Disclaimer: I'm not muscling in on JK's turf - just gambolling on it, like a spring lamb, having fun working out the literary and psychological puzzles which she is having fun setting us
#5: Oil and Water
[In which various things are stirred, or stirred up.]
"You understand, Dobby," Neville said gravely, leaning forwards the better to meet the house-elf at a more equal height: "we have to go back to the shore to get more - more de-soul. The stuff that makes the boat run. You can either stay here with Professor Snape or come with us."
"Dobby can't leave poor Master Severus, oh no. Who would feed him? Who would keep him company?"
"But you do understand, Dobby," said Lupin, "that if anything - well, goes wrong, you'll be on your own, a hundred and fifty miles from land? If you get caught - well, we couldn't protect you. They might, um, punish you."
"Dobby not care about Dobby getting punished. Only care about Master Severus."
Lynsey looked at him sideways. "Because you don't care whether you get hurt or not, or because you don't think they could hurt you?"
The strange little figure made a half-bow. "Dobby is free - is nothing to stop Dobby defending himself now."
"And that would be... enough?"
"Oh yes. Dobby will make them sorry they meddled with Dobby. But Dobby does not care even if Dobby would be hurt."
"That's very - that's very noble of you, Dobby," Lupin said, a small frown creasing his brows.
"Master Severus fights for us all, against He Who Must Not Be Named. Now Dobby will fight for him."
"Somebody should," Neville said seriously.
RL to SS: "We're going to have to head back to shore tomorrow morning for two days, to refuel. We can either leave Dobby here to hide out among the other house-elves - he insists they'll let him - or take him with us. If he comes with us, you don't get any decent food for two days; if he stays you eat, but if anything goes wrong and he gets caught you could lose this line of communication altogether - as well as probably getting beaten up again. Dobby insists they can't do anything to him even if they catch him, so it's your call."
Across eighteen miles of open water, Lynsey could feel the jolt, and the thought. "Don't leave me."
SS to RL: "Will abide by Dobby's judgement. Would discuss with him direct, but afraid guards would hear, and don't know if he can read! If he thinks risk of being caught less than 20%," (here the word "tell" had been written and then crossed out) "ask him to stay. If he would."
NL to SS: "Professor Lupin said to tell you Dobby says 10%, at the outside. I'll be leaving enough food with him for you for three days, just in case - I'll charm it so it doesn't go off or stale or anything."
RL to SS: "I wonder if I could ask you a great favour? It will be full moon on the 10th, so I should begin taking Wolfsbane the day after tomorrow, once we get back to shore. Hermione Granger has been brewing it for me, from the notes you left - she'll be making it up tonight or tomorrow morning, and I expect she'll Apparate to Seahouses with some before we set sail again - but she doesn't brew it as well as you do. I know it's a lot to ask, but I wondered if you could supervise her?"
SS to RL: "Forgive my obtuseness, Lupin, but - how???"
"Sarcastic bastard," Lupin muttered under his breath.
RL to SS: "I've got one of the Order's Talking Glasses here - I use it to communicate with Harry. I could easily re-key it to you and Hermione, and then Dobby could keep it with him and bring it to you between guards."
SS to RL: "Yes of course, I'd just love to spend my days coaching frizzy-haired know-alls on advanced-level brewing, over a distance of five hundred miles, in five-minute instalments. (And no, Remus - for once in my life I am not being sarcastic. Anything is better than watching mould grow.) PS one wonders what Longbottom's idea of 'or anything' is. Might the pasties grow purple pincers and scuttle off sideways?"
NL to SS: "I could probably make them do that if you really want."
"Just for that," Neville muttered as an aside to Lynsey, "I'm going to fill one with spinach. The iron will be good for him."
Talking Hermione through the brewing process evidently did him good, as well: at least, Dobby reported that Master Severus was so pre-occupied with finding fault with the Hat-Knitting Miss's technique (in a fierce undertone, huddled under the blanket, since his chain was not long enough to allow him to reach the muffled corner of the cell) that he had come close to being caught at least three times, and Dobby had had to take the mirror off him bodily and whip it away before the guards could see it.
They left the mirror with Dobby, in the event; if anything happened to prevent their return, it meant that Snape (and Dobby, for that matter) would not be cut off from all contact with the Order. And Neville, as promised, made up a stack of preserved pasties, although in view of Snape's comment about purple pincers he played around with them just a bit. Some were very odd shapes (there was a fish-shaped one which, perversely, contained rice pudding with raspberry jam), and at least one was tartan.
And then there was nothing to say to each other except the same message on all sides - "Good luck."
Two and a half tonnes of diesel - more expense for Harry, but at least they got to spend the night in a guest house in a crescent with the attractive name of Kippy Law, to wash the stiffness of salt out of their hair with fresh water and sleep in a decent bed. Lynsey hardly could sleep, though, for the cold clutch of loneliness and fear in her belly which was not her own, and she wasn't the only one who was worrying about what sort of bed Snape was sleeping on. When Hermione arrived, looking slightly irritated and clutching a large vacuum flask, Neville waylaid her and could be heard asking her if she could find him a charm to make a mattress more comfortable, without changing its appearance.
"Here you are - hot from the cauldron."
Lupin looked at the plastic mug curiously. "What is this thing?"
"It's called a Thermos flask," Hermione answered patiently. "It's a - a Muggle device for keeping liquids at the same temperature they were when you put them in, whether hot or cold, but I've charmed this one to make it work more efficiently; since Wolfsbane works better if you don't let it cool too much. There should be easily enough there for the week."
Lupin downed the cupful in one long swig to get it over with, and then gagged. "It certainly tastes more like Severus's own brewing - which is to say, even worse than last time."
"Apparently," she replied rather sourly, "I've been getting the wrist-action completely wrong when I change from clockwise to counter-clockwise stirring - although not the other way, for some reason - and Good King Henry should be peeled before he's chopped. He didn't say that in his notes, of course, or I would have - but somehow it's become my fault."
Harry blew in later that morning, just before they were due to set sail - and looking more like a storm-cloud than a spring breeze. He was carrying another mirror, and he and Ron between them had brought seven full carrier-bags full of food, including, Lynsey noted, a quantity of assorted fresh and tinned fruit.
"Bastard!" Harry spat, throwing the bags down as if he hated them.
"What?" Lupin said warily.
"Scrimgeour - the bloody, bloody bastard."
"What?" Hermione, this time.
"He only came to see me yesterday, didn't he, oozing around about how much he regretted having been forced to pass such an inhumane sentence, such a very psychologically damaging one - as if it was anybody's bloody idea but his own - and how he would be happy to be able to tell the Prophet that I had asked for clemency for Snape and that he had granted it as a special favour to me."
"He said he would let Severus go?" Lupin said sharply.
"Oh no - he'd lose his bloody leverage then, wouldn’t he? He said he'd relax Snape's regime - move him into a cell with a window, let him have visitors three times a year - the usual crap." He sat down heavily on the bench overlooking the quay, running his hands through his already messy hair. "That's what all this is fucking about, isn't it? When he thought I was for the Prosecution he thought he could bribe me by punishing Snape, and when he found I was for the Defence that was even better - he realized he could torture Snape to apply pressure on me, to make me cave in and be a good little boy and pose for publicity shots with the Minister. And I may not like the greasy bastard much, but I never wanted this. Especially after - after what Voldemort did to him."
"You mustn't blame yourself, Harry" Hermione said anxiously.
"I don't," he replied grimly. "I blame Scrimgeour. If - if it was the only way to save Snape, I suppose I'd have to bloody do it, but I swear, if we can get Snape safely out then I'm going to nail that bastard, I'm going to tell the Prophet that he held a loyal Order member hostage in order to force the bloody Boy Who Lived to do as he was told...."
"If you do, I'll make sure it gets printed of course," Hermione said seriously.
Lynsey wondered what sort of leverage the girl had, that she seemed so certain she could get a British newspaper - even a wizarding one - to tell the truth. "How did he seem?" she asked curiously. "Scrimgeour, I mean."
"He'd lost a bit of weight," Harry replied thoughtfully. "Actually he looked sort of... haunted."
Getting back into position was harder, without Dobby on board, and they didn't want to pique the curiosity of the crew by insisting on going back to the exact same spot. But the mirror in Dobby's hands was keyed to him as well as to Snape, and once they were in vaguely the right line of country Lupin mirror-called the house-elf and he talked them in, until he could feel the little boat called Marjorie's Fancy cleaving the waves within the twenty-one mile limit of his position sense.
Since they had another mirror on board, now, Dobby took the mirror at his end through to "Master Severus," between guards, so that he could speak to them and know himself not abandoned. He spoke only a few terse words, for fear of being overheard, but Lynsey was shocked at the change in his appearance in just four weeks. He had been starved when she last saw him, but now he was famine thin, despite the food they had smuggled in to him, and he had the same filthy, matted hair and scruffy apology for a beard that he had had when she had first met him, in Voldemort's halls - although fewer bruises, which was some mercy. He was dressed, if you could call it that, in a thin, pale-grey wisp of worn cotton which clung to his skin in the dampness of the cell, and he had the blanket wrapped round him as best he could, with his wrist chained.
"We wouldn't leave you, man," Lupin said quietly. "We'll get you out of there somehow, I swear." Snape looked at him, wan and outworn, and then nodded tersely. Shifting slightly he looked past Lupin, through the depths of the mirror, and cocked an eyebrow at Lynsey with a thin flicker of mockery. She grinned back.
"Hello Prof. How were the mutant pasties?"
He gave her one of his brief, there-and-gone smiles. "Odd."
Snape was very pleased to receive mandarins and beer and (a moment of inspiration on Lynsey's part, since proper coffee was too heavily scented) chocolate-coated coffee beans with his first food parcel after their return, though Dobby had to be very careful to remove all traces of the orange fruit-peel. Ointment for his wrist, as well, for the manacle was beginning to gall him. They settled comfortably into routine again; idle chatter passing back and forth, more to give the prisoner a mental life-line to hang on to than to convey hard information, though Snape did scribble down notes on some thoughts he had had on various problems in potion-making "Just in case," as his angular scrawl put it, "anything happens."
The weather was fairly bright, if a bit drizzly, and between showers Lupin sat on deck and painted, capturing the glimmer and movement of the waves even without using the magic which normally animated wizarding artworks. Dobby seemed to be conducting some sort of flirtation with one of the local elves. Neville had brought a stack of trashy novels, to read between sessions in the galley, and Lynsey herself was getting on well with the website she was designing, now that her nerves and the Prof's were more settled, and in the afternoons she worked on the wand - sycamore, with a core of pure silver, though she had to be careful about leaving any scraps of silver wire around. Lupin, reaching out for his brush, put his hand on a snippet of the white metal and promptly came out in a rash.
She had chosen sycamore in the first instance simply because it was white and smooth and durable - a bitch of a wood to work, one which ate the edge off a blade in a few minutes and gave a whole new emphasis to the term "hard wood," but the results were beautiful and would last almost forever. But its magical meaning was also appropriate, for it was said to impart energy to the weary, to relieve tension and raise a heavy heart, and to promote appreciation of all that was sweet and beautiful in life. She had started out with a thick piece about fifteen inches long and then whittled it down a bit, leaving a thicker handle and a tapering tip, and now she began to cut grooves into the handle; a ring around it at either end, a little inside the limits of the thicker wood, and a criss-cross of channels joining them. These she meant to fill with silver wire, when the thing was done.
A brief conversation with the others confirmed that it was possible magically to fuse two bits of metal together, making her criss-cross wires into one solid network as if welded there but without burning the wood, and that Neville should be able to do this (since Lupin could not handle the silver). With that in mind, she drilled three narrow holes, angling through the white smoothness of the sycamore from the groove at the rim, emerging close to the centre of the pommel-end, where they could be fused to the central core - one single lacework of silver, under the hand and through the heart of the wood.
As she worked the needle-file into all the little grooves, smoothing and deepening, the deckhand - the stocky blond one with the earring, not the Goth - sidled up to her.
"'E's quite good, inne?" he said, with a nod to Lupin.
"Yes - yes, I suppose he is."
"'Ow come," the boy said in a low, confiding tone, "'ow come, if 'e can afford to hire a boat an' a crew an' all, 'e dresses loik a pauper?"
"Oh, he's - very eccentric. Barking, you might say."
They had been back two days when the mirror in Lupin's possession flowered into life. Lynsey, craning over his shoulder on the quiet, saw the stern face and pointed nose of Minerva McGonagall and heard her say "...speak to Severus?"
Lupin did something to the mirror which caused it to switch to Dobby, who was spending more and more time on the rock, when he wasn't acting as courier. "As soon as the guards have gone by, take the mirror in to Severus and tell him that Minerva is asking to speak to him about an Order matter."
It seemed that when there were three people talking back and forth between three mirrors, whoever was currently speaking showed up on both the other two. The mirror in Lupin's calloused hands now showed Snape, speaking sotto voce for fear of the guards but still with a distinct waspish edge.
"What is this, Minerva?" he said sharply. "Occupational therapy?"
"No! I really could use your advice, Severus."
"Very well - fire away, then."
Lynsey wasn't sure whether to listen or not - she didn't like to eavesdrop on matters which were not really any of her concern, but at the same time she liked to hear the sound of her professor's rough/smooth voice - and Neville was listening in unashamedly. But she needn't have worried, for she could understand only a fraction of what was being said - something about unauthorized use of a flue, she thought, and inappropriate behaviour by somebody apparently called Dung, and "Zabini appears to be sitting on the fence until she sees which way the wind is blowing," which conjured up a very strange image. She did clearly hear Minerva say something-something "and Alastor - " and her professor's smooth voice finish "...is as much use as the proverbial fart in a colander."
The conversation was not without its dangers. Twice Snape shut his eyes and began to mutter and rave in a way which was initially quite alarming, until Lynsey realized he was pretending to the guards that he had been talking in his sleep; and his image winked out as Dobby whisked the mirror and himself away into hiding.
Finally she heard Minerva's voice say gently "You look like Hell."
"Thank you for that vote of confidence" said the professor's sour unmistakable voice.
"In answer to the question which you are carefully not asking me - yes, I am still certain I will be able to get you out of there soon. We've got the old slug on our side now - though Tonks says she had to search every lettuce-patch in England to find him - and he is pulling every string he can find."
"That's... reassuring," he replied, in a voice which shook only slightly. "I am... coping adequately, but we really should try to put an end to this before the cost of the boat bankrupts Potter completely; amusing though that might be in some respects."
Every day, Lupin knocked back a cup of Wolfsbane, grimacing, and Neville made him a mug of hot chocolate to take away the taste; the werewolf seemed to have an exceedingly sweet tooth. Snape was still a prisoner, and in another day they would have to strike out for shore again - a day or two early, as far as re-fuelling went, but they had told the crew that Lupin had an important appointment on the night of the tenth, which was very nearly not a lie. Lynsey used the mobile 'phone to book rooms in Bamburgh, eight miles to the north of Seahouses, in a guest-house which permitted customers to bring "well-behaved and quiet dogs." Snape was delighted to hear that Lupin was going to have to wear a collar for the night and suggested, helpfully, that as it was February a nice navy-blue dog-coat might also be in order.
But the idea of leaving him behind again, still trapped, was not funny at all. As Lynsey helped Neville to prepare dinner - sausages and mashed potato with an apple and onion sauce - and watched him ladle a healthy portion of it into two pasties, that sense of unease came to a head so abruptly that she felt for a moment as if she was having a heart-attack, her chest suddenly tight and her blood pounding in her ears.
She clutched at the kitchen counter to steady herself, but the boat heaved up and sideways and she lost her footing, landing ignominiously on her hip on the galley floor. "Lynsey!" she heard Neville saying urgently. "Lynsey - what's wrong?"
"Something's happened," she replied, trying to stop her teeth from chattering long enough to speak. "Get Dobby. Something's happened to the professor."
"Master Severus is not there" Dobby said, bobbing unhappily. "Dobby not know why. Dobby will go back now and ask the other house-elves if they know where Master Severus is, and if answer is 'No,' Dobby will ask the ghosts."
"I suppose there would be... a lot of ghosts, in Azkaban?" Neville asked.
"The air of Azkaban is thick with them, Master Neville, but most of them are - not sane. But Dobby knows a few who are."
And all the time, Lynsey could feel mad terror, his, hers, clutching at her chest, choking her. But at least, this time, when she reached out her mind to him he knew that she was real, and she felt his spirit cling to her like a drowning man.
In the end, it was quite simple. One of the guards, taking food into the cell, had stumbled on the icy floor and flung out a hand to steady herself against the bed, and she had realized at once that Snape's blanket was artificially warm. Within seconds he had been hauled from the bed and beaten half senseless. They had not, at least, realized that he had had outside help, since they knew that no-one could possibly have broken in (the tendency for wizards not even to notice that house-elves existed did have its uses). They assumed that he had charmed the blanket himself, using wandless magic.
"Guards believe, Master Severus more powerful than they thought," Dobby said unhappily. "More of a threat to them. Mordus Flitch, old ghost, he tells Dobby, poor Master Severus is under twenty-four-hour watch now, hands chained together, can't make spell gestures, Dobby can't get near him without being seen and heard."
Lynsey sat huddled on her bunk in the forecastle, trying to project calming, reassuring thoughts, but her hands kept drawing in against her chest, involuntarily, crossed and pressed together at the wrist as his hands were now bound; and she could feel how truly disturbing it was to be surrounded by people who watched him, relentlessly, and yet would never meet his eyes. At least, though, he knew that she was really there; if he was falling, he at least had something to fall back against, and he knew now that there were people in the world who cared enough to try their hardest to get him out - whether or not he really believed that they would succeed. His fear and loss and loneliness gnawed at her - but not, thank the gods, the hard panic and despair he had felt before.
The worst of it was, there was nothing they could do about it; they had to set sail almost at once, if they didn't want to have to explain to a Muggle crew why their eccentric water-colourist had been replaced by a very large husky. Dobby volunteered to stay behind again, saying that Mordus Flitch (who apparently had been a famous early Victorian forger who passed dead leaves off as golden Galleons), at least, might be able to speak to poor Master Severus and comfort him without the guards noticing, even if he himself could not. They knew that Dobby would do his best, and that his best, though eccentric, was pretty good; but it was with heavy hearts that the passengers of the Marjorie's Fancy watched the coast of Northumberland draw nearer through the bone-cold mist.
Good King Henry is a plant, Chenopodium bonus-henricus, also called Allgood, Fat Hen and Wild Spinach, which can be used in salads and to feed poultry.
In British folklore, fairies traditionally paid for goods with gold coins which turned back into autumn leaves by morning.
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