Chapter 17 – Traitorous Servants
By Lady Alchymia
Elizabeth gazed dazedly around Saint Mungo’s fourth floor corridor, the air abuzz with the euphoria of Harry’s recovery, everyone laughing and kissing and hugging each other. Time now, she thought resignedly, to find out what caused the tragedy in the first place.
“Might have known you’d find a way,” Mad-Eye Moody growled by way of hello.
Elizabeth smiled softly at her old mentor’s familiar, gnarled face. “It’s good to see you too, Alastor.”
“Don’t suppose you’d care to let me in on exactly how you managed to get past the you-know-what?”
“Didn’t think so.”
“None taken,” Moody grunted, shuffling away. “I wouldn’t tell me either.”
Elizabeth spotted Remus speaking with the young woman he’d been comforting earlier. Her cheeks were now glowing with happiness and her blue eyes were surely far too wide and bright for this hour of the night. There ought to be a law about that sort of thing, Elizabeth thought dully. She moved over to them, determined to be polite.
“Hello,” she said gamely. Remus’s smile broadened.
“Ah, Elizabeth, this is Hestia, Hestia Jones,” he said, and the two women shook hands. “Elizabeth is Harry’s godmother,” Remus told Hestia, who nodded sagely. Elizabeth forced a smile. So, it wasn’t ‘Elizabeth is my wife’ any more, then.
“I’ll see you back at the house,” Hestia said to Remus, kissing his cheek. “Just give me an hour — maybe two.”
“She and Mad-Eye have an idea they want to test,” Remus explained, as Hestia rushed away. “It’s a bit of a long shot, but they seem to have tried everything else.”
“Am I coming with you?” piped up a happy young voice.
Elizabeth, Remus, and Hermione made their way back to Grimmauld Place by the Muggle London underground. Elizabeth had no problem with this; she was in no great hurry to return to Sirius’s house. Mad-Eye Moody met them at the door, his oculus spinning.
“Get in, get in,” he growled without preamble. “We’re not quite there yet. Give us an hour. Still looking for a brain.”
Upstairs, in a brand-new kitchen, photographs lay scattered across the dining table betwixt bowls of fruit and half-eaten loaves of bread. A cork noticeboard broadcast messages, shopping lists, exam results. It all looked so — so normal. Elizabeth was hard-pressed to remember what the room had originally been used for. Some salon or other, she supposed. Hestia must have renovated the rest of the house, too. From what Elizabeth had seen, she had to admit the witch had style.
Still on a high from Harry’s recovery, Hermione flopped into a chair and exhaled a deep, happy sigh.
“I just can’t believe he’s all healed. I mean, Harry’s been in some terrible scrapes before, but —”
She broke off at a scratching on the door.
“Ah, that would be Evil,” said Elizabeth. Sure enough, when she re-opened door, a golden blur shot past her and leapt straight into Remus’s arms. “Fickle beast,” Elizabeth sniffed disdainfully as she edged past them to make the coffee. “So well-named.”
Remus cuddled Evil to his chest.
“Evil? Is that your name?” cooed Hermione, stroking the Kneazle’s golden fur. “Aren’t you gorgeous?”
Remus lifted an eyebrow. Elizabeth didn’t blame him; she loved Evil dearly, but Kneazles were not considered the prettiest of felines. Hermione continued petting Evil, earning soft purrs for her efforts, but he remained firmly stuck to Remus’s chest.
“Are you a boy or a girl?” Hermione purred.
“An old man, actually,” answered Remus fondly. “He must be, what do you reckon, Lizzie, twenty-years old?”
“You found him,” Elizabeth returned lightly. “He was a kitten then, wasn’t he?”
“What do you mean found him?” said Hermione, tickling Evil’s ears. “Someone didn’t abandon you, did they?”
“I’m afraid so,” said Remus. “This would’ve been in, ah — sixth year, I think it was. Someone dumped a whole litter in the Forbidden Forest. Half a dozen kittens were never going to last too long in there. Prongs and Padfoot helped me chase off a couple of wolves, but this little lad was the only one we were able to save. I found him under his dead siblings. Poor little thing — half-starved to death, weren’t you? You were hardly bigger than Wormtail.”
“That’s horrible!” Hermione cried.
Elizabeth shot a warning look to her husband. He was being shockingly indiscreet.
“Don’t fret, Lizzie,” Remus said, catching the look, “Hermione knows all about my lunar lifestyle and all my furry little friends.” Remus grinned at Hermione. “It took you, what, all of five minutes to discover I was a werewolf when I was teaching at Hogwarts.”
“I wouldn’t say five minutes,” Hermione said, letting Evil lick her fingers, “ten, fifteen, maybe.”
Elizabeth frowned at Remus. “You’re not teaching at Hogwarts any more?”
“Nope,” Remus replied in that horribly cheerful, matter-of-fact way he had, “that’s all behind me now. And thanks to the Daily Prophet, I am now properly ‘out’ as it were. I daresay it wasn’t newsworthy enough for the Canadian press.”
Elizabeth’s heart sank somewhere past her feet. It had been hard enough for Remus to live within the bigotry of their world when his condition was a relatively private matter.
“But wasn’t Evil scared of you?” Hermione pressed. “When you found him, I mean. Weren’t you all — you know — grrr ...”
“Oh, right,” Remus said, turning back to Hermione. “I imagine he sensed I wasn’t going to hurt him. Kneazles are highly attuned to such things. He just crawled up onto my back and wouldn’t let go.” Remus looked down affectionately at the feline nestling close to his heart. “Just like now, you big sook.” Evil’s thin, tufted tail reared up and whacked Remus in the ear. “Yes, I probably deserved that,” Remus grimaced, cuddling Evil closer.
Yawning happily, Hermione elected to retire; it was pushing one in the morning.
Remus followed the girl out, saying over his shoulder to Elizabeth, “I’ll just check if Hestia needs anything. Back in a tick.”
While Elizabeth waited, she sneaked a look at the photos spread across the kitchen table — party photos, it seemed. A photo of Remus caught her eye. He was dancing — swing dancing — with Hestia. They looked so happy, smiling and laughing. Elizabeth discarded the photo and sipped forlornly at her coffee. She had no reason to reproach Remus for moving on. He made it very clear when they parted that there was no hope of them ever getting back together again. And yet ... and yet today it had almost felt like old times, the way he held her, comforted her.
“How’s Hestia doing?” she asked quietly when he reappeared.
“She and Alastor’ll be a little while yet,” he replied. “Come sit down; you must be exhausted.”
Taking their coffees, they headed for the drawing room, where Elizabeth took one look at the damaged armchairs and felt her heart sinking even further.
“Maybe the library,” suggested Remus, tugging her back out of the room.
Downstairs, she inhaled deeply of air that was slightly musty from keeping company with centuries’ of old tomes. They sat facing each other across a Chesterfield sofa. Evil lay curled in Remus’s lap; he wasn’t going anywhere. Remus reached a fingertip to brush the back of Elizabeth’s hand.
“Thank you for inventing the Wolfsbane,” he said in a low voice. “You saved my life.”
Elizabeth was utterly undone. Remus spilled Evil to the floor and pulled her into his arms, where she crumpled, sobbing into his shoulder. All the years, all the sleepless nights — the endless experiments, the endless failures — searching through every ancient library, tracking down every false lead — never giving up hope, even when everyone said she was wasting her time. She’d do it all again in a heartbeat to hear those words.
“I know,” he said thickly, stroking her hair, “I know.”
When she’d calmed down enough, Remus poured them a pair of brandies, and they sat apart again, the silence thickening.
“Where should we start?” he ventured.
Elizabeth set down her brandy balloon and rested a hot cheek against the cool leather. Where, indeed, she thought sadly. Tell me why you really left me, tell me you don’t love me, tell me why your arms aren’t surrounding me so tightly I don’t know where I stop and you begin.
“Tell me about Sirius,” she said instead.
An hour later, Elizabeth shook her head numbly. Tell me about Sirius. How could four little words explode into such an epic tragedy? For a whole year Dumbledore knew Voldemort was plotting to get at Harry and the prophecy. A sudden, unreasoning wave of anger surged within Elizabeth.
“How could you not tell me about all this before now?” she blurted accusingly.
Remus didn’t answer for several long moments; his eyes searched the bookshelves, as if an answer lurked there, just out of reach.
“I — I knew if I did ... I knew — I was afraid you’d come back.”
The weight that had been steadily dragging Elizabeth down multiplied ten-fold.
“I see,” she said.
“Lizzie, it’s not what you —”
“Don’t!” Elizabeth tried to blink back the tears, tried to laugh it off. “Walked straight into that one, didn’t I?” She jerked unsteadily to her feet and stared at the ceiling. “Where’s Moody? They must be finished by now, surely.”
A knock sounded on the door. Moody’s gnarled visage followed. Elizabeth had a feeling he’d been sitting outside, just waiting for them to finish.
Remus raked a frustrated hand through his hair. “Alastor, could you give us a minute?”
“Any progress?” Elizabeth said tightly.
Moody’s electric-blue eye swivelled between the pair.
“We think we may have cracked it,” he said gruffly.
On the top floor of the mansion, they found a very pale Hestia sitting on the steps. Elizabeth slapped a hand across her mouth, nauseated. Beside Hestia lay a wet test-dummy, shredded and broken beyond recognition. Remus yanked Elizabeth away and into a darkened bedroom.
“Why don’t you lie down for a bit while I check this out?” he said. “That’s the way.”
Elizabeth didn’t have the heart to object. She sank onto what she dearly hoped wasn’t Sirius’s bed and clutched at her churning stomach. It was all too much; she squeezed shut her eyes against having to think or feel or know any more. She felt Remus push her towards a pillow, felt him drape something over her, heard him whisper what he’d whispered ten years before:
“Evil, take care of Lizzie.”
Harry had barely shut his eyes on his visitors when the Healers once again invaded his room. He was being handed over to the midnight shift. The new Healers kept poking and prodding him and asking Healer Dee lots of technical questions. Harry didn’t know why they bothered, he felt fine, just dead tired. He tried to tell them this, hoping they’d take the hint and just let him go to sleep.
“A Shaman’s Death is nothing to take lightly, Mr Potter,” said one of the Healers disapprovingly.
Harry tried yawning very obviously. “A what?”
“When you died this morning,” offered a young Healer helpfully.
“WHAT?” yelped Harry.
“Thank you, Donna,” scowled Healer Dee sternly.
“What? What did she say? What do you mean: died! I am not dead!” Harry declared vehemently.
“Harry, hold on — you need to lie down!” Healer Dee said, holding him down. “Please, everything is fine now. There was a point, just for a few minutes, when your heart stopped beating. This morning — at the scene of the accident — you were revived, of course, but there are some side effects we need to manage very carefully —”
“What kind of side effects?”
“Harry, I don’t want you to worry —”
“What side effects?” demanded Harry. “What aren’t you telling me? Where’s Healer Abercrombie? Where’s Remus?”
“Harry, calm down — please. Truly, it’s very late. I promise we’ll answer all of your questions in the morning, but right now, you need to sleep.”
“It’s a simple question,” he said stubbornly. “What side-effects?”
Healer Dee exhaled a small, worried sigh.
“Harry, just at the moment your soul has become somewhat disconnected from your body. Everything is still there,” she said quickly at the look of horror on Harry’s face, “but one side effect is a remote, very remote, possibility that your mind might wander off. In extreme cases, there’s a risk that if your mind wanders too far, then you may lose your way back to your body.” She stopped and looked anxiously at him. “But the disconnection will resolve itself as you regain your bodily strength. Do you understand, Harry? Harry?”
Harry nodded numbly. Died? Now he’d done everything!
“But what if,” he started, then his voice drifted off helplessly; he wished Remus hadn’t left. “What if my mind does get lost — what would happen to me — to my body?”
Most of the Healers became very interested in their clipboards. Healer Dee took a moment to smooth Harry’s brow. Harry wished she wouldn’t.
“Harry, even when separated from your body,” she said gently, “your soul retains an imprint of your body’s memory, and your body a sliver of your soul. Every part of your being is intimately connected, you see, even over the greatest distances. Truly, sweetheart, one part of your being will not easily surrender its claim on the other.”
“What about this Shaman’s Death thing?” Harry insisted.
Healer Dee cast a dark look towards Donna, who busied herself scrubbing the sarcophagus.
“Harry,” she said delicately, turning back to him, “when a wizard dies, he surrenders his body’s life force to his soul, and this process started when your heart stopped beating, but you were resuscitated in time. A Shaman’s Death takes a little while to complete, several days or weeks even. The Shaman must decide whether to stay bound in the earthly realm, as a ghost, or whether to transcend to whatever is beyond. As I understand it, it’s a very confusing time.”
Harry could vouch for that. When the time came, he knew what his choice would be. And he had no intention of hanging out in a toilet for eternity!
The Healers debated amongst themselves whether or not to let their patient sleep naturally; they seemed worried where his dreams might take him. They finally decided on a dreamless sleeping potion, which Harry drank down without fuss. He dearly craved some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, within moments of falling asleep, Harry found himself out of his body and hearing a rumbling of distant screams.
Well, that worked well.
Harry hung about only long enough to enjoy Donna getting a thorough dressing down from Healer Dee for telling her patient he’d died. He floated down the dark corridors, peeking into wards, listening hard for thoughts of Alice singing, and dodging other dreams and nightmares along the way. Dim amber globes hovered at intervals down the wards, casting an eerie orange glow over deceptively calm, slumbering faces, over witches and wizards who had lost their minds, whose thoughts and emotions, Harry now knew, no longer confined themselves to their physical bodies. The Healers did nothing to help them, nothing that Harry could see, nothing but make them tea and hold their hands. Harry knew they wanted more and he travelled warily. By now he knew if he paused to listen, even fleetingly, he would get sucked into the wrong mind.
“Hello! Yes, you there! You’ll do. I’m ready for my close-up!”
Snagged, Harry struggled to disentangle himself from Gilderoy Lockhart’s dream.
“I’m sorry,” said Harry irritably, “but look, I really can’t stay.”
“I think the lilac, don’t you?” Lockhart said airily, swishing his cape back and forth in front of a long mirror.
“Excellent choice, sir,” beamed a smarmy photographer. “Now if you’d just hold still for me — that’s the way.” FLASH! “And again ...” FLASH!
Harry struggled to break free. “I’m sorry, look, let go of me! I said LET GO OF ME!”
But Lockhart wouldn’t let go — until Harry conjured a few choice memories of his own — including Basilisks and cave-ins. Finally wrenching himself free, he made it back to his room and bobbed, dazed and confused, over his own hospital bed. It was empty. Where’d I go? Lime-green Healers were crouched over something on the floor. Oh ... me. Harry lingered only long enough to see them levitate him back into his bed and tuck him in very tightly. Heading back to the Closed Ward, and not wanting to get caught up with Lockhart again, Harry zoomed straight past him, but then stopped and wheeled around — Lockhart was gone!
Harry scanned the floor. Nothing. Then he looked up. Oh.
An over-inflated Gilderoy Lockhart bobbed elusively around the ceiling, his arms and legs flailing, screaming in terror as Donna, rushing down the aisle, fired arrow after arrow at him. Finally, one managed to penetrate his thick backside and sent a deflating Lockhart whizzing around the ward like a punctured balloon. Harry was just enjoying the moment when he heard a woman scream Neville’s name. Harry lunged for the thought and saw Neville disappearing down a corridor. Hands grabbed at Neville, yanking him away even as Alice ran as hard as she could towards him, never getting any closer. All at once, Harry realised he wasn’t where he thought he was.
“Neville’s okay, Mrs Longbottom,” he ventured, then sensed a new rush of terror. The dream vanished; Alice’s heart was pounding madly. “Sorry, sorry!” Harry blurted. “Please, don’t be scared. I don’t want to hurt you, honest!”
Alice was having none of it, and Harry found himself ejected from her mind. The frail woman rocked in her bed, knees to her chest, humming tonelessly, her arms covering her head, her hands clutching at her sparse white hair. Harry felt terrible; he couldn’t just leave her like this.
“I go to school with Neville,” he called out hopefully. She must have heard something, for Harry felt her let her guard down just a little. “I’m Harry,” he told her, “the Potters’ boy.”
Alice almost let him back in, but then other minds rose up — other people’s nightmares — pressing in on them both: mad voices, screaming for their loved ones, screaming for mercy, begging for their lives — for their deaths. Closing in on herself again, Alice became a tiny hummingbird in the corner of her mind. Harry rounded angrily on the cacophony of voices, on glimpses of many Voldemorts, Lestranges, Dolohovs casting curses and laughing at their victims.
“Get away from her!” he yelled at the cackling Death Eaters, furious at them, furious at their victims, and furious at himself, knowing how unjust, how misplaced his anger was. The lost souls eagerly turned on him, as if magnetically attracted to his strong, sane soul.
In an effort to lead them away from Alice, Harry raced through the wards, listening, pulling in as many nightmares as he could along in his wake until he managed to lose them all in a whirlpool of misery somewhere three floors down. Leaving the night terrors of Saint Mungo’s insane inmates to feast on each other, Harry slipped away, aching to get back into his own head. He did manage to find his way back to his own room, but once there he hit something of a snag: there was nothing going on in his head: no thoughts to latch onto, none at all. Every other time he’d simply woken up in his own head. Right now, though, as Harry looked down at his dead-to-the-world body, the lights were off and nobody was home. Harry wasn’t too worried — not yet. He knew the dreamless sleeping potion would wear off eventually; he just had to be patient, though the longer he waited, the harder it was to stay calm. The night terrors kept finding him, and he’d escape one tortured soul only to be set upon by another. Soon, he lost sight of where he was — who he was — helplessly trapped inside one after another of other patients’ traumatic memories. Harry cast about frantically for refuge from the roiling storm of nightmares. There! A quiet mind innocently beckoned, like an island in the eye of a hurricane: a man, his mind so quiet his only thoughts were for the rhythmic beating of his heart, nothing else. He was chanting dreamily to the song of his heart.
“Dah-dum ... dah-dum ... dah-dum ...”
Harry slipped into the mind of the chanting man and froze. Something wasn’t right. The chanting heartbeat faded and Harry found himself in a chilling void, in the centre of a blackness so dense, so complete, he feared he’d never find his way out again. Despair hungered for Harry’s soul. Freezing cold was piercing the man’s senses. A glistening grey claw reached for him. Harry reeled in the blackness.
“NO! GET AWAY!” he cried. The hand curled around the man’s throat — Harry’s throat. “Crouch? Barty Crouch?”
Harry’s vision fogged. Through the haze of Crouch’s eyes he saw a hooded creature — a Dementor! — it’s yawing mouth sucking air, it’s breath a death rattle — closer — closer still ...
Harry fought desperately to escape Crouch’s mind. A talon tenderly scraped Crouch’s cheek — Harry’s cheek, a victor, toying with its prey.
“Think of something happy!” Harry ordered Crouch frantically.
But there was nothing in Crouch’s mind, only bewildered terror. Inhaled by darkness, Harry’s own terrible memories gushed, unchecked into Crouch’s void: his mother screaming for mercy; himself screaming through the agony of Voldemort’s possession; Sirius falling to his death …
“NO!” Harry screamed desperately. “Sirius! SIRIUS!”
“Master was a nasty, ungrateful swine who broke his mother’s heart,” cackled a new, oddly familiar voice.
Harry lunged for the new thought, desperate to escape Crouch’s hell. He found himself in another.
“Deserved what he got, he did. My poor mistress, all alone now with no Kreacher to comfort her … her ancestral home infested with Mudblood filth, blood traitors, half-breeds, thieves!”
Red-hot rage surged through Harry’s soul.
“SHUT-UP! JUST SHUT-UP! HE’S DEAD BECAUSE OF YOU — YOU BASTARD!”
Kreacher’s foul laughter rang loud and long in Harry’s mind.
“Oh, someone speaks to Kreacher now? Locked up all alone. Just like my poor mistress. All alone …”
Harry was incensed. “That foul —”
“… no Kreacher to comfort her.”
“— loathsome witch! How could you do it? How could you betray Sirius? How could you tell me he’d gone to the Ministry! That he was never coming back!”
A wave of revulsion swelled in Kreacher, choking him — choking Harry.
“The Potter boy,” Kreacher observed curiously, his voice a rasping cackle, “the brat dares speak to Kreacher — presumptuous son of filth. Kreacher knows all about Harry Potter!”
Harry couldn’t think, couldn’t get his mind around his own feelings of righteous fury and grief over Sirius’s death coupled with Kreacher’s jubilation over his master’s demise and his abject misery in being separated from his beloved mistress.
“Kreacher said Master would not come back from the Department of Mysteries!” Kreacher cackled triumphantly. “Master was such a disappointment to his poor mother!”
Harry yearned to beat Kreacher to a bloody pulp, but he was impotent to do anything other than experience Kreacher’s glee. It was unbearable! There had to be some way to punish the evil toerag!
“You tricked Sirius and me into an ambush,” roared Harry, “and now he’s dead! You betrayed the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black! You had a pact with them! You were bound to serve and protect them!”
Kreacher’s cackling stopped abruptly. Harry took savage pleasure in the stabbing pains of remorse he felt Kreacher fighting desperately to resist.
“The last Black!” roared Harry. “Sirius BLACK! You betrayed your family! You betrayed your beloved mistress!”
“Kreacher’s mistress disowned Sirius Black,” Kreacher declared fiercely, but Harry could sense the elf’s mounting anxiety. An image of the Black family tapestry flickered past — Mrs Black thrusting her wand toward Sirius’s name and blasting a hole straight through it. Harry was having none of it.
“Sirius might have been a disappointment to his mother, but she didn’t want her son DEAD! HER LAST SON, DEAD! You did this! You can NEVER atone for what you did!”
“NO!” Kreacher screeched. “Kreacher is his mistress’s most devoted servant!”
“You betrayed her,” Harry shot savagely, “and you betrayed Sirius’s father, as well! HE never disowned Sirius, did he! DID HE?!”
A new rush of fear and self-loathing swelled in Kreacher.
“Sirius is DEAD because YOU betrayed the House of Black! You’ll rot for eternity for what you did!”
“No!” Kreacher begged tearfully. “No! Get out of Kreacher’s head!”
“We think not,” hissed a new voice, an otherworldly, guttural, female voice. A demon’s face filled Harry’s mind, a black face crowned with writhing, spitting serpents. “Justice commands our attention. Go now, little one. Pacta sunt servanda!”
Kreacher’s screams were still ringing in Harry’s mind when he found himself bobbing dizzily over his empty bed. He had no idea how he got there. Did he see — was that the demon from his nightmare? Megaera? Pacta sunt servanda? He realised it was Latin, but he didn’t even know what it meant, so how could he have dreamt it up? Was it a spell he’d read somewhere? Maybe it didn’t mean anything; he was finding it hard to tell what was real and what wasn’t any more. The Healers picked up his unconscious body and tucked him in again. Harry imagined he’d be sporting some good bruises in the morning if he kept falling out of bed. Ah, maybe not; one of the Healers was conjuring some ropes.
The Healers continued prowling his room with their clipboards, checking in on him every half-hour or so. Harry just watched them. He couldn’t help but watch them; he couldn’t close his mind. He just hovered around, dodging other minds as best he could. He floated like that for hours, trying to hold off other tortured souls by filling his battered mind with nightmares of his own. He spent so long trying to shut out other thoughts that he almost missed it — his arm — it was only a twinge, but Harry leapt at the fleeting thought. At last, he was in his right mind again. At last, he could rest.
“Oh, sorry, did I wake you?”
Harry blinked against the charmed sunlight flooding his room. It was Donna, the Healer who’d told him he died.
“I’m Trainee Healer Lully,” she said cheerily, “but you can call me Donna. How are we feeling this morning?”
Harry just stared at the girl, failing to come up with a response that wouldn’t earn his mouth being Scourgified.
“Why don’t we get you some breakfast sorted?” Donna patted his hand and went to leave.
“Donna?” Harry growled through gritted teeth.
The girl scurried back to him. “Yes, dear?”
“Do you reckon we could lose the ropes?”
Donna returned shortly with his breakfast and was just pouring him some juice when Harry’s scar exploded. He screamed in agony, but his heart soared; he was so happy — surprised — elated!
A man was shouting his name. “Harry? Harry! Look at me! Don’t just stand there, girl, get the Healer!”
Maniacal laughter filled the spinning room. It stopped abruptly when Harry realised it was him. He was shaking so badly he could barely tell if he was standing, sitting, or what. A stranger was pinning him down. Harry tried desperately to fight him off.
“Harry, stop, please! Let me help you!”
Footsteps raced into the room.
“Who are you!” panted Harry, flailing against the grabbing hands. “Where am I?”
“Harry, look at me! It’s Healer Dee. You remember, don’t you? You’re in Saint Mungo’s Hospital. We need to get him back into bed.”
Harry discovered he was flat on his back on the cold hard floor, his body tangled in his sheets. Blue and green shapes swam in and out of focus above him. Still shaking, he let himself be lifted back into bed, and he lay there, pressing his palm against his white-hot scar. With a violent lunge, he vomited a stream of fluid onto the floor.
“I have to — I need to —” he panted. He broke off and heaved again but there was nothing left. “Remus! I need Remus!”
“I’ll get Lupin,” offered a man in blue robes.
Harry closed his eyes tightly and tried to breathe. Within moments, Remus was striding into the room and gripping him by the shoulders.
“Harry? What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Voldemort!” Harry rasped feverishly.
Sharp gasps sounded. Eyes shot to every corner of the room, but there didn’t appear to be any Dark Lords lurking about.
“Could Harry and I have a moment, please?” said Remus.
The blue-robed man nodded and left immediately. Healer Dee started to object, but Remus insisted. Harry squeezed shut his eyes; he felt dizzy and sick. A cool hand pressed against his hot forehead.
“You’re burning up,” murmured Remus.
“Voldemort!” Harry blurted fiercely. “He knows I’m here! How does he know I’m here? Is there another traitor in the Order? Another Pettigrew? Did they send me through the boiler? What’s going on?”
“Harry, calm down,” ordered Remus. He made him drink some water. “Start from the beginning.”
“He thinks I’m half-dead,” Harry hissed feverishly. “He’s still laughing — right bloody chuffed! Talking about rewarding his servant! Of honouring him!”
“He spoke of a traitor?” Remus bit sharply. “Who is it?”
Harry shook his head fitfully; the connection was gone.
“I don’t know,” he conceded bitterly.
“Could you tell if he was talking about a male or female servant?” asked Remus.
Harry tried to think — tried to breathe; his scar was a burning knife, splitting his head open.
“I — I think he just — he just said ‘my servant’. I’m not sure. It has to be Snape!” he declared, gathering steam again. “He’s the reason I’m here, isn’t he?! He did this to me, didn’t he?! He’s working for him again, isn’t he?! Isn’t he?!”
Remus and Harry stared grimly at each other, Harry’s breathing even louder in the otherwise quiet room. He could sense Remus worrying about him, but he felt his resolve, too, his strength. Harry’s ragged breathing slowly eased, though he still had a massive headache.
“Harry, we think we’ve worked out what happened at the house,” Remus began. “Snape was involved in setting up the security charm, but so, too, were Mad-Eye Moody and Mundungus Fletcher. Between the three of them, they set up a series of charms to summon you safely through the house to a secure and protected location: the Panic Room, they called it.”
“And Snape sabotaged it,” Harry stated coldly.
Remus stared evenly at Harry for a long moment.
“We don’t know that, Harry. Not yet. From what we learned last night, it does seem that the failure was accidental, though in light of the vision you just had ...” Remus blew out his cheeks and ran a hand through his hair. “Did you see or hear anything else?”
“Just that he was ecstatic,” Harry growled, trying to hold still his pounding head. “Surprised — but really, really happy.”
Remus rubbed thoughtfully at his morning stubble.
“Harry, before we go accusing anyone of anything, I need a bit of time to talk this through with Professor Dumbledore. Okay? Harry?”
“Only Dumbledore,” Harry conceded bitterly. “No offence or anything, but if somebody in the Order’s —”
“Only the Headmaster,” Remus agreed.
Harry screwed up his face and rubbed at his throbbing scar.
“What about this dodgy security charm?” he spat angrily. “Why’d it suck me through the boiler? And why didn’t anyone tell me about it anyway? Or you either? What’s going on?!”
“Harry, I’ll try to answer everything I can, but first, I want the Healers to check you over; you’re pale as a ghost. And maybe they can give you something for the pain from your scar.”
Harry glared up at Remus. Remus returned his gaze unwaveringly. He took Harry’s impatient shrug as a yes and let the Healers back in.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can, Harry,” he murmured, giving the boy’s arm a squeeze. “I’ll just go pass on your message to our friend.”
The Healers gave Harry several painkilling potions, and blessed relief rolled through his aching bones, leaving his mind free to fester over whom in the Order had betrayed him. It had to be Snape!