Clashes of Power - Part V
Chapter 37 - Emancipated Minor - Clashes of Power - Part V
Severus closed his eyes, attempting to gather himself for the next segment in this drama. Harry was in bad shape, and currently leaning heavily into him, which meant the young wizard was weak from expending so much magic. Gregory Goyle lay in a sobbing heap on the ground thirty yards away, and Merlin only knew if the oversized teenager could be held accountable for his actions. Mabel Dawlish was holding Lucius' arm and the two of them were making their careful way over, because she clearly needed to say something to Harry. Lupin had just sent off a patronus, presumably to notify Poppy that her assistance would be needed, and had gathered all of their brooms. Severus finally looked over at Thora Breckin. Albus was kneeling beside her, Fawkes on his shoulder. The elderly wizard administered phoenix tears and healing charms to the charred flesh of the girl's forehead, pausing for a moment between actions, seemingly observing her in a way that indicated she still lived. Severus rubbed Harry's back while he waited to see if the girl would respond to Albus' ministrations.
Hagrid came lumbering into their midst, stopping to look down at Miss Breckin and registering the residue of dark magic on the scene. He looked around at each of them, saw Severus holding Harry and pressed his lips together, nodding grimly. Next he spotted Goyle. "I'll get tha' one up to the castle then, shall I?"
"Yes, thank you, Hagrid," Dumbledore said. "That will be most helpful. Please take him to Madam Pomfrey to be checked for dark curses, or the likes of the confundus charm, straight away. And Hagrid, he is to be kept in restraints until we determine whether he has committed a crime."
"I understan', Profess'r," Hagrid said.
As Hagrid walked toward Goyle, Albus waved his hand in a figure eight and the restraints on the bound teen released long enough so that he could be magically assisted to his feet. The bindings reapplied themselves only to his wrists, which were now in front of his body. Severus could see that Goyle was injured from his fall, so it was good that Hagrid simply scooped him up as if he were as light as a toddler and began to ascend the slope back up to the school.
"Harry?" Mabel asked softly.
Harry sat back on his heels, leaning his side into Severus' chest, head resting heavily on the older wizard's clavicle. He felt Severus cast a warming charm, which was well timed because the cold had seeped into his awareness and some of his shaking was actually shivering at this point.
"Harry?" Mabel repeated. "Are you okay? Did that awful snake hurt you? Did Thora?"
"Uhm, I guess they did," Harry admitted. "A little bit. But I'll be alright. You?"
"I'm okay," Mabel said, her dimples showing as she gave him a shy smile, "thanks to you."
"You mean, thanks to the dream team," Harry said weakly.
"Yes, you are the dream team, aren't you?" Mabel said, but she was still looking only at Harry.
"Ahh, yes," Lucius said in amusement, winking at Harry, "Let's get you up to the castle, lass. Your father will want to know you've been looked after."
"I'll take her, Lucius," Lupin suggested, joining them briefly. "I've let her father know to find her in the Infirmary."
"Bye, Harry," Mabel said softly, clearly still concerned about him as she walked with Lupin to the brooms, where she joined the DADA professor on his Firebolt.
"Well, there's the silver lining to this whole disaster," Lucius said. "You've got a new admirer, Harry."
Harry snorted. "She's twelve."
"Yes," Lucius agreed, stepping over to help Severus pull Harry to his feet. "And in ten years, she'll be twenty-two. And she'll still have those enchanting dimples."
Lucius flew the ailing Thora Breckin up to the castle on his son's broom, while Severus flew Harry, and Albus used Ron's Cleansweep for transport. They flew in a careful line, side by side, using warming charms to ward off the chill, all so that Thora would not be jostled in flight. No one questioned whether the girl was going to survive her injuries, nor was there any discussion of what damage she'd actually sustained from the efforts to remove the diadem from her crown. Harry couldn't help letting his mind replay what Severus had told him earlier. He needed to tell his guardian that he loved him, too, but he'd never said those words out loud, to anyone. Now would be appropriate, but he hesitated. Instead, Harry told Headmaster Dumbledore about how Ron and Draco had brought their brooms in the nick of time. He also reflected aloud that compared to the locket, he'd had an easier time resisting the diadem's pull on him, but that the pain in his scar seemed to be triggered most strongly by Nagini.
"Let us hope that this is a sign that Voldemort's collective power is weakening as we destroy them," Dumbledore replied.
When they landed just outside of the castle entrance, Ron and Draco were waiting anxiously. Dumbledore awarded them each fifty points for their quick thinking and show of school unity. Harry noticed that neither boy seemed overtly enthused with their rewards, and realized he had yet to hear about the damage done by Thora and Greg before he'd joined in the chase. The boys followed quietly, carrying the brooms while the adults continued to the Hospital Wing with Harry and Thora. Severus had simply scooped Harry up, not bothering to see if he could walk without assistance. At this point, Harry was beyond the instinctive indignant resistance to being coddled. Part of him realized that as long as he was being treated like an invalid, he didn't have to face the horrible truths that awaited them.
Madam Pomfrey was ready for them and making like she would give equal priority to Harry, until he finally interjected.
"I'm not hurt!" he said desperately. "I'm just wiped out. It's Thora that's in danger!" The tears were threatening to fall again so he squeezed his eyes shut while Severus set him down on a free bed. When Harry opened his eyes, he got a better look at Ron and Draco and realized they were both quite pale, and Draco had the tremble in his mouth that happened when he was worked up. Harry looked around the room, finally registering that many beds were filled and that there was a lot of bustling about. McGonagall was hovering over someone… Hermione! He pulled himself weakly up and back against the headboard, scanning the room to see who else was there. Daphne Greengrass, Neville, and Cormack McClaggen were all on beds that were partially obscured from view by haphazardly positioned privacy screens. And there were about six other beds with younger students, farther back in the interior.
Severus squeezed Harry's shoulder and told him he would return shortly, then moved away to look into the state of the injured Slytherins among the casualties. En route, he also dropped his hand on Ron's shoulder to give it a quick squeezed as he passed. Ron pressed his lips together as he battled whatever conflict the gesture had brought up before heading over to sit in the chair beside Harry's bed.
"It's really bad, Harry," Ron said shakily. "They are all badly injured. Hermione was bleeding fiercely. I nearly lost my lunch." He stopped for a minute while they both looked over at Hermione, still under the careful watch of their Head of House. "Neville's probably in the best shape. Madam Pomfrey was in a panic about McClaggen. I don't know if he'll survive… it's bad." Harry was shocked to hear Ron's voice break.
"What did you see, Ron?" Harry asked anxiously.
"I missed all of it, actually. Still not sure why exactly, but I got into a debate with Malfoy about skill of flying versus the quality of the broom, and I'm sure you can imagine where we each stood on the matter," Ron said. "We'd made a plan to meet up and have a race. It's a real stroke of luck that we were both heading out with our brooms when we saw Goyle and that girl tearing things apart. After we gave the brooms over to you and Malfoy Sr., we ran back to see what had happened. There was screaming and yelling, people were frantic, calling for help. People who'd been coming out into the corridor from the Library had been attacked the worst. Hermione and Daphne must have been there, and got caught off guard, I suppose. Neville was up on the fourth floor and a piece of shattered stone clocked him in the head. I don't know how the others got hit. People got scalded and burned," Ron said. He shuddered. "And sliced. Hermione got sliced."
Now the two of them looked over at Thora's bed. Lucius still stood beside her. He had his arm around Draco, his head ducked low while he spoke to his son. Harry was glad to see that. Draco had really stepped up and shown his better side lately. Harry looked at Hermione again, and the shock of it all must have finally broken through his numbed senses, because a lump so large he could barely swallow formed in his throat as he registered what his best friend had experienced. He struggled to keep his emotions in check. More adults were appearing among them, many were Order members.
"My parents are here," Ron declared. He stayed with Harry, though. "What do you reckon will happen now?"
"I'm wondering the same thing," Harry said. "I'm sure there will be an uproar about how unsafe things are at Hogwarts."
"But it's not like there's anywhere to get real help, is there?" Ron said. "We've got no Minister of Magic, and they haven't replaced him yet because he deserves a 'fair trial,' to make sure we didn't imagine him coming in here with his wand blazing."
"Merlin forbid a crooked politician not get his day in court," Harry spat bitterly. "But someone like Sirius gets sent off to Azkaban without a trial!"
Ron looked at him. "I saw how it got to you, the Prophet article."
"Yeah," Harry said. "I went to Remus and he was pretty messed up too. But we didn't have much time to think about it because all of this mayhem hit right after."
"But you've got Snape," Ron said. "He's got a handle on things, mate. He's going to keep you safe."
The Hospital Wing had grown more and more crowded, and Harry now knew that those present were parents and Order members. Aurors Tonks, Shaklebolt, Dawlish, and Jones, along with Mad-Eye Moody had come as Order members, and so were not there on behalf of the Ministry. Harry didn't really know what to make of that at this point. Mind wandering, he spotted Mabel off in a corner, sitting on her father's lap, leaning into him much the same way Harry had recently sat with Severus. She was quiet and in her own little world at the moment. It was strange to see another young person experience something like that and not feel envy. Actually, it was nice. He saw Severus over with Goyle, who'd been sobbing non-stop since the fight had ended. He couldn't read what was happening, whether Goyle was crying because he was in trouble, or whether he was realizing what he'd done while under an enchantment. Harry remembered how Lucius had described his experience with the diary. And Ginny had certainly undergone a personality shift while she'd been under its control. Thora probably suffered the same way, he thought, remembering how Mabel had said she'd changed since last term.
Remus came over to Harry after a time. He conjured a chair and sat on the opposite side of where Ron still sat, and gave Harry a searching look. "It's been one hell of a day, hasn't it?" he asked.
Harry nodded. So much had happened since they'd read about Sirius that morning. "I don't want to let all of this outweigh what's happened over Sirius."
Remus reached out and squeezed Harry's hand for a moment. "There's not much to be done about it, Harry. We're in the thick of a rather significant upheaval."
Professors McGonagall and Flitwick were conjuring narrow tables that were promptly being laden with trays of sandwiches and flasks of pumpkin juice. Ron excused himself to go get a plate for them to share.
"What have you found out?" Harry asked Remus when he knew he wouldn't be overheard.
"Albus is trying to contain all of this, without revealing what we know to have happened today," Remus said. "As you can imagine, it's not exactly reassuring to parents to hear that we think we can be certain that there are no more cursed objects within the castle. And thats without addressing the problem of Nagini."
"Will the school be forced to close down?" Harry asked in alarm.
"This group that has assembled are right now debating the merits of such a plan."
"I think there should be a hunt for Nagini. She's tried to get to me, and when that failed, she stayed around until the diadem was found. Now that that's failed, she'll probably go after the next horcrux, and stay nearby to link up with whoever has it," Harry said.
"Hold onto those thoughts for the moment, Harry," Remus advised quietly, nodding his head toward Ron, who was heading back their way with a tall pile of sandwiches. "You will need to share this with the Headmaster and Severus."
"Right," Harry sighed. He was exhausted and would really have loved to have gone back to his bedroom and collapsed, but there was no way he was leaving until he heard for certain that Thora was going to be alright. And Hermione.
Severus had his back to the room, struggling with his emotions. There had still been no definitive prognosis for Thora Breckin, and he was beside himself with anxiety. If the girl succumbed to her injuries, or if these injuries were irreparable, then he would be at an absolute loss as to how to get the horcrux out of Harry's scar. He could not lose that boy. And he owed it to Harry to get that bloody piece of dark soul out of his head. I owe him. Thinking of how The Boy Who Lived had handled himself earlier only intensified Severus' determination. But the helplessness that surged through him as he waited in this state of limbo was overwhelming. His surly side had already kicked in while he'd waited with Goyle for Poppy to have a chance to assess him for having been imperio'd or cunfunded, and until then, there was no way to know what awaited Gregory Goyle for his actions. The tension had gotten the better of Severus and he'd snapped at the weeping Goyle, telling him to pull himself together without sympathy, and walking away from his distraught student only moments ago. Lupin had seemed to be about to approach him at that point, but had obviously read his mood and diverted over to Harry instead. Lucius was also acting particularly oddly, and Severus supposed the way Miss Breckin had been manipulated by the horcrux was reminding him of his own experience with the diary.
Severus breathed deeply, exhaled slowly, and made his way over to Minerva to see how Miss Granger was doing. The sight of Minerva dabbing at moisture in her eyes caused him a significant degree of alarm. "Minerva?" He looked down at Harry's best friend and the girl looked like death.
"She's going to survive, and will be fine, but… oh, Severus," Minerva said sadly. Then she shook herself mentally, and by the time Severus had reached her side, had her Scotch-bred dander back up. "Honestly, how much more of that bastard lingers among us?"
Severus was too heavy-hearted to smile, but she had a way of surprising him at times. "There are likely a few more cursed objects awaiting an unwilling participant to do his bidding," he said, realizing she had not asked the real question, but that she was no fool.
"And the snake reappeared?" she asked in a low tone.
"She did," Severus acknowledged. "I'm suspecting that she will stay away after this, however."
"Finally got kicked hard enough to get through to her, did she?"
"Something like that, yes," Severus said grimly.
"How's Harry?" she asked, craning her head around Severus to get a glimpse of his charge.
"I think 'numb' is the best descriptor for his state of mind, just now," Severus told her.
"How did he do out there, with all of you masters of the duel?" she asked, a smile of pride pulling at the corners of her mouth.
Severus shared that pride. "Beautifully."