The Sugar Quill
Author: Silverthreads  Story: Of Dreams, Delusions, and Demons  Chapter: Chapter 1: Straight Jacket
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<center><b>Of Dreams, Delusions, and Demons </b></center>
Standard Disclaimers apply: Not mine, not making any money off this.

Straight Jacket

"He's quiet now, of course," the orderly explained as the two visitors peered through the tiny window into the closet-sized padded cell.

As if aware he was being observed, the man inside lifted his head causing his curtain of black hair to fall away and reveal his features.

The woman gasped softly. "It's him." She peered through the thick glass at the man seated on the floor -- there was, after all, no furniture within -- whose eyes were black voids empty of any sentience. "I'll want a list of everything you've given him," she said coolly without turning away.

"You've his name, then?" The doctor countered He stood back hesitantly.

"And, of course, all his records." The woman did not deign to reply to his question.

The man with her, a younger man but prematurely greying, sighed wearily and stepped back from the window. "Yes, of course. But it's very hush-hush, old man. Government secrecy and all."

Perhaps the doctor wasn't buying it, or perhaps he merely didn't find such reasoning to be all that convincing or reassuring. "Quite," he snorted, and gestured to the orderly. "Well, I suppose there's nothing for it. He's yours, then. His file will be at the front desk." With that the psychiatrist snorted once more and strode off in a huff.

The orderly shrugged and swiped a card through the electronic lock. There was an audible click. The patient jerked and cringed, pulling his outstretched legs up to hug to his chest. As the orderly made to enter, a light touch on his arm held him back. The grey-haired woman shook her head. "No, I'll fetch him. I rather think he's... a bit afraid of you."

The orderly had the good grace to look abashed. "Well, he were a tad violent at times and I'm the one had to subdue him."

The woman only nodded as she swept inside. It was but three steps to reach the dark haired man's corner and then she knelt and slid a pair of soft slippers onto his feet. "Come, dear, it's time to go." She held the empty gaze that had finally moved to her. Clearly he didn't understand. She started to rise and gently tugged at his sleeve. A confused look passed over his face but he did push himself, albeit unsteadily, to his feet. The lady's companion came up to his other side and caught his other arm. Between them, they kept him upright and guided him as he slowly shuffled toward the door.

It was a long trek back to the front desk with the orderly anxiously explaining to them the lack of funding that a government-run hospital had to endure, especially a psychiatric hospital. But they did their best what with the cutbacks. Couldn't afford to keep up with housekeeping any more, but at least they got the meds...

The orderly left them as they neared the public area and the receptionist's desk. On the floor beside the desk was a plastic bag and in her hand a thin beige folder. "I suppose you'll want to check his things before you sign him out," she said in a voice that clearly communicated a vague annoyance.

"Yes, actually, I would." The man smiled at her, his natural brilliance coaxing a smile back from her. She merely nodded as he pawed through the bag. It didn't take long,though, and he signed the papers while the woman manuvered a coat over the thin cotton pajamas the patient wore. The receptionist watched them slowly make their way outside. Her phone rang then, and she lost all interest in the departing trio.

Remus Lupin guided his companions to the quiet ally. With a quick glance about to be certain they were alone, he brought out his wand. A moment later the three disappeared from the Muggle neighborhood.

------------------------

Twelve Grimmauld Place was foreboding even on the best of days, and today was a good day. The sun was shining, the sky was clear and clean, the temperature comfortable. But the denizens of the decrepit residence were far from happy. Even though the Order had retrieved their missing member, the state they had found him in, both mental and physical, was less than reassuring. He really should have been in a Wizarding hospital. But St. Mungo's was not safe, and even less so was Hogwarts. Not with all those Ministry types wandering the grounds this summer.

Remus Lupin sat at the kitchen table. He was not really listening to Mad-Eye Moody's vituperous harangue regarding the folly of going after the missing spy without taking a single trained Auror. "You took Poppy Pomfrey, of all people! Lupin! Are you listening to me?"

"No, not really," the morose werewolf admitted softly, but a mischevious smile threatened his otherwise somber expression. "Besides, you would have left him there."

"Eh, maybe so. Out of trouble anyway." The old Auror felt no remorse for his distrust -- and worse, loathing -- of the Order's spy. Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater was his motto. One of many, actually. But he was not going to change and Remus Lupin had no intention of arguing with him. At least not today.

The door to the outside creaked open and a gaggle of play-worn teens dragged themselves in, carrying brooms and still arguing cheerfully about their flight. It was near teatime and all three, with windswept hair and red faces, looked ready for it . They halted in apparent shock: Molly Weasley was not in the kitchen and there was nothing baking nor even a kettle steaming.

Ron, the youngest of the Weasley boys, looked suddenly worried. "Where's Mum?"

Remus shook his head. "She's fine. She's upstairs with Madam Pomfrey and our ... erm... guest."

Harry Potter spoke up first. "Guest?"

"We finally located Professor Snape, Harry," Lupin replied quietly.

"He's here?!" Ron was flabbergasted.

"Don't worry, lads, he's in no shape to give you any trouble." Moody practically chortled even under Lupin's glare.

The inside kitchen door opened and two women bustled in. Poppy Pomfrey wore a severe expression that was otherwise devoid of expression. But those who knew her understood that things were grave indeed.

The matron of the Weasley clan was not so adept at covering her emotions; her normally cheerful countenance was even more grim.

"Mum?" One of the Weasley twins, George, glanced at his mum uncertainly.

"Oh, dears, we'll have our tea in a bit." Molly tried to fall back into her usual role, scurrying about the kitchen as she hurriedly put tea together. But the tremor in her voice belied her false calm.

Tea was unusually quiet. Madam Pomfrey had returned to Hogwarts. Even though school was not yet in session she still had work that needed doing. Moody remained, his secret obsession with Mrs Weasley's home cooking still undiscovered, though it would not have surprised anyone. But his callous cheer did not uplift anyone.

"Well, Mum," George started once the tea was poured and sandwiches passed.

"Are you going to tell us what's going on?" Fred finished as he snagged a biscuit from the central plate.

"No reason not to, Molly," Remus added. "Some students, Muggle-born obviously, saw a piece on their... television about psychiatric hospitals run by the Muggle government." He made a gesture of disgust then dropped that part of the story, "The important thing is that several patients were shown and one of them was Professor Snape." He paused, clearly uncertain how much more detail to go into. He shrugged and finished simply, "We got him out."

"He's not well," Molly added.

Moody snorted. "That's an understatement!"

"You're not helping, Mad-Eye," Remus growled in exasperation at the old Auror.

"Well, as we cannot return to the Burrow, I'll be looking after Professor Snape here in Poppy's stead." Molly's youngest son looked shocked.

"You're a Mediwitch, Mum?"

She smiled and shook her head. "I'm a mum, Ronald Weasley."

* * *
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