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Someone To Run To (12/32)


Chapter Twelve, In Which I Look Into The Mirror Darkly


I'll admit it was something of a compromising position that my Head of House found me and the school's Potions Master in, what with me on his lap and our hands in distinctly not innocent places, lips locked while a historically considered pet of only Dark Wizards hatched on his desk. If I was her, Merlin knows I'd have started ranting and raving at Severus, asking him what exactly he was doing with one of his Fifth Year students. Granted, though, I was never the calmest of people, and my temper was on a fuse the size of a flobberworm. Still, most people would react to the sight with a general yelling followed by more specific accusations.

We both froze, and I think I turned five shades of Weasley red. I'd have jumped off his lap and run out of the room in abject mortification – highly un-Lion-like, I know. But I mean, Merlin, it's like my mother walked in on me making out with someone, only worse because at least my mother (who, I think I shall say for the first time in my life) is, luckily, dead and would have been legally bound not to fly off the handle too badly. McGonagall is just my professor… like the guy I'm sucking face with… which makes it about ten times worse, and puts my life into significant danger. I'd run right now, but Severus's hands, while they have moved out from under my shirt, are now firmly holding my hips down. I liked the feel of them there, but now wasn't exactly the moment I'd've chosen to discover it.

Then there came the sound of shoes turning around and a door being pulled halfway shut. "I was just coming to see-" she began, and then stopped abruptly, I could see she looked a little confused, not nearly as surprised as I would have thought, and more embarrassed then anything else – as if she'd walked in on her child making-out, - and continued, "I can see you're busy; I'll come back later." The door closed tightly behind her.

I blinked, nay, goggled. Wait, goggled wasn't even the right word. No yelling, no anger, just a simple, "I'll come back later"? Something was seriously wrong with McGonagall and I'd not even the slightest idea what it could be if she wasn't even interested in that one of her fellow professors was, er, taking advantage of one of their students. Unless he could do wandless, wordless magic, Severus hadn't cast a Memory Charm on her. Which meant that we'd need to get the transfiguration professor checked into the infirmary ASAP. We both held ram-rod still before I managed, "Well, that, was odd," and leaned against his shoulder, trying to process the latest oddness in my life.

He remained impossibly still. I looked over at the egg of Paracelsus, who was starting to break open in truth, and stared at it interestedly while nuzzling against the seemingly insensate man.

"Severus," I whispered near his ear, breathing in his minty scent, "I want you to listen to me: I'm not going anywhere. I don't care if Voldemort's out there or not. I don't care if people don't care for the choices we've made. The only thing I know is we can't keep ourselves from each other, and whatever the future may bring, for how the fact that I care so deeply for you and you, despite your willing, care so deeply for me. They can do things to us, things that we may fear, but they can't take that feeling away from us. All we need is a little courage. A little courage and we'll make it through. Just you wait and see."

Paracelsus rocked in his egg, a vibrant orange head shooting out of the mass. I wondered which is was, and how tiny it was now. It probably couldn't wrap around my wrist if it tried at this current size. I felt him begin to relax under me, though his hands held me impossibly closer. No doubt I'd have bruises in the morning. "Éléonore," he said slowly. Have I mentioned how I love the way he makes my name sound? "It's not as simple as that."

"We've been over that. We tried that. It didn't work. What's the worst they can do to you? Sack you? You're a Potions Master and more then a little wealthy; I think you could survive, even if it wouldn't be the perfect outcome. What's the worst they can do to me? Expel me? I'm the bloody Girl-Who-Lived and not a little wealthy myself; I could find another school or private tutors. But I don't think they'll go that far. McGonagall didn't even say anything." Oddly enough.

"I think she's in shock."

"You're in shock. Her, her I don't know what she's in." Maybe she'd been in her cat nip?

Why must every time we take a step forward he jump five back? "I-" the spy began tentatively, in that way of voice that people have when they really don't want to say what they're about to say. His hands were still hard on my waist, and I gently grasped one of his hands and pulled it upward, to grasp other places.

"You are going to do what you were doing. We were both enjoying it, so why not?"

With a much pained air, "Because Black would sooner see you as Gräfin Alessandra-Margaretha von Neipperg then near me."

I made a face at him. "He sent you a Howler, didn't he?"

"At four-fifteen in this morning.

I supposed that if I was woken in the early morning Howler by my archenemy, who I thought was doing dastardly things to his (god)daughter, I suppose I would remember the time oddly specifically as well. I sunk with an unutterable sadness against Severus and recalled that I was supposed to be happy that Sirius was a free man. Even if it did mean he could negotiate marriage contracts between little fifteen-year-old me and the seventeen-year-old grandson of the Emperor of Austria, Count Philipp. Surely there had to be some way around that. I mean, hello Sirius, do I speak Austrian? Or German or Hungarian or whatever it is they speak there? No. Do I even know a word of French beyond "Bonjour" or "Merci" even though, according to the WNN, I'm the Hereditary Baronne de Calais? No. I'm not even sure if Austrians speak German or not, or if they have a separate language. Just think of the fool I'd make of myself trying to figure that out. So will I put up with this? No. "Please tell me excruciating details so I can, I dunno, flee the country before he comes to ship me off."

"Black's serious?" I was too angry at my godfather even to make that pun at his name. "I thought it was merely a threat to keep me away from you." As close as I was to the man, I could feel the anger begin to course in him. It was hot and familiar, and not a little frightening.

Glumly, "No, he's been on this line of things since the summer. At first it was a Weasley or Neville-"

"Longbottom?"

"I know. But then it became a prince or whatever, mostly because he thinks a Weasley wouldn't stop me if I wanted to have an affaire de coeur, while a national border would. Still, I don't think he'd do it unless he felt something drastic needed to be done – and maybe, by then, he'll just be back to the idea of the Himalayan Monastery whachamacallit – St. Bernard's, I think, like the dog – by then."

Snape shook his head, a movement which vibrated throughout his whole body. I think this is a good time to point out exactly how nice his arms were around me, and how I very much liked the feel of him beneath his heavy black robes, and how, when he moved, it jostled me a little closer still. I felt his lips press into my hair and then, "You're right."

"Of course I am – about what in particular though?"

He chuckled. "We tried to keep apart. We failed utterly – on large part because of you, I hope you know-"

"That had been the plan."

"So I realized. But," I knew there had to be a but in there somewhere, "the Dark Lord is still out there and Black is quite mad, so I suggest we… not broadcast our attachments?"

"Well obviously. Love you to bits, Severus, but I'd rather not tempt fate – she and I don't get on well at all," I told him like he was stupid, which he certainly seemed after suggesting that I didn't know such a thing. I was a Gryffindor, not stupid.

That being said, he did look more then a little shocked when I crooned a lullaby in Parceltongue to Paracelsus, now mewling in the remnants of his – its – her – shell. "Come on, darlings; lets go find you something to eat," I told the tiny, Chudly Cannons' orange snake, running a finger over each striped head in turn, the Runespoor so tiny and marvellous in my hand. I held it close and moved to the door, "Gotta feed this thing and run to practice. See you later, Severus!" I called, too honestly happy to care about much else.

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And so I found myself falling into the strangest pattern it must be possible for the daughter of two martyred Gryffindors to have. My classes remained the same, but three nights a week found me out on the Quidditch pitch, preparing for the first big game of the year: Lions versus Snakes. Three other nights offered themselves up to Severus, in his classroom or office – I don't think he dared allow me in his quarters, whatever McGonagall (who, according to him, had actually been pleased by the turn of events, and subtly suggested that we were good for each other so long as we didn't let Umbridge know – I know, right?) feel about the whole thing. Both were workouts in their own ways, Quidditch physically, Snape emotionally, for while we were no longer drawn as… cataclysmically together once we allowed ourselves to regularly… express said feelings, we still found ourselves in other occupations between the scrubbing of cauldrons and marking of papers. Paracelsus, who was slowly growing, despite the fact I'd yet to find what he, it ate, came with me on both these little trips, discovering a love for the sky (as seen from my pocket) that was sure to cause all sorts of neuroses when he got older, as well as for the soapy water I used to clean the cauldrons.

If anyone noticed anything peculiar about my behaviour, they did not say so to me. In the days and weeks that would come, I learned from Ari that the Ministry had tried to force through an educational decree that would have forbidden Hogwarts students from having self-taught courses, as my DADA had become. She had, luckily, stopped it right in its tracks – for had not Dumbledore undergone self-study of Transfiguration his Seventh Year as McGonagall would later? There were other examples, mostly in the more obscure subjects – Ancient Runes and Airthmancy – that I should have taken, but whatever the past, she got it stopped, announcing proudly to me in the same letter that she'd come across her picture taped to a dartboard in the DMJ. Perhaps my classmates thought I was throwing myself into my studies, what with Voldemort and all on the lamb, and in many ways I was, but not the extent the others thought.

Still, I couldn't tell them, could I, that on 43% of my evenings their perfect little Gryffindor (who never ran from anything, who was brave and noble and true, and stood for all things good and Light in the world, freeing prisoners and saving damsels and would – if Sirius, now my legal guardian and father in all but actuality as far as Wizarding England was concerned – had his way, be a princess one day, was having clandestine meetings with the Prince of Slytherin, Severus Snape. It was all so totally Romeo and Juliet that I would have said Shakespeare had taken a trip to the future to stalk me if it wasn't for the fact no old guys in tights had appeared lately. I kept waiting for Paris to leap out of the shadows, but it seemed that Sirius's threat of an arranged marriage was only that, a threat, and nothing ever came of the whole 'von Neipperg affair' except a couple articles in magazines like Smoke and Mirror, which had named me Most Influential Teen Star for the fourth year in a row. My runner up was Simon Antila-Delphinis, who'd started a shelter for abused owls in Glasgow. I tell you.

Despite the fact there was no Paris, which was all well and good because the idea of being a fifteen-year-old wife to anyone, let alone the son of an Archduchess, was a little more then I could handle at the moment. Homicidal maniacs responsible for my parents' deaths and my being branded as a heroine? Those I could handle. There were spells and preparations for those sorts of things. Marriage? I mean, I've thought as much about that as Crookshanks probably thinks of the stock markets, which I guess is normal for a fifteen-year-old witch. I have school to worry about, above stated homicidal maniacs, a quote-unquote boyfriend who may be killed any minute by said homicidal maniac, and a snake with three heads that I'm slowly teaching Parceltongue. Marriage is about nonexistent as a worry, concern, and/or desire. But, just because Paris has yet to show (probably starting a war over golden apples or something, the jerk) doesn't mean I'm not being careful. Map and cloak at all travelling times, and careful loads of books carried too and fro and the like. Severus has even taught me a few more spells and wants to teach me the occul-mind-thingy, but I think it is a needless worry. If I ever get close enough to Voldemort where he can figure out who I've been snogging, I'm going to have bigger problems then that. After all, his "People I'm Going to Kill" list is pretty much one through five, me; seven, nine, twelve, and fifteen, me; and Dumbledore everything else. I don't think having a good rouler une pelle with one of his 'evil' minions is going to change that very much. But whatever. It gives me an excuse to be around him if anyone really needs a good explanation of why I've been spending so much time with the Potions Master.

If I didn't think it'd cause him to react badly, I'd send a Howler to Sirius that played Wagner's wedding march for an hour straight. I mean… well, I don't know what I mean, only that the whole things ridiculous and I will explode if anyone ever mentions it, Austro-whatever Grafs, or things that I should not be doing ever again.

So, with six of my seven nights covered by utterly exhausting and diametrical exercises, you've got to wonder, do I rest on the seventh day? Do I use it to do homework (well, yes, but that happens most days early in the morning before breakfast)? Do I pause to consider that, hey, perhaps its not a good idea to become romantically involved with a former Death Eater who went to school with my deceased parents, even though we both like each other and we seem to have the (bizarre) approval of my Head of House, and that, perhaps, I'm getting into something over my head, that I am indeed fifteen years old, not a warrior or a lover or anything but a girl who never got a chance to be a girl, thrown into a war that I can't help but think revolves around me more then as simply the one who got away? No, my seventh night I spend in a room revealed to me by Dobby that morning I spent in the kitchens, The Come-and-Go Room, The Room of Requirement, and therein teach those who want to learn from someone who isn't an overgrown frog who hates all human-kind.

We call the group the DA, The Defence Association. Cedric's girlfriend, if you can still call her that, wanted to call it Dumbledore's Army but I've learned not to tempt fate by now and quickly explained that, if that name ever got out, we'd be looking at big Umbridge trouble, so The Defence Association it is. The first few meetings were rough – Zacharias Smith almost got himself blasted through the wall a couple of times, first from a Disarming Spell when he didn't believe me when I said it's a powerful weapon I've used against Voldemort, and after that I wanted to give him a good iaceo everytime he annoyed me after – but they got better. My students, if I dare use the word, wanted to learn, and there is a great joy that I have found in teaching those who want to learn what you have to teach. Severus was right when he was helping me prepare for the third task: the more spells you know, the more options you have. The more options you have in a crisis, the more likely you'll come out of it in one piece.

And this is a crisis. My dreams are almost every night of a long hallway with a single door, of an impossibly large room that could have passed for the Library of Alexandria if books and not tiny glass balls line the shelves glowing with an ethereal light that I was not entirely comfortable with. It was as if my mind, surrounded by so many improbable things during the day, had escape into some surrealist vision with my dreams – for alongside the long hallway and the room of lustrous orbs, there was a room filled with clocks of all shapes and sizes, another where the planets coalesced into milky fog that shone in the light of the stars; and a third filled with whispers and whispers alone. I don't know what they mean, my dreams. I'd scour Divs textbooks if I thought they held the answer. But they don't. I know they don't. Voldemort is out there, and no matter how happy I can be one moment here, and the next I'm reminded that there's this terrible storm overhead that I can't outrun. Merlin above, I know I'm not the shiniest Knut in the bag, but I'm smart enough to know that just because the MoM doesn't believe it's true doesn't stop me from having seen a madman step away from death's razor edge and know that madman is going to stop at nothing to continue the reign of terror he'd unleashed in my parents' childhoods. I know this is the start of something terrible, though just what I don't know.

So I prepare. I spend my evenings teaching a renegade defence organization, in the company of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry's most reviled professor (voluntarily), and, occasionally, playing Quidditch. It passes, oddly enough, very quickly. One moment it was just a few hours after dinner in his classroom, teaching Paracelsus how to talk; the next it was Halloween, and for once I wasn't in the doldrums about it – sad, yes, but it wasn't the centre of my universe, not now, fourteen years later, when I was just starting to live; – and then, in such an amazing fashion that I don't know if it wasn't a dream how it came like clockwork, it was the last week before Christmas, and I actually had a home to go home to.

I was looking forward to seeing Sirius, who'd not threatened me with monastery or arranged marriage in months. Tonks and I were still exchanging regular pranks, but that had dissolved into me subscribing her to every British bridal magazine in existence, and her sending me every French lingerie catalogue that could be found in Paris, teaming up with Fleur of all things to see it done. I swear I never should have introduced the two of them. I miss them both, though. They at least are understanding to some degree. Ron and Hermione, as well as all of Gryffindor and at least half each of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff will skin me alive when they find out what I've been doing.

Oh well. I can live with that.

I'd just finished the last DA of the term, and was in kind of a pissy mood between Smith's, "Oh, we're not learning anything new, boo hoo, boo hoo," jerk mode and an awful case of PMS, and so I lingered around the Room of Requirement as everyone left in twos and threes apparently very interested in the shelf on various duelling styles near the back corner. When I thought everyone had left, I straightened up and stretched languorously. It was my plan to head up to the infirmary and get the beautiful – amazing, miraculous – potion Madam Pomprey had to deal with such things before heading back up to the tower.

I was not counting on Michael Corner being there still. "Hey Michael," I said wearily, "What's up?" Chocolate would be wonderful right now. I wonder who discovered chocolate. They should be given an Order of Merlin or Noble Peace Prize or something.

"Nothing much," he said, hands in his pockets as he leaned back on his heals in the oddest fashion.

Confusion stained my brow, "If you're here to ask me what to get Ginny for Christmas, I honestly don't know. I'm not exactly the all-knowing best friend; you should ask Hermione – she picks up on those sorts of things." I wondered where Paracelsus had gotten off to. He was still a small Runespoor after all, maybe three-quarters a food long, and anything he was likely to encounter in Hogwarts could easily crush him. I'd seen dust bunnies in the castle larger then he was. Maybe he was off getting me chocolate. A smart Runespoor would be doing that if it knew just how awful this whole female mammal thing is.

"It's not about Ginny," he said, turning a shade brighter.

Rather hoping he'd get to the point soon, because if he did I might be able to con some medicinal chocolate out of the nurse before she went to bed. Is it sad I know the usual time the school nurse goes to bed? I think so. It's a sign I've been injured entirely too many times, I think. "Oh?" I started checking under the nearby tables and bookshelves. Paracelsus was an orange-and-black three-headed snake. He wasn't exactly hard to miss. Though, now that I thought of it, I don't think anyone besides Hermione and Severus have seen him all these months. I just feel like there's a mariachi band pounding you-know-where, and really am not in the mood for anything besides that wonderful, fire engine red potion and a hot bath. And, of course, chocolate.

"I… we actually broke up last week." I frowned. I hadn't noticed, actually. Some friend I am. But, then again, Ginny and I had never been particularly close. "I… I was wondering if, maybe, you'd, er, like to go out with me sometime?"

I banged my head on the table I was searching under when I realized what he was asking and how it had nothing to do with a certain coca candy. I didn't know whether to be delighted that someone was interested in me other then Severus, which is sort of flattering; angry that he was planning to use me on the rebound after Ginny, which is far from it; or insulted that he thought he was grand enough to expect me to say yes, I would go out with him even when I hardly knew him, which is just insulting to the whole female species. I mean, his Water-Hose Charm was pretty impressive, but that's about all. "Er," I said slowly, "Michael, I'm really flattered and all…"

It was his turn to flush. It pleased me he was at least not stuck-up enough to not be embarrassed. "Oh, right, I understand." He mumbled.

"It's not you Michael, it's just… I'm already sort of seeing someone," which isn't a lie, and a very vague not-lie at that. "If I wasn't though…" I trailed off, leaving the, "I'd still not want to date you," out for his dignity.

"No, I get it. See ya, Harry." And he stormed out of The Room of Requirement, making me wonder, oddly enough, what he had to be angry about. I mean, I supposedly dated rock stars and rock stars' sons. I'd kind of been hoping that sort of thing would keep my mediocre Hogwarts classmates from this sort of painful situation. In a mean, I'm sure hormonally driven, way, I wished I had finished my sentence.

"Stupid Ravenclaws," I muttered myself. Well, not that he was gone, "Paracelsusss, where are you?" Stupid snakes, running off on their own when they were still babies. Stupid boys, asking stupid questions and making me have to keep Madam Pomprey up later then she liked.

Par answered first, sliding down from a fake windowsill overlooking mountains that wouldn't have been there even if the window had been real, "We are here, Mère." They always called me that, mère, rather then 'Speaker' like Archimedes did. Don't ask me how parceltongue can sound like French on occasion, but I suppose it's just some weird magical quirk that I'll never understand. It'd be nice if I'd some other parcelmouth besides Voldemort to talk to about it, but I guess I can't have everything.

"Wasss that one trying to pair-bond with you?" asked Acel.

"Don't be stupid, Acel," Sus chided his brother (well, I assume brother). "That one isss too young to pair-bond."

"And what would you know about pair-bonding?" I ask the head, crossing over to it quickly and allowing it to wrap around my left hand. For a months-old snake, it sure had an unhealthy preoccupation with human 'pair-bonding,' as they called it. I can only blame it on myself really – what was I doing besides just that when it hatched?

"Plenty," Sus insisted, put out that I didn't believe him.

"We watch the nestlingsss you care-give. The youngest male of the red-scaled clan trysss to pair-bond with your nest-mate, but isss very poor at it."

"We think it odd that so many nestlingsss attempt to pair-bond before they have reached the final moulting. Isss there a scale-lessss one disease that meansss your kind must bear eggsss early?"

"I think it'sss romantic."

"I think Par and Acel are both stupid. It'sss ephebophilia and I think it'sss disgusting."

"Sussss thinksss everything'sss disgusting."

"He doessss have a point, Acel."

"Mère isss the same age as the young of the red-scaled clan and her nest-matesss, but the cat-woman findsss no ill with Mère and the dungeon-man pair-bonding."

"Mère isss older."

"The scale-lessss onesss do not know that."

"The cat-woman and the dungeon-man know."

Like The Twins with a hang-over, even as infants who I don't know what they eat, even though they manage to grow – rather like Skrewts that way. At least Runespoors have a purpose, even if it's only to annoy me. "I'm fifteen," I pointed out, not adding that 'cat-woman' was probably on the nip, getting a headache in addition to every other annoying thing hormones had done to me already, "and I'm not pair-bonded to anyone."

"What."

"Ever."

"Mère."

Stupid snakes. I didn't even bother heading up to the infirmary – waking up the woman who'd brought me from death's welcome mat more then a few times for cramp potions was not something I looked forward too – and, instead, took the stairs downward to Severus's office. Someone had to make the potion for the school, I figured, and I knew enough about potions to find the right one and enough about the tripwire-wards on the door to not disturb him from whatever he did on the days I didn't darken his doorstep.

My Runespoor continued to debate amongst itself on human sexuality as I bypassed the wards around the office and went into his storeroom. Bright, fire engine red. Smells disturbingly of lilac and prunes. How hard could it be to find?

I was searching through the storeroom, all but ignoring the chattering Runespoor, when Par said in total non sequitur to just about anything that could have gone before, "We found a bug a lunar rotation ago."

"Oh? Really?" I said, not really interested.

"Yesss. A strange she-beetle."

"Tasted like sour honey and dried ink."

"Very glittery."

"We thought you might like to give it to the ewe-woman you speak of, the one who livesss in the stone-nest far away, for the long night celebration the nestlingsss speak of."

I paused in my search. Snakes could be downright odd sometimes. "If you ate the beetle a month ago, how can I give it to Ari for Christmasss?" I shouldn't have asked, though, as I discovered a moment later, for Par soon spit up a very glittery and very dead but otherwise mint condition beetle. Carefully, I scooped it into a free jar from Severus's cabinet and tried not to gag. "Thanksss, I guesss," I told my bizarre snake-child.

"You're"

"Welcome."

"Mère."

One day I was going to have to sit down and look up the meaning of sarcasm with my Runespoor. However doing so might be wasted on the poor creature unless I teach at least one of them how to read – Par or Sus would be the best choice; Acel, like (his father?) Him, reminds me more then a little of Luna on one of her bad days, - so I probably shouldn't bother. But, first, I wanted that bloody potion and a huge chunk of Honeydukes' finest.

So wrapped up was I in the mechanics of teaching a snake to read, let alone turn pages, and my search for the relief-giving potion, I missed the murmur of fabric and the waft of mint that was, as the snakes would call it, my bonded-mate. "You know, Éléonore," he said, startling me into nearly dropping the jar with the dead bug in it, which probably would have broken Paracelsus's hearts, "I really don't think it's necessary for you to have to sneak into my supply cabinets to steal potions ingredients anymore."

"I'm not here to steal potions ingredients," I told him with a tight smile, slipping the bug jar into the pocket of my robes, "I'm here to steal potions, actually. A muscle relaxant and a headache potion, if you have it. Stupid Michael Corner made me miss Pomprey's bedtime, and I wasn't planning on waking her up for something short of life-or-death, though I might kill someone if I don't get one or the other soon."

"You could have come to me, of course." He closed the supply cabinet, re-applied the wards, and led me to the third level of the dungeon where his own rooms were located. I think he sounded a little put-out, and for some reason that amused me like nothing else had tonight.

"I didn't want to bother you during your man-time."

"'Man-time?'" he queried with that professorial eyebrow as he gave the password ("Xanadu") to Archimedes. I thought I saw Him wink at me as the statue spun aside to reveal the opening.

"I don't want to be clingy or anything. But, hey, if you want me to come here next time, I'll cling away. Whatever. I'm not picky."

Paracelsus slipped from my wrist then, slithering down my leg to the floor, to crawl out the opening shortly before it closed, ("Silly Mère," I heard one of the heads tell the statue, "and she saysss she'sss not peer-bonded) leaving me, I suddenly realized with a shiver, all alone with my beau in his quarters. Of course at a chance like this I'd feel like a pair of beaters was tearing up my insides. Stupid hormones.

That's when I realized he'd taken me to his bedroom. "Lay down if you're not feeling well. The potion you need is so simple a Squib could make it," and, with that, he disappeared, presumably to make it. Merlin, the wonders of frenching a Potions Master on a regular basis! Carefully, I considered my options: a) lay down on the soft, comfortable bed and try to fight off the bludger-like pain or, b) make my way into the main room and keep it clear that, on no uncertain terms, I wasn't even up to being cheery.

What can I say, I was in pain. I kicked off my shoes and curled into a pained ball amidst the minty smell impregnated in his sheets. Happily, he came back fairly quickly with the blessed potion, and I downed it like a man who spent the last week in the Sahara. I felt the soreness slowly begin to recede.

And, with that, I fell asleep.

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I was having the best dream ever, involving several details only careful study of Severus's living quarters could provide, when I felt the dream shift from beneath me. I felt strong, smooth and supple as I slipped between the bars that shone like silver, along the chilly stone. I had a dust-mote's-eye-view of the world, distorting normal images into foreign nightmares of impossible height and distance. It was utterly dark, but I could see in a way that I could never describe with words, with colours that do not exist in any human tongue.

There was a scent without clear source in the room, but I identified its origin quickly and bemoaned that my work was too important to dare pause and feast. My tongue, strangely thinner and forked, flicked a cheerless flicker in the direction of the dozing man, and I proceeded onward…

But the man was not dozing, he was pulling his wand – no choice – and I attacked, sinking sharp fangs into the thin flesh, feeling the pulse of hot blood… Must hurry, man was screaming, others will come soon… Blood from the burst veins splattered all over the floor – what a waste…

My scar felt like it would burst. I didn't realize I was screaming until that instant, when I felt a pair of hands try to extricate me from the tangle of blankets I'd made. "Éléonore! Éléonore!" he cried out in concern, repeating my name as he tried to fix whatever it was that was wrong. Dimly, in a part of my mind somehow less affected by the pain, I noticed he was shirtless.

At last, pulled out of the blankets enough to be brought into a sitting position, "I… dream… Mr. Weasley… attacked…"

He tried to hold me, which did, admittedly, help me forget some of the pain and the rising bile in my throat. "Hush now; it's only a dream…"

"No!" I told him. "Not a dream… I've got to see Dumbledore…."

Paracelsus came running into the room then from wherever he'd been, hissing, "Bad, bad, bad," with all of his heads.

For some reason, the state of my Runespoor seemed to convince him it wasn't just a normal nightmare, and he, sadly enough, put on a shirt and flooed us to the Headmaster's office.

The Headmaster was already there, apparently in deep discussion with himself by the looks of it. "Severus, Harry, what a strange surprise," he said amusedly. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

Next thing I knew, Ron and Ginny had been gathered, and we were taking a portkey to HQ.

Chapter Thirteen.