead of yelping or falling away from the discombobulated head, Lupin merely pressed his lips together in an unmistakable frown of disappointment. "What are you doing here?" He stopped and then shook his head. "Nevermind, that was an extremely stupid question. I know what you're doing here." Then, "you shouldn't be here, Ronald Weasley!"
The small, still terrified from being up high, voice of Hermione chimed in. "I'm here too, Professor."
The answering groan was near despair.
Unlike his counterpart in crime, Sirius Black was smiling as if Christmas and his Birthday had both come early. "Chip off the old block, eh Remus? Harry certainly knows how to pick his friends."
"Sirius…" Lupin began warningly.
Ignoring him, Sirius continued. "Didn't expect them to stay where they were when their friend was in danger, did you Moony? Good for you Ron, Hermione!"
"Oh, yes," Lupin stated rather dryly with a faux nod of agreement. "Bloody good of them to follow us into certain danger and possible death, Sirius." Flashing amber settled once more on the two floating above their heads. "Come down. Now. And take off the cloak."
Slowly Ron lowered the broom as ordered, Hermione's hands clutching painfully into his side as they touched down. With a finate incantum, the cloak was freed and Hermione pulled it off them, revealing them both to Sirius and Professor Lupin. Lupin's eyes were nothing but furious, which was a somewhat unnerving sight for the usually mild and calm, unshakable Professor. Sirius, on the other hand, was still grinning like a loon.
"Hand over the invisibility cloak," Lupin ordered, hand outstretched towards Hermione. Once she had complied, Lupin rolled it up and settled it under his arm, giving both of them a serious, no nonsense look. "You'll both go back to Hogwarts and stay there, this time."
"But-" Ron and Hermione began simultaneously, only to be cut off by Lupin's lifted hand.
"Tell the Headmaster where Sirius and I have gone. Alert Madame Pomfrey there could be some injuries." He and Sirius shared a look, one that was grit and determination. His eyes softened when they turned back to Ron and Hermione. "I know you want to help Harry, and I commend you for it. However, this is too dangerous for the both of you to get involved in. Nearly all of Voldemort's supporters are in those caverns, and they will not give you mercy because of your age. In fact, capturing the both of you as well may just be the cherry to top this entire mess."
Ron and Hermione both looked down at his words. Neither wanted to cause anyone else any more grief, but they were still determined to help their friends. "Professor-" Ron started, only to be cut off again by Sirius. Apparently Lupin's words managed to make an impression on Sirius as well, since the enthusiasm at Ron and Hermione's appearance was tapered down somewhat.
Ron and Hermione exchanged another glance, and then Ron was mounting the broomstick again, Hermione once more squeezing him from behind. "Good luck," he said simply, before launching off in the air.
They streaked through the sky without a look back, and once the cliffs had disappeared and only the ocean below them remained- Ron pulled back on the handle and stopped dead in the air- floating above the churning waves.
Shocked, Ron's head whipped around to stare over his shoulder at a smiling and determined Hermione. "You think we should still do this?"
Her brown eyes changed- going harder and colder- nearly unforgiving. "Severus and Harry are in there. What would they do for us?"
"Professor Snape would never condone harm to his students. Not unless there was no other choice for him. I still believe he'd try. We have to try too." Hermione declared from the depths of her being.
Ron blinked, tilted his head, and then smiled. "Yeah. Okay." The smile faded into a frown. "But they took the invisibility cloak. If we try to get in, they'll spot us for sure."
Hermione shook her head. "I've got a plan," she announced.
Raising his brows, Ron listened as Hermione shared her plan. When she was finished, the smile was back on his face. "Bloody brilliant!"
"Shh!" Remus hissed, glaring at Sirius from under the cloak.
"I'm just saying," Sirius went on softly as they grew closer to the entrance, "this is a lot different from when we were kids."
Remus glanced at him from the corner of his eyes, but the bulk of his attention was focused on the caverns beyond the opaque cloak draped over their quickly moving forms. "The danger is greater?"
"No," Sirius corrected. "That's the third time you've stepped on my foot. More room in this cloak when we were fourteen, and neither of us are exactly bulky."
"Well, we're taller," Remus reasoned. Sirius was about to answer, but Remus made a quick cutting motion before nodding towards the caverns.
The sight of a Death Eater in full garb, complete with the featureless silver mask, quieted Sirius before he could even form his first syllable. The two watched as the masked wizard crossed over to the entrance of the caves, his arms folded over his chest as he gazed out at the open field and dirt track leading into the caves. The open field Remus and Sirius were currently crouching low in, clutching the cloak around them as if their lives depended on it. Which, you know, it sort of did.
"Alright," Sirius whispered so low only Remus' Lycan hearing would pick it up, "what now?"
"You have to ask?" Remus returned just as softly in the barest of breaths. "I thought this was just your sort of expertise."
Sirius gazed at him disbelievingly. "Charge in, wands blazing?"
"Mhm," Remus acknowledged with a nod.
"Huh. You're slipping, Moony. I thought you'd have something much slicker in mind," Sirius said with an unmistakable grin of anticipation. His wand appeared in his hand, followed by Remus reaching for his own.
"For Harry and Severus," Remus said inspiringly.
A/N: Will Sirius and Remus get the enthusiasm killed out of them? Will Hermione's plan go off without a hitch? Just what is Hermione's plan anyway? Can Harry escape before it's too late? Will Voldemort find his baby blocks to occupy Severus at the wizarding equivalent of Toys-R-Us? Will Crabbe Sr. ever rule Australia? Will Lucius loose his mind after the tenth round of 'I'm A Little Tea Pot'?
All these questions, and more you aren't even asking, will be answered in the next chapter of THREE GRYFFINDORS AND A BABY!
If you find waiting for the next chappie is too much torture to take, visit a forum at my Bboard where you can discuss TGAB, and also read a bit of extra stuff about the fanfic: 'deleted scenes', 'writer's commentary', 'threaten the author for faster posts' etc… If you're interested, and wish to interact a little with Cely, visit my author's profile page for the link.
Yeah, that's a plug- but what can you do, eh?
Next time: The climax! OMG!
Ithiut – Idiot
Yuh phult – Your fault
Shud uph – Shut up
Corth – Course (Of course)
Thartah than you, Yusee – Smarter than you, Luci (Lucius)
Whas Pooper? – Where's Potter?
Pooper! Hawwy Pooper! Wha ith he? – Potter! Harry Potter! Where is he?
Thown – Down
Puh meh thown, thuntherheath. – Put me down, dunderhead.
Yeth! Withel Thee Poth! – Yes! Little Tea Pot!