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Chapter 2 : Infected
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Shaking his head, he urged himself to run faster, trying to cut off the running werewolf.
Behind him he heard Padfoot panting and whining, the dog was quick and agile, but even he could not sustain the werewolf’s brutal pace for very long.
The werewolf felt energized by the taste of the blood on his tongue, and thus did not feel compelled to slow down and allow the other Animagi to draw close to him, as he normally did. He felt a quicksilver energy flow through him, and he was hungry, but did not feel like hunting anything within the Forest. No, he longed for tastier prey, like the ones he had bitten. He swung his head about, his nostrils flared, and caught the scent of human flesh upon the wind. The gray werewolf gave a soft howl and sped off, circling the grounds of Hogwarts and heading towards Hogsmeade, where the tantalizing scent was coming from. He would feast there, upon the tender flesh that dwelled in the village.
Prongs threw up his head and snorted. :Padfoot, he’s heading towards Hogsmeade, I think! I’m going to try and cut him off.:
:All right, Prongs. I’ll try and herd him back towards the Willow. Maybe we can get him to go back inside the shack before morning. Otherwise we’ll be in deep dragon dung.:
The white stag began to spring, bounding over the ground at a frantic pace. :Padfoot, we already ARE in trouble. The worst trouble.: But the dog was too far away to hear him, and Prongs broke from the trees and shot across the lawn, trying to head off the werewolf before he harmed anyone else.
Meanwhile, an old wizard in purple robes hurried down to the Whomping Willow, wand out, his face gray beneath his white beard. He spotted the two shapes lying in the grass almost immediately. “My poor children!” he groaned, bending over them. They were semi-conscious, bloodied, and burning with fever as the curse attacked their bodies with a vengeance. He quickly levitated them onto stretchers and floated them back up to the castle, bringing them to a special room where students with contagious diseases had been quarantined in the past. Then he fire-called his personal Healer, he dared not summon anyone from his staff, for he wanted no one to know about the werewolf he had allowed to come to Hogwarts. He knew there was little that could be done for the two students, as they were already infected by the werewolf’s bite. Once they were made as comfortable as possible, he would search for his missing students. He knew it was paramount that Remus be found, before tonight’s tragedy was repeated. Shaking his head in distress, he followed the floating stretchers up the stairs.
Lily groaned as she alternately froze and burned, in the grip of a very high fever. Her arm throbbed and sent waves of agony pulsing through her and she flailed about trying to get away from the burning sensation radiating from the bite. She whimpered, dreaming that she fled through a dark wood, where a ravening beast with deadly fangs pursued her. Just as the beast sank his fangs into her, she screamed and fell down a long way . . . into a burning desert where the sun beat down upon her and blistered her flesh. She lay on the sand, her whole body filled with a burning pain, her throat cracked and dry, her lips bleeding. Above her, buzzards circled, and she knew she was dying . . . Terrified, she called out for her mother, and then she remembered Severus. He had been hurt too . . . “Sev? Sev, where are you? Severus!”
Lily’s cries brought Severus half out of the nightmare he wandered in. He half-sat up, his hand reaching for Lily’s, but clasping only air. He gasped as the movement jarred his injured arm and sent jagged spikes of pain through him. He managed to turn his head, and saw Lily lying in a bed a few feet away. “Lily . . . it’s all right . . . shh . . . I’m right here . . .” His voice came out in a rough croak, his throat was on fire, and so was the rest of him. He felt dizzy and nauseated. His eyes darted to his injured arm, finding it had been bandaged, but he remembered feeling the fangs sink deep into his flesh, and the terrible burning pain that had followed. He also saw that the scratches from the werewolf’s claws had been partially healed, though they were still red and puffy, and ached.
Bitten. He’d been bitten and so had Lily. Severus felt his stomach churn and feared he was about to vomit. Now they were infected by the werewolf curse, doomed to become ravening beasts that hungered for human flesh and went mad upon the full moon. He wanted to gnash his teeth and howl at the injustice of it all. He was a cursed thing and it was all the bloody Marauders’ fault! Despair slammed into him like a derailed express train and he drowned in its depths.
A cool hand touched his shoulder and he jerked away, startled. Then he hissed as the abrupt movement made his various bruises and cuts start throbbing again. He looked up at the figure who hovered over him, a tall man in his middle forties with brown hair and a kindly expression, wearing Healer green and the crossed bone and wand of St. Mungos. Is that where I am? But this doesn’t look like a hospital room. Severus had been in and out of hospital rooms, accompanying Lily on her visits to see her mother, Amy Evans, who was terminally ill with brain cancer. She had been diagnosed last year, and over the summer, Lily had gone back and forth with Eileen or Tobias Snape or Petunia to see her mother. “Where am I? And who are you?”
“You’re in the quarantine room at Hogwarts, Mr. Snape. My name is Healer Flynn, I’m the Headmaster’s family physician. He summoned me to tend to you. I’ve managed to heal the scratches and the bite somewhat, but they’re proving resistant to my healing charms. I need you to take these potions for me.” He indicated three vials upon a floating tray.
Severus tried to identify them, but his vision was blurry and was too sick to concentrate on them. “What are they?”
“A Pain Reliever, a Draught of Peace, and a double strength Fever Reducer.” The Healer replied. He handed Severus the first one.
Snape didn’t bother arguing, he simply swallowed the Fever Reducer. He took the other ones quickly, then asked for a glass of cold water.
Healer Flynn waved his wand and it popped up on the tray.
While Severus drank, the Healer ran another diagnostic and frowned over the results.
Severus looked up at the other wizard. “I’m infected, aren’t I?” He already knew the answer, but he had to ask anyway.
Slowly, the Healer nodded. “I’m afraid so.”
Severus felt as if a rock had just been catapulted upon his chest and had crushed his ribcage. He had known that the bite had transmitted the werewolf curse, but still a part of him had hoped that he might have managed to escape . . . But Healer Flynn’s words had put paid to that faint hope. Severus shut his eyes. He wanted rage against this cruel twist of fate, to scream his fury to the heavens, but the Draught of Peace was interfering. It was soothing all of the rage away, masking the despair, caging the bitterness, causing him to slide down a long tunnel into a half-sleep. His arm felt numb and with the pain dulled, he could finally rest. Though now he did not wish to, and struggled against the peaceful dreamlike urging the potion conjured.
“You’re certain, Marcus?” asked a familiar voice.
“There can be no doubt, not if he’s been attacked by a werewolf.”
That voice he wanted to hear more of. He fought to remain awake, but the siren call of sleep was slowly dragging him under.
“You can see for yourself, the infection is raging through his system and Miss Evans’ as well. I’m sorry, Albus, but there is little I can do to combat a werewolf bite. I can only treat the symptoms, not arrest the curse.”
“I know, Marcus. I know the curse is irreversible. But I thought perhaps you could make them comfortable.”
“I’ve done as much as I can. The bites and scratches will heal eventually.” The Healer said quietly. “Have you caught the werewolf that bit them?”
“Not yet. I haven’t had time to search.”
“You’d better call out the Aurors. Or a werewolf hunter. I’ve heard there’s one down in Hogsmeade with a good reputation. Just came back from clearing out a pack in Canada. They say she’s one of the best in the business.”
“A werewolf hunter—here? Who?” Dumbledore sounded rather more alarmed than relieved.
Severus gritted his teeth. Even now, after the unforgivable had happened, still the old coot sought to protect his precious Gryffindor!
“I believe she’s called Stone. Briar Stone. Would you like me to contact her for you?”
“No, that won’t be necessary. I can handle this myself.”
“But Albus, a crime has been committed! You need to find the beast and kill it!”
“That’s going to be difficult, as I believe it ran into the Forbidden Forest. Thank you for coming out here on such short notice. Don’t worry about the werewolf, Marcus. I shall deal with it. I trust you shall maintain patient confidentiality on this subject?”
“Of course!” the Healer sounded irritated. “I have never broken a patient’s confidence, you know that. When are you going to inform their parents?”
“Tomorrow. Is there anything else I should be doing with them?”
“No. The fever will eventually burn itself out over the next twenty-four hours. Give Miss Evans the potions I have left beside her bed when she wakes. Make sure she drinks plenty of liquids. The same goes for Mr. Snape. If their fever spikes and they start hallucinating, call me immediately.”
“I will. Thank you, Marcus.”
“Goodbye, Albus. I hope, for your students’ sakes, you find that werewolf and put a silver bolt through its brain. If it bit two kids, it’s too dangerous to live.” Then the Healer Flooed away.
Severus managed to hiss, “Professor . . .”
Dumbledore turned, regret mingled with sorrow in his blue eyes. “Severus, I am so sorry . . .”
Severus felt bile crawl into his throat. “You knew . . . you knew what he was . . .”
“Yes. I have known about Lupin since before I sent his Hogwarts letter. His parents were very reluctant to let him attend, they did so only when I assured them I would make certain he was restrained and unable to do harm to anyone. I never thought you would find a way to the Shrieking Shack . . .or that Remus would manage to free himself . . .”
“ . . .it was Potter and Black! They led me there . . .locked me in the room . . .”
Dumbledore looked poleaxed. “Severus . . . you don’t know what you’re saying . . . you’re feverish . . .”
Severus tried to glare at him, furious, but sleep had caught him at last and he found his eyes shutting in spite of himself. “ . . .telling the truth, sir . . .” In moments he was asleep.
Dumbledore looked down upon the stricken boy. He could not believe what Severus had accused the other two of. Peter had come to his office and told him that Snape and Lily had been attacked by a werewolf, not how it had happened. Albus had known immediately who had attacked them, as there were no other werewolves at Hogwarts. He had been horrified and shocked and had not thought beyond his initial reaction. But Severus’ impassioned words now put a different outlook on things. If the boy had been speaking the truth, and not speaking from a half-imagined fever dream . . . The Headmaster pursed his lips. Peter was still in his office. He would question the boy firmly, and so get to the bottom of this horrid affair.
“I shall be back soon.” He hurried from the room, shutting the door gently behind him.
The secret room, fifteen minutes later:
Lily opened her eyes, they felt heavy and sticky, she rubbed at them with a corner of her sheet. She felt sick and woozy and her heart was pounding from the horrible nightmare she had just had, where she and Severus were bitten by a werewolf. She went to move her left arm and pain slammed into her, jolting her back to reality with a vengeance. She stared at her bandaged forearm and recalled trying to rescue Severus down in the tunnel, the savage snarl just as the monster lunged, red eyes gleaming, and its teeth tore into her. She shook and gulped back a sudden surge of nausea. It wasn’t a dream. Dear God, it was real. I tried to save Sev . . . but I was too slow. She turned her head, and her eyes fixed on the figure in the next bed.
To her utter relief she saw midnight hair draped across the pillow, and Snape’s familiar profile, his chest rising and falling as he slept. She put her hand to her mouth to muffle her sobs. He was alive . . . but infected. As she was. Werewolf. She could feel the fever in her veins, a terrible burning that no water could quench, the fever of the infected. Cursed. Oh, God! What’s going to happen to us now? Hot tears spilled down her cheeks and she turned her face into her pillow and cried. She couldn’t go home, not with her mum so ill, and Tuney would never accept a werewolf in her home, she had barely accepted Lily as a witch, let alone a beast of the night. Once Amy had been diagnosed with cancer, she had told Petunia that if anything should happen to her, Petunia was responsible for Lily until Lily was of age. Robert Evans had died in an auto accident when Lily was ten, and for years it had just been Amy, Tuney, and Lily. Technically, Lily was seventeen, of age in the wizarding world, but not the Muggle one. Since her mother had been hospitalized over Christmas, Lily had stayed with Tuney at her home in Surrey, along with Tuney’s new husband, Vernon. Neither of the sisters had enjoyed that, but Lily had been sixteen then, and too young to stay on her own at Spinner’s End. Now though . . . Lily knew that Petunia would never let her cross the threshold, cursed as she was to become a rampaging beast at the full moon every month.
She had considered asking her neighbors, the Snapes, if they would mind letting her spend the summer there, since she got along well with Eileen and Tobias, and could perhaps work during the summer helping Eileen brew potions for her mail order catalogue business, like Severus did. It had seemed like an ideal arrangement, she could spend her days and evenings with Severus and his family, and sleep at night in her own room at home. That way she could have her own privacy and if Severus happened to come over, there would be no awkwardness involved. But now everything was ruined, and she cursed inwardly the selfish cruelty of her Housemates, whose blind prejudice towards Slytherins had caused this whole bloody mess, and changed all of their lives forever. I hope you’re happy now, Potter! And you too, Black! And Pettigrew! You’ve finally done something permanent to Sev and me . . . something that may make it impossible for us to ever be together. She wiped her eyes, only to have more tears spill over. She wondered if the werewolf—Lupin—was still running free, and what would happen to him now that he had committed the worst crime a werewolf could—biting and infecting humans. Would they send him to Azkaban for life? Or would they put him down like a mad dog?
Shivering, she wrapped her arms and the comforter about herself, her fever made her teeth chatter and all of her bones ache, though that was miniscule compared to the hollow ache in her heart. She closed her eyes and tried to fall asleep, her mind chanting the refrain “Cursed! You are cursed!” over and over.
Moony lifted his head, the glorious scent of humans filling his nostrils. He started to salivate uncontrollably, then he threw back his head and howled, the ecstatic howl of a hunting werewolf, a deep primal cry edged with ancient savagery. It echoed through the still summer night, sending prickles down any villager awake enough to hear it, and making any prey animal within miles run for cover. The werewolf paused for an instant upon a ridge, peering down at the sleepy hamlet of Hogsmeade. The scent was strongest there, and it was there he would hunt. He dipped his head, inhaling the scent of warm bodies filled with blood, wood smoke, and cooked meat and vegetables. His clawed feet dug furrows in the earth as he crouched. Then he sprang forward, bounding down the dirt track that led from the Forest to the edge of the village.
Prongs ran hard, flecks of foam spilling from his mouth, cutting across the lawn and on a diagonal that would intersect the dirt track and hopefully the werewolf as well. Prongs could not believe the sudden change in his old friend, he had never heard Moony sound so vicious and feral, so beastial. Was this what happened when a werewolf tasted human blood? Prongs had always known that Moony was dangerous, or had the potential to be so, but he had always assured himself that he could handle the werewolf if he happened to turn feral. Once the werewolf had fed, he had always remained within the boundaries of the school and the forest, content to romp in the moonlight with his friends. But this Moony was different. He had none of his former playfulness, this one was all hunger and predator. He made Prongs’ fur stand on end and caused the stag’s instincts to urge him to run far away. He had to force his flight reflex down in order to intercept the gray monster.
His cloven hooves thundered on the pathway, as the stag halted and reared in place, pawing at the midnight sky, the moonlight sheening off his fur in icy rivulets. He snorted and bellowed loudly, the call of a stag challenging a rival. From beyond, he heard an answering bark as Padfoot made his way through the trees and down to the trail.
Prongs waited upon the path, hoping he had been in time to catch the werewolf.
A few seconds later, Moony came surging down the path, growling eagerly. The werewolf skidded to a halt when he saw the stag standing there, meat on the hoof, his for the taking.
Prongs pawed the ground, tossing his magnificent antlers, challenge in his eyes.
Moony gave a low howl, and lunged for the deer’s throat.
Prongs caught the other with his antlers and tossed him a few feet away.
The werewolf sprawled on the ground, but was up in a flash, furious.
The stag turned, and raced off, knowing that Moony would follow.
He fled, the werewolf hot on his heels, with Sirius driving the big gray monster onwards by nipping at Moony’s tail and ankles, much like a herding dog with a reluctant lamb.
They skirted the outside of the village, running along the hedges and stone wall at the border, passing some small cottages on the outskirts. They were gone in a few minutes, Prongs leading Moony back into the forest to hunt and after he would coax the werewolf back to the Shack and inside the tunnel once more.
They never expected anyone in the village to be awake at that hour, but someone was, watching the odd tableau from an upstairs window, a cocked crossbow at her shoulder. Hard eyes the color of midwinter frost followed the racing werewolf as it pursued the stag into the trees, and a slow grim smile crept over her lips. She had been almost certain, from the reports and conversations of the Hogsmeade residents, that a rogue were was roaming about. Now she had proof, and could thus set a trap for the beast. Soon another skin would decorate the wall of her hunting lodge, for Briar Stone was the best werewolf hunter in Britain, or anywhere else, for that matter. She had dedicated her life to ridding the world of the cursed beasts, and would not rest until they had all been eradicated.
She was twenty-eight that year, slender yet strong, her body honed like a fine instrument. She was dressed in a mottled green and brown tunic and leggings, her golden hair braided and tied in a queue. In her ears were earrings made of werewolf claws and she also bore a necklace of teeth, trophies of the weres she had slain, proof that she was as tough and deadly as those she stalked. She bore a single long scar down her left cheek, legacy of a wolf that had gotten in too close, back when she was inexperienced. Her weapons were simple, for simple worked best when killing weres. She carried a crossbow with silver tipped bolts, a long knife of silver and a brace of throwing knives. In her boots she carried a few slender vials of healing potions and two incendiary ones as well. Her wand was tucked in her belt, but she rarely used it. Magic was not very successful in killing a werewolf, they were resistant to it.
She slipped from the cottage she had rented and trailed the beast, noting the odd detail of dog prints following the rogue wolf and the stag. What would a dog be doing around a werewolf? Most dogs avoided weres, they disliked them because they were wild, mad, and dangerous. Puzzled, Briar Stone tracked them all the way to the Forbidden Forest. Abruptly, the trail doubled back and Stone found herself facing the castle. She cast about, but the trail ended near a large tree, whose branches rattled angrily at her. She peered up at the magical willow, knowing that no werewolf worthy of the name would be stupid enough to challenge a guardian willow. She pursed her lips and decided to warn the Headmaster about the werewolf running loose, and tell the locals to remain indoors when darkness fell, thus avoiding a lot of peril. Her eyes caught a glint of something wet upon the grass a few feet beyond the willow. Kneeling, she swiped a hand over the ground. Her fingers came away stained with blood. Scowling, she wiped the blood off on a cloth she drew from her pocket. She would analyze it later, but she had a gut feeling it came from a human. Had the wolf been bleeding, it would have left a trail wherever it had been. That meant she was dealing with a man-eater and a possible infected victim. She slung her crossbow over her shoulder and started back to her cottage, she had lost the trail tonight, but she would find it again tomorrow. She could warn the wizards then, for the werewolf had found other prey this evening.
There was something odd going on at the castle, or so said some of the villagers. They had complained to her about strange glimpses of a beast with gray fur on the nights of the full moon, and eerie howls and growls coming from the border of the village, one had found a carcass of a deer, eaten down to the bones, as well another large animal, like a unicorn. Briar was determined to get to the bottom of it, though she suspected that someone in there was harboring a werewolf. If that were the case she would arrest them too, for permitting a dangerous creature to roam at will where children were, as well as breaking the Ministry’s fiftieth law, giving shelter to a man-eater, meaning any werewolf that had tasted human flesh.
Had Stone looked back, she would have seen the astonishing sight of the Whomping Willow frozen in mid-swipe, as a black dog darted in and slammed a certain knot with his paw. Out of the darkness emerged a figure with dark hair and glasses, a shimmery silver cloak slung over his shoulders. The boy’s hair was mussed and his spectacles were cracked, he had a smear of dirt across his face and part of his robe was ripped. The boy walked quickly out from the willow, then turned and whispered, “Shut it, Padfoot. He’s in a Full Body Bind, I finally managed to cast it, he was still fighting me like bloody blazes, but I repaired the chain and the collar and put it on him. He should be all right till morning.”
The dog slapped the knot again, and the willow returned to life, its club like branches swishing angrily. The dog belly crawled away from the annoyed tree, then sprang up and transformed back to Sirius Black. He scurried beneath the shelter of the Invisibility Cloak and together the two friends made their way back to the castle. They used the secret entrance in the dungeon and made their way cautiously up the stairs and to Gryffindor Tower. All was quiet and still, and James began to hope they might arrive at their common room without further mishaps. “Siri, check the map,” he whispered, pausing just before the final corridor that lead to the portrait hole.
Sirius fumbled with the map in his pocket, tapped it and whispered, “I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good.”
The map immediately showed all the rooms in the castle and the occupants within them. He held his wand close to the parchment and saw a dot labeled Albus Dumbledore standing in front of the portrait hole. “Uh . . . James . . . the Headmaster’s up here!”
Before either of them could change direction, they heard footsteps and then Dumbledore said sharply, “Mr. Potter and Mr. Black, come out from beneath that Invisibility Cloak right now. I know you are there, so no use in trying to hide.”
James and Sirius swallowed hard, for Dumbledore’s tone lacked any of its usual pleasant tone. It was cold and stern. Slowly, James threw off the hood, revealing himself and his best mate. “Uh, hi, professor! Sirius and I were just . . .”
“Spare me the lies, boys. I know very well what you’ve been up to tonight.” Dumbledore snapped, and his eyes were glittering with a fierce light neither boy had ever seen in them before. “Come with me to my office. There are things we need to discuss.”
“Yes, sir.” James muttered, then winced as Dumbledore’s hand closed over his ear and the Headmaster marched both him and Sirius down the stairs, silent and grim with disapproval. Bloody hell! But I think we’re really screwed.
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