Disclaimer: Harry Potter, his friends, his enemies, and the lovely world they live in all belong to JK Rowling.
Chapters Posted: 21
Words Posted: 141,218
Notes: Thanks to rosskpr for beta reading, and for sticking with me, even as slowly as I write.
Other notes: my kitchen is almost done! (Have been remodeling it, which takes more time than anything has a right to.)
On to the chapter!
Chapter 21 - Consequences
Accidents Happen, Especially when you are Harry Potter
May 21, 1998
Harry could not believe Filch had assigned him to work with the Slytherins again. He was not any good at it, if he were honest with himself, and he suspected he was not really welcome, regardless of what Malfoy said about teaching him. He knew Malfoy would be happy to show Harry all the things he did not know. He could imagine Malfoy gloating about Harry’s ignorance, but could not imagine the blond actually teaching him.
It was strange, though—once Malfoy had started working with him on controlling his magic, the blond changed. His voice calmed. He even said something that Harry had done was good, and said it without sarcasm.
Harry was tempted not to go, but Filch told him to go there, and McGonagall was not there when Harry went to look, and he had volunteered, after all. It would seem quite small-minded, or perhaps big-headed, if he balked just because the team was being led by Malfoy.
He had not minded learning the construction spells, so why did this rub him so much the wrong way? It wasn’t as if they were casting dark magic...they were just cleaning up after it. Harry was not sure what the big deal was. The night before at the Weasleys, when Hermione went to talk with Mr Weasley about something, he had spoken more with Ron about what they were doing. Ron had agreed that dark magic was filthy, and any remnant of it should be cleaned out of the castle. When he mentioned again how Malfoy seemed to be in charge, Ron had started pacing back and forth on the faded rag rug in the Burrow’s living room, insisting that Malfoy should be locked up, not prancing around Hogwarts giving instructions in one of the work crews. “Who knows what he’ll do. He’s probably laying traps all over the place.” Ron had insisted.
“I think they are locked up when they aren’t working. He’s not allowed even to touch a wand.” Harry had explained what the Auror had said about the cuffs on their ankles, and what they did to the wearers.
“Well, maybe. He certainly should clean up after what his kind did. But Harry, promise you’ll keep an eye on him. Make sure he does not do anything.”
So here he was, back under Malfoy’s direction.
“Potter. You again.” Malfoy’s voice contained a sneer even though his face was expressionless.
“They said you still needed help. Can’t paint all by yourself?”
“We have a perfectly competent team, with experience in the procedure, but since no one else seems to be willing to clean up magical residues—“
“Dark magic residues—“
“Potter, I should not have to repeat myself, but all magic leaves a residue. The only difference is the effect of the residue.”
“Well, people have been performing magic at Hogwarts for over a thousand years, and there’s been no need to clean up after the magic we’ve been doing.”
“None that you know of. Potter, by the end of this, you will be versed in magical theory. I will make sure of it. It is unconscionable that the Boy Who Lived, Hero of the Wizarding World does not know the theory behind the magic he throws about.”
“I don’t think I’m learning much catching dust above the cauldron.” Harry commented.
“Well, I guess I’ll have to teach you how to paint the runes.” Malfoy crooked one finger. “Come here Potter. Take a brush.”
Harry took the brush Malfoy reached out to him, and moved to the wall in the corridor where Malfoy indicated. He followed the Slytherin’s example and wet his brush in the cauldron. Parkinson, Nott, and the younger Slytherin whose name Harry couldn’t remember moved to watch what they were doing.
“Pansy, Theo, you can start with the door protection runes. Adrien, watch the cauldron.” Malfoy commanded as if he were completely used to giving orders. He probably was.
“Here, Potter, is the protection rune they are drawing.” Malfoy drew five quick strokes, the first bent, ending up with a square with what looked like an x in the middle. Harry copied the shape.
“No, Potter, it is not a barn door. You are not a commoner, much as you dress like one, to draw the simplified glyphs. That will not hold back the residue... Look.” Malfoy drew it again, as the first had already dried into the wall. He emphasized a little wiggle in the brush as he drew the x in the middle, but the wiggle didn’t appear in the x itself. Harry painted another rune, wiggling his brush. The first one ended up with the x looking like it was made of two snakes, so he tried again. The second time he managed to wiggle his brush but not the line it created.
“What was that?” Malfoy asked.
“It looks just the same!” Harry insisted.
“It looks just the same,” Malfoy sing-songed. “What are you, a Muggle?” Harry flushed. “It is not enough to thrash about like a fish that flopped onto a rock, you need to stay aware of what the magic is doing!”
“I thought we were supposed to restrain our magic.”
“We are. This is not active magic, it’s receptive. Your magical core does not splash about the room merely by observing. You need to watch the effect of the rune, and of your movements, on the room’s magical ambiance. That flourish integrates the rune into the magic of the space around it. Without that, it is just a shape you drew. This—” and he drew another and flourished his brush, “makes it part of the space, connecting it to the other runes as well.”
Harry wet his brush again, and tried to watch the brush as he painted, trying to watch the rune as well. He moved the brush, and tried to wiggle his wrist like he saw Malfoy doing. The end result was a very jaggedy square-ish shape with two snakes inside.
“Potter, what in Merlin’s name is that?”
“Umm... a rune?”
“I was drawing better runes than that when I was seven! Let your hand draw the rune, and your mind see the room.”
Harry bit back what he was going to say, and continued. If Malfoy could do this, he damned well could too. He took a deep breath, and put the brush against the wall. Flick up. Flick right and down. Flick left. Harry tried to see the room with his mind. The rune almost started to glow. Just barely. He dipped his brush into the glow, and with a small twitch, caught the shimmer on the end of his brush. He drew the x, catching the shimmer again and again, weaving it into the rune. When he was done, he was disappointed to note that his x was not the clean swoop Malfoy’s were.
“I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but, not bad, Potter. I must be a better teacher than I thought,” Malfoy preened. “You have now protected a bit of wall from unimaginable dangers.”
Harry looked at Malfoy. “But it’s still wiggly.”
“The rune does not matter. Besides, not all of us can have perfect control and style. You will just have to make do.”
Harry swallowed his comment. The rune worked.
“Only three more to go, and we can let you work with us. Tell you what, today you watch over the cauldron. The guard looks a bit antsy, and I think those of us who know what we’re doing better get to work. Shoo.” Draco waved his hands toward the cauldron.
Harry turned an infuriated gaze toward Malfoy. “So all of that was what? – a chance to insult me? So I’ve never created runes before. I think I did okay for a first try.”
“’Okay’ isn’t good enough, Potter. This is serious work. You can’t just be ‘okay’ or you might blow apart this section of the castle. As amusing as that might be, I don’t want to be here when you do.”
Harry got up. “You’ve got someone watching your precious cauldron. Someone making sure your precious saltwater doesn’t get dusty. You said you’d show me, so show me. At least let me watch you draw the runes. I could practice once I see them drawn enough times.”
“No. Either do the work you are suited for,” and Malfoy gestured toward the cauldron, “and let the skilled wizards and witches do the work, or go whining to McGonagall. I am sure she will be properly horrified that the evil Slytherin insulted you. It’s not like there are more important things here than your temper tantrums.”
The drawl on the last two words was too much.
“It’s just a room!” Harry walked toward the doorway. “A quick spell and the debris will be all sorted and cleared. It’s you that’s holding up the work.” It felt good to shout at Malfoy. He felt so clear, so righteous.
“I bet there isn’t any such thing as magic residue, and you’ve just made that up to keep yourself out of Azkaban. Gotta have something to do that others can’t, so you make something up.” He pulled out his wand, and cast the rubble clearing spell. He had done it so many times, he could probably do it in his sleep.
He did not hear Malfoy’s cry of “Nooo!” By the time it registered, it was too late. He did see the horrified faces of the Slytherins in the room, and they way they rushed out of the room and out of the way. He did hear the crackling sound, and feel the percussion as something rose up and buffeted him to the ground. He did not notice the hand that grabbed his wrist, or the fact that the ground he fell on was softer than stone, or that when he fell, he was out of direct line with the doorway.
He did hear Malfoy’s voice, from somewhere very close by, saying “That was really stupid, Potter.” His mind felt like it was in wool. The pain in his body rivalled that of his scar when Voldemort had been at his most sadistic. The ground under him was lumpy. And moving. Harry promptly threw up.
“Potter, that was my hair! It’s bad enough I can’t get it clean, but...”
The room was suddenly too hot. Or too cold. Harry started shivering so violently that the lumps underneath him reached around to hold him still.
“Could we have some help here? The Boy Who Lived needs a little trip to the hospital wing. And, uh, I think I do, too.”
That voice sounded like Malfoy. What was Malfoy’s voice doing so close to his head?
Suddenly the world tilted, and Harry found himself looking down at Malfoy. “What are you doing on the floor, Malfoy? You don’t look so good.”
Malfoy just glared at him. The world rotated a bit, and Harry realized that the Auror had picked him up off the floor, a floor that Malfoy seemed to be inhabiting. The walls seemed to be waltzing. A nice, sedate twirl. Malfoy climbed to his feet more awkwardly than he had ever seen the blond move.
There was another person in Auror robes, this one a witch, who was ushering the other Slytherins away. “Where are they going?” Harry asked.
“Work is done for the day,” The Auror answered. “It’s off to the hospital wing for both of you.”
“Malfoy, I need you to help him walk. Can you do that?” The Auror sounded strange, as if his voice was wavy.
“Anything for the Boy Who Blew Up A Room.” Malfoy muttered.
There was a lurch, and Harry found himself moving forward, not understanding the odd lurch to his step. And his shoulder hurt. And he was sooo cold. He shivered. Oh, there was a person next to him. He peered at the shape next to him, recognizing the pale blond hair. “You stink, Malfoy.”
“See how you smell when some idiot vomits on you!” Malfoy muttered.
Harry started shivering more violently. He stopped. Malfoy had stopped.
The Auror was turning to face him, his wand out.
“Don’t use any magic on him!”
“I just thought, a warming charm...”
“Do you want to blow a hole in this wall, too? He is covered in residue. I am, too, but I’m wearing my own robes.” The Auror looked back and forth between them. “Silk. Well, partially. Look, we need to get to the hospital wing fast, and without magic, or you will be looking at the Squib who Lived, not to mention the first squib in the Malfoy line for seven generations. If we don’t get to the Hospital wing soon, you will have to carry both of us. Do you want that? I think you might have to take your own cleansing potions, after lifting Potter here off me. Let’s go!”
Something was off about Malfoy’s voice. It was taut as he ground out the words, and Harry recognized the tone. Malfoy was afraid. Why was Malfoy afraid?
Malfoy started moving, dragging Harry with him, and Harry heard the Auror’s footsteps scurrying to catch up. The walls wavered on either side of them, and the floor lurched periodically.
The stairs were awful, as Malfoy pulled him up, and one of the staircases moved just as they got halfway up, and Harry vomited over the banister. Shouts below him indicated that that might not have been such a great choice.
“You just have to make everyone’s day a little brighter, don’t you Potter?” Malfoy snarked. “Never think of anybody but yourself. Never listen to those who know what they’re doing! And then you have to make sure that everyone else gets a taste of exactly how bad it is for you!” With a vicious tug, Malfoy pulled him up another stair, until they were on the correct floor, although several corridors further from the Hospital Wing than they had been before the staircase shifted.
Malfoy started to stumble. It made the lurching even worse, as Malfoy pulled him off balance. The Auror looked like he wanted to assist, but a look from Malfoy had him backing off. Harry did not blame him. If this thing he was feeling was contagious, he wasn’t sure he’d be so eager to help himself.
Finally they reached the Hospital Wing, and found, to Harry’s relief, that Madame Pomfrey was there. Both of her. The room got dark, and Harry heard voices. Someone was shouting. Something thick and liquid that tasted of peppermint, ginger and mud, with a bit of hot pepper and too much salt, was brought to his mouth and he reflexively gulped. It was too thick, and left his mouth feeling coated with sludge.
The next thing he knew, hands were grasping at him, taking off his clothes, and he began to fight back. Someone held his hands still, and he was moved, and there was hot water around him, fragrant and salty. It was lovely. Someone was washing his hair. He could feel gentle fingers, but was too cold to pay much attention.
After awhile, the shivering stopped, and he realized his eyes were closed. He opened them tentatively. With relief, he noticed the room was no longer spinning, and the brightness no longer hurt his eyes.
“We’ll need to empty the bath and refill it.” The voice was the first indication that there was someone else in the room. It was a wizard he did not know, dressed in healer’s robes. Harry was not sure whether he felt embarrassed at being in the bath with a stranger in the room, or relieved that it was not Madame Pomfrey. The strange wizard’s eyes were too cheerful for the situation, Harry thought.
“There is another potion to add to the bath once it’s been refilled.” The Mediwizard took a dark brown vial from a table by the bath and waggled it back and forth, before returning it back to the table. “It should be safe to use magic around you now. The blond boy was very specific in his instructions, on dealing with this. He acted just like my old mentor, calling instructions from his hospital bed, almost as bad off as you were, my boy. We never got much call for treating dark magic backwash, frankly. Those who practice it are more likely to treat it themselves and save themselves a nice questioning in a Ministry cell. Of course, this last year was another matter. There would have been no need for such questioning last year. So, first bath with no magic, second bath to reawaken your magic, and make sure it has not become contaminated. It’s similar enough to our usual treatment for exposure to dark magic.”
The Mediwizard bent over the bath and waved his wand, and the water was sucked out of it, leaving Harry feeling cold and exposed. “Aguamenti fervens.”
Steaming water poured out of the wizard’s wand directly down the drain. “Mitesco.” The wizard put his hand under the stream of water and twitched his wand in several downward strokes. Once the water coming from the wand steamed a bit less, the wizard plugged the drain, and soon the tub was filled with warm, but not overly hot, water. The wizard tucked his wand away, and then poured the potion into the tub. The water smoothed, and felt as if it were reaching every part of his body. It was both calming and invigorating, and the sharp citrus and mint scent reached into his nose and lungs as if to clean those out, too. Harry felt more clearheaded than he had in quite some time.
Clearheaded enough to remember what had started this. He had been an idiot! He had seen the Slytherins be so very careful as they worked. Malfoy had made him so angry, too angry to think. Malfoy had always been able to goad him into doing stupid things.
* * *
“I can’t believe him!” Draco strode past the guard into the room, and only at the last minute kept himself from dropping into the one soft chair in the room.
“Potter?” His father looked up from his seat.
“Potter. He cast a spell in an uncleansed room.”
“Draco, are you all right?”
“Yes. I gave the guards enough of a scare that they took us straight to the hospital wing. They, of course, were still mostly clueless, but at least they had the necessary ingredients and tinctures on hand for the cleansing. They have some healer from St Mungo’s that seemed to have some experience with healing victims of Dark curses, at least enough to follow my directions. It was a good thing, as Potter and I were coated in activated residue.”
“Not by my intent, I assure you. I goaded him as we planned. Sure, I was expecting him to do something stupid, but not suicidal. I forgot I was dealing with Potter. I should have remembered that when Potter makes a mess of things, he does it properly and drags everyone around into it as well.” He went in and cast a debris removal charm and the room exploded.”
“It shouldn’t have been that active.”
“Pansy and Theo had already drawn the containing runes on the door.”
Understanding dawned on his mother’s face. Any magic cast wouldn’t be able to dissipate.
“Was the plan otherwise a success?” Lucius asked.
“I can’t be sure. This is Potter we’re talking about. He ended up in the hospital wing with his magic at risk, but for all I know, that is an everyday occurrence for him. I just hope it’s enough. I don’t want to go through anything like that again.”
“How are the others?” His mother inquired.
“They all managed to get out of the way in time. Still, I’m sure they’ll take the necessary precautions. I had the misfortune of standing next to Potter.”
“Are you sure the plan is worth it, Draco?”
Draco nodded. “We will risk more than this before we’re done. Rule 1.”
“Indeed.”Lucius nodded. Draco’s heart clenched at the thought of what that would mean for his father.
Family before all.
Snape opened his eyes.
For the first time, he was not waking to pain. His neck no longer burned, and the feeling that his magic had bled out and left him a dry husk had dissipated.
Carefully pulling his feet toward him, he rolled toward the edge of the bed and dropped his feet to the floor. He bent forward to stand, pushing himself erect. He stayed standing, feeling a bit dizzy. He repressed the nausea, breathing deeply though his nose. He had experienced worse. Worse than almost dying? Yes. The Cruciatus was worse, surely. Killing one’s mentor and living with that, day after day, that was worse in ways he could not begin to describe, even if he were so minded as to engage in such maudlin verbosity. This – this was just a bit of physical discomfort, not even very painful. It had not been fatal, to his surprise. He had been bitten by Nagini, and lived. He was in the Hogwarts hospital wing instead of a ministry cell. He was not about to waste such gifts.
Once the room steadied, he took a cautious step. The room faded for a bit, but resumed its clarity. He paused, taking slow, deep breaths. Another few steps. There was a meal tray on the table preserved with warming and cooling charms. He sniffed it. The Hogwarts house elves had made it, that was certain, but the thought of eating left him feeling a little lightheaded.
He was alone, but he heard faint voices outside the room. That must have been what woke him. His room had been almost silent until now. Something had changed. He closed his eyes and listened.
The murmurs outside of the room became clearer as he focussed on them.
“… think … do to him?”
Snape listened harder, but the voices faded.
He stood, carefully, and made his way to the door. It was locked. Still, he didn’t need a wand for a few things, if he had the energy to do them. He rested his fingers on the latch, and with a murmured Alohomora he heard, and felt the door unlock. It had no further protections.
He took a breath, steadying himself. Using his magic had weakened him, not significantly, but noticeably. Such a small thing, even without his wand, should not have affected him at all.
After a moment, he opened the door, and stepped quietly into the hallway.
“You’re not serious!” The exclamation was perfectly clear.
Snape went still.
“… Death Eater. … never trust …”
“You think … Azkaban?”
“...this time… can only hope…”
It was only after hearing this, only after feeling its loss, that Snape realized he had harboured hope. The sudden tightness in his chest could have been attributed to his injury, but he had made it a point not to lie to himself, regardless of what he revealed to others.
Minerva knew. Poppy knew. Even Potter knew why he had done as he had. Potter could influence things either way, and it certainly didn’t seem as if the brat had stirred himself on Snape’s behalf, despite what he had said. Since Snape was, astonishingly enough, alive, he was going to have to look after himself.
Walking stealthily to the room closest to the door at the end of the hall, he let himself in, and swung the door so there was a mere crack left—enough for sound to pass through clearly, but no more.
It seemed that the occupant of the room on the other side of the door had been released, or moved. He could not determine why wizards were organizing the room for its next use when house elves could do most of the work. Still, he would not let the opportunity the vacant room provided pass by.
The voices continued talking about other things for awhile, and Snape listened for any news of the world. He did not care about their small problems, but any actual information that crept, however accidentally, into their inane prattle could be useful.
When the shadows between the threshold and the door disappeared, and the voices became more indistinct, Snape returned to his room to think.
He had been in this room many times. He knew the routes, both public and secret, that he could use to find his way out of the castle. Unless he had missed his count, today was Sunday. There would be fewer people around. Even volunteers enjoyed time off.
Snape supposed he should be grateful he was not in a cell, but that was a bit premature, he thought. Until he had successfully escaped, he would have to be on his guard. Despite his desire to be recognized for his work against the Dark Lord after all of these years, despite the hopes he had not known he had harboured, Snape expected no forgiveness for his crimes, and doubted he deserved any, no matter how grand Albus’ goals or any “greater good.” He had hoped for freedom, had hoped that those few who knew of his motives would stand up for him, but even were they to do so, wizarding England would neither forgive nor forget.
He forced himself to eat the food on the tray. He would need every advantage possible.
Afterward, he scanned the room for anything of his. He had been left with his clothes, though his pockets had been emptied. It would be strange to go without his regular supplies. He could probably purloin some potions from the hospital wing store. He knew Poppy kept several stores of them, and one was in the hall outside of his room. Since he had made most of the potions himself, he felt no qualms in appropriating them. Eventually, he could replace most of his more esoteric potions, assuming he could get access to the ingredients, and the remaining items...
It struck him how much he would be leaving behind. Potions he had made, ingredients he had collected, the few photographs he had, his books, his wand. He would have to replace his wand, if he left. He could certainly search for it, but every moment spent doing that was a moment he risked capture.
That wand had been with him since he started Hogwarts. It had been the first magical thing that was truly his, not his mother’s or second-hand bought. He could count each time another’s magic had been cast through it, although he didn’t know what had happened to it while he was unconscious. The form of healing Poppy had done had most likely required her to use his wand at least once.
Still, the wand was like him. It had been with him for every joy in his life, every humiliation he had endured, and every wrong he had committed. He had killed with it. He had healed with it.
He would scan the corridor, and potions cabinet, but he did not expect Poppy to be so lax.
Opening the drawer by his bedside, he found the photograph, ragged, one side torn off. Lily. Someone had put it there for him to find.
He tucked it in a pocket of his waistcoat, under his robes, and took one final glance at the room, searching any place that might contain something useful. Other than a few potions and clean cloths, there was little to find. He glanced out of the narrow window, seeing in it everything that was Hogwarts. Protection. Captivity, with an eternal view toward freedom. Albus had been gone a year, but Snape had bound himself as firmly to this place as Albus ever had. Hogwarts had been his home for almost thirty years.
He closed the door behind him.
* * *
Shortly thereafter, he ducked into an alcove behind a statue of a witch holding a three-legged cat, and sagged to the stone seat hidden there. He liked that cat. It was ugly – the artist had carved each scar and the torn ear with careful detail – but its face held a steady and alert gaze, neither snarling with Gryffindor bluster nor placid with Hufflepuff acceptance, but watchful.
Snape let his eyes close. Perhaps he wasn’t as well as he had hoped. Still, he had made it down to the ground floor without being seen. Exiting through the entry hall would be a bad idea, however. He needed to get down to the dungeons, to one of the secret exits he had used.
“Everyone says you’re dead.” A light, melodic voice startled him, and he cursed his inattention. “Of course, ‘everyone’ says many foolish things, and it is not always necessary to believe them. Still, you look half there. Are you just visiting?”
Snape raised his head and fixed his eyes on the speaker. Lovegood. Only she could manage incomprehensibility to quite that degree. What was most irritating about the girl was that upon consideration, her words almost made sense... if one were to tilt one’s head upside down at it like an owl. He had no desire to strain his neck for such a small return.
“Miss Lovegood.” His voice came out scratchy, softer than he had intended.
The girl merely smiled, tilting her head to inspect him from a different angle. “Professor. I don’t think you should be here. Someone will surely be by to scratch Manfred’s ears, and if they discovered you, the commotion would surely disturb Mathilda.
Manfred? Mathilda? “Commotion?” Snape asked the only question that held a chance for a rational answer.
“I don’t suppose you have informed many people, and people get excited about the strangest things.”
She peered at him through protuberant eyes, as if trying a new form of divination. “You do look a bit uncertain around the edges.” She tilted her head toward her other shoulder.
“Are you sure you’re alive? We could always ask Harry, if you’re unsure. He would know the difference, wouldn’t he?
“I would take Harry’s word for it, never having been dead myself.”
Snape had not enough strength to answer that. His glare did not dissuade the girl, however.
“Not many people take Harry at his word, even if he were to clarify it for you. I am certain there is sufficient uncertainty for you to leave unnoticed, but someone will be by soon and then your existence is proven.”
“I am not a cat, and this is not a box. Nevertheless, surely your observational skills are sufficient to verify my continued existence.”
“Oh, no one believes what I say. I don’t mind, I’m not sure I believe in most people either.”
He didn’t have the time for epistemological discussions.
“You plan on leaving. I can help.”
“I do not need your help.” He made sure the full extent of his disdain was in his voice.
“Of course.” The chit pulled her wand, and he felt the crawling feeling of a disillusionment charm swirling around him. “Now you need no help at all. I will meet you in the dungeons.” Her braids whipped around her as she turned, and she left before he could comment.
Not one to waste any advantage, he levered himself to his feet and stepped into the opening of the alcove. The hall was not as busy as it would have been on a weekday, but was by no means empty. He could feel that the charm held, though, so he carefully wove his way across the entry hall to the stairs which led to the dungeons.
Much as he wished to use the wall and railing for support, most people clung to one wall or another when they used stairs and it would increase his chance of being discovered. Holding to his balance as tightly as a drunkard would, he carefully descended the stairs. His robes hung lankly on his frame, as if they too lacked energy.
The dungeons were not as empty as he had expected. Aurors patrolled the corridors, and he found himself reluctantly grateful for Luna’s disillusionment charm. When he sensed the shimmer of wards on some of the doors, fury rose in him. They were using his dungeons as a prison. It did not take much intelligence to guess who the inhabitants were. So many lives wasted to the Dark Lord’s megalomania. Not all of his Slytherins had been followers, but he did not doubt that all had been caught in the net.
He could not help them at the moment, and certainly not from prison. If he escaped, he would have a chance to think, to plan.
Flattening himself to a wall, he waited until an Auror passed, then continued silently down the corridor to a tapestry that hid an opening. The opening itself was indistinguishable from the stone wall surrounding it, and only when he touched it in exactly the right spot did it dissolve around his fingers until he felt the breath of air through it.
The corridor behind it was dark, the air thick with the scent of dust and a whiff of old damp. His feet made a practiced path to a door. He opened it, and the warm outdoor air wrapped around him.
“You will need this.” The voice did not startle him, as he had been expecting the girl to turn up, although how she knew just where to meet him was something he preferred not to contemplate at the moment. The sight of what she held out to him caused him to freeze in place. His wand.
“Where did you acquire that?” His voice was dark, the threat in it clear. The girl ignored the tone, extending the wand toward him, handle first. If he had wished to, he could have killed her in an instant, with her blithe disregard for danger.
“Madame Pomfrey had it locked in her office, of course.”
Snape nodded. Of course. What else was there to say?
“Do you need a place to stay? I have set up a place for daddy, while he recovers. It is out of the way. You could stay there.”
Having met Mr Lovegood, Snape could think of no more excruciating torment at the moment. It would be just repayment for the evils he had committed, but he would torture himself no more.
“I will be fine,” he ground out.
Flying over Hogwarts
May 26, 1998
Much to Harry’s disgruntlement, Madame Pomfrey kept him in the hospital wing for observation over the weekend. The room he was in was quiet despite the constant activity of the hospital wing. Madame Pomfrey explained the need for quarantine after exposure to the residue Malfoy kept harping about, so other than Madame Pomfrey’s regular check-ins, the quiet was only interrupted once by a quickly silenced shout of alarm.
When the mediwitch finally released him, Filch refused to assign him to any repair crew for a couple of days after that. Harry hadn’t realized how much the work helped him until it was taken away. He was tempted to go to McGonagall, but he didn’t really want to face her after having destroyed a room of the castle.
He spent the days after his release from the hospital wing poking around the castle, feeling useless. He could go visit Ron, but he thought maybe he did need to figure things out. Ron was a little too good at helping him avoid his thoughts, even when he oughtn’t. Between McGonagall’s comments from the other day, and Andromeda’s lessons, and even Malfoy’s comments, Harry had a lot to think about.
Hermione would be well within her rights to chastise him for his recklessness. He knew she was being productive in her work at the ministry, undoubtedly making herself invaluable. He, on the other hand, had messed up, putting himself, the Slytherin crew, the Auror guards and part of the castle at risk. There was no point in interrupting her work.
The areas of the castle that had been decontaminated were already cleared and the more advanced construction teams were working. The rest of the work was waiting for Malfoy and his group to finish their work.
Malfoy confused him. What was he playing at? Harry had never seen Malfoy offer to teach him anything, just make fun of what he did not know. He was well shut of that assignment. Hermione’s suggestion to learn what Malfoy offered to teach him was… just being Hermione, he supposed. She would love it if Malfoy had made the same offer to her… but he never would. Offer the secrets of magic to a Mudblood? Not Malfoy.
With nothing to do, Harry wandered by the Quidditch pitch, still furrowed and pocked from the battle. There were other priorities. He just hoped they got to it before September. Madame Hooch had given him the spell to open the broom shed… one of the few times Harry did not mind that she was treating him differently because of who he was. This one favour wouldn’t hurt.
He went to grab a broom, one of the newer ones. The newest ones were still the ones that Malfoy’s father had bought for the Slytherins, but he would not touch those. Instead, he got on a Starfire and shot up into the sky. He revelled in the wind on his skin and through his hair, his mind relaxing, and his chaotic thoughts giving way to calm. The day was clear, with a piercing dark blue sky, and a few fleecy clouds. There was just enough wind to move the air around, and keep it from being too hot. This was the kind of day that gave summer a good reputation.
He reflected a bit on how good it was to be able to be at Hogwarts over the summer. He could wish Ron and Hermione were with him, but it was great to catch up with others, especially with Neville, Dean, Seamus, Luna and so many others putting in regular appearances. Now that he could Apparate, he could visit the Burrow anytime he wanted. It was like school with more freedom, and without the homework or classes. The work was more rewarding than anything he had done at the Dursleys, and the company was definitely better.
Hogwarts was slowly becoming itself again, the damage from the battle less intrusive each day. Early on, Harry could feel the grief in the atmosphere; not just his own, but that of other volunteers and of the castle itself. It flowed in counterpoint to the relief they felt that it was finally over, the damage to Hogwarts a stark reminder of all they had lost. The grief of the others helped Harry feel less alone in his own.
He climbed high over the pitch, then dived, accelerating all the way down until just about ten feet over the pitch, and then turned to skim along the bumpy grass, never so close as he would do in a match, what with the turf damaged and sticking up at irregular intervals. He soared upward again, then, at about the height of the goal rings, increased his speed, flew faster and faster, revelling in the wind in his hair and the slight chapping of his cheeks because it was too early in the summer for it to be humid.
It would be fun to fly like this with Ginny. She would love it, her wild streak coming to the fore. He could imagine her shrieking with the sheer exhilaration of it, her hair a wild red halo whipping behind her. He found himself regretting that he and Ginny would never share this as a couple. It was possible they could still share this as friends again, if only the hurt diminished. He would like to see the joy on her face from flying, just because it would be another person who understood. This was not about winning at Quidditch, or competition. If he were with Ron, it might be about that, and that would have brought him happiness too, but different than this. It was not about travel, or escaping, or fear as it had been at the end of last summer. It was not about showing off, or ego, or the need to be valued, to be better, as it might have been if Malfoy were on the pitch. It was just about joy. He felt he could lose himself in the air, become one with it. Flying a broom, he felt like he was connected to it all.
It was magical.
It was summer. He was an adult. Voldemort was dead. He could make his own choices. He had nothing left that he had to do. He had never felt so free. And suddenly, Harry realised he could do what he had always wanted to do when a student. He could fly on a tour of the grounds. First he flew toward Hagrid’s hut, thinking of how it felt to be carried by his very large, very dear friend. He had felt so guilty, letting Hagrid think him dead, feeling the large teardrops splash on his face and neck and chest. Hagrid never dissembled, he was constitutionally incapable. And there he was, sobbing over Harry. Not just because he was supposed to defeat Voldemort, but for him.
At that moment, held in Hagrid’s arms in the middle of a battle, Harry had felt more loved than he had in a long time. Seeing his family with the help of the resurrection stone had also been like that, but he had been so focussed on the idea that he was about to die, that he hadn’t quite taken it in. He did now. No matter what else, he had the sure knowledge that his family loved him. He knew he would carry that memory with him forever.
Fang raised his head from where he was sleeping on the porch in front of Hagrid’s hut, let out a woof of greeting, but neither ran away and hid, nor set up a barking racket. Instead, he dropped his head back down on his paws with a thud that Harry was sure he could hear from where he was flying. The large dog lifted his eyebrow folds to keep an eye on Harry. The gardens had somehow avoided being ravaged in the battle, Harry was not sure how. Hagrid was not there. The hut looked more ramshackle and also somehow quainter from above. Perhaps it was the way the roof layered, with little peaks in the front and back, and above one window.
Flying from there, Harry swooped up toward the castle. He could see where the giants had bashed holes into the castle walls, and where Snape had leapt out, crashing through a window. That would have been something to see.
There was Gryffindor tower. Harry saw the small window where he had spent so many nights after being awakened by nightmares, reclining in one of the window wells, leaning against one wall. There was the astronomy tower. Sometimes it felt as if the war started that night.
The Department of Mysteries battle had had consequences for him, and for Voldemort, it had been focussed on specific goals. For Harry it had been rescuing Sirius. For the Voldemort, it had been obtaining the prophecy. They had both failed.
That night on the astronomy tower, the war came home to where Harry lived. That was the night when everything really began to fall apart. After that night, it was no longer about what Voldemort had done to those Harry loved; it was about what Voldemort was doing to the wizarding world. That was the night that it really looked as if Voldemort would win.
Harry took a deep breath and let it go. Against all odds, Voldemort was gone.
A movement from the corner of his eye drew his attention. Through one of the holes in the walls, Harry saw a flicker. He flew his broom closer. There, he saw the Slytherin workgroup. He could see as they entered and left the room, bending and straightening, hands deftly painting water on floor and wall. He did not see the results of the painting from the spot where he hovered, just beyond the hole in the wall. The Slytherins were too intent on their work to notice him, he thought.
The work had seemed tedious from his vantage in the hall, feeling useless as he guarded the cauldron, entertaining himself by making sure that not even one speck of dust, not even one bit of fluff fell into the water. He had envisioned it like catching itty bitty snitches, a challenge to himself. The expression on Malfoy’s face every time he came out and noted the condition of the water, as it continued to remain clean, had perplexed him. It was as if Malfoy was ready to sneer, expecting the water to be tainted, only to have his expression change to what Harry could not imagine could possibly be grudging respect. But what completely confused Harry was a look that on anyone else’s face might have been hope. Harry had no idea why his success at a menial task of keeping a cauldron full of salt-water clean of debris without the use of magic could possibly make Malfoy feel hopeful. So he told himself that he was not so good at reading the Slytherin as he always thought he was.
This further proved itself when Malfoy offered to teach him.
He hovered, holding as still as he could on a broom, careful to make only slow, smooth movements, so as not to attract the attention of the Slytherins inside. He could not see the cauldron or the hallway, only the inside of the room. The Slytherins entered and left as if in a dance, every movement methodical, graceful, so unlike his own attempts. He had been told they were essentially conscripts, offered a chance to pay Wizarding society back for the wrongs they had done. At that moment, they did not act like conscripts. They knew what they were doing. They acted like professionals.
He drifted forward as he watched Malfoy’s long fingers as they wielded the brush. He had seen those same fingers reach for the snitch, vying with him to get there first, side by side as only opposing seekers could be, both aiming for the same goal in competition with each other.
He had seen those same fingers tossing ingredients into his cauldron, deftly stirring. It irritated Harry that Malfoy always ended up with a perfect potion (according to Snape), even when he managed to take his attention from it long enough to toss exactly the wrong ingredient into some hapless Gryffindor’s cauldron, most often into Harry’s own.
The slender Slytherin girl, Greengrass, also had deft, slender fingers. Nott, tall and muscular, moved with control, although not as gracefully as the other two. At one point, as they were leaving the room to re-wet the brushes, Malfoy put his hand on Nott’s shoulder. Nott shrugged it off stiffly. Harry wondered what that was all about. The movements were hypnotising,
The next time the Slytherin girl scribed her brush on the floor, Harry started. He saw a flicker of light, almost like the glow he had seen in the rune he had drawn before his disastrous impetuousness. It wasn’t like a spell. It disappeared when he looked for it again. He concentrated, but it would not come back.
He tried to think of what he was doing when he saw it, just hovering out here, watching. He had felt a bit floaty, watching the dance of the Slytherins’ movements. Maybe if he relaxed. He let his eyes lose focus, letting the movements inside the room register not individually but as a pattern. There! There was the light. It was clear, silvery white, and luminescent, pearlescent. He had not seen any spell with such a peaceful colour. He let the light seep into his consciousness. And then he saw the rest. In the part of the room closer to Harry, away from where the Slytherins were painting their runes, Harry saw something, a dark blue, almost black glow. It retreated from the other light, pulling back, as if it, too, danced with the pearlescent light.
The dance was beautiful. The black light went on into deep places, and Harry had the disturbing feeling that if it touched him, he would be forever changed, and if it never touched him, some deep part of reality would forever be missing.
Until that moment, Harry had only thought of Dark Magic in terms of the results, the pain and destruction of Voldemort’s reign, the small damaged soul in King’s Cross Station. Dark magic was destructive, dangerous, ugly. It was evil. This, whatever it was, was not. He could sense the danger, but it was the danger of the nundu, sleek, fast and deadly. It was the danger of winter, cold and beautiful, that could kill the unwary. It was the danger of night, where all things, good and evil, were possible.
Suddenly, Harry was very, very scared. Because, at that moment, he knew he would go to Draco to learn what the blond Slytherin with the long deft fingers would teach him. He wanted to understand a world where this pearlescent glow and this deep shining blackness danced together.
With one last glance, he turned his broom to fly away, to gaze into the familiar warmth of the Gryffindor common room.
He did not see Draco Malfoy staring out the hole in the castle wall before the Slytherin turned to wet his brush again to apply his skill to the cleansing the castle, one room at a time.
I know I always say I welcome comments, and I really do. This is especially true now.
I have caught up to and polished the majority of the scenes that I have written. There are some scenes that happen later (trials, etc.), and some other scenes I have planned, but I have reached the cliff's edge. In order to get to the scenes I can see as islands in the distance, I have to take that leap of faith that there is enough story to get me from here to there.
Please tell me what you enjoy, what you look for, what scene you've been waiting for.
I know the overall flow of this story. Most of the action I know is along the main story line - Harry and Draco. I also have a few scenes with George Weasley planned out, a few with Harry and Snape, and a few with Draco and Snape, plus the ministry gala that Harry will soon be dreading. I also have some of the trials onscreen. I even have one smut scene that may or may not make it into this story if the story has not veered too far by the time I get there.
So... Are there any characters you've been hoping to catch up with? For example, sometimes I feel as if I shoved Hermione into the ministry and am ignoring her, but she'd doing the same tedious research every day. She finds it rewarding, and she is keeping to the hope that it will lead her to find her parents, but it is not exactly compelling reading. Do you want to see any of this, or is there another scene with her (or any of the Weasleys, or Harry's friends, or the Malfoys, or Snape, etc.) that you are waiting for?
NOTE TO ARTISTS:
I would really love to see the final scene of this chapter done as art! Any artists interested?
Okay, I'll stop now. Hope you enjoyed the chapter!
Chapter 22 Part 1 (on to next chapter)