June part 3


       Malfoy was taking his first nap since the siege began and had just gotten to sleep when Pansy shook him awake. "Granger wants to talk to you," she explained. His stomach rumbling, Malfoy climbed off the sofa, wondering bitterly why McGonagall had never taught them how to transform inanimate objects into food.
       "Professor McGonagall is bleeding again," Hermione told him from the fireplace as several Slytherins crowded around to listen. "Madam Pomfrey is out of speral roots for the bloodstop potion and we were wondering. . ." Hermione's lips started to tremble and she wiped her mouth furiously with her hand. "She says there should be some in Professor Snape's office, with his teaching supplies. Will you go there and check for us?"
       Goyle gave a derisive hoot. "Why don't you just floo in and get it yourself?"
       "Snape said don't floo into a room unless you know it's safe," Malfoy reminded his housemate. He turned to Bletchley. "Where the hell is the Bloody Baron?"
       "In the kitchens with the other ghosts." The answer came not from Bletchley but from Hermione, who added, "They're guarding the house elves."
       "House elves!?" It was Malfoy's turn to snort. He chewed for a moment on his lower lip, and Violet would have bet a thousand galleons she knew what was going through his mind. A tart voice was commanding him, 'On your feet, Malfoy.' But he nodded, and as he did, Goyle announced,
       "I'll go with you."
       "Me, too," offered Crabbe.
       Bletchley volunteered as well. The boys were just turning from the fireplace when Hermione called them back.
       "Have you heard from Professor Snape?" she wondered. "Or... from Harry?"
       Malfoy had forgotten about his trip to the hospital wing. Beside him, a guilty-looking Bletchely murmured, "I'm sure glad I just said I'd go."
       The boys left Millicent and Pansy to catch up briefly with the Gryffindors and headed for the door. Violet stepped hopefully in front of them and Malfoy shook his head.
       "Don't even think about it," he told the little snake. Violet opened her mouth to protest but Malfoy grabbed her by her Slytherin tie, yanking her onto her tiptoes as he bent menacingly over her. "You listen to me," he snarled. "I didn't do anything to you the night Snape went to Hogsmeade because that was just as much the Baron's fault. But if you EVER disobey me again, I'll. . ."
       "I know what you'll do!" Violet gave Malfoy a swift kick in the shins to make him let go of her. "I am a Slytherin, you know," she reminded him haughtily as she marched away, straightening her tie as she went.
       Malfoy crept to the common room door, removed the blanket and listened intently through one of the holes. The corridor sounded quiet. He opened the door a crack, peeked out, and then beckoned the other three to follow him.
       They made their way carefully through the dungeon to Snape's office where they were shocked to find the door open. Several Death Eaters were inside, ransacking the place. The Slytherins stared in horror. The Great Hall was one thing, but Snape's office! These monsters were defiling the inner sanctorum! Malfoy pressed himself flat against the wall and whispered, "They are so bloody dead."
       The boys crept a few feet away to one of the many nooks and crannies they used to spy on Snape and held a quick conference.
       "Should we go back?" wondered Crabbe.
       "NO!" Malfoy hissed. "This is OUR dungeon. We know it like the back of our hands. We've got the advantage."
       Bletchley nodded. "We need a diversion," he suggested. "It has to be long enough to lure them out and give us time to grab the speral roots and floo to Gryffindor before they come back."
       "Flipendos," Malfoy decided, pointing down the corridor towards the common room. "That way. There are three alcoves they'd have to search."
       The Slytherins cast their charms and then counted the six Death Eaters that came running out of Snape's office before sprinting inside. Just beyond the door they stopped short in horror.
       A Death Eater was asleep on a chair blocking the fireplace.
       "Go back!" Malfoy mouthed to the other three. Then he slipped to Snape's teaching supplies cupboard, grabbed the tin canister of speral roots, and ran so quickly back to their hiding place that he nearly outstripped the other three Slytherins.
       The boys watched and waited. Please six Death Eaters, please six Death Eaters, please six Death Eaters, Malfoy chanted in his head as he waited to see how many intruders would return to Snape's office. To his horror, only three came back. That left three somewhere between them and the Slytherin common room door.
       "Should we wait?" whispered Bletchley. "Will they come back eventually?"
       Malfoy thought of McGonagall, bleeding steadily, and shook his head. "Where's the nearest fireplace in the other direction?"
       "The kitchens," Bletchley told him. Malfoy nodded.
       "Let's go!"
       Bletchley grabbed him by the arm. "We need a plan," he hissed. "Just in case. . ."
       "It would be nice if we'd run into Potter," Malfoy murmured, thinking longingly of the Gryffindor's patronus. "If they've got dementors with them, we're going to have to retreat. But if it's just Death Eaters. . ." He hesitated. "What do you think would happen if we tried to...""
       Bletchley shook his head. "Not a damn thing," he insisted.
       They just didn't have a killing curse in them yet.
       "Okay," Malfoy agreed. "There's binding, stunning, or disarming. Binding takes too long to say, and disarming doesn't always have the effect you want. But stunning sometimes only lasts a few seconds."
       "How about stunning," suggested Goyle, "followed by binding?"
       "Perfect!" Malfoy nodded. But Crabbe shook his head.
       "What if some other Death Eaters find the bound ones and turn them loose before we get back?"
       "We're not coming back," Malfoy reminded his friend. "We'll floo back to Slytherin from Gryffindor."
       With nods all around, the four boys set off.
       They cleared two corridors with no trouble. Then they came upon a pair of Death Eaters they handled easily, thanks to their numbers and the element of surprise. After that, the journey was uneventful until they approached the last intersection before the corridor to the kitchen. They peeked carefully around the corner, then stepped into the corridor just as five Death Eaters rounded the far corner. One of them was their former housemate, Baddock.
       The Slytherins wisely shot for the adults first and stunned them neatly. But Baddock fired off an incendio charm that hit Malfoy squarely in the midsection, setting him on fire. He dropped to the floor and began to roll. As Crabbe and Goyle stunned Baddock and bound the entire party, Bletchley whirled on Malfoy to cast an extinguishing charm, but not before an explosion ripped through the air. Malfoy screamed.
       The Slytherins grabbed their wounded housemate and dragged him into the nearest alcove. Quickly they ripped his smoldering robe from his shoulders. "All right, Malfoy?" Bletchley panted, his face tense.
       "Half-blood Death Eaters!" Malfoy shook his head as the boys inspected him. His robe had protected him from most of the flames but when they tried to lift his jumper, he winced. An ugly burn covered a large section of his abdomen. Malfoy shook his head again.
       "The floo powder," he explained. "That's what exploded. It was in my side pocket."
       The Slytherins looked horrified. "Did you leave any behind?" asked Goyle desperately. Malfoy shook his head. He reached for the remains of his robe and extracted the speral roots, still safe and sound inside their tin canister.
       "What are we going to do?" whispered Crabbe.
       "We have to decide quick," Goyle replied. "Someone could be coming because of the noise."
       "We could go back," Bletchley mused, "and wait for the Gryffindors to contact us... assuming the Death Eaters aren't still waiting for us between Snape's office and the door."
       The Slytherins frowned. Death Eaters on the lookout were a lot scarier than Death Eaters taken unawares, especially if there might be six of them.
       "What if the Gryffindors are out of floo powder, too?" Malfoy shook his head. "We have to keep going. On foot."
       They hesitated. It suddenly seemed like a very long way to Gryffindor Tower. But there was nothing else to do. They helped Malfoy to his feet and set off.

       At Gryffindor, Madam Pomfrey supervised students taking turns pressing a compress against Professor McGonagall's head wound until their arms gave out, trying to stop the bleeding with pressure. Hermione waited by the fireplace for word from the Slytherins. "Where are they?" she fretted as she paced back and forth.
       From their post guarding the portrait hole, the twins jerked their heads at her. Hermione hesitated. Then, with one last hopeful glance at the fireplace, she hurried to join them.
       "Look," George began. "Either they've changed their minds, or they're in trouble."
       "We need to go ourselves," Fred added.
       Hermione nodded. "I'm going with you."
       "So am I," announced a voice from behind the nearest curtain. The trio by the door nearly jumped out of their skins. Lavender Brown emerged to confront them, her face tear-stained but resolute.
       "Bloody hell, Lavender!" scolded Fred. "Don't do that!" He beckoned to Ron and Seamus, commanded them to stand guard, then set off for the dungeon with George, Hermione and Lavender.

       The Slytherins came from the left. They crept cautiously up the corridor and prepared to turn left up a hallway of classrooms that marked the halfway point to Gryffindor Tower. Malfoy peeked around the corner and then popped back. Eight former Slytherins, including Mcnair, Nott, and Baddock, were in the middle of the hall making their way into the center classroom. Malfoy signaled his housemates to be still and then quickly cast an eavesdropping charm around the corner at the door the junior Death Eaters had entered.
       "Where did you see them last?" Mcnair asked Baddock. "Do you have any idea where they might have been going?"
       "They were near the kitchens," Baddock responded. "Where the hell is Montague? Why didn't he respond?"
       "It doesn't matter," came Nott's response. "With eight of us, we're two to one, and none of them can kill."
       Malfoy nodded to the Slytherins and they rushed back the way they'd come. They turned right at the next corridor, hurrying up a short hallway that ran parallel to the classroom corridor. They could turn right again at the intersection and continue unseen on their way to Gryffindor... provided the junior Death Eaters stayed in the classroom.
       The Gryffindors came from the right.

They'd almost reached the classroom corridor and were about to turn left to go down it when the Slytherins made their right turn, spotted the Gryffindors, and waved frantically at them to stop where they were. They scurried to the intersection, peeked around the corner, then backed up and waved the Gryffindors to join them. The Gryffindors tiptoed quickly through the intersection and followed the Slytherins several feet down the hall.
       The Slytherins handed over the speral roots and explained the situation. What to do next was the big question, and it had to be decided in a hurry. Should they race back to their houses... or do battle?
       "They can kill and we can't," worried Lavender.
       "But we have them trapped," Fred countered.
       Malfoy agreed with the older boy. "I don't want them roaming the same halls as Snape," he insisted. "Or Potter," he added, knowing that would decide the Gryffindors.
       They split up and took their positions, the Gryffindors up corridor, the Slytherins down. When all was ready, Malfoy stuck his head around the corner and shouted into the classroom corridor,
       He popped back into hiding just as the eight deserters came rushing into the hall. The Gryffindors shot them from behind, stunning four of them neatly. The remaining former students whirled on the Gryffindors as they retreated and the Slytherins popped into the corridor from the opposite end and took their shots. With all eight intruders neatly stunned, the Slytherins and Gryffindors raced down the corridor and bound them quickly. Then they stood in a circle, surrounding the pile of stiff enemies on the hallway floor.
       "Now what?" wondered Crabbe.
       It was a difficult question. Lingering in the corridor was dangerous and McGonagall was losing more blood every second. But...
       "They're communicating somehow," Malfoy pointed out. "I don't know how else they could have found Baddock and come together so quickly. It's just a matter of time until their adults find them."
       "And if that happens, we've done this for nothing," added Fred.
       Goyle turned to Hermione. "Do you have any more floo powder?" he asked. "Maybe we could floo them off the grounds somehow."
       Hermione shook her head. "It's all gone," she confessed, making Malfoy wonder if they'd used their last handful to call on Slytherin for McGongall's speral roots. "It wouldn't do any good anyway. They have to say the destination themselves. It would take an imperio curse to make them do it, and they'd just come right back."
       A long silence followed this speech. Finally, Fred spoke up.
       "You do realize," he began haltingly, "that there are non-magic ways to. . . kill people."
       No one said a word. After a while, Hermione shook her head. "No," she decided. "I have a better idea."
       Her schoolmates watched in amazement as she bent over the nearest intruder and began undressing him. "We're changing clothes with them," she announced simply. She pulled several pieces of everyday wizard apparel off her victim and straightened up with the items in her hands. "There are eight of them and eight of us," she explained. "If we're wearing their clothes, and if we manage to be seen only from a distance, we can travel all the way back to our houses without being molested."
       "But what happens. . ." Bletchley began and stopped.
       "What happens when the Death Eaters come upon eight stunned kids in Hogwarts clothes?" Fred finished the question for him. "What happens if they don't. . . if they don't come close enough to recognize them before they. . ."
       Hermione pulled off her robe. "We're not responsible for Death Eater behavior," was all she said.
       The Slytherins hesitated. Suddenly those eight children lying on the floor weren't enemies anymore. Suddenly they were Slytherins again, Slytherins in danger from Death Eaters.
       Hermione turned to them; her gaze was not unsympathetic. "You're the ones who mentioned Professor Snape," she reminded them.
       The Slytherins nodded and began to undress.

* * * * *

       When the door to the common room opened, the Slytherins raced to greet their returning housemates. But when they saw what the four boys were wearing, they stopped short. Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle and Bletchley marched silently past them.
       "What happened?" asked Violet as they passed.
       The boys ignored her. They dropped onto the first sofas they came to, burying their faces in their arms, and lay that way until they fell asleep.


       He'll hate me forever.
       They'd been sitting on the floor of the classroom for hours, Snape staring at Montague's lifeless body, Harry keeping watch over the injured teacher. From the movement of the sun along the classroom wall, Harry guessed the morning must be nearly gone.
       Snape had been silent for so long that Harry began to question the teacher's sanity. He hadn't moved or made a sound, even when Harry had retrieved his wand from Snape's splint. The boy wondered which was worse, the physical pain or the mental anguish? He stared openly at the potions master and after a while, a new question occurred to him.
       Why should Snape endure this much suffering? Everybody wanted to live, of course, but Snape's pain at this point had to be unbearable. He had no family. He showed no affection for Hogwarts or its citizens.
       Why did he endure?
       Snape felt the stare and turned to look at the teenager. He nodded at the question in the boy's eyes. "Death," he admitted, "would certainly be easier." And he looked away again.
       "Then why?" Harry asked point blank. "He didn't kill your parents." The teenager continued in a voice that was almost contemptuous. "Why do you fight this fight?"
       Snape didn't even hesitate. "Because," he replied, turning to look the boy straight in the eye. "You're next."
       Harry thought about that for a long time.
       Then he raised the question that had been troubling him for hours. "Professor Snape?"
       The potions master had resumed his staring; he made no response. Harry continued anyway.
       "How did they get in?" he whispered.
       Snape turned to the boy. "Worried about a traitor among us, Potter?" he asked archly. When Harry nodded, the teacher sneered.
       "I can think of a safer bet," Snape assured him. His face grew bitter and Harry waited. Snape took a deep, painful breath.
       "It would appear," he admitted grudgingly, "that I, too, have raised... " He hesitated, then forced himself to say it. "...marauders." He shook his head. "Traitorous, deserting marauders," he finished, and each of the last three words seemed to lash at his soul.
       Harry didn't know what to think. The idea that other students might have been as clever or marauding as his father and godfather had never occurred to him, and clearly it had never occurred to Snape, either. But Snape's distress, that a new set of marauders may have existed among his departed students, offended Harry enormously. So what if some Slytherins had created a secret way into Hogwarts like the tunnels on the marauder's map? Why did Snape have to act like it was such a disgrace? He's overreacting, Harry thought, making marauding seem awful because he hated my dad.
       Then he followed Snape's gaze to the carcass in the doorway and remembered what a little marauding had wrought. He slumped dejectedly against the wall.
       Snape smiled just a bit and Harry's temper flared. Snape couldn't possibly know what he'd been thinking! Harry looked away and thought hard for something to say. It came to him and he turned back to Snape defiantly.
       "Are you going to admit that to the headmaster and Professor McGonagall?"
       Sure enough, Snape's smile faded. Harry hugged his knees and grinned triumphantly, resting his chin on his knees. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Snape turn slowly to regard him through narrowed eyes. Harry paid him no mind.
       Snape cuffed him upside the head.
       Harry was so surprised he snorted; he had to clamp a hand over his mouth to keep from laughing out loud. I wonder how long he's wanted to do that? he thought as he waited for his mirth to subside.
       "Of course I'm going to tell them," Snape was responding acidly. "You don't expect me to search the entire grounds for a secret entrance by myself, do you?"
       Harry settled back against the wall and they sat in comfortable silence. After a while, Snape hit him again.
       "What was that for?" the teenager demanded, leaning forward to rub the ear Snape had grazed with the smack. The teacher shrugged.
       "Losing your wand," he replied lightly. Harry shook his head and chuckled as he leaned back against the wall.
       "The Dursleys could teach you a thing or two about proper cuffing," he informed Snape with a grin. The teacher just shrugged again. But when Harry wasn't looking, he turned away with a thoughtful frown. After a while, he shook his head and rose.
       "On your feet, Potter," he commanded. "I have something to teach you."


       Harry and Snape stood just inside the doors to the Great Hall, watching and waiting. "Patience," Snape had counseled, and it was the hardest thing Harry had had to do so far, just standing and waiting for Death Eaters to discover them. Finally a pair came around a corner and Harry and Snape bolted out of the hall and raced out the front doors.
       "They'll come," Snape had assured him, and so they ran as fast as they could towards the forest, praying the Death Eaters would follow. From the forest, they could end this once and for all. There was no time to look over their shoulders. They ran as fast as they could.
       The Death Eaters emerged from the castle, watching their prey flee before them into the woods. Then Montague Sr. turned and the others followed him as he walked not towards the woods but around the castle.

       "Somene's coming!" Goyle screamed. "They're all coming! The whole lot of them!"
       The Slytherins crowded around the window where Goyle had been keeping watch. Sure enough, Death Eaters were converging on one of the recessed windows to a girls' corridor cell.
       "What are they doing?" Pansy shrieked, nearly hysterical. "They can't break in! They can't! They'll die trying!"
       Malfoy took a deep breath. The time had come. He put a hand on Pansy's shoulder and drawled softly,
       "Only one."
       One Death Eater could be thrown through the window, making a hole through which the rest could enter. A Death Eater would sacrifice one of his own in a heartbeat to accomplish a mission for Voldemort, Malfoy knew. The Slytherins, finally realizing their situation, backed away in terror.
       "Why?" cried Millicent. "Why do they have to hurt us?"
       "It's like October," Malfoy explained, one eye glued to the window. The Death Eaters were clustered together, talking calmly. "If they can capture one of us, they can force Snape to surrender."
       Bletchley looked out the window over Malfoy's shoulder. "We better get ready to fight," he announced grimly.
       Malfoy glanced at him, and then at the rest of his housemates. The knowledge was written plainly on their faces. They would lose. They knew it. It would take a while, but in the end, they'd be slaughtered, right down to the last Slytherin left alive to be taken hostage.
       "We could flee," Crabbe blurted suddenly.
       Malfoy scowled. "Where?"
       The other 5th year thought it over. "Gryffindor Tower?" he suggested. "There'd be twice as many to fight!"
       "And twice as many to die," Malfoy countered. But he looked tempted.
       "Works for me," Crabbe nodded.
       From outside came the sudden shout of raised voices. The Slytherins crowded around the window. A Death Eater had been selected. He was backing away, shouting in terror, and Montague Sr. was raising his wand. The Slytherins turned away. Some covered their ears to block out the scream and the blast of the killing curse.
       "Sacrifice!" Goyle suddenly shouted. His housemates turned to him in surprise. "We could make a sacrifice," the boy went on. "Fool them!"
       Malfoy regarded him through narrowed eyes. "What do you mean?"
       "If a Slytherin leaves voluntarily," Goyle explained, "the others might live."
       Malfoy shook his head. "But then Snape dies."
       "Not necessarily." Goyle drew his wand and gripped it tightly. "The Slytherin could start throwing curses, injuring the Death Eaters, one after another, until he forces them to..."
       No one spoke. Goyle looked around the room, then nodded once. "We'll draw wands," he suggested. "Just the older years."
       The sound of window glass breaking in one of the cells, amplified by the eavesdropping charm, rang out across the common room. Several Slytherins screamed. Goyle thrust his wand resolutely in front of him and so did several older students.
       Malfoy hesitated.
       "You pick, Violet," Goyle ordered.
       Suddenly Malfoy whirled on the smallest Slytherin, wide-eyed, as if seeing her for the first time. "You!" he cried, and Violet fell back a step as Malfoy pointed at her. "Daughter of Voldemort!"
       The Slytherins gasped, horrified by what they thought Malfoy was proposing. Their thickness was enough to make him scream.
       "HEIR OF SLYTHERIN!" he shouted.
       He grabbed Violet by the collar and bolted for the common room door. Suddenly the Slytherins understood. They streaked after him, racing as fast as they could go... to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom.
       "Please, God," Malfoy prayed as they thundered along the corridors. "Please let the booby traps work."
       Myrtle had no idea what was going on. "What are you doing in here?" she demanded of the Slytherins, most of whom she'd never seen before. Bletchley, who'd brought up the rear, slammed the lavatory door shut behind him and locked it with a charm.
       "If we survive, we'll tell you all about it," Malfoy promised, searching desperately for the appropriate tap.
       "Or if we die, too, I guess," Crabbe added, and Violet kicked him.
       "Help me look!" screamed Malfoy. Myrtle floated indignantly out to the corridor just as Malfoy found the tap with the serpent symbol on it. He pulled Violet over to it. "Go ahead, Violet," he prompted, trying to sound encouraging. "You can do it."
       Violet's lips trembled. Only if it's a combination lock, she thought, and she pulled miserably on her fingers as she faced the sink that hid the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. How was she supposed to open this thing when her parseltongue was limited to numbers?
       "Just try anything!" Malfoy prompted her.
       "Help us, Salazar," Violet whispered in plain English. The Slytherins shook their heads at her and Myrtle popped back through the door.
       "Someone's coming!" she sang cheerily. "Quite a few someones, actually."
       "Hurry up, Violet!" cried Millicent.
       Violet squared her shoulders and tried again. "Please help us!" she begged the snake image on the faucet. Nothing happened and her housemates shook their heads again, harder this time. She was still speaking English.
       From outside the bathroom came the sound of running footsteps. The Slytherins pressed closer together and tears sprang to Violet's eyes. The footsteps grew louder; the Death Eaters had rounded the nearest corner.
       "Try again," Malfoy counseled forcing himself to stay calm.
       Violet took a deep breath. Then she screamed at the top of her lungs:
       Her housemates had no idea what she'd said, for the words came out in a language none of them understood. But the entrance slid open and one by one, the Slytherins jumped into the pipe and slid down into the chamber. Bletchley dived in head first and the entrance slammed neatly shut behind him just as the Death Eaters came blasting through the door. They stared at the deserted lavatory in confusion as Moaning Myrtle announced indignantly,
       "This is a girls' bathroom."

       "Potter's cracked. This place is great!"
       Malfoy and the Slytherins gazed about in awe at Salazar's creation. A few feet away, Violet was jumping up and down, crunching rodent bones beneath her feet. Only Crabbe seemed concerned.
       "How are we gonna get out of here?" he wondered. Malfoy gave him a smirk.
       "Snape will figure out where we are," the fifth year drawled. "Or Myrtle will tell somebody. If I have to, I'll levitate us into a human ladder."
       "We should make this our private clubhouse!" cried Violet, still bouncing up and down. She found the animal remains comfortingly reminiscent of Snape's office. Her housemates formed a contemptuous circle around her, their arms folded across their chests, as Malfoy asked her with a sneer,
       "How are we supposed to get in, you moron?"
       Violet grew still, thinking it over. Then she smiled at the formidable ring of snakes surrounding her.
       "I guess I get to be president!"


       At first Snape had been delighted when Mr. Weasley's car had shown up. He'd tried to hide it, but Harry could tell he was thrilled to have an opportunity to climb inside. As for the young wizard, he was just glad to see a little color in Snape's face and a cessation, however brief, of the pain reflected in his eyes. But as they sat side by side on the front seat, Snape's fears slowly returned.
       The Death Eaters had not followed them into the forest, and now the two wizards were stuck there. They could not try and return through the front door of the castle; that would be suicide. The Death Eaters could be lurking anywhere, waiting to pick them off when they came out into the open. They had only one handful of floo powder left, the one Snape had given Harry in the library over 24 hours ago. It was still in Harry's pocket.
       It had seemed like such a good idea, to lure the Death Eaters into the forest where they could fight from behind the safety of the trees. Now Snape sat quietly beside Harry in the car, sick with worry about what might be going on inside the castle as twilight fell. The forest was quiet; only the birds twittered as they settled into their nests for the night.
       "What's the first thing you're going to do when this is over?"
       Harry startled himself with the suddenness of his own question. He couldn't believe such a personal inquiry had popped out of his mouth. But Snape answered without hesitation.
       "Sneak out of the hospital wing and spend a week with Madam Rosmerta."
       "The barmaid at the Three Broomsticks?" The answer delighted Harry. Snape shrugged.
       "She's very good at making people feel better."
       He was amused by his own candor, particularly as he imagined Minerva's reaction to the conversation. Then he sobered, wondering how she was faring.
       The forest began to stir around them, snapping and creaking with night sounds. Harry tensed. When Snape gasped, he nearly jumped through the roof of the car.
       "What is it?" he whispered as Snape clutched the shoulder of his splinted left arm, rigid with pain. The boy feared his teacher might be having some sort of seizure, perhaps brought on by all his body had endured over the last 24 hours.
       "Summons," Snape hissed through clenched teeth. "Voldemort."
       Harry didn't want to believe it. "Why would he summon you?"
       "Not me," Snape explained, relaxing a bit as the pain eased. "Not now. It must be a summons to the whole group."
       Harry sat bolt upright. "Then they'll leave!" he cried eagerly. "Won't they? They'll leave!" He leaned forward to peer out the windshield towards the front of the castle. Sure enough, the Death Eaters were emerging. Only about a dozen were left. But they didn't head for the entrance to the grounds, several hundred yards to Harry's right. They stood together, talking. Snape leaned forward, frowning hard.
       "Why don't they go?" Harry whispered.
       "They're afraid," Snape told him. "Afraid to go back without me."
       Harry stared hard at the intruders, wishing he could see their faces through the gloomy dusk. "What would Voldemort do to them?"
       "Potter," Snape hissed, "I try not to think about things like that."
       He drew his wand and told Harry to get ready. The Gryffindor had to ask just one more question.
       "What do you suppose happened to the dementors?"
       Snape could only shake his head.
       At the castle, the Death Eaters began moving towards the forest, wands drawn. Harry started to get out of the car and Snape grabbed his arm. "When they don't return to Voldemort fast enough, Potter, the Dark Lord might. . ." His voice trailed off and Harry nodded. Snape let go of him and they both got out of the car.
       The plan turned out to be an excellent one. Shooting Death Eaters from behind trees was far safer than firing at them in wide corridors. But best of all, Harry's sudden mastery of the killing curse threw them into a panic. He couldn't really do it, of course. Snape had spent hours teaching him how to fake it, and the ruse worked brilliantly. The frightened intruders scurried desperately as curses flew, shoving each other out into the open as they raced from tree to tree. Their own jittery shots sailed harmlessly into the forest. When there were only four left, they fled.
       But they didn't run to the entrance.
       In their panicky rush to flee the grounds and apparate back to their master, they chose the fastest escape route possible, running in the opposite direction of the Hogwarts entrypoint. Harry and Snape watched in delight as they streaked to a section of the wall a few hundred yards to the left, cast their wands towards the ground, charmed open a large hole beneath the wall, dropped into it, and rolled out of sight.
       "Hurry!" Snape ordered. "We'll gather the wands and then deal with that hole." Harry rushed to the nearest Death Eater. It was growing dark rapidly. Soon it would be extremely difficult to find bodies strewn about the forest floor.
       When they'd gathered all the wands, Harry hurried over to Snape. He'd just held out a handful for Snape to take when he suddenly staggered backwards and fell to the ground, dropping the wands as he gripped his forehead in agony.
       "Potter!" Snape cried, snatching up the spilled wands as he hurried to Harry's side.
       The pain was crippling. Harry couldn't move. He couldn't see, he couldn't speak.
       As he crouched beside Harry, Snape turned his head and squinted through the darkness at the section of the wall with the hole beneath it.
       A lone wizard was crawling through it onto the grounds.
       Quickly Snape pocketed the Death Eater wands. He crawled a few feet from Harry, gathered some dry leaves and brush together with his good hand, pointed his own wand and whispered, "Incendio endotious." A small fire of cold blue flames burst forth.
       Snape crawled back to Harry, reached in the boy's pocket to retrieve the last of their floo powder, then pulled the teenager awkwardly to his feet with his good arm. He dragged Harry into position over the cold fire, pressed the floo powder into his hand, and whispered desperately, "I need help, Potter. Light! Light over the grounds. Tell Granger I need light over the grounds! Now say 'Gryffindor.'"
       Harry could hear him, but every word seared past his eardrums and tore agonizingly through his brain. Snape glanced at the wall. The wizard was advancing steadily towards the forest.
       "'Gryffindor, Potter! Say 'Gryffindor!'" Snape commanded.
       Harry's lips moved soundlessly. Snape took a deep breath.
       "I am sorry, Potter," he whispered, and leaning the boy heavily against him, he reached up with his wand and pressed viciously on Harry's scar.
       "Gryffindor!" Harry screamed in pain just before he disappeared.
       Snape extinguished the fire and raced deeper into the forest. He could no longer see the approaching wizard. He stopped and stood very still, listening hard.

       Harry flew into the Gryffindor common room and landed in a heap, still curled tight with agony.
       Hermione tore across the common room with a scream, Madam Pomfrey and Ron close behind. They crouched low over the boy, whose mouth opened and shut soundlessly.
       "What's he trying to say?" Ron asked, pressing his face close to his friend's.
       Madam Pomfrey shook her head and set to work trying to relieve Harry's pain.

       In the forest, Snape waited and listened. Soon it would be too late. Voldemort would reach the trees and light on the grounds would do him no good. He hadn't really held out much hope for the idea; even if Potter could communicate through his pain, not even Granger could whip up an illumination potion that quickly, he suspected. But the incapacitated teenager was safe in Gryffindor Tower for now; that was something.
       He pressed himself tight against a tree, keeping as still as possible. Can he see me? he wondered. How does Montague's eye work for him? He stiffened at the memory of his dead student's face and his discovery of what the Dark Lord had done to the boy. Voldemort could no more see him in the dark, he decided, than he could see the evil wizard, or he'd be dead already. Project for this summer, Snape lectured himself. Learn to become invisible.
       He jumped. Somewhere behind him, a twig had snapped. He circled to the other side of the tree, wand at the ready. After a few moments, a twig snapped to his right and he circled again.
       What is he playing at? Snape wondered. Voldemort couldn't illuminate his wand tip without giving his own location away, and without light, he couldn't see to hurl a hex or curse at Snape.
       A twig snapped behind him and Snape took off at a run. He tripped over a fallen log and sprawled on his face, his wand flying out of his hand. It took all the willpower he had not to scream in agony as he landed on his broken arm. His wand hit a tree several yards away, emitting a shower of sparks before it fell to the floor of the forest. It would be impossible to find without light.
       "That will do," came Voldemort's high, cold voice from a few yards away.
       Snape leapt to his feet and sprinted further into the woods. He might be disarmed, but he still had the trees. He could jump the dark wizard from behind. Darkness was on his side. From a short distance, Voldemort cackled.
       "Forgive my brief stay," he called shrilly. "It's best not to be too close when they're frenzied."
       Snape heard him retreating back towards the grounds. He followed the sound of the departing footsteps carefully until he could see the lawns of Hogwarts, now vaguely illuminated by a rising moon that could not penetrate the deep forest. Voldemort was leaving. He walked rapidly back to the hole beneath the wall and crawled through it.
       Snape waited. It had to be a trick. The hole didn't close, for one thing. If he sprinted for the castle, Voldemort could cut him off easily. Could he possibly find his wand? Could he make a Death Eater wand work well enough to generate some light to search by? Did he dare even try to create any illumination?
       Then he felt it... the sick, soul-draining despair of the dementors. They were pouring through the hole and floating steadily towards the forest.
       Snape fled frantically in the direction of his lost wand.

       In Gryffindor, Harry sat up suddenly as his pain abruptly stopped.
       "Light!" he screamed at Hermione. "Snape needs light on the grounds!"
       He sprang to his feet, knocking over Hermione and poor Madam Pomfrey as he tore across the room and out the portrait hole.
       "Which one?!" called Neville from the other side of the common room. The place was filled with tables full of potion ingredients and cauldrons Hermione had been setting up since the siege began.
       "That one!" she screamed, pointing at the table next to a desk where a convalescious potion was bubbling, and the two Gryffindors hurried over to it. Hermione brewed so quickly that Neville could barely keep up with his half-paced root cutting.

       Downstairs, Harry burst through the front doors of the castle and stopped short. A stream of dementors was floating across the grounds towards the forest, reminding him for all the world of Aragog's children. There were more than thirty. There were more than a hundred. Harry guessed there might have been as many as three hundred.
       He tore off at a dead run for the forest. "Professor Snape!" he screamed as he ran. "Professor Snape!"
       The potions master shouted back and Harry crashed into the forest, wand illuminated. He searched frantically for the potions master and found him on his hands and knees, groping in every direction. He could only be searching for one thing.
       Harry surveyed the tangled brush and thick forest floor. It would take hours to find a lost wand in all of that; a summoning charm would only break it as it crashed through the undergrowth. Snape must have realized it, too, for he didn't even bother to shout at Harry to help him. Instead, he climbed wearily to his feet. They checked the progress of the dementors, who had almost reached the forest, and together walked slowly to the edge of the trees, where there would be nothing to obscure Harry's aim.
       "I'm certain they're only ordered to destroy me," Snape told Harry softly. "If you can't drive them off, then run back to the castle and find Dumbledore. He'll make sure they don't try to come back inside." The boy didn't look at him. He kept his eyes squarely on the dementors. "I might be able to evade them in the forest," Snape added lightly.
       Harry snorted to himself. Snape would be lucky to survive another twenty minutes without medical attention. But that wasn't a happy thought. So he pondered instead a question he would ask Snape the moment the dementors were gone and cried, " Expecto patronum!" His patronus burst forth and charged gallantly at the dementors.
       At first it seemed to work. The nearest dementors backed away. But those behind them held firm. Harry's stag could only scatter about a third of them at a time, and when he turned on the others, the previous group reassembled. Even if Snape's wand had survived a summoning, Harry realized, two patronuses would not have been enough to defeat this many dementors. Beside him, he heard the tiniest moan escape Snape's lips.
       Then, high above, Hermione suddenly appear at a window in Gryffindor Tower. She was holding out her cauldron. But instead of tossing the illumination potion in the air, she gave a shrill whistle. Harry's stag raced towards the castle and when he drew near enough, Hermione flung the potion at him with all her might. As the magic brew washed over the patronus, a blinding light filled the grounds.
       Snape and Harry shielded their eyes as an explosion knocked them to the ground. When they looked up again, a dozen shimmering white stags were thundering across the grounds at the dementors. The dark hooded figures fled before them, scrambling madly through the hole, and Harry watched in awe as the stags leapt the great stone wall surrounding Hogwarts to chase them far away from the school. As the sound of their hooves pounding the earth gradually faded, Harry rolled over to confront Snape.
       "How did she know?" he wondered.
       "Insufferable little know-it-all," was all the potions master replied.
       He climbed painfully to his feet and jerked his head at the wall. "Come, Mr. Potter," he ordered patiently. "I'll teach you how to deal with illicit entry points."
       Harry just sat there. Snape raised an eyebrow at such disobedience and Harry grinned broadly and asked the question he'd been looking forward to.
       "Lose your wand, Professor?"
       Snape folded his arms across his chest, no small trick for a man with a splint. "Just for that, Potter," he replied coolly, "I won't show you how to charm it so no one can use it but you."
       The hole was rapidly sealed and Snape leaned against the wall and slid to a sitting position on the ground. "Just for a moment or two," he told Harry, who was most eager to get Snape to the hospital wing.
       The teenager sat down beside his teacher. His stomach growled and he realized for the first time how hungry he was. As he relaxed, his mind filled with questions.
       "What will he do now?" he asked. There was no need to mention the Dark Lord's name.
       Snape thought it over. "He's experienced a major setback," the teacher mused. "It will take time to recruit more Death Eaters." He glanced sideways at the teenager and prepared to enjoy a moment of vengeance for the wand remark. "It may be safe to send our students home after all. I foresee another summer with the Dursleys for young Harry Potter."
       Harry scowled at the prospect of several weeks with bullies and Snape, reading the thoughts right off the boy's face, nodded to himself.
       Boy, I know exactly how you feel.
       But all he said was, "You know, Potter, Malfoy will need someplace to spend the summer."
       The thought of what he and Malfoy could do to Dudley Dursley all summer made Harry grin so hard Snape wondered the boy's head didn't split open. He climbed to his feet, offered Harry a hand, pulled the boy up, and together they walked back to the castle.

The Smallest Slytherin