Chapter 56 : A Patronus Leads the Way
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A Patronus Leads the Way
Time in the little room slowed to a crawl, and since there were no windows, Severus had no way of telling what time of day it was when he awoke again. But he was sure several hours had passed. He didn't feel drained any longer of his magical core, so that was one good thing. He silently slipped off the mattress and crept over to the corner they had all been using to pee in. It stank to high heaven and he felt his stomach do a flip flop in response. He really had to see if they could get a bucket or something in here, instead of peeing on the floor like animals. Really, they treated a dog better than this! He was also hungry, but bet anything that they wouldn't be fed until Goyle and his cronies had recovered from their hangovers, which, from what he knew about it, could take till midmorning.
Scowling, he went to sit back on the bed beside Lily. Then he tried to clear his mind and meditate, that seeming like the best thing he could do right now. He hoped his doe Patronus had arrived at Godric's Hollow and Harry was mustering up a search party. It felt strange, being the one who needed rescuing this time, instead of going to the rescue, as he had always done before, in his former life as secret agent and spy. Then, he had no one save himself to rely on if things happened to turn deadly. Those were the rules of the game. Spies, especially ones like him, were expendable.
But now . . . now things were different. For one thing, he wasn't alone. For another, he knew that Harry would move heaven, hell, and Earth to get him back, just as he'd done that time with the centaurs in the Forbidden Forest. And that thought comforted him. He settled more comfortably into the dingy mattress and closed his eyes, breathing in and out slowly. But inside his mind raced, exhorting Harry, Ginny, Remus, and whoever else was coming to hurry.
Teddy, Celia, and Jamie stood at the bottom of the stairs and listened while the adults—their Mum and Dad and Granny 'Dromeda—argued in the kitchen. Actually, the two witches and wizard weren't fighting, it only seemed so because everyone was talking at the same time and in loud tones, but to the three youngsters it sounded as if they were mad. And really, who could blame them, since Sirius had been taken prisoner by Death Eaters. Not to mention Severus and Lily too!
" . . . have to get those children out of there!" Andromeda was saying sharply.
" . . . know, Mum, but we have to plan this carefully, no rushing in like crazy Gryffindors or some knights in shining armor out of a tale," Dora was telling her. "This is a hostage situation, after all."
"I know, but every second Sirius is with them make my blood pressure soar," Remus growled. "I feel like I want to tear every one of them to pieces."
"You're not alone," Dora said feelingly. "But letting our tempers rule us isn't going to get anywhere."
"I wish you didn't make such bloody sense sometimes," muttered the werewolf.
"That's why she's head of the MLE, Dad," Teddy whispered, his hair changing from brown, to purple, to black (the color of worry and mourning). Then he drew back up the stairs to the boys' room, where they could talk without being overheard.
Celia and Jamie followed. Celia was here because Dudley was working, and Andromeda offered to watch her for him, but also because the Lupins were concerned that Harry's family was being targeted and in order to keep everyone else safe, they'd convinced Andromeda to come there, where the wards were better, and let Celia play with her cousins for awhile.
"Sounds like your mum and dad are really worried about Sevvy, Siri, and Lily," Celia said softly, her blue eyes wide. "I'm worried too, but my daddy said all we can do is pray for their safe return."
Teddy nodded, but Jamie said angrily, "I wish we were bigger, like a grown up. Then we could show those nasty buggers what for!"
"Jamie! Quit swearing, before Dad comes and washes out your mouth," Teddy ordered in his Elder Brother voice.
"You gonna tell? Tattletale!" Jamie asked belligerently.
"No! Just shut up!"
"Stop it!" Celia yelled when it seemed like the two boys were about to spring on each other. "Can't you ever stop fighting? Your brother and friends are trapped with these horrible people and all you two can do is pick stupid quarrels with each other." She gave each of the boys a glare, with her hands on her hips.
The two brothers immediately left off arguing and looked slightly ashamed. Celia's lectures always seemed to cool their blood quickly, though Jamie didn't know exactly why that was. Unless it was because she made sense, like their mum. Logical, his dad called it. Whatever the reason, Jamie only knew he'd rather have Teddy mad at him than Celia.
"What do you think is happening to them?" Jamie asked nervously. "Do you think they're hurt or . . . or something?"
"I don't know." Teddy said quietly. "Maybe."
"They're probably scared to death. I know I would be," Celia whispered.
"Me too," Jamie admitted. Then he said, panicked, "You don't think . . . they'd torture them, right?"
Teddy looked alarmed. "No, but . . . they're Death Eaters, Jamie. You never know what they're gonna do. That's why Mum said we have to be careful. So we don't . . . set them off or something."
"I want Siri to come home," Jamie sniffled. He missed his brother a lot.
Celia hugged him. "Don't worry. Your dad and mum are like police officers. They'll rescue them."
"Yup. And so will Uncle Harry, Uncle Draco, and Lucius," Teddy reminded him.
That made Jamie feel a little better. With everyone helping, they should be able to find those nasty Death Eaters and beat them up without a problem. "Let's play Wizard Chess."
"How about checkers?" Celia suggested. "I can play that better."
"Okay," Jamie agreed, and got out the board.
When Harry had woken that morning, he had found a silver doe at the foot of his bed. He recognized it immediately as Severus' Patronus and had woken Ginny. She had stared at it for a full minute before starting to sob.
"Oh my God, Harry! He's done it again! But what if . . . this time it drained him to nothing? He could be dying!"
Harry had hugged her, trying to calm her down. "Take it easy, Gin. Somehow it's here and we can use it to find them. I refuse to believe it's too late."
Ginny wiped her eyes. "I'm coming with you."
Harry stared at her. "No. It's too dangerous."
"For me and not you? That's bull, Harry, and you know it." Ginny snapped.
"Gin, you're not . . . well and I don't—"
"I have post partum depression, not a disease! And that's not going to keep me from rescuing my son, Harry James Potter! I'm just as capable as you, Mr. Slayer of Evil!"
Harry held up his hands. "Whoa! And what about Alby and Indi? If you come, who will watch them?"
"Astoria will. We can bring them to Malfoy Manor, and she said they'd have a good time there with Cory while Draco and Lucius go with you. Ron said he'd go too, but he took Hermione to St. Mungos last night with some early labor pains."
"He shouldn't go anywhere with Hermione ready to deliver," Harry said impatiently. "Are you sure this is a good idea, Gin? I just . . . worry about what could happen."
"I'll be fine. And this beats sitting around and tearing my hair out," Ginny said. "Let me go and wake up Alby and get Indi ready too." She rose from the bed, her bright hair swirling about her like a red-gold mantle.
Harry turned back to the Patronus, who was pacing impatiently, its silver hooves leaving small stardust trails in the carpet. "We're coming, Sevvy. Hang on."
"Come. Quickly. Follow me back," the doe said, mimicking Severus' child voice.
Harry rose and began to pull on some clothes. "Hey. Can you follow me anywhere? We need to go to Malfoy Manor to drop off the kids and pick up Draco and Lucius."
The Patronus dipped its head in assent.
When they arrived at Malfoy Manor, they found the wards up and humming, but they let the Potters pass without challenge and the silver doe followed. It remained on the lawn, waiting, while Harry, Ginny, and the two youngest Potters went inside. Harry wasn't too happy about Ginny coming, but knew that there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell of convincing her otherwise, so he let it go.
They found Remus was already there, dressed in his old Auror robes from the Second Wizarding War, and Draco and Lucius were wearing dark gray robes like . . .
"You two look like Death Eaters!" Harry exclaimed upon seeing them.
"We know," Draco said. "Dad figured we might be able to sneak in and get the kids if we pretended we still followed Moldy Voldy."
Lucius nodded. "Whoever has them might not know that we've abandoned the cause for good, so . . . it's a ruse."
"A good one. I never would have thought of it," Remus said approvingly.
"That's because you're not a Slytherin, Lupin," said Lucius matter-of-factly.
Ginny hurried over to Astoria and handed her a sleeping Indigo. She started to rattle off instructions but Astoria stopped her.
"Ginny, relax. It's not the first time I've taken care of a baby, remember?" she indicated Cory, who was hugging Alby. "I'll be fine. You just concentrate on getting Severus back. And my Lily and Siri too."
Ginny hugged her. "Oh, Astoria! I'm sorry. I'm such an idiot sometimes. Of course you'll take good care of Indi and Alby. And I'll send those monsters straight to hell for you."
"Good. How's the PPD going?"
"It's . . . well, I agreed to see a Healer on Tuesday."
"That's what you need. Trust me, Healer Donna helped me when I saw her for my depression after my miscarriage." Astoria said. "But right now, go out and kick some scaly Death Eater's ass!"
"Mummy, you said a bad word!" Cory exclaimed, gaping. His proper mother hardly ever did that.
Astoria blushed. "Ooops! Sorry, Cory. That was wrong of me."
"But I hope Uncle Harry, Daddy, Grandpa, and Aunt Ginny do kick their butts for taking my big sister!" Cory said loyally.
"They will," Alby said firmly. "My dad's a hero, he can do anything."
Ginny and Astoria smiled. Ginny kissed Alby's head. "Be good for Aunt Tori now. And help with Indi if she needs it."
"I will, Mummy. And you and Daddy bring Sevvy back home. I miss him. And so does Shadow."
"Oh! Sev's fox! Would you mind going over and feeding her?" Ginny asked.
"No, in fact, I'll bring her here," Astoria said. "The kids can play with her. Keep them out of trouble."
"You think? That fox is mischief incarnate."
"So's Cory. I'm used to it," Astoria assured her. "Go, make those Death Eaters run home bawling for their mothers."
"Yeah, Mum!" Alby cried.
"I will." Ginny said, then she turned to where the men were gathered. She was ready to fight for her little boy. Fight and win.
Lily woke all at once, her heart beating loudly in her chest. For a moment, she was disorientated, and didn't know where she was. This was not her comfy bed at home in Malfoy Manor. Then she remembered everything that had occurred, both yesterday and also last night as she had dreamed. She sat up, shivering, and saw that Severus was also awake, crosslegged and looking like he was trying out to be Buddha. "Sev? Are you all right?"
"Fine, Lily. You?" he looked over at her, concerned.
Lily smiled at him. For some reason, his concern always made her feel warm and fuzzy inside . . . and also slightly guilty, though she didn't know why that was. Perhaps it had something to do with her former life, what little she could recall of it. Maybe she would remember more of it later, when she needed to. "I'm . . . all right. Just a little sore. But I was thinking . . . all last night before I fell asleep . . ." Her green eyes grew pensive.
Severus frowned. "About what? Are you scared of what Goyle could do to us? Or about him finding out the truth?"
"It doesn't matter if he does, Sev."
"Huh? What do you mean? Of course it matters! If they know it's possible to come back through the Veil, they'll never leave us alone."
"Yes, they will. That had me worried too, last night. I couldn't fall asleep, I kept waking up, thinking what if they found a way to resurrect Voldemort? But then I fell asleep and I had a dream, Sev. In it a being of golden light, like an angel I guess, came to me and said "Fear not, precious child! The way through the Veil belongs to souls who long for redemption and are gifted with a second chance to make different choices. Because of his transgressions against Order, Balance, and humanity, Tom Riddle will not be coming back through the Veil. He tried to cheat Death, and upset the Balance, not once, but twice. He must learn within the Void the seriousness of his offense before ever we shall grant him rebirth. And that, my darling, will take long and long, for pride is among the deadliest of all sins. So worry not, it shall be an age before he is reborn and you shall never have to deal with him." So you see, Sev, we don't have to worry."
"And you're sure it was a real dream?"
"Yes. I don't remember my dreams this way, and this was so clear." Lily assured him.
"Even if we do tell Goyle, he might not believe it." Severus sighed. "I just hope Harry gets here before they start round two."
"I know. Me too," Lily said fervently, and she hugged him.
They Apparated back to the campsite where the Death Eaters had first taken the children. The area had been searched thoroughly by Auror teams but the Patronus led them deep into the woods, then stopped. Then it turned and spoke to Harry, "This way. Link to me."
Harry understood that they needed to Apparate somewhere, and he quietly linked his magical signature to the doe's, so that he could follow it. Then he had the rest of the party link their signatures to his, so they had a reference point to follow after he Appaated.
Once that was done, the doe vanished.
Harry tracked her by feeling the tendril of magic, and then he Apparated to where she was.
He found himself inside a large hall with many banners. The hall was din and dark save for the sputtering of a few candles. "Where are we?" he muttered.
The doe did not respond, simply stood there.
Soon Ginny, Draco, and the others appeared, Apparating in from various points to avoid Splinching or the like.
Draco looked around. "I know this place. Kind of."
"You ought to," Lucius said. "It's Voldemort's great hall in the Carpathians. His dark castle."
"This is where they've got my kid?" Remus hissed, his hackles standing up. He could feel the were surging through him and barely kept it in check.
"Yes, according to the Patronus," Harry whispered back. "Lucius, you and Draco see if you can find the Death Eaters. Me, Remus, and Ginny will follow the doe to the kids and get them." He swirled his Invisibility Cloak and put on the hood, vanishing.
"Show off," muttered Ginny, then she too disappeared using a Chameleon Charm.
Remus followed, using another charm to veil himself in shadow, a standard magic with were creatures.
Lucius and Draco looked at one another.
"All right, Father. Let's see whose king of the castle," Draco said.
"Take a right out the far entrance and up the stairs," Lucius said confidently. "That leads to the upper throne room. It's also the warmest room, if I remember correctly." He headed out of the hall, his boots echoing softly on the stone floor.
Sirius was growing antsy as the hours progressed and they remained locked in the small room. He had never done well with being confined, and now, with his stint in Azkaban making things worse, he was on the verge of a full blown panic attack. He started to tremble and hyperventilate at the thought of being locked up one more moment. He needed the sky, the sun, to be away from these four walls closing in on him.
"Black, what's wrong? You're shaking like an aspen," Severus asked, alarmed.
"The walls . . . the walls are closing in . . ." Sirius whimpered.
"Sirius, the walls are fine. They're not falling," Lily said soothingly.
"I need . . sunlight . . . please, get me out of here!" His eyes wild, he began to try and climb the wall.
Severus dragged him down. "Stop! You'll hurt yourself!" he said. "Listen to me. You're having a panic attack, Sirius. Now breathe! And close your eyes!"
Sirius fought him at first, but Severus was stronger than he looked. "Let me go!"
"Shh, Siri. Relax." Lily whispered, holding his hand.
That seemed to bring him back from the edge a little.
"Get off me!" he yelled at Severus.
"Are you going to stop flipping out?"
"Yes, Snape. I'll . . . I'll change to my dog form. I always did that in Azkaban, it helped when the Dementors came down the row."
Severus released him.
"What were you doing in Azkaban, Sirius?" Lily asked abruptly.
"You mean, you don't remember?"
"I . . . only have some memories of my other life."
"Oh, well, it was all Pettigrew's fault," Sirius said. By the time he finished explaining what happened to Lily, he was calmer. But he still changed into Padfoot, and curled up at the foot of the mattress, panting. There! That was better.
Lily and Severus reclined on the mattress, trying to sleep.
But a loud clanging alarm woke them and made Padfoot sit up with a bark.
"Sev, what's that?" Lily cried.
"I don't know. Some kind of alarm system," Severus said. It was so loud it hurt his ears.
Padfoot was whining and howling, for as a dog, his hearing was much more sensitive.
"Are we under attack?" whimpered Lily, holding her ears.
Suddenly a silver doe leapt through the wall and stood in the center of the room.
"Sev! Look, the Patronus is back."
"And that means . . ."
The door shattered on its hinges and fell to the ground.
Out of the dust strode three familiar figures.
The doe vanished, its task complete.
Padfoot yipped and blurred into Sirius. In seconds he was racing across the floor to grab Remus around the waist. "Moony—I mean, Dad! You came!"
Remus swung him up and hugged him. "Of course, buddy! You seem okay, thank Merlin!" His heart soared that Sirius had at last called him dad.
Harry threw off his cloak. "Sev, where are you?"
"Right here," came a small voice.
Harry looked down. There was the raven-haired little boy, gazing up at him lovingly.
"You came for me."
Harry knelt and gathered Severus into his arms. "I will always come for you, Severus. Always."
Severus swallowed hard. He had known that, deep within his heart, but it felt good to have the reality to hug. "Thank you . . .Ha—Dad," he corrected. Just this once, he would call Harry by that title, because Harry had done what his own father never had—rescued him from monsters.
Harry nearly squeezed Severus in two. It didn't really matter what the boy called him, Harry knew he was like a father to Severus, but hearing him say it made his heart turn to mush inside for a moment.
Ginny appeared soon after Harry had slipped off his hood, and she came and hugged Lily before the little girl knew what she was about. "Oh, honey, you're all right now. No one will ever hurt you like this again."
Lily threw her arms about Ginny and hugged her hard. "Aunt Ginny, where's Papa and Grandpa? Didn't they . . . come with you?" She felt kind of betrayed.
"Yes, dear. They're tricking the Death Eaters even now," Ginny reassured her.
"One of them's named Goyle," Lily said. "And he smacked us all really bad when we wouldn't tell him anything."
"That's it. I'm killing him," Harry declared fiercely.
"Me too." Ginny added, her rage growing.
"Hey, we said no killing," Remus said softly. Then he growled, "Not that he doesn't deserve it. Who else is there?"
"Only two other blokes," Sirius said.
"Stupid ones. Their names are Adrian and Stephens. They couldn't find their behinds with two pairs of glasses, a Locator spell, both hands, and a map," Severus sneered. Then he went to hug Ginny. "Hello . . . Mum. Miss me?"
Ginny grinned and gave Lily to Harry to hold. "Oh, Sevvy! I missed you so much!" she picked him up and spun him around. "And you called me Mum!"
"It seemed right . . . for now," Severus said awkwardly.
"Yes, for now," Ginny said, understanding his dilemma. "You can call me whatever you want, Sev, but you'll always be my son, like Alby."
Severus hugged her back. For the first time ever, he felt truly blessed.
"Now," said Remus, his eyes turned a feral yellow, "Let's go and help Lucius and Draco beat up those Death Eaters and send them packing back to Azkaban."
"I'd rather they were in a pine box," Ginny snarled.
"But we'll do the right thing," Harry said, laying a hand on her arm. "Right, Lily?"
"Always, Harry," she said, and kissed his cheek. "Let's kick some butt!"
"But we need to find them first," Severus said.
"That's easy." Remus laughed. "Now I can track them."
"And so can I!" Sirius cried eagerly. "Follow me!" Then he became Padfoot and raced out the door, his nose the ground.
"Damn kid!" muttered Remus. "Always in a hurry to get himself in trouble!" He followed hastily and so did the Potters, Lily, and Severus.
A/N: Another chappie's up! What should they do to the Death Eaters?
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