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Chapter Nine

The Call of the Beast

Minerva McGonagall was worried, stressed and none too happy with her lot in life. Dolores Umbridge was almost more than she could bear. Albus had warned her, told her to beware but still the woman had the ability above and beyond to irritate. She must be stopped. If Albus had not persuaded her that it would be in everyone’s best interest to tolerate her for the time being, Minerva would have cursed the woman into next week by now.

She could not for the life of her understand why the Ministry of Magic would allow such a hateful person to hold sway over the school. Why they engaged this particular zealot, who seemed to have a singular gripe toward Gryffindor House was just too extraordinary. Albus might believe that the woman would hang herself eventually but Minerva thought it would be much quicker to lure her to the lake and let the Mermen have a go at her, instead.

When Harry Potter’s owl arrived wounded, she immediately suspected Dolores Umbridge of sabotage and worse, reading other’s mail. She tried to warn the young man to be careful what came and went through the post but she was never really sure if Mr. Potter paid much attention to what she said. He did have a tendency to be a headstrong young man. His heart was true, but he was also astonishingly stubborn. Sometimes, he reminded her of her brother Albert and she wondered if the Potters had Scottish roots in the family tree. It would explain a great deal about his behavior.

The poor wee owl was going to be all right, of course, but she did agonize over all the havoc that Dolores Umbridge was causing all of them at her beloved Hogwarts as she searched for the young teacher, Professor Felicity Wood in her office. She knocked on the door and peeked in but she was not there.

It was nearly luncheon time, so Minerva moved toward the Great Hall where she did indeed find Professor Wood sitting with Professor Snape at the teacher’s table. She hovered at the door outside at first looking around for a glimpse of that awful Umbridge troll but not seeing her, she ventured forward to deliver the letter that had been attached to Mr. Potter’s owl.

She bent down to Felicity for privacy, though Severus, if listening was sure to hear her. “I’ve a letter that’s just arrived, Felicity dear from Remus,” she said whispering.

“Oh, thank you, Minerva,” said Felicity brightly.

“I must warn you that I don’t usually deliver mail,” said Minerva furtively looking around for the pink horny toad.

“But this owl was tampered with and I suspect that your mail’s been read, dear.”

Felicity looked around her at Severus, who looked instantly put out that she’d even consider looking at him as if he might have read her mail.

“Don’t forget that we have the Minister’s intelligentsia in our midst,” he said icily. He eyebrow lifted and he narrowed his eyes at her.

Minerva nodded her head in agreement. “Yes,” she whispered feeling she was getting a tweak in her neck from bending over with effort. “I only warn you to be careful what you send through the mails.” Minerva stood pursing her lips and mumbling aloud to herself. “I do worry what’s to become of us…”

Dolores Umbridge, a round squat pink donut hole who was most likely female, entered the Great Hall. Minerva made a fast get away because she was already standing. Felicity and Severus however were not so lucky. Professor Umbridge walked straight for them and hovered at their backs.

“Hello, professors,” she said lightly. She looked pointedly at the letter in Felicity’s hand. Felicity tried to stuff it away out of sight in her lap. “I just thought it prudent to warn you, Professors, that the Minister is particularly aware of its teachers influence on the young.”

Severus rolled his eyes ever so slightly waiting for the punch line.

“It is an important responsibility,” she continued unaware of his disrespect. “To be the molders of future generations of wizards in our society.” She eyed Felicity who was forcing herself into a chaste, head down with respect position though she wanted very badly to choke the woman with her braid. “A teacher must fraternize with the right kind of people or the Ministry might have to rethink the employment of that teacher…”

Snape stood and though he wasn’t a particularly tall man, his black bedecked person towered over the pink troglodyte. “This is all very well,” he spoke coldly to the Madame Inquisitor, “but I do believe that since we teachers very rarely are able to socialize with anyone outside this school that the question of our bad taste in relationships is largely mute.”

Dolores Umbridge stood in seeming shock. She didn’t have her clipboard with her that she usually carried religiously to write scathing remarks about the teachers on. She might have to regroup and attack Professor Wood when she was alone, instead.

“Excuse us, Madame Inquisitor,” he said smoothly to Umbridge to flatter her ridiculous ego. “I’ve a potion on the boil and Professor Wood has promised to help me cut Newt livers this afternoon before class.” He waited a nanosecond for some verbal protest and then turned to Felicity. “Come with me, Professor Wood,” he said briskly looking down at a very grateful Felicity with no expression whatsoever. He took her arm and pushed her gently ahead of him.

“I could kiss you for that, Professor,” she said as they left the Great Hall.

“There’s no need for theatrics, Felicity,” said Snape not looking at her. “I’m merely tallying up what I will eventually owe you if I’m not dead as a doornail by Christmas, is all.”

She smirked at him but he didn’t turn. They just kept walking toward the dungeons.

“Plus, I really do need help with those Newt livers and now you shan’t escape or I’ll feed you to the Umbridge nightmare,” he said dryly.

She laughed lightly but he refused to acknowledge the lovely sound of it.

It wasn’t until after classes when she had a little time before dinner to hide in her rooms that Felicity was able to retrieve Remus Lupin’s letter to read. She unfolded the parchment with relish, noticing his handsome handwriting.

Her heart was leaping around in her chest, which was absurd because she’d barely spoken with the man and had only seen him once. It was the physical attraction that was doing her in was all. Master Tong had always talked of the body leading the soul to water. It was the way of creatures. She could hear his singsong voice. He had told her that she must listen to what the body said, especially if she was thirsty, but she must not forget that her soul was the true guide.

She forgot Master Tong as soon as she read the letter:

Dear Felicity,

It has been barely a week since we first met but I will admit to you that I have thought of you endlessly since then. Is it possible to come to see you soon? The weekend is almost upon us and I would dearly love to see you in hopes of a longer conversation then the short few minutes that we were allowed.

I would be happy to meet in Hogsmeade, the meadow, the lake or even the Dark Forest, if you prefer it. Just say the words where and when and I’ll there.

Yours fondly,

Remus Lupin

Felicity raced to the small desk in her room and exploded a drawer looking for parchment and quill. Only the heavy knock at her door kept her from answering immediately, she was so excited. She opened the door to Severus Snape. He stood immovable.

“What’s happened, Severus?” she asked. His mind spoke only of pain. She dragged him in the room and pushed him gently down on the sofa. He did not protest.

“He calls us,” he whispered, his black eyes intense and needful. “It’s not just me. He’s calling to those that can’t answer him in Azkaban.” He gulped for air.

“What shall I do, Severus? Do you want me to stop the pain again?”

He shook his head, panting from the agony. He ground his jaw and looked at her with steel and ice. The man had an incredible mastery of will. “We must go to him. The call is very strong this time,” he said.

“Now? But it’s Thursday. We haven’t had dinner yet. We have classes tomorrow.”

He looked at her as if she’d just told him that his hair was on fire. “Felicity!” he whispered harshly through his pain.

“Oh, I hate this fiend. Everything he touches, he ruins for everyone else,” she said irritably. She was very put out. She wanted to write to Remus Lupin, not face some mad man in a power play.

Severus waited watching her with no expression and she could only feel pain emanating from him. She softened to him, stroking his face. She was sure that she’d regret that touch later when he reprimanded her. “Come on, then,” she said. “Can you walk?”

He nodded and she led him out her door and up the dungeon stairs. She kept to the shadows, in case any pink cows were about. They slowly made their way out of the castle and over the grounds to the gate. Outside the gate, they stopped. “Are you able to apparate?”

He nodded. She could literally see the muscles in his face straining to keep from screaming.

“You have to show me where, Severus,” she said. “Segregate the pain and picture the place in your mind for me to see.” He did as she directed but she was not happy with the place he visualized. She knew it all too well and had hoped never to see it again. When he had mentioned the name and house the other day in Dumbledore’s office she had dreaded that someday she might be asked to go there.

They were both standing on the doorstep of Malfoy Manor seconds later.

Narcissa Malfoy stood in the doorway waiting to lead them inside. She was shocked to see Felicity Wood appear before her with Severus Snape. Never in her life would she have guessed it. The beautiful, elegant Narcissa fumbled with the lamplight that she held up to better view the other woman’s face.

“Hello, Narcissa,” said Felicity coolly. Severus looked from face to face and despite the pain that singed his mind, he recognized the visceral loathing between the two women. After all, he was often the inspiration for such a look.

Narcissa found her wits and ushered them inside without a word. She pushed them to the receiving room where Lucius sat in agony waiting for them. He looked at Severus with relief. He only wanted to make it to the Dark Lord to stop the pain. For some foul reason the Dark Lord was calling incessantly. Then Lucius spotted Felicity and no one who witnessed it could deny the look of greed combined with elation on the man’s face. He was writhing in pain but he had some small moment to remember her fondly.

“Felicity,” he strangled out before the reality of his situation overwhelmed him and he rose to the portkey.

All three hovered over to it. Felicity ignored Lucius whom she’d hoped never to see again and looked deeply into Severus’ eyes as she reached for the portkey. For you, she forced her thoughts soothingly into his mind that screamed with pain, I would do this.

They arrived before Voldemort and both Lucius and Severus fell to the ground writhing in pain but making every effort to bow before their Lord. Felicity stood between their prone bodies, every bit the ice queen staring at the creature before her. Voldemort had changed from the one she remembered. He once had looked like a man. This beast before her was a human shell only. He was snake like in appearance. So appropriate, and it would be fascinating under any other circumstance.

The monster still held his wand out calling, purposely torturing the two men writhing in pain before him.

“Please release your servants, great and powerful Dark Lord Voldemort,” said Felicity calmly trying not to gag on her words. “It does no good to torment those already loyal to you, my lord.”

“Are they loyal, Miss Wood?” said the strange voice that was now Voldemort’s. It had much of its old timbre and power but it was different. Felicity was surprised.

“They are here because you called and I am here for him.”

The creature smiled maliciously. She could feel its emotion of amusement. “And which him would that be, Felicity?”

She said nothing.

He finally released them. Both Severus and Lucius panted from the seeming hours that they had just spent in extreme pain. Severus had no concept of time.

“So, Miss Wood,” said Voldemort in the inky smothering voice. “You are within my grasp once again.”

Felicity smiled.

“You have nothing to say?”

“What do you want, great lord?” she said sneering. “I am here before you, waiting to know why you have demanded I come.”

“Don’t play silly games with me, dragon woman,” he said harshly. “You may think you are untouchable by my magic but I know your vulnerabilities.

Both Severus and Lucius gained their footing again and stood next to Felicity slightly bowing before Voldemort.

Lucius gazed at Felicity with both curiosity and longing. Her memory was that strong with him. Severus saw the look. He knew Lucius very well, having studied him for years. If he weren’t completely and utterly strangling every emotion within him to hide from the Dark Lord, he would have been very irritated that Felicity had not mentioned that she knew Malfoy.

“He is your weakness, dragon. Shall I kill him to make my point?”

“I admit that I care what happens to him,” said Felicity. Severus looked viciously at Lucius, letting down his guard. “He is Head of Slytherin House and you know that’s important to me.” She turned to hold Severus’ eyes.

He stumbled mid-glare.

“Stupid childish loyalties,” spat Voldemort.

“And yet you cater to them for your circle of power. Slytherin and all its values are important to you, as well.”

Severus watched her amazed. He stood up with no pretense of bowing any longer. He was being ignored as this dragon woman debated with the Dark Lord.

“You will join my circle,” said Voldemort coldly.

She said nothing.

Voldemort lifted his wand “CRUCIO!” he said loudly pointing the wand at Snape who keeled over in pain, the light of the curse gripping his chest. He had not seen it coming and he felt as if his heart was trying to jump from his chest.

“If you kill him, I will never cooperate with you,” said Felicity calmly ignoring Severus dying before her. “You would be a fool to lose him anyway considering how much Dumbledore seems to trust him.”

Voldemort actually considered what she said and released Snape. He was unable to rise and was losing consciousness. He lay in a heap on the floor hoping to stay awake. The pain was unbearable.

“What are you to Dumbledore, dragon? Why are you there? I am very curious.” He tried to fix her eyes in his brutal red stare but she shifted and held him out of her mind.

“I owe him a life debt and he has asked me to watch over the Head of Slytherin House. We dragons repay our debts, great one.” She turned eyes on him that were not human, they glowed opalescent, and her pupils became long reptilian slits. She met his equally inhuman stare. “It was something that I could do,” she continued casually but her voice deeper in resonance. “He is a sentimental soul, Headmaster Dumbledore and though he suspects that Snape is a traitor to his Order, he wanted to make sure that you wouldn’t kill him needlessly.” She laughed, filtering in her dragon’s voice to show her strength.

“Everyone seems to fear your power in this country.” Her words were spoken with a calm distain. She was separated from all her normal emotions. She could have been discussing lunch plans she was so casual, and so not human.

Lucius watched her in stunned amazement. His memory of her was her youth, a young and beautiful girl that he had seduced and won. This creature before him was not the girl he remembered, after all. He felt revulsion for her.

“When it is done,” she turned and sneered at Lucius, knowing his thoughts from the look in his eye. “I will go home to Tibet. I don’t belong in this England. I find the attitudes trivial and archaic here. I really don’t understand why a man of your power would want to be here.”

Voldemort stood watching her. He was waiting for some vulnerability other than Snape and was finding none. He knew his curses would only damage her and she was still possibly useful. “You are helping my enemy, dragon. I cannot let you live.”

“You have never struck me as foolish, my lord,” she said. “Perhaps, we could negotiate a truce. At least until you
release your followers from Azkaban and feel more superior.” Her lips curled nastily.

“You are insolent, dragon!!!” hissed Voldemort.

Lucius took his violent reaction as a cue and he went to slap her for her disrespect to his lord. He was self-preserving by nature despite any feeling for the past they may have shared. His slap was incomplete, however when Felicity caught his arm in mid-air, twisted until it snapped and pushed him flying across the room.

She turned tranquilly to Voldemort. Snape still lay crumpled on the floor barely conscious. Lucius was out cold. “A truce, my lord?” she asked sweetly. “I will not help Dumbledore in his fight against you and you will let me keep my promise to him.”

Voldemort’s tongue approached his lip tenderly sliding across the thin membrane. He was so reptilian that even his tongue was thin and split at the tip. She spent a moment being amused that in many ways they were so similar. The difference between them was that she had a soul and he did not. She had a fully human form and he did not. He was a sleaze bucket and she was not.

She picked up Snape awkwardly and dragged him to his feet. He was struggling to retain consciousness and failing miserably. She held him under the arm though his legs were jelly. “My lord,” she said bowing slightly and making herself as humble before him as she could. “May I leave you for now? I swear I will keep my promise. It is the promise of a dragon and binding. I will not help Albus Dumbledore or his Order of the Phoenix.”

The beast merely waved her off disgusted. She would be his eventually, as they all would be.

She reached for the portkey with Snape’s hand in hers. The magic hook gripped their navels dragging them back to Malfoy Manor. Felicity was hoping against hope that Severus wouldn’t die on her.

Narcissa was waiting and stood when they were thrown into the room. Severus moaned and she went to help prop him up.

“Felicity,” she whispered afraid. “Where is my husband?”

“Help me get him out of here, Narcissa,” she hissed. “Your husband will survive. The man is too arrogant to destroy so easily.”

They struggled outside to the street where Felicity lifted her wand for the Knight Bus. She only hoped that Severus could survive the short trip to Grimmauld Place.


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