READ FIRST: This is a sequel to my other story, "Time Heals All Wounds". If you haven't read it yet you can find it by clicking on my name, and going to the list of my stories.
This begins two weeks after the final chapter, I hope you enjoy!
There was a cheery hum in the halls of Hogwarts as the students began to trickle into the Great Hall for their evening meal. The enchanted ceiling reflected the relentless drizzle that had plagued the castle for more than two weeks, but the atmosphere was light and friendly as the students chattered about their classes and the previous Hogsmeade weekend.
The kitchen was similarly full of chatter and gaiety as the house elves of Hogwarts bustled around the four tables that sent food to their counterparts above. The delicious aroma of roast chicken and herbs filled the air as several steaming platters were directed towards the tables. One elf, her figure so robust that the seams of her pillowcase threatened to burst, shouted orders from the top of an overturned bucket. She went by the name Brisket, and it was clear from the way the others rushed to obey her that she was the one in charge.
"Hufflepuff needs milk! Who's supposed to- oh! Thank you Glint! Make sure it's nice and cold for them- and don't forget the stew for the Ravenclaw table! Half of them spent the day in the Astronomy tower, poor dears. Did anyone remember to-"
As Brisket continued to issue commands, the portrait hole opened, and a familiar elf with peculiarly large green eyes hurried into the kitchen.
"Winky is sleeping," the head kitchen elf informed Dobby as soon as she saw him.
"Dobby is not looking for Winky," the little elf chirped, "Dobby is here to bring food to-"
"Oh yes," Brisket waved him towards the stove, "Dobby may fix a tray."
"Thanks," Dobby smiled gratefully, and hurried to grab a tray from one of the shelves that lined the wall.
There were six giant stoves against the back of the kitchen, one groaning beneath the weight of ten ginormous bubbling pots. After some inspection, Dobby ladled a small portion of chicken soup into a bowl, then, after a quick check to make sure no one was looking, spooned some of the broth into an old butterbeer bottle. He stoppered it, and stored it in his pocket quickly before anyone could see it.
He finished loading the tray with rolls and a glass of milk, and then disapparated with a loud "crack!"
He appeared in the winding staircase of the Gryffindor Girl's dormitory. A torch flickered above him, casting as he began to climb.
"Dobby?" A tired voice called out.
"Dobby has the food," he responded as he climbed a few more stairs and came face to face with his mother. "Should Dobby carry it in?"
Thimble shook her head, "No." She had given the same response every night for the past two weeks. "Thimble will do it, thanks. The bottle-"
"Dobby has it right here," he said, pulling it from his pocket and handing it over. He had asked every night for the first week why his mother wanted the broth, but she had refused to answer.
"Is-" he began hesitantly, "is Miss Hermione feeling better?" He did not know why Hermione had refused to leave her bed for the last couple weeks. He had tried to ask about that as well, but had quickly been told that it was none of his business.
Pain flashed across her features, but was hidden quickly. "No," she said, tucking the bottle beneath her arm.
He and his mother had a friendly enough relationship, and he loved her dearly, but he had always known that she put her duties above her son. He did not blame her, and he would never think to hold it against her, but as he studied the dark circles beneath her eyes he realized that he wished they were closer. For a moment he felt as if he would give anything to ask her what was wrong, and to have her answer truthfully. Instead, he smiled gently at the older elf.
"Dobby will bring Miss Hermione's breakfast in the morning," he promised, "if there's anything else…"
"Thank you, Dobby," she said, patting his hand as she moved to take the tray from him. "Goodnight."
He smiled at the back of her head, "Goodnight."
Thimble stopped at the door to Hermione's dormitory and listened as the girl let out a heart-wrenching sob. She knew for a fact that the brunette only cried aloud when she thought no one could hear.
"Miss Hermione?" She called, pushing the door open.
The room was dark, and bitterly cold. With a snap, several candles lit, shedding some light on the room. Thimble's eyes instinctively went to Hermione's bed. They widened when she saw the brunette sitting at the open window beside it.
"Miss Hermione, come away from there!" She hurried over to the young witch, and set the tray and the bottle on Hermione's bedside table. "Miss will catch her death sitting next to that window, it's raining!"
Sure enough, when Hermione turned her pale face towards Thimble, the elf could see that the witch's skin and hair was wet with raindrops. There were deep, dark circles beneath her eyes.
"I wanted to look at the forest," Hermione rasped, her eyes swimming with unshed tears. "I wanted to see…"
"It's alright, Miss," Thimble soothed, softly leading Hermione to the bed. As Hermione slid beneath the blankets, Thimble closed and locked the window, then twisted back to look at the brunette.
"Thimble brought dinner," she said.
Hermione, who was now sitting up against the headboard, flicked her eyes disinterestedly over the food. "I'm not feeling very hungry today Thimble, thank you."
This was the same response Thimble had received every time she brought food to Hermione. With a sigh, she conjured a little stool so that she could sit beside the bed. She sat, and reached for the bowl. "Please, Miss Hermione? Mistress will be very angry with Thimble when she finds out that Thimble let her little Miss get sick."
Hermione's face looked as if she had been struck, and Thimble felt a guilty pang in her chest. Nevertheless, she stubbornly scooped up a spoonful of soup, and held it out to the witch.
For a long moment it hung between them, steam arching up into aromatic curls in the gloom. Then, Hermione rasped, "Well, we wouldn't want… " she swallowed, "I don't want you to get into trouble."
It was almost painful to watch Hermione choke down half of the soup, but Thimble was very worried about Hermione's health, so she watched with a stern eye as Hermione ate half the soup, and several bites of the bread.
"I'm sorry, I don't think I can drink the rest," Hermione said after she had sipped half the glass of milk.
Thimble eyed the glass, but relented, "That's fine, Miss." With a snap she sent the tray back to the kitchens, "Very good."
Hermione sighed, and laid back, "Thank you Thimble. You don't have to stay, I'll be fine."
Thimble, who knew that Hermione would begin crying again as soon as she left, offered a small smile. "Thimble will stay a bit longer. Miss Hermione should try to sleep now."
"I don't know if I can," Hermione admitted truthfully.
Thimble scooted a little closer, and reached to smooth some of Hermione's hair away from her face. "Try," she said kindly.
Hermione closed her eyes, but the troubled look did not go away. Her brow was furrowed, and her mouth was set in a hard line.
"Good," Thimble murmured, continuing to stroke the brunette's hair. She closed her own eyes and began to hum gently. It was a special type of nanny-elf magic that was usually reserved for fussy babies and sick children. As Thimble hummed, Hermione's breath slowly evened out, signaling the fact that she had fallen asleep. When Thimble opened her eyes she breathed a sigh of relief to see that the witch's brow had smoothed, her lips relaxed in deep slumber.
Thimble gave the bushy mane one final stroke, retrieved the bottle from the bedside table, and then snapped her fingers. She disappeared with a crack!
The mausoleum was even colder than the dormitory had been, and Thimble quickly checked to make sure that the warming spell she had placed on Bellatrix's slumbering body was still in effect. Fortunately, it was.
Hermione had not yet told Thimble about Bellatrix's condition, she tried to every day, but somehow the words had gotten stuck in her mouth. But Hermione had not known that her explanations were unnecessary. The elf had followed them that evening, and had witnessed the whole thing. Thimble had met with the older witch right before Bellatrix went to find Hermione.
"Thimble, you know what I intend to do tonight?" Bellatrix had asked as the two sat side by side atop a small boulder.
The elf had nodded, and had wiped tears away from her eyes, "Mistress told Thimble," she affirmed, "but Thimble still thinks that Mistress can find another way." Her ears drooped, "Miss Hermione will be devastated."
Bellatrix frowned, "It's more for her own good than anything else. He's going to have me kill her, Thimble. Do you understand? Kill her. I can't allow that to happen."
Thimble let out a sob, and covered her face with both hands.
There was a silence. Then, "Thimble, I want you to remember that I forbid you to tell Hermione about any of this."
Thimble nodded, and choked out, "Yes Mistress."
"Good," Bellatrix laid her hand gently on Thimble's shoulder, "I also forbid you to interfere tonight. In any way."
"And I forbid you to mourn me."
Thimble's head snapped up, a protest burning in her eyes.
"Hermione will be devastated," Bellatrix continued, "and I need you to take care of her after I'm gone. You won't be able to do that if you're spending all of your time moping about."
"It wouldn't be 'moping about'," Thimble groused.
Bellatrix smiled, "That's my good elf." She got up, "Well, I think it's time."
"Mistress," Thimble reached out and took Bellatrix's hand, "Please…"
"I have to," Bellatrix said. She gave a sad smile, and wrapped her arms around the little elf. "Goodbye, Thimble. I love you." She pressed a kiss to top of the elf's head.
This caused another round of tears, and Thimble sobbed out a barely-comprehendible "Love you too."
Thimble had only been instructed to not interfere that night. She had returned in the early hours of the morning to perform the heating charm and to spoon some broth into her Mistress' mouth. Ever since she had returned every night to perform basic cleansing spells and to make sure that Bellatrix was nourished.
Two weeks later, Bellatrix looked as if she might leap up from the bed any minute.
"Miss Hermione is not doing well," Thimble said as she uncorked the bottle. She gently tilted Bellatrix's head up so that she would not choke, and poured a little of the broth into her mouth. "Thimble said she would be devastated, but Mistress did not listen."
She paused, watching the muscles in Bellatrix's throat move as she swallowed. "Thimble knows why Mistress did it," she whispered, "Thimble understands."
No other words were spoken as Thimble finished feeding Bellatrix.
As she stoppered the empty bottle there came a knock from the wall at Bellatrix's feet. The elf tensed, eyes wide as the knock sounded again.
"Good evening!" The voice of Albus Dumbledore was muffled slightly as it travelled through the stone walls of the Mausoleum. "I know you are in there, and if you would kindly come out, I believe the time has come for me to introduce myself."
Ten minutes later, a dazed Thimble found herself sitting in the Headmaster's office.
"Do you take sugar in your tea?"
Thimble shook her head, then rushed to offer, "Thimble can pour the tea, sir."
"Nonsense," Dumbledore said good-naturedly as he set the tea cup down on the desk in front of her, "You are a guest in my school, not my employee."
"Thank you, sir," Thimble said, lifting the cup with a shaking hand to take a sip.
Dumbledore nodded, and poured himself a cup. He grinned appreciatively as he drank, and smiled at the trembling elf before him.
"Now, Thimble, was it?"
Thimble nodded, "Yes sir."
He folded his hands on the desk before him, and peered at her over the tops of his half-moon glasses. "Six years ago, I was alerted to the fact that Bellatrix Lestrange's elf had somehow found her way to Hogwarts. At first, I was convinced that you were here to harm Harry Potter. It made sense after all that your Mistress might ask you to strike when the boy reached Hogwarts, but when I had you followed I noticed something."
Thimble's eyes stared unblinkingly into his as she waited for him to continue.
"You did not appear to be interested in Harry Potter. In fact, you hardly ever came into contact with him. In the end, my curiosity won out-I wanted to know what your mistress was planning, you see- and I allowed you to stay."
"Then, a most curious thing happened," Dumbledore said after taking another drink from his cup, "The elf that was following you reported back to me that you seemed to be taking care of one of the Muggleborn students. Apparently you had taken to administering sleeping charms on the girl when she stayed up too late, you were making sure that she woke up on time in the mornings, and you had administered several healing charms when she came down with a cough. These actions are usually found among the nanny-elves of pureblood children, but as I stated, this child was a Muggleborn."
Thimble shifted uncomfortably beneath his gaze.
"I did some research on the child, and I realized that she bore the same name as a certain student who had appeared several decades before on the grounds. You know what I'm referring to?"
There was an uncertain nod from the elf.
"Well, naturally I connected the two of you and realized that this girl was indeed the same Hermione Granger. And if you were here, it meant that your mistress had commanded you here, which means that Bellatrix still cared about the well-being of the girl. Am I correct?"
Nodding, Thimble murmured, "Yes."
A smile bloomed across Dumbledore's face. "I don't know exactly what has been occurring over the past few months at my school," he said, re-filling his cup, "but I am not as weak-minded as I appear."
"The Headmaster does not appear weak-minded," Thimble protested.
"Thank you," Dumbledore grinned. "As I was saying, I have a vague idea about what has happened. Mr. Potter was here a few weeks with some very… interesting questions."
There was a stretch of silence between them, as both took drinks from their cups. Then-
"Miss Granger has not been to class for some time."
Thimble's ears dropped low, and she stared into the amber liquid in her teacup.
"That, and the new structure in the Forest has led me to believe that things did not go as planned."
Her voice was so low that it was barely audible, "Mistress's plans were successful." It was too much. She knew she shouldn't have said the words as soon as they came, but she had long ago been forbidden to punish herself, so she merely lowered her head. She felt wretched.
"I see." Dumbledore's words carried a heaviness. "Is Bellatrix still alive?"
Thimble looked up at him, "Yes, sir. Thimble has kept her alive."
His eyes glimmered with promise, "Then there's hope."
Severus Snape returned to Hogwarts in the dusky hours of early morning. The castle was still quiet, and the only other creature that he saw as he made his way through the Entrance Hall was Mrs. Norris.
He expected to return to his quarters and sleep for a few hours before his first class, but as he strode through the door to his bedchamber it became apparent that his plan was going to have to be revised.
The first thing he saw was the tired face of Dumbledore. The Headmaster was smiling mildly as he rocked back and forth in a chair beside Snape's bed.
Then the potion master's eyes landed on the figure that was stretched out on his bed.
"Bellatrix!" He hissed, striding to hover above her. She was paler than he had ever seen her, and he quickly pressed two fingers to the vein in her neck.
"She's alive," Dumbledore said in that maddeningly calm voice.
Sure enough, Snape felt the faintest thump of a pulse beneath her skin. "What happened?" He demanded, turning to stare at the Headmaster.
Dumbledore rocked on. "I do not know for certain," he said, "But I am sure that it had something to do with Miss Granger. Minerva will be fetching her after the other students have gone to their classes. I do know that she will not wake."
Snape felt a headache forming behind his eyes, "And why," he asked slowly, "is she here?"
"I can't put her in the hospital wing, can I?" Dumbledore chuckled.
Snape was glad that one of them was amused by this. "If she isn't going to wake then shouldn't we transfer her to St. Mungo's?"
"I have a feeling that she may be waking up soon enough," Dumbledore replied. His chair squeaked a little as he shifted to a more comfortable position. "In the meantime, Severus, perhaps you should get a cauldron ready. And review that-"
Snape followed the direction of Dumbledore's gaze, and picked up the ancient tome. "Cernog's diary?" He questioned.
That infuriating glint was in Dumbledore's eye again. "I have a feeling it might be useful."
Snape sighed. "What are you planning this time?"
"I am not planning anything, merely assisting."
"And what does that mean?" snapped Snape.
Dumbledore chuckled again, and heaved himself to his feet. "All in good time, Severus," he patted the younger man on the shoulder as he made his way to the door, "all in good time."
Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter belongs to the fantastic J.K. Rowling, not me. My story was written for entertainment purposes only, and not for profit.