Book Four and Three Quarters
by Maeve "Mab" Roberts
< >Snape didn't quite lose his smile, despite the undisguised hostility of Sirius's reply.
< >"Ah," he said. "Because I would have thought that - it being the night of a full moon - I would have thought that you might be having a few technical difficulties. Obviously I was wrong. Might I enquire, however, how exactly you intend to restrain the wolf - how you intend to stop him attacking us all?"
< >"No," said Sirius. "Not really." He was frowning: he looked as though he were trying to work it out himself.
< >"I only ask," continued Snape sweetly, "Because I seem to recall that you don't have a wand with you. Furthermore, as we have established, I believe there is some kind of blocking charm at work here… Still; if you're sure you have the situation under control, I'll leave you to it."
< >"Severus!" called Lupin, as he turned away. "Wait - please." The look on Snape's face at this request was an odd combination of hunger and pleasure, and Harry wondered why. Perhaps Snape enjoyed people talking to him politely and as though they actually needed him, or perhaps he merely liked the position he had of Lupin asking him a favour. As Lupin was nearly always polite to him, Harry suspected the latter of the two options.
< >"Yes?" he enquired lazily. Sirius was frowning at both men, and Harry looked between the three of them nervously.
< >"Could you lend Sirius your wand? So he can stop me from attacking you all when I transform?" Lupin looked terribly guilty already, as though anticipating the prospect. Harry sympathised. He didn't really want to be locked in a small room with a hungry and unrestrained werewolf.
< >"No," said Snape.
< >"God's sake, man!" exploded Sirius. "Do you want him to savage you?"
< >Snape regarded him coldly. "Like you'd care if he did," he said. "I wouldn't trust you to secure him properly - not with your past history. I wouldn't put it past you to turn him on us - while you remain safe in your dog form. No. I won't lend you my wand."
< >Sirius's eyes had widened incredulously and Harry realised that he was genuinely too angry to speak, or even attack Snape.
< >"You'd sacrifice your own life - and everyone else's - just to prove a point?" asked Lupin, quietly. "Very well. Harry - will you lend Sirius your wand?"
< >It obviously hadn't occurred to Snape that they might resort to this option, because he lost a little of the smug look he'd carried, and said quickly:
< >"There is no need for that. I was about to offer to do it myself: Then at least I can make sure it's done properly. I doubt Potter or anyone else has the necessary knowledge to perform the task - " He frowned so savagely at Hermione as she opened her mouth to disagree that she subsided quite quickly - "And, as I've said - even if Black does borrow Potter's wand, I shan't be satisfied until I have added my own restrictions."
< >"Fine," said Lupin. "But let me suggest that you do it quickly: it must be nearly dark by now. The moon will rise soon. Do you know any charm that won't be affected by blocking curse?"
< >Sirius was snapped out of his trance at Lupin's mention of the time, and forced himself to look at Snape.
< >"Well?" he snarled. "Do you?"
< >Snape shrugged. "I'm sure that the normal charm will work. If Weasley can conjur coffee out of thin air then I'm sure we can accomplish something as simple as a few chains. I think it's just stronger magic that has been blocked. Why don't we find out?"
< >Sirius looked at him for a moment, then shrugged back. "Fine," he said.
< >Snape stared about him. "Let's see…" he said softly, his gaze alighting on the dungeon's walls, and a coil of metals chains affixed to one of them. "Yes… that should do… Well, if you're ready, Black? Lupin?"
< >Harry turned away to talk to Ron and Hermione, who were still sitting hunched up and miserable with Hagrid. He didn't want to embarrass Lupin by watching him be humiliated by Snape - which had obviously been the Potions master's intent - and instead joined in the others' silence, which was just as depressing. Several times Harry opened his mouth to speak, but on each occasion he closed it again before any words ensued. He couldn't think of anything appropriate to say.
< >"Harry?" called Sirius, with a hint of laughter in his voice. Harry twisted round to behold the rather bizarre sight of Snape and Lupin swathed in the chains, and stared blankly at his godfather.
< >"What happened?" he enquired.
< >"Snape got a bit too enthusiastic. Can I borrow your wand? He still won't let me have his - but I'd better get him out of there, I suppose - Moony'll be transforming soon…"
< >Harry handed him his wand. It seemed that even a simple spell like the one Snape was trying to accomplish was not easy.
< >Soon the Potions master was detached from the chains and glaring at Sirius as though it was his fault he had ever been entangled with them in the first place.
< >"Shall we continue?" he spat, turning to Lupin and giving an annoyed flick of his hand. A chain wound its way round Lupin's thin body, and soon it was joined by many more. Sirius watched the entire procedure with a frown and an air of impatience; but, more for Lupin's sake than his own, Harry suspected, he said nothing to Snape. When he was apparently satisfied, Snape gave the soon-to-be wolf a long look up and down, allowed a thin smile to grace his lips and moved away to sit down. When he had gone, Lupin smiled at the other two.
< >"What time is it?" he asked. Sirius looked at his watch.
< >"Almost nine, now," he replied.
< >"Well, Harry, it seems that I'll be in an ideal position to give you a practical lesson on werewolves, in about half an hour, I'd say. I won't hold it against you if you choose not to attend…"
< >Harry laughed. They stayed with Lupin for another five minutes that seemed to drag on into eternity, and then Lupin made to look at his own watch. Moving his wrist to his face, he suddenly jumped in surprise - and so, too, did Harry and Sirius: for the chains had snapped, and a kind of despair covered Lupin's face.
< >"We need something a little stronger," he said, as the rest of the chains disintegrated. "Or I don't like to think what could happen."
< >Neither did Harry. Leaving it to Snape and Sirius to sort out, he rejoined his other friends - who, apparently fed up with their quiet, were now listening to Hagrid telling them about his hopes for next year's Care of Magical Creatures classes and the possibility of rearing a species of pygmy dragons. Morosely, Harry wondered if they would even face a next year, and he sat down a little way away from them, expression bleak.
< >Sirius came to sit down next to him.
< >"Did you fix the chains?" asked Harry, more for the chance of conversation than because he really wanted to know.
< >"Snape's dealing with it," was all Sirius said, and then abruptly changed the subject. "Harry - I don't know why Voldemort hasn't killed the rest of us, if all he wants is you. All I can guess is that he intends to use us for something. But you must promise me now - that you won't do anything foolish - "
< >Harry laughed, darkly. "Foolish," he repeated. "Well, I'll try…"
< >"You know what I mean," said Sirius. His face was deadly serious. "Voldemort will be back - I'm guessing tonight - I don't think he plans to starve us to death… But he can't be in his full power yet or he wouldn't have gone to all these lengths. And we would all - and especially you - certainly be dead by now. If only Dumbledore were here - " He broke off, distractedly, and gazed around as though he expected the Headmaster to appear out of nowhere. But there was nothing.
< >Harry looked moodily around him. He had caught the gist of what Sirius was saying: in his own way, his godfather was urging him to do whatever was necessary - do what only Harry would have the strength to do - against Voldemort - and not worry about the consequences. Not worry about what might happen to himself, or Ron or Hermione, or Hagrid, or Lupin - or even Snape. Harry frowned as he considered the last name. Would he feel guilty if Voldemort did anything to Snape? After all, he had been a Death Eater…
< >Had been a Death Eater, repeated Harry to himself. Had been. Wasn't any more. Yes, he'd feel bad if Voldemort decided to harm the Professor in any way… Harry wouldn't wish his parents' fate on anyone. The screams and shouts he had heard the year before last, when he'd been anywhere near a Dementor… Harry shuddered as he recalled them. They were still too vivid: his mother begging Voldemort to take her instead of Harry, his father trying to protect them both - and then the laugh of Voldemort as he ignored them. No. Harry did not want that to happen to Snape.
< >The professor just couldn't seem to get the measure of his attitude towards them right. One minute he was amiable enough: the next, he was busy chaining up Remus Lupin and enjoying every minute of doing so. Cornelius Fudge had been right that time, thought Harry, when he had helped Sirius escape and Snape had all but had an epileptic fit as a result. The man must be unbalanced.
< >"Why's he have to look like he's having such a good time?" said Ron, suddenly there beside him, scowling at Snape as he conjured chains from the end of his wand. "I'd have thought after all we've been through, surely he'd have stopped trying to get at him all the time?"
< >Sirius shook his head sadly.
< >"I don't know," he said. "I sometimes wonder, if Snape could only see what Remus has to go through when he transforms, he wouldn't treat him like… like he does. It's terrible, Ron. Takes years off your life just to watch it…" He stood up, and shook himself, abruptly.
< >"Come on," he said. "We ought to give him some privacy… he always hated being watched when he transformed. I'll change myself when he's finished - I should keep him company, make it better for him."
< >Ron and Harry were only too glad to go and join Hermione and Hagrid instead. They had no wish to witness Lupin transform. Sirius sat with them for a while, distracting them while, in the background, they heard the first wolf-like sounds coming from their old professor.
< >"I think I'll transform now," said Sirius. "Try and calm him down… I shouldn't imagine he'll be too happy when he finds he's tied up like that." He frowned to himself, and then froze. Scowling even more, Harry watched curiously as he obviously battled with something.
< >" - Damn - " Sirius looked like he was struggling very hard. Finally he seemed to give up. "Can't even do that," he growled - and although this sound was suspiciously canine, Harry admitted he wasn't even remotely resembling the big black dog he was used to seeing. Sirius gazed miserably at where his friend was now fully-fledged wolf, and Snape was adding the finishing touches to his restraints.
< >"There," he said, rubbing his hands together. "That should hold." And he retired to his corner and ignored them.
< >The next few hours passed as a monotonous and incredibly noisy blur for Harry. He was exhausted but he couldn't sleep: resolutely determined not to look at Lupin as a wolf in case it affected the way he saw him as a man, Harry had his back to the creature. But this did not stop the howls from penetrating his ears: the anguished sound did nothing to ease the apprehension that seemed to fill every square inch of Harry's body, and combined with the now familiar throb in his temple they caused him to feel slightly nauseous. He needed a distraction.
< >"Why didn't You-Know-Who take our wands?" mused Ron loudly, over the noise. "Did he forget?"
< >"I doubt it," said Sirius glumly. "I don't think he needs to. He's done something the field of magic down here… the strongest thing we've been able to do is chain Moony up - you couldn't even get light except by using a non-standard spell, could you? I'm not quite sure, to be honest, Ron. I don't pretend to even begin to understand how Voldemort's mind works. And we're probably better off not knowing."
< >Harry fervently agreed. He dozed off into a semi-conscious slumber for perhaps an hour: more out of the desire to avoid conversation with any of his friends than anything else, and partially also to try and block out the howls coming from the wolf. It didn't work: they sunk into his subconsciousness and turned themselves into a siren in his hazy dreams. Number Four Privet Drive was on fire, and the engines' were screaming their way to the rescue… But they weren't in time. The house was engulfed in flames. Harry stared at it numbly. His family - even family such as it had been - all gone, now. All dead. All because of him . . .
< >He woke with a start before he could see the outcome of his dream and was a little surprised by the sheer relief that swamped him on finding that his aunt, uncle and cousin were (as far as he knew) still alive and well. How odd, thought Harry. He turned to look at his companions.
< >Hermione had slumped onto Ron's shoulder and looked asleep: Ron was awake and seemed highly uncomfortable with the situation, as one shoulder was now considerably lower than the other and he was having to shrug the other one higher and higher to compensate for this. But he did not wake Hermione, and, as he caught Harry's eye, he winked. Harry felt something die inside him. What if his friends were killed? he thought. And perhaps they worst thing was that he knew if they were they wouldn't blame him. It wasn't fair.
< >Sirius was resting against one of the walls talking in a low voice to Hagrid. Harry couldn't hear what they were saying - but he didn't try to listen, because at that moment his attention was distracted by Snape. The potions master was sitting with his back leant against the wall and his head resting on his knees, looking at least as bad as Harry felt. He watched him curiously.
< >The man kept sneaking little half-glances up at Lupin, and wincing every time he howled. Harry felt vaguely surprised by the distress on his face. At each howl, an extra notch of desperation was added to his countenance: it seemed as though any minute he would -
< >"Silence!" he roared suddenly, glaring at the wolf with curiously wide eyes, and waking Hermione from her slumber.
< >"'E can't hear yeh, Professor," said Hagrid, regarding Lupin's wolf-form fondly. "'E's a wolf."
< >Snape turned to the gamekeeper savagely. "He isn't a wolf," he snarled. "He's a monster. And he will stop that howling…" He took a step towards the chained wolf. Hagrid's expression changed in an instant.
< >"Wolves howl, Professor. It's what they do," said Hermione nervously. "Even werewolves. It's natural."
< >"You'd howl if you were chained up there like that," added Ron - but very quietly.
< >"But he's not natural!" shouted Snape, taking another stride forwards, quite oblivious to both Hagrid and Sirius's rapidly darkening faces. He drew his wand, and pointed it at Lupin. "A muzzle…" he said. Sparks flew from the stick he held in his hand, but no muzzle appeared: Lupin's howls grew deeper at this and quite suddenly Snape hurled the wand from him, striking the animal just above its lip. This resulted in a very surprised looking wolf: for a moment, the howls ceased, to be replaced by a quiet little whimper and a reproachful glare from the big yellow eyes - and then Hagrid was there. He charged at Snape, his huge hands clasped round the man's throat, and the Potions master clucked and scrabbled at his neck, obviously asphyxiating.
< >"Leave 'im alone!" the giant roared. "Sweet little wolf - 'e ain't done anything to yeh - "
< >Quickly, Sirius snatched Hermione's wand from out of her hand and pointed it at Hagrid, just before he squeezed Snape's neck too hard.
< >"Stupefy!" he roared, and Hagrid slumped to the floor like a two tonne sack of frog liver. Snape collapsed at the same time, fingers clutching feverishly at his throat as he apparently tried to reassure himself that it was still there, and croaking: no one moved to help him. Sirius looked sadly down at Hagrid.
< >"Sorry," he said apologetically. "But I'd hate to see you get into trouble because of him." He spat the last word out. Pointing Hermione's wand at Hagrid, he gave a flick of his wrist. "Mobilicorpus," he said.
< >But instead of getting up, as Harry and the others had expected him to, Hagrid stayed where he was: after looking at Hermione's wand in alarm for a second, Sirius swiftly knelt down and rolled the giant onto his side, examining his head. After two minutes almost static with worry, he looked back up again, relieved.
< >"He's OK," he said. "Must've knocked himself out on the floor. He'll come round in a minute. Maybe it would - er - best to leave him for a moment… just in case he decides to defend Remus again…"
< >Harry had to agree. Like Sirius, he didn't want Snape making life hard for Hagrid when - if - they ever escaped from the dungeon.
< >"What about him?" asked Ron, waving at Snape. The Potions master was still recumbent on the ground, having difficulties breathing. He seemed winded. "Hadn't we better - y'know - do something?" He flapped a vague hand.
< >For a moment, Sirius looked inclined to say no, but then stepped forwards reluctantly. However, he didn't reach the prone man: a soft groan alerted the four members of the company that still remained upright that Lupin was returning to his human form. The hair on his face and arms grew less: soon he was back in his recognisable - albeit more scruffy-looking than usual - form, and was looking about him in mild astonishment.
< >"…Been busy…?" he said weakly.
< >Sirius explained briefly about Snape's aversion to werewolf howls and his attempts to stop them - and Hagrid's intervention. Lupin raised his eyebrows.
< >"I'll admit," he said, rubbing his jaw against his shoulder where Snape had thumped him, and looking down at Hagrid's unconscious form, "That's the first time I've been called sweet before. Hagrid has an - er - unusual taste in animals, I remember."
< >Harry, Ron and Hermione exchanged glances. They knew only too well how far Hagrid's 'unusual taste' stretched - it had got them into enough trouble in the past. By Hagrid's standards, a werewolf was positively cute.
< >Snape was stuttering almost incoherently as he finally managed to stand up. "Mangy - flea-bitten - "
< >"I am not mangy, or flea-bitten!" replied Lupin, with the nearest Harry had ever heard him come to indignation. He laughed, and Lupin winked at him. Harry had a feeling that Lupin was trying to lighten up the atmosphere a bit; and it had obviously worked, because Hermione was starting to giggle, glad for the excuse to let out some of the tension that had been creeping up - and if it was at Snape's expense, well, all the better. The nightmare-like feeling of the last few hours had begun to dissolve.
< >"You were looking a tad pasty, actually, Moony," grinned Sirius, playing along. Lupin gave a grunt of mock disgust.
< >"You'd be looking pasty if you'd been chained up here like this for the last seven hours," he retorted. "Speaking of which, Padfoot, do you think you could - " Suddenly, Lupin broke off in mid-sentence. He was looking over their shoulders and, as everyone's backs were turned to whatever it was he could see, there was a puzzled pause while the small company tried to fathom why Lupin's face had suddenly lost a great deal of what little colour it had.
< >But when Harry turned round, it didn't take him long to work it out. Voldemort had returned.
< >He was standing at the top of the long flight of stairs that led down to their prison, and he seemed to be sniffing. Harry felt something flung over him and, not knowing what it was, he panicked, and kicked out at the nearest thing. Unfortunately that was Snape, and Harry felt a hand reach out and smack him none too gently on the back of his head.
< >"Silence!" hissed Snape. Twisting to look at him, Harry realised to his amazement that the professor had actually had the presence of mind to envelope himself and Harry - along with Ron - in the Invisibility Cloak. Harry's heart soared. There might be some hope left: Voldemort couldn't see them!
< >Voldemort began his descent, eyes flickering around the dungeon and taking in Hagrid, Hermione, Sirius and Lupin: any worry Harry had had that he could see through the Invisibility Cloak vanished as he missed the silent threesome completely and settled instead on the chains that held Remus Lupin, and Hermione, who had been about to try and release them.
< >"Expelliarmus," he said, casually, and Hermione's wand flew out of her hand towards him. Evidently the blocking curse did not apply to his own magic. He tucked it into his belt, along with Sirius and Lupin's. He smiled. "And where is Harry?" he asked, almost paternally.
< >No one answered.
< >"I see there are a few of our company missing," Voldemort observed, stepping forwards. "Potter… his red-haired friend… my faithful Mr Snape…" There was a bitter rise in his voice at the last word, and Harry surprised himself by feeling rather glad that Snape wasn't exposed to Voldemort's anger. Automatically, he put a hand to his forehead - no fever, though… He shook himself. Maybe he had just subconsciously began to re-evaluate his and Snape's relationship. Maybe, he thought suddenly and hopefully, he was dreaming.
< >"So," continued Voldemort, stopping opposite Lupin and Hermione, "What I would like to know is - where are they?" He splayed his hands in front of him, still smiling pleasantly. "You see, I can't very well kill him if I don't know where he is."
< >Sirius, Hermione and Lupin remained silent: Hagrid had not stirred from his stupor, and Voldemort took yet another step towards Hermione and Lupin, still hanging from his chains. Sirius made as if to move towards him, and with a sudden snaking movement Voldemort had him covered with his wand - he muttered something quietly, and Sirius could no longer move his feet. The momentum he'd had carried him forwards just enough to drag him to the ground; Voldemort laughed as he overbalanced and toppled painfully to his knees.
< >"Would either of you like to tell me where Harry is?" Voldemort asked Hermione and Lupin mildly. "Do go on," he prompted, as neither of them answered. "Mr Lupin?"
< >"I don't know," said Lupin.
< >"Come now. Surely you don't expect me to believe that? Would Harry Potter, the great Harry Potter run and abandon his friends? Would he leave, without telling them where he had gone?"
< >Lupin shrugged, as best he could whilst encumbered by the heavy chains. "I don't know," he repeated. Voldemort sighed in mock sorrow.
< >"But it's such a simple question. I'm sure a man - sorry, werewolf - of your credited intelligence can have no problems in understanding it. I've asked you twice: Now, I suggest you answer me, before I lose my temper. Where is Harry Potter hiding?"
< >"I don't know," said Lupin, again. In an instant, all pretence at joviality had vanished from Voldemort's countenance as he struck Lupin hard across the face and directed his wand at him. Sirius strained against the invisible chains about his feet. Hermione looked fit to faint.
< >Lupin raised his head back up from where it had cracked back onto the stone wall.
< >"Where - is - Potter?" snarled Voldemort again, leaning even closer to him. The prisoner stared back at him without blinking, almost making Ron almost laugh when he moved his head away slightly as though the smell of Voldemort's breath was distasteful to him.
< >"I've told you," he said calmly, for the fourth time since Harry had been watching, "I have no idea. I'm afraid you can't make me tell you what I don't know."
< >Harry winced as Voldemort flung his wand at him in irritation and red sparks flew at Lupin's body like fire - then started in horror as the wizard moved on to Hermione. She looked terrified.
< >"…Though I'm sure," continued Lupin as he saw this, " That my saying so won't stop you from enjoying every minute of trying."
< >He had managed to successfully divert Voldemort's attention back onto himself, and Harry saw Hermione almost crumple in relief. Voldemort hit Lupin again and Harry had to admit that Lupin appeared to be right: he did look like he was enjoying himself. Sirius took the opportunity of the distraction Lupin had provided to yank Hermione away - she had seemed frozen to the spot, dazed with terror, and Harry couldn't blame her; he watched in a silence that was proving harder to keep by the second as she buried her head into a surprised-looking Sirius's shoulder and sobbed loudly.
< >"Silence!" roared Voldemort, spinning round. "You - " he pointed his wand at Hermione, "Come here. Now."
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