In the Eye of the Beholder
Chapter Three - Crashing Right Through
In The Last Chapter
I woke up with a horrendous pain in my stomach, screaming in agony. and that woke Centi. Ignoring the spasms in my gut I smiled to myself. I liked calling her by her family nickname. My woolgathering was cut short by a wave of cramping that felt like I was being cut in half; I screamed again.
She flailed about in confusion at my screaming and in her own dire pain. I calmed her. As I did so I realized my pain was from missing another Paladin potion. I panicked. That meant it was 7:00 in the morning and I'd overslept.
It was already much too light out, and by now the Death Eaters had to know exactly where I was going. If they knew where we were headed, then they knew where to look for us - between here and Hogwarts.
The severe pain in my stomach eased, and I rushed to calm Centi. Though taking care of her seemed natural, I still found it strange that we were now friends. I gave Centi the bottle of liquid Muggle painkiller and a straw, and let her suck down probably twice the recommended dose. I knew that particular medicine was prescribed in much larger doses by physicians, so it wouldn't harm her to drink more than was recommended on the label. I also offered her a bottle of energy drink, and she drank most of it greedily. I had nothing more substantial she could drink and didn't feel like eating anything myself.
I called up the spell I'd created to eye-speak to her, and willed our connection.
"Centi, are you okay?"
"I've felt a whole lot better, but mostly I was just startled by your screams and hurt myself thrashing about. What was up with you?"
"I told you about the pain I had yesterday from missing the Paladin potion, well I just had another round of pains, so it's probably 7:00. It's later than I wanted. I'd meant to rest for a half hour as the storm passed and then fly on during the night. We can't be over fifty miles from Hogwarts, and I think we might be closer. My modified Point-Me spell won't detect it - I guess it has too many Muggle-repelling spells and protective wards."
I hated to ask, but we needed to head out as soon as possible. "Do you need to change your pad, go to the loo, anything? We need to go."
"Thanks for offering, Harry. I need the full boat." By this time we were old hands at the process. Centi urinated and changed her... whatever... and I helped her without looking.
"I'm going to place you back on the board and rig it differently this time, Centi. I'll place the straps so we're almost face-to-face. Then I'll place the Invisibility Cloak over both of us and we can go forward both just about completely covered. If I stay low we can make fair time until we figure out where Hogwarts is. If nothing else, there's a mountain range ahead and when we reach a peak we should be able to spot the castle." I was less confident than I sounded, but I felt I had a fifty-fifty chance at being right.
I rigged us up as I said I would. The back three or four inches of my broom twigs were visible, and the handle stuck out a little in front, but we should be hard to see anyway. We took off and made it slowly but surely forward.
We crested the hill and I was sure that I recognized the mountains. Hogwarts had to be beyond them, but I had no perspective on how far away it was, viewing the heights from this angle. We flew down into the valley between peaks and trudged on.
In about an hour we came to a road. I was flying down among the trees, and weaving in and out slowed our progress. Finally I spotted a fork in the road with a sign. I drifted that way through the trees to see if it could tell us anything.
I maneuvered so Centi could see the sign as well. Pulling back the Invisibility Cloak a bit enabled us to see better and get some fresh air. She looked up at me and excitedly thought to me, "Those two towns are both about ten miles from Hogsmeade. You're flying in the right direction. Hogwarts and Hogsmeade should be less than ten miles away, probably just over that crest." She pointed the hand on her working arm in the direction we'd been going. I smiled down to her. We'd been here at this crossroads just less than a minute, but that was evidently too long.
A Reductor curse glanced off of my shoulder disjointing it slightly, and then the bone popped back into place, doubling my pain. I shot forward into the forest. Branches and whole treetops disintegrated in spell fire. I tried to weave in and out amongst the trees and avoid detection, but two Death Eaters mounted on brooms Apparated in front of me. I hit both of them with Cutting curses, but not before they hit Centi's left arm with a bone cracker. She moaned -- the only noise she could make with her face in stasis.
I swerved out of the way and into a denser copse of trees where I stopped and unstrapped her. She asked that I release her from all the rigging and I did so. Tears poured down her face, and yet she staggered to her feet to face our enemies. My cracked ribs howled at me, and my badly reset broken arm throbbed like nothing I'd felt before.
I still had the second wand I'd taken from that Death Eater the day before and I drew both out and stood up, looking around.
I counted at least twenty Death Eaters heading our way, some on brooms and some on foot. Where were they all coming from? Centi sent out carefully aimed, low power Cutting curses, and I was impressed at her ability to do it wordlessly. I splashed out Reductors, Incendios, and Cutting curses like I was dispensing free candies to first-years after a Hogsmeade weekend.
We hit a good number of our attackers, but Centi and I were both at the end of our endurance. We were physically incapable of effectively dodging the incoming spells. I took a Bone Cracker to my right leg and fell. Centi took a partial Reductor right in the chest and fell behind a fallen log. Somehow I staggered upright--powered by magic, I suppose, because physically I was dead on my feet--and kept firing. A Bludgeoning hex hit a nearby tree and ricocheted right into me. It was a good thing it wasn't a direct hit. The deflection reduced its power.
When I fell next to Centi I could see that she was in a bad way. Her blouse had ripped on the side and I saw her rib cage below her bra. A rib bone stuck out of the skin, and blood pulsed weakly from wound. Her face had come out of the Stasis charm and she was coughing up blood.
I raised my head and a Reductor barely missed my face, hitting a nearby tree instead. As it was, a jagged piece of wood cut my forehead and blood clouded my vision. Another giant splinter embedded into my collarbone area. I screamed in pain.
Curses, hexes, and jinxes came our way faster and faster. We had no real defense, and I knew that in seconds we'd be face-to-face those who wanted to see us dead or worse, captured.
I looked into Centi's eyes. She and I both knew that she was near death. With her last mental effort she eye-spoke to me, "Save yourself, Harry." Then she passed out. Her ragged, shallow breathing confirmed that she was still alive, but each inhalation might be her last.
How very Gryffindor of her to tell me to leave her.
How very NOT understanding of how Gryffindors think for her to think I would.
I cried Centi's name as I held her. Her head lolled in my arms and I feared she'd died right then and there.
In my personal experience, desperation has led to some wonderful things, but on the whole, I don't recommend it.
I raised my hand and my Invisibility Cloak and my Firebolt appeared there. I also called Centi's wand to me. I pointed my wand at my Firebolt and shouted "Portkey!"
It was the only way I could figure out that we could escape, so I determined it would work just like I wanted it to, and just because I willed it.
It didn't at the time register in my pain-addled and fear-consumed brain that I called for a Portkey and didn't use the actual incantation. That's probably just as well. I'd only heard Dumbledore say it once and that was over a month before.
I closed my arms around my Cloak, Firebolt, Centi, and her wand, and said, "Activate in five seconds."
In those last seconds I thought about the biggest fireball I could imagine. I imagined a fireball engulfing everything within a thirty-foot radius from our position, and I imagined it going off one second after we Portkeyed away. The way I looked at it, I had about equal chances: we either would Portkey away or take just about all of our attackers with us.
Never had that tug behind my navel felt so wonderful. And the sound of the subsequent explosion rang in my ears while we swirled to our destination.
The Portkey trip was NOT smooth like all the ones I'd experienced before. I felt like I was wading through a flooded river that was chock full of floating furniture, all of which was managing to hit my body.
We landed, just like I hoped, with Centi hovering a few inches above a hospital bed in the Hogwarts Infirmary. I, however, was hovering right beside her and three and a half feet off of the spic-and-span hardwood floor. I shrieked in absolute torture as my broken bones, cuts, and bruises crashed down. The blood, mud, and gore littered poor Poppy Pomfrey's pristine floor, and at the time, I couldn't have cared less.
I screamed again, but my noise paled in comparison to the klaxon-like honking going on. A magical voice that sounded suspiciously like Professor Flitwick's proclaimed, "Security breach in Infirmary! Security breach in Infirmary! Illegal Portkey entry by two unknowns. This is not a drill!"
That message was evidently blasting through the castle, as Madam Pomfrey stormed in, wand drawn, an angel of mercy and an avenging angel all rolled up into one power-packed bundle of bustling mediwitch. It took only one second for her to start casting spell after spell, lifting me to a bed right beside Centi.
"Check Millicent first. She's dying!" I half screamed, half croaked. Madam Pomfrey nodded and went to it. Her wand was a blur of diagnostic spells and healing charms and who knows whatever else. She didn't stop to end the warning horns, but in less than two minutes Minerva McGonagall rushed into the Infirmary, her eyes ablaze with the fight she'd bring anyone invading her beloved Hogwarts.
The assistant headmistress ended the warning klaxon shouts. After that all you could hear was Centi's painful breathing, and my painful sobs and frustrated attempts to play down my wounds. I prayed Centi would live, that I had brought her here in time to save her. I didn't need ... I couldn't have... another death. Oh, my vanity, thinking that her death would be about me, and not her dying.
I looked up in time to see McGonagall flash out a silvery streak. A few seconds later she sent out another one.
She rushed to my side and said, "Potter, er, Harry, how did you arrive here, where did you acquire a Portkey--"
"Centi!" I shouted. "How is Centi?"
"Millicent," I explained. "That's Millicent Bulstrode," I said in desperation. "How is she? She's alive, isn't she? I got her here in time, didn't I?"
"Miss Bulstrode? How did you---?"
"Miss Bulstrode will live Potter," Madam Pomfrey shouted without looking my way. "Be still, boy. I re-applied your Localized Stasis charm to her face, and almost have her stabilized. You stay where you are, Potter, I'll be there directly. Minerva, stun him if he doesn't settle down." "Harry?"
My head of house really had no clue why Centi was with me or how I had laid hands on an illegal Portkey that slammed right through the wards to this room--just like I envisioned. I roused myself to give her some semblance of an explanation.
"My aunt and I went shopping in the western counties. I should have known that Aunt Petunia taking me shopping was a sign of the end of the world," I began hoarsely. "We came back across country and we became lost. I saw a Dark Mark in the sky and me, -and my-saving-people-thing, I went to the rescue. It was the Bulstrode family and Death Eaters were trying to kill them all. I attacked the attackers and Centi, er, Millicent is the only one to survive, but she was hurt."
I gulped air in pain. I yelled slightly as I rolled over to look at Centi. My previously cracked ribs on my right side were matched by the broken ribs on my left side now.
"Give Potter this Pain potion," Madam Pomfrey yelled and tossed the vial our way. McGonagall missed it but my accursed Seeker reflexes reached out and snagged it from the air, hurting my ribs all the more. In all of this, my right arm was untouched, and that's the arm I used to catch the potion. McGonagall took it from me and brought the opened tube to my lips. I drank greedily. I decided then and there I'd never leave my bed again without ten vials of Pain potion with me, instead of the five I'd had in my fanny pack two days ago.
Great God in Heaven, had it only been two days since I left Privet Drive?
"What happened next, Potter?" she asked. Since I was Potter again, I figured my head of house had decided I wasn't dying.
"Death Eaters were coming every few minutes, and Millicent told me the magic detectors were down in her area. The Aurors wouldn't come. I had no choice. I bundled her up and flew her out under my broom. We flew all night Monday night and into the day. I fought Death Eaters, oh, twice more that day, and even fought Dawlish, the Auror who tried to arrest Dumbledore and hit you with a Stunner last year."
"I know who Dawlish is. Why'd you fight him?"
"He shot a Stunner at me first. He said he wanted to arrest me for killing the Bulstrodes and an Auror named Pew. I said I had only fought Death Eaters and told him I had Millicent with me. Then he attacked me again , and I had to stun him and tie him up to escape.
"An hour later I fought some more Death Eaters and once we killed them all, we doubled back and hid in a barn from mid-day to about 3:30 yesterday."
"Killed," McGonagall gasped. "Why didn't you just stun them?"
"They were using deadly spells and curses, including the Cruciatus and Killing Curses," I said, thankful that her question had jarred my memory. "Oh, Madam Pomfrey, Millicent has had the Cruciatus on her as well."
"I saw that, Potter, thanks for the warning," Madam Pomfrey said distractedly. "How about you?"
"Yes ma'am, once or twice, I don't really remember the number."
"Harry," McGonagall called my attention back to her. "About killing those Death Eaters."
"Yes, I killed them. I killed a lot of them, every one I could," I shouted. This outburst drew Madam Pomfrey's attention. She looked my way, as McGonagall took a step back. Realizing I probably sounded hysterical, I took a deep breath and continued more calmly, "I lost count, but I guess we were attacked by about twenty-five or thirty Death Eaters before this morning. A few of them escaped, and Centi, er Millicent killed a few of them, but I guess I killed fifteen or twenty Death Eaters, before it turned all stormy yesterday. We went up into the cloud covering and that's how we made it without being attacked until the storm grew too bad and I set down about forty or so miles south of here at 3:00 or 3:30 this morning.
"I ... I fell asleep." There were tears in my eyes as I remembered my failure to stay awake, which caused Centi so much harm. But that was spilt cauldrons, now, and thank God Centi was all right or at least out of danger.
"You were up for over two days, weren't you Potter,?" McGonagall asked. "Did you sleep at all?"
"I napped for an hour yesterday--"
"So you fell asleep this morning at 3:30 after flying for over thirty-six hours with little rest, and fighting Death Eaters on and off through out. I think you're forgiven for being sleepy."
"But if I'd only rested for thirty minutes like I'd planned, we'd have made the rest of the flight here during darkness and she wouldn't have been hurt more." I felt I was whining like a child, but I couldn't stop myself. Exhaustion was roiling within my body and mind, and worry for Centi was washing over me like a tidal wave.
"Potter, no warrior can fight on indefinitely. You fought bravely, but why did Death Eaters attack the Bulstrodes?"
"Does Voldemort need a reason?" I answered hotly, but then I remembered that she was simply trying to understand. "Sorry, Professor. He had just found out Centi's grandmother was a Muggle. Centi's brother, grandmother, mum and dad were killed before her eyes. I saw her mum and dad go down. We killed all of the ones who did it, but then more came, and they kept coming."
"So, Potter, how did you arrive here? Where did you get a Portkey and how--?"
"I made it?"
The mediwitch gasped at that, and McGonagall looked as gobsmacked as any Muggleborn first year gawking at Hogwarts on September first.
"You made it? How? Did Miss Granger read about it and teach you how?"
"No. I saw Professor Dumbledore make one in the Ministry of Magic and I heard his incantation." "But, Harry, that's not possibly enough information," McGonagall insisted. "Portkey enchanting is a very complex subject." "Yes, ma'am. I thought about making one earlier, but I guessed I'd need to know how to set the destination, number of those riding the Portkey, and the activation word at least, and there could be more to it than that so, Monday night while flying along I gave up the idea of trying to make one."
"But you said you made the one that brought you here."
"Yes, ma'am." I hung my head. Here was one more 'Isn't-Harry-Grand' thing to make me feel like I'm not just one more student in the crowd. I hated it, but I told her what happened anyway.
"This morning we were discovered by Death Eaters - a lot of them - thirty or more at least. My broom doesn't like flying two, so we couldn't escape that way. We were both hit and hurt badly. Centi was pouring blood from all over and I was, well, like you see me now. I knew she'd die if I didn't get her here fast, so I ..." I swallowed raggedly a for a moment and thought about asking for water before going on. But I couldn't see McGonagall's patience standing still for that.
"I knew Centi was dying," I said quietly, "So I just thought real hard about where I wanted to go. I thought about the two of us using the Portkey, and I thought about a word-based activation key. Oh, and I cast, 'Portkey' on my Firebolt. Then I said 'Activate in five seconds' and we landed here in the Infirmary."
"That's not even the incantation. Hold it, you used your Firebolt?" McGonagall asked. "Oh, Harry, when you use an object as a Portkey it loses all other magical enchantments. That's why we use old boots and tin cans. Maybe the Firebolt factory can re-enchant it for you."
My Firebolt was on the floor on the other side of the bed from my professor. I held my arm out and cried, "Up!" In hindsight, it was a stupid move. That was the arm that was broken in the fight just minutes ago. Pain shot through it as I reached out and I almost fainted from the agony when my broom crashed into my hand. I pulled it back screaming and the Firebolt stayed in place, hovering right where I called it.
McGonagall looked at the Firebolt and said, "Well, maybe not in your case." She looked at me with mixed parts of pride and confusion and then said, "Why did you say 'activate in five seconds' and not just 'activate' right away?"
I looked around at the sun coming into the room, and then looked south. A window showed a small, dark mushroom shaped cloud in the distance. I nodded towards it and said, "I guess I killed a few more Death Eaters, Professor."
"How many?" she asked.
"All of them, I hope." I couldn't help but chuckle, which hurt my ribs and everything else except my hair and one toenail on my right foot.
"No, Potter, how many Death Eaters did your, well, that fireball kill?"
"I don't know," I muttered. I was getting tired of her questions. "Thirty, forty, a hundred and forty. I imagined a fireball big enough to burn everything in a thirty-foot radius around us just as we Portkeyed away. I think there were twenty to thirty Death Eaters there at the time, but I didn't stop to count."
Something I wondered about came to mind. "Professor, where did all of these Death Eaters come from? Over the last couple of days Millicent and I saw maybe sixty or seventy--maybe more."
She ignored my question. "There's no such thing as a fireball spell that size, Harry."
Now she calls me Harry again. "I guess there is now," I said as if commenting on the weather. McGonagall looked out the window for several long seconds and then turned back to me and said, "Be that as it may, Potter, you say you created a Portkey, and obviously you have. How did you pass through the wards of Hogwarts? Did Albus tell you the runic algorithms and how to bypass them? No, he'd have never done that, particularly since he didn't teach you how to make a Portkey in the first place."
I didn't know what to say about this so I said nothing.
Madam Pomfrey came to my side at that moment. "Step aside, please, Minerva. I want to take a look at Potter now that Bulstrode is stable."
"Thank God!" I exclaimed. "You can put her back together? Will there be any permanent damage? How long before she recovers?"
"She'll be fine, but there is much work still to be done. She's stable and has Monitoring charms in place so I can work on you for a bit. Sit back and be still. I must examine you and I'm not above stunning you myself to do my job. Lord have mercy, you're a mess."
I leaned back and felt the familiar sensation of her magical diagnostic tools running over my body. I glanced over at my head of house and she had an oddly pensive look on her face. I crooked my eyebrow and it stimulated the question I felt was in her eyes.
"Potter, Miss Bulstrode has been almost as much your enemy as Mr. Malfoy. Why this level of concern? You've done more than your duty to the Light in saving her life and delivering her here."
My anger flared at this statement. I'd always assumed Snape was the house bigot and my head of house, though a Gryffindor advocate, would be scrupulously fair to all, and only hate Death Eaters, not Slytherins in general. But then it occurred to me that last year Millicent had been on Umbridge's Inquisitorial Squad and regarded as a likely Death Eater-to-be.
"Professor," I started to answer her. "OW! That HURT!" The healer had extracted the large piece of branch sticking out of my collarbone.
"I could knock you out with a potion or stun you," she said, "but you've never wanted to be made unconscious before, Potter. Do you want to be under for the rest of my ministrations?"
"Don't you have a localized numbing charm or something?"
"There is one I'll use on most of you, but I can't use it near your brain without adverse effects. Don't move and I'll apply it to your ribs, arms, and legs to deal with your broken bones. You are quite proficient at breaking them, did you know that?"
I felt her comment warranted no answer. Besides, more talk with her would just delay her healing me, so I turned back to McGonagall. The distraction had given me time to figure out a way to explain.
"Professor, I think that facing death with someone, fighting side-by-side tends to change my sentiments as to who's my friend, and who's my enemy."
She looked at me as if trying to read my mind. She was not a Legilimens, or at least she wasn't using it on me now. I'd worked on my shields enough the last week--now that I had a book that actually explained the subject--and I could detect the lightest of touches if I paid attention. Professor Dumbledore had come by and tested me one day.
"I think I see what you mean, Potter."
Now we were back to Potter. "Well, it's more than that, Professor. We've fought together and killed together, and we've killed to protect each other. She owes me more life debts, I guess, than I owe her, if you count such things, and I don't. But she's saved me a number of times. And it's not just that. We had a number of hours where we talked, really talked. I know about her family and she knows about the Dursleys. She's having her period and I bought stuff for her, and helped her when she changed them--"
I crashed to a full stop in blathering about my time with Centi. I couldn't believe I'd just said all of that about her monthly period, but I had. Madam Pomfrey broke the silence. "I wondered how she managed that, Potter. Her wounds were varied over time and I saw that her recently applied protection wasn't that far along. You did well."
I glared at her. "I didn't change her pads myself. I helped her shimmy down her slacks and opened the package for her. I held her steady and she did the deed itself. Her arms weren't too badly broken until just a little time ago."
"Speaking of broken arms, you did a poor job of mending this one," Pomfrey sniffed at my failed efforts. "If you want a better education on how to perform this spell, I'll tell you what I'm doing as I mend these."
Her words distracted all of us from what I'd just confessed about assisting Centi with her 'delicate situation.' Grateful for the change of subject, I said, "Please work on my legs first. I mended one of them and it seemed okay, but you should check it."
"Yes, you mended that break very well," she admitted. "Any ideas why this one was successful and not your arm?"
"I think my leg was, I don't know, farther away from my head I guess. It was easier to work on because I could see it easier."
"That's a fair assumption. You do need to stand back a bit to do this properly. There's a temporary broken-bone mending spell that doesn't need the exact concentration." She placed her wand on the bed and said, "Ossis Integro completely mends a broken bone, but it takes concentration on the exact break and imagining the bone whole. The more you know about how the bone should be, the better it heals, but you did a fine enough job on your leg that I won't have to re-break it. Your arm will be different.
"Os Sarcio is a quick bone mending charm," she continued. "You just tap the broken arm or leg, whatever, and say the incantation. It fixes the nearest broken bone temporarily. It's good for a day or so, and you must never recast it on the same bone. Use Ossis Integro if you go more than twenty-four hours after that quick mend charm. Now stay still while I re-break and mend your arm."
It hurt like the dickens, but only for a second. I now had somewhat functioning arms and legs. I had two badly broken ribs, which she healed next. She applied the Numbing charm to the two cracked ribs before fixing them, but hadn't applied it to my bruised ribs before we were interrupted.
We all three turned to the sound of snapping fingers. Centi held up her left arm a little, the one not in a traction device, and snapped for our attention.
Pomfrey said, "She can't speak. I have her face in a Localized Stasis, but she looks into my eyes like I should be able to read her mind."
"I can eye-speak to her," I said.
"What?" The two females asked in unison, it was like having Fred and George around, only without the humor.
"I tried Legilimency," I explained. "She's a basic Occlumens, but we couldn't communicate, so I modified Legilimency to communicate with her."
Now I'd gone and stepped in it. I'd have to tell them about my Spell Mongering, and they'd react like everyone else would. Centi told me about how people mistrusted to the point of hatred the idea of Spell Mongery, even though the last one died in the eleventh century. Dumbledore had warned me, too.
Not meeting their eyes, I asked, "Did Professor Dumbledore tell you about my new book from an old relative of mine?"
Pomfrey looked to McGonagall and the Transfiguration professor shook her head negatively.
Well, I instantly knew what to say to avoid the subject. "He asked that I keep it a secret, but let me just say I was able to create a way to communicate with Millicent with our eyes." I moved to rise from the table and inhaled sharply at my rib pain. "Please help me."
"You stay there, Potter. She's my patient and I'll look after her needs."
"No, ma'am. She knows I'm hurt and wouldn't call if it weren't necessary. Either help me over to her or get out of my way, er, please."
A quick Locomotor and I was hovering over Centi. "How are you," I thought-asked her.
"Much better. You saved my life. You made the Portkey when you said you didn't know how, and you blew through the Hogwarts wards, to boot; not bad for a Gryffindor slacker."
I blushed. "You were hurt bad. You would have died. Failure was not an attractive option."
"I know. You always do what has to be done, even the impossible, don't you? Draco always despises how you succeed, saying you're just lucky, but he's wrong. Now I know just how wrong he is about you."
I needed to change the subject. I felt I was lucky more often than not, and my luck could easily run out one day. "I'm glad to talk to you again, but you called me. How can I help you?"
Her eyes looked away. They were still the same deep indefinable blue that kept my attention. There was misgiving and self-doubt in her gaze though. Only much later did I wonder how I could read so much from that one glance.
She turned her eyes back and a tear appeared in one of them. I reached down and brushed it away gently. I asked her again to tell me what was the matter.
"It's stupid and vain of me. I tried interrupting your conversation while they were pushing you, but the subject changed to your health and I snapped my fingers in frustration. I... I need to know...., Madam Pomfrey's fixed all of me up except my face. She told me about every bit of the damage elsewhere, and what to expect for healing, but she never mentioned my face. Ask her about it, please. I'm afraid, Harry."
I looked up from her. "Tell us about her face, please, Madam Pomfrey. You've done a grand job on fixing her up otherwise, and she's grateful. What can you tell us?"
"I put her tongue back into stasis. She should be all right but it needs to be repaired in conjunction with what is done to the rest of her mouth area. The muscles that control her jaw and tongue are interrelated, and their repairs will be also. Her face, well, I just don't have the training to put it back like it was. We'll have to wait for the Headmaster to see what we can do. But right now, in stasis, nothing will degenerate. Also, she's not in any pain from it, or shouldn't be. Ask her where she hurts. It should only be her ribs and collarbones, and those should hurt only a little. Her arms and legs should be all right as well. Overall she should just feel tired and a bit sore."
I looked down. "She's right, Harry. I only hurt where she says and only a little. But, I'm... I'm afraid."
"Please tell me why," I asked. "I'll do whatever it takes to help you if there's any way possible, and if it's impossible, well, magic can do a lot, and we're always discovering new things it can do."
"Thank you, Harry. I don't know where I'd be..."
"We'd both be dead without each other. Let's leave it at that."
At that moment, Professors Dumbledore and Snape charged into the room. Pomfrey moved me back to my bed. The Headmaster came my way, only glancing a moment at Centi, and Snape made his way to his house member, barely casting a sneer in my direction.
"Harry, how did you come to be here? We were looking for you between Somerset and Little Whinging. How are you, my boy?"
"I'm fine, Professor. I figured there were Death Eaters all along the way to my Aunt's house. They have a rough idea where I live based on my trial last August. Did you run into any of them?"
"We did until yesterday, mid-morning; after that, we saw none of them. It worried us that you might have been captured. I sent Severus to check with Voldemort last night, and only just met up with him now, coming up from the gate."
I said, "Yesterday I had a run in with Auror Dawlish about that time. He said Fudge believes I killed all of the Bulstrodes and an Auror named Pew. Well, if I killed someone by that name he was wearing Death Eater robes."
"There were three Death Eaters named Pew, two brothers and a cousin. The cousin was killed by Mister Granger," Snape sneered as if being killed by a Muggle didn't really count. "I was able to find out nothing about the search for these two, other than they were off on their own and Death Eaters were looking for them."
I explained about Dawlish, then backed up and told our whole story, tastefully omitting any details as to Centi's menstruation or the eye-talk conversations about our lives. Snape sneered at every mention I made of hitting a Death Eater with a curse or jinx. After several such instances Snape declared I was bragging and could not have done what I said. Millicent snapped her fingers at us and made a brief and difficult shake of her head to agree with me.
I completed my story and asked, "Madam Pomfrey said that it's up to you, Headmaster, what help we find for Millicent for her face. She says she can't fix it."
"Can't you just heal her broken jaw and cheekbone, Poppy," Snape asked. "Why bring in any outside help?"
"Severus," the matron said, "Without a surgeon to at least reassemble her face, she'll most likely be deformed and incapable of normal speech."
"Yes, but she will be safe," said Snape. "No one knows she's here now, and bringing in outside help will inform those keeping an ear out at St Mungo's where she is. I'm sure you can put her together as good as new, or nearly so. It's not like she's ever been much to look at."
When the two wizards had come into the Infirmary, Millicent struggled to sit up. Pomfrey helped her, and placed several pillows behind her back. I moved so I was sitting on the edge of my bed while this happened. Everything hurt, but I knew from that position I could move about if needed.
I watched Centi while Snape's words first frightened her, and then hurt her feelings as he started to talk about her looks. She was not a pretty girl by any means. Her jaw was too big; her cheekbones too prominent and, well, her face just wasn't put together well. She knew this and was resigned to the fact, but she didn't want to look like a Hag's nightmare.
It didn't take me long to figure out that she was my friend now, and as I wouldn't let this happen to any of my other friends, it wouldn't happen to Centi, either. And it really galled me that Dumbledore was nodding his head in agreement with what Snape was saying.
"No!" I shouted as I stood and made my way to her to interrupt Snape's cold assurances that all would be well. Both Dumbledore and Snape were in my way. "Shame on you, Headmaster for considering that idea. You know you'd never allow this if it were Hermione or Ginny who were injured, and I won't let it happen to Millicent."
Dumbledore said nothing, though his mouth hung open. Snape spoke however. "This is not your decision, Potter; you're not the Prince of Hogwarts making such decrees. I'm her head of house, and I say there is no reason to endanger her life just to make her face more appealing than it will be now. She never was--"
"Silence!" I screamed at him, wincing at the pain in my side as I raved at him. It was not my place to stop Snape from saying hurtful things about a student, but as the Headmaster and the other two staff members present had abdicated their roles, I wasn't going to stand there and let him continue.
"I'm not the prince of Hogwarts and you're not the King of England. It's her decision, and she told me she's worried she'll look bad--"
"How dare you!" Snape shouted, "I'm her head of house, and--"
"How dare me?" I asked. "How dare you? Where were you when she was being attacked? You're the high and mighty spy in Voldemort's ranks. Why couldn't you save her or at least warn them maybe?"
"There are certain risks I have to take, sacrifices I have to make," Snape said as if discussing the weather, not life and death. "All in her family were Voldemort's followers and I deemed them... The Headmaster knows I have to provide information and allow certain... events..."
"Shut up!" I shouted. "How can you say these things at all, must less in front of her? You are the most miserable excuse for an educator... Give me Umbridge over you any day. At least she only sent two dementors after me, where as you sent dozens of Death Eaters after her--"
Snape brandished his wand with a whirl and sent a wordless Cutting curse at me. I should have been able to dodge it, but all my ribs still weren't healed and I was too slow. The Cutter hit my right arm and blood flowed freely.
The thing is, like many clean cuts from very sharp instruments, I really didn't feel it much. It wasn't deep, and I decided to act instead of tending my wounds.
"Petrificus Totalis! Incarcerous!" Snape fell back against the wall, bound and stiff, but still able to hear my words, and boy did I have something to say.
Dumbledore and McGonagall were stunned by my actions, and Snape's, apparently, and barely had their wands drawn by the time I'd clipped his wings. Pomfrey bustled forward and began to minister to my arm. The two professors stood there, wands by their sides, at a loss what to do.
Madam Pomfrey made a fuss, muttering about teachers attacking students and students returning spell fire.
Dumbledore aroused from his stupor and moved to release Snape. McGonagall watched him and didn't see me fire off a Stinging hex at the Headmaster's bottom. It was like Dudley's Saturday morning cartoons when Dumbledore jumped into the air as the hex hit his posterior. McGonagall turned and I wordlessly summoned her wand. I pointed my wand at the Headmaster even though he didn't raise his my way.
"Harry, I must release Professor Snape--"
"Why what, Potter?" McGonagall asked.
"I'm speaking with the Headmaster at the moment, Professor. Why must you release your precious Professor Snape?"
"Well, er, he's a Hogwarts professor and--"
"Before you go on," I interrupted, "think long and hard about what he just said about a student in his very own house, and what he just did to me, a student in your school. Then answer me. The future of the chess pieces you've been pushing around the last few years depends on your response. Why must you release the person who betrayed one of your students to the Death Eaters and lethally assaulted another one before your eyes?"
"Potter," McGonagall spluttered.
"Not now, Professor, I'm waiting for the Headmaster's answer."
As McGonagall distracted me, Dumbledore once again moved to release Snape. In retrospect I'm sure Summoning the Headmaster's wand would be impossible in battle, but he wasn't expecting my actions.
Accio wand! Incarcerous! I tossed his wand on the bed besides McGonagall's. I'm sure he could have released himself from my bindings. I had only created a few strands around him and those weren't very tight, but Dumbledore simply turned back towards me in shock.
"Potter, how dare you?" my Albus-worshipping head of house shrieked at me. "'Tis a sad day when a Gryffindor turns magic on two professors and a Headmaster--"
"No, Professor," I interrupted her. "Tis truly a sad day when a Gryffindor head of house forgoes Gryffindor courage for self-serving expediencies. I've always believed that Gryffindor's house stood for something, yet you told me with Umbridge that I should keep my head down instead of doing the right thing. You know all about her Blood Quill, now. Do you know I spent over fifty hours writing with it because I refused to lie? And since I had no truly Gryffindor head of house to turn to, I sat and took it.
"Now, Professor, in Snape you side with an evil man who has harassed your students for years. A man who's sacrificed his own student and her family, and attacked one of your Gryffindors right in front of you. How very Slytherin of you." I tried to wield that last phrase like a knife in the gut. "How very Slytherin of you to side with the Headmaster, approving and promoting long-term gross misconduct of another professor."
"But, Harry, Severus is a Hogwarts Professor." She was calling me Harry again, and falling back on details to justify her actions. I was sure that later I would regret this, but at the moment I didn't care.
"That's the easy way out, Professor. Reprimand me since I did, after all, attack a professor, two now with the Headmaster, and I did take your wand, so make it three. Yet everything I said about your Professor Snape is true. Are you so tired of taking Gryffindor's complaints about Snape to this unhearing Headmaster that you, too, refuse to see the abuse? Or are you just like Umbridge? The Ministry says this or that, so it has to be true - that was her answer for everything. So is yours, if Dumbledore says so, it must be true?
I had one more indictment to make turning to both of them. "I believe I've heard more than once from someone I thought worthy of listening to, that we should always do the right thing, not the easy thing."
Plainly McGonagall was stunned by my words. Dumbledore said, "But, Harry, we must let Severus act this way so he'll be acceptable as a spy for Voldemort."
"Only half true, Headmaster," I said taking him to task. "I'll agree that to a degree, your Professor Snape needs to act cruelly towards Gryffindors especially, as well as Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws. He also needs to favor Slytherins wherever possible. That last is right as head of that house, even if he were not trying to spy. However, and this is a big however, you as Headmaster have no reason to let him get away with much of his prejudiced actions at all.
"A Headmaster should be fair and just, requiring all staff members to act rightly. How many complaints have you received about Snape's behavior in and out of the classroom? A hundred? A thousand?
"Snape needs to be disagreeable, but you need to bring him into line as you would any other professor doing what he does. If Professor McGonagall here had ten percent of the complaints Snape's had, wouldn't you have talked to her?"
"I have talked to Professor Snape, Harry on numerous occasions, particularly on your behalf as well as others I might add, and at Minerva's request."
"But has it done any good? Oh, perhaps he's curbed his enthusiasm a bit for a day, but he's always been back at me in short order, and it's gotten worse over time, leading up to his attacking me just now."
I sighed and winced in pain at my still hurting ribs. Pomfrey moved to work on me but I waved her off. She huffed at me and I continued my tirade ignoring her.
"Don't your staff members have a handbook or something? Isn't there a rule that says a staffer or teacher gets three or four warnings and then they're sacked?" Dumbledore started to speak here but I held up my hand and stopped him.
"I know, you're going to say he has to stay here as a spy. Well, because you haven't sacked him or clamped down on his excesses, I'd bet Voldemort already knows Snape's a spy."
Almost involuntarily all of us looked at Snape, who was still petrified and bound. His eyes only moved, and the expression on his face looked as if he was trying to cast the Killing Curse at me through them at this moment - or it could have been constipation, I've been known to misinterpret these things.
Dumbledore and McGonagall turned back to me, and he said, "How do you mean Voldemort already knows Severus spies for us?"
"Actually, Headmaster, I said that Voldemort already knows Snape is a spy. There is a difference. You've let him get away with gross misconduct as a professor too many times for him not to be something more to you than a simply one of your teaching staff. He has to be special to you, yet he comes and goes to Death Eater meetings, and you're not the least bit suspicious. Tom calls you an old fool, but he knows you're not stupid. You let Snape get away with constant misconduct, you let him protect all the little Death Eaters in training, and you let him come and go as he pleases. Tom must know you think Snape's your spy. But that's only one possibility"
I sighed and winced again at my rib pain. Madam Pomfrey didn't move this time. I guessed she was too busy wondering what I'd say next.
"The other possibility, and I thinks this one is true, because Snape isn't dead yet -- the other possibility is that he's really Voldemort's spy on you and the Order." The second I said this I ignored the gasps and looks of the others and looked directly at Snape. Too bad he was petrified; his restrictions stopped any facial expression that would have indicated any truth in my accusation. His eyes did go wide for a second, but it could just as easily been from shock as anger that I'd guessed.
I turned back to the others. "Tom is a madman, Headmaster, but he's not stupid; what he is, is barbarically cruel. If he's even suspected Snape's your man in any way, he would have penetrated Snape's mind with Legilimency. Finding barriers there, he would have assaulted them. If Snape is that good at Occlumency, and kept Tom out, Voldemort wouldn't have hesitated to torture him until he broke Snape or killed him.
I paused and stared into Dumbledore eyes. Partly I was daring him to use Legilimency on me, but mostly I wanted to see if he'd reveal anything in them.
Of course he didn't.
I continued before anyone else could. "Actually, if he is one against you, Snape being a spy isn't the most damaging thing he's done. I'd wager well over half the members of Slytherin in each year since I've been here at least are well on their way to being inducted as Death Eaters. Probably more. Oh, you've said that Zabini and Greengrass are neutral and Davis and Spinks have joined the Paladin Program, but too many are like Malfoy, Nott, and Parkinson."
I held up my hand again to stop Dumbledore. "I know Draco and Pansy became Paladins, but Millicent thinks that's the funniest thing she's heard in a while, and she thought that before her family was attacked. I'll bet you a thousand Galleons Draco proves he doesn't believe any of your Paladin chivalry ideas before Christmas break.
"Also, I think Millicent will admit that if she hadn't been attacked, she would have gone right into the arms of Voldemort, and your Professor Snape hasn't done a thing to stop her. His actions and words have probably encouraged her that way."
I looked Centi's way and she slowly nodded in agreement with me.
Then another point came to me. "How many Death Eaters has your Professor Snape told you Voldemort has?"
Dumbledore looked confused at the question, but soon answered, "He reported somewhere between thirty-five and forty-five I'd say."
The pain from my bleeding arm was getting to me, as well as the rest of my injuries. I sighed and cackled, "Well, let's celebrate. Centi and I have killed at least that many in the last few days. I'll give you the Pensieve memories to prove it." I looked at her and she nodded her head even more vigorously.
Hurting, spent, and knowing not what else to say from here, I just stopped.
Madame Pomfrey fidgeted, wanting to finish her work on me. I'd shooed her off after she'd barely stopped my arm from bleeding.
Realizing I was finished, Dumbledore simply closed his eyes for a second and the ropes I'd cast around him disappeared. I knew he wasn't really held back, but I'd hoped his willingness to stay in my constrictions was a sign he was truly listening.
"Well, Mr. Potter," Dumbledore said, "you seem to have me over a barrel. I suppose I will take Professor Snape outside and then release him. I'll see he doesn't enter here again until he is ready to act with more decorum, and I apologize to you and Miss Bulstrode." Dumbledore then moved towards Snape once more.
I saw red. "That's it? You'll take him somewhere for the time being because I have you over a barrel? I'm very disappointed in you, Headmaster. Fawkes!"
Almost as quickly as I said the bird's name he flamed into the room and circled once, trilling his wonderful tunes before he landed on the bed beside me. I noticed everyone in the room seemed to calm with his song, except Snape.
"Hello, Fawkes," I said, while stroking the feathers on his back. He leaned into my hand and crooned tunelessly with my touch. "I'm sorry to bother you, but will you please fetch Professor Dumbledore's Pensieve?" Fawkes nodded and was gone in another burst of flame.
I turned to the Headmaster. "My apologies for not asking you first, sir, but there are some memories you three need to see before we go forward."
Fawkes flashed into the Infirmary again and plopped the stone device down next to me. Without really taking my eyes off of anyone in the room, except Millicent and Pomfrey, I pulled strand after strand of liquid recollections from my mind.
When I was finished I placed the Pensieve on a rolling table Pomfrey used to put meals before patients so they won't have to get out of bed to eat. "Professor, I'm not sure how to make this thing project my memories. I want you all to see, including Madam Pomfrey here, and Centi, er, that is Millicent."
Obliging me, curiosity manifest on his face, Dumbledore stepped up and tapped his wand on the Pensieve. He stepped back and now everyone, including Snape himself could see.
I started with my very first Potions class and the humiliation I received for not knowing fifth year Potions questions. I showed a number of snippets of classes over the years, including the ones where points were taken for things Malfoy did to our cauldrons to make them explode or overflow. Even I hadn't realized that quite often Snape was watching all of this and still took points from us, but the memories made it obvious.
I showed the constant insults Neville and I endured, and several hurled at other Gryffindors. I showed how Hermione was hit by the hex in our fourth year that caused her teeth to grow. I was glad I had McGonagall's wand when she heard Snape say that he didn't see any difference in Hermione's six-inch teeth. I'd always known she was McGonagall's favorite, but I'd hoped for a little sympathy along the way for myself.
I ended with excerpts from several of my Occlumency lessons from the year before. Up to this point my two unpetrified professors were at first stunned, and then disheartened by what they saw of the completely ineffective mind lessons. McGonagall went beyond disheartened into angry. The book I read on Occlumency clearly stated how to start learning that mind art. Snape's "Clear your mind," and then attack method was there, presented in the book as a valid training exercise only for those in the last stages of gaining their Mastery in the subject.
As my memories ended I said before any one else could, "I've given you example after example of completely incompetent teaching skills, malice, favoritism, and bad behavior. I've shown you a multi-year pattern of abusing students and educational malpractice. Can you honestly say that you'd tolerate a tenth of that from any other professor in this school? Snape doesn't teach; he just puts a formula on the board, tells us to get busy, and then harasses us while we try to make it with no help from a proper instructor."
I went on before any response. "Now, just today, your Professor Snape has cruelly insulted a member of his house. He's admitted to knowing about the attack on her family ahead of time, and letting it happen with no warning. And, he attacked me first with a potentially fatal curse. Now, I have two questions for you, Headmaster. First, with you letting Snape get away with everything you've done so far, how could Voldemort not think you believe Snape spies for you? Second, why did you say that I have you over a barrel, when all I have asked for is fair and even treatment? Why do I have to force you to do the obviously right thing? But that makes three questions. Actually, I'm more interested in what blackmail material he has on you, as your actions are not those of a rational man with the ability to think strategically."
Dumbledore winced at his choice of words just minutes ago. I let him stew in his own juices. Dumbledore looked at me in an indecipherable way. To her credit McGonagall looked traumatized. Perhaps I was too hard on her, but then again, maybe not.
Centi snapped her fingers and I ignored everyone else and went to her.
"Harry, Snape, that... that bast-"
I held up my hand and mind-chuckled. "Please, Centi, my delicate Gryffindor sensibilities. You don't have to use such language. I know what he is."
"Yes, well..." She looked away and back immediately. "Well, I just found out what he thinks of me, so the gloves are off. You know how he doesn't teach in class, he just puts up a formula and hopes for students to fail? Well he does teach us Slytherins what we need to know, the night before in our common room so we know what to do in class."
I smiled. "I can tell them this?" She nodded as pain ran across her frozen face. I put my hand on her shoulder and eye-spoke, "Thanks. I could kiss you for this."
I turned and told McGonagall and Dumbledore what Centi had said.
"How can you speak to her, Harry?" Dumbledore asked.
I was exasperated with him and it showed on my face. "That's neither here nor there, back on subject, Headmaster. What are you going to do about your precious pet, Professor Snape?"
Dumbledore looked at a loss as to what to say. I stared at him to make him even more uncomfortable. Then Millicent snapped her fingers on her working hand again so I left him to steep in his failings.
"Now, I'm going to talk to Millicent," I said. "You can choose to release Professor Snape or even bind me. Do as you please. However, since I have to force you to do the right thing, rest assured that if you let him go now, or attack me; I'll be enrolled next term in a proper school in New Zealand."
I was breathing raggedly from the pain from my remaining unhealed wounds and the exertions of the past minutes. I took a steadying breath and looked down into Centi's eyes.
"I can't believe you just did that!" She thought to me first thing.
"What, attack Snape, accuse McGonagall, or yell at Dumbledore?"
"Well," Centi said, "All three, really, but mostly stand up for me."
"Well, your head of house had no business saying that about you, and as for McGonagall, she needs to re-evaluate her priorities."
"Would you really go to New Zealand?"
I smiled mischievously at her. "I would, but it's an idle threat. It will never come to that, but if it did, I'm sure the school down there would let us in.
I looked down. I realized I'd jumped ahead of myself. "If things got so bad that I'd leave, I'd offer to take all of my friends with me. You have no one to stay here for, so I just supposed..."
"Harry, I'm glad you want me with you, but neither of us is going to leave. You need Dumbledore. Don't press him too much. Now, I don't want you in any more trouble, so let's just let Pomfrey work on my face and--"
"No! A surgeon can fix you up and there's no reason not to bring one here. Pomfrey says you're good for a while. And Galleons speak. So does my fame. I'll get someone here to help you. Oh, by the way, do they even have plastic surgeons at St. Mungo's?
"What's a, er, plastad, er surgeon?"
"Plastic surgeon. It's a Muggle term. It's a surgeon that can change a person's face to get rid of wrinkles, make their noses smaller, remove scars, make people prettier or more handsome."
"Prettier?" She turned away for a second and then turned back. I had heard a trace of hope in her unspoken voice. She placed what little sternness she could create on her face and eye-spoke, "There's no money for such things. I'll make do with Madam Pomfrey. Besides there's little you could do with my face.
I turned, having made a decision while we'd been speaking; I was going to call in a few markers in the Wizarding world.
"Madam Pomfrey, the Muggles have plastic surgeons, someone who puts faces back together and does it right. Is there a magical equivalent?"
She looked off for a moment. Dumbledore and McGonagall tried to speak to me but I raised my hand rudely to them and didn't even look their way.
"Surgical-wizard Timothy Binderly is visiting from America this month, teaching at St. Mungo's on fixing burn victims' faces. I guess he could be called in. He was a student at St. Mungo's in the early eighties studying war injuries when you defeated You-Know-Who. He might come if you call."
"How long before something has to be done to help Millicent?"
"We must do something by tomorrow, early afternoon at the latest I'd say."
I turned back to the two professors and folded my arms, which hurt like you wouldn't believe unless you've ever had ribs in my condition. I grimaced, but kept my arms folded gingerly against my chest.
"Harry," Dumbledore spoke first, "with your permission I'll take Professor Snape out and talk with him about all of this. I won't allow him back in here unless he assures me of his proper behavior. I'll only take a minute or two and then we'll see what can be done for Miss Bulstrode."
I stepped to where Snape could see me better. "Shame on you, Professor Snape," I spat his name. "Insulting a student of your house, shirking your responsibilities, and not trying to do your best by her. And now that you've assaulted me, things will be different. If I understand it correctly, because Hogwarts is associated with the Ministry of Magic, I can sue you before the Wizengamot Judiciary for attacking a student. .
"I've never sought fame or used my name as you've accused me, and you know it. But rest assured, I'll go to any lengths and use every Boy-Who-Lived favor I can call on to ruin you if you ever treat me or my friends badly again, and that includes Millicent.
"Grow up. You're not fifteen and fighting my father any more."
I turned. "Fawkes, you've heard what I've said, would you please stay here so you can protect me and Millicent from any attackers? I know I can trust you, and you, too, Madam Pomfrey," I added, turning to the mediwitch and giving her a friendly nod.
Then I turned back to Dumbledore and said, "You may take him with you and release him, but please return as quickly as possible. Your number one priority should be the student that's so hurt right now she needs a special surgeon."
He levitated Snape away and I turned slightly to address my head of house. "Professor McGonagall, I'm sorry for my words--"
She rushed to me and took my hands. It startled me and I backed up, stumbling a bit when I hit the bed. My ribs reminded me they hurt - a LOT - and I inhaled sharply in pain.
"You're still very hurt, Harry," she said, her eyes moist. Let me--" She helped me into bed and Madam Pomfrey came forward and began knitting my ribs back into place. Fortunately none of my skeletal damage crushed anything so badly I'd need Skele-Gro. In no time I felt considerably less pain, and could breathe easily. I hadn't realized how much I'd been hurting until it didn't any more.
Once again I turned to McGonagall. "I apologize for being so severe with you. I was in pain, but that's no excuse." Although Dumbledore hadn't looked a bit repentant, McGonagall was now nearly in tears. The Slytherin side of me realized she could be a powerful ally if I needed to continue fighting the Headmaster.
Okay, being the angry, disrespectful bloke isn't really me at all. I felt horrible for saying what I had, but I was only going to apologize to those who showed that they finally got it.
My head of house had completely dropped her Scottish dourness. "I'm sorry, Harry," she said. "I've no real excuse on any of this. I'd grown tired of fighting Albus about Severus long before your first year, and you never said anything."
"Yes," I admitted, Pomfrey's pain relief potions relaxing me and my tongue. "I learned never to complain from the Dursleys."
That brought more stricken looks from McGonagall. "Indeed, another failure on my part. I should have insisted you go anywhere else, but about last year. I comforted myself that I stayed to protect you from Dolores' excesses, and perhaps I did slow her a bit, but... but if I'd have known about the Blood Quill... Oh, dear!"
Looking down, she had seen the words still carved in the back of my hand. McGonagall raised my scarred hand to her face and cried over it as if her tears would heal the marks.
I was distinctly uncomfortable with her crying, more so that most teenaged boys might be. You can imagine how tears were greeted at the Dursleys.
I reached my other hand up and patted her face awkwardly. She looked at me. "Professor, I'm sorry I unloaded on you like that. Please believe me. I've never thought of you as uncaring or cowardly. I was shocked by Professor Dumbledore's reaction and other things that happened between the two of us the night Sirius .... You just got caught in the blast of my anger at him."
By this time McGonagall had wiped her eyes and nose with a handkerchief, and was composing herself. "Aye, Harry, I've asked Albus about that night." Her brogue seemed heavier during this emotional time. "He's refused to say anything, and I'm not asking you to tell me of it, but I'm here for you, lad, for that and whatever else may arise. Please allow me the opportunity to help you in the future."
"Agreed," I said and smiled. "As long as you agree to correct me if you feel you need to."
"Rest assured, Potter." Ah yes, we were back to me being 'Potter,' but her smile was genuine. "But I promise to listen better and make sure we both understand each other, and agree together on the right course; the Devil take the easy path." I smiled up at her in my slightly potion-addled state. She then did the most un-McGonagall like thing I've ever seen her do. She reached forward and ruffled my hair like I was a little boy. For some odd and inexplicable reason I found it comforting.
Minutes after he had left, the Headmaster came back into the Infirmary. He looked to Pomfrey and McGonagall, who both merely returned his gaze, and then Dumbledore looked at me as if at a loss for words. I decided to give him a full minute to offer to help Millicent, before I either demanded his help or demanded Pomfrey release me so I could go to St. Mungo's to find this Surgical-wizard Binderly.
I counted slowly to sixty so I wouldn't have to look at my watch.
It was at twenty-two by my count that Dumbledore said, "Harry, why don't I go invite Timothy Binderly to come here and treat Miss Bulstrode?"
"Please do that, Professor, and be as persuasive and resourceful as the Supreme Mugwump can be. And sir, money is no object. I inherited a lot of Galleons from Sirius. I'll spend what it takes to make this happen now rather than later. Do whatever it takes to get him here soon." I hesitated, then added, "Please, er, sir. It's important."
"I will do my best, Harry," Dumbledore said.
"Well your best should have him here very soon," I replied. "Thank you, Professor."
The rest of that day had fleeting moments of interest, but on the whole it was as boring as a rainy Saturday.
McGonagall helped me back to bed and adjusted my pillows so that I could sit up Then she offered a profuse apology for her outbursts about Snape and about Umbridge. I assured her again that I had spoken out of my pain. I also told her that keeping my head down was good advice that I was not likely to follow--ever. It would be several months before McGonagall wasn't just a little bit more attentive towards me than she was to other Gryffindors, and that extra care would help me several times.
Dumbledore came back to the Infirmary well after 3:00. He told us that Binderly wanted to meet me and help out. However, he was booked all day and early tomorrow morning as well with training surgeries to perform. He'd be here by mid to late morning to work on Centi. Dumbledore assured me that Binderly knew noon was Centi's limit.
By this time, I was completely put back together, but I was exhausted from my wounds and lack of sleep, and glad to stay in bed. My various bandages would be removed the next morning, and with the possible exception of some additional scars, I'd be as good as new.
The Headmaster asked about how I made a Portkey and I told him I didn't really know how I did it. The simple truth was that I just had to to save Millicent, so I did it. After a bit of discussion we figured it was a bit of Spell Mongery added to exhausted, adrenalin-laced accidental magic. I didn't really believe that, but it was as good an explanation as any.
When Centi woke, I got out of bed and staggered over to speak to her. Dumbledore cautioned me, but I told him I needed to tell her what was going on.
"How are you feeling, Centi?"
"Tired, sore, and my face hurts a little. What news? I see Dumbledore's back."
"Yes, the surgical-wizard Pomfrey knew about will be here tomorrow morning. I'll make sure he does a good job. Is there anyone in particular you want to look like when this is all over? Celestina Warbeck? Fleur Delacour? One of the Weird Sisters?" I chuckled to make sure she knew I was kidding, and then added, "Your regular face will be fine with me, you'll look better with a kind smile, I'm sure."
"Harry, please grab the photo album you saved from my house. It has a couple of recent photos of me in it. Oh, and ask the Headmaster for me if he'll have someone check my house and see if they burned it down completely, or if some things like my clothes can be retrieved."
I turned to do as she asked and Dumbledore stopped me.
"Harry, are you somehow talking to Miss Bulstrode through Legilimency?"
"No, sir. I tried that and it didn't work. She had a few basic Occlumens shields, but let them down right away for me. Even with her mind organized through Occlumency, I couldn't communicate really. She did show me a picture of sorts of where to search for a few prized possessions when we escaped, but we couldn't talk.
"No, I pulled up my Spell Monger's Spell Scrutinizer and looked at Legilimency, which really didn't tell me anything. I'm too new at Mongering to be able to analyze a spell that complex. So, I just thought about the Mind magics, and then I just mongered something in place and bullied it into working for me through sheer will power, I guess. I cast it on Millicent and we are able to speak, somehow, through our eyes." I paused to consider my explanation.
"No, actually I cast it on myself," I said. "I 'think' the spell, there is no incantation. I just think about engaging it and I seem to be able to feel it come up. Then I look into her eyes and we can communicate.
"I call it eye-speak as a matter of fact. We have to look at each other and when we are, we can hear all of our thoughts, not just what we want to say. It caused a few embarrassments, but Millicent and I made it through the rough spots." I smiled towards Centi and she raised her hand and waved at us in agreement, I guess. Her eyes smiled and she nodded slowly.
By this time both Pomfrey and McGonagall were muttering about Spell Mongery, though neither sounded angry over it, just perplexed about how I had become involved in it.
It's grossly misunderstood and I was tired of it. I raised my voice a bit and said, "Please ladies, Spell Mongery is just like Healing spells and Transfiguration. I can use a Bone Resetting spell on a person's skull and kill him, or I can transfigure a person into a fish and let them die, painfully, on dry land from asphyxiation. Spell Mongering is no different. Please tell them, Headmaster."
"Harry is correct, ladies. Spell Mongery is much misunderstood branch of magic and the Arithmantic Spell Crafters at the Ministry have spread many falsehoods on the subject throughout the centuries."
He then turned back to me. "Harry, it is most remarkable that you've created a way to speak mind-to-mind through the eyes."
"I guess so, sir, but I did it in desperation and not using standard Mongering procedures. therefore, I don't know how to cast the spell into my Monger's Spell Scrutinizer to see what I created. I have a new piece of magic and I'm too new at Mongering to figure out what it is and how it works. I hope with experience I can figure out how to package it for sale. I'd charge a Knut just to get the spell out there for use by people with problems speaking."
"That's quite humanitarian of you, Harry. I wasn't aware that Spell Mongery was such a precise craft. I believe you when you say it is falsely maligned by the Ministry Arithmantic Spell Crafters, but your description of hammering and banging a spell into shape led me to believe it a crude practice."
"They use a lot of iron monger words, or what we call blacksmithing today," I explained, "but Mongers follow strict safety practices and I'm required to document everything very carefully. That's why I'm unhappy about this eye-speak. I wasn't able to follow procedures. I broke the rules, but I think other Mongers, if we had any alive today, would understand the emergency nature of what I did. I can't wait to get back to Grind's journal and research dealing with such accidents."
"Grind?" McGonagall queried. "As in Telemachus Grind?"
I couldn't avoid rolling my eyes as I went on to explain to her and Poppy Pomfrey about how Dobby brought me the journal of the house-elves' First Master, my many generations ago ancestor, Telemachus Grind. Grind was the last Spell Monger. He is greatly reviled in the British magical world, though there is no clear statement as to why. I have difficulty reconciling this hatred of him and the man who wrote the journal entries I've read. Of course, I bet Tom Riddle has nice things to say about himself in his memoirs.
McGonagall and Pomfrey eventually agreed, with Dumbledore's persistent chiding, to give me the benefit of the doubt. I told them stories of some of the great spells lost to history because no Spell Monger had lived past Grind's death to make the spell available to the public.
Eventually they both acknowledged that I had a point when I stated even simple magic could be used for evil, and blood magic was used everyday when a witch or wizard used a finger prick to make their personal diaries unavailable to anyone but themselves. I promised to never Monger anything evil. I didn't bother to explain that this promise didn't extend to violent magic when it came to fighting Death Eaters.
This was going along too easily. My life hadn't been threatened and no major cause of pain had hit me in over seven hours. Oh, yes, there was Snape's attack, but that hardly counts, compared to Death Eaters.
Of course, things had gone entirely too smoothly for the last few hours. This was one of the rare days in the entire Paladin Program. Today each Paladin took two Acceleration Potions. Missing the potion at 7:00 woke me up with major pain. The next one would be worse.
As the clock above the Entrance Hall struck 4:00, I was gut-shot. Well, not literally, but a small caliber bullet might have hurt less. I lurched up from my bed where Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Pomfrey were listening to me describe the Monger's Spell Scrutinizer, the tool I used to look at spells and charms.
"ARGGHH!" I would have fallen off of the bed, but for Dumbledore's quick action to hold me in place on the hospital bed.
"The Acceleration Potion!" Poppy shouted.
"Harry," Dumbledore asked with concern. "When was the last time you took one?"
"Monday morning," I barely made clear.
"It's too late to give him the current dose, and we can't give him a Catch-Up Potion while he's like this." Dumbledore stated. He held up his left hand and a vial of purple something shot into his fingers from a cabinet on the other side of the room. The stopper flew off with no effort and he had it in my mouth in an instant.
In less than a minute the pain was over - all except for a queasy feeling in my gullet.
I just knew this wasn't good. "I'm out of the Paladin Program now, aren't I?" I wanted to vomit. I wanted this program. Dumbledore said he designed it with me in mind.
The mediwitch explained, "That potion ended the program for you now, Potter, but you're not out. You are still within the time period where you can be reinstated." She looked at her watch. It's 4:00, in eight hours, at midnight, you can take a potion that brings you back up to speed. You'll be out for twelve to sixteen hours, but then you'll be back in the program. It will hurt some, but not anywhere near as much as your ribs hurt earlier."
Centi snapped her fingers and I walked over. That potion did the trick and I was feeling much better than the gut slam would have indicated.
I engaged my Eye-Speak spell. Harry, ask if I can start on the program after I'm well.
I turned from her and spoke to them. They'd followed me over to her bed. "Centi wants to know if it's not too late to start the program potions."
Dumbledore looked at Poppy. She finally said, "Tomorrow is the twenty-first day of the program. It's the cut off point to join all of the others. Even though it's an evening potion, she won't be fully recovered enough from the surgery. But she could start the next day in the evening, couldn't she, Headmaster?"
"She could and just run a day behind everyone else. The problem is that she will be out of schedule with everyone else in the program and her Paladin 'visits' won't align with anyone else except for perhaps one day in six or seven. We could try to find other fifth years like Colin Creevey to visit with her, but there is the security risk. Severus has reported that Voldemort is most anxious to see her dead."
He turned to me. "You've made many valid points about Professor Snape, Harry, but you fail to see that he was correct that Miss Bulstrode is in grave danger. I'll willingly admit it is hard to see in the midst of everything else he said."
"I don't doubt you or him on that, Professor, but I have a solution. I'll not take the restart potion until Centi is safely through her surgery. That way I won't be knocked out tomorrow when Binderly comes by. I'll wait and take my potion when she does, and then we'll visit together whenever possible. I believe you mentioned here will be the safest place for her?"
"She will stay here, Harry, but I must insist you start your potions this evening. Timing is more crucial for you than her, because you've already been on the potions."
Seeing my anger rising Pomfrey explained further, "The elements are already in your nervous and blood system, Potter. You've been to the limit of not being engaged before we can restart you. As it is, you'll hurt, but waiting even until tomorrow will increase the pain immensely. And waiting two more days to start with Missed Bulstrode will bring the pain level up to unbearable."
I wasn't to be dissuaded. "Surely there can be a modification to the potion. Perhaps a Pain Reliever potion or a pain blocking charm?"
The three looked at me. I brought up my most determined face. They looked at each other and Poppy nodded to the Headmaster.
"Harry," Dumbledore began, "You've asked the one man who can answer your questions to go away."
I stared at him for a long moment before I said, "Please invite Professor Snape to join us if you will. I'm sure he will be delighted to discuss how to lessen my pain a bit, since I'm volunteering for a whole lot more of it."
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