Forlorn Hope

Defenseless

8: Defenseless

"Hurry up; we'll be late for Defense!" Ron tugged on Harry's robe, pulling the latter into his wake.

"Ron, we have almost half an hour… can't you let me eat? Even Hermione isn't heading up yet!"

"Today's the practical lesson though…" Ron pouted, refusing to let go of his friend's robes.

"Fine, just don't rip my cloak… I swear, you are taking this way too enthusiastically."

"What, is Potty-wotty scared to duel?"

"Beat it Malfoy."

"Oh my, I'm soooooooo scared."

"At least I don't chicken out and tattle Malfoy!"

"At least I know when it's worth it to skip a confrontation and allow other idiots to do the dirty work."

"Yes, couldn't let the manicure get chipped, could we Malfoy?" The blonde glared, seemingly finding other business to attend to. "Stupid git."

"All right class, find your name on this list and go to the appropriate arena. There will be no swapping… and I do know what you are thinking. The rules, as I have previously stated, are as follows. No curses you personally do not know how to undo; no curses that physically harm the other individual; no curses that make the other individual hallucinate. And, of course, ABSOLUTELY NO UNFORGIVABLES. Now, hurry along. I will be monitoring all of you with the help of a few friends of mine. You will not see anyone besides your partner in the arena, but be assured; there is an adult in each one. The first to get the wand away from one's opponent wins twenty house points. Best of luck." While Ron ran up to the list as soon as Professor McWhirr set it down, Harry stayed at the back of the classroom. Memories of his last duel were bugging him again. He had had them since the professor told them of this little bit of fun he had planned. Though he knew this was only going to be a tease of sorts, nothing like the deadly game Voldemort played, the simple fact remained that Harry was really dreading going into that damned arena.

"POTTER!" His head snapped up at the sound of his name. To his total disgust, Malfoy's cold eyes already told him what both of them hoped wouldn't happen.

"What! You think I want to be paired with you?" He retorted icily, they both knew it was McWhirr's fault. "If my luck keeps going the way it has, Snape will be the one watching!" The blonde's eyes brightened suddenly- not a good sign. That was all that Harry needed right now, Snape watching Malfoy beat him to pulp.

"Scared, Potter?" Malfoy asked as he bowed ever-so-slightly, giving Harry the worst sense of ja vu.

"Just don't throw any snakes this time." He smirked, taking a sadistic pleasure in the sudden paleness of his rival. The rest of the motions were done mechanically, both boys knowing them long before their teacher drilled it into their heads. For a blissful second, the two boys seemed frozen in their fighting stance, each with a glint in their eye. Then the curses started. Draco started with a disarming spell, Harry's shield bouncing it off without much effort. As Harry dodged one of the unblockable curses with his Seeker reflexes he shouted 'PetrificusTotalis', cracking Malfoy's shield. Before the blonde could erect another, he threw a jelly legs curse, making Malfoy loose his balance and fall unceremoniously on his rump.

"Expelliarmus!" He shouted, "You'll pay for that Potter!"

"Think again, Malfoy, Expelliarmus!" Harry retorted, rolling away from the approaching curse. "Got you!"

"Think again, Potter! Not all of us are as ready to give up their wands. INERMUS!" The next thing Harry knew, the scarlet burst of light hit him square in the chest, knocking him into the wall. For a split second, Harry looked into Malfoy's suddenly terrified eyes as if in slow motion. The boy let his wand drop beside him, his hand trembling. Then the images blurred and all he felt was pain. Harry prayed someone would put the Cruciatus on him, compared to this, that one almost seemed pleasant. His very blood seemed to be on fire, burning every part of him; every vain, every cell was ablaze.

Remus ran out of the hidden alcove in the arena, pushing Malfoy aside. He knew this curse, and it did not do this. Nothing could do this. The walls that made the arenas disappeared, all the teachers rushing to the screaming boy.

"Get all the students out- Now! Fergal, Get Albus… Hurry!" McWhirr nodded, rushing past the horde of students that wanted to see what the commotion was about. The seconds seemed to stretch to infinity, each filled with Harry's unearthly cries. It sounded like someone was skinning him alive. The teachers quickly pushed the others out, leaving Lupin and Harry alone in the now gigantic room.

"What happened?"

"Albus… thank Merlin. I can't do anything… nothing works!" Remus answered in a panic, having to scream to be heard. It was true; he had tried 'Finiteincantatem' along with every other canceling charm and counter curse he knew. Nothing worked

"What incited this?" The Headmaster asked quickly, trying to find a way to end whatever occurred.

"Malfoy shot him with inermus curse. That curse doesn't cause this though!"

"The defense breaking spell? Definitely not… " The Headmaster's eyes twinkled suddenly, motioning to the younger man to step aside. "INERMUS!" He called, shooting the curse at the boy a second time. The screaming stopped. Everything stopped. Both men looked at the boy they knew so well, both unable to say anything at the sight before them.

"Albus…" Remus whispered, finally breaking what felt like an hour of dead, motionless silence.

"It seems the truth has found a way. Come, I do believe Fergal keeps some pain relievers in his office."

"What about…"

"Let him rest, it has been a traumatizing ordeal and we certainly cannot move him to the hospital wing in his present condition."

Severus cautiously opened the door. Only a few minutes ago, he had heard screams that could scare a banshee. By the time he got out of the dungeons, they had subsided, but the flock of Slytherins told him where it came from. The room was now empty, save one unconscious boy spread out in the center of the floor. Damned Potter, always… he let the thought drop, allowing instead the look of utter shock to overtake his usually controlled features. There, lying a few meters before him, was the object the many nightmares he had endured since the first. The resemblance was unmistakable. The boy had slightly shorter hair than the boy in his dre - nightmares. Nope, definitely the same boy. Walking closer, ever-so-slowly, he picked up the boy's left arm, checking quickly for the mark. Seeing no sign of it, he mentally shook himself. This boy is an Aspidis -- No marks you idiot! He threw the arm away from him as if it was poison, hearing it make contact with the hard, stone floor. He was just about to sweep out of the chamber when he heard the boy moan weakly, shifting his pose. Before he could make a move to retreat, the bright green eyes were upon him, a questioning quality in their depths. The look froze him. It was not the warning stare in his dream, nor the cold glare later nightmares contained.

"P-professor?" Relief swept over Severus. Perhaps the dreams were wrong. If they were wrong about one thing, they could be wrong about others. This boy wasn't and Asp, he wouldn't become Voldemort's heir, he wouldn't….be his. He pushed the idea out in an instant, his mask firmly in place again. Just because he wasn't his did not mean he wasn't Voldemort's. He was a danger and the Headmaster ought to… The door suddenly opened, Lupin practically flying out.

"Hey, you okay? You gave us quite a scare there!"

"Uh." The boy responded, holding his head as he tried to sit up.

"Easy there, you'd best stay still…" Lupin kept right on talking as if he had known him for years.

"Severus?" A light hand on his shoulder spun the man around, right into twinkling blue eyes.

"Oh, Albus… You have to get that boy out of here. He's dangerous. He…"

"You recognize him, Severus?" The older man asked, walking the Potions Master towards the office.

"In a way…" He responded, trying to figure out how to make his next statement sound less foolish. "He was in …in my nightmares." Yes, that didn't sound foolish at all, he mentally kicked himself.

"Nightmares, Severus?" The Headmaster asked, sounding positively intrigued.

"Forgive me for not telling you about them, Sir, I did not think much of them until…well…"

"Quite all right, child…" The older man calmed him, "I believe you and Remus have a few things to discuss. Would you meet him in your chambers in an hour, Severus? And do try to keep an open mind?" With that, the older man stepped back into the room, clearly not wanting Severus to return. Oh how he hated when Albus did that… he didn't even know what danger they were in! If they were in… the annoying little voice corrected, the dreams could be wrong.

"Oh shut up." He muttered to himself, pondering the state of his sanity. Conversing with voices in your head was not what he considered normal.

"How is he, dear boy?"

"As well as could be expected… extremely tired and sore. He went back to sleep again, I didn't think it would do any harm." Remus paused for a second, staring at the boy's new face. "What happened, Albus?"

"It seems that the spell young Malfoy used was amplified by the mask James placed on Harry. Think of it this way, the spell undoes all protective measures on the target. What James did made Harry's body one large disguise… one powerful protection. As far as I can tell, the first spell was too weak to accomplish this but was captured by the illusion, thus it kept trying. Instead of the short burst of pain one normally feels, this was the result. My spell simply finished the job, releasing the first and deleting the cause of pain…the protection… Harry."

"What will we do now, Albus? Can we get him back to the way he was?"

"Not using James' methods, no. That option unfortunately is closed to us. All we can do now is charm him with some temporary spells. Did you by chance find his glasses?"

"What? Oh, no… I don't see them anywhere. I didn't even notice with all that is going on, he seems to be able to see fine though." The elder wizard looked back to the boy, lightly stroking his beard.

"So, Harry's sight was part of the illusion. That makes sense, very clever of James. It will be hard to charm… vision is a finicky thing." The old man smiled kindly, a thin sparkle in his eye. "I warned Severus you would meet him in his chambers in… forty five minutes or so, I suggest you think about how you are going to break this to him." The younger man's jaw dropped.

"But… sir…"

"Unfortunately, none of us has a choice in the matter any more. You must tell Severus. He has seen Harry and from what he has told me, his grandmother already told him this boy was his." At the puzzled expression on the younger man's face, the Headmaster continued. "Abigail was a great seer, Remus, a true one if I ever met one. She told few of her gift, but she always did manage to use it to her loved ones' advantage. Severus has been having dreams concerning this young man, Remus, this is her work if I have ever seen it… However, he is under the impression that Harry is quite evil… I suggest you alter this perception."

"But…"

"Ah, I shall hold on to these, for now." Albus said, pocketing the glasses off the floor, "Now, if you'll excuse me, my boy, I must get started on these charms… can't have Poppy examining a Snapeish- Potter, now can we?"

"No sir." Remus replied dejectedly, knowing that Dumbledore had just curtly dismissed him. This was not a good day.

Just as he was about to pour another shot of whiskey, a shallow knock caught his attention. Has it been an hour?

"Enter."

"Severus…"

"Get to the point, Lupin, I really do not feel like playing fetch at the moment."

"Here." Remus thrust a piece of parchment into the Potions Master's hand, trying to overlook the comment. "Tell me what it is."

"What Lupin? Unable to read a simple recipe…" Remus' glare was his only answer. "Fine, it is a potion recipe, a memory booster or restoring potion if you must know, though I have not seen this particular one before. Why?"

"Can it give you false memories?"

"No, there are no hallucinogenic properties. It just restores what was taken out… another potion probably, maybe a spell."

"Can you make it?"

"Memory problems Lupin? Thought wolves were smart creatures…" Remus ground his teeth. It is never a good idea to talk to Severus while he is trying to get drunk.

"Not for me, Severus, it's for you."

"I don not need it, Lupin." The Potions Master answered, sitting back down to preserve his dignity.

"Yes, you do. I have to tell you something important and this will make my job a little easier." A brow rose, asking the werewolf for an explanation. "It's about the boy." Snape's face changed for a moment, his mask quickly falling back into place.

"Three hours."

"What?"

"The potion takes two hours to brew and five minutes to cool. I need a good half an hour to sober up. Come back in three hours and I shall have your potion." He stated calmly, as if addressing a first year.

"Will you drink it?"

"That I will decide once I am of a sober mind." Remus nodded, he would much rather deal with a snappy and sober Snape then a drunk and grouchy Snape… as little difference as it made.

"Three hours."

"Do I have an alternative?"

"We always have a choice, Severus." Remus countered, sitting back into the chair. Severus sighed, rewording the question.

"Is there a way for me not to take the potion and still find out about that… boy?" Remus nodded, "Well?"

"What's wrong with the potion?"

"Just answer the question, werewolf!"

"James left a journal. That's how we know."

"Potter? What in Merlin's name does that idiot have to do with any of this?"

"More than you think?" Remus answered, the statement sounding like a sheepish question under his glare. How does one tell someone his entire life could have been so much better if not for the selfishness of one individual?

"Meaning?"

"Can't you take the potion? The journal said he deleted some things that would make it much easier to accept all of this."

"Potter deleted! By Merlin… What in hell are you saying, Lupin?"

"He left the potion so you can get your memories back if you wanted. You said yourself the recipe could not give any false accounts…"

"Fine." He said, taking out the vial and drinking a dose, "Though I still fail to see how this has anything to do with that boy."

"I can't very well tell you he is your son if you don't even remember the relationship that…" He broke off, the Potions Master's eyes widening as he muttered the one word that told Remus that the potion had worked.

"…Lily."

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