The Sugar Quill
Author: Montavilla  Story: One of Those Potter Nights  Chapter: Chapter One--Twilight
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Professor Severus Snape, Master of Potions, stood in the headmaster's office

Disclaimer:  None of these characters belong to me.  They all belong to J.K. Rowling.  I am thankful to her for allow everyone to play with them.  I am also thankful to Wombat for beta-reading this.

 

One of Those Potter Nights

 

Chapter One--Twilight

 

Professor Severus Snape, Master of Potions, stood in the headmaster's office. He stared impatiently at the empty canvas in front of him. Occasionally, his eyes flickered to the other paintings. The faces of the headmasters and mistresses past watched him warily.

 

 It's going to be one of those nights , he thought sourly to himself. One of those Potter nights. As if he didn't have enough work already, what with taking on McGonagall's exams in addition to his own. And he was missing dinner.

 

Phineas Nigellus sauntered back into his painting. "Did you miss me?" he asked.

 

" Is Black there? " Snape demanded.

 

The painted master smiled slowly, stroking his beard in amusement. "Temper, Professor," he said. "I'm bound to aid the headmaster, but I have no such obligation to the staff."

 

Snape made a sound of frustration and turned on his heel. He paced to the other end of the office, turned and paced back. "If you don't mind,  sir ," he said, contempt dripping in his voice, "I would appreciate knowing."

 

"He's there," the painting replied. "I spoke to him directly."

 

"My thanks," Snape said, giving a small ironic bow. Again, he turned on his heel and strode quickly from the office.

 

He slowed a moment as he approached the hallway to Headmistress Umbridge's office. He would need a reason to knock. A good reason. Fortunately, he had noticed Peeves rearranging the suits of armor in rude positions. That would do for the moment.

 

But the door to her office was open. There were signs of a struggle, but no students. No headmistress, either. The open window looked out towards the Forbidden Forest, and, as he glanced through it, he saw a strange rustling down within the trees. Something was disturbing the denizens, but only Hagrid would have known what it might be. He had more pressing concerns.

 

He checked Filch's office. No one hanging from the thumbscrews. Where did she take them? He checked the classrooms. Nothing. No one in the Library. He even checked that the Firebolt was securely locked in the dungeons.

 

Puzzled, he made his way up the moving staircases to the portrait of the Fat Lady. "Let me in."

 

"Password?"

 

"Let me in you corpulent waste of paint before I draw a moustache on you."

 

"Close enough."

 

He climbed through the portrait to find Finnigan and Thomas in the common room, along with some other students. There appeared to be a celebration going on; both boys were holding butterbeers. They rose quickly in terror to see the black-clad potions master in their sanctuary.

 

"S-s-sir?"

 

"Where is Potter?" he demanded.

 

"What?"

 

"Potter! Have you gone deaf?"

 

"He--he's not here, Professor. We haven't seen him for hours. Not since he had that fit in the History of Magic exam."

 

Snape glanced at the stairs. "Check the dormitories."

 

Dean Thomas scurried up the steps. He came down almost immediately. "Nobody's up in our room," he said. "Harry's trunk is open, though."

 

Snape turned and left the two boys staring open mouthed at each other. His next stop was the hospital wing. There he found the Inquisitorial Squad in various states of pain and distress. Malfoy looked to be in the worst shape, as there were a good dozen bats attacking him from all sides. Blood was pouring down his face from his nose.

 

"Thank goodness you're here," gasped Madam Pomfrey, who was busy deflating Millicent Bulstrode's head, "I can't get that bat spell off."

 

" Finite incantatem, " Snape muttered. The bats disappeared. Malfoy glowered at him, his face flushed with humiliation.

 

"Well, Mr. Malfoy," Snape said. "I hesitate to ask how it is I find you here, when your captives are obviously off enjoying a snicker at your expense."

 

"We got distracted watching that Mudblood and Potter leading Umbridge into the forest," Draco said sullenly. "She wanted to see the weapon. Then that little red-haired brat kicked me and I dropped their wands."

 

"The weapon?"

 

"Yeah. That weapon they were making for Dumbledore. Umbridge couldn't wait to find out what it was."

 

"I see," Snape said, indifferently. He took a moment to make sure that Draco's nose had stopped bleeding. "When you are recovered, write me a list of the hexes they used. It will be helpful in assigning detentions."

 

He left the hospital wing and made his way out of the castle to the Forbidden Forest. They had left a clear path. Almost as if they wanted to be followed. He clambered through the forest as quickly as he could. But the sun was swiftly setting. As the darkness grew, the trail became harder to follow. Twice he lost it and had to double back. It took him a good hour before he came to a large clearing.

 

Something violent had taken place. The trees were uprooted, broken arrows littered the ground, hoof marks were pressed into the mud, and there were dark shining pools of what looked to be giant blood. The thestral herd had gathered to lick at the pools, making it impossible to find any coherent trail. He did find a broken wand, which he recognized as Professor Umbridge's.

 

Professor Umbridge and centaurs--that was not a good combination. But he could not believe--for all their bluster--that the centaurs would have harmed children. Where had they gone? The giant blood was also disturbing. He stepped closer to a pool to examine it and found himself being nudged aside by a thestral. He waved his hand impatiently and the solution suddenly hit him. Just to be sure, he counted the dark grey thestral heads. Six were missing. It was beginning to make sense.

 

He ran back to the headmistress's office. Grabbing a handful of floo powder, he threw it into the fire. He flung himself on the hearth and stuck his head into the flames.

 

"Black!" he roared. A dark-haired figure at the kitchen stove turned and stared back at him with hostility.

 

"What's going on?" Sirius Black strode quickly to the fireplace, knocking over a chair in the process. He knelt down. "Are you checking up on me again? It's none of your business if I'm in the house or not!"

 

"Don't provoke me, you moron," Snape snapped. "Your precious godson has gone missing. He went into the forest over three hours ago, and he hasn't come back."

 

Black paled. He reached out for the edge of the fireplace. "He went into the forest? Why?"

 

"That's the question," Snape said. "He and Granger fed the headmistress some story about a weapon and they all left together. I have reason to believe they were followed soon after by four other students."

 

Black looked completely bewildered. Snape saw a figure step up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. He recognized the long fingers of Remus Lupin.

 

"They said they had a  weapon, " Snape said. "Does that ring any chimes in that empty belfry you call a mind?"

 

"A weapon…" Black knitted his brows. "When Harry first arrived here, he asked what we thought Voldemort was doing. We mentioned he might be looking for a weapon."

 

"Is that what you called it?" Snape curled his lip. "I suppose that was as good a word as any. No doubt it excited their overactive imaginations."

 

"Stop insulting me and go find him, you useless git!" Black thundered. Lupin moved to the other side of Black and knelt with a painful wince.

 

Snape turned his head and glanced out the window. The sun had completely set and the moon was rising over the mountains.

 

"It's not that simple," he hissed. "When I sent your great-great-grandfather to find you it was because Potter told me, 'He has Padfoot at the place  where it's hidden. '"

 

"But--" Black faltered. "There's no way Harry could know where  it  is."

 

Snape gritted his teeth, suddenly furious. "Yes, he could."

 

"How?"

 

"During our…" He couldn't say the word. "I saw something in his mind. The corridor in the Department of Mysteries."

 

"His trial was near the Department--"

 

"Not the outer department. The inner department."

 

"But… he'd never have been there."

 

"Obviously. But he's  seen  it. He's had it in his mind. Otherwise he wouldn’t have seen you there."

 

Lupin interrupted gently. "You mean, Lord Voldemort sent Harry a false vision? Is that possible?"

 

"It is…" Snape said slowly. "It's very difficult, but it is possible." His eyes flickered back and forth as he thought about how it might be done. The simplest plan would be to Polyjuice a Death Eater. Getting a piece of Sirius Black was a stumbling block--but not insurmountable.

 

"But even if Harry thought Sirius was in danger," Lupin said in his calm way, "What could they do? They have no way to reach London on their own."

 

"Thestrals," Snape spat the word out like a curse.

 

Lupin's eyes widened. "Thestrals," he repeated, shaking his head. "I can't believe I forgot about Hagrid's herd. Hermione even mentioned them at Christmas. How long ago did they leave?"

 

"The last time I saw them was three hours ago in this office. When I returned, they had gone. I've been searching for them for at least two hours now."

 

Lupin looked up, as if he were calculating distances. "If it took them half an hour to get rid of the Headmistress and another half an hour to find the thestrals--" He glanced sideways at Black, "They'll have reached the Ministry."

 

"I suggest you collect as many of the Order as you can find," Snape said. "The Dark Lord will not be there alone."

 

Black rushed away immediately. Lupin stayed at the fireplace, his eyes searching Snape's.

 

"How many do you think there will be?"

 

Snape considered a moment. "It depends on what the Dark Lord's true plan is. It might be as few as ten. It might be as many as twenty. I cannot be more specific than that."

 

Lupin nodded. Snape could see him calculating again. No matter how you figured it, the odds weren't going to be good. Looking past Lupin, Snape noticed the overturned chair by the table.

 

"About Black," Snape said slowly, "perhaps he should wait at the house in case Professor Dumbledore shows up."

 

"Why?"

 

"They used his image for a reason. They must know how fond the boy is."

 

Lupin sighed heavily, and rubbed his forehead. "You know he won't stay. And frankly, we can't spare him."

 

Snape leaned forward a little. "Lupin," he said. "I cannot do more, you understand? I have done all that I can here."

 

The other man nodded. "Perhaps you could check the forest again--just in case. We'll take care of things here." He gazed silently at Snape for a few more seconds than was strictly necessary before turning away and rising slowly to his feet.

 

Snape rose from the hearth and brushed the ashes from his clothing. On the wall, big-eyed kittens tumbled adorably in endless play on the many ornamental plates Dolores Umbridge owned.

 

Snape raised one eyebrow. He glanced out the window again. Dolores Umbridge was with the centaurs. No matter what else took place this night, her reign was at an end.

 

With cool deliberation, Professor Snape raised his wand and aimed it, shattering each plate into fragments, one by one… by one.

//
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