“This development has obvious and immediate repercussions. There are thirty-seven people currently Sleeping, plus Arthur Weasley, who, as yet, we haven’t included with the rest because his affliction was a singular event. If one has died, then we can only assume the rest will follow. I understand we have a possible identity of the poison used,” she said. Her hands settled in her lap and she forced a calm look upon her face. For Amelia, outward appearances were very important. This current crisis caused for absolute control, hence her apparent composure.
“Carduus Amara,” Maeve said, speaking before anyone had the chance to step in.
“Oh?” Amelia raised an eyebrow.
“We believe… ” She caught Severus’ frown and immediately changed to the singular. “I believe it has been caused by Carduus Amara.”
“In what way?” The Minister leant forward in a move that was almost imperceptible. Her intelligent eyes appraised the young woman standing before her. She would have been prepared to listen to her even without Professor Dumbledore’s effusive praise for his Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher still ringing in her ears.
“I believe Voldemort has found a way to cultivate this plant secretly and is turning it into the Funestus Somnus Vapour. It is deadly in both forms,” Maeve explained.
“I’m sorry, this is not my area. Perhaps you would care to elaborate?” Amelia had attention only for the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, as Maeve carefully explained the exact nature of the poisonous gas. When Maeve had finished, she could tell from Amelia’s face that she was convinced. The Minister nodded slowly, and asked the question that Maeve had been dreading.
“And how do we treat and combat this vapour?”
She could feel them all looking at her expectantly, apart from Severus, who already knew the answer.
“We can’t,” she said simply. “There is no known antidote. No charm or potion can reverse the effects. It is only a very powerful wizard who can throw off the poison, and that has only happened once when Aethelric the Red woke from a two-year sleep back in 783. The only other possibility,” she began, before stopping abruptly. Severus looked at her with a degree of concern. They had been up until the very early hours discussing the events of seventeen years ago and the bearing it had on the current situation. On the face of it, the circumstances were entirely different, but the nature of the illness was the same. “The only other possibility is that someone could take out the poison and absorb it into their own body. However, this is a very ancient magic. I know of only a few people who can perform it. It was done for myself many years ago, and the person who performed the spell died as a result. You would still have dead wizards or witches if you chose that route.”
“And why did this particular wizard, Simeon, die before any of the others?” Professor Dumbledore queried.
“Simeon Caldicott had been bitten at some point by a Verdant Vulture. The traces of the attack remained in his blood. I would suggest he would have been vulnerable because of that.” Maeve’s decision to perform the blood tests had been justified, if only to glean that little snippet of information. If previous illness made sufferers vulnerable, then at least they would know who was most at risk.
Amelia pursed her lips together and looked to Dumbledore for help; as always, she would defer to his wisdom.
“We have to find the source and we must destroy it,” Dumbledore said. “There is no other course of action we can take.”
“If you don’t mind a slight interruption,” Severus said, with an ingratiating look at the Minister for Magic, whom he still hoped to impress. “Exactly how are we going to find this plant, when the Dark Lord has the whole of the British Isles and beyond to play in?”
“That’s a strange choice of word, Professor,” Amelia said. “I would not describe Voldemort’s activities as playing.”
Severus scowled slightly and, as was the usual case when he had been mildly admonished by someone in a senior position, he withdrew from the conversation.
“I’m sure that was merely a figure of speech,” Maeve said quickly. “And Professor Snape does have a point. It will be extremely difficult to find this plant without some sort of inside knowledge. Voldemort has many allies, and many places must have been put at his disposal.”
“Including your own house, I believe,” a cold voice said.
They had forgotten Percy Weasley was present at the meeting; he was sitting quietly in a shadowy corner scribbling notes on a parchment. Although face was impassive, she caught the challenge in his voice. Maeve knew she had not been forgiven for questioning his treatment of his parents and family.
“Yes indeed, Mr Weasley. That does, unfortunately, include my own former home. My ex-guardian has delusions of dark grandeur, it would seem.” She managed a weak smile. After deliberating the matter for several weeks, she had finally decided upon guardian as a suitable word to refer to Niall O’Malley. It removed the parental status whilst conveying the nature of his attachment to her, despite his ultimate betrayal.
“That is irrelevant,” Amelia said, dismissing Percy with a wave of her hand and a disinterested glare. The pompous man recoiled as if he’d been stung sharply. “We know he has supporters, but if this plant, in its natural state, is as dangerous as you say it is then surely none of them would be prepared to have it on their land.”
“That’s very true, Amelia,” Dumbledore said. “So we must assume he is using some sort of wilderness region, a place not unlike our own location perhaps.”
“Have any of you considered how the Dark Lord is managing to harvest pollen from flowers that have not yet grown to maturity?” Severus asked with a cold voice. He was immediately rewarded with an impressed look from Amelia.
“That’s an excellent question, Professor,” she said with an expectant glance at Maeve. Severus also looked towards Maeve with a wicked glint in his eye.
“He’s forcing it,” she replied.
“Forcing it?” Amelia was puzzled by the term.
“He’s cultivating it in artificial conditions and simulating the summer months. This is what leads me to believe that this is no spur-of-the-moment plan. He would have had to start work on it at least a year ago to be producing the vapour now,” she explained.
“Which rather scotches the idea that he is producing it in the wilderness,” said a disappointed Dumbledore.
“It does indeed,” Amelia agreed sadly.
“Very well. I can see nothing more is to be gained from this. We need to transfer a number of Aurors to take on the task of finding this crop.” Dumbledore looked at Amelia, who nodded, before asking Maeve what exactly they would need to look for.
“You might as well try looking for a mermaid in the ocean,” she said. “It could be grown anywhere under cover and with the right equipment. Voldemort knows enough to keep it hidden from prying eyes. You would be better served finding people who may have heard something. He must be employing workers to grow the plants; he would never risk his own supporters. Has anyone gone missing recently?”
“You’re quite the investigator, Professor O’Malley. We will keep in touch,” Amelia said, rising from her seat and offering a hand to be shaken. Maeve took the woman’s strong hand in her own warm one and shook it firmly, watching her as she left the room with her secretary and Professor Dumbledore in her wake.
“Yes, quite the expert, aren’t we?” Severus said. “You have missed your vocation, I think.”
“Oh, put a sock in it,” she snapped, hitting him with the parchment, which was still tightly rolled in her hands. She was rather proud of the fact that she had managed to answer the questions without once having to refer to it. “It’s out of our hands now anyway, unless they find it, and I’m not holding out much hope of that. Poor Arthur.”
Severus’ dry cough reminded her that they were not alone. Percy was still occupying his corner of the room, scribbling away with his quill. At the mention of Arthur’s name, the quill slipped and ink splattered to the floor, leaving an angry, black pattern.
“Come on,” she said, not wanting to be in the same room as such an apparently heartless man. “I’m exhausted, but I want to have a look at the other two Sleepers before I try to grab some sleep.”
As they approached the Hospital Wing they saw the dark-cloaked figures that had arrived earlier and that, more than anything else that day, saddened Maeve. They were the Remains-Takers, a profession Maeve had always regarded as necessary, but very disturbing. Moving with an almost silent reverence, they carried out their work with deference and a degree of mournful compassion that ensured any relatives of the dead witch or wizard felt their loved one was being treated well. Even taking this into account, she still didn’t want to witness the removal of poor Simeon, a man she had never met in life, but who, in death, she felt strangely responsible for.
“I need some fresh air,” she said, changing direction and causing Severus to move sharply to avoid colliding with her.
“Good grief!” he exclaimed. “I wish you would make your mind up. You don’t want company, do you?” He asked this knowing full well he would have to accompany her.
“Yes, whether I want your company or not is open to debate.”
“Well, in that case, I will most certainly accompany you,” he said, just to be contrary.
The day was still cold, and a few flakes of snow fell with gentle indifference on the lawns that surrounded the school building. Weak, watery sunlight tried to break through the thick clouds, but only a few small rays worked their way past the snow-filled masses to touch the earth ineffectually. Maeve was exhausted. However, her mind was working too fast for her body to find any rest, and the earlier need to sleep was no longer present. Her walk turned into a charge around the lake as she tried to work off her frustration, and Severus began to regret his decision to accompany her, struggling, as he was, to keep up. She finally ran out of steam at the short jetty that hung over the lake. It was little more than a wooden finger jutting out across the water, with broken slats of wood making it a precarious prospect if anyone should choose to step on it. Brushing her wild, loose hair back from her face, she looked like a gorgon, tendrils whipping around in her hands as if they were snakes trying to attack.
“It could be anywhere,” she said. “We haven’t a hope of finding it.”
“On the face of it, no we haven’t.” Severus scrambled up the twig-strewn incline to join her at the head of the jetty, kicking at the clinging branches with feet that were already caked in mud. He stood quietly by as she began to pick up pebbles and fling them at the water with ferocious abandon, watching as they connected with the surface of the lake to create tiny explosions. “Why are you doing that?”
“That….” He gestured to the pebbles. “Isn’t it rather pointless?”
She didn’t reply, and redoubled her throwing efforts with even larger pebbles until a head appeared in the water and glared at her. Its green hair spread out around its sallow face, and the merman didn’t need to speak to convey the displeasure it felt at having its nap disturbed by some mad witch throwing stones at the water.
“Sorry!” she called, and the wind carried her words to the merman, who quickly dived back into the water with a flick of its dirty, grey tail.
“Pointless and irritating, a bit like dear old Neville,” Severus joked, although Maeve didn’t find his humour very amusing.
“Without Neville I would never have made the connection between the Sleepers and the plant, so leave him well alone. He’s far more intelligent than you give him credit for. If you would stop treating them all as if they were imbeciles, you might see it once in a while.”
Severus made a noise that could have been assent or it could have been derision. Whatever it was, he had clearly had enough of standing in mud while getting dusted with snow.
“I think it’s time we went back inside. I’ve certainly had enough of this, and I can’t leave you here alone,” he said.
“There has to be something.” She turned to him. “You have to remember something, Severus. You were there last time it happened. You must have heard something.”
Her look was accusatory now, and Severus began to bristle under the implication that he was hiding something.
“I told you that I hadn’t been privy to the details of the operation. Are you suggesting I am deliberately holding something back?”
“No, of course I’m not, you silly man! I just think that it was a long time ago, and the memory plays tricks. We forget things, small things. There must be something!” The desperation in her voice was evident and Severus barely resisted the temptation to comfort her in some way.
“You know that, even if we do find the source, nothing can help the people already Sleeping. There is no hope for Arthur Weasley,” he said. “He isn’t as lucky as you were.”
“You don’t have to remind me,” she snapped. Maeve stepped down from the creaking wooden structure and crunched towards Severus through the pebbles. “It’s hard enough knowing my grandmother died dredging Voldemort’s dark magic out of me, without having a timely reminder of the fact. I suppose the only consolation is that they will have no idea what is happening to them. I know I certainly didn’t.”
“That’s true, but we don’t know what you would have experienced had your grandmother failed.”
“What happens when we die, eh, Severus? If we could only answer that conclusively, we would be the most celebrated witch and wizard in the world – any world. The ghosts can only take us so far. Even they don’t know the full story.” She gave him a wry smile before something caught her eye in the trees. She looked around quickly, the shifting leaves of the evergreens throwing weak shadows on the forest floor. There was nothing living in her line of vision so she turned her attention back to her companion. “Fortunately, I never found out, and I hope to keep it that way for the foreseeable future. If I do find out, I’ll try my best to find a way to come back and let you know all the details.”
“I think I would rather not know,” he said, lifting his feet from the shifting ground and moving back towards the path. She followed him slowly; something in the forest kept drawing her attention back, as if an invisible length of string was tugging at her eyes.
“Is something bothering you?” Severus asked when she finally caught up with him; he had not felt the forest’s watchfulness in the same way she had.
“The forest troubles me sometimes,” she said. “It’s just a feeling I get that there is something in there watching me. I’m being fanciful; there must be hundreds of harmless creatures in there.”
“As well as the harmful ones,” Severus replied shrewdly. He didn’t give too much thought to the Forbidden Forest. He was well aware what sort of creatures lived beneath its branches, and only a fool would go in there unguarded. They picked their way back to the school; the Forest shook and shivered behind them as if wishing to cast out the dark individuals that lived there.
The weasel wound itself round the trees, small feet moving soundlessly through the undergrowth, eyes bright with expectation. Could it be that they were heading its way? Would the opportunity present itself for some form of action? Could it… would it be possible… could they be lured? Its lithe body followed as the man and woman moved along the perimeter of the trees; they kept close to the path and didn’t waver. The man, the treacherous, cowardly creature in black, was struggling with the mud and making disgusted faces behind the woman’s back. He was only just keeping pace with her as she stomped away from him towards the lake. The weasel knew it had missed something important that morning. All the activity and the men in dark cloaks had meant a death. A shiver ran down the small animal’s spine as it envisaged their plan working. Had one of the victims died? He would have to plan a visit to the castle later. How convenient this tiny body was, how simple it was to slip in unnoticed. Of course, there was the caretaker’s cat, but it wasn’t difficult to avoid her; she was slow and too content to be a real threat to him. Although he had seen another cat recently, and that one was an altogether different prospect, large and orange with penetrating eyes, an opponent he could well live without.
What were they doing now? The woman was standing on the rotting jetty and the man was keeping his distance. Could he draw her in? Would the man follow? The weasel clawed its way up the trunk of a tree and crawled a little way out along a branch. It afforded a good view, although the swaying of the wood beneath its feet was slightly alarming. Its milky eyes gazed down at her as she began throwing something in the lake. Foolish witch! Pebbles were for children, not grown women. He couldn’t hear their conversation; one of the disadvantages of this body was its weak hearing capacity, and it found it had to be very close to its quarry to hear what they were saying.
She only stopped throwing the pebbles when a merman popped his head out of the lake and she turned to speak to the coward again. The weasel was trying to work out a way to entice her into the gloom when a particularly strong gust of wind shook the branch, and although it clawed wildly to try and maintain a hold on the swaying tree, it finally dropped lightly to the forest floor. The weasel’s first instinct was to withdraw further into the forest. However, as it looked towards them he could see the man was completely unconcerned, and while the woman had turned, she wasn’t making any move towards him. It gave up on the idea of any swift glory that could be carried back to the Dark Lord as a glittering prize to ensure its life: instead it chose to follow them back as far as it dared. She knows, it thought. The bitch knows she’s being watched and it is unsettling her. If weasels had possessed hands it would have rubbed them together. As it was, it had to make do with a lick of its front paws before biting viciously into the neck of the mouse that had been foolish enough to cross its path.
“You know, Hermione,” Ron said as he lugged his trunk up the stairs of Grimmauld Place, “I never thought I’d say this, but I’m getting sick of this bloody house.”
“I know what you mean, Ron,” Hermione agreed as she followed him, with Harry bringing up the rear. “It’s not exactly a proper holiday anymore, is it? The novelty has worn off a bit.”
“Well, it’s better than being stuck at Hogwarts for the week with no company,” Harry said, with considerable feeling. “You have no idea how boring it is to be stuck there with no one but Snape and Mrs Norris for company.”
“Maeve would have been there,” Ron said as he finally reached the top of the stairs and set his trunk down. He looked distinctly red in the face and was puffing heavily.
“And she would have spent all her time either trying to find out what’s causing all these Sleepers, or she would have been swanning around with Snape. Either way, she’s not great company at the moment,” Harry grumbled.
“And she’s a teacher. I’m not sure it’s healthy to spend so much time with a teacher. It’ll mess with your brain if you do enough of it.” Ron grimaced at the prospect of spending any of his precious spare time with a teacher.
“I’d have given anything to have one-to-one Potions lessons from her,” Hermione chipped in. “She really knows her stuff, if Harry’s improvement is anything to go by.”
“Yeah, she’s all right.” Harry pushed open the door to their room and threw his trunk under the bed before flinging himself on top of it. “I wonder who else is here?”
“I heard Tonks clattering around in the kitchen, and from what Mum said, there will be a few Aurors kipping in the attic. Resting apparently, poor sods,” Ron informed him.
“Is Remus here, d’you think?” Harry asked casually, and Hermione glanced at him sharply.
“He’s arriving Thursday, according to Mum, so that’ll be something to look forward to.” Ron followed Harry’s example and flopped down on his bed as Hermione looked at them both before picking her bag up.
“I’m going to unpack my things. I’ll see you at dinner later,” she said as she walked towards the door. Harry wanted to talk to her about the potion, but he couldn’t with Ron in the room, and as Remus wasn’t due to arrive until Thursday, he supposed they had plenty of time.
Dinner was served at six. It was only Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny who sat at the large dining table to tuck in to Molly’s well-prepared meal of roast beef with all the usual trimmings.
“You not eating, Mum?” asked Ron, through a mouthful of Yorkshire pudding.
“Ronald! How many times do I have to ask you not to eat with your mouth full? Anyone would think you were still a five-year-old,” Molly said with a pinched frown. “I’ll eat later. I have other things to worry about now.”
They all watched as she absent-mindedly tidied up the last few cooking utensils before wiping her hands on a tea towel and hurrying from the kitchen.
“She looks pale,” Harry said. He hadn’t seen her since shortly after Christmas and she had become very thin. Her face looked tired and drawn. Her colourful, woollen jumper hung off her thin frame, and the apron she had worn to make dinner had emphasised her newly-narrowed waist.
“She’s exhausted,” Ginny said as she tucked into her roast. “She is always at the hospital looking after poor Dad. Not that he needs much looking after at the moment.”
The others fell silent, turning over Arthur Weasley’s fate in their minds. Both Ron and Ginny were clinging onto the fact he was simply sleeping and would wake up soon, none the worse for wear. Hermione wasn’t so sure, and neither was Harry. If the Healers at St Mungo’s couldn’t find a solution, it had to be serious enough to have rather appalling implications. The meal passed in near silence as the atmosphere of Grimmauld Place took over and the murk seeped into their minds.
They didn’t do much over the next few days. The only thing of note was the arrival, and almost immediate departure, of Professor Snape with a glass flask filled with liquid. Hermione was in the kitchen when he arrived, clearing away the breakfast things, and she almost dropped the plate she was drying as his black-cloaked figure swept into the room.
“Ah, Miss Granger,” he murmured, gripping the flask tightly in his thin fingers. “Just the person.”
“What can I do for you, Professor?” she asked, sounding braver than she felt.
“This is Mr Lupin’s Wolfsbane potion. He will be arriving tomorrow.”
“I know,” Hermione interjected.
“Don’t interrupt,” he said quietly. “I want you to put it somewhere safe until he arrives and make sure he takes it in the morning. Much as it pains me to say this, at the moment, you would appear to be the best qualified person to administer it in this madhouse.”
“Erm, thank you,” she said in a small voice as he placed the flask on the table and turned to go. “Professor…”
“Yes.” He turned and faced her coldly, his brittle glare causing her to shiver involuntarily.
“Is there any news about the people who are Sleeping?” she asked.
“Why would I know anything about that?”
“Well, you and Professor O’Malley have been working on a solution, haven’t you? I thought that maybe… well.” Her throat dried up and she fell silent.
“Don’t think,” he said. “It doesn’t become you, either in school or out of it. I have no news for you. When something happens, no doubt you will hear about it through the newspapers.”
“Right,” she said, her nervousness evaporating, to be replaced with irritation. “I’ll make sure Remus gets his potion.”
Severus glanced at her sharply, perhaps sensing an underlying untruth in her soul, but he said nothing and left the room as quickly as he had entered it. Hermione leaned against the sink and looked at the potion on the table, wondering how they were going to substitute the potion she would make for this one.
Remus arrived the following morning, looking even more tired and stressed than poor Molly did. He went straight to the drawing room, where he sank into the sofa and immediately fell asleep still wearing his robes. Hermione had been up since the early hours making their new potion and was pleased with the results; she had even managed, with a small charm, to make it the same colour as the one in the flask Professor Snape had delivered the previous day. She had no way of knowing if Remus would notice the change in taste, although she had a plan, albeit a weak one, to explain away any difference he might detect. Molly had woken him from his impromptu nap with a plate piled high with buttered toast and a huge pot of tea, which he had accepted gratefully, wolfing down the toast as if he hadn’t eaten for a month.
Harry was buzzing round Hermione like a fly in an attempt to find out what her exact plans were, but she swatted him away. She had no intention of involving Harry in the plan. As far as Hermione was concerned, the less people who knew what she was about to do, the less chance it had of going wrong. She waited patiently in the kitchen, her books piled high on the table as she pretended to do homework. Molly returned to the kitchen with Remus’ empty plate and tea things, which she washed with a swirl of her wand and a lacklustre charm before informing Hermione she would be at St Mungo’s if anyone wanted her. Hermione carefully closed her books and went across to the cupboard containing the flask of Wolfsbane. It stood there, concealing the potion she had made earlier, both bottles now glinting in the light from the kitchen. She took out Severus’ first and poured it slowly into a pale yellow cup before setting it on a saucer — using a saucer would make the whole accident easier to accomplish convincingly. She walked up to the drawing room. It took a great deal of self-control to stop her hands from shaking and spilling the liquid too soon. She pushed open the door with her foot and walked in slowly, forcing her mouth into a smile.
“Good morning, Hermione,” Remus said, sitting up a little straighter on the sofa, extending his hand to take the cup and saucer from her. She had to be careful now, or what was to happen next would look staged. The rug that stretched out in front of the sofa was a tatty one and Hermione had noticed it curled up slightly; it was this that had given her the idea. She jerked forward as her foot deliberately caught on the rug. She stumbled into Remus as he quickly rose in an attempt to catch the smoking Wolfsbane. With a quick flick of her wrist Hermione sent the cup tumbling forward so that its contents spilled down the front of Remus’ robes. It gave off a slight hissing sound as holes began to appear in the dark fabric and she was instantly apologetic.
“Oh, Remus, I am so sorry!”
“No, no, don’t worry,” he said, dabbing at his wet and dissolving robes with a handkerchief he had pulled from his pocket. “It was that rug; it’s an accident waiting to happen.”
“Professor Snape brought another lot of Wolfsbane,” she said quickly, wondering if the lie would be accepted for a truth. “Let me go and get it. I’ll be much more careful this time.”
There was nothing in Hermione’s honest face to suggest she was doing anything underhanded as Remus agreed thankfully, and she left the room to fetch her own potion. It was only when she was returning that she had her first real qualm about what she was about to do. Harry had been so convincing about this potion, and she had been so wrapped up in her own ability that she hadn’t really stopped to ask what would happen if it went wrong. Harry had said Professor O’Malley’s grandmother was a very skilled witch and that it was her original formula. The thought that she was working with such a revered witch’s potion was enough to throw Hermione from her original train of thought. It had to be all right. Remus himself had said she was the cleverest witch of her age, and coupled with this advanced recipe that must surely mean it would be successful.
She pushed open the door of the drawing room for the second time that morning and walked very, very carefully this time, taking a wide path around the offending rug. Remus had removed what was left of his robes, revealing his tattered shirt and trousers beneath the better quality cloth. They had been placed on the coffee table and Hermione glanced regretfully at them as she handed him the cup. She watched him drink deeply, relieved to see the potion completely disappear into his mouth in several swift gulps.
“Thank you, Hermione,” he said, handing the now empty cup back to her with a smile. “That tasted better than it usually does. Perhaps Professor Snape has found a way to sweeten it without disrupting the rest of the potion.”
“Yes, perhaps,” she agreed, a little too hastily because Remus cast her a quick look.
Now that the deception was done, Hermione wanted to get out of the room as quickly as she could and head to her bedroom to wait for any immediate side effects to show themselves. She grabbed the other cup and ran quickly back down to the kitchen, rinsing both of them before placing them carefully back with the others. She gripped the edge of the table and took a deep breath to try and recover her equilibrium. What had she done? The best she felt she could hope for was that nothing would happen. And the worst — well, she didn’t want to think about the worst. All of her earlier confidence had evaporated and she now felt sick. Not only had she given him an untested potion, she had managed to melt his robes as well.
The kitchen door sprang open and Harry dashed in with eager expectancy.
“Well?” he asked.
“He’s taken it,” she said bleakly.
“Brilliant! Well done, Hermione,” he said with a whoop.
“Shush!” she hissed. “I just hope we have done the right thing.”
“Of course we’ve done the right thing. Remus will be free. He’ll be able to settle down and be happy.”
Hermione couldn’t believe how naive Harry could be sometimes, and she lost no time in telling him.
“What if it doesn’t work?” she asked. “What if it poisons him? What if he finds out what we have done?”
“It will work,” he replied, oblivious to any other outcome. “Hermione, calm down. Of course it will work.”
He gave her a little hug, but she immediately pushed him away and stood facing him with the beginnings of tears pricking her eyes.
“And I managed to ruin his good robes as well!” she growled, before leaving the kitchen with a loud slam of the door.
Harry stared after her with a bewildered look on his face. Why were girls always so difficult to understand? He thought he had better check on his former professor, just to see if there were any obvious side effects of the potion. He made his way quietly up the stairs and poked his head round the creaking door to see Remus lying on the sofa. As Harry crept closer, the first faint prickling of doubt began to spread through him. Remus looked very pale and was slouched in a collapsed position with his arms flung outwards, the left one dangling towards the floor. The remains of his robes lay crumpled on the table and he could see the melted edges of the fabric clearly. He was about to call for Hermione, struggling to keep his rising panic under control, when Remus moved.
“Remus?” Harry said tentatively. The man on the couch groaned and opened his pale eyes.
“Ah, Harry.” The older man’s voice was hoarse, and he struggled to sit up. “I really need to go to bed.”
“Are you feeling all right?” Harry asked as relief flooded through him.
“Yes, just tired. I haven’t slept in a few days and I need some rest. Perhaps I should go up to my room, stop cluttering up the drawing room.” He gave a fragile smile as he stumbled to his tired feet.
“Can I get you anything?”
“You could bring me up a pot of tea later if you wouldn’t mind. I always get very thirsty when I’ve taken the Wolfsbane.”
“Of course,” Harry said, looking at the tattered robes rather than his former teacher. Remus followed his gaze and gave a regretful frown.
“Hermione had a small accident with the Wolfsbane. I’ll have to send them to Maeve to repair. Perhaps you could take them back with you when you leave on Saturday.”
“Yes,” Harry mumbled, feeling guiltier by the second. “But can’t Mrs Weasley do it?”
“No, I’m afraid not, Harry. They need special magic to fix properly. I’ll dig out my old ones in the meantime. On the plus side, it gives me an excuse to visit her when I collect them.”
Harry picked up the garment and walked to the door with Remus. He wanted to get to Hermione to tell her there were no immediate problems.
“Perhaps we could go to Diagon Alley tomorrow; I’d enjoy your company very much,” Remus said as they hesitated on the stairs.
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “If I’m allowed to, then I’d love to come.”
They parted company and Harry dashed to tell Hermione the good news, although she wasn’t as happy as he thought she might have been.
“It’s only the first day, Harry. Potions can take ages to do any damage,” she muttered darkly as he stood on the threshold of her room. “I can’t believe you talked me into this.”
Harry closed the door softly as he made his way back to his own room, still convinced that it had been the right thing to do.
Maeve had been in her room on the same morning that Hermione was busy with her little deception. A pot of coffee sat on her desk and she was hurriedly preparing lessons for the first week after the holidays. As she poured herself a fresh drink, she felt a sudden pain in her fingers that caused her to put the coffee pot down rather abruptly, sending splashes of hot liquid over the parchment she had been working on.
“Damn!” she said as she reached for her wand to mop the mess up with. Her fingers wouldn’t work though, and as she held them up, she could see their tips grow transparent and they appeared to melt. She was too horrified to do anything, watching with a grisly fascination as they shrank back to the knuckles, the pain suddenly vanishing as quickly as it had arrived. She blinked slowly and her fingers were back, intact and working perfectly. Flexing them slowly, she touched the hot coffee pot and was relieved to feel the heat flow into her hands.
“Some stray magic,” she said to herself by way of an explanation, and with a quick charm she had cleared up the mess and continued with her work. By mid-afternoon the incident with her fingers had been completely forgotten, and she had completely missed the portentous nature of the event.