Oh, The Irony
Minerva had often wondered why such disastrous events inevitably seemed to occur when Potter was involved. Oh admittedly, this particular disaster hadn't been his fault, or even directly related to him. In fact, this time, he'd actually managed to prevent it from becoming a much bigger, more tragic event, amazingly.
These were the thoughts going through her head as both she and Harry entered the Headmaster's office. Her hand resting gently on his shoulder, she could feel him shaking faintly every now and then. The boy wore an almost permanent expression of shock, had done ever since the… incident downstairs. He was still clutching his broom with white knuckled fingers, having had no chance to put the item down. His robes were soaked and shoes tracking mud everywhere, but now was hardly the time to scold.
"We'll wait here a few moments, Potter," she told him quietly. "Professor Dumbledore will be up in no time. You can tell him what you know."
He nodded mutely, glancing around. She knew he'd already been in here more times than most students – last year, he'd even destroyed a large portion of the room – but he never failed to appear curious when entering the Headmaster's office.
She noticed his eyes stray toward and then fix on the small cupboard which housed Dumbledore's pensieve. She frowned at that, but said nothing.
Sure enough, they'd been there no more than a few minutes when Dumbledore swept inside, looking tense and weary, more so than usual. He glanced between them, before moving to sit himself behind his desk.
"Harry," he greeted softly, his voice sounding tired. There was no twinkle in his eyes, and he made no move to offer either of them a lemon sherbet, which in itself was normally a sign for alarm.
"Professor," the boy returned warily, suddenly seeming conscious of his messy appearance. He shifted uncomfortably. "Err, sorry…"
Dumbledore waved a hand briskly, shaking his head. "No matter, my boy, no matter. If you could just tell me what happened, Harry…"
The black haired teen nodded once, lowering his eyes. "I was out by the lake, Professor. I know it was past curfew, but…" He trailed off with a shrug. Neither adult was going to reprimand him, knowing exactly why the boy had started wondering off on his own these days. "Anyway, I… I wanted to go see Remus. Just to talk. To be honest, I'd totally forgotten it was that time of the month. But when I got there…"
"Go on, Potter," Minerva urged.
"When I got there, his rooms were in a mess. The door was open, so I went inside. I saw… I saw the Wolfsbane potion spilt everywhere, and the door was ripped to pieces. I guess… I knew what had happened. Well – not really. I don't know why he didn't take his potion, Professor! It's not like Remus! Even since –"
"Harry, Harry," Dumbledore interrupted him, his voice regaining its gentle tones for the moment. "We all know there must be some reasonable explanation for this accident. But if you could just tell me what you know."
"Sorry," he muttered. "Well, after I saw the room, I just started running. Professor McGonagall was the first person I found. I told her what had happened and she went to get you and Snape. But… when she'd gone, I heard them screaming. The… the Slytherins, I mean."
"So you went to help them?" Dumbledore inquired, looking at his student over the half-moon spectacles.
Harry gave a half shrug. "Well, yeah I guess. I couldn't just ignore it, y'know? I could hear them. So, when I got there, I saw Remus… He was about to attack Malfoy, who was just standing there like the big git he is–"
"Ahem!" Minerva coughed pointedly.
"Sorry," he muttered again, this time sounding much less apologetic. "Well anyway, I cast Petrificus Totalus. Remus kind of collapsed on top of Malfoy, who must have fainted or something. And… well, that was when you all arrived."
The three were silent for long minutes. Dumbledore stared at his desk over steepled fingers, a frown forming between his silvery brows. Harry stepped from foot to foot, apparently trying not to drip too much.
Finally, the Headmaster looked up again. "You did a good thing, Harry. Although I'm quite surprised your spell managed to affect an adult werewolf. As you know, most magic doesn't. You must have put some force behind it."
The teenager again shrugged, looking oddly embarrassed. "I was panicked, I guess," he said, as way of explanation. "Uhm, Professor? Is Malfoy… y'know, okay?"
At that, the frown deepened, and a troubled, sad expression passed over the old man's face. "He is not, I'm afraid. Very far from it, in fact."
Harry's shock was obvious, as was Minerva's. She took an abrupt step forward, her hands clenching at her sides. "But Albus, I thought Remus had hurt only Mrs Norris! He isn't going to die is he?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "No, no. But he may consider this alternative a worse fate."
The realisation of what the Headmaster was talking about hit the other two at the same time.
Minerva raised a hand to her mouth. "Oh, Remus will never forgive himself…"
"I'm sure Mr Malfoy won't feel too forgiving, either."
Minerva bit her lip. "But how? I thought Mr Potter arrived in time to prevent anything like this…"
Dumbledore shook his head. "Remus must have bitten him on the way down. Nothing anyone could have done, of course. Poppy's checking him over now, but I think we're all aware there's nothing she can do. She's keeping him unconscious until we're ready to explain the situation to him."
Harry frowned. "What's going to happen? To both of them. Is Remus going to be punished for this? Will he be allowed to stay at the school?"
Dumbledore gave him a serious look. "For the moment, that matter is undecided, Harry. No one besides ourselves know of the accident, and only Mr Malfoy was injured – well, apart from, of course, the tragic loss of Mr Filch's feline companion." He paused to look sombre for a moment before continuing. "I suppose it will come down to Mr Malfoy's decision of whether or not he wishes to keep this incident quiet."
Harry groaned. "No way will Malfoy be able to shut up about this! It's his chance to ruin Remus! And he's always been so melodramatic over the smallest little thing. Look what he nearly did to Buckbeak!"
For the briefest of moments, the twinkle returned to the Headmaster's eyes, before vanishing once again. "Ah, but Harry, you're forgetting Mr Malfoy's reputation."
"As what? A snobbish, ponsy git that–"
"As a pureblood, Harry."
Minerva sighed. "Really, Albus, where is this going?"
Slowly, Dumbledore sat back in his chair. "As almost everyone in this school is aware, Mr Malfoy prides himself on his pureblood heritage. Do you really think he'll want it to become public knowledge that he is now a werewolf? With the laws the way they are at the moment, he'll stand to lose a great deal. A good portion of his fortune, for one, and his heir status. His father is a merciless man. He won't be sympathetic with Draco…"
"Albus, what are you saying? Surely you're not suggesting a cover-up?"
Harry looked between them sharply, before stepping up to the Headmaster's desk. "Is that possible? Can you… can you help Remus with this? He won't get blamed for anything, if Malfoy doesn't blab?"
Dumbledore held up one long finger for quiet. He looked intently at the two of them. "For the moment, I am suggesting nothing. We are simply discussing this situation as it stands. In the end, everything will be determined by Mr Malfoy and Professor Lupin. We can do nothing to alter that fact. Understood?"
Reluctantly, Harry nodded.
The Headmaster sighed and gave him a weary smile. "Good. Now go to bed, my boy. Once again, you've had a tiring night."
Harry tiptoed into the Gryffindor dormitories that night, not wanting to wake someone he'd then have to give an explanation to. It was almost midnight by that point, and long past curfew. If nothing else, his friends would want to know where he'd been, and why he was currently trailing in a set of damp footprints.
Quietly, he stripped off the ruined robes and clothes he was wearing, exchanging them for warm, dry pyjamas that had never before felt so comfortable. Exhausted, he all but collapsed into the welcoming bed, discarding his glasses on the bedside table and awkwardly tugging the quilt over him, too tired to sit up and do it properly.
It was only then, as he lay for long minutes face-first in the pillow, craving sleep and blissful unawareness, that it slowly dawned on him that he was… well, restless.
How he even had the energy left to be restless was beyond him, but nevertheless, his thoughts refused to settle. They spun chaotically, anxiousness and anger stirring distantly in the pit of his stomach.
And at the forefront of his mind was Remus.
There was an explanation for why Remus hadn't taken his potion, he knew it. There just had to be! Harry knew that the werewolf wasn't at his best lately, but that didn't mean he'd ever do something like this on purpose…
Remus had been taking Sirius's death as badly as Harry himself. Maybe worse. As Harry had belatedly discovered late last year, the two had been lovers. More than that, really. Sirius had once told him that werewolves mated for life, and he'd said it with such a genuine, giddy pride that Harry had been given the briefest of glimpses of the relationship the two must share.
Now, he was seeing the aftermath.
Three months after Sirius's death, it seemed Remus still hadn't managed to pick up all the pieces of himself. Dumbledore hadn't been sure the werewolf was ready to return to school, but Remus had begged, saying that he needed a distraction.
Well, that had worked out well, Harry thought bitterly. Remus was probably in more trouble than ever, and finding out what he'd done to Malfoy would only devastate him all over again.
Although, if anyone in the world deserved what was coming to them, it was Malfoy. Really, when he thought about it, Harry suspected there was some ironic justice in the attack. After all the trouble the little snot had caused Remus by spouting his prejudiced ideas, maybe this was fate's way of payback.
He half smiled at that thought.
He wondered vaguely if it made him a horrible person to be thinking these things. Probably, but he didn't much care at that moment.
The big worry was finding a way to make Malfoy shut the hell up. He hoped Dumbledore was right, and that Malfoy's pride really would keep him quiet and help save Remus.
Because he'd be damned if he was going to lose the last person in the world that still linked him to Lily and James. With Sirius gone, Remus was all he had left.
And Malfoy would be sorry if he tried to change that.
Draco woke slowly the next morning, to be greeted by a throbbing pain in the back of his skull, the tell-tale disgusting taste of potions in his mouth and some faint stinging sensation in his arm. Oh, and he was being blinded by the sunlight filtering through the window directly above him.
Wincing, he rolled over, wanting to hide from the morning, but the movement only worsened the pain in his head and jostled his arm. Reluctantly, he opened his eyes and looked around.
Quick to recognise his surroundings, it confused him slightly to realise he was in the hospital wing.
Curious, he lifted his faintly painful arm to examine, finding it was wrapped snugly in bandages from wrist to elbow. There were light spots of blood seeping through the white linen. He felt oddly like he was reliving third year, when that blasted hippogriff had clawed the same arm open.
His concern beginning to grow, he reached back to gingerly touch the egg-shaped lump on the back of his head, grimacing as he did so.
It was then that Madam Pomfrey spotted him. Within seconds she'd bustled over, holding several vials of multicoloured potions. A clipboard and quill floated after her, scribbling seemingly of its own accord.
"Awake are we? Good, good. How are you feeling, dear? Any pain? Nausea? Temperature?" As she spoke, she pressed the back of her hand to his forehead briskly, pursing her lips as she tried to decide if he felt normal or not.
Draco stared at her wordlessly, taken aback by her direct manner. "No," he answered distractedly. "Well, my head hurts and– Wait, why am I here? What happened?"
And with that, he seemed to have stunned her for once. She blinked at him, completely halting in her ministrations. Even the quill stopped dead, laying flat on the floating clipboard behind her. "Y-you don't remember?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Well, since I just asked you what was going on, I would have thought that to be evident."
Even more surprisingly, his blatantly obnoxious tone of voice didn't rise her to anger, as it usually did. "I'll let Professor Dumbledore explain all that to you. He should be here soon," she told him quietly, her eyes downcast. Her mild tone worried him more than anything else.
"Am I dying or something?" he asked, voice maybe a bit higher than he'd intended.
She shook her head, an oddly sad smile on her face which she tried to pass off as amused. "No, dear," she answered. "I'll be down the corridor if you need anything. I'll hear you call."
Wide eyed, Draco watched her leave and wondered what in Merlin's name was going on.
Cluelessly, he stared at his bandaged arm and tried to remember. He could recall a relaxing evening spent in the common room, during which he'd boasted about everything from Quiddich to Professor Snape's new job. After that, they'd decided to visit the kitchens, which had entailed Blaise's faintly disturbing observations about Ginny Weasley, but after that… There was nothing.
How the hell had he ended up here?
As if summoned by his silent demand, the Headmaster himself entered the hospital wing, his eyes quickly settling on Draco and approaching at a swift pace. Behind him came Professor Snape, his dark robes flaring slightly with his quick stride.
They were intercepted by Madam Pomfrey, who whispered something urgently to the pair, both of whom scowled in response. Shaking his head gravely, Dumbledore sidestepped her with a soft, "Thank you, Poppy."
The Headmaster stepped up to the foot of the bed, lightly touching his fingertips together in front of himself. "Mr Malfoy, I'm told that you remember nothing of last night?"
Frowning, Draco shook his head.
"In that case, this will be rather more difficult than I'd hoped…" Sighing, Dumbledore seemed to cast around for his own words. "Mr Malfoy, last night you were… attacked. In actual fact you owe Harry Potter thanks. He may well have saved your life last night."
"What?" Draco practically yelped. "From what?"
At that, the two gathered around his bed were wordless, casting uncomfortable glances at each other.
"I asked you a question! What the hell did I need saving from? Especially by him!"
Again, there was a silence. Draco looked from one face to the other, annoyed and impatient and slightly afraid that no one was answering him. Severus looked pointedly anywhere but at him while Dumbledore, the infuriating old fool, was gazing at him with those sad eyes of his, but remaining as unhelpful as ever.
Finally, it was the Headmaster that deigned to explain.
"Due to circumstances we have yet to understand, Professor Remus Lupin didn't take his potion last night. You know what that means, Mr Malfoy."
It was an interesting sensation to feel one's own heart stop beating. That was what it seemed like to Draco, who stared back for what must have been forever. He couldn't look away.
"Draco…" That was Severus, trying to get his attention, but still he felt frozen. Dumbledore hadn't blinked since their eyes had locked, as if doing so would halt the odd flow of communication passing between them.
Draco touched his arm tentatively, not actually looking at it. "He b-bit me…?"
The old wizard nodded, once.
"No," the Slytherin said abruptly, shaking his head firmly. He shrugged, almost casually, except for the slight tremble that even he didn't seem to notice. "No, that's not possible."
The Headmaster looked concerned, clasping his hands tightly. "Mr Malfoy, what happened was disastrous, I know. But we must keep in mind that much more could have been lost."
Severus cast the old man a vicious glare, obviously not agreeing. "Albus, Draco's life will never be the same. What happened was more than 'disastrous'. Your pet werewolf should be exiled from this school immediately, if not executed –"
"That is enough, Severus," Dumbledore reprimanded, his voice remaining low and quiet.
Draco had listened to it all with a numb sensation growing in his chest. Again, he shook his head silently, denying what he was being told.
Dumbledore turned his pitying eyes on him again. "Mr Malfoy, I realise this is a delicate topic, but the fact remains that we must begin making preparations. There are another two nights of the full moon, and as… as a newly infected victim, these will be most difficult for you. We must begin soon. Now."
"Sir, please! This is ridiculous," he insisted, eyes wide. Everyone listening heard the trace of hysteria starting to build.
The Headmaster moved nearer, coming to stand beside him. He leaned closer to speak intently and seriously. "Mr Malfoy, denial isn't going to help in this situation. Later, there will be time for sensitivity and comforting, but now we must hurry! You will begin to feel the first effects of the illness soon, as this is your first full moon. You have to be ready to face it! Professor Snape has already made you a batch of Wolfsbane –"
Without warning, Draco clapped a hand over his mouth, rolled over, and was abruptly sick over the side of the bed. Dumbledore recoiled, his expression grave. "I hadn't thought it would begin so soon. I'd thought –"
He was cut off as the Potions Master swept past him, actually pushing him aside. "It has not begun, Albus, he's simply realised the full impact of what we're telling him."
In a gesture that earned a raised eyebrow from even Dumbledore, Severus Snape perched himself stiffly on the edge of the hospital bed and wrapped an arm around the trembling Slytherin teenager.
Draco cast him a wild eyed look, shaking his head frantically. "Professor, it's not true! I can't be! I'm a Malfoy! Not… not a… a…"
"Draco, you must listen to me. It most certainly is true, despite what we all wish. You have to accept this before we can do anything else. When these next two days are over with, we'll figure out a way to get through this, okay? But until then, you must work with us."
"No buts!" the short tempered Professor snapped, though he kept his arm securely around his godson. "Unless you want this… transformation to be excruciating, you will work with us, Draco." Severus slowly removed his touch, rising to a stand and turning his gaze on the Headmaster. "I'm going to retrieve the potions we'll need from my lab. The last should just about have finished simmering by now. If you would accompany me, Albus?"
The Headmaster nodded. "Of course, Severus. Poppy? I think a mild sedative is in order for Mr Malfoy."
The pair left as the nurse descended on the Slytherin.
"How dare you take that mutt's side over Draco's?" The Potions Master raged as soon as they were gone from earshot. "He – he should be punished! Confined! Certainly not allowed to go on staying here as if nothing like this had ever happened–!"
The Headmaster interrupted the tirade calmly. "Severus, I assure you I'm taking neither 'side' in this."
"How can you say that when Draco's life is ruined, but Lupin gets to keep his cushy little job and forego all consequences?"
Dumbledore frowned. "Mr Malfoy's life is not ruined, my boy. Not yet. And if you'd allow me to explain my motives to you, you'd know I'm trying to protect what's left of it."
The younger man scoffed. "And what's that?"
"His pride, for one. As much as I sometimes think to myself that your godson can be somewhat… arrogant, I do not believe he deserves to be humiliated over this latest turn of events. And what's more – I'm attempting to spare him Lucius's wrath. You know as well as I do that his father would disown and disgrace him in a second if he discovered what has happened."
Severus scowled as they rounded a corner, drawing closer to the dungeons. "Be that as it may, how are you planning to punish the werew– Lupin for this? I will not stand by and see him escape scot-free for a second time!"
The old man sighed sadly. "If we are to keep Mr Malfoy's secret, I cannot report the incident, as you well know. What would you have me do?"
"Fire him, at the very least! For Merlin's sake, Albus!"
Dumbledore shook his head. "I… I'm reluctant to remove Remus Lupin from this school at the moment –"
The Potions Master snarled angrily, actually coming to a stop. "Oh, I should have known! Nothing will ever touch that man as long as you're around, isn't that right? He can do no wrong, it seems!"
"Severus! That is ridiculous! If you must know, I'm reluctant for him to leave because I feel he will be of help to us. Draco will need a… a guide, if he's to get through this. Remus is the only person who can fully explain what's happening to him, and what's to be expected."
The younger man's face twisted with a look of hatred. "How convenient for him. That man is developing a track record of being able to worm his way out of these incidents! Not so long ago that I could have been in Draco's position, is it? Would you have done the same then? Appointed him as some kind of… of… what? Mentor? You know full well how Draco will react to that suggestion!"
"This is in Mr Malfoy's best interests –"
"The hell it is!" Snape cut across him viciously. "You've always protected your golden children, Albus. Even when it was at the expense of the darker ones."
And with that, he turned on his heel and swept his way towards his potions lab, leaving the Headmaster to stare after him silently, unable, really, to think of a defence.