Following Snape



     Hermione glanced nervously out the window of the Gryffindor tower. She, Harry, and Ron were seated in the otherwise empty common room, trying to stay awake. The night before, they had caught their potions professor, Professor Snape, sneaking back to Hogwarts from the woods in the wee hours. The very night before that, they had been looking at the Marauder's Map Ron's brothers had passed down to Harry and spotted the little black dot labeled 'Serverus Snape' move along the same path back from the woods. Hermione had never been a great fan of the map, having tried to persuade Harry to turn it in when he'd been given it. But it had been an asset more than once, and they figured it would be this time as well. Given the suspicious nature of this, they'd been trying to figure out what it could have been about. And given that happening at the same time two nights in a row, they had suspected the same for tonight.

     They were weary, but this was too important to sleep through. And anyway, they were used to accomplishing their means in the dead of night. Hermione kept close watch out the window, Harry leafed through books and watched the map, and Ron sat slouched in his seat doing very little.

     "Ahhh... ahh-Ihshh!" The red-haired lad sneezed into the back of his hand. He'd been doing quite a lot of that already tonight. He pulled his hand into the sleeve of his robe, an easy task as his robes were hand-me-downs and several sizes too large for him. He rubbed the cuff against his nose and sniffled.

     Her concentration broken, Hermione sighed. "Honestly, maybe you should just go to bed, Ron. You're not much help to us sick."

     Ron sniffled and his hand shot down onto his lap. "I'm not sick!" He sounded convincing, but his runny nose did well to dissuade his friends.

     "Oh, sure you are!" Harry argued. "You've been sneezing since lunch."

     "It's probably just the sniffles, from dust or a chill or something."

     Harry laughed. "Yeah, or it could be what it is... a head cold.

     "It's not a cold!" Ron protested loudly.

     "Sure, sure..." Harry trailed off, not believing Ron for a moment. He noticed his friend's ears had gone red, as they tended to do when Ron was under pressure or stretching the truth. Clearly, what Ron had was a cold.

     "Well it's not! Ehh-" he covered his nose and mouth with his sleeve. "Umph! Uhsmph!"

     "Bless you."

     Ron rubbed his nose with the back of his hand, then his sleeve again. He cleared his throat and ran his hand through his orange-red hair. "I'm not sick."

     Harry sighed. "Why don't you just admit it? It's clearly obvious!"

     "Because I'm not!"

     "Boys!" Hermione exclaimed, jumping to his seat. "Shut up and get the cloak on. He's just headed out the door."

     Forgetting their squabble, Harry and Ron raced out, Harry with his father's invisibility cloak in hand. Hermione sat with several books beneath the picture of the Fat Lady, outside the entrance to the Gryffindor tower, so that she could open the passage without suspicion when the lads returned, invisible.

     Harry and Ron huddled together under the cloak as the cold late fall winds whipped around them. They walked fast to catch up with their potions instructor, almost losing him as the dark figure made his way through the forest. Carefully, they matched pace with his, stepping when he stepped so as to make no additional sounds as they trailed behind. Snape's dark, hooded shape was difficult to keep track of, being rather illusive as he darted among the trees as if on a path only he could see.

     Suddenly, Ron gasped.

     Harry, careful to keep his friend walking at the same pace, knew exactly what was wrong by the way his chest heaved. He held one side of the cloak up with a hand, and Ron was holding the other, so with Harry's free hand, he reached around and guided Ron's head into his shoulder so that the sound of the lad's sneezes would be muffled. They stopped in place for only a moment, and Harry kept his eyes on Snape, as Ron sneezed twice, powerfully right into Harry's shoulder. "Ushmp! EhShumph!"

     At the sound, Snape stopped dead in his tracks, as if every hair in his body had suddenly stood on end. He was silent, ears perked, eyes whizzing back and forth. He turned straight around, staring right at an invisible Ron and Harry. Ron resisted the urge to sniff, too scared of being found out to make a move. Harry, likewise, stood straight with his breath held, wishing they were a little further back. They were so close he was surprised Snape couldn't smell him. Their professor looked about suspiciously. Then, loudly he called out, "Potter?!"




     Louder, he repeated the call. "Potter?!" Snape's nose twitched, as if trying to smell out his nemesis, or whoever might be there.

     The lads huddled together silently, not daring to make a move.

     With a shrug, Snape turned back around and headed further into the forest, much more aware of his surroundings.

     When they were far enough behind, they felt it safe to whisper. "You just had to sneeze, didn't you? Couldn't go two minutes?"

     With a sniffle, "Sorry, James. You can blame Sirius for those, though; he gave me his cold." He rubbed his sleeve beneath his nose.

     "Remind me to thank him when we get home, then. Just try to keep them under control, Remus. We've got to see what he's up to."

     With another rub to his nose, the young man whispered, "I'm sure this is about the Halloween prank. What else could account for such timing?"

     The pair stopped short as Snape, too, stopped. After uttering a string of words that James and Remus later agreed to be "Meticula meracula monitarla" he stepped forward and immediately disappeared.

     James and Remus quickly consulted the Marauder's Map that they and their other two friends had been clever enough to create. The little dot marked 'Serverus Snape' was nowhere to be found on it. Then, Remus pointed at a large bunch of dots, so close together that the dots and their labels were a large, blobbish blur on the far edge of the Forbidden Forest. With their breaths held, they walked forward, hurrying after Snape.

They felt a cold tug, then found themselves standing just behind their Slytherin rival. Had they stepped only an inch closer, they would have bumped right into him. And they thought he'd been suspicious before... But the two friends were not alone with Snape now. In fact, they were far from it. They seemed to be in the same forest, though the trees and rocks had rearranged themselves. There was a group of Slytherins standing around a large, unlit campfire, each with wands out and at the ready. Lit torches stood behind each of them, as they stood in circle. Snape took his place at the circle beside James' nemesis Lucius Malfoy and pulled his own wand out with a smile.

     "Now we are all here. I call this meeting of the Slytherin Seventeen to order in the name of the great one himself, Salazar Slytherin." The figure in a dark hood at the far end of the circle paused as he looked around. "What took you so long, Serverus?"

     The young man spoke up, "I suspected someone to be following me. I had to make certain."

     As if appeased, the figure nodded. James strained his eyes to see the face, but it was hidden under robes. From the voice, he suspected it to be Marcus Hastings, the head of the Slytherin House, though he could not be certain as Remus' quiet sniffles hid some of the sound of the soft voice. What were they doing all out here when they could simply meet in their common room? What was the Slytherin Seventeen?

     Satisfied in the answer, the hooded figure continued, "It is now two days until Halloween, and we must be practicing more for the prank we shall play upon the Gryffindors at the great feast. I have been second guessing the choice in victim... upon further inspection, I do not think Peter would be the best choice."

     James and Remus exchanged scared looks at the mention of their friend Peter. Just what did the Slytherins have in mind? These pranks were supposed to be harmless fun.

     "He is too closely connected with Potter's group. Altogether too obvious. Besides... I sense things from the boy that could be beneficial to our kind some day. No, I would rather another target."

     James and Remus both sighed inwardly. By this time, James was certain the voice was that of Professor Hastings.

"Someone of muggle blood... someone who could easily botch a spell or two."

     From somewhere in the circle, a female voice called out, "Harmon Sweeny!"

     The robed head nodded. "Yes."

     Remus took a grip of James' arm, squeezing tightly in alarm. There was a student like Harmon in every class, one no one pegged would make it to the next level, no matter how hard he tried, and yet still succeeded. He was clumsy, and could not memorize even the most simple of instructions no matter how hard he tried. But his love of the art was intense, and he was so used to trying multiple times, that he managed to come out on top every time. Mistakes from such a student were simply commonplace... anything could easily be blamed upon him.

     "Let us continue from where we left off last night."

     Now, the rules of the pranks had been expressly written out on a scroll, which hung beside the houses' scoreboards in the banquet hall. They read as follows:

1. Each prank should be created by students only.

2. Each prank should be practiced by students only.

3. Each prank should be performed by students only.

4. Pranks should be played from one house to another.

5. Heads of a house may oversee the practice and performance only.

6. Each prank must be conducted on school grounds.

7. Every prank must have a way to be undone.

8. No illegal activity may be involved in a prank.

9. No outside school forces may be involved in a prank.

10. Above all, NO HARM may befall any of the members of the school.

Failure to abide by any of these rules will be detrimental.

If that was truly the head of the Slytherin house, such involvement would constitute a breaking of the rule. But there seemed to be more to this meeting than simply getting away with the prank.

     Any thoughts the pair might have had were completely forgotten as the practice began. All the students raised their wands, pointing them toward the logs in the middle of the circle and recited, "Transferus luminus...transferus luminus..." After a few repetitions, sparks of light from the torches behind each student flew to the center. And after a few seconds, a large fire had blazed into being. A very muggle sort of way to start a fire... but impressive, and the Slytherins were not done yet. When the fire had grown great enough, the chanting shifted and grew louder. "Levetate luminus...levetate luminus..." Nothing happened for a moment, but then the Slytherins chanted louder, until they were almost shouting. All at once, the great fire, wood and all, began to rise into straight the air.

      Remus took the opportunity to pull out his handkerchief and cover his nose and mouth thoroughly. "Hetchh! Humchh! HehKissh!" he sneezed, then sniffed. The Slytherins were all too caught in concentration to hear anything.

     But the hooded figure did not hesitate to shout above the noise, "Stop!"

     The chanting ceased at once, and the fire crashed to the ground. Logs landed and bounced, flaming, rolling. Several students dropped to their knees to use their robes to smother the flames as others summoned water to douse the flames. But no matter which, eyes all fell on the figure, who was holding two hands up. "I heard something. And I can sense something else here. Some other sort of... hidden magic--"

     At the exact instant the phrase had been mentioned, Remus whispered harshly in a stuffed voice, "Fortificae ivi!" The pair felt James' cloak tighten around them in security.

     The hooded figure shouted out, "Revealae!" Everything was silent as eighteen pairs of eyes looked around for something to be revealed. After a few moments of silence, "Disregard that. I must have imagined it. Collect the logs and we will practice again."

     James sighed and squeezed Remus' hand in thank you. Remus had always been good at quick spells; that's one of the reasons he had Remus along now, despite the poor lad's case of the sniffles.

     Practice went on again, and James and Remus paid close attention to their words and actions. How would they attempt to place this on Harmon? Make it look like it was his fault?

     James' attention strayed from the fire to Lucius and Serverus and just as he did, they changed the position of their wand so that instead of pointing at the floating fire, it pointed at the hooded figure. They whispered a spell in unison, unheard by James and Remus as the rest of the group was shouting. The hooded figure rose in the air, higher than the fire and when he tapped his wand in mid air, perhaps to stop the action, nothing happened. Then, he was lowered, as was the fire, and settled back to his feet on the ground as the chanting ended.

     "Good. Now, with that tap, all the points from the selected student's house will go to Slytherin... and it will be most difficult to reverse. Possible, but difficult. A good prank indeed. But you must learn it without so much loudness. We must be quiet and stay smiling, unheard so that it will be most surprising. More practice. Go..."

     James and Remus watched for hours as the students practiced the feat over and over again. After a while, they grew tired and sat down to watch. Remus, sneezey and sniffley, was able to conceal all under the sound of the chanting. But eventually, he gave up and leaned up against James. James wrapped his arm around his friend. Remus was looking weaker at every moment- much more so than he looked at times the morning after a full moon on the floor of the shrieking shack. He could see the weariness in Remus' face, and the fatigue his kind friend tried to hide behind his curiosity and courage. With a gentle hug of reassurance, "Sleep tight, Moony. I'll wake you."

Sounding altogether too relieved, "Thanks... keep an eye open." Remus yawned, and drifted off, snuggled against James for warmth, his soft face nuzzled in the folds of James' school robes.


It was hours later when the group decided to quite for the night. Practice had gotten them to a point where they could chant at a normal tone. James woke Remus up and they had gotten to their feet just in time for the hooded figure to point right at them. For a moment, James felt a wave of fear--the man could see them! But then the man spoke out, "Monitarla meracula meticula!" And James and Remus felt themselves being pulled backward by strong, invisible hands. Suddenly they found themselves in a different part of the forest, alone. They scrambled to their feet and jumped away a few feet as Snape fell through nowhere as well, followed by the rest, one by one. Not wanting to risk being bumped into, James and Remus ran home.





     "uhhhHishh! Hetchoo!"

     Sirius smiled. "Bless you, bless you, Moony."

"They were going to use Peter, but decided upon Harmon instead," James related as the four crowded together on Sirius' bed to discuss what James and Remus had seen that night. They'd chosen his bed since it was in the corner. If they kept their voices down and the curtains around it drawn, no one could hear them. Peter sat on one side, biting his lip. James sat at the head on one pillow, legs stretching out down the center. Sirius sat on the other side, his legs out straight, crossing on top of James'. Remus lay on his side, sniffling into a handkerchief with his head on Sirius' thigh. Sirius stroked the man's head gently, comforting him as they all talked.

     "And what were they doing there? In the dead of night?" Peter asked.

     "Probably needed someplace to work where they would not be heard. Sniff, sniff!" He wrinkled his nose. "Their chanting was a bit loud," Remus explained. "But what I cannot understand is what the Slytherin Seventeen is..."

     "Doesn't matter," Sirius said with a growl. "They're going to cast an irreversible spell and hurt poor Harmon." Sirius and James were the ringleaders of their little gang, virtually inseparable. Though Sirius was many times the one who wanted to take action.

     "So they're breaking the rules? Can't we go to the headmaster?" Peter protested.

     Sirius sighed. "We have no proof. Besides, we're not allowed out at night, we're not allowed to spy on the other houses, and we're definitely not allowed in the woods. Prongs and Moony'd be in serious trouble."

     Peter nodded, lip still bitten. "Well, there's gotta be something!"

     "uhhhHishh! eEhhhKishhh! ehhhChishh!"

     "Bless you again." Sirius put his hand on the back of Remus' head as his dear friend blew his nose. "Can I do anything for you?"

     Finishing, Remus rubbed his nose and sniffled. "You can take your cold back."

     Sirius laughed and fought back the urge to kiss his friend in front of the others. He felt terrible and would have done practically anything to make the lad feel better. "How about a fresh handkerchief? I can manage that one more easily."  He reached over to his beside cabinet and pulled one out.

     Remus nodded and took the offering, giving his nose another blow. "Thanks, Padfoot." He broke into a yawn and closed his eyes.

     "Why don't you try to sleep, Remus?" James spoke up. "We'll figure something out."

     "Yes, you really should," Sirius pitched in, rubbing Remus' back.

     Remus nodded in agreement with another yawn.

     James smiled, his voice happy and thankful, "And thanks for taking care of us tonight."

     Remus opened his eyes long enough to give a smile and wink before falling to sleep in Sirius' protection.

     "So, what can we do?" Peter asked again.

     "Well," James said, running a hand through his hair. "I'll ask Lilly for suggestions. She's skilled in teleportation; she might have a good counter for our dinners all catching on fire and levitating. But for now, I suggest we try to find a way to reverse the scoreboard spell once Harmon is forced into it."

     "I'll talk to Harmon," Sirius said, "And try to get him not to attempt to get down. If one tap of a wand is all it takes..."

     "Good idea." James took a look at his pocket watch. "Just under two hours to class. Better get some sleep or I'll be snoozing in potions."

     Peter and James retired back to their beds. Not wanting to move the already asleep Remus, Sirius threw a blanket over him, kissed his forehead, then crawled under the covers to fall asleep himself. He'd gotten over his own cold just days before, so he understood what Remus was going through... and he knew waking up with Sirius beside him would be far from unpleasant.

     He reached over and took the lad's hand in his own.




     Ron squeezed it back and the two held their breath. Snape turned around and continued walking forward.

     They sighed, and Ron had to burry his head in Harry's shoulder again to keep from coughing too loudly. Quietly, they followed until Snape stopped. After looking around suspiciously, he whispered, "Meticula meracula monitaral" and disappeared.

     Harry and Ron stared amazingly at the spot. They walked forward, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. Harry had thought at first it might be a portkey, an object that, when touched, transports a wizard to a predefined place. However, there was no object there at all. Then he thought perhaps he had disapparated. But as Hermione liked to remind them constantly, such was impossible on Hogwarts grounds. They walked around the area, looking for any sign, then Ron spoke up, "Let's try the words."

     "Yes... what were they? Merticula... meraculus..."

     "Meticula, I think... meraculus doesn't sound right..."


     "Maybe... what was the third? Monitary something?"

     "Yeah... Monitae? Monitara? Monitaral? Monitarla?"

     "Hmmm... Mon... mon..."


     "Mon... ehhhIhhShh! EhhhKissh! uhhhChishh!" He sniffed, rubbing his sleeve under his nose. "ehh... ehhIhhshh! uhhKishh! ehhhChichh!" He paused a moment, thinking it was over. Then his sleeve snapped back up and he directed his nose toward the crook of his arm. "ehhhHISHH! ehhhHumph! UhhhhHurmmph!" Ron sniffled and shivered, not sure what his next move would be.

     Harry gave over his handkerchief, having to dig it out from beneath his robes. "Give it a blow and keep it."

     Grumbling, Ron followed the advise as he shivered. "Fine... but I'm not--"

     "I know you're not sick. Just keep it in case you get the sneezes again. All right?"

     Reluctantly, Ron nodded.

     "Now, what were we saying? Meticula meracula... monitary? Like money? That doesn't sound right..."

     "No, monitaral I think. Er... I think."

     Harry gave a sigh. "Well, it's worth a shot." He took a deep breath. "Meticula meracula monitaral!" And suddenly, they found themselves in a different part of the forest all together. There was a circle of students sitting, and a dark hooded figure at the far side of the circle who was, they could deduce, Professor Snape. They looked over the attendees, all Slytherins. On the side, stood Draco Malfoy, between the other bad boys, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. From the Quidditch team, he recognized Griphook Fudge and Michelle Cobblestone. Harry took a quick count- there were seventeen students in all.

     Suddenly, a chill passed through him, chilling his bones so much that he shivered, even under the thick cloak.

     "You all right?" Ron whispered softly in his ear.

     Harry nodded and whispered back, "Yes, just felt the oddest feeling all of a sudden as if... I'd been here before."

     Ron sniffed softly and nodded as he looked around.

     Snape, standing, began to speak. "I call this meeting of the Slytherin Seventeen to order in the name of the great one himself, Salazar Slytherin."

     "The what?" Ron whispered.

     Harry shook his head. For some reason, it was familiar to him, but for the life of him he couldn't place it.

     Snape continued. "It is one day until Halloween, when we are to have the House Battles before the feast. And I do not think any of you are ready. If you want to defeat the Gryffindors and that fool Harry Potter, you'll need to be much more cunning. If they throw fire, you throw water. If they throw water, you throw sponges, not buckets. If they throw wind, you throw fans. Creativity and accuracy on the part of all, do you understand?"

     Harry and Ron had suspected something similar, but he wondered how all the students had managed to get into the woods there without being seen. The House Battles Snape had spoken of was an attempt at spurring houses against each other, while at the same time encouraging practice of skills. Houses were expected to follow common sense rules, and were to be overseen by the leaders of the houses at all times on school ground when practicing. So why were they here, now, with Snape?

     "Now," Snape continued, "I will be the other house, and you will need to defend, as a group."

     They Slytherins formed two lines on one side of the great fire, and Snape stood on the other, his hands up and ready, as if at any moment, magic would come flowing out of them on its own. "Flamberge!" he uttered, tapping his wand in mid air, and green fire shot from his fingertips into the air above them, staying just below the canopy of trees.

     Draco Malfoy was the one to speak up, raising his wand, and shouting, "Aguali!" And within a split second, the whole group shouted out likewise, "Aguali!" Blue waves of water crashed from their wands, hitting the flames in mid-air and dousing them.

     "Good, easy one to start with," Snape said as he relit the main campfire which had gone out from some stray water-fire. "Now try a harder one." He thought a moment, then quickly raised his hands and wand with a strong exclamation, "Multado Magicara!" And a dozen thick, green robes came flying out. They twisted in mid air to become lassos, then magical nooses, heading straight for the student's necks.

     "Scissaro!" Malfoy and Fudge shouted in unison, and the rest of the group followed suit as pairs of scissors shot into the air, cutting the robe into thousands of tiny pieces. Realizing the problem with this, Draco shouted with a tap of his wand, "Safaro!" And a giant pillow rose into the air. Each pair of scissors stuck into it, and the pillow fell harmlessly to the ground.

     "Good save, Malfoy," Snape said with a smile. Cunning, just like his father.

     Ron and Harry sat watching the practice, realizing they shouldn't be there, but not knowing how they could possibly leave. Not the way they came, certainly.

     Rubbing his finger under his nose, Ron tugged on Harry's robe. "Harry... I'm..."

     Harry closed his eyes tightly, hoping he hadn't heard what he'd heard. He reached over and pulled Ron against him, holding the boy tightly as the body convulsed against his chest.

     "eh-kummm! UhhTuphmm!"

     Snape looked up and around, daggers in his normally cold, dark eyes, as if putting two and two together. "Who was that?"

     No one moved, not even Harry and Ron. Ron was breathing heavily into Harry's robes, his nose running, but trying to be silent.

     "Everyone... stretch out your hands and walk around. I do not believe we are alone here..."

     That was Harry and Ron's cue. They leapt to their feet and darted into the forest together, holding the cloak around themselves tightly. They had been in the forest a number of times before... but they had had Hagrid or Fang at the least. Now they were alone, with no notion whatsoever of their location. All they knew was enough to keep them running.





     "Harry, sniff, sniff, where are we?"

     Harry shook his head, shivering under the cloak. "I don't rightly know... but we're no more lost than we have been." They didn't really need to stay invisible any longer, but staying together under the thick fabric of the invisibility cloak kept them a little warmer. It had been hours since their flight. Another two and the sun would begin to rise. Another three and it would be time for breakfast and their disappearance would be more than noticed, especially by a certain potions professor who was already suspicious of them. "I can't imagine how far into the woods we must have been to walk this far back... assuming we're going the right way... and assuming this is the same woods." They sat down, and Harry took the cloak off them. He looked over at Ron, shivering and sniffling miserably. The lad looked worn out and tired, and unusually pale. "How're you doing?"

     Ron shrugged, sniffling into the handkerchief. "I'll be fine sniff, sniff, after some sleep." He paused. "Oh man... get ready..." he drew a deep breath then fell forward. "ehhAhshoo! AhhhHishh! ahh...ehhhIhhshh!"

     "Bless you."

     Ron nodded, blowing his nose. "Thanks. Sniff, sniff! You think I'm sounding worse or--"

     About to answer, Harry suddenly slapped a hand over Ron's mouth. "Wait, do you hear that?" He lowered his hand, hoping Ron hadn't heard it.

     There was a low growl and the boys froze in place, looking around. A monster? An animal? There was a reason the forest was forbidden to students.

     A pair of yellow eyes blinked into being, growing closer to them in the darkness.

     "uhhIhshh! AhhHishh!" Ron sneezed again, holding Harry's handkerchief to his nose. Harry had to admit that he wasn't feeling the best, either. Perhaps being sneezed on a half dozen times by Ron was taking its toll. But for now, he was much more concerned with their lives than a case of the sniffles. "ahhUmphsh! Ahhh-ehhKishh!"

     The eyes got closer, and growling, snarling began.


     The image of the beast came into early morning moonlight, a small, bear-like creature standing on its hind legs. It was walking towards them slowly, so details became more and more clear with each step. Its fur looked bright blue, and from what they could see, it had four arms, all with claws, raised up toward them.

     "Run!" Harry whispered, throwing the cloak over the two of them as they ran faster than they had earlier that night. They ran and ran, dodging trees, hoping the beast-whatever it was- was not following them based on smell and sound.

     "Umph!" Ron groaned as he fell backward onto the ground, taking Harry with him and having the cloak fall off them both. He'd run into something that had appeared too quickly to swerve around. He scrambled to his feet, along with Harry, intending to run some more when he looked up to see Professor Lupin's face smiling down at him.

     "Fancy my running into you here," he said softly. "Or perhaps that's you running into me, hmm?" Helping Harry up, he dusted both lads off. "Sirius and I have been out all night looking for you both. Had a bit of an adventure and a scare have you?"

     Both nodded, Harry resisted the urge to hug the man. "How'd you know where we were?"

     R.J.Lupin smiled as he said simply, "History has a way of repeating itself. Especially when it's a few days before Halloween and Snape is involved."

     "ahhEhshho!" Ron rubbed at his nose, nodding, too tired to ask anything else presently. He yawned and picked up Harry's cloak, brushing off the dirt for him and handing it back. Remus guided Ron against him. The red-haired lad fell against the man's soft, warm robes, holding them against him as if they were blankets.

     Lupin rubbed Ron's back comfortingly. "Poor lads, you've had quite a night."

     Ron nodded.

     Harry, however, had a hand cupped over his mouth and nose and bent forward only slightly. "eh-Cheshh! uhhChush!" His bangs flopped on his forehead, covered in sweat from the run. They danced back and forth over his lightning-shaped scar as the boy sneezed.

     Lupin, with his hands on both Harry and Ron's backs, gave them reassuring pats. "The forest is no place for two lads with such head colds. Come, I'll see you get back to your warm beds safely."

     Feeling shielded from the dangers of the forest, they let their ex-defense against the dark arts professor lead them back to the castle of Hogwarts, then to the tower where Hermione had fallen asleep on the floor with a book on her chest. After waking her as well, they all trudged up and into their respective chambers. Lupin tucked Ron and Harry both into bed and said he would make excuses for them should they so need a friend who could talk to Dumbledore frankly. He also strongly suggested they both pay a visit to Madame Pomfrey in the morning in reference to their colds.

     Ron and Harry, done thanking their ex-professor immensely, snuggled under the covers of their beds and promptly fell to sleep, dreaming of the secrets that night had held.