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“We’ll need to go to the old stables, at the base of Hufflepuff Tower,” Severus said as they approached Hogwarts. “They’ve been closed up since the late 1800’s, but they’re the best place for a centaur. I’m certain you can find some hay in Hagrid’s—” Severus bit the inside of his cheek as he remembered the giant was no longer at the school. “The gameskeeper’s hut will have a shed in back, Lupin. You should find hay and straw there.” Severus spared a glance at Remus, but he only saw sympathy.
“You take Gideon and Currycombe, then, Severus,” Remus responded. He turned and started across the field to Hagrid’s old hut, his tracks in the snow filling as the flurries thickened. “I’ll be back before you know it!”
“Darkling has food for Currycombe?” the porlock asked. Severus heard his stomach rumbling as soon as the question hung in the air.
“We’ll settle your centaur and then see about feeding everyone.” Severus plowed through the snowdrifts; they were halfway to his knees now. He made certain to twist his feet so that the furrows were easy for the porlock to step into. Then, he rolled his eyes at his consideration and stalked toward the base of Hufflepuff Tower.
Currycombe lifted his nose and sniffed. “Stables nearby,” he said happily. Gideon moaned and thrashed a bit, the soporific Severus had put into the poultice wearing off. “Need stall now, Darkling.”
“I’d say hold your horses, but that would be facetious, wouldn’t it?” Severus grumbled as he began unwarding the old stables. Once he had the doors open, he and Currycombe maneuvered Gideon through and into a holding stall that still contained some straw. The feel of preservation spells clung to Severus’ skin as they did so.
“Here’s the straw, Severus,” Remus called from beyond the doors. Several bales flew into the stables and came to rest just inside. Remus stepped after, brushing fat flakes of snow from his shoulders. “Seems the storm’s decided to hit with a vengeance. I’d say we’re in for a blizzard before the night’s over.”
“Well then, help me with your friend.” Severus grabbed a bale of straw and began pulling it apart, fluffing the dried grass and then giving it to Currycombe to spread in Gideon’s stall. “Look in my satchel and see if you can find a vial of essence of poinsettia. It’s reddish-purple.”
Remus found it easily and held it up in the light of a Lumos. It looked like a gem. “What’s this for?” he asked, turning the vial this way and that. “I thought the flower was poisonous.”
“It’s a fever reducer. It can also be used to remove hair. In this instance, I’ll use it to treat the heat I felt rolling off the centaur’s stony limb.” Severus brushed his hands together, straw dust flying from his robes.
“Call a house-elf, will you, Lupin? We’re going to have to stay here for several more hours and I’m famished.” Severus made certain he was looking in his satchel and not at Currycombe.
“Oh, aye, Severus.” Remus smiled to himself. “Currycombe, come help me put Gideon on the fresh straw, will you?”
Severus watched from under his lashes as Remus bent and flexed, muscles bunching and smoothing under his worn wool trousers. He could feel his cheeks heating and scrunched down into his scarf with a sigh as he turned away. How did a walk in the woods turn into so much trouble? Severus glanced back as Remus laughed at something Currycombe said, his teeth flashing. The sight made other bits of Severus warm as well.