Severus woke to the sound of another to-do in the infirmary, his skin itching madly with the regrowth of hair. Groaning wordlessly, he lifted his head to observe a petite witch being levitated in on a stretcher. It was dim in the infirmary. A wordless Tempus charm showed him it was only 6:13 AM. Madam Pomfrey was much more urgent in her movements, the litany of colourful language that Severus had been exposed to earlier notably absent as she ministered to the newest occupant.
“She smells like brimstone, Albus. Fiendfyre. She has broken ribs, a skull fracture and concussion, burns, bruises, and she’s exhausted. Her magical core is almost empty. She’s malnourished, has nerve damage as though she was under extended Crucio , and look at this. LOOK, at her arm. I’ve never seen anything like this. Where did she come from? Who did this to her!?” Poppy was holding out the girl’s left forearm for the headmaster to inspect as she chattered angrily like a pissed off washerwoman. Bellatrix Lestrange’s masterwork, ugly and festering, highlighted the word “MUDBLOOD” carved deep into the tender flesh of the girl’s forearm.
Severus stopped breathing as he strained to hear the response from Dumbledore. The quiet words floated back over the infirmary. “I do not know for sure, Poppy. It is clear that we must find out.” He straightened, declaring decisively, “For the moment, until she comes around, were there any clues that might help us?”
Poppy shook her head, working on the girl, obsessively recasting diagnostic charms. “Albus, now is not the time. You look through her things if you need to. Just get out of my way.” She bustled back and forth, getting vials of potions and a tub of salve to use as the Headmaster waited a discreet distance away. Eventually she passed over the dirtied clothes, a concession to Dumbledore’s looming presence. Poppy was back to working on the girl’s head, having to cut away swathes of matted curly hair, muttering to herself at the state of her latest patient.
A sparkle in the shadows in his peripheral vision turned Severus’ eyes away from the obscured scene. The Headmaster held up a beaded bag. He looked inside the delicate thing and exclaimed in delight before burying his arm down past his elbow. After fishing around, he dragged out a diary, a handful of parchment, and the twisted remains of a golden cup. The Headmaster set the cup down before squinting at the diary through his half moon glasses. He stilled like a cornered deer. Something in the little book clearly had disturbed the wizard, deeply. A moment later, he slammed the diary shut and shoved it back unceremoniously into the bag.
Apparently an important decision had been made and Dumbledore could not contain himself, needs must when the devil drives. “Poppy, witness this.” Not waiting for the Mediwitch’s answer, he intoned in the voice a wizard uses when he is backing something up with the magic of will and intent, “I, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, in my capacity of Headmaster of Hogwarts, do vouchsafe the protection of this witch, and do claim from this castle on her behalf Sanctuary. So mote it be.”
Severus, forgetting that he was supposed to be asleep, sat up at this, his eyes as big as saucers. Five ghosts appeared out of the walls.
The Grey Lady sang out, holding her hands in a triangle over the girl’s brow. “With Wit and Claw, we will protect her.”
The Bloody Baron silently executed a complicated salute juxtaposed to the Lady, indicating his protection and respect as though for a comrade in arms, ending with his sword held steady over the foot of the bed.
Nearly Headless Nick bowed over her one hand pressing his head in place he extended his free hand splayed open over her heart , “For her bravery and sacrifice we Laud her.”
Solemnly, the Fat Friar made a benediction over the girl’s midsection with his hands cupped in supplication, “To our hearts we accept her as our own blood, as no other has any claim on her.”
That was a strange pronouncement. No blood claim? No family?
Finally, under the Headmaster’s surprised gaze, Peeves, who was hovering above them all added, “For the injustice yet done, we will not abide quietly.” There was no mischief or humour here, and Severus shrunk back towards the wall behind his bed in unconscious self-preservation. With a thrust of both hands forwards, Peeves completed the ritual. A wave of magic passed over the bed, and the girl’s hair moved as if by some uncanny breeze. Everyone in the room felt the castle shudder in response.
Moments later the ghosts were gone, leaving Severus blinking and wondering if that was all in his imagination. What was in that sleeping draft Pomfrey gave him? He was fairly sure it was made to grade. All was quiet in the twilight of morning, the sunlight pours in through the eastern windows and the Mediwitch was rather busy muttering her healing incantations, trying to keep the girl alive.
Dumbledore turned around, noticing Severus installed in his usual spot. After his eyebrows met in consternation for a fleeting moment, the old Headmaster held up a finger to his lips, indicating that what he had witnessed was to be kept secret. Rolling his eyes in bitter humour, Severus nodded his understanding, and after a brief hesitation he opened his mouth to show the lack of a tongue with an ironic quirk of what would have been an eyebrow. That blasted curse left him hairless.
Holding Severus’ gaze for a moment longer, the Headmaster called over his shoulder, “Poppy, do you need assistance?” After a shouted response of, “Get out and let me work, Albus!”
Dumbledore beat a hasty retreat, taking the bag and the witch's wand with him.