Chapter 3 : Snivellus Returns
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"Luna, er- are you alright?"
"Oh hello, Ginny, yes, I'm just fine!" Luna's voice sang out. "Though I think Dean might be a bit sore, he seems to have angered these rugs Hermione was working on, and they've attacked his head."
Harry walked around the side, motioning for Ginny to stay put, and pulled a disgruntled Dean to his feet. Luna was sitting cross-legged, twirling a bit of hair around one finger, and licking what Harry dearly hoped was icing from her other fingers. She waved, and Harry did a double take- apparently Luna didn't mind that he was seeing her without a shirt on. Ginny pulled a tablecloth out of one of the cupboards and handed it to Luna, who pulled it around her but neglected to close the middle. Dean was washing off his head in the sink, refusing to make eye contact with anyone, and Harry felt anxious, watching Ginny look over at him. She doesn't fancy him, he thought to himself. Anyway she told me she never did really.
"Oh, she very much did fancy him- at first, Harry- but don't worry, I told Ginny months ago she was meant to end up with you," Luna observed. Harry widened his eyes and saw Ginny blush, then pull Luna away to help her clean up the frosting in her hair. For the second time in his life, Dean gave Harry a guilty grin that Harry didn't return, but this time, instead of envy, it was mostly because Harry was still in shock.
"Erm, well, Ginny and I'll be going- we were just on our way to grab some tea, I mean, hot chocolate- well, I'm sure Kreacher can handle it for us," he attempted. Ginny nodded and sped over, opening the portrait door.
"You can join us if you'd like, Harry- I'm sure Ginny wouldn't mind," Luna offered, and Harry spluttered.
"She means the cake, Harry," Ginny reminded him, grinning madly at Harry's blush.
"Oh, of course, well, we've already eaten, twice atleast today, and I think sweets are bad at this late in the night, well, that is- I guess the hot chocolate is a sweet, but-"
and with that, Ginny pulled him out of the portrait hole and shut the giggling pear behind them.
"Harry, you know, I didn't know hot chocolate was a sweet," Ginny teased, as they walked back to the portrait.
"I thought Luna liked Neville- they were together all year in the DA, and Ron said she was being awfully friendly last night," Harry said. He had nothing against Dean, at least not now that he and Ginny were together, but Harry had always liked Neville greatly and since Neville had finished off Nagini, his liking had doubled. Ginny patted his arm gently and shrugged her shoulders, and the two headed up for bed.
"But Arthur, she's only sixteen!" Molly Weasley whispered furiously to her husband. The two were packing up boxes of clothes and dishes from Muriel's and bringing them through the floo to Hogwarts, where Kreacher would take them to the site of the former Burrow. Minevra had informed them that morning of the Burrow's demise and had offered to store their things and give them a place to sleep while construction was underway, as much of Hogwarts had already been fixed, and the entire Weasley clan was at work in one part or another of the castle. Bill had been working for hours to replace the wards in the towers and the underground passages at McGonagall's request, while Charlie had been setting up the quidditch field with help from a dour George and an overanxious Percy. It was a mark of the grief they were experiencing that the three had only fought once, and it had been over the length in between the three hoops at each end of the court. Molly, however, had suffered a most unpleasant morning; after the houselves had refused to let her help cook breakfast for her boys, she had gone upstairs to find her youngest two and had found Ginny snuggled up next to Harry. This would not have been cause for serious woe, especially since Molly trusted Harry more than any other young man his age, but for Ron, who had heard his mother's surprised splutter and had thrown a pillow, claiming in half-muffled tones that the "bloody noise needed to stop." Hermione had awoken from next to Ron, and her state of dress (or rather, lack thereof) had caused the mayhem that ensued. It wasn't until Ginny slipped out unnoticed from her spot into the girl's dormitory and Mrs. Weasley had finished lecturing a now very awake Ron the way to show proper respect to his girlfriend, that Harry finally woke up and looked from Hermione's beet red face, to Ron's red ears and defiant eyes, to Mrs. Weasley's irate pose. Harry chuckled and turned over, but this strategy was apparently not the one to take, because the damage had already been done, and Molly had heard the chuckle.
"And YOU, young man, had better keep in mind all the things I've said to Ronald, or else Ginevra will be sleeping next to me for the rest of the summer!"
Whatever Harry had been expecting, this was not it.
"Relax, Harry- Mum's just in a fit because the funerals are today. She's bound to be, well- you know- Mum," Ron reminded. Hermione sniffled from beside him and his attention was diverted to pleading with a shameful Hermione to stay for just a bit longer. Hermione, however, would have none of it, and rushed off to change and get breakfast before Mrs. Weasley could return.
"Some morning, right?" Ron echoed Ginny's comment from the morning before. He slumped out of bed and Harry could tell that today was not meant to be a good day.
And the day lived up to Harry's expectations as one of his worst. Between trying not to cry at Fred's funeral, watching Ginny and Ron both sob and not be able to do anything to fix it, and then crying himself through Tonks' and Remus' funeral, Harry felt his emotions never stopped churning. One of the worst moments was seeing tiny Teddy Lupin in Andromeda's arms, sitting in the back of the field where the funeral was held, and realizing that Teddy would never know his parents the way Harry had never known his. The tears that had been threatening to fall all morning as friend after friend were laid to rest in the field before the Forbidden Forest finally overpowered him, and Ginny and Hermione each clutched to his arms as he sobbed, bent over in his chair, for the last of the Marauders and his turquoise-haired son. The field was covered in white marble markers, much like Dumbledore's had been, each etched with a name that meant more families were mourning someone they loved. Harry wanted to hold Ginny when it was over, to do whatever he could to make her feel even a fraction better, but she was distant from him, and said she wanted to be alone and think by herself, something she seldom asked for. Ron, too, pulled himself from Hermione's arms, and walked with stooped steps towards the forest, and Harry and Hermione shared a bleary look, realizing that once again, they were guilty outsiders. George had retreated to Fred's grave, and lay with his head where Fred's was, ear against the dirt, as if he were waiting for Fred's voice to tell him the joke was over now. Harry took one last look at Mrs. Weasley, sobbing, while Mr. Weasley held her and silent tears poured over his face, and then paced off, holding Hermione's hand, to sit by the lake away from the mourners and the overcast sky. It was fitting, he felt, that it was at this moment, when his mind had been on all those who were crying for the lost ones they had loved, that his mind was reminded of another who had grieved, whom no one seemed to miss now: Snape.
Hermione seemed to have the same thought, because they both turned to each other with the Shreiking Shack in the foreground, and then began to walk swiftly toward the Whomping Willow.
"D'you think someone else will have moved him by now? Or is it possible he's still down there?"
"I don't think anyone else but us would know he died down there, and I'm sure no one from our side would wonder where he is- no one heard all of what you were saying about Snape to Voldemort, it was too quiet," Hermione answered. Harry muttered "Wingardium Leviosa," under his breath, sharing a well-needed smile with Hermione, and the twig at his feet swung up in the arm and between the shaking branches, pressing the knot at the base. The tree twitched one last time and stopped, and the two of them drew their wands forward and climbed down. The last seven years had taught Harry never to let his guard down, and Hermione followed suit. They both knew, without even voicing the thought, that injured Death Eaters may be hiding in the Shack, hoping to make an escape once they'd contacted help.
Harry put a finger to his lips when he heard footsteps on the other side of the door at the base of the staircase, and put up three fingers to count down opening the door. Hermione, however, shook her head and waved her wand- the door in front of them became instantly clear as glass, and Harry almost pulled her back until he realized she wouldn't let the vision work both ways. He stared at her, and Hermione shrugged under his raised eyebrow. She whispered,
"I got bored last night, so I thought I'd visit the library for a "
"Bit of light reading?" Harry whispered back.
Hermione grinned and the two inspected the space in front of them.
Snape's black boots and the bottom of his robe were no longer visible around the corner. Instead, two pairs of bare feet were walking around the room, and the owners couldn't have shocked Harry more:
Blaise Zabini and Draco Malfoy.
Harry couldn't hear what they were saying, but he did know that if Snape's body was gone, then it was possible the boys were planning to stay awhile and moved the body to a more reclusive place. Or, he thought wryly, to get rid of the smell, knowing Malfoy wouldn't lift a finger unless he were desperate for his own comfort.
After watching the two talk and - though Harry couldn't believe it- peel sprouts and set them to boil in a kettle over the fireplace, Harry deduced they were staying in the shack. Neither of them seemed injured, and no one else had been seen. Harry signaled Hermione.
"Let's stun them, then we can take wands and get some talking done," he whispered. Hermione put her hand on the door, and it was over almost before it began. Within five seconds, Blaise and Draco were stunned, their wands were in Harry's hand, and Hermione had placed a repelling charm and silencio on the door to the shack. Feeling relieved that at least one thing had gone right today, Harry screwed his face up in concentration, recalled the spell McGonagall had used to tie up the Carrows, and performed it to Hermione's delight on Malfoy and Zabini. Tying them back to back around a support beam, he let Hermione ennervate them and could have grinned at their confused scowls.
"Fancy seeing you two here," Harry began. "So where did you put Snape? And what do you think you're doing back on grounds?"
"We're not really going to tell you, you know," Blaise opined with a bored look on his refined features. Malfoy, however, did something that shocked Harry: he met his eyes. He did not smirk, or call Hermione a mudblood, or try to rile Harry up.
"Well? We need an answer before we can let you go," Hermione pressured, hitting them both with a jinx. Harry was surprised, until he realized it was the tickling jinx.
"After all, they didn't look too happy," she said to Harry's mirthful look.
"You mean, before you give us back our wands, Granger," Malfoy drawled with surprising politeness. "In case you've forgotten, we haven't done anything wrong. We're just waiting here like you two are for the funerals to be over."
"Fat chance of that. You were settling in for dinner! Now where is Professor Snape's body?" Harry growled.
Draco looked wary for a moment, and Blaise muttered "Professor?" to Malfoy as Harry realized what he'd said. "I guess we'll be going to McGonagall with this," Harry threatened, trying to pull the last bit of leverage he had over the two, seeing as they were technically right- the shack was not owned by anyone, and neither of them had fought in the battle for Voldemort- in fact, Ginny had quietly told Harry that Malfoy had blocked several curses meant for her, which Harry had yet to give time to puzzling over.
"McGonagall knows exactly where we are," Malfoy muttered with ill-hidden contempt. "She asked us if we knew where Snape was, and I'd come down here to hide- I mean, to relax, after the battle that is, and she said Blaise could help me with the embalming."
"Embalming?" Harry questioned, " What are you talking about?"
Let alone the fact that McGonagall had trusted Draco with a task, this last bit threw Harry out of his comfort zone even more so.
"All the great potions masters are embalmed after the ancient Egyptians, who started the practice. It was in that book Ron brought me back from his vacation, third year," Hermione said softly. "It is the greatest honor a potions master can be given. You become a specimen of your own craft."
"Where is his body?" Harry directed at Blaise.
Blaise tipped his head towards the other room, and Harry entered quietly, leaving Hermione to guard the two. Inside the next room was a slanted table, surrounded by glass and ceramic jars filled with pastes, oils, and strange ripped cloths that were feather light and fibrous. Harry cringed at the sight of several organs floating in elaboratly carved canopic jars, and he pulled back his hand after he realized what he would uncover if he pulled back the sheet. After pondering for a minute, he pulled it back, and looked into the glassy eyes and pallid face of a man he'd misunderstood and loathed for so long; a man who had saved his life more than once, who had given up so much to keep him safe, who had hated him just the same for what he represented: James' love for Lily. Harry closed the sheet with a sigh, looking at the boots and the few personal effects on top of Snape's folded robes. The second half of the photo Harry had unearthed months before was folded into a pocket on the inside of Snape's belt, alongside an earlier photo of a young Snape and Lily, who laughed with green slime all along their right sides. This was a teenage Lily, younger than Harry had seen in Snape's memory, but older than the Lily of eleven and twelve. Harry folded the pictures up into his back pocket and looked next at the wand and the Slytherin pendant that lay atop of the pile. These, he knew, Snape should be buried with. Thinking hard, he pulled out his wand and made a duplicate of both pictures, and then placed the originals back in the pile- he should let Snape be buried with his most cherished memories.
Harry came back out into the room to find Hermione laughing, which was incredibly weird, though she stopped abruptly once Harry looked at her. Releasing the two captives, Harry asked Malfoy if they needed anything while they were working, ignoring Blaise's raised eyebrows and Malfoy's own hard look.
"Food would be good," he admitted slowly, "and if it's alright, we'd like to take baths when we're done tonight- maybe in the castle." Harry could tell he was hungry to have stooped so low as to ask him for help. Both boys looked like they had not seen soap since before the battle, and Draco was covered in cuts. Harry looked once more at their bare feet and conjured shoes, replicas of Neville's oversized sneakers, and then nodded.
"I'll leave your wands at the foot of the stairs," he added, and Draco nodded almost imperceptibly, looking at the wall above Harry's head. Both knew they were not comfortable facing one another armed. The lights went out a brief second, and then
suddenly, Hermione went white and pulled on Harry's arm.
"The repelling charm went off- the lights- someone is coming!"
Harry pulled himself around between the other three and the door, and tossed the two wands behind him. Bending at the knees and casting some quick protego charms, he didn't have to wait long- with a crash and a series of bangs, two men came barrelling through the entrance hall, locked in a heated fight. Setting up a shield between them, Hermione raced forward and summoned their wands. The first man turned suddenly and punched her in the face, and Harry saw red- without looking to see who he was attacking, his reflexes took over.
"STUPEFY! PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!" he cried, pulling a bleeding Hermione out of the way and seizing the second man, who lay unconscious, to pull him behind the shield charm.
"NEBILLE!?" Hermione cried, before she spat a mouthful of blood onto the dirt floor.
Harry turned and froze, for indeed, a rather foolish and red-faced Neville Longbottom was petrified in front of him.
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