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Chapter 12 : Summer
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"Did you see...?"
"Who would do..."
Severus pushed through the crowd in the Great Hall to sit next to Lily, Remus right behind him. Both loaded their plates. "What's up? Everyone sounds really shocked about something," he asked between mouthfuls. She didn't answer but pushed a copy of the Daily Prophet at him.
"Mysterious Mass Murder of Muggles by Magic," Read Severus. Not the world's greatest headline by any stretch of the imagination. He read on anyway, growing more serious as he realised what had happened. "A party of muggles was attacked last night, Thursday 18th January. All were found dead, the bodies unmarked. Healers believe that the killing curse was used. Some bodies also bore signs of the Cruciatus Curse. Both are unforgiveable, and the attackers have earned a life in Azkaban, however they were able to flee before Hit Wizards arrived on the scene."
"The use of magic was first identified as a strange sign was seen in the sky above the location. A green skull and snake was conjured to hang over the site of the killings. Aurors managed to devise a spell to destroy it, but not before it was seen by many muggles. Obliviators were summoned immediately, but we are unable to prevent some accounts from escaping. Particularly given the suspicious circumstances in which the bodies were found. Minister for Magic Lorcan McLaird has been in contact with the muggle Prime Minister to warn of the true nature of the murderers."
"We have yet to identify whether this was a random attack or part of a larger scheme. The Auror department is working to identify and apprehend those responsible. It may or may not have been carried out by a group. If you come into contact with someone you believe may be a culprit, you are urged to contact the Aurors immediately. Do not engage in combat." Severus stopped reading.
"And they have no idea who did it?" He asked Lily.
"No. Whoever it was left only the sign in the sky. It looks like is not just an isolated attack." Severus looked at the picture on the front page. A leering skull, with a snake for a tongue. He shivered and shoved the paper away.
"That's horrible. Why muggles - it's not like they do us any harm."
"Well..." Lily hesitated. "Some wizards feel that we shouldn't have to hide our powers. They hate muggles for forcing us to hide - they feel that wizards should rule over muggles. Some just think of muggles as animals, useless slaves. There have been dark wizards throughout history who have sought to rule over muggles - Grindelwald, Emeric the Evil, Herpo the Foul, Merwyn the Malicious..."
"Wow! How do you know all those?"
"I pay attention in History of Magic, James." Yes, James and Sirius had arrived. Lily shoved the Prophet at them before continuing. "Anyway, there's no shortage of muggle-haters. The worrying thing is we appear to have another one. And those ones I mentioned - they didn't just kill muggles. They wanted to rule in the wizarding world too, and they killed anyone who got in their way."
"So... you think it's another Dark Wizard? Like Grindelwald?"
"I hope not, but it could be. It's only one attack, so it's too early to panic. But you can tell the ministry's worried."
The staff at the head table were talking animatedly amongst themselves, until Professor McGonagall came in and told them something. They finished their breakfast quickly and left the room, many clutching copies of the Daily Prophet. When first lesson began there was no sign of any teachers, so they stood in the corridor talking about the attack. Five minutes later a fifth-year hurried towards them and told them to go into the classroom.
"Good morning, second-years. My name is Sturgis Podmore, and as many of you know I am a Gryffindor prefect. I will be supervising this lesson until Professor McGonagall returns. Now, I know you learned to transform animals into water goblet earlier this year. She would like you to practice the spell, to refresh your memories. There is a good chance that it may come up in your end-of-year exams."
The second-years collected animals and set about practicing. Sure enough, many of them had lost the knack. Sturgis paced the room, casting the appropriate counter-spell whenever something went wrong. Severus actually found it easier than he had before, despite his lack of practice, perhaps due to the larger animal transfiguration he had carried out recently.
Twenty minutes before the end of the lesson, McGonagall returned. Her mouth pursed in a thin line, she had them return the animals to their cages and take out their textbooks. Any attempts to talk were silenced instantly, and after Sirius and James both got double detention that Saturday for whispering, the rest of the class got the message and kept their mouths shut.
Only once they were away from her glare did they relax. "Wow! What got into her?" James moaned. "Double detention!"
"Bit over the top. Admittedly, she did ask you to be quiet four times before that." Severus couldn't help pointing out. He earned himself dark glares from both James and Sirius. He held up his hands in mock surrender. "Alright, it's a bit harsh. But you can't admit you weren't warned."
"It's not you in double detention. I have better things to do with my weekends."
"Next time, take the hint and keep your mouths shut."
"We're not all saints, you know." James was really in a mood.
Severus couldn't help snapping back. "I noticed."
"Oh, stop it, the lot of you. James, it's your own fault. Severus, don't be too harsh." Lily interrupted them.
"It's not me you should be apologising to, Severus." She hardly ever used his full name!
He met her stare, but looked away quickly. "Sorry, James."
"Whoa, Lils! Keep your hair on!"
"You leave her alone, James." Severus leapt to her defence, and missed her rolling her eyes behind her back.
"Sev! I am perfectly capable of looking after myself." She looked like she just managed to stop herself stamping her foot. Her bright green eyes flashed. "James, don't complain about detention. It's your fault and you know it."
Remus stood watching all of this with startled eyes. Lily's temper scared him slightly, but she was always kind. Even when she was annoyed. She did take the rules rather too seriously. But a peacekeeper was useful in their group, and she was probably the only thing that kept James and Severus from hexing each other.
History of Magic brought a chance to talk, quietly, as Professor Binns droned on as usual. But as no-one knew anything more about the attacks, the conversation mostly consisted of wild speculation. Which, thought Severus, was probably the thing the teachers most wanted to avoid.
Both Charms and Potions brought surprise tests, which forced them to work in silence. The teachers wouldn't answer any questions that didn't relate directly to their subjects, so the second-years quickly gave up asking. By evening, with no new information, the talk about the attacks had died down. Only the odd rumour still circulated, and no-one really believed them.
So the school settled down to await the news that would come in the following morning's post. That the Aurors had caught whoever was responsible and they were on their way to Azkaban. Who could hope to evade the entire Department of Magical Law Enforcement for more than a day? The whole of the wizarding world was on the lookout for them.
The morning paper announced that two arrests had been made, but no more details. The school relaxed, confident that the attackers had been caught, but a week later the ministry admitted that those arrested were not responsible. Whoever it was had evaded capture.
Then a wave of attacks, across the country. Random muggles killed in their homes, the bodies showing signs of the cruciatus curse. Over every location, the same skull and snake. Another week, then whoever was responsible struck again. Mostly muggles, but also two muggle-borns.
Then a picture of the sky above London, with huge letters in glowing green. "I am Lord Voldemort." The aurors had managed to remove the letters quickly, but could not trace the source. This was followed by more muggle deaths, and a few muggle-borns. And still the ministry seemed no closer to tracing the attacker.
Or rather attackers. A large band of witches and wizards had been seen, dressed in long hooded cloaks, sweeping down on a village in the middle of the countryside. Only one person had managed to apparate away in time. The students whispered amongst themselves about every new development, And many students walked around with worried expressions. Particularly those with muggle or muggle-born parents.
And then the full moon was approaching again. Excuses made, the two boys hurried down to the hospital wing together. This time it was Madam Pomfrey who took them down to the Whomping Willow, and again Severus closed his eyes so that he couldn't see how to freeze the tree. Madam Pomfrey was reluctant to let Severus accompany Remus, but he had already managed one full moon and Professor Dumbledore had given permission.
And the effect it had had on Remus was incredible. She couldn't ask the boy to go back to suffering as he had before, especially when Severus was so willing to help. So long as Severus didn't get hurt, and Dumbledore was confident. That lion did look strong enough to handle a wolf, although werewolves were different from normal wolves.
Again, Remus stripped off and waited in the centre of the room. The moon rose, the bright white light shining through the window, and he began to change. The lion had to wait until the boy was gone and the wolf had begun to climb to its feet - he wanted to ensure that he had been recognised before getting too close and causing the wolf to panic.
The first thing Wolf did was look around the room. And sure enough, there was Alpha. He yelped happily, wagging his tail like any other dog. Lion licked his head, and they sniffed at each other. When Severus was a lion, he had the instincts of the cat. He purred softly, then Moony yelped again and they began a game of chase.
As the game progressed, both animals became more boisterous until Moony swiped at Alpha with a paw. Severus was glad of his cat reflexes, twisting out of the way of the claws. Moony didn't mean it, but he'd prefer to avoid werewolf-inflicted injuries. He didn't know if Lycanthropy could be passed on to someone in animal form, and he was also afraid that scratches might scar like they had on Remus.
Moony lunged in again, snapping playfully. Alpha would have to put a stop to this. Backing away, he growled in the back of his throat. Moony answered with a whine and another swipe. Wolf wanted to play-fight, and couldn't see why not. Severus didn't want to do it, but he had to put a stop to this idea quickly. Another warning growl, then he darted in and nipped Moony's shoulder. The wolf whined, backing away with head lowered.
Alpha stepped closer, and Moony stood still. A tiny whimper as he realised that he had annoyed his Alpha. The lion gripped the scruff of his neck gently, reminding him who was in charge, then released him. A small lick on the bite mark to show that he wasn't too annoyed, then he flicked his tail and lead the way back to the main room.
About half an hour remained of the night, and this passed much as the previous full moon had done, and Lion and Wolf lay side by side on the floor as the sun began to light the sky outside. Moony whined pathetically as he felt the all-too-familiar pain of transformation. Alpha turned his maned head, pressing his nose against the wolf's pelt, offering comfort and sympathy.
A small howl escaped him, and he twisted. Alpha's paw rested on his side, holding himstill, and he tried not to struggle. Alpha was looking after him. And Alpha would be there next time. He would prefer not to go, but if he had to... He jerked again as he felt his body changing, shifting back into that pathetic form. The form of prey. The form that kept him locked up most of the time. No wonder he hated humans.
Remus opened his eyes as Alpha lifted his paw. His shoulder hurt where Alpha had nipped it, but the blood had clotted and it wasn't too serious. And it was better than what could have happened if the lion hadn't given that warning. He still felt sore - why did the transformation process have to hurt so much? Severus could switch between forms instantly and painlessly. While he had to feel every bit of his body rearranging itself.
It was pretty warm, so he decided not to pull his shirt over his shoulder. Leaning on the lion with his good arm, the pair left through the passage to where Madam Pomfrey waited outside. She immediately saw the wound on his shoulder, and checked it. "How did you get that there? Your neck doesn't bend that much, does it?"
Severus shifted back. "That was me. Sorry, Remus, but I didn't want to take risks."
"It's OK, Sev. Better you do that than let wolf get too rough." He started walking back towards the castle, reminding the others to follow him. Madam Pomfrey was looking a little confused and concerned, so he explained. "The wolf wanted to play-fight, but Sev realised that wouldn't be a good idea. He warned Wolf that he didn't want to play, and when Wolf didn't stop he reminded him who was in charge."
"Just a gentle assertion of dominance, Moony."
"Shut it, Alpha." Madam Pomfrey looked from one to the other.
"Are you sure this plan is safe?" She was concerned at the idea of a play-fight, and that Severus had needed to warn the wolf off.
"Well, obviously it's not completely. But the wolf follows pack politics, and a warning like that means he'll behave. Attacking one's Alpha is not something to be considered, and the wolf knows it wouldn't be wise. He's loyal, if a little boisterous." Severus reassured her.
Remus' shoulder was fixed with a drop of Dittany and a quick spell - it was just a normal injury, not werewolf-inflicted, so it didn't even scar. Severus was sent down for breakfast, while Remus had a lie down and ate in the hospital wing. Despite Severus' company, transformations were still tough. He was free to go mid-afternoon, and there were no lessons to miss as it was a week-end.
The other Gryffindor second-years seemed to have bought their excuses - Remus having been in the hospital wing overnight with a bad headache. Severus claimed to have gone to bed after they were asleep, having worked late, and having got up before them. (That didn't take much doing - it was a Saturday, after all.) Severus couldn't help wondering privately how long it would be before anyone got suspicious of their monthly simultaneous disappearances.
The term was nearly over, so most of the students were relaxing. End-of-year exams were finished. Most of the school were sitting around in the grounds or splashing around at the edge of the lake. Severus almost stayed with Remus, but the glittering water was too inviting. He pulled on his trunks and joined the other second-year Gryffindors.
Suddenly something grabbed his ankle and he spun around. Lily burst out of the water, flicking her wet hair out of her eyes and laughing. He realised how much he loved her laugh - her green eyes sparkling, her white teeth with that tiny gap between the front pair; and that bright, bold laugh. He flicked water in her direction, and she squealed before splashing him back.
He heard something behind him and turned to see James and Sirius about to join in the water fight. As he turned his attention to them, he felt arms clasp round his neck as Lily leapt onto his back to push him down. Instead of fighting her, he bent forwards so she slipped off forwards into the water. The splash caught the other boys, making them jump back.
In a moment she had found her feet again and was reaching down into the water. Before he could think about it, a slimy wad of waterweed hit his bare chest. With a mock growl, he lunged at her and pushed her under the water. She slapped at his shoulder and wriggled out from under him, jumping on and this time clinging to his back.
He couldn't shake her off, so after trying he just allowed himself to fall back into the lake. She had to let go, and backed away laughing. It was late afternoon by this point, so they called it a day and waded back out of the lake, still flicking water at each other. Lily's long hair was clumped together in rats' tails. Her white one-piece showed off her figure, slim but not unhealthily thin. Perfect smooth skin, her arms and face freckled and browned by the sun. She spread out her towel on the grass beside Remus and sat down to dry in the sun. After a moment she lay back, eyes closed, basking in the summer warmth.
Severus took his own towel and sat beside her, enjoying the peaceful afternoon. At least until the other boys arrived and the silence was shattered. One could hardly expect otherwise with James around. He joked loudly with Sirius, flicking his hair and spiking it up with his fingers. Lily scowled at him before rolling over to face Severus. "Let's go get dressed for dinner," she suggested before reluctantly sitting up. Severus took her hands and pulled her to her feet, and she wrapped her towel around her like a skirt. He draped his around his shoulders, and they left the others to return to the castle and change.
One more week of lessons, then the end of term feast. The Great Hall was draped in blue and bronze, Ravenclaw banners hanging from the ceiling in honour of the winners of the House Cup. Hufflepuff were second, Gryffindor third. Severus wasn't too bothered, although a big fuss was made of it. He'd like Gryffindor to win, obviously, but it was only a school thing.
Then the Hogwarts Express was pulling into King's Cross, and Etor Damocles was waiting for him on the platform. He said goodbye to the others and followed the potioneer to a quiet space. He'd never been side-along apparition before, and the feeling was unpleasant, but he managed not to fall over when they landed or throw up.
Ahead of him was a small cottage, and he couldn't see any other houses. They were tucked away partway up a hill, and he could see a patch of woodland further down. There was no road or path, no sign of muggle activity. The cottage itself was tidy and well-kept, a disproportionally large chimney at one end and a smaller one at the other. The garden consisted mostly of raised beds, planted with well-kept plants in a regimented arrangement. He recognised some from Herbology, but most were unfamiliar.
Etor led him to a small bedroom, levitating his trunk to save them from carrying it. "You can sleep here. Towels are in the airing cupboard if you need them. The bathroom's across the hall - the taps are enchanted to produce hot and cold water. The mop will wipe the floor if it gets wet." He led the way back along the hallway. "That's my room. This is the kitchen and dining room - I'll show you properly in a minute."
He opened another door and led Severus through. "This is my study. Please don't come in here unless I ask you to, and that goes for the potions room too. This is where I keep my research." He waved a casual hand at the carefully arranged folders and books on the shelves, and at the rather messier desk with stacks of parchment filled with tiny scrawl and quick sketches. He carried on through, opening a door in the opposite wall.
"This is the potions room." It was large and held several cauldrons set over what must be containers for fires. End of the room had no fireplace, just an enormous chimney set on the roof. "There's a shield charm, just in case it rains and to filter the fumes." The walls were lined with shelves, each laden with glass jars and vials. Some held different coloured liquids, other leaves and seeds and strange floating things. There was a workbench around below the shelves, and a glass-fronted cabinet held sample vials each labelled in neat letters and with a date.
There were instruments familiar from Potions lessons at school, and others he didn't recognise. Brass scales, knives of different metals and two of what appeared to be diamond, different sizes of pestle and mortar. Then all kinds of delicate instruments with uses that Severus could only guess at. Everything was in perfect condition, well cared for and polished.
Severus had a feeling he was going to enjoy the summer.
A/N: A bit of a mixture of stuff in this chapter. Voldemort is beginning to make himself known, but his name isn't feared yet and it doesn't quite seem real to the students.
For those of you who like Remus, I've just written a one-shot set before this story looking at his childhood - Bitten.
As always, thank you to all my readers. Please review!
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