All Black Robes And Brood
Title: All Black Robes And Brood
Spoilers: Angel Season Five Spoilers, and OotP for HP.
Disclaimer: Don't own any of them.
Summary: When something particularly bizarre happens to his students, Albus Dumbledore is forced to look elsewhere for help . . .
Notes: Mid-Year Fic-A-Thon for Cinnamongrrl. Thank you to Houses for betaing.
Author's Request Genre: HP, LotR, X-Men, WWE, HL, FK
Max Rating: NC17
Characters: not Willow, no pairings with Legolas
Want To See: a little humour. Cordelia or Tara a +
Not Want To See: too much schmoop
It was only after my feet had touched the ground did I realize that the third taco I had for lunch had definitely been a bad idea. After the stomach-wrenching ride with the portal-key or whatever Angel had produced to get us here, that third helping escaped the shackles of my belly and launched itself up my throat. I didn't even get a moment to check my surroundings before the bile rose and I doubled over, heaving up my lunch.
I heard a gasp, which was quickly followed up with a low growl, coming from somewhere above me. When my eyes came back into focus, I saw the mess I had made, and the black shoes I had made it over. Slowly, I turned my head upwards and saw the scowling person before me. He was definitely a scary figure with stringy black hair falling about his face and large hooked nose. His eyes were dark, blazing with anger and disdain as he looked down on me. The black robes he was wearing made him appear even more imposing, and the look on his face made me want to crawl into a hole and die from sheer embarrassment.
"Um, sorry?" was all I could manage. Instead of making things better, my words seemed to make them worse. His scowl deepened and he stepped back from me. He produced a short, thin stick from his right sleeve and made some swishing movements in the air while he muttered some Latin words under his breath. The mess vanished, but his scowl did not.
"All right there, Fred?"
I turned my head upwards and smiled weakly up at Spike. "Fine, if you ignore the whole vomiting thing," I replied, accepting his help in getting back to my feet.
"That's what you get for eating for using a portkey," Spike told me with a smirk. "I warned you, didn't I?"
"Albus," Angel came forward, putting an end to our conversation as he extended a hand towards an elderly man decked out in the most vibrant set of clothes I had ever seen.
"Angel, so good of you to come," Albus greeted him. The man, or wizard I should say, moved slowly to meet the vampire and shake his hand. "So good of all of you to come. Any aid you can give us will be greatly appreciated."
There was a disbelieving snort from the man I had barfed on, which Albus stifled with one pointed look. "Allow me to introduce Professor Severus Snape. He is our Potions Master here at Hogwarts."
"The vampire remembers me," Snape interrupted, another sneer on his lips. "After all, he did try to kill me."
"Angel!" Spike gave a mock gasp. "You tried to kill him? What do you think you are? Some sort of monster?"
"He was evil," Angel muttered in his defence. "Or at least, he was playing evil. It was all very confusing."
"How so?" Wesley asked as he cleaned his glasses. I clucked my tongue in sympathy when I noticed the tiny crack in one of them. Wesley merely shook his head and muttered darkly under his breath. "Couldn't have Flooed, could we?"
Angel glared at Wesley for his comments, and also at Spike, still chortling over the idea of Angel nearly killing Snape. Snape just looked entirely displeased, though I'm not sure if it was the vomit or Angel that was bothering him now. I spared Wesley a small smile before asking him: "How's my equipment?"
"Yes Fred, I'm quite all right," he answered sarcastically. "Just broke my glasses, but other than that, just fine."
"Aw Wesley, I wasn't being neglectful," I assured him. "It's just, I can see you're fine, because you're moving and stuff, and while your glasses may be broken, it won't cost over a million dollars to fix them. My equipment on the other hand-"
"Is just fine," Wesley interjected as he patted the front pocket of his jacket softly. "It's all still here, all still shrunken, and all still in one piece. Unlike my glasses, or your stomach."
"This is going to be one of those things that you guys never let me forget, isn't it?" I accused him dully.
"I'd hate to interrupt all the glowering and posturing, but Professor Dumbledore did request our presence for a reason," Angel reminded everyone.
"Greetings Miss Burkle, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, and Mr. the Bloody," Albus smiled at each one of them, not even flinching when he said Spike's name. That was impressive. Not too many people could know about the "the Bloody" tag on without flinching. Albus was turning out to be a pretty nifty wizard. "As I was saying before, we greatly appreciate your assistance in this manner. I dare say, it's quite beyond anything I've ever seen. And when you've lived as long as I have, you've seen quite a few strange things."
There was another snort from Mr. Snape before the man proceeded to glower at Angel once more. "Are you sure he can contain himself while he is here, Headmaster?"
Angel practically snarled at the man's tone, which wasn't very nice at all. I exchanged a worried look with Wesley, who took the opportunity to step forward to speak with Albus.
"What exactly is the problem, sir?" Wesley asked.
Albus smiled warmly at the former Watcher and instead of responding, he pulled out his wand and after a swishing motion, he pointed it at Wesley's head. "Oculus Reparo!" the wizard intoned. Wesley jerked his head when a tiny spark emerged from the tip of Albus's wand and bounced onto his glasses. The tiny crack in his spectacles sealed up quickly and his glasses were as good as new.
"Oh my," Wesley murmured as he removed his glasses and looked at them in wonder. He gave Albus a grateful smile as he replaced them back onto his nose. "Thank you, sir."
"Think nothing of it," Albus assured him. "And now, for the situation at hand. A few of our students seem to be under the influence of some sort of magic, though we cannot be sure what it is exactly. It's rather hard to fully comprehend unless you see the effects first hand."
"They aren't in any physical danger, are they?" Angel asked as Albus began to lead us down the hallway.
"Not quite," Albus answered vaguely. "Well, not in any outright physical danger, though there is a chance of it."
"What exactly is the bloody problem?" Spike asked as he pulled a cigarette out of his jacket pocket.
"There is no smoking in this school," Snape snapped at him immediately. "And as for your question, the problem is that the students are scared."
"They're scared?" I repeated, feeling a bit confused. "Scared of what?"
Albus sighed. "Everything, I'm afraid."
"Everything?" Wesley looked as confused as I felt. "They're afraid of everything?"
"Every creak, every shadow, every whisper-Everything," Snape clarified as he stomped down the hallway alongside Albus. I watched him walk, more than amused to see how his robes billowed and swished about him like a superhero's cape. Talk about a flair for the dramatics. "Should something even mildly shocking happen, it sends them into panic. Two students became so frightened that they succumbed to heart attacks."
"Luckily, Madam Pompfrey was close at hand for both instances," Albus continued. "The students are in stable condition, though we cannot move them from the school. They've all come down with the impression that leaving school grounds is a definite death sentence."
"My word," Wesley murmured. "How on earth did that happen?"
"If we knew, we wouldn't have summoned a haphazard group of Muggles to sort it out for us, now would we?" Snape sneered. Wesley's face went all pinched and angry at Snape's tone, and I think mine sort of did as well. Vomiting incident aside, this guy was not being very friendly. In fact, he was being very unfriendly, and a whole lot of snooty on top of it.
"What's got his panties in a twist?" Spike muttered darkly as he fiddled with the cigarette he wasn't allowed to light. Snape heard him and gave a scowl worthy of Angel, which caused shivers to shoot down my spine. A normal human shouldn't be that intimidating, not to me anyway. I've dealt with bigger and scarier things than this sour puss, but Mr. Snape had a glower that most demons would kill to have.
"That would be me," Angel replied curtly. "Though this isn't the time or the place for it, Snape. Tell me Albus, what do you know about what happened to these kids?"
"In due time," Albus answered cheerfully as he stopped before a large gargoyle. "I think it would be better to discuss this further in my office. Chocolate Frog."
"Huh?" Spike whispered to me. I just shrugged my shoulders, my confusion turning to wonder as the gargoyle began to turned and lifted upwards, revealing a staircase underneath.
"Come along," Albus invited us, stepping gracefully onto a stair. "Watch your step, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce."
Wesley stumbled a bit despite Albus's warning, but straightened himself before he did something too embarrassing. Spike grabbed me by my arm and led me onto the staircase, which made me feel a little put out. Not like I couldn't have gotten on the moving staircase on my own. Honestly, sometimes these boys of mine got a little too protective.
The staircase took us up a narrow hall before admitting us into a large room. The rooms were covered with portraits and pictures of other wizards, all of which were moving. I stopped in my tracks and stared at one picture as the old wizard in it caught my eye by waving enthusiastically.
"Whoa," I gasped as I leaned in to get a closer look. Snape passed by me and gave me another one of his grumpy looks.
"Muggles," he muttered with disdain. I turned my attention away from the picture and gave his back a furious glare.
"Ignore him, dear girl," came the advice from the wizard in the picture. "He's a bit of a grump, that one is. You should see how he treats his students. I'm told it's quite frightful."
"You can talk too?" I asked in disbelief.
"Of course I can talk," the wizard looked slightly taken back. "Why wouldn't I be able to talk? You Muggles ask the strangest questions."
"Okay, I'm getting more than a little freaked out by this place," I murmured to Spike. "Is everything in this school alive, and full of sass?"
"Pretty much," Spike shrugged. "Though it is my first time here. I've heard stories, though. This place is as mysterious as they come. Come on then, love, let's get down to business."
I nodded and followed Spike to join the others. Albus waved us towards some chairs, and as I took my seat I noticed the large red bird by Albus's desk. It turned and seemed to look right at me, before inclining its head. I raised my hand and waved back at him tentatively.
"Now, as for our students, we do not know what has come over them," Albus continued with his story. "The only thing we do know is that all the affected students were in the same Care for Magical Creatures class two weeks ago."
"The professor rather foolishly sent them into the Forest to collect some flowers and shrubs to feed his current Monster-of-the-Week," Snape elaborated with a frown. "They came back, seemingly in perfect health. The first signs of trouble appeared the next day at breakfast."
"Our Head Boy spotted a spider in the corner of the Great Hall and had hysterics," Albus sighed. "It wouldn't have alarmed us much, if six other seventh-years from the same class hadn't panicked as well. After that, they all started to become steadily more skittish and paranoid."
"We've had them examined, we've checked for curses or spells, but we haven't found anything that would explain their behaviour," Snape finished. "We've been forced to quarantine them until the situation is brought under control."
"And the Forest?" Angel asked. "Have you checked the areas where they were working for clues?"
"We don't know where they were working," Albus revealed. "The children went in groups and searched in different places for various shrubs. Their professor assured me that they did not go far into the Forest, but we can't be sure that they didn't move away from the specified areas. After we made the connection, we couldn't get them to help us retrace their steps. In fact, they refuse to go within a hundred feet of the Forest now. We have searched the outer perimeter of the Forest, around the areas where the plants in question are located, but we have not found anything of importance."
"Did the students mention anything strange to their professor that day?" Wesley asked. "Perhaps a strange noise, or feeling as though they were being watched?"
"The only thing that came up was a complaint against pollen," Albus replied. "A few of our students felt their allergies act up."
"Pollen?" I asked with a confused frown. "At this time of year?"
"We were perplexed ourselves, but we could not find any signs of pollen when we searched the Forest," Snape said. "We were making plans to search further into the trees, but the Headmaster felt that it would be better if we waited for your help."
The last part was said with so much sarcasm that I winced. Angel was back to shooting glares in Snape's direction while Albus smiled cheerfully as if he hadn't noticed his colleague's sour disposition. Spike was smirking something awful, and I knew that he was bound to say something to get on Angel's nerves. However, Wesley cut him off before he could even get a word out.
"Well, I think the most obvious thing to do is have some of our group take a look at your kids while the rest of us tackle this Forest of yours," he suggested.
"My thoughts exactly!" Albus said happily. "May I suggest Miss Burkle be the one to see the students? They would be far less anxious about her presence."
"I don't know," Angel looked uneasy. "I think it would be best for someone to go with Fred rather than her go on her own."
"Why?" I demanded, my voice a bit harsher than I wanted.
"Fred, they're a group of scared teenagers with magical powers at hand," Angel explained to me. "If you alarm them in anyway, they're bound to start cursing and hexing at will. I just think that it would be better if I went with you-"
"Because a vampire is nothing a child should be afraid of," Snape interrupted with a snort. "Angelus, your very presence would send them into a frenzy."
"I doubt they could tell I was a vampire off the bat," Angel returned.
"And that might get you into trouble, Angel," Albus warned him. "The children are frightened; they're not dull-witted. Well, most of them are not. Miss Granger would ultimately put the facts together and find out who you are, if she doesn't already recognize your condition from her studies in DADA. Though you may be on our side, the children might not see it that way. Miss Burkle, on the other hand, is far less intimidating than the rest of your colleagues, and she would be in good hands for her entire visit with the students. Our Deputy Headmistress would escort her to the infirmary, and both she and Madam Pompfrey will be present during Miss Burkle's stay there."
"And I am the science girl," I added brightly. "So it would kind of make sense that I go, and not Spike or Wesley. I'll take a look at them. But I might also need some samples from them and run a few of my own tests, if it isn't too much trouble."
"We'd have to contact their parents for permission, but I don't see it being a problem," Albus agreed. "However, I did notice you mentioning something to Mr. Wyndam-Pryce about equipment before. I'm afraid electronic devices to not work at Hogwarts, though I'd be more than willing to set up a room or something for your gadgets in Hogsmeade. It's the nearest town and you could Floo to and from it with great ease."
"Right," I nodded. "One question: what's Floo?"
"Miss Lovegood, back again are we?"
I followed closely behind the tall witch introduced to me as Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall, who insisted that I call her by her first name. The boys were still in Albus's office, looking over maps of the Forest and talking with the Magical Creatures professor, who turned out to be a giant by the name of Rubeus Hagrid. However, though he was a giant of a man, Hagrid was still as sweet as they come. And he seemed to get along great with Angel and Spike, which was way better than Snape, who was probably still standing in the corner of the room and scowling up a storm.
I peeked over Minvera's shoulder to see the young girl she had addressed. The girl was a frail-looking creature with scraggly dirty blonde hair and wide blue eyes. She was dressed in robes as well, though it was unbuttoned and I could see the school uniform underneath. There was also a large blue and silver badge on the girl's robes with the word 'Ravenclaw' written under a coat of arms.
"Hello Professor McGonagall," Miss Lovegood greeted her professor, her tone very light and dreamy. "And yes, I am back. Harry and the others insisted that I come back after classes, and I felt it would be cruel to leave Ginny in there all by her lonesome. Who is your guest? And why is she dressed in Muggle clothing?"
"I suppose because I am a Muggle," I replied before Minerva could answer the girl. I smiled my friendliest smile and put out my hand. "Hello, I'm Fred."
"Luna," the girl returned before shaking my hand. "But did you say you were a Muggle? Not to be rude, but what on earth would a Muggle being doing at Hogwarts?"
"Miss Burkle is here to assist with the current situation," Minerva answered swiftly and firmly.
"You aren't going to take them away to a horrid Muggle asylum, are you?" Luna asked me suspiciously.
"Um, no?" I replied with a frown. "Why would I do that? I'm not a psychiatrist or anything. And from the sounds of it, your friends aren't crazy. They're just acting that way. I'm just trying to figure out why."
"You would check them for signs of a Woogeytramp attack," Luna informed me.
"Miss Lovegood-" Minerva began, sounding quite exasperated.
"A Woogeytramp," Luna continued without notice of Minerva's warning tone. "They're large hairless creatures that look a bit like anteaters, only their snouts aren't as long and come with tiny holes all over. They're known for inciting mass hysteria among people because of the venom they shoot out of their snouts. When a Woogeytramp becomes annoyed, they release their venom which causes a normal person to act quite nutters. A Woogeytramp was responsible for the debacle in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692."
"No, not at all," Minerva interjected. Luna frowned and sent her professor a bit of a disapproving look.
"It's all quite real, professor," the girl insisted. "My father published an article in the Quibbler all about it. Woogeytramps are a real danger to our society, and Muggle society as well."
"Regardless, I'm sure that Professor Hagrid would have noticed such a disturbance as a large hairless anteater attacking his class in the Forest," Minerva told her.
"Don't be too sure," Luna replied in the same dreamy tone as before. "Professor Hagrid is a nice bloke, but he's not a very good teacher, now is he?"
"Miss Lovegood . . ." Minerva was starting to sound very annoyed by this point.
"I don't mean offence," Luna said. "But really professor, would you have sent your class unattended into the Forest? He just seems a little careless, that's all."
"I'll be sure to keep those Woogey-thingies in mind," I jumped in with the hope of avoiding an argument. "But right now, I think it's best to just have a look at the kids."
"I wouldn't call them that," Luna advised me. "They're far too touchy right now. If they think you're patronizing them in the slightest, they will refuse to talk to you. That is if they agree to talk to you at all. You don't appear all that intimidating to me, but then again, I don't find spiders frightening, and it was spiders that sent Ronald into a fit before. It's hard to tell nowadays."
"Perhaps you could do something to persuade your friends that Miss Burkle is only here to help them?" Minerva suggested. "She will need their cooperation."
"I doubt I could convince Hermione or Ronald," Luna sighed before she gave Fred a helpless look. "They seem to think that I can be daft at times. Well, Ronald thinks I can be daft at times, and Hermione believes that I am daft all of the time. We don't always see eye-to-eye. She's far too involved in her books to even realize what goes on in the world around her. And I'm afraid she partially buys into the lies that the Ministry of Magic publishes in the Prophet. She doesn't even believe in the heliopath conspiracy."
"Miss Lovegood, that is quite enough," Minerva stated firmly. "I'm afraid we're monopolizing Miss Burkle's time. Shall we?"
Without waiting for a response, Minerva stepped up to the closed infirmary doors and rapped slowly three times. I felt a little confused as she proceeded to just stand there, Luna right behind her, staring at the closed doors. Couldn't we just walk in?
"Who is it?" came a voice from the other side. A very exasperated voice, a female from the sounds of it. "State your name and purpose."
"Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall, Student Luna Lovegood, and Miss Winifred Burkle," Minerva replied in a clear voice. "We have come to speak with some of the seventh years in your care, Madam Pompfrey."
Minerva fell silent and waited once more. I leaned in close to the door, not too close because Minerva held up a hand to stop my progress, and strained my ears to hear what was happening on the other side. I heard a lot of whispers, and one low shriek of panic, before what sounded like a mini-stampede. After about two minutes, the doors began to open slowly. A middle-aged woman in a nurse's uniform poked her head outside and gave Minerva a pained look.
"Their story checks out," she shouted over her shoulder before opening the door wider. "Honestly Minerva, I don't know how much more of this I can take."
"It will be over soon, hopefully," Minerva consoled the other woman before turning to me. "Madam Pompfrey, may I introduce Miss Winifred Burkle from California?"
"It's just Fred," I corrected her as I smiled at the other woman.
"And you may call me Poppy," the nurse returned before giving my hand a gentle shake. "You're here with Angel, are you not?"
"Yes, he's my boss."
"And how is he?" Poppy asked, her voice becoming as dreamy as Luna's. "Still as charming as ever?"
"We're talking about the same vamp, right?" I giggled. "Most people don't use charming as the word to best describe Angel. I think the most popular one is 'broody' or 'sulking creature of the night'."
"Well, I recall that he was quite a dashing figure," Poppy murmured with a silly grin on her face. I bit my tongue to keep from giggling some more when Minerva made a face at Poppy's mooning. It was always fun to see a woman affected by Angel, but much better when he's around aforementioned affected woman. He gets all flustered and awkward, it was just funny as hell.
"Could we please get to the matter at hand?" Minerva demanded, her tone clearly irritated. Poppy blinked and then blushed before ushering us into the infirmary. As far as infirmaries go, it wasn't all that spectacular. Normal white walls and rows of tiny white cots that was customary to any infirmary. The only thing off was the fact that every bed was occupied by a shaking, petrified teenager.
Albus had told me that I would need to see the situation to truly understand it, and he was right. The entire room was bursting at the seams with fear. It was in the little things, and the big things, all at once. Every student sat in their bed, a few with their wands held in nervously in their hands. A few students were huddled under their covers, refusing to even dare a glance at the newcomers. Everywhere I looked, I saw nothing but raw fear. Wide eyes watched my every move, shocked whispers trailed after me as I followed Minerva down to the very end of the room. They were wrecks, all of them. Their hair was dirty and stringy, mostly tangled and generally unkempt. They had dark circles under their eyes, and a few of them were even twitching as they watched me pass. I could hear their gasps for breath; I could hear it when a student actually held his or her breath because I had dared to venture too close. It was absolutely horrific.
Minerva came to a stop at the last three cots at the end of the room. I looked closely at the kids occupying those beds and immediately noticed the agitated, but relatively okay redheaded girl sitting next to a boy who could only be her brother. Next to them was a small girl with bushy brown hair and wide brown eyes who was currently hugging a giant book to her chest and watching me with fearful eyes.
"Luna!" I jumped at the frantic shout coming from the final bed. Luna gave me a final dreamy smile before wandering over to a boy with dark hair, wide green eyes, and glasses perched haphazardly on his nose. "Why did you take so long? Classes ended over fifteen minutes ago! You can't dwaddle around the halls. It isn't safe! I think you should stay here like Ginny."
"Harry, I already told you that I need to go to class," Luna told the boy as she settled down in a chair by his bedside. "And I wasn't dwaddling. I was speaking with Professor McGonagall and Miss Burkle about Woogeytramps. Hullo Ginny, how are you?"
"Fantastic," the redheaded girl muttered sarcastically, wincing when the boy next to her grabbed her arm and pulled her closer. "Ron, stop it already! It's just Professor McGonagall."
"And a stranger," the boy hissed back at her. "A weird stranger, at that. Professor, who is she?"
"She is a guest of Professor Dumbledore," Minerva informed the boy. "She's here to help us determine what exactly has happened to you."
"We already told you that nothing is wrong with us," Ron snapped at her. "Stop wasting your time and get to work fortifying this place! The only reason we're acting like this is because it's just not safe to be at Hogwarts anymore."
"And yet you won't leave school grounds," Ginny said sourly.
"Hey, I'm not stupid, you know," Ron shot back at her. "Hogwarts may not be as safe as it should be, but it's far safer than any other place. At least Dumbledore is able to keep most of the dangers off the school grounds. If we left Hogwarts, we would probably be killed in minutes!"
"Isn't that a bit extreme?" I asked him cautiously.
"Extreme?" he repeated, his voice rising. "It's not extreme; it's the truth! There are Death Eaters everywhere. Dark wizards who are just waiting for the opportunity to AK us without care. Bloody hell woman! Don't you know there's a war going on out there?"
I just raised my eyebrows at Minerva, who had a pained expression on her face that reminded me of my first sighting of Poppy. Ginny also seemed very put out by Ron's tirade, and a few of the other students who had overheard him were either nodding their heads in agreement, or panicking at his outburst. Poppy emerged out of her office and immediately began to speak to the students in a soothing voice. She began handing out cups of liquid which she insisted some of the more agitated students drink.
"A sleeping draught," Minerva whispered to me. "It should put them to sleep for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, we've been giving them so much that our stock is constantly running low. Professor Snape spends much of his time brewing more potion for Poppy, but we can't keep this up forever. We need to find out what's wrong with them."
"I agree," I replied in a soft tone. "But where do I start? If I get too close to them, they start freaking out. Any suggestions, professor?"
Minerva sighed and looked about the room. I followed her gaze as it finally stopped on the boy Luna had called Harry. "Mr. Potter seems like a good candidate, if only we could get him to agree. I'll see if I or Miss Lovegood can talk him into it. Until then, why don't you speak with Poppy and see if you can discern anything from her reports on their condition?"
"Fine by me," I muttered. Minerva smiled at me before she turned to speak with Mr. Potter. I looked around the room once more, feeling utterly torn at the sight of such frightened children. I walked over to Poppy and sighed when a tall, blonde boy with gray eyes began to panic at my close proximity to his bed. Poppy waved me into her office and immediately went to calm the boy.
"It's quite all right Mr. Malfoy. She means you no harm, so you can just relax and take your medicine . . ."