The Eye of the Snake
I was still in the now deserted common room and had been working through the last pages of the second book Draco had given me when I heard excited noises from the boys’ dorm. Then Neville sprinted down the stairs at a rapid pace and with a lot of noise and dove past me. As I was on my own, he didn't see me at first. When he spotted me eventually it made him jump and stumble for a brief moment. If he hadn't had such a fearful expression on his face I would've laughed at his bright red pajamas with the moving mandrakes, as it was I ignored this unusual sight.
"Hermione, Merlin, you startled me!" he said in shock, clutching at his fast-pounding heart.
"Neville, what's up, what happened?" I asked worriedly, shrinking the book and quickly putting it away.
"Harry..." he stuttered breathlessly and I interrupted him harshly.
"What about Harry?" It came impatiently from me.
"I have to get McGonagall. He was dreaming, he couldn't see anything anymore, and now he's throwing up too!" he said quickly.
"Go quickly to the professor!" I shouted, already sprinting up the stairs to the dormitory, and threw the door open and stormed into the room. A totally distraught and hysterical Harry, who looked terribly green in his face with cold sweat pooling down his forehead, was curled up on his bed. His sweaty hair stuck to his head and his pajamas clung soaking wet to his body. The sight was pitiful, but so were his friends in their total helplessness over Harry's situation. Dean and Seamus stood close to each other, whispering helplessly, and Ron? Well, he spouted something about Harry having to calm down, that he had a dream and a fever. But given what Harry had told us about his aching scar and his visions, I couldn't imagine that it was only a dream. He looked so bad, there had to be more to it.
"Harry, Harry, calm down, that was only a dream...," I heard Ron still persistently trying to persuade him, "a fever dream..."
I acted and did the necessary thing first, which the accumulated manhood present wasn't capable of, I thought contemptuously. I swung my wand, dried his pajamas with a Seresco, let the sour-smelling vomit lying beside his bed disappear with a Scourgify, and with a determined wipe the windows opened. Boys were so incompetent in crucial situations. I mean, they were all wizards, young men that were capable of using magic, and no children, but no, we just don't do the simple tasks...
"Hermione!" It sounded relieved but also very shaky.
"Harry, calm down, you must try to calm down,... here drink!" I had quickly conjured a cup of water and ignored Ron, Dean and Seamus, turning my attention to my problem child. I sat down on Harry's bed and helped him take a sip, which he managed to swallow with difficulty.
"What happened?" I asked calmly, stroking his now dry, tangled hair out of his face. The boys stood there like stuffed dummies and watched us and my attempt to bring order into the chaos.
"Ron's dad... I can't see anything, Mr. Weasley..." whined a very grown-up Harry, which I meant ironically, and I reached out to his bedside table and put his glasses on for him.
"Oh yes, thanks... I dreamed and then... Arthur is hurt, Mr Weasley is hurt! Blood, blood, there was blood everywhere..."
We were interrupted because the door was pushed open again and McGonagall stormed in, dressed in her tartan dressing gown.
"What happened here?" she asked our group sternly. "Mr Potter, what happened here?" The old teacher sounded imperiously as ever.
"I, I dreamed that... Arthur Weasley, was in a dark, dark place and he's injured... badly hurt. If we don't help him, he'll die!" he shouted in panic. I could see her facial features becoming tense, certainly Dumbledore had told her about Harry's dreams and feelings towards Voldemort. Had I not always said that the old fool's scheduled Occlumency lessons were too late? Idiots, all of them.
"Come along, Mr Potter, we're going to Professor Dumbledore!" she ordered. "And you go back to your beds!" She looked at the three boys.
"We'll come with you!" I said, helping Harry up, and Ron was standing on the other side to help him up too.
"Miss Granger, what are you doing in the boys' dormitory at this time of day?" she asked angrily as we made our way to the Headmaster.
"I fell asleep over a book in the common room, and when Neville stormed down the stairs, he quickly told me, and I ran up, dried Harry, cleared the vomit, and opened the windows, Professor!" I said quickly and clipped.
"Mm-hm... well done, Miss Granger. Even though I disapprove of you not being in bed at such a late hour," I could hear her say with austerity. And then we were already standing in front of the big, grey gargoyle guarding the access to the headmaster's office.
"Cockroach clusters," said McGonagall, and the entrance opened. Harry was still weak so we were glad the spiral staircase moved us up. We could hear a lot of different voices behind the door to the office, talking to each other lively in spite of the nocturnal hour, and the professor knocked loudly and determinedly to make them aware of herself and us, which caused all sounds to fall silent immediately. We entered quickly and found a lone headmaster sitting at his desk, in his round office, intriguing. Here were most of the items that were also in the Room of Requirements, with the addition of Fawkes, that flame-coloured bird the size of an eagle, who was sitting on his golden perch, as reported by Harry.
Fawkes glanced at me calculatingly with his shrewd eyes and visibly tensed, huh? Did he feel the dark magic clinging to me? I was kinda suspicious of the bird, however, it was suspicious of me too, considering the way it followed each of my movements with those dark round eyes. How lucky that nobody paid attention to me! That wouldn't have been good at all, if Dumbledore realized that his pet didn't like me.
"Professor McGonagall. What can I do for you and your companions?" he asked, putting his fingertips together and looking thoughtfully at us over the top of his hands.
"Well, Mr Potter here..." She was hectically interrupted by Harry.
"Ron's dad is dying! He is badly injured, do something!" he exclaimed worriedly, got rid of us furiously and rushed to the desk in panic. He had to support himself on the desk top with both hands to remain standing.
"Please, Mr Potter, tell me everything in detail," he requested, in a friendly but reassuring tone. “Tell me.”
"I, I was dreaming... It seemed so real. I was in a long, dark corridor and the snake - a snake slid toward Mr Weasley and he got bitten three times. He’s bleeding, and not lightly. Quickly you must help him!" Harry asked desperately, while I was allowed to observe how Dumbledore looked everywhere, just not in Harry’s face that was close to him. Odd, I thought to myself.
"Tell me exactly. What did you feel?" he demanded now. "Harry, please tell me, were you the attacker? That would be important," he insisted further.
"Sir, yes sir, I was the snake..." His voice failed. "And I felt happy...," he whispered so quietly it was almost impossible to understand him. Now we were allowed to experience how the old professor responded with lightning speed and we also learned from where the voices from before had come from. Ron's face was snow-white by now, as it seemed to dawn on him that Dumbledore took Harry's vision seriously, and what it would mean for himself and his family. Meanwhile, the professor stood in the middle of his office and conducted is orders swiftly and firmly.
"Dear Headmasters, I ask you to help me!" And thus we identified his dialogue partners. The sleeping paintings of all the former Headmasters opened their eyes and waited for his instructions. "Everard, alert the Ministry of Magic to find Arthur. Dilys, I ask you to see how badly wounded Arthur is," he begged a wizard who was already scurrying away and his second assignment went to an older, friendly-looking witch. Not bad, such a communication system, I thought to myself.
"Fawkes, my dear, warn us when Professor Umbridge is about to come, go!" he now sent the phoenix away and it disappeared. Very nice. I felt very much unnoticed from one second to the next. Now he stroked his long white-silver beard and looked into one of his magical instruments. But as soon as a snake of smoke emerged from it he was interrupted when Everard entered his portrait again.
"Dumbledore, I triggered the alarm and Weasley was found and carried out, seriously injured," he said quickly, handing over the word to the newly arrived witch.
"He was carried right past my portrait in St. Mungo's, and I'm so sorry to say that he didn't look good. Not good at all...," Dilys finished her report compassionately. I pressed my lips together. Ron sat down unbidden on a small wooden stool, suddenly emotionally drained, realizing that his father was fighting for his life. I rested my hand reassuringly on his shoulder and squeezed it comfortingly. I, too, was shocked that poor Mr Weasley was about to die, as it seemed. I was sorry for him, for his family and I hoped the best for them. I was worried, but on the other hand, since the returning of the Dark Lord I knew that there would be casualties and you always had to expect the inevitable. You hadn't thought I would bother with my parents otherwise, right?
"Professor, would you please make haste and get the twins and Miss Weasley?" Dumbledore asked McGonagall. She nodded at him with a stony, rigid expression that expressed her concern but wordlessly turned and rushed away to complete her task. During this time, he reached for an old cloth, which was on one of the countless tables and began to turn it into a Portkey. He did all this nonverbal, which impressed me. I should work on that too. I could tell that it had worked by the blue light appearing on the cloth.
"Mr Black, may I ask you to go to Sirius and tell him that Arthur was injured and I’ll send the children to him? Molly will come to him to Grimmauld Place, please," Dumbledore asked a rather gloomy-looking contemporary politely, who reluctantly left his painting, grumbling. Within a minute he reappeared.
"My good-for-nothing great-great-grandson gives his consent," the picture said nasally and contemptuously as one of Fawkes' red feathers appeared in the air and slowly but surely sailed to the ground. At that moment, the Headmaster's office door opened and McGonagall came in with the rest of the bewildered-looking Weasleys; Ginny and the Twins. The funniest thing about the whole situation was that everyone but Dumbledore and I was running around in their pajamas.
"All right. Then we can begin. We have to hurry, come here and touch the Portkey," he pointed to the cloth. Harry and the others immediately did as they were told, seeming to be in a trance, only I was still standing off to the side.
"You too, Miss Granger, come quickly!" Dumbledore looked at me urgently with his bright blue eyes, I looked at him now with surprise and disapprovement.
"Why, please? I'm at my parents’ over Christmas!" Honestly! I mean, I really didn't want to go there!
"You'll get there later, but for now you go with the others!" he said sternly, thus suppressing any objection from me. Great, really great, that's what I call luck. Really I mean, I help Harry and where do I end up a few seconds later? Can you believe that? With Sirius!
And also totally unprepared. Well, wasn’t I lucky? I had wanted to talk to Draco on the train. That was all such rubbish, it was beyond words. My talent for improvisation was required here!
I resignedly stepped up to the others now and touched the Portkey. The professor counted to three and soon after I felt a tug on my navel, which pulled me into the transporting whirl and thus we landed ungently on the floor of the kitchen in the Blacks’ townhouse. I was just able to regain my footing, so did the Twins, but everyone else lay sprawled around us like overturned dummies. I swallowed hard and raised my head. I was rebuilding the wall around me, slipping into my ice-cold persona. I wouldn't show anything, not the slightest bit, that I didn't want to be shown. I could do that, oh yes, but wasn't it scary sometimes how fate played with us, confronting us with less than nice facts, creating terrible circumstances.
Sirius sat in his chair at his place at the head of the kitchen table, looking at us sadly. When he beheld me his expression turned to shock and he stared at me with huge disbelieving eyes.
"Hermione, you came as well?" were his first words, whispered aghast. Hello, this guy was an idiot. Harry was supposed to be the main person here, not me.
"Hello Sirius. Dumbledore has taken the liberty to send me along," I replied frostily, helping Harry to his feet as he was still weak-kneed and now terrifyingly pale again. What had happened? He had caught himself before while the Twins were helping their siblings.
"Harry, how nice..." began Sirius, but after a glare from me he paused.
"Harry, my dear, what is it? I had thought you were okay," I asked him worriedly and he cast an insecure look at the redheaded group. "We'll be back in a second, make some tea!" I ordered harshly and left bewildered faces behind, only the Twins responded immediately as requested by me, and I pulled Harry out the door.
"Tell me what happened. What unsettled you so much?" I just knew him too well for that.
"Hermione, I don't understand. What's happened to me here?" he looked at me with tears in his eyes. I took a deep breath. I had to tell Harry more about it, otherwise he'd sooner or later perish because of the adults’ secrecy. However, before he learned some of my truths, not all but a few, he would have to get a good night's sleep and a chance to digest what had happened.
"We'll talk in detail tomorrow morning in the library, okay?" I asked, which made him nod sadly as he sniffed. "And now tell me quickly: What has happened, what made you so confused again?"
"I, I, you saw Dumbledore wasn't looking at me?" He looked at me inquiringly and I nodded in confirmation. "Now, when we all had the Portkey in our hands, we looked at each other. We had direct eye contact and, and I don't know, but it was scary... I felt an incredible hatred for him. I, I would've liked to bite him, like Arthur..." He looked around in confusion. "Do you understand that?" Good question. To some degree I just figured some things out and the result just raised more questions again. Which, I thought, didn't let the old professor appear in any great light. Why didn't he do anything to protect Harry from Voldemort? His only effective move was not looking at Harry and avoiding him? What kind of tactic was that? The ‘If I don't see you, you won't see me’ tactic? Very effective... Was I getting angry again? Yes, damn it! I just wanted to bite him myself when I heard that. This old fool... ahrrrr! And thanks to him I was here now too...! But I didn't care for now, I would get along with Sirius somehow. I had to take care of Harry.
"Harry, are you listening to me? I'll most likely have an explanation... You are not going to like it, though I think if you hear it, you may agree with me. But only tomorrow. I want you to have a good night’s sleep. And now listen again: It's not your fault. Don't look at me like that! You didn't start this attack..." Now he interrupted me:
"No, Hermione, I was the snake, I bit him..." he yelped like a beaten dog. I rolled my eyes. Harry was pathetic. I grabbed him by his shoulders and shook him, annoyed.
"Harry, please apply your existing intelligence, please. That was Voldemort. Start using your brain, damn it, you're connected to him..." I spoke plainly just now after all, otherwise he would indulge in his wildest theories in bed, and tapped my forefinger onto his lightning scar less than gently.
"But now try to repress any panic reactions and pull yourself together. We both will talk about it tomorrow." He looked at me with his mouth open:
"Oh my God, Hermione, you're right, but how...?"
"Tomorrow, Harry! Now pull yourself together and give them a short summary in there and then we'll both talk tomorrow. Can you do that? They're worried about their father." I saw him fight with himself and the way he tried to control his confused feelings and thoughts and repressed them.
"Yes, of course, you're right. Tomorrow we'll talk about this and now to the others...," he said now with determination and, once again the boss of his own senses, he stepped through the door. Phew, thank goddess, I had been able to get him back on track. Though now I also squared my shoulders, because I would have to face a fight in there as well, and stepped self-confidently through the door.