The Sugar Quill
Author: Angua (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Harry Potter and the Fifth Year from Hell  Chapter: The Trouble with Snape
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Chapter 1: The Trouble with Snape

“B-blood of the enemy . . . forcibly taken . . . you will . . . resurrect your foe.”

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Ch. 32

* * *

Harry Potter looked at the battered clock on his bedside table. One AM. Harry groaned. He’d had trouble falling asleep every night in the three weeks since he had returned to his aunt’s and uncle’s house from his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As soon as he lay down and put out his light, the dreary cycle of thoughts would start up again: Cedric Diggory’s staring eyes in his dead face – dead only because he had been standing next to Harry; Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, his two best friends, and their families in danger – in danger because of Harry; and, worst of all, Lord Voldemort, the most evil dark wizard imaginable, alive and in his body again – also because of Harry. Since he was a baby, Harry Potter had been famous in the wizarding world for defeating Voldemort and banishing him from his body. Harry’s own mother and father had been killed at the same time – it was their sacrifice and love for him that had allowed Harry to accomplish this seemingly miraculous deed.

And now the deed was undone. Voldemort was back, stronger than ever. Harry, the so-called hero of the wizarding world, had not only failed to prevent it, but had been forced to give the blood that gave his archenemy a new body. His parents’ sacrifice was in vain. The acclaim and attention that had threatened to drive Harry crazy but also somehow warmed his heart was a bitter mockery. Everyone and everything that he most cared for were in danger, and Harry had no idea what to do about it. How could he sleep?

Harry had tried. He’d read his most boring textbooks and written his tedious History of Magic essay (four feet of parchment to “explain in detail the development of international cooperation and the formation of the International Confederation of Warlocks, with special emphasis on the influence of long-distance broom travel and the Luxembourg Giant Riot of 1502”). Remembering how a good long Quidditch practice at school always helped him go to sleep, he willingly accepting the tiring yard work set for him by his Aunt Petunia and then did sit-ups and push-ups quietly in his room until he was red in the face. Every night at bedtime, he stroked his owl Hedwig’s soft feathers as long as she would let him and leafed slowly through the photograph album with the pictures of his parents given to him by his friend Hagrid. But tonight nothing seemed to work.

Maybe if he read over his letters from Ron and Hermione again? His two best friends, obviously more worried about him than they’d ever been before, were taking turns writing to him this summer so that he got a letter from one or the other of them every day. Come to think of it, he hadn’t had his letter from Ron yet today. Maybe that was why he was jumpy and sleepless. Harry grinned as he looked at the last letter from Ron.

July 21
Dear Harry,
Yes, mate, you DO have to write back every day! Who cares if you haven’t got anything to say? Do you think I have anything to say either? It’s boring here, I have nothing to do, the twins are prats, Ginny’s a pest, Mum’s after me to clean my room, blah, blah, blah -
So - tell me what chores your charming aunt gives you and what new insults your delightful uncle comes up with. Whatever. I just want to know you’re all right, really.
Speaking of - tell Hermione to write to me and not just you, okay? She’s only sent ME 2 letters this summer. She only writes to seekers, I reckon. Did she say if she was writing to - Never mind, forget it - I don’t even care.
Right, I’ll write later when I’m not in such a whinging mood.
Ron

Harry had faithfully passed on the request to his other best friend Hermione. He looked at her reply. Hermione was writing from the Azores Islands, about 750 miles west of Portugal, where she had flown with her parents on holiday. They would join a Trans-Atlantic cruise ship to return to England.

Ponta Delgada, Azores Islands
July 22
Dear Harry,
How are things going? Is Dudley still out of the house a lot? Have you heard anything from Snuffles? I have written to Professor McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore about an idea I have that might get you out of that horrible place faster, but I don’t want to say anything more until it is all worked out. I promise you will like it if it does happen.
My Mum & Dad & I are having a fantastic time here. The islands are so beautiful and tropical you wouldn’t believe it, and the hotel my uncle bought is really nice – it is all little cabins built of dried lava spread around in a huge garden. But Harry, the funniest thing! I thought I would be getting away from the wizarding world for a little while, but as soon as we got off the boat, I just started laughing – this place is SO obviously magical. You should see it – all the houses are painted all sorts of bright colours, and the way they’re built on the steep streets up the mountain, well you can tell it’s just magic holding them up. I’ll bet half the people here are wizards and witches. I found a magic shop the first day, and bought lots of potions ingredients – they have some very rare ones that cost almost nothing.
I am enclosing a clipping from The Daily Prophet. They actually published a retraction of some of the things Rita Skeeter wrote last year. It’s not written by her – I suppose she doesn’t want to break our agreement. Really, I’m kind of surprised she is going along with it. What will she do for a living? I had to release her, though – I was afraid she might die or something if she didn’t get the proper nutrients for a beetle. Do you think I should tell Dumbledore the whole story? The main thing that worries me is what she might have heard about Snuffles. I wish I knew how long she was there before I caught her. You know, Harry, I will tell Dumbledore. I just think I’d better. I’m going to write to him right now!
What timing, Harry! Hedwig just flew in the window. How DOES she come so far? Do you think owls can Apparate? She doesn’t even seem all that tired. Tell Hedwig I’ll be on the ship back when you send your next letter. We leave tomorrow.
Oh Harry, I just read your letter. I cannot BELIEVE Ron. He’s complaining that I’ve only written him two letters? He’s only written me ONE! He wrote me a short note when he first got home, and all it said was that he’d written his first letter to you. Then I answered it and sent him another letter last week. And I’ve never heard back from him!!! And HE’S complaining???
Sorry, Harry, I know it’s not your fault if that great galloping idiot has utterly failed to grasp the basic principle of letter writing – which is BACK AND FORTH. Just tell him for me he’s a cretin, okay?
Love from,
Hermione

P.S. I’m so glad your scar hasn’t hurt this summer, but make sure and tell Dumbledore if it does!

P.P.S. Still nothing in the Prophet about any dark activity. Has Ron heard anything through his Dad?

Harry frowned. He’d written back to Hermione this morning with the bad news. Only last night, he’d awoken with a mild burning in his scar. It was nowhere near as bad as what he’d experienced in the past, but so far his scar only hurt when Voldemort was near, or especially angry, or cursing someone. Of course he’d owled Professor Dumbledore about it immediately. Really, Hermione treated him like he was three years old, sometimes.

Harry put away the two letters, still frowning. He always worried about “Snuffles” (who was really his godfather Sirius Black, a wanted fugitive, though he was innocent of his supposed crimes), but now the situation was worse than before. If the reporter Rita Skeeter had gotten to the Hogwarts Infirmary in time to see Sirius transform from a dog into a man, she could tell the whole wizarding world about his Animagus ability, almost ensuring that he would be caught. Of course, Voldemort must know all about it already, since Sirius’s former friend and Animagus rat Peter Pettigrew was now his right hand man. And now that Voldemort had come back – nearly a month ago – who knew what would happen?

But so far, apparently, nothing had. Voldemort and his Death Eater supporters did not seem to be making their move. Harry wondered if Voldemort was still trying to consolidate his support, or if he was trying to lull the wizarding world into accepting the assurances of Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, that it was impossible for the Dark Lord to have come back to life. The only witness to this horrible event, other than some Death Eaters, was Harry himself – an almost-fifteen year old boy whom Rita Skeeter had spent a year discrediting in a series of melodramatic and mostly fictional newspaper stories. The fact that Harry’s scar hadn’t been hurting was evidence that Voldemort had not done much. But something must have happened last night…

Harry jumped in surprise at a sudden barrage of taps on his bedroom window. Finally! – that must be Ron’s owl Pigwidgeon with today’s letter. But surely, Harry thought as he rushed to the window, even that hyperactive owl can’t make such an awful racket. Harry threw the window sash up, and had to stifle a yell as a handful of gravel spattered in his face.

Confused, Harry looked around. It was unusually dark outside; something seemed to have happened to all the streetlamps. A whispered “Harry, Harry!” drew his attention down to the dark street below his window. The figure of a man waved at him and Harry looked down into the laughing face of Sirius Black.

“Sirius! What are you doing here?” Harry hissed. He leaned so far out of the window he almost fell out. “Change back – you’ll be caught!”

“Get DOWN here, young man,” Sirius whispered, his hands on his hips, and then changed into a large black dog. He sat patiently, wagging his tail.

Harry quickly closed the window. He slipped on his shoes and looked down at his pyjamas with a shrug. His first impulse was to run downstairs and out the door as fast as he could, but Harry had learned to be cautious. He thought of Dumbledore telling him about the ancient magic that protected him at the Dursleys,’ his only blood relatives, house. His enemies would need to lure him out, if they wanted to destroy him, and what better way than with his godfather whom he trusted? Harry thought of the Death Eater Bartemius Crouch, impersonating his professor Mad-Eye Moody by means of Polyjuice Potion. He thought of the Imperius Curse, which could force Sirius to do things against his will.

On the other hand – Harry dug out his wand from its hiding place under a floorboard and ran quickly and lightly down the stairs – on the other hand, even using Polyjuice Potion, nobody except Sirius could turn into that black dog, and a simple Finite Incantatum should end the Imperius Curse. As a minor, Harry wasn’t allowed to do magic outside of Hogwarts grounds, but he was willing to break that rule if his life was at stake. Harry slipped out of the front door, leaving it locked. He didn’t have a key, but he could get back in with the magic unlocking penknife Sirius had given him for Christmas.

The black dog came to meet him, ears pricked, but halted in the road in front of the house. Harry stopped while he was still inside the Dursley’s garden wall.

“Change,” demanded Harry firmly, holding his wand up ready. Instantly, the black dog was a tall, dark-haired man. He raised his brows in question at Harry’s upraised wand.

“What’s going on, Harry? We’re in a hurry here.”

“Do a Finite Incantatum on yourself,” said Harry firmly. Instantly, comprehension appeared on Sirius’s face, and he turned his wand on himself. Then an expression of alarm covered his face.

“Good thinking, Harry,” said Sirius, “but I’d better not do it here in front of a Muggle house, unless you want to see the Improper Use of Magic people. I’ll do it at Arabella’s house.”

“Arabella’s?” Harry asked, puzzled. Sirius took off up the street and Harry followed him, running a little to keep up with his godfather’s long strides. “What’s going on?”

“I’m taking you to Arabella Figg’s house, to use her fireplace,” said Sirius. He had his wand out and was looking about warily as he paced the two short blocks to where Mrs. Figg lived. “We – Dumbledore and Remus and I – need your help.”

Before Harry could think what else to ask, they were in front of Mrs. Figg’s house. The door swung open as they approached, held by old Mrs. Figg herself. Harry could only gape at her as they passed, clues from the past coming together rapidly in his mind. Until this moment, he’d had no idea that his old babysitter Mrs. Figg was a witch, that she knew Sirius, or that she was the Arabella Figg mentioned by Professor Dumbledore as part of “the old crowd.” Harry’s feet must have lagged as he was making these connections, because Sirius grasped his arm and hurried him into Mrs. Figg’s parlour. He snatched a bowl of Floo Powder from the mantel and held it out to Harry.

“St. Mungo’s basement,” he instructed forcefully.

Harry threw a pinch of the powder into the roaring fireplace, stepped into the suddenly green flames, and obediently repeated, “St. Mungo’s basement.”

Harry had forgotten how much he hated travelling by Floo Powder, and he had forgotten to protect his glasses. As the roaring, tumbling sensation took him he suddenly remembered both. He stumbled out of the fireplace on the other end, nearly blind, with his glasses hanging from one ear. Instantly, firm hands grabbed his shoulders and replaced the glasses on his eyes. Blinking, Harry looked up into the calm, familiar face of Remus Lupin. Beside him, Sirius Black appeared suddenly with a ‘pop.’ Oh yeah, remembered Harry, Sirius can Apparate; he doesn’t have to use Floo Powder.

“Hi, Professor Lupin,” Harry stuttered. Lupin smiled at him, but said nothing as the two men each took one of Harry’s arms and hurried him out of the room he had arrived in (some kind of lounge) and down a hall. Harry’s pajamas had no wand pocket, so he kept his wand in his hand. As they clattered down a flight of stairs, the two men spoke in short bursts.

“How is he?” asked Sirius.

“Still alive,” said Lupin, “and conscious. The potion’s almost ready.”

Harry stumbled on the steps at a horrifying thought. Are they talking about Dumbledore? What’s wrong with him? Lupin and Black grasped his arms more firmly. At the bottom of the stairs, they whisked Harry down another hall and to a closed door. Lupin pulled out his wand and performed a charm on the lock, not Alohomora, but another charm that Harry did not know. The door opened, and they went in.

Harry saw an enormous rectangular room, with a stone floor and a low ceiling. It smelled indescribably vile – like his Potions professor’s dungeon classroom, but much worse. The room was filled with long tables of thick wood supporting an incredible variety of bubbling pipes, vessels, and cauldrons. The walls were lined with file cabinets, supply cupboards, and shelves. Most of the room was dark, but to one side was a bright light over a scene of brisk activity. The Hogwarts Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, looked up at them as they entered, his long white beard shining in the light. Harry gasped with relief. Beside Dumbledore were two women that Harry did not know. The younger one, a tall dark-haired witch with a severe, elegant face, was hovering over a small bubbling cauldron. The older one, shorter and stocky with greyish-brown hair, held a book up in front of the face of a black-robed man lying on one of the tables. Harry nearly stumbled again as he got close enough to see around the book. The man was Harry’s Potions professor, Severus Snape.

As they drew closer, Harry saw that Snape was very, very ill. His black hair, long and normally greasy, was so soaked with sweat that it was plastered to his head. His robes were also soaked, and they were pulled back to reveal his neck and part of his shoulders and chest. This skin, as well as the skin on Snape’s face, was a horrible greenish-white colour. There were dark circles under Snape’s eyes, his breathing was harsh and rasping, and his mouth was thin and drawn with pain. Only his eyes were as sharp and black as normal, and they focused on Harry with their usual expression of furious anger. Snape had always hated Harry.

“Harry, I’m so glad you were able to come,” said Dumbledore as he came forward, looking, for him, very serious. “We have a favour to ask of you. Sirius, Remus, were you able to explain it to him?”

“Haven’t had time,” gasped Sirius.

“Ah, well then,” said Dumbledore, “Harry, I’m afraid Professor Snape has suffered a misfortune. He was forced to drink a potion, a Myrmidon Potion, made using the blood of Lord Voldemort. This potion, you understand, is intended to enforce a follower’s faithfulness to a leader. If the person who takes the potion is disloyal, or even intends to be disloyal, to the person whose blood is in the potion, he will die, rather painfully, within twenty-four hours.”

Harry looked wildly from Dumbledore to Snape, who glared at him more ferociously than before.

“Umm, umm.” Should I say ‘I’m sorry to hear that’? No, that’s stupid. What, then? “Uhh… can I help?”

“We hope you can, Harry.” Dumbledore looked solemn. “Professor Snape knows of an antidote to the potion. We brought him here to the Potions Research Laboratory at St. Mungo’s so he could direct us in the making of the antidote. Unfortunately, the potion requires the blood of the person whose blood went into the original potion. That – we do not have.”

No, thought Harry, Voldemort’s blood wouldn’t be easy to get. “So –?”

“We are hoping,” continued Dumbledore, “that since you gave the blood that brought Voldemort back to life, your blood will be the same as his, or sufficiently similar to allow the potion to work. It is our only possible alternative. Voldemort has no living relatives.”

Harry felt his face pale. “And if it doesn’t work?”

“Then Professor Snape will be no worse off than before,” said Dumbledore, “and we will have to think of something else. Will you do it?”

“Uh, sure,” said Harry, and then more firmly, “yes.” Automatically, he pushed up the left sleeve of his pyjama top, baring the elbow where Pettigrew had taken his blood to revive Voldemort.

“That won’t be necessary, Potter.” Snape spoke for the first time since Harry had entered. His voice was hoarse, but as bitingly cold as ever. “Give me your finger.”

Slowly, Harry approached Snape where he lay on the table and held out his left hand. Snape grasped his index finger and held out his other hand demandingly. “Knife!”

The older witch picked up an ivory-handled knife and placed it in Snape’s hand. The young dark-haired witch carefully picked up the cauldron and moved it to the table at Snape’s elbow. Snape looked irritably around. “Flame!” Remus Lupin made a small Bluebell Flame in his hand and held it out to Snape. Without looking at Lupin, Snape held the knife blade in the flame for about thirty seconds and then withdrew it.

Harry gulped. He hoped the knife blade would cool before Snape used it. He felt foolish for being nervous. His left hand was turning pale as if the blood was rushing away in fear, but Snape had his index finger gripped so hard that its tip was still bright pink. I suppose he knows what he’s doing. Snape narrowed his eyes and pricked the finger with the knife. Instantly, blood began to well out. Snape held Harry’s finger over the cauldron, not squeezing it, but waiting for the drops to form and fall off. One… two… three… and Snape pulled the finger quickly away. He dropped Harry’s hand immediately and let his own hands fall, closing his eyes. He looked exhausted from the effort.

“All right,” mumbled Snape, “stir exactly nine times. I must drink directly from the cauldron as soon as it is stirred.” The dark-haired witch began stirring and counting. The other witch took the knife gently from Snape’s hand, wiped it with a wet cloth, and set in on a table.

Sirius Black reached for Harry’s hand and examined his finger. He pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to Harry (Harry, of course, had come without a pocket-handkerchief). Harry wiped off the remaining drop of blood and pinched the cut on his finger to stop the bleeding. Everyone was silent.

“Finished,” murmured the young witch. Immediately Dumbledore and the older witch moved to either side of Snape and lifted his head and shoulders. The younger witch held the cauldron carefully to Snape’s lips, and he drank, in one long continuous draught. Then he closed his eyes and his head drooped against Dumbledore’s arm. Dumbledore and the other witch looked at each other, and lowered Snape’s head gently to the table again. For a moment there was no movement. Everyone stared at Snape as though they expected something to happen, but he continued to lie there with a green face, the only movement his harsh breathing.

The younger witch broke the silence by pulling a pocket watch out of her robe. “One fifty-five,” she said, and walked over to note the time in a book on the worktable.

“It was about two-thirty last night when Professor Snape took the potion,” Dumbledore informed Harry. Everyone else seemed to know this already.

“Professor?” asked Harry, “how will we know if it worked?”

Dumbledore looked at Harry over his half-moon glasses. “Well, in about half an hour, we’ll know for sure. But I hope we shall see some improvement in his condition before then.”

“I haven’t had time to make introductions,” continued Dumbledore. “Ivy, Miss McGonagall, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, this is young Harry Potter.” The two witches nodded, both letting their eyes stray to the scar on his forehead.

“Harry, this is Miss Ariadne McGonagall,” said Dumbledore, indicating the younger witch, “whose laboratory we are in. She is the head of Potions Research here at the hospital. And yes, she is the niece of our Professor McGonagall. Harry looked at her closely and could see the resemblance. “And this,” Dumbledore nodded to the older witch, “is Ivy Hepplewhite, a doctor here. She is a very old friend and, uhh, ally of mine.”

“Very pleased to meet you,” said Harry, nodding to both ladies. He felt suddenly and excruciatingly embarrassed to be in his light blue pajamas. Why didn’t I wear my dressing gown? At least it would be something like a robe.

“Remus, Sirius, why don’t you and Harry sit down while we wait? I’m sure Harry would like a little more explanation.” Dumbledore pointed to some shabby chairs in a corner of the room. Sirius nodded, and touched Harry’s shoulder. Dumbledore returned to Snape, felt his forehead, and began sponging his face and chest with a water-soaked cloth.

Harry sank gratefully into one of the chairs. His legs were trembling, whether from tension or just late-night tiredness, he was not sure. Sirius and Professor Lupin sat side by side across from him. They looked even more exhausted than he was.

“What’s going on?” asked Harry. “How did you two get involved?” The last time Harry, Lupin, Black, and Snape had all been together was in the Shrieking Shack – they had definitely not been friends then. Though Harry knew that they were all working for Dumbledore now, it was hard to imagine Snape cooperating with Sirius and Lupin, whom he hated, if possible, even more than he hated Harry.

“This morning, Harry,” answered Lupin, “Sirius and I were in Professor Dumbledore’s home in Hogsmeade, reporting to him about – well, something we had been doing. Snape suddenly Apparated into the room and fell in a heap at our feet. It took a while to bring him to his senses, but when we did, he told us about the Myrmidon Potion. He said the antidote potion was the only possible cure. I ran over to Snape’s rooms at Hogwarts to get the book with the recipe, while Dumbledore contacted his friends here at St. Mungo’s and arranged to use the rare ingredients and equipment here, and Sirius did his best to take care of Severus.” Harry looked at Sirius, who shrugged and grimaced with distaste.

“Miss McGonagall has been working all evening on the potion, under Severus’s direction. She is an expert potions mistress, of course, but she is not very familiar with the, uhh, darker types. Doctor Hepplewhite gave Snape various poison antidotes and fever medications, but they didn’t seem to do much good. Meanwhile, Sirius, Dumbledore, and I tried desperately to think of a way to get some of Voldemort’s blood. Your godfather, there, had some very interesting ideas.” Lupin grinned at Sirius, and then resumed his serious expression. “But of course there really was no way. It was Dumbledore who had the idea of using your blood. Snape seemed to think it would work.” Reminded, they all looked toward the brightly lit table, but they could see no sign of any change. Lupin sighed. “So we sent Sirius to Arabella’s house to fetch you by Floo. It’s good to see you, Harry.” He smiled.

“It’s good to see you, too, Professor Lupin.” Harry smiled back.

“Please, Harry – Remus.”

“Oh, right, uh – Remus. But – what was Snape doing? Who gave him the potion? Did he go back and pretend to be a Death Eater again? How could he if…”

Sirius shook his head and said sternly, “Harry, we didn’t ask those questions, and you shouldn’t either. Dumbledore knows what Snape is up to. Besides him, the fewer who know, the better.”

Harry tried to be satisfied with this non-answer, but he wasn’t. He was burning to know exactly what Snape was up to, and he suspected both Sirius and Remus knew more than they were letting on. They both had that irritating ‘for your own good’ adult look on their faces. Right, they’ll use my blood, but they don’t trust me.

Harry wondered if his blood would even work. He hoped it would, of course. Professor Snape was a terrible excuse for a human being who constantly made Harry’s life miserable, but Harry didn’t want him to be killed like this. Plus, he was useful as a potions teacher, if you somehow managed to ignore his condescending manner and blatant unfairness. And Dumbledore seemed to need him. But, if this did work, that would mean that Harry’s blood was – the same as Voldemort’s. Harry didn’t particularly want to think about that. In his opinion, they had way too much in common already.

Harry’s mind wandered further. What ‘something’ had Sirius and Remus been working on? Were they in danger too? What was all this about meeting in Dumbledore’s home in Hogsmeade? Harry had always assumed that Professor Dumbledore – all the Hogwarts professors, really, but Dumbledore most of all – lived at the school. Did they all have homes in Hogsmeade? Where was Dumbledore’s?

Wait, if this works, will that mean I’ve saved Snape’s life like my father did? Great, now he’ll hate me twice as much as ever! Dumbledore had told Harry that Snape hated his father because James Potter had once saved Snape’s life. In fact, he had rescued him from Remus Lupin in his werewolf form. It had been Sirius Black who had let Snape find Lupin, which was a big reason why Snape hated them both. So he hates people who put his life in danger, and he hates people who save him? Maybe he just likes to hate people.

Harry considered his own feelings about Snape. He didn’t hate him, really, though he had often said that he did. He just disliked him very, very, very intensely. Though – Harry remembered Snape’s cold voice saying ‘I see no difference’ and ‘two more for Azkhaban tonight.’ All right, maybe he did hate him.

Come to think of it, Snape once saved my life too – when Quirrell was hexing my broom, and Snape did the counter-hex. Or anyway, I would have had a good chance of dying. But Harry didn’t hate Snape for that, though it was irritating to owe him anything or acknowledge that he had any good qualities. It felt much better not to think about it. The idea of being able to save Snape’s life tonight felt – good. I’ll bet the old stinkpot never says thank you. Then, I guess I never exactly thanked him for the broom thing. Well, I didn’t know about it until much later; I thought it was Hermione who rescued me. Harry shifted uncomfortably.

Just then, Dumbledore rose from his patient and walked over to the three of them. He was smiling. Harry, Sirius, and Remus leaped to their feet.

“Yes, Severus is showing a definite improvement,” Dumbledore beamed. “I think we can conclude he will still be with us ten minutes from now. Harry, we’re very grateful to you for coming to us at this time of night.” Dumbledore looked down at Harry’s attire with a straight face, but a twinkle in his eye. “I hope Sirius didn’t disturb the Dursleys when he woke you?”

“Uh, no, actually I was awake already,” Harry stammered. “I couldn’t sleep.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said the Headmaster, looking searchingly at Harry. “No bad dreams, I hope?”

“Oh, no… I mean, not that kind of bad dream, umm, no visions or anything.” Harry explained. “I was just… thinking.”

Dumbledore nodded respectfully and turned to Sirius Black. “Any trouble? Any sign of” – he glanced at Harry – “watchers?”

“No, Professor,” said Sirius. “I didn’t smell or see anything, and no one tried to interfere with us. Arabella was on the lookout, of course.”

“Excellent,” said Dumbledore, rubbing his hands together. “I certainly hope you have the same luck taking him back. Harry, thank you for your owl last night – most useful. Please continue to keep me informed.”

Harry nodded, but before he could open his mouth to demand more information, Dumbledore continued.

“I also got rather an interesting note from your classmate Miss Granger at breakfast this morning. What a very clever witch she is! We will have to have a talk with Miss Skeeter.”

Harry nodded again. Hermione was indeed a very clever witch. Then he frowned. “Don’t let Rita Skeeter use her Quick Quotes Quill, Professor.”

“Oh, I believe I can convince her to speak to me off the record.” Dumbledore winked. Harry grinned.

Dumbledore pulled out his gold watch and studied it. “Either we are having a lunar eclipse, or the time is almost up. Shall we go see if Severus survives?”

When they rejoined the two witches, Snape appeared to be asleep. His breathing was quieter and his face was deadly pale, but no longer green. Maybe he is dying after all, thought Harry. It was 2:28… 2:30… 2:33… 2:37… and Snape was still alive. At 2:40, the dark-haired witch took a deep breath.

“Well, gentlemen, Ivy, it appears we did it. Shall we wake him to congratulate him?” The other witch, Doctor Hepplewhite, answered. Her voice was husky, like a smoker’s voice in the Muggle world.

“Heavens no, Ariadne, let the poor boy sleep. And Albus, you’d better get this child home; he’s dropping on his feet.” She gestured to Harry.

“Yes indeed,” said Dumbledore. “Harry, you’ll be hearing from me in a few days.” He exchanged a knowing look with Lupin. “Sirius, take care.”

And what was that all about? thought Harry irritably. More grown-up secrets. Remus accompanied Harry and Sirius back to the fireplace in the lounge. Harry turned to shake hands with him.

“It was really great to see you again, uh, Remus. Good luck at whatever you’re doing.”

“Thanks, Harry, but I suspect I’ll be seeing you again soon. I’m looking forward to it.” Remus offered Harry the Floo Powder. “Arabella Figg’s house, Larkspur Drive.”

Harry parroted the words, remembering to hold his glasses this time. When he stumbled out of the fireplace in Mrs. Figg’s parlour, he felt too dull from sleepiness to follow the quick words exchanged between his godfather and Mrs. Figg. He gave a huge yawn, and so did Sirius.

“Come on, Harry, let’s get you home.” Sirius looked around cautiously and took out his wand as they exited the house. Harry held his wand up; it had been in his hand for hours. “I know you’re sleepy, and I haven’t slept since night before last.” The cool night breeze woke Harry up a little. He looked up at Sirius.

“What were you doing last night?”

“Something.” Sirius gave him a mocking look.

Suddenly, Sirius growled (exactly like a dog) and spun around with his wand high. Something small and fast was streaking at them through the air. Then Harry heard Sirius laugh, and he recognized the feathery missile. It was Pigwidgeon.

“Come here, you ruddy owl,” whispered Harry. As usual, Pig’s frantic attempts to deliver his message interfered with the actual delivery. Finally, Harry grabbed the tiny owl. “Sirius, this is your fault. You gave this maniac to Ron.”

Sirius gave a crack of laughter. “Doesn’t Ron like having an elf owl?” he asked. “I had one when I was in school. It was very unusual, and quite the babe-magnet.” He smirked at Harry. Harry sniggered.

“Actually, the younger girls do love Pig. But I don’t think Ron appreciates having them cluster around, squealing.” Having gotten the letter off with some difficulty, Harry released the frantic owl.

“He’s not using it right,” said Sirius calmly. “I’ll have to give him some pointers. Here, Harry, can you get in?”

“Thanks to you,” said Harry, fishing the unlocking device from the breast pocket of his pajamas.

“Oh yeah,” said Sirius enthusiastically. “It’s great at knotted shoelaces, too. Well, goodnight, Harry. I expect I’ll see you pretty soon, too.”

“Sirius, please, can’t you tell me what you’re doing for Dumbledore?” Harry pleaded. Sirius gave Harry a mock severe look.

“Of course not! I’ll tell you one thing, though – I’ve always fancied myself as a rat-catcher.”

Harry was grinning as he tumbled into bed and fell instantly asleep, the latest letter from Ron still clutched in his hand.

* * *

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