The Search for Life and Death

The Dementors

THE SEARCH FOR LIFE AND DEATH

XVII

The Dementors

Harry, Hermione, and Ron were walking together toward the Great Hall. They had been already this morning for breakfast, but had returned to the Gryffindor common room in order to prepare for their trip to Diagon Alley, while Remus and Sirius went to the Headmaster's office in order to leave for Headquarters.

Unable to hear their footsteps, Harry kept both of his friends in his peripheral vision as they walked. He wished he could speak to them as they strolled down the stone corridors, instead of his ears being bound by a silence that left him floundering in instances that were once so easy. Even with that, Harry was glad he was here, walking beside his two best friends.

Although, he had to admit, he wasn't too keen on the idea of going to Diagon Alley with the son and wife of his least favorite professor. Especially when he stepped into the Great Hall to find that Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy were there, as well.

Harry felt himself falter, though he didn't realize he had hesitated in step until Hermione's hand tightened on his arm and she urged him onward. Harry followed with reluctance, and the three of them stepped up to the group of four with wary eyes watching the Potions Master.

"Potter," Severus growled softly, though it was pointless for him to even shout. The boy would not hear him. He turned his attention to the closed-off expression on Weasley's face and the over-intelligent gaze of the know-it-all. "You can rest assured that I will not be placing myself in the horrid possession of needing to escort you in public." The professor sneered at both of them, before turned to his wife.

"Το βρίσκω αυτό το οικόπεδο να απουσιάζει στη νοημοσύνη."

Έτσι έχετε πει. Αντιτίθεμαι στην αναφορά σας σε αυτό ως ένα οικόπεδο, όμως." Elena gave him a reprimanding look that he only recognized from having known her for years. "Αυτό δεν είναι τέτοιο πράγμα, σας διαβεβαιώ."

"Έχετε παντρεμένη με Σλίθεριν. Είμαι πιεσμένοι για να πιστέψει τέτοια ψέματα."

"Έχω τους λόγους μου. Εσείς απλά θα πρέπει να με εμπιστεύονται."

"Είμαι ένα φίδι. Έχω εμπιστοσύνη σε κανέναν."

Elena merely smiled at him, as though she were smiling at a very stupid child, and leaning forward to kiss him gently on the lips. "Back to your dungeons, Φίδι μου. We shall be back in time for dinner."

Severus grunted. "Παρακολουθήστε Πότερ." He turned to his son and gave the boy a warning look that the eleven-year-old only grinned at. "Behave yourself, William." Without waiting for a response, he turned on his heel and, with a glare at Harry and his cloak swirling dramatically behind him, stormed gracefully from the hall.

Harry and Hermione watched Snape sweep from the hall, but Ron's eyes were on Malfoy. This wasn't the first time that the trio had encountered the pale blonde Slytherin. Malfoy had apparently been in the castle since before even Hermione and Ron had arrived, as he was staying with Snape, but they hadn't seen him at all since he had been absent from meals. They walked into the Great Hall for dinner one night to find an extra chair around the table and Draco Malfoy sitting in it.

The three of them had frozen on the spot, but Malfoy had neither looked at them nor spoken a word. He sat between Snape and Conan, and only when he was asked a question by the Potions Master would he nod or shake his head; the boy never spoke and never looked at anyone.

This had been a great change from what the three of them were used to. They had expected Malfoy to sneer and strut around insulting them the moment he was out of sight of any of the teachers who would do anything, but since seeing him at dinner, they had only run into him a few times at Hogwarts, and he never reacted any differently. The three were perplexed.

Of the three of them, Hermione was the most outspoken toward Malfoy, which was surprising considering that she was the one who usually had to bring Ron or Harry back from their fits of rage against the Slytherin. Hermione, however, could only think of all the times that Malfoy had insulted her friends or tried to get them into trouble or called her a Mudblood, and she refused to think that he had changed because he was acting differently. He was a Slytherin – a sneaky snake, just like Snape, who would attack them the moment that their backs were turned. She refused to be a target for him, and she wouldn't let her guard down. She didn't trust him in the least.

"Good morning," Elena said, smiling at the three of them.

Hermione and Ron greeted her back politely, while Harry nodded. The three of them kept straying their gazes toward Malfoy, uncertain.

Elena saw this and spoke up. "I know you were told that I need to take Conan to pick up his school supplies, but Draco will also need his supplies for this year, and unfortunately, his plans to go with Severus were cancelled. I was sure you wouldn't mind if he came along. You're classmates, after all."

None of them could forget that they were classmates, but that fact didn't make it any easier. Elena's tone was kind, but her words were also firm. It was quite clear that Malfoy would be coming to Diagon Alley with them, like it or not.

"We'll be traveling by Portkey," Elena explained, beginning to walk toward the doors that led outside. The five students followed after.

Conan was nearly skipping in excitement. "We have to go outside of the wards around the school for the Portkey to activate," he explained knowledgably. "Headmaster Dumbledore can make Portkeys that go in and out of Hogwarts, but he's not here right now, and he's the only one who can."

Harry had opened his journal to allow him to see what was being said, and as he read these words, his breath hitched and he dropped the book from his fingers. Hermione grabbed Harry's hand and squeezed tightly, while Ron picked up the journal and shut it, stuffing it in his own pocket before grabbing Harry's shoulder and squeezing.

Harry knew that Conan was wrong. He knew that Dumbledore wasn't the only one who could make a Portkey that allowed travel directly from Hogwarts. After all, he had been one of the travelers on such a Portkey – one of two travelers, who took the Tri-Wizard Tournament trophy in their hands and was whisked away to a graveyard, where the other trophy's traveler was murdered in front of his eyes. It was possible for someone other than Dumbledore to make a Portkey leaving Hogwarts. Of course there was.

If anyone spoke on the walk to Hogsmeade, Harry didn't know of it. He kept his head down, eyes shut, and concentrated on the pressure in his left hand and right shoulder. Hermione and Ron had refused to let go of him, and he was grateful for their support. They had known instantly that he needed them.

"All right, here we are." Elena pulled a thick tome from the bag at her side and opened it so she had a hand under one cover, and Conan came over and put his hand under the other, so they both held the book aloft. "One to each corner," she instructed, and didn't say anything as Hermione guided Harry's left hand to the bottom right corner. She gripped the bottom left corner and glared at Draco as he gripped the top left. Ron, standing between Conan and Harry, gripped the top right corner.

"We're all ready, then? Miss Granger, who wrote The Three Musketeers?"

Hermione looked at the Greek woman in confusion for the question, but obediently answered her. "Alexander Dumas." Despite having a hold of a Portkey, the jerk behind her navel was completely unexpected.

They landed in the center of a crowded street, Harry and Ron both hitting the ground on their backs. Hermione stumbled slightly but managed to keep her balance, while Malfoy, Elena, and Conan stood perfectly still.

"Very good, Miss Granger," Elena said, closing the book. Hermione caught a glimpse at the cover as she was slipping it into her bag. It was written in Greek, but she was able to recognize the image of four musketeers on the front of the tome.

"Are Portkeys different in Greece?" she couldn't help but ask? Ron was helping a shivering Harry to his feet, and Hermione grabbed his hand as he stood up. He sighed in relief and seemed to relax.

"We have Portkeys that can be made and activated just as in Britain, but there are also other ways of doing things. Often, these are the older ways that stretch back through tradition. The Portkey that I just used is often referred to as a TomeKey. It allows for only six people to travel at a time, due to the fact that one person must hold on to each corner, and then two can be split between the covers, as with Conan and I."

"Is there a benefit with using one over the other?"

Conan's giggle interrupted the answer his mother was about to give and she smiled at him. "Why don't you tell her, Conan?"

The younger boy grinned. "Have you read The Three Musketeers?" he asked.

Perplexed by a question that didn't seem to have any merit in the conversation, Hermione still needed. "Yes, of course, it's a classic."

"Have you read it in Greek?" Conan asked, and his grin got still wider.

"No, I can't read—" Hermione stopped speaking, her eyes widening suddenly. Harry looked at her in alarm. Hermione squeezed his hand reassuringly. "I can remember the words… in Greek." She looked up, wide eyes meeting Elena's amused ones. "I don't speak Greek. I've only just heard it spoken this year."

"TomeKeys let you read books really fast!" Conan declared excitedly.

Elena smiled at his enthusiasm. "It's an ancient version of Wizarding travel from which the Portkey spell was created. It was used when time was short but someone needed to learn a lot of material. It's unknown if it was created initially for purposes of court or theatre."

"Why would anyone want to create the Portkey spell from that? The TomeKey seems to be a perfect version."

Elena smiled. "While I would agree with you, the Portkey was created specifically for travel, when the learning of material was unnecessary. It might seem like a loss, but a Portkey is much faster. The TomeKey actually takes thirty minutes to send someone to their destination." Hermione's stunned look had the woman grinning. "It's eleven thirty in the morning."

"Can we use a different TomeKey to get back to Hogwarts?"

Ron groaned. "Like you need any help learning the material."

"Come on, Ron – you've just read an entire novel in another language!"

"Yes, and it's all Greek to me," he groused. He flicked his eyes to Hermione's. She was giving him a deeply considering look. "What?"

"Nothing," she said. "I thought you meant something different, but—nevermind." She turned back to Elena and couldn't resist bouncing on the balls of her feet. "Can we?"

Elena laughed. "I don't see why not, but you'll have to all agree on the book." She turned around to find Conan and saw him grinning. There was no doubt in her mind that he was excited at the possibility of "reading" a fifth year text while taking the TomeKey.

"Can I get my wand first, Mum?" Conan asked excitedly.

Elena turned back to the others. "I'm going to take Conan off to get his things. You four can go together to get your things, and we'll all meet at Madam Malkin's to fetch our robes at two o'clock. Does that sound all right to everyon?."

Harry was looking at Ron, who nodded, and he followed suit. Malfoy caught Elena looking in his direction and gave an almost imperceptible nod, but Hermione was biting her lip. "I was wondering if I might be able to come with you, Miss Morely?"

"Just Elena's fine, dear," she replied quietly, "and why would you want to come with me? I'll be going around to fetch Conan all his first year things."

"I have a lot of questions about the way the Wizarding World works in other countries, and as you're from Greece, I was wondering if you would mind if I asked you about how that was different from Britain? And maybe you could tell me how to make a TomeKey, because they're amazing and I would love to be able to make them myself, and are there any other types of travel magic that allow us to gather information at the same time?"

By the end of the long-winded explanation, Ron was snickering, and Elena was laughing outright. "Very well. I would be more than happy to explain to you about how the Wizarding World works in Greece. It's wonderful to meet people who are interested in that sort of thing. So long as you're okay with this, Conan."

The younger boy nodded enthusiastically. Of course he was okay with it! Here was a fifth year who loved to learn as much as he did, and maybe she wouldn't mind if Conan asked her some questions, too!

"All right, then I'll take Hermione and Conan with me. You three stay together, and we'll meet up at Madam Malkin's at two."

Elena left with Hermione already prattling off a series of questions, and Ron and Harry were left standing opposite Malfoy, looking at him suspiciously.

"Right," Ron said suddenly. "We're stuck together, so we might as well get this done quick. You don't give us trouble and we won't cause any for you, all right, Malfoy?"

The pale boy's grey eyes flicked upward briefly and he nodded the smallest of nods. Harry and Ron returned it. "All right, then. Let's go to Gringott's. Then we can get the bloody Potions shit done first."

Conan was holding the box containing his wand like it was a prized golden calf. Swishy willow with a unicorn tail core, it was longer than his forearm but felt perfect in his hand. It'd shot out green and blue sparkles when he waved it through the air, and he couldn't wait to tell his Dad. Slytherin in his colors! His father would be so proud!

"Conan?" The younger boy looked back at Hermione, smiling. She had managed to stop talking in Ollivander's, partly, Conan thought, because the wandmaker was so creepy. During their walk here, however, she had constantly been asking Elena questions, though his mum had allowed him to answer a few, as well. "Why did Snape call you William?"

Conan ignored the fact that Hermione had called his dad by his surname. "William's my middle name," he explained quietly. "Mum can use my given name, because everyone knows she's my mum, but Dad has to keep it secret, so when he's talking to his son, his son is William. If he addressed me as a student, he could call me Conan, but he won't. Dad doesn't use first names very often."

Hermione stored the last part of that away for thought later. "Is there some sort of spell on you?"

Conan frowned and then looked at Elena. "Of a sort," the woman explained quietly, running a hand over her son's hair. "My husband and I are not married." She smiled softly at Hermione's confused look. "I can call him my husband because we're bonded – it's an older style of marital status not recognized in Britain except by the older pureblood families, those known as the Ancient and Noble Houses. Because of this, we can be bonded without people recognizing that we are, while if we brought it to the attention of others, at least in other countries, it would be treated the same as a marriage, or in some cases, as even deeper than marriage.

"Had we gotten married, it would have been recorded, and this would have put Conan and I in more danger than my husband would allow with his job. Once his duties are completed and we are all free, he and I will be married, and we'll be able to live our lives without worrying about the repercussions that we can't avoid at this moment."

"My dad's very brave," Conan said solemnly.

Hermione looked down at him, surprised to find that the excited little boy had been replaced by an eleven year old young man who at least had a very good idea of what his father did.

"Yes, I suppose he is."

They walked in silence for a while, before Conan abruptly said, "My parents named me after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Have you read The Hound of the Baskervilles?"

Ron and Harry were stepping out of the Magical Menagerie when someone wrapped an arm around Ron's neck and began choking him.

He let out a yell, muffled by someone's arm squashed over his mouth, and felt a fist descend on his head, drilling into his skull. "Ickle Ronniekins, we never knew you had it in you!"

"Mum is so proud of her youngest son!"

"Prefect, what an honor!"

"Dumbledore sent a letter."

"Mum was in tears."

"We think you're off the hook for every bad thing you ever did."

"Wrestling a troll."

"Joining an army of giant chessmen."

"Stealing Dad's flying car."

"Sneaking into the Chamber of Secrets."

"Helping free a criminal."

"Helping free a werewolf."

"Becoming a damsel in distress in the Tournament."

"Geroff!" Ron roared, and snapped his teeth in a failed attempt to bite his brother's arm. He straightened when he was released, tugging his shirt down. "I was not a damsel in distress!"

"You're right, of course, dear brother – how rude of us."

"You were a damsel in the Black Lake!"

Ron lunged at them, but Fred, who had made the initial "damsel in distress" comment, drew his wand. "Now, now, dear brother, forgetting something?"

"Bugger," Ron muttered.

"That's right, Ronniekins – we can do magic—"

"Outside of Hogwarts—"

"Not that the rules ever stopped you before." Ginny came up to step between her twins, giving them both looks that demanded they admit it.

"You never let us finish, Gin!"

"Legally!" George said firmly, and then grinned. "Okay, we're done."

Ginny rolled her eyes and turned to Ron. "You better hide if you don't want to run into Mum. She didn't know you were coming to Diagon Alley today, but she does now."

"Did she see us?" Ron asked, looking around worriedly. He really didn't want to deal with his mother fawning all over him in public because he was now a Prefect. He wasn't quite sure how to deal with it himself.

"No," Fred said, grinning like a cat.

"We told her," George added, matching his twin's grin.

"We really hope she gets to see you before you go back to Hogwarts."

"We think you deserve all of the attention you can get."

"Arseholes," Ron growled at the both of them, though it didn't appear to faze either one.

"Our little brother's growing up."

"To be just like Percy!"

"Oi, don't even!"

"Shh!" Ginny hissed. "Where have you been so far?"

"Apothecary, Quidditch Through the Ages, Zonko's." He jerked a thumb at the store they just walked out of.

Ginny glanced behind him at the store and the pale young man waiting in the threshold. She turned back to Ron. "You should get your school things before you go wasting time."

"Yes, Mum," Ron said snidely.

Ginny just rolled her eyes at him. "Mum was coming to meet us at the Apothecary, then we're going to Flourish and Blott's. The twins can stall her a bit so you can get your books and get out of there before she comes in."

Ron looked at his little sister in surprise. "Thanks, Ginny."

"You'll owe me one," she replied, grinning.

"Hey, wait a minute," George said.

"What's all this about the twins stalling Mum?"

"Why aren't you going to be stalling Mum?"

"I'll be with Ron and Harry," Ginny said in a no-nonsense tone. "Tell Mum where I am, and have fun in the Apothecary." She grabbed Harry's hand and without waiting for the twins or Ron to come up with a word of complaint, pulled the raven-haired boy toward the large bookstore. Ron kept close to Harry and, behind him, Malfoy followed.

Once Ginny had gotten far enough away from the twins that she felt safe, she slowed down and let Ron move to walk beside her. "All right, I'm not blind. That bloody ferret is following us. What's his deal?"

Ron was impressed with his sister. Normally she kept a civil tongue in her mouth at home, but then, Mum would wash their mouths out if they didn't. Still, he hadn't expected her to swear, and he hadn't known her nickname for Malfoy.

Ron removed Harry's journal from his pocket and handed it to him. Gratefully, Harry opened it and read over some of what had been said with the twins, and kept moving his eyes to the page so that he could know what Ron and Ginny were talking about.

"He's living at Hogwarts with Snape," Ron said. "I don't know what happened with his parents, but I guess Snape's his guardian now. He doesn't talk to anyone anymore; just nods and shakes his head. He hardly looks at anyone. It's weird."

Ginny narrowed her eyes and looked back at the following boy. He wasn't close enough to be listening in without the aid of magic, and he didn't even look up at her. "Do you think the sneaky bastard is playing you?"

"I always think Snape's playing us," Ron said, causing Ginny to twist her head back to look at him with a grin. "And I think Malfoy's a sneak, too, but… there's something with the way he's acting that's more than just a game to try and put us off-guard. It's too well-done. It's like he's… I dunno…"

"Broken."

"Yeah." Ron frowned. "I don't know what happened, but did you see the scar on his face?"

"No, I didn't." She twisted around to try and see, but Ron elbowed her lightly.

"Don't."

"Why not?" she demanded.

"He keeps his head down, so you're not gonna be able to see it, most likely. We only know about it because we've been running into him at Hogwarts the last few weeks. Just leave him alone, Ginny."

"Are you honestly protecting the ferret?"

"I am not."

"Good, then." Ginny let go of Harry's hand and turned on her heel, storming back toward the blonde haired youth. He apparently caught sight of her coming, because he stopped abruptly and she walked right up to him.

"All right, ferret, out with it." Draco didn't say anything, but his shoulders rose a little, as though he were trying to protect himself. "You've never made it a secret that you hate my family, and this is the first time I've ever run into you without an insult coming out of your mouth, so don't stop now, ferret; I might miss the attention."

He still didn't say anything, so Ginny stomped her foot and was about to yell at him, when Ron hissed, "Malfoy."

Ginny turned around at the strange tone, and Draco raised his head slightly. What he saw made him twitch in terror, and freeze up.

Lucius Malfoy was walking with swift determination down the center of Diagon Alley, his robes billowing behind him and his long locks of platinum hair falling in perfect place on his shoulders. He was headed toward Flourish and Blotts, and only the fact that the four of them hadn't yet reached the store had kept them from being seen.

"Oh, look, ferret, there's your daddy now." Ginny turned to look at the boy, only to frown upon seeing his face. He was paler than usual, which was definitely saying something. "Malfoy?"

Ron and Harry turned to look at Draco, as well, but it was Ron who moved first. He stepped forward, nudging Ginny away, and grabbed the wide-eyed boy by the arm. "Come on, Malfoy. Move." He pulled on the boy's arm and the Slytherin followed without complaint, letting Ron drag him away from the store and into a small space between two shops. The four of them moved halfway back the alleyway, until they were far enough back that they were sure they wouldn't be seen in the darkness, before watching Lucius Malfoy continue down the street.

Ron could feel Draco quivering under his arm, but he didn't let go. Instead, he looked at the pale boy's face, and the blinded eye over which there was a long, evil-looking gash that would never heal. He spoke without thinking.

"Did your dad do that to you?"

Draco stiffened at the words, and looked down, ashamed. He didn't say anything to confirm or deny Ron's question, but that motion had been enough. Ron's grip tightened just slightly on the other boy's arm, and he spoke in a firm tone that was not to be argued with.

"Your dad's a bloody tosser."

Draco didn't say anything, but he couldn't disagree with the redhead.

"How long do you think he'll be in there?" Ginny asked. She wasn't quite sure what had just happened between her brother and the ferret, but Ron had yet to release the boy's arm, so she decided to postpone further antagonizing the other boy.

"I dunno," Ron muttered. "I really don't want to go in there if that git's gonna be there." It went without saying that Draco didn't want to encounter his father.

The scratching of a quill had Ron and Ginny looking over at Harry, and he held up his journal. The handwriting writing was sloppy, there not being anything for him to lay the book on, but the words were legible.

"I'll go and get them."

"I'll go, too, Harry. You shouldn't go in there alone if that arsehole's in there. Especially if you can't talk." Harry shrugged one shoulder. "I need to get my schoolbooks, anyway." She turned to her brother. "Do you have any money for your books?"

Harry saw Draco reach for his money pouch and scribbled a quick message.

"I'll get them. Pay me back."

That halted Ron's hand, too, but his ears burned. "Harry…"

"Really don't want to deal with Lucius Malfoy. Let me."

"Fine!" Ron snapped. "But I'm paying you back this time. No leprechaun gold." He muttered a few curse words, crossing his arms over his chest. He ignored Harry's grin before the boy tucked away his journal and turned to leave the alleyway.

Ginny followed him and grabbed his hand as they headed toward Flourish and Blotts. Since he couldn't hear where she was, Harry didn't think this was too bad of an idea, but his cheeks did warm just a little. He'd never held a girl's hand in public before, even if it was his best friend's little sister.

Ginny maneuvered through the crowd of people in the store with Harry right behind her, connected at their hands. She walked up to the clerk's desk and Ginny spoke with him quickly. Harry couldn't see what she was saying, but was pretty sure she was ordering all four book orders. He dug his hand into his pocket and pulled out his money pouch.

A sharp rap on his shoulder and Harry found himself being spun around and shoved back into the clerk's desk. He stared up into the face of Lucius Malfoy.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't the Boy-Who-Lived." He tugged on his cane and the silver head of it jerked sharply into Harry's shoulder. He smiled darkly. "I daresay I know someone who would be just thrilled to see you, Potter. Perhaps I should take you to meet them."

"Get off him!"

Lucius turned to see the smallest Weasley brat with her wand out and pointed at his face. His eyebrow rose and he grinned at her. "Really, now? Do you honestly think a little Mudblood-loving fourth year could do me any harm? Just try and I'll have that wand of yours snapped in half and see your family on the streets. Takes a lot to feed a family as fat as yours, doesn't it? How well do you think you'd do with your father out of a job?"

The sharp end of a stick stabbed him in the side, and Lucius turned back, surprised, to lay his eyes on Harry. The emerald eyes were narrowed into slits and the younger man gave him a look that clearly said, "I just dueled your Master and lived. Want to see how good I am?"

The idea of being beaten by a fifth year child was ludicrous, but there were other things that could handle Potter without him needing to waste his time. His Mark twinged, and he knew it was time to go.

"I'll see you out like your parents yet, Potter," Lucius hissed, and shoved the boy back into the counter as he turned and strolled from the store.

Harry rubbed his shoulder as he turned around. He narrowed his eyes when he saw the shopkeeper standing there with a pile of books in his hands, looking down at the floor and clearly ignoring what had been happening in front of him.

He took out his money bag and tried very hard not to slam it on the counter. By the man's slight flinch, he figured he must have failed.

The shopkeeper totaled up the cost of the books and Harry paid him, while Ginny had the man shrink the books so they could stuff them in their pockets. Harry was so annoyed at the shopkeeper and Malfoy that he was chilled, his body covered in goosebumps. He looked over to see if Ginny was ready, only to see her breath as she exhaled. He frowned, and then his eyes widened as the distant sound of a scream rippled through his mind.

Dementors!

Ron and Draco were watching the street when they saw Lucius Malfoy storm from Flourish and Blotts. The man looked angry, but he didn't spare any time looking around. Once he'd made it out into the street, his disapparated, and Ron felt Draco relax beside him.

That lasted only a moment before the cold set in.

Ron recognized the sensation from the train ride in third year. It was something he would never be able to forget. Beside him, Draco started shivering, and Ron wondered briefly if it was from the cold, or if memories would permeate his mind like they did Harry's.

Ron felt miserable. A wave of frozen depression settled over his mind. He tried to think about Harry's stag patronus, but the cold misery that settled over him washed it awat. He felt the ground beneath his knees, and a burning, pushing sensation in his throat, like he wanted to be sick. The cold and misery pounded against his back and he felt the ground slam hard against his chest as he collapsed. He didn't have the energy to be sick.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see dark blurs of ragged cloaks swimming through the air. How many dementors were in Diagon Alley, he couldn't be sure, but even through the haze of sorrow, the screams reached his ears. Even through a fog of emptiness, he heard a familiar voice cry out, "Harry!"

Ron lifted his head with difficulty, his eyes seeking out the girl he had heard screaming. Harry was lying on the ground just outside of Flourish and Blotts, with dementors swooping down at him, sucking at the air around him with lungs that squealed in relish. Ginny stood weakly in front of him, wand raised as though she had planned to cast a spell against the dementors, but now couldn't recall the spell. And the dementors swooped down at her, too, making her legs shake and her already pale face drain of color as they sucked at the air around her.

Ron grit his teeth together, as Ginny's knees hit the ground. As the next dementor swooped down at them, Ron surged to his feet on pure rage, roaring like a wild animal.

"Get away from my sister!"

Charging forward, leaping, Ron hit the dementor hard, scrabbling for a hold at whatever lay beneath the ragged cloak the creature wore.

There was a shrieking cry from the dementor, and then Ron screamed as his arms began to burn. The dementor tried to swoop away, twisting, and Ron fell from where he had been clutching the dementor, dragging the cloak with him. Ron hit the ground and curled into a ball, clutching his arms as tears rolled down his cheeks.

The dementor let out a foul hiss, like steam rolling off suddenly-soaked hot coals. There was a flash of rotting, grey leather and hazy white orbs, and then the spinning form of a black cloak, and the dementor that had been unmasked, however briefly, fled, leaving the scene to his brothers.

Elena was standing in the Apothecary watching Conan run around looking at everything and trying to name it before reading the label. Her son didn't like Potions, which was always a matter of some aggravation when it came to Severus, but the boy was determined to please his father. The fact that he had appropriately named nearly fifty ingredients so far had him pleased to burst, and Elena knew that Severus would be proud of him. He would be proud of Conan if the boy could name only five, though he would have bemoaned his horrible skills as a Potions Master while the young boy giggled profusely. The image made Elena smile.

That smile faded from her lips as the cold sensation fell over her, goosebumps rippling up her arms. She saw Hermione by the shopkeeper's desk spin around, gasping, her breath coming from her mouth in a visible cloud.

"Elena!" the girl cried.

But Elena already knew. She was not unfamiliar with the feeling the Dementors forced upon people, though she desperately wished she was. Moving forward, she grabbed Conan's arm and pulled him to her.

"Mum—"

"Hush, Conan," she whispered, pulling him with her toward Hermione. "Get behind the counter, both of you." Hermione grabbed Conan's hand and the two moved behind the clerk's counter, ducking down beneath it. It wouldn't keep the Dementors from knowing the two of them were there, but even a small shield could change the way things went.

Elena brandished her wand before her, calling out a spell Hermione had heard a number of times before, but had never been able to perform herself. "Expecto Patronum!"

Peeking over the top of the counter, Hermione saw the silver cloud issue from Elena's wand, forming into an animal that snapped long jaws toward the door.

The door burst open and a ragged-cloaked form rushed in, swooping toward Elena.

The crocodile moved faster than Hermione would have though such a large animal could. It nearly swam across the floor, legs moving swiftly, tail whipping back and forth, snapping teeth at the Dementor.

Screeching, the Dementor retreated from the Patronus and swooped out of the store, back into the alley. Hermione could hear screams over the dull wave of depression that settled down on her shoulders. She tried to think of something happy, but nothing came to mind. All she could think about were her friends, and a stag Patronus that wouldn't appear with its wizard unable to speak the incantation.

The air around him was cold, but Harry had sunk beneath the consciousness that allowed him to recognize this. He was somewhere else entirely. He was being held in someone's arms, safe and at home, surrounded by pale flesh and fiery red hair. The arms around him tightened, however, and he could feel the terror that came with the sensation as someone other than the woman that held him spoke quickly.

"Lily, he's here! Take Harry and go! I'll hold him off."

They were moving away from the other, and Harry felt himself bouncing lightly in the arms that held him tightly. The house around him was blurry and indistinct, immaterial to such a young mind. A door shut behind them and he was released from the arms that held him, placed in a crib. He wanted back in that embrace, back where he was safe, but the woman had turned away from him and was brandishing a wand at the door they had passed through, casting spells quickly with words spoken under her breath.

Whatever she had been doing, it failed. A moment later, the door exploded open to reveal a tall, imposing figure. Dark hair and eyes that seemed to glimmer crimson, Lord Voldemort's wand was twisted and warped.

"James," the woman whispered brokenly, but refused to run from the dark wizard standing before her. He glanced back down the hall lazily, as though looking for her husband, and then smiled at her.

"I've no use for you, Mudblood. Give me the child."

"No. Not Harry." The woman shook her head desperately back and forth. "Please, not Harry. Take me." She fought against the hands of the man as he tried to push her away. "Kill me instead."

"Stand aside, you silly girl. Stand aside now."

"Please, no, not Harry. No!"

Voldemort growled low in his throat and stepped back from the woman. She fell into place protectively in front of the crib, as Voldemort raised his wand.

"As you wish, Mudblood. Avada Kedavra!"

Green light erupted from the end of the wand and struck the woman. She let out a terrified scream and collapsed to the ground.

Harry stared down at the redheaded woman, but there were no tears in his eyes. He could feel the warmth of an embrace around him, and in it he was warm, and safe, and at home, and he wasn't afraid. He stared with deep green eyes at the man in front of him, as Lord Voldemort raised his wand.

"You'll not be around to stop me, Harry Potter. Avada Kedavra!"

The green light flashed sharply, blinding him, and Harry screamed, the memory of his cries as a child merging with his screams as a fifteen year old, lying on the street in Diagon Alley with a Dementor bent down over his body, the great void that was its mouth making gasping, sucking sounds as its face hovered over Harry's.

There was a flash of silver light, and the Dementor jerked back. A howl erupted from down the street and a wolf patronus raced through the air, leaping toward the Dementor with a vengeance.

With a screech, the Dementor turned and fled, chased by the glowing silver canine. Sirius slid down next to Harry, ignoring the fact that he was currently a convicted criminal and anyone who saw him in the alley could identify him. He wrapped an arm under Harry's shoulders and another under his knees, scooping him up into his arms. A series of pops around him alerted him to the arrival of others, and he spotted Dumbledore as the Headmaster moved toward him.

"Sirius," the Headmaster said, handing him a Lemon Drop. "It'll take you to Poppy. Hurry now; the activation's your other name."

Sirius nodded his thanks. "Padfoot." A jerk behind his navel and he and Harry were whisked away.

The world around him was spinning oddly when Harry felt some semblance of balance return. He was being held tightly against someone's chest, and he could feel them moving beneath him, their chest rising and falling quickly. He felt weary, bogged down in a chasm of despair so deep there was no light to be seen. The darkness and depression around him was a suffocating force, and he struggled to climb out of it as he struggled to draw breath.

"What happened?"

"Dementors attacked Diagon Alley." The chest beneath him rumbled as the person spoke. He knew that voice, didn't he?

"Put him over here. Has he responded yet?"

Harry felt himself lowered onto something soft. "No. We came in by Portkey. He hasn't had any chocolate yet."

"Help me here, Mr. Black."

An arm behind his back lifted him up and something smooth and hard was placed against his lips. Hot liquid filled his mouth and Harry gagged on it, but gentle fingers on his throat massaged his muscles until he swallowed convulsively. Warmth filled his stomach, spreading outward from his center and driving away the chill that had deadened his limbs.

The arm left his shoulders and he sank back into something soft, as something heavy covered him. There was a tingling sensation over his body.

"He'll be fine. The Dementors weakened him severely, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was in here for a few days, but he should recover fully from exposure to them. Rotten creatures."

A hand smoothed his hair back from his head as someone sighed. "I was worried. I remembered when they attacked a few years ago, but I… I never saw him like this."

Voices speaking over each other interrupted whatever the woman might have been about to say, and Harry could only hear bits and pieces of what was being said.

"Dementors in Dia—"

"… thought he was about to—"

"… lucky he wasn't Kissed—"

"… thinking of… separated like that—"

"… some chocolate—"

"You'll be all right, Harry." The hand was still smoothing out his hair, and his godfather's voice in his ear pulled Harry's attention away from the others who had been speaking. He felt himself calm as Sirius' voice began to fill his mind, letting him relax into the hospital bed. "We'll have to make sure you can wandlessly cast the Patronus before you go anywhere again, but Remus said you were incredible at it, so that shouldn't be a problem. I may find some way to get Dumbledore to let me stay here so I never have to leave your side, what with you being determined to scare me like that."

"Sirius? How is he?"

"Madam Pomfrey says he'll be fine, Headmaster. It might take a few days, though. I was just telling him I may never leave him alone, though."

"I'm afraid I can't allow you to remain, Sirius, and you know that. Molly and Arthur are coming in to see their children, so I think it would be wise for you to leave."

Sirius sighed. "You know, I think there's something to be said about one family being viewed as more important than another."

"I am sorry, Sirius."

"Yes. You've said that." Sirius didn't sound as though he believed a bit of it. "Of course, I suppose it matters less that I'm here, since my godson can't hear me, doesn't it?"

He couldn't hear Sirius? Oh, that's right… he couldn't hear…

The silence settled over Harry's ears again and, trapped in that void of nothingness, he felt himself floating away.

Authors's Note: Confused? Get used to it. I'm gonna blow your mind.

The discussion which Elena had with Severus in Greek, with the exception of the name by which she referred him in the one sentence spoken otherwise in English, is paragraphically thus:

"I find this plot to be lacking in intelligence."

"So you have said. I object to your referring to it as a plot, however." "This is no such thing, I assure you."

"You have been married to a Slytherin. I am hard-pressed to believe such lies."

"I have my reasons. You will simply have to trust me."

"I am a Snake. I trust no one."

"Watch Potter."

The other, far more likely, is that William is his middle name, and his family uses it sometimes. I know a number of people who go by their middle name. Though, that would beg the question - if they use his middle name in private, than why in that scene at home did they refer to him as Conan?

I hope the explaination I gave in this chapter answered your question sufficiently; you were, of course, spot on in this presumption. I rather liked reading all of your ideas on it. The split personality one was my favorite. :)

Thank you all for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free, or even obligated, to grace me with a review. As always,

Live long. Live well. Write. Read. Dream.

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