Chapter 5 : Ambushed!
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Madam Pomfrey proclaimed Harry well enough to go back to class the next morning, his lungs were clear and his eyes no longer stung or burned. Harry was so excited to be released he felt like doing a victory dance. But Severus was not so lucky. Him she wished to keep for the day for observation, making her colleague scowl and grumble like an annoyed dragon.
“I feel perfectly fine, Poppy.”
“Never you mind, Severus Snape!” she scolded, waving a reproving finger at the Potions Master. “Feeling fine and being fine are two different things. And you were injured worse than your boy here, so you need more rest and an extra dose of Lung Repair. I won’t have it said I sent a patient of mine back to work without being fully cured.” Then she put the atomizer back on him, effectively silencing any more protests for the time being.
Severus shot her a death glare while her back was turned.
Harry chuckled, and his father glared at him too. “Tough luck, Dad. Well, guess I’d better get on to class. I’ll bring you a chocolate frog, okay?”
Severus removed the mask and growled, “Get, you cheeky brat! And mind you collect all your missed assignments from every teacher, including my substitute.”
“Yes, sir,” Harry groaned, hoping that there wasn’t too much homework to make up, since it was only the first week of class.
Then he slipped out of the infirmary at something more dignified than a run, but swifter than a walk, just in case Madam Pomfrey changed her mind and decided to keep him in there.
On the way to Gryffindor Tower to collect his bookbag he met Ron and Hermione, who were just coming down to go to breakfast in the hall.
“Harry, you’re better!” Hermione exclaimed happily. “I’m so glad, we were worried that those fumes had damaged your lungs and you’d need surgery.”
“No, I’m okay now. It was my dad who got the worst of it,” Harry said, waving his wand to call his bookbag from his room.
“How is your dad, mate?” Ron asked quietly.
“Oh, he’s almost better too, but Pomfrey wants to keep him for observation. As a precaution, she says.” He caught his bag and slung it over his shoulder. “He was lucky . . .it could have been much worse, like Hermione says.”
“Well . . .it’s good that he’s going to be all right. He might not be my favorite professor, mate, but nobody deserves something like that to happen.” Ron said. “I wonder who it was that screwed up their potion this time?”
“It wasn’t Neville,” Hermione said. “He was next to us and I would have noticed. It came from the other side of the room. Thank goodness no one else was too badly hurt.”
Harry nodded tightly. While he agreed with Hermione, he couldn’t help thinking that the explosion had been aimed at his father, brother, and himself. But since he had no proof, he couldn’t even mention that aloud. “Whoever it was better start praying that my dad never finds out, otherwise they’ll be in detention till next year, probably.”
“Ain’ t that the truth,” Ron chuckled. “And Merlin, am I glad this wasn’t me.” He slanted a glance at Hermione. “And I know it sure as blazes wasn’t you or Draco, since you two are like the best potion makers in that class.”
“Hey, I’m not so bad at potions either since Dad tutored me over the summer,” Harry informed his friend. “I actually . . .kind of like brewing now.”
Ron looked thunderstruck. “Aww . . .bloody hell! He’s converted you!”
“Converted me? You act like I’ve joined a cult or something.” Harry chuckled.
“You have, mate. The cult of Snape’s Potions Prodigies,” Ron groaned. “Now who do I have to complain to about how much I hate potions?”
“Talk to Neville.” Harry suggested. Then his stomach growled rather loudly.
“Looks like someone’s hungry,” Hermione giggled.
“Yeah, I am, so let’s go and eat.” He turned away, and Smidgen blinked in and hovered over his shoulder for a moment before touching down lightly upon him.
:Hello, Harry! I am delighted to see you up and about this morning! How are you feeling?:
Okay, I guess. Dad’s still in the Hospital Wing though, under observation for the rest of the day.
:Ah, well, he did absorb more of that foul smoke into his system than you did, so it stands to reason that he would take longer to recover. But he will recover, Harry.: Smidgen reassured him, purring softly into his mind.
I know. He promised me, Harry sent back and brought up a finger to gently stroke the shimmerling under the chin. Smidgen purred aloud then, and the sound sent a feeling of peace through him.
After breakfast, Harry went to all of his classes, and tried to concentrate on the material, luckily Hermione had gotten all his missed homework for him, and he planned on doing it back in the Hospital Wing to keep his father company. He asked Smidgen to relay a message to Draco and tell his foster brother to meet him in the Hospital Wing after supper so they could stay with their father until he was well.
:Draco says he shall meet you beside the knight statue in the Entrance Hall,: Smidgen informed him, having contacted the other youngster using her telepathic gift.
“Good. Now I just need to get my spare writing case and I’ll be set,” Harry said, returning to Gryffindor Tower.
Just before he reached the stairs leading up to the tower, Peeves appeared, and began to insult him loudly. “Poor little Snapey, nearly got blown away! Better be careful, baby Snape, you never know who might be watching and waiting for you!”
“Bugger off, Peeves!” Harry growled, in no mood for the poltergeist’s banter.
Smidgen’s fur stood on end. :Ghost, what mean you? Do you know who was behind the disaster in the classroom? If so, speak now!:
“Speak? Like a dog do you mean, catkin? I am no dog, to sit up and beg.”
:I will make you beg, spirit!: Smidgen hissed angrily, her violet eyes glittering with suppressed temper, her small tail lashing wildly. :Tell me, if you know, Sir Taunts-A-Lot, or are you all hot air?:
“Me? Hot air? Ai, Lady Dreamweaver, you wound me! Your claws have drawn my heart’s blood, and now I am fading . . .I’m fading . . .!” Peeves made as if to fade away and spun about, cackling.
:Oh no you don’t, you wicked specter! Come back here, Annoying One!: the dreamweaver growled, and then she soared off of Harry’s shoulder to chase the poltergeist down the corridor.
“Good luck, Smidgen,” Harry said, thinking that if anyone could catch the slick poltergeist, it was Smidgen. He turned and went up the stairs and into the portrait hole.
The common room was full of students studying, Katie Bell looked up from her Herbology notes and smiled at him. “Hey, Harry. You look like you could wrestle a giant. Feeling better?”
“Yeah, I’m fine now.” Harry reassured her. He smiled back at her, feeling himself blush a little. Katie was a year older than he was and she was one of the best Chasers ever to fly a broom. She was also, he noticed abruptly, quite pretty, with her warm chestnut brown hair and sparkling blue eyes, tall and fit. “I should be back to practice by Saturday.”
“Good. I’m glad,” she said simply, and he could see that she really meant it and was not just mouthing a platitude. “I’ll see you Saturday then. Oh, and how’s Professor Snape? Will he be back to teach tomorrow?”
She’s got a nice smile, funny how I never noticed that before, with all the Quidditch I’ve played with her. But then again, I wasn’t looking at her mouth, just the Snitch. He blushed and then said, “Yeah, he should be all right by tomorrow, Pomfrey’s just being cautious. Why? Who’s the substitute for potions?”
Katie made a face. “Some wizard who looks as old as Dumbledore, named Muggwort. He’s like a hundred or something, going deaf, and he drones on and on about the properties of shrivelfigs and the benefits of drinking a juice pressed from them that relieves gas and constipation. I feel like I’m trapped in a room with my great-grandmother Emelia. We haven’t brewed anything since Professor Snape got hurt, and I was really looking forward to this term, we were supposed to learn how to brew Strengthening Drafts.”
“Yuck! Sounds like he ought to be retired,” Harry sympathized. “Don’t worry, my dad should be back by tomorrow. I didn’t know you liked potions, Katie.”
Katie nodded. “I do. I’m in his advanced class, you know.”
“Yeah, she’s the potions expert for her year,” Lee Jordan remarked. “Bell the Brewer.”
Katie rolled her eyes. “Jordan, you make me sound like I make beer or ale, for Merlin’s sake.” She tossed her hair out of her eyes with an irritated flick.
“Nothing wrong with that, girl,” chimed in Fred from a table behind her. “I could use a cold one right about now, it’s smoking in here.”
“Me too,” agreed George, mopping the sweat from his brow.
“Well, then you’ll have to make your own, boys, I’ve a test to study for,” Katie said, indicating her notes with one finger.
“Ah, you’re no fun anymore, Bell,” sulked Lee. “Ever since you decided you want to become a Potions Mistress, you’ve turned into Miss Ultra Serious and Boring.”
“You want to become a Potions Mistress?” Harry repeated.
Katie nodded. “Yes. I asked Professor Snape and he agreed to let me start my internship early, if I can pass all my classes this term.” Her eyes were shining.
“Now why would you want to spend all your time stuck in a dungeon stirring a cauldron with the Dungeon Bat?” mocked Cormac MacLaggen.
Harry’s eyes flashed. “Watch how you talk about my father, MacLaggen!”
Cormac sneered at him. “Oooh, you gonna tattle on me . . .Snape?”
“Shut it, you bumblehead!” Katie snapped. “For your information, Cormac, I’m honored to study with our Potions Master—he’s the best in his field in Britain or in Europe. And I’d rather put up with his sarcasm than with a senile old coot who can’t tell a bezoar stone from a moonstone.” She turned back to Harry. “Ignore him, Harry. He’s nothing but a frustrated little toerag trying to pretend he’s all grown up.”
“Hey!” Cormac cried.
Harry grinned. “I’ll tell him you were asking about him, Katie. Gotta run, I’ve got tons of homework.” He started to go up to his dorm room.
“Yeah and if he doesn’t get it done, dear old dad will ground his arse or turn him into a flobberworm,” Cormac brayed.
Harry halted, his fists clenched. MacLaggen, you stupid bugger . . .!
But before he could go and confront the other boy, he heard Katie snap, “I wish he’d turn you into a jackass, MacLaggen, because you sure as hell act like one! Silencio!”
Harry smirked. Thanks, Katie. He went to fetch his writing case, happy that at least a few of his Housemates were willing to give his father the benefit of the doubt.
He stuffed his case into his bag and then walked back downstairs to the common room, where he saw Katie’s head bent over her text, smirking slightly, and Cormac opening and shutting his mouth like a landed fish, unable to speak because of Katie’s hex. She looked up as he went by and gave him a thumbs-up sign, which he returned before slipping out of the portrait hole.
Cute and smart, maybe I ought to get to know her better outside of Quidditch, Harry thought, and whistled happily as he made his way down the stairs. He was so absorbed in thinking about Katie and hoping that his father was recovering that he nearly banged into Percy, who was coming up the stairs. “Oh! Excuse me, Percy!”
“Snape. Just the person I was looking for,” Percy drawled. He sounded arrogant and unfriendly.
“I want to have a word with you, Snape.” Percy began coldly.
Harry frowned. “Okay. I’m here. What’s this all about?”
“It’s about you corrupting my little brother with your snake sympathies,” Percy said, his voice like ice. “I want you to stay away from him, Snape.”
“What for? He’s my friend!” Harry cried angrily.
“Weasleys aren’t friends with Slytherins! Or members of their families.”
“I’m not a Slytherin, Percy, I’m a Gryffindor,” snapped Harry. “And even if I wasn’t, who are you to say who Ron can be friends with? I’m still the same person I was when I started here, even if I do know the truth about my real dad and use my real name now. What are you saying, Weasley, I’m not good enough to associate with your family because I’m a Snape now?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying! My little brother shouldn’t associate with kids of Death Eaters.”
“My dad is not a Death Eater, you stupid arse!” Harry growled, stabbing his finger into Percy’s chest. “He was never a Death Eater, he was a spy!”
“You can believe that if you want, Snape.” Percy sneered. “But I know the truth! He would have been in Azkaban if not for Dumbledore vouching for him. Wonder what he promised the old coot? A Youth Potion? Maybe a Clarifying Draft? Or maybe he agreed to let the old boy cop a feel every once in awhile when he was hard up for some ass? Because we all know how our dear Headmaster fancies a tight—Oww!”
He never finished his sentence because Harry’s fist slammed into his lip.
“Shut your filthy mouth, Weasley!” Harry spat, his green eyes burning with barely leashed fury. “Don’t you ever speak such disgusting lies about my father again, you hear me? My dad is a good and honorable man and he would never lower himself to make a deal like that and neither would the Headmaster! He risked his life for people like you, Weasley, unappreciative, narrow-minded, stupid imbeciles who can’t find their arses with both hands and a map! Because he knew you’d be easy prey for Voldemort and he was doing his job, protecting arseholes like you! Sometimes I wonder why he bothered!”
Percy was holding a handkerchief to his mouth, mumbling and whimpering about his tooth being broken.
“Quit whining, you big baby! I didn’t hit you hard enough to break anything. But I will if you keep on talking trash about my dad. And if Ron wants to be my friend that’s his choice, not yours, so just suck up and deal with it.”
And with that, Harry spun on his heel and continued down the stairs to meet his brother by the knight statue.
He found Draco waiting, tapping his foot against the floor. “What took you so long?”
“Had a bit of a rodent problem to settle first,” Harry said shortly, rubbing his hand surreptitiously.
Draco eyed him knowingly. “You’re mad as blazes. What did you do, punch someone out?”
“How did you know that?”
“You’re rubbing your right hand and you only do that if you’ve just clocked somebody in the jaw. I studied kin-sa-dor with you, remember? So, who did you hit?”
“An arsehole. Percy Weasley.”
Draco sniggered. “He must have been crying ‘cause you got blood on his robes, the big dandy. Why? What did he do?”
“Told me to stop seeing Ron because I was tainted by being a Snape and your brother. And then he accused Dad of being a Death Eater and a . . .boy toy selling himself to Dumbledore.”
“He what?” Draco yelled. “Where is he, the bloody coward? I’m going to break his face!”
Harry grabbed his brother by the back of his robe before he could charge up the stairs. “Hey, Draco, calm down! I’ve taken care of it. If he steps out of line again, I’ll let you take him down, but he’s inside Gryffindor Tower now and you don’t want to start something you can’t finish, Dragon.”
Draco halted and thought it over. “You’re right, damn it all. But if he starts anything next time . . .his arse is mine, little brother.” Then he quirked his mouth at Harry. “What’s with calling me Dragon?”
“Dad does sometimes, so I just . . .figured you wouldn’t mind.”
“I don’t, long as you don’t call me that where anyone could hear.” Draco said.
“I won’t. And you can call me Phoenix if you want, like Dad does.”
“Okay. C’mon, let’s go and see Dad,” Draco said and they walked together to the Hospital Wing.
* * * * * *
Harry told Severus about Katie’s well-wishes, and how she was eager to see him back where he belonged, in his classroom. Though Severus didn’t come right out and say it, Harry and Draco could tell that he was pleased by Katie’s words, and they spent a quiet evening together, the boys doing homework and then discussing kin-sa-dor with their father.
“I’ll see about starting up your lessons again in a week or two, after I catch up on my classwork,” Severus told them. “We can use the Room of Requirement to practice, it should serve as well as my practice salon at Prince Manor.”
“Where’s that?” asked Draco, his gray eyes puzzled.
“On the seventh floor. It will appear whenever a professor or student needs it,” Severus explained. “You will see when it’s time.” He checked his watch. “It’s nearly curfew, boys. Best get back to your dorms.”
Both boys stood up and hugged him and told him good night.
“See you tomorrow in class, Dad,” Harry called over his shoulder.
“I’ll be there, Harry. Go on, get some sleep, son,” Severus ordered, smiling. “You too, Dragon.”
“Okay, Dad.” Draco said, then followed his brother out of the room.
“Well, I’m ready to hit the hay,” said Harry, yawning.
Draco threw him a puzzled look. “Hit the hay?”
“Muggle expression.” Harry laughed. “It means I’m really tired and need to get to sleep.”
“Muggles have strange expressions,” his wizard-raised brother said.
“So do wizards,” Harry told him.
They had nearly reached the stairs leading to the dungeons, and Draco was just about to bid goodnight to his brother when he felt a warning shudder of danger go up his spine. “Harry . . .” he hissed, drawing his wand.
An instant later, three wizards appeared out of the shadows, they had been lurking in the nearby small chamber where the first years waited to be Sorted. Harry drew his wand as well, for the three were no friends of his. They were Nott, Avery, and MacLaggen. The three spread out in a semi-circle, preventing the two brothers from moving either down to the Slytherin common room or up to Gryffindor Tower.
“What’s this, lads? Out for a little late night stroll, are you?” drawled Nott, his dark eyes narrowed nastily, reminding Harry of a wild boar he’d seen in the Deepwood.
“What’s it to you, Nott?” Draco asked, glaring at his Housemates. “Shove off and let us by.”
“Oh ho, listen to the little cockatrice crow!” sniggered Avery. “You really think you’re somebody, don’t you, Malfoy? You think that because your daddy’s locked up in Azkaban and you chose that traitor Snape over him, that you’re cock of the walk now. Well, I’ve got news for you, pretty boy! You’re nothing but a snitch and a ruddy coward, and we’re here to show you what happens to backstabbers, Malfoy!”
All three had their wands pointed at Draco and Harry.
“Think so?” sneered Draco. “I don’t.” And with that he lunged at the other boy in a classic snap kick learned from Severus.
The kin-sa-dor move caught Avery totally by surprise, since most wizards fought with magic, not their fists and feet. But Draco was no ordinary wizard.
His foot slammed into Avery’s wand hand, breaking his fingers and knocking his wand from his hand.
Avery howled, clutching his hand. “Bastard! You broke my fingers!”
Draco ignored him, spinning about to defend himself from MacLaggen’s hex.
Only to find that his brother had already beat him to the punch, casting a swift Disarming charm. “Expelliarmus!”
MacLaggen was blown halfway across the corridor.
Then Harry chanted a quick Body Bind. “Petrificus Totalus!”
“Good one, Harry,” Draco praised, then lifted his wand to duel Nott.
Only to find that Nott was hanging in midair, gasping and kicking, his hands going to his collar, trying to loosen the strangling cloth. He was making small mewling noises.
Draco and Harry just stared. What was happening?
An instant later they had their answer, as a tall dark-haired man with burning violet eyes appeared from behind Nott, one hand gripping the teen’s robes effortlessly.
“Draco!” Harry gasped. “That’s him! The one who saved Dad in the potions classroom! The . . .vampire!” he hissed.
Draco was about to cry that vampires would never be able to get into the castle, but the words died in his throat.
For the dark man had spun the gasping, bug-eyed Nott about and was holding him at arm’s length, his lips drawn back to reveal sharp fangs, his eyes shifting eerily from brilliant violet to a bloody crimson. “You! You are one of those who tampered with your cauldron and caused it to explode, nearly killing Severus, Draco, and Harry!” spat the furious vampire.
Nott stuttered, trying desperately to get in enough air to speak. But Philip did not relinquish his hold. So Nott shook his head, whimpering unintelligibly.
“Don’t bother to deny it, boy! I smelled your scent upon the cauldron, and I know that particular combination could not have been caused by any . . .accident. It was a deliberate tampering of ingredients designed to cause a harmful explosion. You meant to kill members of my family!” hissed Phil, shaking the petrified Nott like a hound would shake a rat. “And here I find you attempting to try again, you and your band of little reavers! How dare you?”
He relaxed his hold slightly, and Nott rasped, “Please, please . . .sir! Don’t eat me! I’m sorry! I didn’t know they were related to you . . .!” Huge beads of sweat were dripping down his face, mingling with the tears of terror trickling from his eyes.
Neither did I, Harry thought in amazement. Dad never said anything about a vampire ancestor before.
“And if you had? Would it have stopped you from acting as you did, stupid boy? Of course not!” Phil answered his own question. “You would have considered yourself justified in attacking the traitor and his family, including the bloodsucker! I heard every word you spoke to my . . .nephews,” the vampire lord said. Technically, the boys were a bit more removed from him than nephews, but the relationship was too complex to get into with this piece of dung. “Every last insulting, bigoted, wicked word! You meant to teach them a lesson, for betraying your so-called Dark Lord, didn’t you?” Nott remained mute.
Philip shook him. “Answer me!”
“Yes . . .yes . . .but they betrayed the Dark Lord . . .they deserve to be punished . . . Snape should die for what he’s done!” wailed Nott, defiant despite the vampire at his throat.
“Why? Because he dares to stand up for the truth? Because he does not stoop to torturing innocents and murdering children in the name of some petty necromancer?” The red eyes practically burned a hole in Nott’s forehead. “Listen to me, boy, and listen well. I will not tolerate any attacks upon any members of my family—now or ever! By anyone! Because you are a mere child, I shall not bite and mark you, the way I would an adult who committed such an offense, nor kill you either. However . . .you will not go unscathed . . .Look At Me,” Philip ordered in a voice that was midnight sheathed in steel and fire.
Nott jerked like a puppet, helpless to do anything save obey the Command in the vampire’s tone. “Yes, my lord.”
“Better. You will promise to never harm Harry Snape, Draco Malfoy, or Severus Snape for the length of your schooldays. You will leave them alone and apologize formally to Severus in front of all of your Housemates as well as the Headmaster and submit to any further punishment they wish to bestow upon you, up to and including expulsion for attempted murder of a professor and students. You will also suffer a day and a night of the pain you made my descendants suffer when your explosion damaged their lungs. No spell or potion will relieve you of it until you have fulfilled the time limit. Do you understand?”
“Yes, my lord. But . . .I wasn’t the only one.” Nott whined.
“I know. I will settle with them in a minute.” Phil spun about and his fiery gaze froze the other two boys on the spot. Such was the sheer power of an angry vampire lord. “None of those who attempt to harm my family shall go unpunished.” He lowered the boy to the ground. “Go then, Theodore Nott, and make your repentance! And remember, I shall be watching!” he leaned down and his fangs grazed the boy’s neck briefly. “Behave, or else!”
Then he released the boy and Nott fled, sobbing in terror, only to be brought up short and made to turn around and head back down to the Hospital Wing to admit his guilt to his Potions Master, as per the vampire lord’s Command.
Philip then bent and Commanded the other two boys as he had Nott, after first terrifying the snot out of them, and once he was done with that duty, he straightened up and sketched a polite bow to the gaping Draco and Harry. “Greetings, young ones. Let me introduce myself. My name is Philip Anthony Snape, and I am a very distant ancestor of yours.”
“And you’re a vampire!” Draco blurted.
“Yes, I am. A vampire lord, to be exact.” Philip said, then he smiled slightly, a much more friendly smile than he was wont to give. His eyes had changed back from crimson to their normal violet hue. “I was not planning on revealing myself to you so soon, but circumstances forced my hand.”
“Uh . . .pardon my asking, sir, but . . .how did you get in here and why?” asked Harry.
“Since I am not evil, your wards permitted me to pass,” Philip explained. “And as for why, I would think that would be obvious, little Snape. I am here to protect you. All of you.”
Draco coughed suddenly. “Uh, can we go somewhere else to talk about this? It’s freezing all of a sudden.”
“Yes. Come, we shall go into this empty classroom,” Philip said, indicating the unused classroom number eleven, which was across from the Great Hall. “We have much to talk about.”
“You can say that again!” Draco muttered, following his vampire ancestor into the room and then shutting the door behind him.
So what did you think of Phil's punishment? And Harry's interest in Katie?
Next: Phil reveals some family history to the boys, including the story of the Cup of Wonders and meets Severus.
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