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Chapter 4 : The Death Eater's Patronus
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THE DEATH EATER'S PATRONUS
Lupin walked back up the corridor, his spirits rising a notch with each step he took away from the Dementors. When he arrived at the bench outside the Floo room, the smile he gave Snape was entirely heartfelt.
'Ormesby says they're ready for you now,' Lupin said. 'Thanks for looking after Snuffles for me.'
Snape nodded curtly, got up and headed for the interrogation room.
'Come along, Snuffles,' said Lupin. 'Let's go home.'
But Snuffles didn't come along. Instead, with a whimper of fright, he began backing away, his eyes fixed over Lupin's shoulder. Lupin whirled and beheld a tall, hooded Dementor, gliding towards them.
The Dementor drew in a deep, rattling breath. A wave of cold washed over Lupin. White fog gathered at the edges of his vision. He reached for his wand, then with a thrill of horror realised that Ormesby still had it.
'Snuffles -- run -- Floo room --' gasped Lupin. He stepped in front of Sirius to block the Dementor's path.
The Dementor lowered its hood. Scabbed, greyish, rotting skin covered an eyeless face with a great gaping hole of a mouth. Lupin felt as though an avalanche of ice had been dumped on him. The fog swirled up to cloud his sight. Sirius let out a long, despairing howl.
The Dementor brushed past Lupin and swooped down upon the dog.
'No!' shouted Lupin.
He reached through the mist, grabbing at the Dementor's clammy, decaying arm as it seized hold of Sirius. Even through its robes, the Dementor's flesh was piercingly cold, biting into Lupin's hands. It swivelled its head as if to peer down at him with its empty sockets. The white fog grew blindingly thick. Dumbledore's voice echoed in Lupin's brain --
'James and Lily ... Harry ... dead ... Sirius ... taken to Azkaban ...'
'No ... he didn't ... he's innocent ...' whispered Lupin.
The cold was inside him now. He was drowning in mist and freezing water; he could no longer feel his hands. He had to find his way back to Sirius, to save him, but it was no use -- Sirius was gone, lost in ice and fog.
Then, from a long way off, Lupin heard footsteps pounding in his direction and a voice bellowing, 'EXPECTO PATRONUM!'
The white fog thinned and faded. Lupin found himself lying face down on the floor, Sirius in an unconscious heap beside him. He lifted his head and saw Snape a mere foot away, staring past the two of them with an expression of horrified fascination on his gaunt face. Lupin rolled over and craned his neck to see what at.
The passage beyond was filled with small glowing specks of silver -- some sort of Patronus, but it didn't seem to be working properly. Instead of retreating, the Dementor was staggering around in circles. Its shapeless mouth worked frantically, horrible gagging noises issuing forth.
Lupin tried to stand up. It was difficult; he was shivery and weak, his hands completely numb. Just as he managed to heave himself onto the bench, the Dementor toppled over, lay twitching feebly and dissolved into a puddle of slime.
The silvery specks fluttered about the hallway in confusion and slowly, one by one, began to vanish away. A lone straggler -- a butterfly, by the look of it -- landed on Lupin's wrist, beat its delicate wings once, twice, then disappeared with a pop.
'You've killed it,' said Ormesby, in a tone of utter amazement. Apparently he'd rounded the corner just in time to witness the Dementor's final moments.
Lupin was equally astounded. Executing a Dementor normally required a team of at least seven highly trained wizards. It was barely within the realm of possibility that a Dumbledore or a Voldemort, using the most advanced and complex spells of destruction, might finish off a Dementor single-handedly. Certainly Lupin would never have credited Snape with that level of ability.
'I had no choice,' said Snape tensely. 'Its hood was lowered. It was trying to kiss the werewolf, but his dog was holding it off. When I returned to see what the commotion was, it turned on me. I did what I did in self-defence.' Snape's voice rose slightly with anger. 'I came here in good faith to assist the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol with its investigations. I scarcely imagined that I'd be putting my soul at risk in doing so! Your Dementors have evidently got the impression that they can attack the innocent and the guilty alike with impunity. Unless you quickly disabuse them of this notion, you will find the public's willingness to cooperate with the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol growing very thin on the ground.'
To Lupin's immense relief, Ormesby accepted Snape's story without question.
'Well, you definitely disabused that one,' he said drily, surveying the fallen Dementor. 'Maybe this will ... encourage the others.'
As Ormesby turned to go, Lupin forced himself to his feet. In a voice taut with rage, he said, 'Give me back my wand.'
Ormesby took Lupin's wand from his belt and held it out to him wordlessly, but Lupin couldn't bend his fingers to grasp it. Ormesby finally had to put the wand into Lupin's pocket for him before setting off down the corridor. With a single backwards scowl at Lupin, Snape followed Ormesby.
Lupin dropped to one knee to examine Sirius. He was still out cold.
Wrapping his arms around the dog's chest, Lupin dragged him into the Floo room. He wasn't sure how he managed; as a dog Sirius weighed close to three hundred pounds, and the Dementors' attacks had left Lupin hardly able to walk. Perhaps sheer terror lent him strength. There were doubtless other Dementors prowling the building and it did Lupin no good to have his wand back now that his hands were useless.
Lupin laid Sirius down in front of the hearth. On the mantelpiece was an old coffee tin full of Floo power, which mercifully had been left open. He clamped the tin tightly between his wrists and tossed the lot into the fire. With a deafening roar, the flames blazed incandescent emerald and shot halfway up the chimney.
He'd used far too much Floo powder, Lupin thought as he pulled Sirius into the fireplace, but if the offices of the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol became infested with Ashwinders, it would serve Ormesby right.
Hours later, Lupin was sitting at his kitchen table sipping hot chocolate from a cup that floated near his lips, when Professor McGonagall Apparated in the middle of the room. Her hair hung loose, falling almost to her waist, and she was wearing black robes instead of her usual green. These robes seemed to have been borrowed from a taller, thinner witch, as they were a bit long in the sleeves and -- Lupin hastily averted his eyes -- rather snug across the chest.
'Have you taken complete leave of your senses?' snarled Professor McGonagall. 'Bringing that creature to Magical Law Enforcement Patrol headquarters -- and telling Ormesby I knew the beast! If he'd been discovered, all three of us would have been packed off to Azkaban!'
Lupin gawped at her, speechless, for several stunned moments.
Then he said calmly, 'You're quite right, Severus. Won't you sit down and have some hot chocolate? I'm afraid you'll have to pour it yourself ...'
He held up his frozen hands apologetically.
Professor McGonagall -- or rather, Snape transformed into Professor McGonagall -- looked far from taking up Lupin's offer.
'Dumbledore will be hearing of this, make no mistake,' she said in a soft, menacing tone.
'I've already heard most of it, from Remus,' said a deep voice near the kitchen door. Albus Dumbledore came to the table and set a jar of bluish-white paste in front of Lupin. 'Madam Pomfrey said this should help mend your hands.'
Lupin reached for the jar without thinking, then realised he could neither pick it up nor unscrew the lid.
'Er -- could you --'
Sirius, who'd been sprawled out behind Lupin's chair, got up, placed his paws on the table and gave Dumbledore a short, sharp bark.
'Yes, we all need to be able to speak freely,' Dumbledore murmured.
He took out his wand. Silvery vapour poured from its tip, drifting out to cover the walls, ceiling and floor. Sirius changed back into a man. Throwing a dark look at the fake McGonagall, he opened the jar and began applying the paste to Lupin's hands.
'Severus, what in heaven's name did you do to that Dementor?' said Dumbledore.
To Lupin's surprise, Professor McGonagall appeared somewhat reluctant to answer this question.
'You -- you are familiar with the form my Patronus takes, Headmaster?' she asked Dumbledore stiffly.
Dumbledore nodded and gazed enquiringly at her over his half-moon spectacles, but she did not seem inclined to elaborate.
'It was a flock of butterflies, was it not?' prompted Lupin.
'A flock of butterflies?' Sirius gave a derisive snort. 'And I thought James had a stupid Patronus.'
Professor McGonagall eyed him with pure hatred.
'Were they -- venomous butterflies?' said Lupin, bewildered. 'Mamba Moths? But -- it wouldn't matter, would it? A Patronus may take on an animal's shape, but it won't have its powers. It's the substance of the Patronus that affects Dementors -- it makes no difference that your one has the form of any sort of butterflies.'
'It makes a difference,' snapped Professor McGonagall, 'if the Dementor happens to swallow one of them.'
The mist-covered kitchen rang with the sound Dumbledore's laughter.
Disclaimer: All characters and concepts from the Harry Potter series copyright J K Rowling.
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