There is a sharpness to the cold this night. The wind’s icy tendrils kiss at Luna’s cheeks and leave behind a red scar. Her shoes were not made for the snow, open toed and healed as they are. She had fought Ginny on the matter of wearing them in the first place, stating her sparkling sneakers would go well with her sparkling dress. Ginny would not hear of it however, and Luna now adorns the heals and cannot feel her feet. She regrets it full heartedly.
“Whoever invented these contraptions must have hated women.” States Luna to her Professor who stumbles in snow beside her. It is odd to see her professor stumble. He is normally so graceful and lithe, though she had smelled alcohol on his breath earlier. Perhaps he had enjoyed himself too much at the ball. Perhaps this is why he had leaned in so close.
“What contraptions?” Asks Professor Snape.
“These silly things” answers Luna as she hops on one foot then the other while taking both heals off. She then throws them to the side, stops walking and frowns. “My feet are cold.”
Snape halts his blundering progress toward the wood and turns around to the frowning Lovegood. He is not surprised by her antics or display, “throwing your shoes away can hardly help the matter.”
“At least I can wiggle my toes now.”
Snape holds the bridge of his nose between his index finger and thumb. Luna cannot tell if he is irritated with her however, because it also looks like he is holding back a smile. Luna finds herself wanting to tease him. To sing to him that he enjoys her company and cannot help but feel joy in her presence whilst skipping around him would be much fun. But her feet truly sting and skipping does not feel like an option. So she tilts her head at him innocently and waits for a reply.
“I think it is time for us to turn back Miss. Lovegood, you are not dressed for this weather.”
Before Luna can retort a scream issues from the forest. It is a scream of anguish, almost animalistic in its nature but for the very human sob that stutters throughout its cry. It is bone chilling, and Luna feels her back stiffen and spine straighten. Her body is preparing for battle. Without asking for permission Luna grabs her wand from out of the pocket of her dress and begins to march her way toward the sound. Someone is hurt, someone needs help and her feet can wait.
Snape is grabbing Luna’s wrist and twirling her around before Luna can get too far.
“Where in the blazes do you think you’re going? Return to the castle. Now.”
Snape is no longer stumbling about. He is strong in his hold and demanding in his gaze. The scream has awoken something in him as well and it does not take long for the man to shake off the whiskey that still sits in his stomach. It is one thing to explore who is sneaking around in the woods, and quite another to discover why someone is screaming. He is ready for a battle much like Luna, and she takes note. She wonders briefly why he does not want her assistance, they are a team after all. Does her professor not remember that she also fought in his war? Does her professor not see the soldier in her eyes? Perhaps not—the Order of the Phoenix had forgotten her strength as well. A fire rages in Luna’s throat and she scrunches her nose up at her professor.
“I have thrown hexes at death eaters since I was 14-years-old. A person needs our help and I am not afraid to give it. So Professor, you can put your fear away and come with me, or go back yourself.”
Luna turns toward the Forest but Snape does not let her go and turns her around once more. His eyes seem tired this time, the demanding nature leaving no trace. He nods his head once. Snape has tried protecting many in the past. One lesson has been knocked into his head on numerous occasions: if someone wants to do something they will. He may as well be by Luna’s side when she chooses to place herself in danger.
“Alright Lovegood, but you are not to leave my side, and the moment I tell you to turn around you will listen. Is this understood?” Luna nods her head but has no intention of leaving her professor alone in the forest, no matter how high the stakes. The last time he was left alone in battle a snake bit into his throat. She traces the scar with her eyes.
“Good,” Snape then takes his other arm and places it on her other wrist. Luna is taken back by his touch, and before she can ask what her professor is up to he rubs his hands up and down her arms—wrist to shoulder and shoulder to wrist—muttering words all the while. Luna begins to feel decidedly warm, her feet no longer numb but tingling with feeling as the snow melts off her toes. Her cheeks turn pink and the goosebumps on her legs disappear. After a moment of this continuous motion Snape takes a step back and assesses Lovegood. She is warm from head to toe.
“How are your feet?”
“Much better,” Luna is glowing from his care and attentions, “Sir, have you placed a spell on me?” This is not the time to play coy but Luna cannot help it.
Snape goes to reply, probably with something sarcastic and biting to which Luna will eat right up, but another scream issues. Loud, agenizing, and desperate— it is all the pair can do to not shiver.
“We best be off.” Whispers Luna.
“Quite.” Replies Snape.
He takes her hand in his own in reflex and they continue down the hill toward the noise, Snape hoping desperately that they will not run into another wear wolf. Snape is all done with wear wolves. Snape is all done with putting his loved ones in danger. He looks down to his left to see the determination painted on the small blonds face. What is it with him and his attraction to the brave? It is bad taste, bad taste and bad luck. These women, always running to action when they are called on. For Lilly and Narcissa, the call to action was protecting their children. Lovegood, however, seems to find everyone in need a ‘call to action.’ The twit pushes her way into battles, friendships, hearts . . .
Another scream. They are getting close.
They are at the forests edge now. Luna seems fluid and more than comfortable navigating herself around trees, fallen branches and leaves. Silently at that. Snape would almost say that Lovegood was as stealthy as himself, almost. But Snape has had years of practice, and no double agent lives quite as long as he without mastering this skill. Perhaps he will help Lovegood further this ability once they have figured out their version of the sleeping drought. Perhaps Snape should focus on the task at hand. Figure out the mystery behind nefarious acts, protect the girl, and turn the intruder into the authorities. Honestly, why Snape did not force the girl to turn around with him and call on the authorities in the first place is beyond him. He supposes his old curiosity and want for adventure got the better of him, and he is finding that Luna—yes Luna—can talk him into just about anything. Drat his lack of better sense, drat the fire whisky, and drat his foolish heart.
A scream—closer and louder this time, with a desperate “stop, please.”
Luna halts in her step and drops Snape’s hand—forgotten. “Neville?” She whispers to herself in question, another scream is issued as if in answer, and then “Neville!” She gasps before taking off in a sprint, disappearing into the foliage.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Snape curses, and takes off after the blond.
That was Neville’s voice. She is sure of it, and she cannot think straight. Run her mind demands of her run before it is too late. She obeys. Her long legs are used to running for fun but they know how to stretch and push when they are needed for a more serious task. Trees blend before her eyes and when she hears another yelp she turns in the direction and continues in her sprint. Her dress catches in branches and is pulled on by twigs until she if forced to rip its bottom off so that she can move faster. Luna no longer cares how much noise she is making.
It seems like she has run for miles, adrenaline raging throughout her system, and suddenly she runs into a clearing and has to stumble to a halt. Her body pulses. Before her, shadowed by braches, is the largest body of inky black she has ever seen. It looks almost gooey in nature, like slime, only it seems to have rooted itself into the ground and vibrates. Devils Snare, Luna registers, Neville’s Devil Snare. It is enormous in size, and takes up most of the clearing. It is even bigger than Neville had described.
But where is Neville?
Luna goes to call for him but stops herself when she sees the cloaked figure from earlier standing at the Devil Snare’s left. Luna wants to run about and scream for her friend, but she stays in the shadows and waits instead. She does not have to wait for long.
A flash of yellow light streams from the cloaked figure’s wand and hits the Devil’s Snare. The Devil’s Snare lets out a high pitched wine, raises a long stretch of its body and swings its appendage into the cloaked figure, sending the wizard flying into the body of a tree. Due to the damage the light afflicted, the Devil’s Snare vibrates with more passion and a head slowly pokes out from out the top of its ink body, then a neck, a chest, two arms. It is Neville Longbottom.
“Neville!” Luna yells and runs toward the plant. Out of the corner of her eye she can see the mystery figure stumble its way into a standing position, and then take off into the wood. Luna does not think to follow them, she only thinks of Neville. The plant continues to vibrate and slowly oozes Neville’s body from out of its own. The plant takes another tendril and slowly, gently lowers Neville onto the snow. He is covered in slime and Luna immediately removes Snape’s cloak and covers Neville’s body. It should be shaking from the cold, but is not. In fact, Neville is not doing much moving at all.
“Shhh, shh. It’s alright Neville,” her Neville, “It will all be alright.” Luna checks for a pulse. One is barely beating, and when Luna truly examines his body she sees that his arms, legs, hands, and feet are all wonky and pointing in the wrong direction. It looks like all of his bones have been broken, as if his body had been crushed. Did his Devil’s Snare do this? Luna remembers Neville’s mangled leg at the beginning of the year.
“It doesn’t know its own strength, got excited is all”
But no, the Snare had been so careful, gentle even, when placing him on the snow.
Blood leaks from Neville’s mouth. Luna cannot help the tears that flow from her eyes or the chocked sob that emits from her core. “No, no, no,” she whimpers, “you cannot go yet, you cannot,” she resituates the cloak around him making sure it covers everything but his head so that he stays warm, “you had something to tell me,” she whispers to her sleeping friend as she fiddles, “what was it? What did you need to tell me?” she asks, pain taking over her heart. Her stomach burns and her chest aches. Luna wants to hold her friends hand for comfort, but is afraid of grinding his broken bones. Wasn’t she just dancing? Hadn’t she just seen her friend the day before in her silky dress, hadn’t she just rejected him?
“I forgive you,” she sniffles and pets back his hair which is slick with goo, “all is forgiven. You just h-have to wake up now.”
“Lovegood!” She hears the angry cry from a distance. It is Snape who breaks through into the clearing, upset that anyone dare make him run.
She turns with a sob. “Help,” she cries, “I need help!”
Snape quickly forgets his anger and takes a moment to re gain his composure and breath. He had thought he lost her, and is relieved to find her safe. Snape is quite irritated that she had left his side. But Snape will discuss this with her later, because although she is safe, it is abundantly clear that she is not well. Lovegood is on her knees and crying over what looks to be a body. Snape is unsure who the body belongs to, but from the pain in Lovegood’s eyes he has a good idea. Taking a few steps forward confirms his hypothesis. Neville Longbottom lays broken on the forest floor.
“Please help me Professor, h-he’s not moving.” Luna cries, her eyes are wet and somber.
“Let me take a look.” He states gently and kneels by her side. Of course he will help her. Snape takes out his wand and waves it over Neville’s body in assessment. The boy’s bones are broken, his muscles torn, and he bleeds internally. Snape is not sure what happened, but this could have only been done by two things: the Devile’s Snare, or a body binding spell manufactured to crush its opponent. One thing is for certain, the boy is losing blood and quickly. Snape immediately takes out his blood replenishing potion (one of many potion viles he always keeps on his person) and tilts the boys head back, helping him ingest its contents. After assessing him once more to see if there is anything else Snape could do at this moment, and finding there is not, he places a gentle hand on Lovegood’s shoulder. She turns to him with hope in her eyes. He wishes she would not.
“I am sorry for your pain. He is badly hurt, and I am not sure if he will make it back to Madame Pomphrey on time.”
“On time?” she asks in a whisper and looks back to her fallen friend “do you mean—?”
“Yes” answers Snape, taking her chin in his hand and bringing her eyes back to focus on his own. “I am going to levitate him, and we are going to travel slowly. His body is badly mangled and we cannot risk damaging him more. I need you to clear a path for us, to ensure he does not bump into anything. Do you understand?”
Luna nods. She understands. Snape stands to go but before he begins to make ready for their travel back to the castle Luna takes his hand. “It wasn’t the Devile’s Snare. That...that mysterious figure, they are still out there. I saw them attacking the Snare to get at Neville, but the Snare flung them into a tree and they took off. We must stay vigilant.”
Snape kneels by her side once more. “If this is true, then what is a Devile’s Snare doing out here, and why was Neville inside of it like you say?”
“I don’t know,” she admits, “I don’t, but I think it was protecting our Neville. If the wizard was trying to save him from the Snare, then why did they run away when I arrived?” Her voice chokes at the end and more tears stream down her face, “it makes no sense.” Snape wishes he could make her pain disappear.
He cannot, but he will make sure she feels heard. Snape nods and squeezes her hand. “We will stay vigilant. Let me attend Mr. Longbottom while you go make safe passage for us.”
Luna gives Neville one more lingering gaze, wipes her eyes, and stands up. She will not fail her friend. They will get him to Pomphrey alive. She goes into the woods and begins to move branches out of their path. Snape stays kneeled over the boy in contemplation. Lovegood has many wild idea, but she is not stupid nor a liar. If she had seen someone else in the clearing and believes the Deville Snare to be innocent, then there must be some truth to that. Neville may not live to see the morning, and Snape wants to ensure he knows what happened to the overzealous herbologist. So he grabs the empty blood replenishing vile from out of the snow with one hand, and slithers out Neville’s memory with his wand in the other. He brings the translucent blue mist into the vile and caps it off safely. It is an intrusion into Longbottoms privacy to be sure, but if this mystery wizard laid eyes on Lovegood, then she is now in more danger than ever.
Snape will not allow harm to come to the girl. He will find the culprit.
Luna Lovegood sits in a wooden chair, knees curled into her chest and feet perched on the seats edge. She watches over her Neville in the medical wing as she picks at her nails and chews on her lips. He has been put into a full body cast, and it irks Luna that she cannot see him breathing. This mummified version of her friend is unfamiliar. His usually disarrayed brown locks are hidden beneath white cloth and his recently crooked nose has white tape placed around it to keep it straight. She wishes he would wake up and open his eyes so that she may see his beautiful browns, but Pomphrey has placed him under a deep sleep to help his body heal. The trauma, she had told Luna and Professor Snape, is so severe that he will have to sleep for a long time.
This news had Luna’s heart skipping a beat. She will miss her friend, misses her friend now—his clumsy nature and goofy way of smiling at her as if she were the most clever in the room. Though, she is immensely grateful that he is alive. They had almost not made it in time. Professor Snape was slow in moving the levitated Neville through the forbidden forest, and Luna painstakingly made sure that every branch and bush was far out of reach so that nothing would snag her floating friend. Each second that passed had felt as if an hour went by, and Neville was quickly losing the blood Snape had just replenished.
Neville no longer had a pulse by the time they reached Professor Pomphrey who cried in outrage when she laid eyes on his beaten form. She asked no questions, shoving the pair out of the medical ward and diving into action. Pomphrey saved his life, no telling how, and Luna could kiss her all over. Though she is sure her attentions were unwanted. Perhaps Luna will gift her something for the holidays? Perhaps she will make her earrings.
Luna still needs to get Professor Snape a gift. It must be an extraordinary gift, as he was the only one to keep her sane while she waited to hear if her friend was deceased. He had sat with her, holding her hand, and tried reading her fortune from her palm. “If you trace this line all the way to your wrist you will see,” he had begun, “that you and your friends will live very long lives indeed.” The attempt seemed out of character, and Luna had caught him awkwardly fidgeting his left pinky finger; a tell that he is most uncomfortable. But it had brought out a smile through her tears. Severus Snape is quite lovely, most lovely. The way he convinced Pomphrey to allow Luna to stay with Neville throughout the night had Luna wanting to kiss him as well. Though, from his reaction to a mere hug, Luna did not see a kiss in the cards.
It is now 3am and Luna cannot sleep from worry.
“What were you doing out there so late at night?” she asks the sleeping Neville, all too aware that he cannot answer. Harry had told her stories of exploring the forest at night in his past, and Luna had found a pattern: people out and about in the forest past curfew were typically up to no good. She can believe that her Neville went to feed his Snare, but then, why was the other wizard there? Why was her Neville crushed, and what news did he have for her the day before the winter ball? Luna peals a nail bed back too far and the corner of her thumb begins to bleed.
Luna knows her friend, just as he knows her. If this news was something he felt he could only share with her then it was dangerously important. Luna also knows that her friend, much like her, journals everything. In fact, journaling was a hobby they had started together. It began with journaling the secret places Neville’s toad Trever would disappear off to. It would help them keep track of Trever’s favorite spots so that they would always be able to find him when he eventually ran away. Journaling then helped them keep track of their classes, inventions, and anything that caught their fancy. She knows that Neville was documenting his progress with the Devil’s Snare . . .
With this last thought Luna makes a decision. She stands from her perch to walk over to Neville and leans in close. “I don’t know if you can hear me, but I must apologies now,” she begins sincerely, “ I am going to break into your office and take your journals. I must you see, to find out who hurt you. If I find anything too private or smutty I promise to keep it to myself. I only need to know why your hurt, and I think you’ve got the reason written down somewhere.” Luna then leans over and places a kiss on her friend’s cast cheek. “I promise not to judge you in the slightest.”
And with that Luna is off with her latest mission.
Severus Snape stands over a caldron and slowly pours out Neville’s memory. It’s translucent blue swirls and Snape cannot help the sneer that takes over his face. Never in his life would he have imagined himself stepping into the mind of Neanderthal Neville Longbottom. It was enough to have to take interest in the boy’s education, but now to take interest in his personal life?
“If the wizard was trying to save him from the Snare, then why did they run away when I arrived? It makes no sense.”
Drat the Lovegood girl and her way of buggering her nose into places where it does not belong. He sighs, long with effort. ‘This does not have to be so painful,’ he attempts at a self-pep talk ‘just get in and then get out. Simple. Effective.’ He taps his pinky once on the cauldron, twice, and then tilts his head downwards into the pooled memory. Snape can feel a tug over his body, and then the familiar feeling of falling occurs until he lands in a room full of plants. He is in the herbology class room. He stands before a chalk board, and watches Luna Lovegood administer an ace bandage around Neville Longbottom’s leg. They are very close to one another, and Snape must bite his tongue to keep still. It is not like he could tare the two apart anyway. This is a memory, he reminds himself, stop being such a prat.
“Is this mysterious plant the reason why you can’t go to Pomphrey?” Asks Miss. Lovegood a she tenderly cares for Neville’s beaten leg.
“If I went to Pomphrey there would be questions and I promised Professor Sprout I’d not tell anyone. It’s a baby Devils Snare. For whatever reason the Order of the Phoenix asked me and Professor Sprout to raise it. It got a little exited is all, when I watered it, and grabbed my leg. It didn’t mean anything by it though, doesn’t know its own strength, the silly bugger.”
Snape furrows his brow at this interaction. Keeping a Devil Snare secret? The last time the school raised one in secrecy, they had planted it as a guard in order to prevent the dark lord from claiming the sorcerer stone as his own. The plant does not have much use, other than torturing and holding captives within a sensory deprivation state. Snape had used one as an interrogation tactic back in his youth. A good Snare always did the trick, and effectively. What does the order need with one now?
The memory disperses and a new scene fades in like mist. Snape now finds himself sitting in a burgundy lounge chair next to a long burgundy couch placed in front of a roaring fire. When he looks around he can see flags hung around the space featuring a golden lion. He is in the Gryffindor common room, and wants to take a scolding shower. Mr. Longbottom sits on the couch to his right and is speaking to the fire. Snape investigates and finds that he can make out Harry Potters face from within the flames.
“Ginny won’t speak with you, huh?”
Neville shakes his head in shame. “No, and the Order has me on suspension for talking to a potential suspect.”
Snape cannot help but smirk. From the way Longbottom’s nose bends unnaturally, this memory must be taking place after the dimwit had informed him of project pure blood. It is good to know he had more consequences for his treatment of Lovegood than just a broken nose. An incident that Snape does not regret.
Harry seems to nod his head. “I heard. You know I can only talk to you as a friend, not as a member? Right?”
Neville sighs, “yes, yes I know. I just—what should I do with the Devile Snare? Its quite big now and it can’t stay in the forbidden forest forever you know. Should I hand it over to the Order now? Or do you still need more time?”
Harry seems confused. “Time for what?”
Neville pauses, and then “time to set up a space for the Deville Snare.”
Harry looks at Neville as if he has lost his mind. “Neville, what would the order need with a Deville Snare?” suddenly Harry looks behind him as if a commotion is occurring where he is based, “Blast it all. I’ve got to go Neville, I’m sorry. Hey they will turn around, especially Luna. She never stays upset for long.” And with that Harry is gone from the flames. Neville continues to sit there, however, staring. He looks pasty with concern.
The memory changes once again and Snape has been placed in another office. The walls are lined with books and in the middle of the cramped space is a desk with a simple wooden chair for visitors. The only reason Snape can place who this office belongs to is from the name tag which sits on the desk and reads ‘Professor Sprout.’ Neville Longbottom sits on the floor of the office with an open book, an open note book, and an open file in front of him. Longbottom reads the book with surprised sadness in his eyes.
“No, she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t.” He whispers to himself. Snape leans forward to scan the documents in front of the panicked boy. The book that Neville reads details ways in which one can torture an individual with a Devil Snare. There are highlighted pieces, specifically on how this type of torture can affect an individual. When Snape looks to the opened file, a file on project pure blood and its form of torture, he sees that there are highlighted pieces to its after effects on its victims as well. Snape then notices that the project pure blood’s form of torture, and the Devil Snare’s form of torture are very, very similar in how it affects the mind and the body.
Snape suddenly has the icy indication that he knows exactly who has been triggering the reformed death eater murders, and he does not like the answer.
The memory is changing once more and from what Snape can gather, a last time. Neville stands in a clearing in front of a large Deville Snare with a golden vile in one hand. ‘I’m sorry friend,’ he sobs. Snape believes the boy intends to destroy his creation.
“And what exactly do you think you’re doing?” The voice is familiar in its sound, but deeply unfamiliar in its tone. Its tone is dangerous, a warning. Neville freezes and slowly turns around. Before Longbottom is Professor Sprout, silver curls peeking from out of her hood. She looks massively angry.
“You know I have to,” Neville answers with disappointment, “I can’t allow you to turn and hurt people with him anymore.”
Sprout slowly shakes her head. “I liked you, you were one of the good ones.” And with this statement she flicks her wrist and Neville is thrown into the air in a body binding curse. He screams. Snape can hear the boys bones crunching, and if the professor had not been desensitized in war he might have gagged from the sound. The crushing goes on for sometime.
“Stop, please” Neville begs, not expecting an answer or mercy. But then there is.
“Neville?” The woods call back to his plea in concern, and Sprout is so surprised by it she losses her concentration on the spell and drops Neville onto the Deville Snare which drags him into its body for protection.
Neville’s last memory fades and Snape can feel his body being tugged from out of the caldron. The professor stumbles backward and must regain his bearings once he lands in his office. Whisky—he thinks to himself—fire whiskey. Snape has had plenty tonight but is in need of more. He stumbles his way to his liquor cabinet and grabs for the bottle, taking a swig. Professor Sprout has been triggering pure blood students with the Devil Snare to kill reformed death eaters, and now she knows Luna Lovegood is on to her.
Will Snape ever find peace and quiet?