Chapter 11 – An Alarm In the Night
I had a chance for quick sexy times with Harry and even for an hour of sleep, before Shacklebolt was pounding on our door. We hastily dressed, while Barb served him tea.
"Three Slytherin fifth-years slipped out of the school an hour ago and vanished. They wouldn't have been missed nearly this quickly, but for some reason they felt obliged to burn down Hagrid's shack. Don't worry, Hagrid is fine. My aurors have started their search from Hogsmeade. That also was too easy. They broke into the Three Broomsticks and stole a sack of bar food and quite a lot of Scotch. I smell a trap. I've ordered the aurors to work in teams of two or three. I don't want to risk a lone auror being ambushed. Just to be safe, I've sent aurors to Cissy's castle. All was well when they arrived, but they are protecting her castle from the inside. Just two Wizard servants were at the castle. They are safe and saw nothing. I feared that the castle route to the Sacred Cavern might be an inviting target."
"I'm terribly sorry," Harry told him. "It was a long day and we just wanted to go to bed, but I know we should have stayed to question the Slytherins. I just couldn't face that at the time. Now that chance is gone."
"Don't worry about that. You might or might not have identified the culprits who owned the bomb. They could have refused to say a word. Now they've volunteered their own guilt. We'll catch them. Spoilt Slytherins aren't going to hide out in caves, like Sirius did. They aren't at all into roughing it. They are probably trying to go home. We're certainly pursuing that angle."
A thought popped into my head: "Perhaps a flash of intuition or just a dumb thought, but I think you should have aurors watching the Prophet building and Mr. Cuffe's house. If he organised the attacks, they may expect him to protect them. I'll try to find Neville. You should know whether the boys are able to Apparate. Would they bother stopping to steal food if they were able to Apparate to some place safe? First, I want to visit and make certain Hagrid is okay."
"That will stretch me thin, but I'll do it."
Harry said he would go with Kingsley, but that I should try to get some rest. How did he think that would be possible? I told Barb I was going to Hogwarts to check on Hagrid and see his hut for myself. I gave Harry a very quick snog, and he was gone. Barb insisted that she must come with me. I was reluctantly agreeing, when there was another knock on my door, which Barb opened to admit Hermione. Harry had taken Ron with him. We Apparated right onto the Hogwarts' grounds, just a hundred feet from Hagrid's hut. The stench of burnt hut immediately assaulted my nostrils and I could see piles of glowing embers as we walked forward. I heard Hagrid and Neville speaking in concerned tones as they knelt in front of... something.
"Fang!" I told Hermione, certain I was right, even though I could see next to nothing."
As we got closer, I could tell that Neville was attempting a healing spell, while Hagrid repeated a monotone "Don't die, Fang."
Hermione and I rushed around Hagrid and Neville to tend to Fang from the other side. As we knelt beside Fang, the smell of burnt fur and, frankly, flesh was overpowering to the point I had to forcibly suppress a gag and barf. As I recovered, I joined Hermione in pouring magical energy into Fang. I reached for the Stone to get more power and to request it search for more suitable healing spells. PAIN! A crushing wave of pure pain caught me totally by surprise and I bent over so far, my nose was crushed against the grass.
"Worse than the Cruciatus," Hermione whispered in a way that told me she had blocked the pain. I follower her mind to the spot in the Stone memory where she found that trick and used it to clear my own mind of the oppressive pain. Fang was softly whimpering, and I just knew that we were somehow feeling his pain. We both used that spell to block Fang's pain. The whimpering stopped. A tongue licked my hand in thanks.
Hagrid had stopped his mournful chant and turned away from Neville as he sensed what was happening. "The pain is too much for Fang. We must do something."
"We already have," Hermione assured him. "All of his pain is blocked. We're now working on healing him."
"Tried to save him. The big dummy ran back into the hut. I almost couldn't reach him; it was so hot. Why would somebody want to kill Fang? He never hurt nothing."
"I'm very sorry," Hermione consoled him, then flashed the truth at him with "it was you they wanted to kill. You are our friend. That was enough for those evil boys to want to kill you."
"I'm sorry I haven't been able to prevent the return of evil to Hogwarts," Neville apologised to all of us. "I thought I was doing a lot better than I actually was. This lot of Slytherins seemed better than last year's. They were strongly pushed to do this. I know it. I feel incompetent. I should have considered that the adults couldn't bear to have a peaceful Hogwarts. A bomb, now this. I will not tolerate it."
"Slytherins are evil," Hagrid told us.
I couldn't disagree.
I was searching the Stone for the best spells or potions to treat burns. I was also looking for any special skills to treat an animal with serious burns. The Stone directed me to an old nature religion priestess named Esme. She had supported herself as a shepherdess and tended sheep, with the help of her two dogs. She had successfully treated one of her dogs for severe burns, when an angry Wizard had thrown him onto her campfire. She had dealt with the Wizard, then she had used the same pain deadening spell we had just used. She knew of a plant lotion for burns. The ingredients danced across my mind. I told Hermione that I was off to the potion's room, letting her see the vision of the lotion in my mind. She pointed me at an old Light Guardian priestess potion to treat human burns, suggesting it would probably also work on Fang. I messaged Margaret to meet me in the potions room and I was off.
I Apparated inside the door of Snape's old storeroom. As soon as I ordered light from my wand, it was clear that Neville had the room far better stocked with plants than Snape or even Professor Sprout had ever achieved. That reminded me to also summon Professor Sprout.
I carried a satchel of ingredients to the potions room. Margaret, the twins, and Professor Sprout were already there. I explained the problem and what was needed to treat Fang. Professor Sprout allowed herself a quick "poor Hagrid, poor Fang," then sprang into action. She and the twins would make the potion. Margaret and I would prepare the lotion. I macerated Eucalyptus leaves with my mortar and pestle, while Margaret crushed Aloe leaves. We each dumped our product into a small copper pail, then moved on to Peppermint leaves for me and flowers from the Vanilla orchid for Margaret. How could a medieval priestess possibly get such ingredients? There must have been a lore of far-off places among the priestesses and she must have done several basically blind, long-distance Apparates. That would have been dangerous beyond imagining. I shuddered to think of the risk this old priestess had taken. Despite that, I knew she had lived to be nearly a hundred and had died only when a ram had caught her unawares and butted her off a mountainside. I wasn't half as tough as these old witches. Stir in a scoop of ambergris and we were done. Margaret and I apparated back to Fang's side. With gentle 'Leviosum' and a modified form of Witch painting, we managed to cover all of Fang with the lotion. Hermione fetched soft linen sheeting, upon which we laid, and then wrapped, Fang. When we finished this delicate operation, I noticed that Madam Sprout and the twins were standing with us. The easiest approach - easiest for Fang, that is, was to squirt the potion down his throat in very small squirts, lest he choked. Barb, Neville, Professor Sprout, and I grabbed a piece of the linen and Apparated Fang to the infirmary. We carefully placed him upon a cot. Hermione apparated Hagrid and the twins.
"I'm off to do some midnight shopping in a British hospital. We need to get equipment for a glucose drip, probably electrolytes as well. I'll pick up Stewart on the way. He can give a satisfactory explanation. I'll Polyjuice. I'm becoming far more wary of the wrong people being able to identify this face.
As Hagrid stepped close to Fang and presented his big hand, Fang lifted his head slightly and gave a big lick. I could tell that Fang was feeling much better and less frightened. Then I realised: I could tune into Fang's thoughts. I could sense his increasing calm, his love for Hagrid, his doggy gratitude for our efforts to repair him. I tried to beam some warm, happy thoughts back at Fang. I pulled myself away from this rather shocking contact with the realisation that I'd be gone in twelve hours and there was information about Fang's care which I must convey to the others.
First, I made sure that Dr. Sprout had good written instructions for making more lotion and potion. Then I wrote down the instructions for a second lotion and two more potions to be used after Fang's healing had caught hold. Most important: I needed to teach them how to perform the dual charm and spell needed to block Fang's pain. What Hermione and I had done would wear off shortly after we left. I promised to renew the treatment as the last thing we did. I improved the twins' link to the Stone as I was doing this. They had so much less formal skill that I hadn't been able to do much more than teach them how to yell "Help!" through the Stone, before I left on Quest. Now they were able to learn how to conduct a full conversation in both directions and to ask the Stone questions. I made certain that the Stone was fully aware of what sort of questions it should and should not answer.
Hermione returned with Stewart and hooked up an intravenous drip for Fang. A tube, which Hermione said was a catheter, had to be inserted in a most sensitive spot. Happily, our spell meant that Fang didn't feel a thing. As Hagrid looked a little shocked by this procedure, Hermione explained that it was necessary to prevent Fang from soiling himself. Lack of cleanliness was the greatest danger to Fang's recovery.
I turned to see Madam Pomphrey working on Hagrid with the same lotion we had used on Fang. I felt mortified. Hagrid was seriously injured, and I had failed to notice anything beyond singed hair. I must have looked very crestfallen, because Hagrid reached out to put a comforting hand upon my head, telling me "Don't feel bad. You fixed Fang, what I wanted you to do. I'm tougher and braver than Fang."
Brave or not, lack of whimpering notwithstanding, Hermione and I used the anti-pain charm and spell on Hagrid.
"Time to go!" Neville urged us. "If we go now, we can almost be not late for breakfast with the Lester's."
The Lester's were standing in a third-floor corridor next to a glass display case when the three of us arrived. Of course, they were unable to gain entry to the stairway to Neville's apartment, even though Angela was leaning against us. It was an exposed position, even within Hogwarts, but a Ministry auror was with them. I didn't know her name. She introduced herself as Bethany, absolute evidence that she was Muggle-born. Neville guided us up to his apartment and motioned us to a semi-circle of chairs. More furniture, more modern furniture, no Witch sherry on offer, but reminiscent of my visits to McGonagall's apartment.
As we sat, breakfast arrived. We had a profusion of choices: coffee, tea, pumpkin and orange juices, milk, broiled tomatoes, bacon, eggs scrambled or poached, croissants, scones, poached pears, three different jams, butter, sausages, and chocolate chip muffins. "Ginny likes to eat," Neville offered as explanation. "She's about to travel and wanted to check in on you before she left. Since she is responsible for your introduction to our world, that seemed appropriate. Harry and Ron would be here, but they're off on auror business."
"Please just tell me, I know something terrible has happened. Does it involve us." Fran pleaded.
"Not directly," I responded, "but a lot of bad stuff happened in the past two days. We've just come from doing our best to heal Hagrid's dog, Fang. He was badly burned when three Slytherins burned down Hagrid's hut on their way out of Hogwarts. We think they were the ones who brought the bomb into Slytherin House. Harry and Ron are searching for them. The over-flow school in Wales was attacked. The attackers were repulsed, but a dozen students were killed. On the bright side, things are going well with Roger and the phoney trail we've laid to fool the agents of the United States."
"Worse than I feared. Are you sure my children are safe at Hogwarts?"
"As safe as we can possibly make them," Neville promised in a voice which reeked of confidence. "The worst of the Slytherins are gone. My faculty are vigilant. We have Elves secretly on duty. Bethany is here to keep you all safe and my mother has two other aurors, who will remain at Hogwarts for the time being. Meanwhile, the Ministry is pursuing those responsible for the attacks. A number of villains are already in jail."
"I guess that is... somewhat comforting. This is all new to us."
"We fully understand that," Hermione assured her. Ginny and I faced threats at Hogwarts, but as you can see, we survived and are fine. Hogwarts is far safer now. We have a friendly Ministry and Neville isn't ignoring problems. How are you and the children progressing with your magical studies?"
"Far better than I could have hoped. I've been allowed to start as a second year, so there's no conflict with being in the same classes as Angela. I'm getting by - far from best in class, but only the second or third worst performer. Angela has proven to be a natural. We've snuck in training for Steven. I think he's doing well. I have a request. I'd like my husband to be able to visit us for the weekend. I'm sure he misses us greatly. I certainly miss him. He could hide out in my apartment."
"Harry's department. I'm hoping he'll be here soon, so that I can say goodbye to him. I'm traveling off-world to Asgard."
We finished our breakfast, mainly with small-talk conversation. We were all lingering after finishing eating in the hope that Harry and Ron would appear. They arrived forty minutes after we finished eating.
"We caught the Slytherins. Ginny was right, they went to Barnabas Cuffe's house. They walked to the nearest town south of Hogsmeade. It's a regular British small town. They were sitting in the car park area of a small mall, when a Witch I didn't recognise approached them. They grabbed her arms and she Apparated them away from us. Fifteen minutes later an auror arrives to tell us that they are inside Barnabas Cuffe's house. We set up anti-Apparition barriers and stormed the house, arresting everyone inside. We had judicial warrants to do that and to search any place the students went. We found some very interesting documents. Director Shacklebolt and Wood are examining them. Barnabas, the Witch, Gamot Finch, and the three students are in the lock-up and will be questioned today. I'm hoping the two of you can stay for that."
I contacted Odin. He seemed a little annoyed, but his words were agreement in good grace. He agreed to let me borrow Cissy, since Harry didn't want to use the court truth-tellers for this.
Harry listened to Fran's request and agreed that He or Ron would Apparate her husband to Hogwarts.
"Please do it together guys", Neville cautioned. "I don't want my friends in a position to be picked off as singles. The Lester house is a place we can be counted on to visit. We probably don't want Mister Lester to return there after the weekend, unless you have a couple of aurors to spare."