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Chapter 6: 6 - The Protector
The next two weeks passed in a blur. Carla received news of Aunt Kathy's passing in a letter from Jeremy during the first week, attending her funeral during the next. Snape had not spoken to her for the whole fortnight, and hadn't really even looked in her direction either. On the rare occasion that she did catch him staring, it was never a positive look on his face. His eyes bore into her skull with a glare that, if looks could kill, would have sent her toppling to the floor in agony.
But on the bright side, Peter wouldn't leave her own. Many people would have been thoroughly annoyed of him by this point if they were in Carla's shoes, but she received every one of his affections with a smile and did nothing to discourage him at all. If anything, she enjoyed spurring him on a little, even though she knew it was wrong because anything she felt for him was akin to that that someone might feel for a close friend or perhaps a sibling. However, that didn't mean that she didn't enjoy kissing him in a broom cupboard, something that she had never thought she would experience ever again since that dreaded Seven Minutes In Heaven with Jonathon Creevey in sixth year.
Her chambers now stank of flowers, which he'd sent to her every single morning since she'd appeared to like the first bunch. She didn't have the heart to get rid of all of them, so she kept each bunch until it showed signs of wilting and then quickly discarded of it. Even still, because he kept the supply coming every single day, she usually had about five or six bouquets of flowers sitting around her rooms in various conjured up vases.
On the two week anniversary of Snape's revelation in the owlery, Carla found herself along with all of the other professors being hurried into the staff room. It was evening, the sun having just gone done a couple of hours before, and a full moon had risen into the clear night sky.
"Three students went into the Forbidden Forest this morning, and they haven't come out," said Dumbledore gravely. "The more able-bodied of us need to get out there looking for them."
"It's a full moon," Snape said, noticing the same thing that Carla just had.
"Then we must be careful," said Dumbledore. "But that fact alone means that we need to get those students out of there as soon as possible."
The staff sort of divided into two, the older, less able-bodied staying on one side whilst the others who were willing to go out and search went to the other. Carla was surprised to see Peter move onto the side of the older wizards and witches.
"Coward," Snape muttered under his breath.
Carla shot him a look.
"If any of us find the students then we must shoot up green sparks into the sky. If we need help, shoot up red," said Dumbledore, who, despite his age, had joined the side of the people going out to search.
The professors all murmured in consent and began to move as a big collective group out of the staff room, the other staff members who were not going out following after so that they could patrol the castle.
Snape pulled Carla aside as she made to follow the others, trapping her in the corner.
"Where do you think you're going?" he growled.
Carla looked at him, bewildered. "To go search, of course."
He shook his head. "I... I cannot allow it. You are far too vulnerable to be entering into the forest tonight."
She searched his face, wondering where all of this was suddenly coming from. "What do you mean? I'm an adult, older than you in fact, and I teach Defence Against the Dark Arts. I know what I'm doing."
He sighed, looking away before turning his dark eyes back onto her. They were startlingly intense. "Miss Hemmingway... I feel very protective over you. I do not wish for you to enter into the forest and get hurt, or worse, killed. I don't know why or how this feeling came about, all I know is that I am never letting you out of this room and into those woods."
Carla's eyebrows furrowed as she formulated a response. "Severus, I... I am flattered by your feelings towards me - I never thought that you would feel anything about me that wasn't akin to hatred. However, I am going to go and search for those students, whether you like it or not."
She made to move past him, but he caught her by the arm. He seemed annoyed, probably because she wasn't doing as he was saying. She felt annoyance bubble up into her, too. He had no right to tell her what to do. She was his colleague, not his student, and before this moment he had hated even looking at her.
"I won't let you go," he said through gritted teeth.
She struggled to remove her arm, but his grip was strong and he didn't look like he was going to let go any moment soon. "This is stupid, Severus, and you know it. We need to get out there now, instead of arguing. They're minus two people out there."
He held her arm for one more moment, staring intently into her blue eyes, before letting it go and stalking towards the door.
"Come on, we haven't got all day," he snapped, holding it open for her. He looked pointedly at the wall behind her as she rubbed her arm where he'd been holding it and hurried out of the door.
They were only a few feet into the forest but already the darkness was closing in on them. Carla made to light up her hand, but Severus stopped her.
"Light will attract creatures. Do you want that?" he hissed.
"No, of course not!" she replied. "I just wanted to actually see where I was going!"
"Your eyes will adjust."
They walked in a stony silence for a while.
"This forest is massive. How are we ever going to find them?" Carla whispered.
"There's over twenty of us searching, and they won't have gone in too deep," Snape said simply. "Of course, we could have had even more help if your boyfriend stopped being a coward and helped us out."
"He just doesn't like the dark, okay?" she hissed. Carla had learnt that after he'd stopped mid-kiss whilst they were in the broom cupboard to turn the light on. As if it were even the slightest bit romantic before, the fact that they could now see their surroundings had made it much less so. Carla wasn't keen on knowing that she was making out with someone whilst a spider the size of her head was sitting on the shelf watching them just half a metre away.
"Oh, well, what a perfect excuse," Snape sneered.
Carla huffed and stumbled onwards. He had been right, she could see better now. Well, enough to know when there was a tree in front of her face so that she could stop from walking head on into it.
"What's with all of this protectiveness anyway?" she asked.
Snape was silent for a while. Only the sound of his breathing a little bit behind her let Carla know that he was still there and hadn't been dragged off by a giant spider into the depths of the woods to be eaten alive. She tried to suppress visions of him being tangled up in a spider's web somewhere in this dark forest, because the thought of that happening was somewhat amusing but mostly terrible and she didn't want to think of what would happen after.
"I don't know," he said finally.
"Oh, well, okay. It's just that, you know, up until this point you've been avoiding me completely and glaring the guts out of me every time I look around. How can you hate me and want to be my protector at the same time?"
"I don't know," he said again.
"Oh, you're just useless!" she cried, just as a shower of green and red sparks lit the sky above their heads. "Green! But red... Red's not good."
"Follow me," he said, moving in front of her to take the lead. "Stay close behind and be careful!"
She followed him as they hurried as quickly as they could through the trees and undergrowth in the direction of where the sparks had come from. They had only been hurrying for a matter of seconds when Severus stopped abruptly in front of her. She almost did a face plant into his back but stopped herself at the last moment so that only the tip of her nose brushed the fabric of his robes. She peered around his arm to catch sight of what was going on.
"Stay very still," he breathed.
There, right in front of them, just a few feet away, was a werewolf. Carla could dimly see the outlines of four figures cowering against a tree on the other side of it, and almost sighed in relief. The students were safe. She wasn't sure who the professor was that was with them, but they didn't look injured, and so, with a distraction, could easily get away to safety.
Snape seemed to have the same idea as her, because he was stepping closer and closer to the beast, which had it's gaze fixated on him.
"You four need to run," he said quietly, directing his words towards the group. They started moving away obediently. "And you too, Miss Hemmingway."
"I'm not leaving you here by yourself," she breathed, her eyes trained on the wolf.
"If I could I would kill it right now, but I can't do anything to it because I'll be breaking the truce the werewolves have with Dumbledore," Snape whispered. "That makes it all the more dangerous, so I want you to get out of here."
"I am not leaving you here by yourself!" she repeated.
Snape growled, and, without warning, pushed her backwards as hard as he could. She fell back a few feet, landing at the base of a tree, winded. Carla watched, a little dazed and unable to move, as he did some sort of spell on the creature, causing it's eyes to glaze over and it's eyelids to droop. It let out an infuriated roar that made her wince and cover her ears, then curled up onto the forest floor, seemingly deep in sleep.
"Get up!" Snape hissed at her, grabbing her arm and pulling her onto her feet. "We need to get out of here now!"
They stumbled as quickly as they could through the darkened forest, Snape not letting go of her arm.
"That wasn't so dangerous," she pointed out between heavy breaths.
"That was the easy part," he hissed back. "The dangerous part is coming soon, if we don't get out of this forest. The other werewolves will have been drawn to us by their pack brother's cry. We need to hurry."
"I am hurrying!" she hissed in reply, just as a giant form appeared in front of them. It was another werewolf.
"Well, now you need to hurry even more!" he said, pushing her to the left away from the beast. It reared on it's hind legs and howled before beginning to bound after them. Carla whimpered.
"Come on!" he urged, practically pulling her along. The werewolf was gaining on them, and she could see other movements out there in the blackness of the forest.
They were a few feet away from the grounds, the enchanted boundary line that the werewolves couldn't get across. Severus leaped, pulling Carla with him. They were momentarily airborne, and even as it happened, Carla knew she wasn't going to make it. Sure enough, something warm and sharp clamped onto her leg. She screamed out in pain, eyes widening in panic as Snape's grip slackened on her arm. They hit the ground at the same time, but she was only halfway over the boundary line, and the wolf had hold of her leg on the side of the forest.
"No!" Snape roared, stumbling to his feet, watching helplessly as it dragged Carla into the forest, the other wolves surrounding her, blocking her in. She clawed at the ground in attempts to anchor herself down, but it was no use. She felt something sharp and ragged graze against her neck, white hot pain searing up and then something hard hit her head. Everything suddenly seemed more vivid - the pain at her neck and ankle, the sound of the wolves panting around her. The last thing she saw was a shoot of green light and then everything went black.
A/N - Okay, so if you're reading this then I hope you're enjoying it so far. All I wanted to add was that JK never really clarified whether there were werewolves in the Forbidden Forest or not, although both Malfoy and Filch mention it in the books. I'm adding them in there for the sake of this story. They couldn't cross the boundary into the grounds because they have a truce with Dumbledore.
Also, please review! I reply to every single one I get and I love to know what you think, even if it's only that you want me to update soon! If I get no responses then I'll assume no one is interested in the story and won't feel as inclined to continue it anymore, which would be upsetting. So please review!