School Craze - Part I
A/N: Warning ~ peripheral character death ahead. I told you there would be mayhem!
Chapter 22 - EM-E - School Craze - Part I
"Hey, did you hear this one? What's Harry Potter's favorite thing to eat? Food, PLEASE!"
The raucous, obnoxious, self important teenaged laughter that followed was far more offensive than the imbecilic "joke," and far more than any adult should have endure on the Friday morning of a rather intense week. Lucius frowned as he debated the most appropriate reprimand for the kind of taunting that was washing like waves at high tide through the school corridors via the student body today. He wondered how much of this was reverberating its way to Harry. And where were the Prefects this morning?
"You go ahead, Ron," Hermione said as she stood from the breakfast table. "Look for Harry. I'll see you in class." She headed off to the Library, with the sole intention of looking up a latin phrase to use for a spell. After Harry had shown them his Vox vocis - voila! spell, she'd been quite keen on creating one or two herself.
"What's your hurry, Potter?"
Oh, for the love of Merlin, Harry groused inwardly. He stopped his high-speed beeline attempt to make it to Herbology before class began, and turned to see what awaited him.
Bugger! Three seventh year Slytherin boys, one of whom was a Prefect (of course), stood with feet apart, arms folded, wands dangling from their fingers in an open threat.
"Actually, I'm attempting to get to class, so if you don't mind?" Harry said in exasperation. He palmed his wand and waited. How had these skrewt-necked toe-rags even found him? It's not like I take this route, ever. His quick trip up to the owlery after an early breakfast in the Great Hall had yielded a run-in with Mabel Dawlish who had just tripped and tumbled down the icy stairwell. Harry had had to pretend he didn't know who she was as he helped her to the Infirmary. "Well?" Harry demanded in his best attempt at an annoyed tone. In actuality, he recognized these three as part of the group that had intended to attack him the day Nagini made her surprise appearance on the other timeline. And since he didn't know their names, he labeled them the Prefect, Dunder One, and Dunder Two.
The Slytherin trio began to spread out, forming a V, to which Harry made sure he remained at the open end, still waiting. He imagined a message on his coin, letting it go out to all holders:
….So, I'm in a face-off with three seventh years…. in the corridor near the second floor stairwell… I'm just saying this now, I'm getting sick of-
"Whoa!" Harry yelled after he'd used a silent expelliarmus to clash midair with the deadly blast of magic heading his way. He instinctively avoided using his wild magic, again not yet wanting to reveal his ability, and the tactic Tonks had taught them had worked fine just now. But the Prefect and Dunders One and Two were quite intent on harming Harry. He had to cast three more of the simple disarming spells to block the onslaught of curses coming his way, and the explosions of magic in the air between his assailants and himself were spectacular.
"Sectum sempra!" the Prefect yelled, slashing his arm in a vicious slant.
Now Harry cast a contego. He'd had no idea they were that bent on making their point. Whatever it was. "You're bloody mad! What are you playing at?" He yelled in rage at them. "Voldemort's gone! Get over it!"
"SECTUM SEMPRA!" the trio each cast nearly simultaneously.
"Protego!" Someone yelled from behind Harry. Harry had to broaden his contego to protect himself from the deflected slicing hex.
"Don't deflect!" Harry rasped. He couldn't risk turning to see who it was who thought they were being helpful, but it sure sounded like Cormack McClaggen. The slicing hexes kept coming at Harry, and now also whomever was behind him. McClaggen kept casting a protego, and the misdirected magic was flying all over the place. In the split of an instant, Dunder One went down just as there was a gurgled gasp of pain behind Harry, and he knew it was Paloma Tso who had been hit with a fragment as well. Armis dicessum! Harry said angrily in his mind, whistling while he swirled his wand in a spiral, and mimicking the way Sirius had disarmed Lucius that fateful day at the Department of Mysteries. The Prefect's and Dunder Two's wands came soaring over to him and he used his own wand to banish them to McGonagall's desk in her office.
"You'd better give that-"
"Haud os!" Harry snapped, and the Prefect's lower face was now skin and chin. He flashed a look at Dunder Two, raising his eyebrow in his best Severus impersonation.
"You're dead, Potter."
"Hope you're not a mouth breather," Harry said as he cast the spell on Dunder Two. He looked behind him and found McClaggen on his knees beside a fallen Tso, who was bleeding profusely from her neck, the blood pooling on the floor around her head. Panic gripped Harry's belly. Why hadn't help come yet? "Expecto Patronum!" Harry yelled, casting his stag and sending it off to Madam Pompfrey to come help them. Something was wrong. Where was Severus?
Hermione was racing along behind Lucius Malfoy, who had just messaged Snape that they were closer to Harry and would help him. They'd crossed paths as Hermione was belatedly leaving the Library, running late for Herbology, after having been stopped by Madam Pince, who had been in a rant about missing books that had nothing to do with Hermione. By the time the Library matron had let her go, Hermione had been down to five minutes to get all the way out to the greenhouses. She'd received Harry's distress call and hadn't hesitated to head his way. Malfoy had been running already when she'd rounded the corner of the third floor corridor, above where Harry should be.
"But be prepared to shield only, Miss Granger, your safety is foremost," Malfoy Sr. had warned.
They skidded into a scene of distress. Hermione froze for a split second at the registering horror of both the scent of blood and the sight of more of it than she'd ever seen before. She'd stopped beside Harry, who was pale and wide-eyed, having watched Paloma slip into death as she'd bled out.
"I don't know how to heal anyone," Harry said shakily.
"Miss Granger," Lucius urged, after he'd scanned the scene, finding it contained, and seeing that the other injured boy was in bad shape as well, "come, I'll show you the counter curse." He banished the pool of blood and dropped to his knees beside Paloma while McClaggen crab-crawled backward and out of their way. The Gryffindor witch rushed over without hesitation and in her usual fashion, immediately picked up on the sing-song chant that Lucius incanted while he rushed to seal the slash on Paloma's jugular vein.
Hermione jumped to her feet. "Harry, help me?"
Harry numbly stumbled after his best friend as she ran over to Dunder One. He had the presence of mind to syphon the blood off of the floor before she'd knelt into it, but he was having trouble handling the scope of the injuries he'd witnessed. He couldn't help but think this would have never happened if bloody McClaggen had just come to the damned DA session three nights ago.
They heard running footsteps and McGonagall arrived just as Madam Pomfrey showed up. A message came through the coin that Remus was en route to the Dungeons to help Severus.
"Go," McGonagall said to Lucius. She looked at Harry with a stern eye. "Stay," she said to him.
"What's going on?" Harry asked in alarm as Lucius bolted away. "Where's Severus?"
"He found himself under attack while trying to greet his class, Mr. Potter," McGonagall said. "Your guardian can take care of himself, it was the group of third years that were adding to the complexity."
Severus swept his wand in a wide arc, renting the air with a blasting hex that slammed into Allison Grable and Morton Rookwood, both seventh years, and both eighteen years old, and who were not at all deserving of the reserve he might show a child in this context. He stormed toward them, snarl of rage on his face as his mind whirled with the thrill of fear that Harry had been hurt when his message had cut off earlier. He slashed his arm downward once, casting Lupin's Restringero first on Rookwood, and then on Grable. Their cries of discomfort invoked no sympathy from him.
"Yes, it is an awkward way to have to wait for Ministry law enforcement to come for you, isn't it?" he sneered with disdain, using his wand to send a sweeping spell that half-dragged, half lifted the two hogtied students along the stone floor, back past the door to his classroom and in full view of his wide-eyed third year Potions class. He stopped the movement in the vicinity of the other two assailants, who were still underage, so he'd dealt with them a bit differently. Vincent Crabbe was down and bound with an incarcerous, while Hamish Felding was currently stuck to the wall of the corridor, his feet dangling awkwardly over the wand he'd dropped to the floor when the spell had hit him.
There had been so much constant activity since the moment the surprise attack had begun, that Severus had not been able to send a message through his coin. He'd seen Dennis Creavy slip back around the corner and out of sight instead of rushing into the classroom with his fellow Gryffindors. He could only hope the boy knew to run for help, and that he'd chosen to go to Minerva. Now Severus reached for his coin.
….Where is Harry?
"Alright, Severus?" Lupin asked as he ran towards the now contained scene.
"I am," Severus said angrily. He glanced at his students, noting the intermingling of his Slytherin third years and their rival Gryffindor peers as they watched with fearful expressions. "All of you, go have a seat while we sort this out. It's over, and you are all quite safe," he commanded, which might have actually reassured them had his tone not been so harsh. To Lupin, he asked, "What do you know?" Their coins reacted with Harry's responding message.
….I'm fine, but it's bad here ….Severus, are you alright?
….How is it bad? Severus messaged in alarm.
"Go," Lupin told him. "I've got the Head Boy covering my class. I'll stay with your students." He messaged Harry that Severus was fine and coming his way as Severus nodded his gratitude and took off in a run.
Lucius skidded to a stop again, stooping with hands on knees to catch his breath while he waited for Severus to reach him from the other end of the long Dungeon corridor. "He's uninjured," he told his best friend when he read the panic through Severus' mask of austerity. "But the Tso girl expired before I could save her."
Now Severus read his friend's attempt to cover his despair, as the blond wizard raised himself to stand with hands on hips. He'd never embraced Lucius before now, but the moment called for it. "The ugliness of his influence will linger for ages, Lucius," Severus said as he wrapped an arm around his blond friend's tense shoulders and hugged him hard. He released Lucius as he added, "We will not be able to prevent some of the horrors that lie ahead."
Lucius nodded tersely, only just managing to keep a grip on his emotions. "Your boy needs you."
The scene that Severus came onto was not much different from the one that Lucius had left. Harry was standing with an arm around Miss Granger, the two of them looking pale and depleted. Minerva stood beside a body that was enshrouded with white linen which had been charmed to withstand bloodstains. There were two wandless, mouthless Slytherin seventh year boys standing against the wall, appearing to be under a restraining spell, while Poppy passed a vial of calming drought to Cormack McClaggen in passing, as she hovered a stretcher holding Harry's third assailant en route to the hospital wing.
Severus ignored the wretched criminal students in favor of heading directly over to his ward, and quickly had a tight arm around Harry to hug him into his side. His other hand reached out to gently tip Miss Granger's face up so she met his eyes. "Are you alright?" he asked her.
Miss Granger gave him a shaky nod as Lucius said from behind her, "She did beautifully. You likely saved Sawyer's life, Miss Granger."
Harry pulled slightly away from Severus and turned pained eyes to Lucius. "She was gone, just as you got here," he said about Paloma in a strained voice. "It wasn't your fault."
Lucius found himself again battling to hold his composure as he took in Harry's haunted expression. "How did this happen?" he asked roughly.
Harry looked over at McClaggen, who was currently sliding down the wall in a collapse of belated shock at what his actions had yielded. "The three seventh years were attacking me. I was facing off with them, and McClaggen and Tso came up behind me. They tried to help, but McClaggen kept casting protegos. I told him not to, but… The spell fragments hit both that Slytherin and Paloma."
Hermione had her hands over her mouth, knowing exactly what Harry was thinking about McClaggen's stupidity. "This is why you went to such lengths, all last term, defying Umbridge, Harry. You knew this could happen. We knew this could happen," she said fiercely. "It's no one's fault."
"That's not entirely true, Miss Granger," Lucius said gravely, unable to disguise his guilt at his contributions to the societal discord over the years that had since grown into this nightmare.
Their attention was drawn to the arrival of at least a dozen Ministry aurors, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Tonks, and Dawlish among them. They were wearing royal blue robes now, to distinguish them as the new facet of Magical Law Enforcement (MLE). McGonagall had a brief discussion with Kingsley, who was clearly their Commander now.
"Forrester, Santiago, Walton and Wong, take charge of the lot that's down in the Dungeon corridor. Arrest them, and take them directly to the Ministry for questioning. Spelling and Fisker, you take those two, and Allen, you head up to the Infirmary." Kingsley directed. He turned back to McGonagall, "Where would be the best place for a debriefing?"
"My office," The Headmistress replied crisply as she conjured a scroll of parchment, quickly charmed it with a message to the other professors and waved her wand over it. It disappeared with a pop. Then she pressed her wand to her coin and sent a message that came through to them all, which told Ron and Draco to stay on alert and watch the front entrance for Ministry arrivals. They were to be directed to her office.