Chapter 3 : Another Battle
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Dust fell from the ceiling as the thunderous noise grew louder. The books on the top of the shelves were shaking and some began to fall to the floor. They hit the carpet with muffled thuds, like a scattering of raindrops on a tin roof. The bookshelves quivered violently as Something approached the library. Harry was terrified, he could now make out the sound as footsteps, footsteps that sounded like thunder, and he thought frantically about hiding beneath the desk, for surely a giant was coming. Maybe if I stay really still, the giant won't notice me. He tried to pretend he was part of the furniture.
Suddenly, a huge gray-skinned shape appeared in the doorway of the library. It was nearly too big to fit through the door, but that little complication didn't bother the troll. It simply lifted its spiked club and smashed a hole in the doorway. Chunks of wood and plaster flew everywhere.
Harry remained huddled in the chair. He had never seen a greater mountain troll before, but he had read of them in a book called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. He recalled the troll from the illustration in the book. He also recalled the book saying that trolls were massively strong but rather stupid, with a brain the size of a large walnut. Harry decided the safest thing to do was to play dead, like possums did over in America. He went limp and tried very hard not to breathe.
Unfortunately, the troll, while stupid and nearsighted, had an excellent sense of smell. And it smelled the sweat and fear stench of the young wizard easily. It was hungry, having been dragged over to this odd place of stone and wood by a skinny stuttering human before it had gotten a chance to eat the elk it had caught. Now it was starving and it regarded anything smelling of warm blood and sweat as fair game.
The gray behemoth licked its lips and began to smash apart the bookcases, knocking them over like ninepins. Broken wood and glass littered the floor and bits of shredded parchment and cardboard drifted through the air like confetti as the troll ripped apart anything it could get its massive hands on. It crushed whole sections of magical texts beneath its mold-ridden feet as it stalked Harry.
Harry wrinkled his nose at the sour stench of troll and opened his eyes, realizing then that his tactic had failed and he needed to move . . .NOW. He leaped up from the chair, but quickly realized he had nowhere to run. He was backed into a corner and the troll was right in his path.
Breathing harshly, he drew his wand, though he felt about as dangerous as a boy holding a toothpick. He didn't know the first thing about killing a troll with magic. The only spells he had learned so far were how to light up his wand, Transfigure a mouse, and levitate a feather. He was doomed. Goodbye world. Guess I'll be seeing you, Mum, sooner than I expected. He gulped and crawled beneath the table, hoping it would protect him somewhat from the falling debris. If he were lucky, a piece of falling stone might knock him silly, sparing him the agony of becoming the next steak on the troll's menu. The book had said that trolls liked to play with their food . . .he fought back nausea. He really ought to get a new hobby, he knew far too much about the eating habits of mountain trolls.
He started to crawl out from underneath the desk, hoping to maybe scuttle past the troll and behind the nearest bookcase when the spiked club dashed all his hopes by splintering the bookcase into kindling and one of the flying shards of wood struck him in the face, right above his left eye, opening a gash. He wadded up Snape's handkerchief and pressed it to the wound, trying not to cry. He was a Gryffindor, and he could face death bravely. Like his mother had.
"Potter! Where are you?"
Harry almost wept in relief. Snape had returned at last. "Here, sir!" he yelled, knowing it was useless to try and hide now. "I'm here!"
The troll bellowed in triumph as it spotted him.
Then it swung the huge club downward.
A large glowing blue shield appeared in the air just as the club would have smashed into Harry.
The club hit the magical barrier and bounced off, though the barrier buckled alarmingly.
The troll looked at its club uncomprehendingly. "Huh?"
"Potter, move your ass!"
Harry crawled out from beneath the table and darted towards the shattered bookshelf, slipping inbetween it and the one that was somehow still standing. He was now out of the troll's direct line of sight. Clutching the side of the bookcase, he watched as his potions professor confronted the puzzled troll.
"You brainless pile of excrement!" taunted Snape, firing off a Stinging hex. "Come and get me."
The hex made the troll jump and look down, exactly as Severus had intended. When it spotted this new annoyance, it bellowed and sliced downward with its club.
Harry gasped, sure Snape was about to end up pulverized.
But the Potions Master moved swift as a shadow fleeing the sunlight, and danced out of range.
The spiked club smashed into the floor . . .getting stuck for an instant in the floorboards before the troll yanked it free.
Severus knew that he had to rid himself of the threat quickly. He cast a Transfiguration spell, and the club became a bouquet of roses.
"Huh?" grunted the troll and tossed the flowers down, scratching its head in astonishment.
Now the big creature was unarmed, but still dangerous. Mountain trolls might be stupid, but they were highly resistant to magic, one reason why their forest cousins were often used for guard duty by important wizards. Many of the spells that incapacitated, like a Body Bind, would not hold a troll, and in order to Stun one you needed a team of wizards. Severus knew several spells that might kill one, like a Burning or Blasting Curse, but he would also run the risk of killing himself or Harry in the process. There was one spell, however, that might finish the troll off, but it needed to get past the troll's natural magic resistance.
So he cast a Weakening Hex at the gray beast, a spell designed to weaken a creature's magical resistance. Trouble was, the spell took a few minutes to take effect, and those few minutes were crucial.
The troll howled as the Weakening Hex began to work and stomped its foot down on the ground, trying to crush the black figure beneath its huge foot. At the same time, it swung a massive fist at Snape's head.
Harry cried out in horror as he saw the professor suddenly fall to the floor, not realizing this was an evasion.
The black-clad sorcerer rolled to the far corner of the library, avoiding both the stomping foot and the fist by a slim margin. The library shook as the troll's rage made itself known.
Snape was on his feet immediately, his face smeared with dust and a cut from a splinter of wood was slowly bleeding down his face. Three more minutes and then I can cast it. Only three. It seemed a miniscule amount of time, but Severus was fighting for his life and minutes were endless.
The troll was enraged, its snaggly teeth bared in fury, pig eyes blazing with the need to rend and tear the sorcerer in front of it. It started forward, clawed hands reaching to snatch up the man and crush the life from him.
Severus dodged, again and again, but each time there was less room to maneuver and he could not seem to catch his breath. He had landed hard upon the floor and feared he had cracked a rib. His foot caught on the protruding end of a piece of wood and he stumbled, pulling a muscle in the back of his calf.
Before he could right himself, the troll was on him.
As casually as swatting a fly, the troll slammed the Potions Master into the wall.
Severus' head and elbow hit the stone wall with a sharp crack.
He tasted blood in his mouth and his vision went gray. He fought to keep from passing out, it felt as though spikes were being driven into his skull. He felt a searing pain in his left arm and then it went numb. From far away he heard the troll bellow with laughter . . .or was it the laughter of the Dark Lord that he heard, mocking him for his devotion to a mere Muggleborn witch?
"Please, my lord, I would ask a favor," he had knelt at the feet of the beast wearing human shape, though such abasement made his soul shrivel in disgust.
"Speak, my little serpent. What wouldst thou have of me?" Voldemort purred. It amused the dark sorcerer to speak in antiquated speech patterns, like those Merlin might have used. One cold hand caressed the top of Snape's head, patting him like a dog.
Severus was repulsed by Voldemort's touch, though he hid the grimace. "I would have you spare the life of Potter's wife."
"The Mudblood?" Voldemort laughed softly. "Why?"
"Because she . . .has caught my fancy, Master," Severus said, every word like acid on his tongue.
Voldemort probed a quick dart at the other's mind, and pulled from his follower an image of young Severus and Lily holding hands down by the lake, smiling at each other. "Ah, I see. Thou heart, it seems, is not stone after all!" And the greatest dark wizard on the planet threw back his head and laughed. "It shall be as thou wisheth, my loyal serpent! She alone shall be spared. As a reward for thou service in bringing me the prophecy, little Snape. Thou Mudblood whore shall live."
Voldemort had lied. The amusement had turned to a killing rage when Lily defied him and refused to stand aside while he murdered her baby. Severus had not taken that into account, so desperate had he been to save Lily's life by whatever means necessary. All he had been concerned with that night was trying to make amends for the terrible mistake he had made a week earlier, when he had carried the partial prophecy he had overheard Trelawney utter in The Hog's Head to Voldemort, figuring it was just nonsense, but it might keep Voldemort busy for a time, giving the Order a chance to move against him. Everyone knew Trelawney couldn't predict her own lunch, she was a fraud, doing tarot card readings on gullible children to make ends meet. Snape had never taken the prophecy seriously. But Voldemort had. The Potions Master had been horrified when he realized what he had done and had done his best to rectify it . . .too late.
Through waves of pain, Snape saw the troll coming. He knew he could not get away fast enough. His only regret was that he had failed Lily's son, that he wouldn't be able to keep his promise and protect the boy.
Harry had watched in a sort of dazed horror as Snape had crashed into the wall, heard the sickening crunch as flesh met unyielding stone. No! Please! Not again! He screamed soundlessly, unable to move. Once again history would repeat itself and he would watch as another gave his life for him.
"NO!" he howled.
He could not bear another death on his conscience.
With an inarticulate howl, Harry darted in front of the troll, waving his wand wildly. "Wingardium Leviosa!"
A chunk of stone the size of Harry's head flew through the air and slammed the troll in the face.
It was not enough to knock the troll out, though it did make it pause and shake its head. Blood was running from its nose and lip and it growled loudly and spat out a crooked tooth. "Food . . .fight . . . good!" It grunted.
"You want a fight, you pathetic lump of lard?" Harry screamed. "Fine, I'll give you a fight! I'll-"
A long-fingered hand gripped the back of his robes and pulled him backwards. "Stupid boy! Do you have a bloody death wish?" Snape growled. "I'll do the saving here, Potter!" He shoved Harry behind him and leveled his wand at the troll, who was still shaking its head to clear it.
The troll bellowed in agony as huge gashes opened up in its abdomen and the backs of its knees, causing it to topple forward, Snape's spell had severed the tendons in its legs and it could no longer stand upright.
Snape tucked Harry beneath his good arm and managed to fling himself aside just as the troll crashed to the ground.
The impact caused the castle to shudder and the troll screamed in agony, thrashing about until Snape finished it off with a second application of Sectumsempra.
The exhausted Potions Master lay still for a few moments, trying to ignore the fresh waves of pain throbbing through his head and arm.
"Professor?" Harry asked in a small voice, and tried to wriggle out of the other's arm. Snape's skin was a pasty white color.
Severus forced his eyes open. "When will you ever learn to do as you're told, you foolish child?" He pushed himself to a sitting position and then gritted his teeth.
"I thought it was going to kill you!" Harry protested, relief flooding him. "And I couldn't . . .just stand by and watch it happen. Not again. I won't have anyone die for me again!"
"That is not your decision to make," Severus said heavily.
"I don't care! Who am I that you should risk your life for me?" Harry shouted. "I'm nothing but a freak and a waste of space."
"Who told you that?" Severus demanded, furious. "Your pathetic aunt? Her baboon of a husband?"
"You know them?" Harry gaped.
"Of course I do. Did I not say I was neighbors with your mother?" Severus snapped irritably. "I grew up with Lily and Petunia and I know just how much Petunia despised her sister and me for having magic. Answer my question. Did they call you freak and tell you that you were unnatural?"
Harry nodded. "All the time. They also lied to me and said my parents were shiftless drunks and they died in a car crash."
Severus' lip curled. "Your father was many things, not the least an arrogant braggart, but he was no drunk. Neither was your mother. Lily hardly ever touched alcohol. Pay them no mind, Potter. That's spite talking, not truth. Your parents died valiantly, against impossible odds."
"I know. That's why I disobeyed you. Because I don't want to be The-Boy-Who-Lived-Twice." Sudden tears filled his eyes then and he turned his head.
"Humph!" Snape said, but gently. "You may not live to see twelve with the way you fling yourself into danger. Just like your mother. Do try and think a little, won't you?" He patted the boy awkwardly on the back.
Harry burst into tears.
Severus groaned. He didn't deal well with crying students, he really didn't . . ."There now, child. One would think you'd be celebrating the demise of your snarky potions professor." Harry continued to sob. "Really, Potter, I'm running out of handkerchiefs, get hold of yourself." He dug in his pocket for another and handed it to the weeping boy, who took it and kept bawling. Snape groaned again. "Ah, hells." His reputation was shot to pieces anyhow once this got out. He draped an arm about the eleven-year-old's slender shoulders. "Shhh. Everything's all right now. Come, stop your crying, my robes are soaked with troll blood as it is."
Harry paid no attention to his professor's grumbling, he simply turned and buried his face in the velvet robes and wept, finally finding release in a storm of tears.
Snape held him, awkwardly, for this was the first time he had hugged anyone in years. He knew he was a poor substitute for Lily. But he was all Harry had.
Finally the storm subsided and Severus handed Harry yet another handkerchief-at this rate he was going to have to buy a gross of them. "Here. Blow your nose and wipe your face."
Harry did so and then gave him a tentative smile. "Thank you, sir. Are you all right?"
"I'll be fine as soon as I get some healing potions," answered the master spy. He shifted about cautiously and tried to get to his feet. But his head started spinning like a top and he had to sit back down. "Bloody concussion!" he muttered balefully.
Harry looked at him in alarm, but before he could suggest getting Madam Pomfrey, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Quirrell , and Flitwick entered the library. "Good heavens, what a mess!" exclaimed McGonagall. "Poor Pince is going to have a coronary, Albus!"
"Er . . .yes, it is rather a disaster," said Dumbledore.
"Professor Dumbledore!" called Harry.
"Harry, my boy! Fancy meeting you here." The Headmaster said, his eyes twinkling indulgently. "And Severus too!"
"I was studying in the library when the troll came in here and it nearly killed me, sir," Harry explained as the four teachers stared at the dead troll amid the wreckage of the library. "But Professor Snape saved me."
Dumbledore looked at Severus and smiled. "Well done, Severus!"
Snape scowled thinly, he certainly didn't need the Headmaster praising him like a five-year-old. "I did what anyone would have done, Headmaster."
"Great Merlin!" groaned Quirrell, and then he fainted.
McGonagall shook her head in disgust. "Quirinius, honestly!"
Snape's lip curled. "Douse him with water, Minerva."
"I shall, once we get you and Mr. Potter to the Hospital Wing, Severus."
He opened his mouth to argue but Minerva would have none of it. She conjured two stretchers and before Harry knew what she was about, had the two injured wizards floating down to the Hospital Wing, where she left them in Poppy's capable hands.
Madam Pomfrey sealed Harry's cut eyebrow with a single incantation and after giving him a vial of Pain Reliever for any aches and pains he might have, told him he could return to his dorm room and get some sleep. But Harry didn't want to leave the professor alone, he was concerned Severus was more seriously hurt than he let on and he wished to know if Snape would be all right. So he remained standing there while the mediwitch turned her diagnostic spell upon her colleague.
"Now then, Severus, let's see what you've done to yourself this time." She waved her wand over the professor, who was now wearing a lightweight hospital robe and tunic. "Hmm . . .you have cracked ribs, a bad concussion, and a broken arm, plus assorted bruises. If I didn't know better, I'd say you were accident prone."
Severus arched an eyebrow but said nothing.
Pomfrey turned to get some potions off of her cart and spotted Harry. "Mr. Potter, why have you not returned to your common room?"
"I . . .I just wanted to make sure Professor Snape is okay," Harry said shyly.
"He'll be fine, Mr. Potter," Poppy waved him off. "He's had worse. Off with you now."
But Harry was not satisfied. A part of him worried that if he left, Severus might suddenly die on him. He knew he was being superstitious and silly, but he couldn't help it. So he remained where he was, refusing to move.
Poppy frowned at him. "Mr. Potter, do you have trouble understanding English? Go-"
"Let him stay, Poppy." Severus ordered wearily.
"There's no need for him to do so," began the witch.
"Let him stay," Severus repeated. "Mr. Potter, sit down and watch if you'd like."
Harry quickly found a small chair and sat in it, concealing a sigh of relief. Snape understood!
He observed keenly as Poppy cast several healing charms over the professor. One to mend his ribs, another to splint his arm and put it in a sling. Then she gave Severus a few potions, a Pain Reliever, a Headache Remedy and another one which would heal his concussion and allow him to sleep. "There! By tomorrow evening you should be back to class and docking points again, Severus. Imagine, taking on a greater mountain troll by yourself! One might almost think you were a Gryffindor!"
Snape looked pained by that comment. "Poppy, for the love of Merlin! Do not say that again. What I did was to save a life. No more and no less."
"If you say so, Severus," she turned and winked at Harry. "Now, why don't you take a nap? You'll feel better with some rest."
She then bustled off to take care of some paperwork in her office, leaving the Potions Master and Harry alone.
"Will you really heal as quick as she said?" Harry asked, for he had never seen magical healing done on anyone.
"Yes. Magical healing methods work faster and better than Muggle ones, for the most part. If I were under the care of a Muggle doctor, I would be laid up for weeks." Snape told him. "However, I shall be back in class in a day or so. Luckily this is a weekend, so no substitute will be needed."
"Right. I'm glad you're going to be better by Monday." Harry said sincerely. "I'm looking forward to the next class."
Snape smiled wolfishly. "You say that now, but you won't once you see the three-foot homework assignment I have for you."
"Three feet!" Harry exclaimed in dismay. "What's it on?"
"You'll find out." He frowned sternly at his student. "There is also the matter of you totally disregarding the orders of a professor and putting your life in danger, Potter."
"But I had to, sir! The troll was going to kill you!"
"That's no excuse. It's the duty of an adult to protect a child in his care, not the other way around. Fifteen points from Gryffindor for behaving so recklessly."
Harry's face fell.
"Quit looking at me like that," Severus said gruffly. "Thirty points for sheer courage and nerve, as well as saving the life of your least favorite professor." I must have hit my head harder than I thought, because I just gave Gryffindor all their points back and then some. I definitely need my head examined! "Now don't say I never gave you anything, Potter."
"No, sir." Harry assured him, smiling again.
Severus rolled his eyes. "You had best be getting back to your common room, Potter. You may visit me tomorrow if you so wish. By then I'll be going crazy and need a distraction."
Harry slipped off the chair. "Sir?"
"What now, Potter?" the professor asked, somewhat crankily.
"When I come back . . .will you tell me some more about my mum?"
"Yes, yes. But for now, boy, I need sleep and so do you. Now go, before I take thirty points from Gryffindor for your stubborn disobedience."
"Yes, sir." Harry started to leave, then turned about and said, "Happy Halloween, Professor Snape."
"Bed, Mr. Potter." Snape lifted a hand and pointed towards the door. "And no eating sweets under the covers."
Harry gasped. "How did you know?"
"I wasn't born yesterday. Besides, it's what your mother and I used to do when we were that age." With that, Severus deliberately shut his eyes. He would have to speak with Dumbledore tomorrow about the lack of any kind of ceremony to honor those that had lost their lives in the war with Voldemort.
Harry turned and tiptoed out of the infirmary. It had been a good Halloween after all, he thought as he made his way up to Gryffindor Tower. He couldn't wait to tell Ron and Hermione all about the troll and his unexpected savior.
What do you think Ron and Hermione will say when they hear Harry's news?
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