Barriers - Part IV
A/N: Had some fun with this chapter! Mayhem ahead!
Chapter 28 - EM-E - Barriers - Part IV
The sensation of time slowing and that more-than-was-possible was actually happening continued to occur, as they all registered the sudden silence, and cease of immediate peril.
"It's not over," Hermione warned them shakily, her eyes scanning the adults, taking in Mr. Malfoy's and Professor Snape's injuries with a worried expression. "Dumbledore is tied up with Nagini and hasn't been able to get her off the school grounds yet. McGonagall is patrolling the upper corridors with the other professors to keep watch over the students."
"With whom are you in communication, Miss Granger?" Severus asked as he shrugged off his ruined robe and had a look at the blood soaked slice in his shirt, where he'd received another slash on his torso that wrapped around towards his back. The group was distracted by the revelation of his injury. Harry stepped over closer to him and they frowned at each other in concern.
"I heard this from Draco, who has been with Tonks and Dawlish this whole time," Hermione continued while Harry summoned his map.
"Am I the only one to notice that Snape was flying? He was flying!" Ron muttered under his breath to no one in particular.
"You never got to eat," Severus pointed out to Harry.
"It wouldn't stay down if I tried to at this point," Harry said softly, looking up at his guardian as he opened up the large piece of parchment. "I'm okay. But you keep getting slashed."
Hermione watched Professor Lupin lean in to look over Harry's shoulder to scan it for visible intruders. "So far, no students have joined the attack," she told them, "but Madam Lestrange's husband and brother-in-law and several others were able to bypass the wards with Wormtail. Wormtail has disappeared. The aurors have been battling the Lestranges. I don't know where the others got off to."
"Oh Merlin, cover your eyes, Miss Granger, your potions professor's skin hasn't seen daylight in decades," Lucius said as Severus pulled his shirt tails loose of his waistband to attempt to get a better look at his injury.
Severus stopped and gave Lucius a look that shot daggers at his closest friend. He darted a look over at Harry and predictably found his ward struggling not to laugh at Lucius' humor.
"Are any of the rest of you hurt?" Remus was asking in afterthought as he looked each of his students over. He had reluctant amusement in his eyes. "Harry, what happened to you while Wormtail had you?"
"He put me into that spin as soon as I got to wherever he was keeping me. I couldn't see anything. Good thing I'd missed dinner," Harry replied distractedly, still watching Severus assess his own injuries. His guardian's upper arm had some sort of burn or scorch injury too. But instead of fear, Harry felt the hero worship return. His soon-to-be adoptive father was a total bad-arse.
"We both need Poppy, Severus," Lucius said in a serious tone, his brief show of good humor now spent. His audience all realized at this point that his face was pale and it was clear he was in significant pain.
"Why can't Dumbledore get the upper hand with Nagini?" Harry wondered aloud. He looked over at Ron and saw that his best friend was struggling to contain some form of outburst. Probably another bloody hell!
"The other intruders are on the grounds near Hagrid's hut, at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, but they are moving towards the castle. Umbridge, Thickeness. Dolohov." Remus told them as he finally spotted the newest threats to the school on the map.
"Bloody hell," Ron finally muttered.
"Good Lord," Lucius agreed. He caught Harry's eye. "She'll want revenge for that last round."
Let her come find me. Harry had the good sense to keep this thought to himself. Instead he said, "She'll have to deal with the dream team. Best of luck, Dolores." But he'd be ready for 'ol Dolores if she sought him out.
"We should summon Poppy here." Remus raised his wand to cast his patronus.
"Wait! I have an idea," Harry said. "Dobby!"
Dobby popped into the room and made his usual declarations of loyalty and desire to help. Harry asked if he could bring Madam Promfrey to them, much to everyone's surprise.
"Bloody brilliant idea, Harry!" Ron declared.
Lucius stretched his good arm over and clamped his hand on Harry's shoulder. "I honestly don't believe I've ever met a more resourceful young wizard than you, Harry," he said. "Not to mention the fact that you came to my aid, once again just now."
"You'd have done the same for me," Harry said, finally allowing his grin from Lucius' earlier teasing of Severus to surface. He watched as Severus motioned Neville over for a quiet word. He heard his guardian first praise Neville's skill and bravery before promising to deal with him severely if he ever put his own life at risk to such an extent again.
"I'll simply make my apologies to your grandmother afterward," Severus concluded with overt promise to deliver some sort of terrible consequence, but he'd put a hand on Neville's shoulder while he'd been speaking to him, and now gave it a squeeze.
Neville nodded and gulped loudly, all signs indicating that his newfound bravado had deserted him.
Dobby popped back into the room with Madam Pomfrey.
"What in the world is going on here?" she demanded. Her eyes spotted the deceased Death Eater lying in a heap in the corner. "Is that…?"
"Bellatrix Lestrange," they all murmured in unison.
"I hope no one else is hurt," Hermione said distractedly, her coin in her hand but her eyes elsewhere.
Harry watched her struggle not to openly stare at the two shirtless Slytherin wizards across the room, where Severus and Lucius had been ushered by the mediwitch. Harry wondered which one Hermione was most distracted by. Lucius had a powerful build. Severus was more slender. Harry himself had not really ever seen much of Severus' physique, other than the last time he'd been slashed on his stomach. His guardian was leanly muscled, had no visible body fat, and yes, was very pale. To Harry's mind, the fine dusting of dark hair on Severus' chest and abdomen was normal. But the way Hermione kept checking him out must mean it was attractive. He'd never yet seen that shade of pink on her cheeks before.
"This will hurt," Madam Pomfrey announced matter of factly, waving her wand and conjuring a screen to block the view of herself and her patients from the rest of the room. She was working on them simultaneously and between the two, Severus seemed to have come away from the battle with lighter injuries. A grunt of discomfort from Lucius, followed by a loud POP to correct his dislocated shoulder seemed to prove the point.
"Errgh," Ron muttered sympathetically. Neville grimaced. Harry felt his panic return.
"Draco said to tell you Tonks is fine," Hermione said hastily to Remus, who had a strange expression on his face as he received this information.
"We need to decide where you three will go now," Remus said, looking at all of them, including Harry, although Severus had the final say about Harry. "It's a fair bet you'd be useful in helping to block their progress into the school, but not on your own."
"Alright, Neville?" Ron asked as they walked along the second floor corridor, following Remus, who was in the lead with Hermione in tow, while Lucius brought up the rear behind Severus and Harry.
"I guess so," Neville replied. He had his wand out and the anger was back in his eyes as he listened to Harry tell Professor Snape about Wormtail's plans to avenge his Dark Lord, and resurrect him again, even if he had to obliterate Hogwarts in the process.
"He's completely mental," Harry finished. When Severus draped an arm around his shoulders, he asked, "Are you still in pain?"
"I am not," Severus said. He felt a rush of affection for Harry when the boy reached up to clamp a hand on his shoulder as they walked.
"Alright, Lucius?" Harry asked over his shoulder.
"I feel fantastic, thank you very much," Lucius said in a tone that suggested he'd resented the way Madam Pomfrey had made a spectacle of his injury in front of an audience.
They slowed their progress at the top of the second floor stairwell that would take them down to the school's entrance hall. They could see from Harry's map that Dumbledore was still on the grounds with Nagini.
"What do you suppose he's doing with the snake?" Ron asked what Harry was wondering.
"I imagine by this point, the Headmaster has done a thorough read on the serpent's magical strengths and weaknesses," Severus told Ron. "He'll no doubt have a very strong reason for keeping her alive at this point." He glanced over at Harry to be sure his ward had read his unspoken assumptions about Albus' information gathering. As in, why she had to die after the inanimate horcruxes.
"We're better off, as long as we can keep her away from Wormtail," Harry added.
Remus was checking the map again. "Our unwanted guests are hovering in the North Garden, just outside the doors," he told them. "There are four of them now. Dammit! Greyback-" he broke off and flashed a agitated look at Severus and Lucius before directing a stern warning to the fifth years: "Do not engage them in any way, other than in defense!"
Harry had been looking at the map as well and could see that Tonks was still with Draco and Dawlish, on the first floor near the Great Hall. I still don't have my coin, he realized suddenly. "Someone warn Tonks and Draco about them!"
Lucius had had his coin out and had been in constant correspondence with his son. "They're aware. I've set Draco to hang back behind Miss Tonks and John Dawlish in the opposite corridor."
Harry remembered the battle with Pius on the other timeline, and how they had taken similar positions then. Odd, that.
"Peter assures me the wards are useless against us now," Dolores Umbridge announced as she stepped over the threshold into the grand entrance, wand at the ready. "Watch for the traitors and the werewolf." She seemed to have caught herself a moment too late to stop the disgust in her tone when she'd said werewolf. She flashed a nervous look at Greyback.
Harry watched Remus narrow his eyes resentfully. She's toast, Harry thought gleefully.
Remus was at the top of the stairs, knowing that Greyback would be able to scent them all out within the next couple of seconds.
Severus had positioned himself along the upper landing, where he was keeping out of sight while he picked his moment to attack.
Lucius had circled around to approach from the one last corridor that was unguarded on the first floor.
"I smell mudblood," Greyback announced. He sniffed the air again. "I smell half blood, as well. Where are you, Severus?"
Dolohov laughed harshly. The heavyset blond Death Eater had a bone to pick with both Snape and Malfoy.
"Stay close, my love," Thickeness told Dolores. She let out a little hemm hemm-enhanced giggle.
Ron grimaced in disgust at the sound of Umbridge's girlish, lovestruck laugh. He, Hermione and Neville were about ten paces back from any possible sighting by the intruders. Harry was a bit closer to where Remus was poised to act. They were all on alert for Wormtail to reappear. In the meantime, the fifth years would push forward when Remus descended the stairs to guard them from the top downward.
A sudden ZIP! swept up the stairwell and collided with the wall, causing a loud SMACK! against the stone, and a spray of sharded rock spattered outward. Harry shielded them while Remus barked, "Here we go!" ducking beneath the flying debris to tear down the stairs and confront their attackers.
Lucius was charging into the center of the room at the same moment, and he and Remus fired blasting hexes right off the bat, forcing the invaders to defend themselves. Within a second, Fenrir Greyback was concentrating solely on Remus, while the other three turned on Lucius. Tonks appeared then, casting a hex that hit Thickeness upside the head and knocked him off balance. He was far less of a threat without his horcrux ring. And the missing ring finger on his wand hand might have been having an impact as well, because his responding curse went wild, and Tonks hit him again with a binding spell that left him wrapped with arms pinned to his sides by a dozen leather belts with large steel locks for buckles.
Severus chose that moment to leap over the bannister from the upstairs landing and soar into Dolohov, knocking the bulky blond wizard onto his side with a grunt. Severus landed and spun to slash his wand in a large X catching Dolores with the kicking curse he'd just used on Bella. Umbridge screeched as she went flying through the air, but cushioned her landing and fired off a hex that was full of crackling energy as it soared back toward Severus, who swept his wand through the air and deflected the curse towards Lucius, who was waiting to sweep it at Dolohov, who had been attempting to regain his feet. The blond wizard took the brunt of the deflected scorching hex on his scalp, his angry yelp testimony to the burning pain that felt like a fiery hand cupping around his head.
Harry had his heart in his throat again, eyes darting around to keep track of his three mentors. Severus and Lucius were working together and Tonks was adding her two bits. Something was going on in the hallway where Dawlish and Draco had been a moment before. Harry saw Hermione crouch down to open the map on the floor, and knew that she'd seen the same thing. In the meantime, Remus was one-on-one with Fenrir Greyback. The wan Marauder was holding his own, but Harry could see they were equally matched. Greyback was running on evil adrenaline, and Remus was fueled by raw vengeance. Not sure which is more powerful, Harry thought anxiously.
Just then, Greyback cast a pulse of magic that caught the corner of Remus' shield and got past it enough to clip the wan wizard and send him flying in a spiraling spin through the air.
"Remus!" both Harry and Tonks shouted fearfully, watching Remus cushion his blow off of the wall he'd nearly been fatally slammed into, in time to land on his feet and release a snarl of rage. He swept his arm across his body and shot off his own pulse of magic that was so powerful, it caused a rush of hot wind to rip through the air a split second after it slammed into Greyback's lower back with so much force, the hairy werewolf's body folded over on itself and he collapsed that way, bent over backwards over a snapped spine, vacant eyes staring up at the high, high ceiling of Hogwart's grand entrance. Then Remus spun to see what his teammates were dealing with, his stance indicating he was completely prepared to repeat his actions to put an end to the ruckus.
But Lucius had just then let out a snarl of his own, slashing his wand and snapping it upward, the resulting magic getting past Umbridge's shield and making her appear to be slide tackled, her feet swiping sideways and forcing her to fall heavily onto her wand arm. Lucius' expression was thunderous as he flicked his wand in a tiny zigzag and the toad-like witch's mouth was sewn shut with thick black string, not unlike a hastily crafted muggle scarecrow. That, at least, shut up her infernal giggling.
Severus was still engaging Dolohov, a bored look on his face as the oafish Death Eater continued to accuse Severus of betrayal, all the while using aggressive magic to send useless curse after useless curse at his adversary, until tiring himself out. Severus had simply resorted to his Pundulor omnes shield, which blocked and absorbed nearly every lethal spell other than the killing curse. He'd been working on it when he was still an active Death Eater and had tried it in dangerous skirmishes with good results. Today, it was the perfect response to this nonsense. But, he saw no reason to let things stagnate. He noticed Lupin had come to a standstill, looking ready to jump back into the melée at a moment's notice. "Are you ready, wolf?" he asked Remus, while Dolohov continued to fire off aggressive spells.
"Oh, hell yes," Remus said.
"Have at it," Severus said as he changed tactics and deflected Dolohov's Confringo to Remus who sent it right back to Dolohov while Severus hit the Death Eater's shield with a Deletrius. The result was Dolohov's shield being taken away in time for him to be scorched by Remus' deflection of his own curse. Dolohov's yell of agony was stifled by a strong Incarcerus that included a cloth gag, compliments of Tonks.
"Let's tie this up, gentlemen," Tonks said in a terse tone. "There's more to handle. The fifth years have headed off to intercede."