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Chapter 35 : Danger Comes A Callin'
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He looked up and saw Jace leaning casually against the doorjamb. “All packed, Harry?”
“Yeah. But I sure wish I could stay a little longer.” His friend said wistfully.
“I know. The place grows on you, huh?”
Harry nodded. “Be it ever so humble—”
“—there’s no place like home,” the reader finished quietly. “That’s true. School’s fun and all, unless Malfoy’s being a prat, but I’m glad to be home.”
“I’d say I know the feeling but . . .I’ve never really had a place I could call home before. Four Privet Drive was just a place I lived at for the summer ‘cause Dumbledore wouldn’t let me stay at the school.”
“Ah. Your relatives sucked, right?”
Harry laughed shortly. “That’s one way to put it. They didn’t like magic, they didn’t like me, and they were probably hoping I’d never come back after term was over each year. Unfortunately, I did.”
“But now you live with the professor, right?”
“Yeah, but I haven’t really had a chance to actually live in his house, due to our mission. We haven’t set foot in the place at all, just Flooed our trunks through. Even so, I’m sure it’ll be a palace compared to the Dursleys.” Harry slung his pack over his shoulder. “I’m going to miss it here.”
“You’re welcome back anytime, Harry,” Jace said sincerely.
“Thanks, kid.” Harry smiled at him. He had enjoyed his time at the Witherspoons just as much as he ever had staying with the Weasleys. And so, he suspected had a certain Potions Master.
The two friends walked down the hall towards Severus’s bedroom, where he was also packing, and heard a familiar little voice asking, “Where you goin’, ‘fessor Sevvy?”
Severus looked up from tucking the last of his items in his pack and saw Jilly standing in the doorway, her thumb partially in her mouth, her green eyes—eyes that reminded him of Lily—questioning. “I’m afraid I have to leave, Jilly. I have an important job I must finish, you see, and much as I would like to stay longer, I cannot.”
The little girl’s face crumpled into one of abject misery. “No! Please don’ leave! I don’t want you to go!”
She threw herself at him, grabbing him about the knees and burying her head in his robes. “No-o-o! Please stay wif me! I need you . . .t-to read t-to m-me an’ you pwomised to s-show me how to m-make p-potions!” she bawled, stuttering inbetween her sobs. “I need m-my Sevvy!”
Severus just stood there, at a loss for words, looking down at the hysterical child wrapped about his leg and feeling more wretched by the minute. He did not know what to do or how to react, for no child had ever pleaded with him to stay in such a fashion. He could feel her sorrow, it struck him like an arrow to the heart, for Jilly was so upset she was projecting her emotions at him.
Jace and Harry exchanged glances.
They entered Severus’s room to find a hapless professor trying unsuccessfully to get the two-year-old to stop clinging to him. But Jilly was like a barnacle, she refused to be moved, and continued wailing into his robes.
“I d-do-o-n’t w-want you to go-o-o, Sevvy!”
Jace knelt down by his sister. “Hey, Jilly-bean. Hey! You’re getting Professor Sevvy’s robes all full of saltwater silly imp! Stop bawling and look at me, okay?”
But Jilly wouldn’t. She remained with her face pressed firmly in Snape’s robes, hiccupping and sniffling. “Go ‘way, Jace! I not want to see you!”
“Sure you do. I’m your big brother.” Jace said patiently. “Listen, Jilly-bean. I know you’re sad ‘cause Harry and Professor Snape have to leave, but you’ll see them again.”
“You will, they’ll come back once they’ve finished work.”
“Uh . . .” He looked up at Harry.
Harry nudged Jace away and knelt down beside her. “Jilly, we’ll come back soon. I can’t tell you when, ‘cause what we’re doing might take awhile, but we will return. Trust me.”
Jilly sniffled. “What about my Sevvy?” She raised her teary-eyed little face and looked Snape right in the eye.
Severus found himself crouching down and lifting her onto his knee. He pulled a handkerchief from his sleeve and gently mopped her face. “Jillian Witherspoon, I will make you the most solemn promise that I will come back here before the summer ends.”
“Yes. I promise,” he said firmly, and both boys knew that he would walk through hell to keep his word to the baby girl nestled in his lap. “Now, will you do me a favor, little one, and stop crying? Otherwise your face will freeze that way. Just like a statue, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?” He teased gently, wiping her nose.
Severus coughed and Jace and Harry giggled behind their hands at the child’s innocence.
“If you don’t stop crying. Now blow your nose.”
He waited till she had done so, then vanished the handkerchief, and patted her on the back. “There now. Do you remember how we counted with the hungry caterpillar?”
“That’s what you can do until Harry and I return. Count ten days and then ten more until you see us come back,” Severus instructed. “You can make red X’s on this calendar here with this special crayon.” He made a quick gesture and one of the many school calendars he was given during the year popped up in his hand and so did a bright red crayon. “This is for you. Don’t forget to cross off each day. All right?”
She clutched calendar and crayon to her. “I give it to Mummy.” Then she flung her arms about his neck. “I’ll be right here,” she stated, pointing to his chest and hers. She hugged him for a long time. Then she crawled over to Harry and gave him the same treatment.
He felt rather embarrassed and awkward, because nobody had ever cried over him leaving them before, much less a little girl, but he hugged Jilly close and promised he would remind “her Sevvy” if he forgot.
Severus shot him a glare.
Severus scowled. “Something amusing, Mr. Witherspoon?”
“Amusing, sir?” queried the other, contriving to look totally innocent. “Only if you think seeing your baby sister go to pieces over your favorite professor and your best friend is funny.” He chuckled helplessly.
“The cheek!” Snape muttered, pretending to be annoyed.
Jace just laughed harder. “Admit it, sir, you like it too. It’s kind of flattering to have somebody care about you that much.”
Severus’s mouth reluctantly twitched into something resembling a smile. His clever too-perceptive student was right. It was flattering to realize a little girl loved him, the snarky professor, that much.
Still chuckling, Jace leaned over and took Jilly from Harry. “C’mere, imp. They have to go, but they’ll be back.”
Jilly, still upset, though no longer crying, buried her head in Jace’s shoulder.
“Harry, are you all set?”
“Yes. We can leave whenever you want.”
Severus shouldered his pack then said to his apprentice, “We shall leave as soon as we bid goodbye to our hosts.”
“Mum and Dad are in the kitchen,” Jace said helpfully.
The elder two Witherspoons were looking at each other worriedly over cups of steaming coffee, obviously communicating with their minds instead of their mouths. Both looked up when Harry and Snape entered, however.
“Grace. Jasper.” Severus said gravely. “I regret that I must take my leave of you, but circumstances being what they are, I cannot delay. Harry and I must—”
He never finished his sentence, for at that moment there came a terrible wavering howl, a howl that Harry had hoped to never hear again, vicious and bloodcurdling. “Severus! The werewolves are back!” he cried. “But how?”
Jasper was on his feet, his normally complacent features hard as stone. One hand grasped his amulet. “Jace, take Jilly down to the hidey hole and stay there until I call you.”
“Do as I say, Jace Archimedes Witherspoon,” his father ordered sternly. “If I know you are safe, then I can concentrate. Go!”
“Okay, sir,” Jace sighed.
“Daddy!” Jilly cried, reaching for him.
Jasper hugged her and then gave her back to his son. “Jilly, sweeting, go with Jace and play a game. Hide and seek. I need you to hide with your brother in the special room and be very quiet till I call for you. Can you do that?”
Jilly put her thumb in her mouth and nodded.
Grace moved over to hug her children also, trying to ignore the spine-chilling howls that seemed to radiate from everywhere at once. “Be safe. I love you both.”
Jace nodded, swallowing hard. “Good luck, Harry, Professor Snape.” Then he was gone down into the cellar to hide away in a special room that his parents had built when Voldemort had first been reborn.
Jilly waved goodbye over his shoulder, calling, “I love you, Hawwy an’ ‘fessor Sevvy!”
Harry would have smiled if he hadn’t been so apprehensive. “How did they find us? I thought the wards couldn’t be breached.”
Jasper looked up at Harry and said softly, “Tristan reported that the weres now have a Spier among them. That’s a reader who follows the old ways of the Mind Lords and one of that sort could have breached our wards. They must have searched for a good while to find one of his kind, we don’t tolerate them here.”
“But one is here now,” Grace hissed, her eyes hard as agates. “Severus and Harry, you had better go. We can handle the Spier and the weres. Fly, hawks! And good hunting all!”
“If you’re sure . . .” The Potions Master said, feeling guilty that their presence had brought this upon this peaceful community.
“We’ll be fine,” Jasper urged. His eyes were far away though, ‘speaking the others in the small hamlet.
“Be careful.” Harry said, also feeling guilty. “I’m sorry.”
Jasper hugged him. “You have nothing to feel sorry for, son. Danger comes a’calling when it wills. Off with you. Safe journey to Hogwarts.”
After Grace had hugged them, the two wizards blurred into their Animagus forms and flew out the window.
Freedom summoned Hedwig from her tree with a soft cry and soon the snowy owl joined them in the air.
They circled the village and saw that all the men had come out of their homes and were standing in a semi circle at the edge of the hamlet, each one with an Amulet of Communication glowing upon their chest, eyes hard and faces grim. Mist swirled between their feet.
On the outer perimeter of the moor were the group of remaining weres led by greyback, plus a tall slender man in a maroon robe wearing a black skullcap. His eyes were colored an odd gold color and had almost no white and enlarged pupils.
That must be the Spier, Freedom thought, feeling a predator’s contempt and rage towards the dark wizard. Warrior, should we try and distract them, make them chase us?
Not yet. Wait. If it looks as if they need assistance, we shall challenge the mangy mutts. Warrior advised, though every instinct of survival he possessed was screaming at him that he should not waste this chance and should already be miles from here, heading towards Hogwarts. And yet, he could not bring himself to abandon these people, who had sheltered him and his apprentice for weeks.
He knew he was being a sentimental idiot, lingering here, and he wondered caustically what had happened to his pragmatic edge. The old Snape would have taken the chance offered and run with it. But the old Snape had been cynical and hard and had not been mentor to a self-sacrificing boy, nor had the love of a sweet empathic cherub. He had a heart of ice, the man he had been, but the ice had melted somewhere along the way, and now that he had allowed himself to feel again, he discovered that it was damn hard to turn off the inconvenient feelings of guilt and responsibility.
The Spier was gesturing angrily, and a small kestrel was hovering over the men, Freedom recognized Dawnfire, which was Grace’s Animagus form. One of the weres picked up a stone and hurled it at her, but she was too quick and flew out of range with a soft screech.
Freedom hissed angrily and flexed his claws. But he did not follow through with his first instinct and dive upon the were who had flung the rock. He obeyed his mentor and waited to see what the readers would do, for he sensed they were not pushovers.
“Why have you come here, Darkspawn?” asked Jasper, his voice cold as arctic ice. “You are not welcome among us.”
The Spier laughed harshly. “And you, pathetic Lightsider, cannot keep me out. Your psychic wards fell like paper before my probes. Surrender the two wizards known as Harry Potter and Severus Snape to us. We know they took refuge here, since Greyback came to me for help, his mind was tampered with by a reader trick, and you and yours are the only readers here who would help the enemies of His Dark Majesty.”
His Dark Majesty? Please! Don’t make me puke! Freedom skreed. Where do they come up with these lame titles?
From a very bad villain etiquette book, most likely, Warrior replied. Riddle always enjoyed adorning himself with titles, it made him feel like one of the aristocracy.
“There are none among us who are not readers,” replied Tristan calmly. “Seek your quarry elsewhere, wolves. Or risk our wrath.”
Greyback bared his fangs. “Tell us where they went, or else I shall rip out every throat in the place! Starting with yours!”
He crouched, ready to spring.
The Spier put out a hand. “Control yourself, wolf brother. Let me deal with my craven brethren.” Abruptly he spun and pointed a finger.
Flames blossomed on top of several residences, including the Witherspoon’s.
Warrior gave a sharp cry of dismay, his golden eyes taking in the awful sight of the flames shooting skyward in horror.
No! This cannot be happening again! Once more he could hear the screams of the children, pleading for someone to save them from the bonfire. Then they changed, becoming Jace and Jilly, and he could hear Jilly howling for him. Help, ‘fessor Sevvy! Help me-e-e!
Warrior snapped back to the present, screeching in fury. Jace! Jilly!
He whirled and dove towards the house, unmindful of the flames, his only thought was getting to the children. No more children shall die in fire! Not on my watch!
Freedom spun about. What the bloody HELL! Warrior! Are you crazy??!!
The smaller redtailed hawk dove after his larger mentor, grabbing him by the tail feathers and yanking. Warrior, stop! You can’t reveal yourself!
The goshawk spun, beak gaping, eyes blazing hot as the fire upon the roof. Get off me, you bloody fledgling! Jilly and Jace are in there! The house could collapse upon them! I will not see more children die! He could still hear the screams in his mind, eclipsing his usual iron self-control. The mere thought of Jilly, the sweet little thing, burning to death like that other one had . . .he struck at Freedom, screaming, Move out of my way, blast you! They’ll burn! Don’t you understand?
He flew at the smaller hawk, intent upon savaging the annoying fledgling, the screams of the dying children echoing in his ears.
Freedom dodged the goshawk’s snap. Think a minute, dammit! If you reveal yourself, they’ll be put in worse danger. Besides, the others are putting out the fire. Look! They’re safe. It’s okay, Warrior. Calm down. It’s not like the last time.
The goshawk turned and saw that his companion had spoken true, Jasper had put out the fire with a hastily cast Water Jet Charm and the house was no longer in danger of burning up. The other readers had also put out the firestarter’s blaze and were now advancing angrily upon the Spier.
Dawnfire had flown down and transformed back into Grace, who ran inside her house, wand out, to check on her children.
Warrior shook himself, breathing rapidly, his heart still racing, but he made no attempt to return to the Witherspoon house. Instead he flew a quick loop about the village, trying to push aside the dreadful flashback and regain control over himself. I cannot believe I allowed that to happen. I know better, I have been a spy for over fifteen years! How could I lose control like that?
Bewildered and ashamed, Warrior flew back towards Freedom and Hedwig, once more in control of his emotions. Freedom, forgive me. I . . .didn’t mean to attack you. But I was . . .not myself. I am sorry.
Freedom gave a soft chirrup. No harm done, Warrior. I understand.
Sometimes the memories hurt worse now than when they were first formed, Hedwig said softly, and she nuzzled the goshawk affectionately. Do not blame yourself.
Humph! Don’t make excuses for me, Hedwig. Who shall I blame, if not myself? Warrior said scathingly, but all of his sharpness was for himself, not his companions.
Blame the Death Eaters and bloody Voldy for giving you those damn awful memories in the first place, Freedom crooned. Then he glanced over at the readers, all standing proudly in a line.
The Spier was sweating, Freedom could see the droplets of sweat flowing down his face, and he was pale, clearly trying to do something against the readers, but they were blocking him, for his teeth were clenched and he looked as if he were about to explode.
Freedom wondered if it were possible to make yourself have a stroke, because all the veins in the Spier’s head were standing out in sharp relief.
In contrast, the readers’ faces were all inhumanly calm and stony. Linked with the power of the Amulets of Communication, their minds were one, and the Spier could not break through their combined defenses and turn their minds against each other.
And any attempt he made at trying to harm their property or their families they quickly deflected now that they were aware of what he was about.
“Leave, Darkspawn! Or else we’ll finish you!” all of them growled, turning the full force of their mental abilities on the Spier.
The Spier groaned and then howled in rage, his face purpling as he sought to throw off the compulsion. But his mind, no matter how well-trained, could not match twenty minds linked, and in the end he struggled in vain, until he had to turn away, gasping and sobbing in fury.
“What are you doing, scum?” Greyback howled. “Running off with your tail between your legs like a whipped cur? You told me you could defeat them!”
“I . . .I . . .they are linked . . .it’s . . .impossible!” whined the Spier, his head hanging. “Too strong . . .”
“Bloody lying sack of shit! I paid you well and this is how you keep your word?” spat the leader of the weres.
The Spier looked up at the angry were, his eyes pleading, but Greyback was in no mood to tolerate failure from anyone. Lucius had sent him explicit instructions and if he failed this time to catch the damn Animagi . . .
“Forgive me . . .”
Greyback lashed out casually with his clawed hand, backhanding the unfortunate Spier across the throat.
Blood fountained as the wizard’s carotid artery was severed and he crumpled to the earth.
“You’re forgiven,” Greyback spat.
Freedom shuddered at the casual brutality and thought, Evil turns upon itself.
But no sooner had the Spier gasped his last, his lifeblood soaking the earth, the readers promptly veiled themselves and their home from the werewolves.
Greyback whirled about only to discover the readers and the houses had vanished. “What? NO-O-O!” the were howled. “Where did they go, blast it?”
He began snuffling and racing to and fro, but the readers’ veils made him see things that weren’t there and the things that were there were no longer visible to his senses. The others in the pack followed his lead, but they too were confounded.
The two hawks and the owl watched the werewolves blunder blindly in circles for a few moments, then Freedom flew down to hover and taunt the smelly creatures, waving his red tail impudently in their faces.
Here doggy, doggy! Come and get it, you mangy, rat-tailed, stinking bunch of cowards! I’ll bet you can’t catch a cat with no legs! He wriggled his feathered backside right in Greyback’s nose. Whining arse-licking murdering thieves! Let’s see how you deal with a real wizard! Kree-eearr!
Greyaback snarled savagely and leapt at the impudent hawk, his teeth just missing the red-tailed fledgling. “Come down, little chicken, and fight like a man!” he roared.
Why should I, dung breath? You’re not worth my time!
Greyback bellowed, saliva flying everywhere as he tried in vain to reach the bird.
A large white blob struck the angry werewolf right in the eye.
Greyback howled, dancing about and clawing at his face. “When I catch you, hawk . . .I’m going to rip you to shreds!”
Oops! Couldn’t tell you weren’t just another piece of dirt, wolfie! Freedom screeched. There’s one in the eye for you!
Warrior sighed. Fledgling, someday you will be the death of me! Then he flew near the smaller avian and hissed, Come, Freedom, you’ve had your fun, now let us be on our way. Minerva is waiting.
The red-tail gave a half-cheep of protest, then followed the older bird, calling mockingly, See you later, little wolfies! Don’t go crying to mama!
Below him, the weres ground and gnashed their teeth before setting off in pursuit, howling for their blood.
Must you taunt them like a primary school child? Warrior half-scolded. Honestly, Freedom!
What? It’s fun, Warrior. ‘Sides, you should have heard what they called me last time they were chasing us. You would have made me eat ten bars of soap.
You don’t really care if I insult them, do you? I mean, it’s all part of the game.
That’s not the point. I don’t give a damn if you hurt their feelings or not, but I DO care that you pay attention to your surroundings and don’t get so caught up in exchanging insults that you forget our true purpose. Which is getting to Hogwarts and finishing our mission.
Okay, okay. Don’t get your tail-feathers all ruffled, Fearless Leader. Freedom squawked, thinking he could have pointed out that Warrior wasn’t focused a few minutes before either, but he knew that was a low blow and so he shut his beak. Besides, he knew the goshawk scolded out of habit and concern, not maliciousness. It was simply Warrior’s way.
The three flew onward, drawing the pack of werewolves after them, and as they flew, Warrior remembered the prophecy Dumbledore had sent them just before going into the orphanage. They shall be hunted upon all sides, until the end is nigh, darkness stalks them unseen, but a steadfast and true heart shall overcome all. That was certainly true, Warrior reflected. First they had been hunted by werewolves, then maldecorvae, Death Eaters, and the Dagger of Discord had been the stalking darkness that had almost finished their quest for good and all. But a steadfast and true heart had overcome all odds and here they were again, flying hell for leather towards the school, pursued once more by enemies.
The goshawk just hoped he could evade the werewolves long enough to transform back and contact Minerva through the amulet. Then, with the Order alerted, they could have help just in case, and make plans to rescue the four children and Albus.
But first they would have to outfly the flea-bitten nasty curs.
Warrior turned and seized an updraft, riding it across the sky, letting out a triumphant screech as he did so. Let the putrid puppies run their paws raw, thought the Animagus with a sneer. Nothing without wings could catch a goshawk in flight or a red-tail either. They might be pursued to the very gates of Hogwarts, but not caught.
As long as they remained in the air.
On the ground they would have to be careful, but Hogwarts was not all that far as the crow flies, perhaps four to five hours, and both hawks flew faster than a crow any day.
The dark hawk turned his beak northwards, with the sun on his left wing, and increased his speed, shrilling a challenge to his fledgling as he did so. Come, Freedom, let us go and catch the rising sun!
Well, Sev and Harry are back! Hooray! What new dangers shall await them?
Thanks for everyone who has kept reading and reviewing this story, I hope you are enjoying it.
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