Chapter 18 : Old friends, new news
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Severus looked up from the very inaccurate paper on Veritaserum he’d been having the displeasure of grading for the last few minutes and slowly brought his eyes to rest on the trembling seventh year Gryffindor.
“Mr Collins,” he replied in a very dry voice.
The boy cast a worried look to the girl that was biting her lip in what appeared to be an attempt to contain her laughter.
“Sir – my err... Well you see, the thing is, uhm-”
Severus let out a heavy sigh and crossed his hands on his desk. “While your eloquent use of the English language never ceases to impress me, Mr Collins, I am in the middle of grading an extremely interesting essay on how Veritaserum is apparently a potion capable of stripping the user of any ability to tell the truth, and I quote,” he held up the paper in front of him.
“‘Has been known to be used on all criminals entering Azkaban’ – that being one of the better structured sentences in this fascinating read – I must ask you to either ask your question immediately or continue with the set task,” the girl beside the Collins boy tried to muffle her giggling.
“Yes sir, of course, sir,” the boy fumbled. “But my potion has turned a very dark grey and is kind of -”
“Solidifying,” Severus finished and stood up from his desk with a sigh. “You’ve added three of the four frog legs, I presume?”
The boy nodded and seemed to hold his breath as Severus came to a standstill by his desk.
“Tell me, Mrs Dale, as you seem to be enjoying your mutual failure to succeed in my class with Mr Collins – what would happen if I were to accidentally use dandelion root instead of asphodel in combination with the Flobberworm mucus that was added at the very beginning of the set potion.”
The girl’s giggling ceased immediately. “That?” she nodded towards the – now smoking – cauldron in front of her. Muffled laughter could be heard from the rest of the class.
“Fascinating,” Severus said, drawing out the word. “That is exactly what you would succeed in creating.” He waved his wand over the cauldron and the grey mass disappeared. He strolled to the front of the class. “Let’s see,” he cast a glance over the classroom. Each of the Gryffindors had their eyes glued to their potions while the other half which was comprised of Slytherins, smiled vehemently.
“Mrs Tevinter,” he called on one of the Ravenclaw students sitting near to the front. She looked terrified immediately. “Would you be able to answer the question you so relished in mocking Mr Collins and Mrs Davies over since neither of them were able to form a conclusive answer?”
“N-no, professor,” she said, looking down at her table.
“I see,” Severus said slowly as he sat down on the corner of his desk. “It seems that Ravenclaw house is indeed not purely reserved for the exceptionally intellectual.”
She lifted her eyes to his. “Intellect is in knowing when to not answer a question for risk of sounding completely dumb,” she paused, realising her lack of tact. “Sir,” she added hastily.
Severus nodded thoughtfully. “Be that as it may – you’ve failed to answer a question in my classroom.”
“I once made the exact same mistake with this particular potion whilst attending Hogwarts,” he began. “The difference being in that I was able to rectify the mistake immediately.” And Lily Evans was working with me, so we were a rather brilliant combination. He didn’t feel the need to add the last part verbally.
There came a knock from the door and it opened, revealing Professor McGonagall. “Professor Snape, if I could have only a minute of your time?”
“Of course,” Snape inclined his head. He turned his focus to his classroom. “While I am away I expect complete silence,” he paused. “And if I am not back by the time the period has come to an end, I expect a foot long essay on what Mr Collins and Ms Davies created by adding the wrong ingredients, and how it could have been rectified before solidification.”
A collective sigh could be heard from the entire classroom.
“Three feet,” he added before leaving the classroom. “To be handed in by Friday or risk lowering your term grades.”
He let a brief smirk flash across his face when another sigh could be heard from the class when they thought he was out of earshot, but composed himself when he saw Professor McGonagall waiting for him a few strides from his classroom door.
“Minerva,” he said as he reached her.
“Sorry to have to bother you in the middle of your lesson Severus, but I’m afraid this couldn’t wait,” she handed him a haphazardly folded envelope. He opened it immediately and recognised Dumbledore’s writing.
The werewolves have targeted both the Potters and the Weasleys. Would any of your old acquaintances happen to know anything about Skorponok and his whereabouts?
I’ll be watching over the Molly and Arthur Weasley if you have any valuable information.’
“Thank you, Minerva,” he said quickly before turning towards the stairs leading away from the dungeons.
Ron apparated outside the boundary of the Burrow, feeling a sense of dread overcome him.
Many things could’ve been contributing to his less-than-enthusiastic mood. In fact, he was starting to wonder if Hermione was the only good and stable thing in his life at the moment. Sure, he’d recently gotten past his minor dislike towards Harry, and though he still wasn’t too fond of leaving the man alone with his sister, it sure beat the alternative – being a former friend that called said sister a slut.
Then there was the whole ‘Harry’s-being-looked-for-by-a-wolf-in-need-of-revenge’ thing that put him and his entire family at risk. Even now he could feel the powerful wards that were being put up around his childhood home trying to dissuade him from approaching – he had to hand it to his former Gryffindor classmates, Seamus and Dean: they did know their charms from their defence.
He passed the boundary line, glad to be rid of the ridiculous idea that he had some studying to do – an effect that could be attributed only to the new wards, of course – and quickly crossed the lawn in an attempt to avoid Dean and Seamus, as he wasn’t exactly speaking to either of them at the moment.
He entered the back door of the Burrow, to be met by the sight of his beautiful girlfriend sipping on a cup of tea whilst staring into the void.
“I’m back, beautiful,” he said softly, drawing her attention back to the present. He walked over to where she was seated and she turned in her chair to allow him to kiss her.
“Everything alright?” she asked, letting no spare moment go to waste.
“No, actually,” Ron answered solemnly. “I should probably get mum and dad and tell all of you at once.”
Although he hated to see her happy indifference change to calculated awareness, he knew that withholding anything from his family wasn’t the way to go about things when all of their lives were potentially at risk.
After he’d made a trip to the front yard to call his mother and father in, and in the process nodding stiffly at Dean and Seamus in greeting, he sat down beside Hermione, who’d set down her tea and had that ‘pre-exam’ look on her face.
“So, let me start off by welcoming each of you to -”
“Don’t joke at a time like this, Ron,” Hermione snapped, taking the words right out of Molly’s mouth. “For all we know Ginny and Harry could’ve been attacked.”
Arthur and Molly nodded fervently.
“I’m just trying to lighten the mood,” Ron tried, but fell silent when he saw three pairs of eyes narrow dangerously. “Alright then. Fenrir Greyback’s right-hand werewolf is in search of Harry.” he said shortly, expecting cries of despair. Instead though, only a trio of acknowledging nods met him in response.
“The one that escaped from Azkaban,” Molly stated, to which Arthur and Hermione nodded.
“Skorponok,” Hermione added.
“Exactly,” Ron confirmed, feeling a sense of foreboding starting to build up in his stomach – then again, he could have been starting to get hungry.
After a pause, Hermione motioned for him to continue.
He nodded quickly and took a deep breath. “Well, Harry was instrumental in the capturing of Skorponok, and as a result, he’s being targeted for revenge by what the Ministry believes to be a group of werewolves.”
Hermione nodded as if she were taking in an interesting fact. “And, by extension, the Weasleys are being targeted, I assume.”
Mr Weasley felt an uncomfortable feeling crawl slowly through his body, sending ripples of gooseflesh up and down his body. “We have to warn Bill and Charlie,” he said, immediately drawing his wand in order to send a Patronus.
Molly was about to offer to make a pot of tea when she heard knocking coming from the back door. “That can’t be them,” she said, a feeling of dread shattering her outer calm.
Ron shook his head. “No, the other two aurors are still outside, we would’ve heard something.”
Hermione stood up from the table and walked briskly to the door, her wand drawn just in case.
“Good afternoon, Ms Granger,” Albus Dumbledore smiled warmly.
“Professor, come in,” she replied with a warm smile, trying desperately to mask the intense sense of calm she felt immediately that could have only been attributed to Dumbledore’s presence.
After a few niceties were exchanged, the Weasleys, Hermione and Dumbledore sat down around the table.
“I was intending to speak with Harry per arrival,” Dumbledore prompted. “After all, we seem to find ourselves in the midst of a slight disagreement with Fenrir Greyback.”
“His father insisted that he and Ginny go to Godric’s Hollow where it’s been deemed safest, sir,” Ron said immediately.
“Ah, and I assume the high-grade wards around the Burrow are here per James’ request as well?” Dumbledore said, looking as if he had another plan brewing in his mind already.
“We couldn’t refuse the offer,” Arthur acknowledged. “Albus, we need to know what’s going on – the ministry has been very secretive about the entire thing -”
Dumbledore nodded. “Of course, Arthur,” he said calmly. “Seeing as your daughter’s life has been put into the fray, I see no reason why you should be left out.”
Molly grasped Arthur’s hand tightly, preparing herself for what was to come.
“The magical world has seen a flux in the werewolf population over the past year or so. As such, I received information from one of the werewolves I’ve befriended over the years.
“It seems that one of the werewolves in Fenrir Greback’s ranks has been trying to usurp him, and in an attempt to placate the threat to his power, I assume Greyback created a false trail leading to Skorponok’s arrest not too long ago.”
Hermione nodded. “But Skorponok broke out of Azkaban,” she prompted.
A twitch in Dumbledore’s beard gave away his impressed smile. “Exactly, Ms Granger.” he nodded. “Whether or not Skorponok knew of Greyback’s attempt to ‘take him out of the equasion’, if you will, is still uncertain, but when a secretary of Holyhead Auror Office was abducted, my informant came across the knowledge that one of Greyback’s favourites, a young werewolf who’s real name continues to evade me, had been given to Skorponok in order to dissuade any suspicion towards Greyback’s betrayal under the prerequisite that he not be harmed in any way.”
Molly pinched the bridge of her nose. “Where do we fit into the story, Albus,” she sighed.
“Skorponok is in search of Harry, no doubt to find out who had betrayed him by any means necessary – in other words, his relationship with Ginny has put not only her, but the entire Weasley family at risk,” his gaze fell to Hermione. “Ms Granger, I must ask you to try and stay safe, as there has been an inquisition on your whereabouts at the Ministry not three hours ago.”
“Sir, wouldn’t we all be safer under one roof?” she asked after a brief nod. “I mean, more wands make light spell-work.”
“I could only offer to escort you and Mr Weasley here to the Potter’s residence, I’m afraid.” Dumbledore said seriously.
“If that means more safety for Ginny and Harry, by all means,” Molly answered in their stead.
“Absolutely,” Arthur confirmed.
“Well then, we have no time to waste,” Dumbledore said as he stood up from the table. He waved his wand and an old cup appeared on the table. “A portkey to Godric’s Hollow,” he explained. “I will meet with you there as soon as I am able.”
“You would turn away an old friend, Bella?” the hulking man hissed.
Bellatrix Lestrange clenched her fist tightly around the door and cocked her head to the side, smiling as if he had told a joke.
“I have very little time for games, wolf,” she spat before taking a step closer. “Even less time for games that I am playing against the odds – as such, I will repeat my earlier statement -” she hazarded a glance past his wide shoulders and saw nothing but the perfectly tended garden her sister’s residence offered. “Working alone against Greyback,” she hissed tauntingly before biting her bottom lip. “I can’t decide if I condemn the decision or should be flattered that you think my presence would make a difference.”
A sour look crossed the werewolf’s face. “Watch your tone -”
“Or else what!” she burst out, eyes flashing. “You, of all people should know who you’re talking to, half-breed!”
He clenched his jaw. Before he could retaliate, a very serine Narcissa Malfoy came to stand beside her sister. “Bella,” she mused softly, completely ignoring the man in her doorway. “There is no need to make a scene.”
She turned to the door and lifted her chin, somehow making him feel inferior – if only for a second. “Not too many years ago, my family was issued a warning. Join me or face the consequences,” she said slowly, as if she were talking to a child. “Tom Riddle mistook the Black family for fools when he threatened us that night.”
Bellatrix flashed a dark smile, licking her lips.
“We are not pawns to be used, or house-elves to be told what to do, dog,” she drawled, scrunching her nose as if she had smelled something awful. “I will tell you once, and once only,” cold fury radiated off the woman. “Get off my property,” she said, her eyes flashing. “We may have allied ourselves with a side that seemed defeated all those years ago -” she said, referring to their final year at Hogwarts, when Tom Riddle started to make a fuss about blood purity. “But we will never ally ourselves with wolves looking to do the impossible.”
The door closed after that, leaving Skorponok feeling hopeless for the umpteenth time that week.
“I was handling it, Cissy,” Bellatrix said when she and her sister were strolling back towards the dining room.
Narcissa smiled fondly and put an arm around Bellatrix’s shoulders. “Couldn’t let you have all the fun, now could I?” she said and they shared a brief chuckle before straightening up and entering the dining room separately, having asserted their dominance once more.
“This is ridiculous,” Harry burst out. “Why can’t I help when it’s my fault that people are being targeted?”
Lily sighed and walked to her son. “Your father is handling it,” she said firmly.
Harry looked up at the ceiling of the kitchen where he was standing with his mother while Ginny talked to Ron and Hermione in the living room.
“Someone’s out to hurt me by hurting the people I love and you’re basically telling me that I should hide behind dad -” he raised his eyebrows. “You do realise that this is driving me insane.”
She shrugged. “Sweetheart, you were born into this family,” she said, referring to Sirius, Remus as well as her and James. “If you weren’t going insane by now I would have to be concerned.”
He rolled his eyes but smiled in spite of himself. “That’s not funny, you know,”
She punched him playfully on the arm. “Neither is finding out that a werewolf is out to kill your only son,”
“Here we go,” Harry said under his breath.
“The son that we have harboured since birth under our roof,”
“Raising a child is the side-effect of unprotected sex,” he said with a smirk.
She pulled him into a dramatic hug. “The son that we consoled when he was sad, fed when hungry,”
“Only because my childhood was littered with bad examples,”
“The son that we’d hoped would rise above the negative influence of the men in his life,”
“If this is about me trying to become an animagus again -”
“Oh, relax,” she said, pulling back and rolling her eyes. “You are so dramatic – not everything’s about you, you know?”
Harry let out an exasperated sigh and walked out of the kitchen, mumbling something about psychotic parents. Lily shook her head and closed her eyes as she rested against the sink, trying to massage the sore muscle in her neck.
The last time her family had been at risk like this, they had been forced to take up forces with the entire magical community – and Tom Riddle had been only one man. Who knows how many werewolves were readying themselves for a fight at that moment?
A tapping on the window brought her back to reality. She turned around to find a familiar looking owl by the window. One of the Hogwarts owls, she concluded just before opening the window.
She had only just freed the letter from the owl’s leg when the animal turned around and settled itself back onto the windowsill.
She closed the window immediately, feeling a strange sense of safety when a layer of glass was once again between her family and the outside world, despite the owl’s indignant hooting.
The letter was from Severus, and was much shorter than she’d grown used to. Since their fallout back when they were still at Hogwarts, their friendship had been reduced to a friendly correspondence via letters, and an odd card on Christmas or birthdays.
She tore open the envelope and opened the letter.
Fenrir Greyback is not involved and is not a danger to your family. Narcissa and Bellatrix Black, though they’re known by different surnames these days, have denied Skorponok any assistance in his attempts to harm either the Weasleys or any of your family.
It seems Skorponok has been working alone all along and Greyback has lost his patience. He may very well be the one to put Skorponok back in his place – or in the ground, for that matter.
Do not spare the matter any more thought,
Lily let out a sigh of relief, feeling the intense pressure of the situation lessen considerably.
She summoned a piece of parchment and a self-inking quill and scribbled a response.
Thank you so much for your help, I was going a bit insane, to tell you the truth.
Here’s to hoping I’m capable of relaxing,
She opened the window and fastened the letter to the owl’s leg.
“Take this back to Severus Snape, please,” she stated before letting go of the tawny owl, watching as it disappeared into the darkness.
“We should be doing something,” Ron said as he sank into the Potters’ couch.
“Mr Potter and Dumbledore both agreed that it was best for us to stay here,” Hermione said, although she couldn’t help but feel useless as she sat down next to Ron and put her hand on his leg. “It’s the most logical thing to do, after all.”
At that moment Harry walked into the room, looking about as disgruntled as Ron was feeling. “She’s not budging – we could always stun her.” he added as an afterthought, to which Ginny hit him on the chest.
“Ow! Okay, fine, no stunners... Maybe a sleeping draught?”
“Harry,” Ginny said with a smile. “It’s for your own good.”
“The sleeping draught? I know; that’s why I came up with the idea!”
“You know what I mean,” she said with a chuckle.
“I just hate not being able to do anything – I mean I am a qualified auror, aren’t I?” he whined, sitting him and Ginny down on the other empty couch and resting his head on her shoulder. “Especially since this mess is entirely my fault.”
“That’s what I said!” Ron exclaimed. “We would be able to face a few wolves, no problem!”
Hermione frowned. “As if I would let you go out there alone,” she huffed.
“I said we, didn’t I?” Ron answered with a smirk. “Harry would be going with me!”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “As if I would let him go out in the dark with you pointing your wand at everything.”
“Let me?” Harry whispered in her ear with a smirk.
A shiver ran down Ginny’s neck and she pulled away quickly. “Yes, let you,” she said, crossing her arms.
“Whipped,” Ron said sombrely and Hermione giggled.
“Pardon?” Harry asked with a confused look.
Ginny rolled her eyes and turned to him. “Ron thinks that I have you whipped,” she said with an embarrassed smile.
“If only,” Harry answered wistfully, leading to Ron’s ears flaming red, Hermione sharing a glance with Ginny and Ginny laughing quietly.
Indeed, she thought to herself. If only.
Lily walked into the room with a pleasant smile, stowing a piece of parchment in her pocket. “I have some good news.”
“Grey Beckinfern,” the old lady said politely, clutching at her tiny purse.
“Mrs Beckinfern,” James acknowledged politely. “I understand that you have some information on the whereabouts of Skorponok?”
She smiled sweetly. “Indeed,” she said softly.
James, realising that he was going to have to prompt any further discussion, folded his hands on his desk. “May I ask how you came to know anything about the man?” he asked. “My best informants couldn’t find anything about him, so you should understand my confusion,” he explained, referring to Remus.
“I’m afraid that I’m going to have to say no, dear,” she said, smiling as if she had just given him a present. “I can, however tell you that I was gifted with Lycanthropy at a very early stage in my life, and as such I am well trusted in Fenrir Greyback’s ranks.”
James was flabbergasted. “How can you be... Fenrir Greyback is young enough to be your son!” he burst out, realising this and clearing his throat. “What I mean to say is that Fenrir Greyback seems younger than you, Mrs Beckinfern – if you had been gifted early on in your life...”
“Werewolves were around long before Greyback introduced us to society,” she said shortly. “Are you going to continue asking me about my life, or may I deliver my statement and leave,” she stated, seeming irritated.
James felt taken aback, but nodded just the same. “Of course, please.”
She straightened in her seat. “I would like to make one thing clear – Skorponok is working alone. Having tried to challenge Greyback for leadership of the packs and failed spectacularly,” she smiled viciously, revealing her sharp teeth. “Information was leaked to the ministry and he was taken into custody.”
James nodded, taken aback by how much the woman knew.
“Though, it seems, conventional restraints proved inadequate,” she said bitterly, looking down at the table. “After his escape he returned to the camp as if he were a hero, demanding to see Greyback. He accused him of treason in front of the entire clan,” she said looking up at James who simply nodded.
“But it was treason,” he said.
She shrugged. “It all depends on how you look at it, but that’s irrelevant. To try and dissuade Skorponok from this idea, one of Greyback’s favourites was given to help and hunt down the Potter boy, under the explicit condition that no harm was to befall the favourite.”
“Warren,” James said with a nod.
Her head shot up and her upper lip twitched, as if she were about to growl at him. “The human told you, then,” she said in a dangerously low voice.
“Lillian Jensley was an innocent victim dragged into the crossfire by mistake,” James said. “Warren has been excluded from any official statements.”
She seemed to relax a little at hearing this. “Thank you,” she nodded stiffly. “Warren was chosen as a favourite because of his innocence,” she explained. “He never fights back when challenged,” she smiled fondly.
“Doesn’t that qualify him as a weakling?” James asked softly. “Excuse my directness, but usually weaker wolves are shut out of a pack when they can bring nothing useful to the table.”
She smiled. “That is the custom, yes,” she nodded. “However he did bring something to the ‘table’, as you said. He has a way of speaking – he can be very persuasive when necessary.”
“I’ve gathered as much,” James said bitterly.
She chuckled. “After the wrongful abduction of the witch, Warren came back to camp showing signs of struggle.”
James nodded. “Strangling?”
She nodded sadly. “Indeed. Greyback immediately declared Skorponok as an enemy, and as such, no werewolves have been aiding him in his cause. He then turned to the Black family, extremely powerful family of purebloods that measured up to the Peverell, now Potter, line before a muggleborn was married into the family.”
James felt his stomach twist. “Lily Potter is a -”
She raised her hand. “I’m sure she’s an adequate witch, but blood purity seems to be a measure of power to the humans – it is natural that he would seek out the most powerful to aid him. I do not care about the blood of your ancestors, so spare me the lecture.”
James, now a little peeved with the woman, sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “Please, continue,” he said with a wave of his arm.
“He was refused,” she said shortly. “And as such, he is working alone.”
Despite his slight anger, James couldn’t help but feel a load lifted from his shoulders.
“He is in Holyhead, Whales.” she said shortly, before adding. “Do not underestimate him, Potter, he was my second in command for a reason. The wolves will no longer be involving themselves in the matter.”
James’ eyes widened, but she was already out of the door before he could say anything.
Hello, my lovely readers!
I'd just like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a belated Happy Holidays and also a kickass new year!
So, back to business - as usual, any questions, comments, thoughts and concerns are welcome, in fact they are encouraged. So just pop whatever you have on your mind into the review box and I'll answer it as soon as possible!
I added a bit of what happened to Tom Riddle in this chapter, though it still seems a bit vague to me! So here's what I propose: Should I write a one-shot explaining exactly of what happened, or should I just give a quick run-through in my next author's note? Please let me know via Reviews, or on HPFF Forums under the same name if you prefer.
Thank you so much for reading my story, even if my updates have been SERIOUSLY irregular! I appreciate each and every reader immensely!
All my love,
PS: Allow me to please say: 11000 READS!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?!
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