Chapter 25: Crush the Truth in the Course of Taking Hold
I inhaled deeply and quickly and
my eyes snapped open. I was staring at a very plain, white ceiling. My arms
were tied down on the bed and my muscles ached from being so still. I tried to
move my legs but I found that even if I had the strength to move them a centimetre,
they were strapped down too.
With a great effort I turned my head to the side. A slicing pain shot up my neck. Someone gasped.
‘He’s awake, Madam Kendle!’ A girl exclaimed with a familiar American accent.
Footsteps sounded from my left and then a cold hand cradled my cheek. I tipped my head to the side and saw the Hospital Wing Mistress’s lined face. She nodded to herself and hurried off to another bedside to check another patient.
‘How are you feeling?’ a boy’s voice asked from my right. I turned my head towards the voice. Infirmos had pulled up a chair by my bedside. His hair was messed up at the back and his eyes had dark rings around them. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days.
‘Oh brilliant!’ I exclaimed sarcastically. I tried to push myself into a sitting position but failed and groaned as I slid back onto my pillows. Even if I didn’t express it well, I was glad to see my friend alive.
‘Yeah, Infirmos!’ The girl with the accent shifted her position and moved into my field of vision. It was Regina and she was grinning confidently as if she’d found her lost puppy. Her side fringe fell into her eyes and she reached up with trembling fingers and brushed it away. She hid her distress with an extremely sarcastic comment. ‘He feels as good as new! Why don’t we crush your arms and legs into a pulp and see how you feel after being out for two and a half weeks!’ she beamed at him. I guessed she was glad to see me alive too.
Infirmos smiled weakly at her.
As Regina’s words settled in, my stomach dropped through the bed and onto the floor. ‘Two and a half weeks? I was out for two and a half weeks?’
‘Mm,’ Regina popped a piece of bubble gum into her mouth and chewed as she talked. ‘You’ve been in a coma. You kept thrashing around so they had to tie you down,’ she smiled.
I ignored her humour. ‘Where’s Avery?’ I asked them. I looked around as far as I could to see if he was there – he wasn’t.
Mulciber cleared his throat. ‘Er- He’s not here.’
‘Yeah, we got that. Thanks, Mulciber,’ Regina rolled her eyes, she, being the only American student at Hogwarts.
‘Where is he?’ I asked.
Regina cocked her hip and raised an eyebrow. ‘He didn’t want to be here when you woke up and you were scheduled to wake up today so… he left. He thinks it’s his fault you’re hurt and that all of these people died. He hasn’t slept since The Battle.’
‘How is that even possible?’ I asked.
‘I don’t know. I suppose he discovered caffeine,’ Mulciber smiled slightly.
‘Yes, I suppose so.’
Someone started to sob hysterically. Regina and Mulciber looked behind them and then looked at each other and then back at me.
‘Who’s crying?’ I asked.
Mulciber and Regina looked at each other again.
‘What aren’t you telling me?’ I asked, beginning to feel worried.
‘It’s Frank Longbottom. His dad was one of the people killed in the fight,’ Mulciber told me regretfully.
‘Oh.’ I felt sick with the information. I may have seen my friend’s father die before my eyes. ‘What was Long – Frank’s father doing at Hogwarts?’
‘Apparently the teachers sent for all kinds of reinforcements. Parents and past students.’ Mulcibber shrugged. ‘Frank’s been crying on and off. He insisted that his dad not be moved so he’s taking up a hospital bed. I guess Madam Kendle understands. There’s no cure for grief.’ Mulciber elaborated while Regina looked around the room.
‘There were so many people killed,’ Regina whispered. ‘They say 179 have been found amongst the wreckage but there are more that have been reported missing.’
‘Families are grieving. Dumbledore is going to hold a joint funeral for all of them out in the grounds. He wanted to wait until you woke up since you were there to see it all,’ Mulciber told me.
‘That was nice of him,’ I said dryly.
‘I think it is,’ Regina said.
Neither friend wanted to ask what it was like – seeing all of that. And I didn’t want to tell them.
Madam Kendle hurried over.
‘Bit stiff are we, dear?’ she asked in her unnerving gravelly voice. She helped me to sit up on my pillows and untied my limbs.
I nodded and found this was too painful. I managed a grimace as I shifted my position on the bed. Regina and Infirmos watched on.
She smiled at me sympathetically and started to fuss over me. She spoke rather quickly as if trying to get something over with. She opened my mouth and lifted up my arms and legs, inspected them and put them back down, her orange quill scratching away behind her. ‘Two and a half weeks is a long time to be out, I know. But it was a necessary precaution. Your muscles and your bones needed time to heal and… well… the worst of the injured have been moved to St Mungo’s now so you don’t have to deal with seeing them again. You needed to get over the shock, you see?’
‘Of course,’ I said.
Madam Kendle hustled away for a moment.
I brought my wrist up in front of my face and examined the angry red scars from the ropes. I winced at the sight of them and began to rub them tenderly while I surveyed the hospital wing.
Grown men and women lay with bandages and slings on their beds, chatting to their neighbours while they sipped a cup of tea.
As I watched, an older looking wizard with his arm in a sling pointed to a kettle on his bedside table with his good arm. It lifted up off the table and poured its contents into his cup. The cup flew from the saucer and into the old wizard’s hand, not spilling a drop.
Madam Kendle came bustling back. She was holding a white tube of cream. ‘Here, this will help with the burns. Apply five times a day please. Go on, do a layer now.’
I unscrewed the lid and squeezed some into my hand. ‘Who are these people?’
‘Reinforcements,’ Regina nodded meaningfully.
‘Oh… yes… of course,’ I rubbed the balm onto the red marks and it tingled and then stung. I winced a little.
Longbottom’s weeping stopped and a sniff followed.
‘You’ll be in for another night, dear, just until we get everything sorted out,’ she told me.
She started to hasten away again but I stopped her. ‘Madam Kendle?’
‘Yes, Hunny?’ She looked back over her shoulder.
‘What date is it?’ I asked her.
‘The school year is nearly over?’ I was shocked.
‘That’s right! But don’t you worry, Hun, classes have been cancelled anyway. There are rumours about a hearing… you know… about whether Hogwarts is safe enough to stay open.’
She hurried away to another bed and left me to ponder her sentence.
If Hogwarts closed… closed… closed… I would be nothing… nothing… nothing… I’d be stuck at home with my parents… parents... parents… and their fighting… fighting… fighting…
My head spun.
But you’d have Lily!
A voice in the back of my head pointed out. I smiled and it didn’t hurt anymore.
You could still play together, hang out together and be friends.
I smiled wider.
Where is Lily anyway?
I gasped. In all of my pain I had forgotten Lily and her memories.
‘Madam Kendle! Madam Kendle!’
She came over quickly with an impatient look on her face. ‘What is it?’
‘How is Lily? Is she going to be better?’ I asked urgently, feeling desperate for information.
‘Yes, yes! She is making great progress! Now if you’ll excuse me…’ She made to hurry off again but I stopped her once more.
‘When can I see her?’ I asked eagerly.
‘I don’t know! Now please excuse me, dear, I have a lot on my hands at the moment…’ The rest of her words were lost as she almost jogged away again.
I sat back onto my pillows and thought about Lily for a little while.
The hospital moved around me and patients were moved in and out for check-ups. Potions were taken and spells were cast. All the while, I was thinking about Lily and eventually, everything else disappeared. There was only her and her sweet little face, her glowing, green eyes and her fiery, flowing red hair in my mind.
Something almost physically pushed against that thought barrier. I almost physically pushed against it.
No I don’t want to think about anything else! I want to think about Lily!
Unfortunately, it was stronger and I remembered something.
I sat up in my bed and opened my eyes. The hospital wing was dark and silent. It must have been the middle of the night.
I gasped as everything came flooding back into my mind.
Pain… blood… Pyramid… code… Dumbledore… shield… emerald… obsidian… ruby… blood… fear… pearl… half… amethyst…
I clapped my hands to my temples to stop the stream of information and questions entering my head.
Why did Dumbledore let me hear the code? Why would he do that? Does he expect me to stop Voldemort? I’m just an eleven year old child!
No, no, no… think of Lily, think of Lily, think of Lily…
And everything was blocked out again.
I woke the next morning as familiar sunlight streamed onto my face. Shielding my eyes, I shifted so that I was sitting up against my pillows and realised, with a pleasant flip in my stomach, that I wasn’t sore anymore.
Pleasant breathing beat the air of the hospital wing in a slow rhythm that filled the room. I smiled to myself.
There is in fact peace in this horribly dark time.
Madam Kendle walked over to my bedside. She clapped a hand to my forehead, a hand on my chest, lifted up my arms and legs without even wishing me good morning and said, ‘You’re free to go. I think you’ll find your friends waiting for you outside in the corridor. They insisted they come in but I wouldn’t let them. I told them you needed sleep.’ She smiled at me. ‘Now stay out of trouble, Severus! You’ve spent enough time here to last you your 7 years.’
I swung my legs over the bedside and stood up on shaky legs. It felt good to be standing again. I gave a joyful shout and ran out of the Hospital Wing.
‘Snape!’ I spun around and saw Regina, Mulciber and Avery standing there. They raced up and hugged me each in turn.
In answer to my questioning look shot at Avery, Regina grinned, ‘We convinced him to come along.’
‘Common Room?’ I asked.
‘Let’s go!’ Mulciber agreed.
We turned to go and I put my arms around the shoulders of my friends as we walked. We hadn’t gone five steps before a voice came from behind us. ‘Mr Snape, Dumbledore would like to see you in his office.’ I turned and saw Professor McGonagall. She turned her stony stare on my friends and said pointedly, ‘Please come alone.’
I shot an apologetic look at the trio and started walking back past the hospital wing, following McGonagall.
‘I wonder what that’s about,’ I heard someone whisper behind me.
We arrived outside the office and the stone gargoyle jumped aside at McGongall’s call, ‘Mint Humbugs!’
And up the staircase I went, spiralling up and up and up until I came to Professor Dumbledore’s big wooden door with a brass knocker.
Dumbledore was already sitting at his desk waiting for me. As I walked closer, he eyed me over his pressed finger tips and half-moon spectacles that had slid half way down his nose. He looked tired and old – more so than I had ever seen him.
I sat in a hard backed chair directly opposite Dumbledore and sat waiting for him to speak. He surveyed me, x-rayed me with his piercing gaze. It felt like an eternity before he finally spoke.
‘I suppose you’re wondering why I summoned you here this morning.’
‘I thought it was important to know why I let you hear my private conversation with Voldemort. Are you interested?’
Finally, some answers! ‘Yes, sir,’ I smiled weakly.
‘I’ll get straight to the point then. I am the Ruler of the Pyramid of Flamel. Yes, that’s right. Flamel isn’t the Ruler of his own Pyramid. He knew that it would be problematic to be the ruler and that a dark wizard would someday threaten him and obtain the code. So, he passed on the responsibility to me, an old friend, in the hope that I would never be thought to be the Ruler.’ He spoke slowly and tiredly. ‘Voldemort got wind of this information, however, and he came to Hogwarts and threatened me instead.’
‘And he got the code,’ I clarified.
‘And he got the code,’ Dumbledore nodded.
‘How did Flamel relay the code to you then, Professor?’ I queried. ‘Shouldn’t he be dead? He’d be… what… thousands of years old?’
‘Ah yes! He should be! But he’s not.’
‘How,’ I felt like I was playing twenty questions like Lily and I did.
‘He made something that makes him immortal,’ he told me. ‘It’s called the Philosopher’s Stone. Capable of turning any metal into pure gold and making the drinker immortal, it harnesses great power, enough power, in fact, to override the curse of the Pyramid.’
‘But why did you let me hear what the code is?’ I asked, feeling completely confused.
‘You see, being the Ruler means having a spell cast over you. This spell disenables you from telling the code to anyone purposely unless under great threat… as I was.’ He lowered his hands and placed them flat on the desk as he spoke. ‘The charm has been disabled by the fact that you weren’t in sight when I told Voldemort the code. Now, you are free to tell whoever you want.’
‘What? Why would I want to do that?’
‘But exercise caution!’ His words sped up as they increased in intensity. ‘You must tell only those you trust the most and join me. Let us stop Voldemort from becoming The Ruler.’
My heart was beating louder and louder in my chest. ‘Professor, I’m eleven,’ I pointed out, feeling startled.
‘The younger the better! I know I am putting a lot of pressure on you, Severus. But no one would suspect an eleven year old child to have such powerful knowledge! And that’s just it. You’re not in danger.’
I struggled to take it all in. ‘So… you want me… to try and stop Voldemort?’ I didn’t believe it for a second.
‘Yes.’ Dumbledore’s gaze pierced me again as he surveyed me over the top of his glasses. ‘I realise that I am asking too much of you once again, Severus, but you are our only hope.’
His gaze was intense like it was inside of me, pushing to get out; like a balloon being pumped up inside a tightly enclosed box, keeping on swelling, doomed to explode.
But I nodded. And I agreed.