Stephen awoke with a start, eyes flying open.
He was in a cot, he realized. Sterile white walls gazed down at him from every direction.
At first, he was sure that he was back in his old hospital. Christine would be somewhere, most likely attending another patient, and she'd come back to him and everything would return to how it used to be…
Then his gaze landed on the man in the stained black robes and greasy dark hair standing over him, and the memories of Azkaban and the Dementors kicked in.
"Wuzz goin' on?" Stephen said blearily. He grimaced, rubbing the sleep crust from his eyes. "Where am I?"
The man with the hooked nose sneered. "The hospital wing." He muttered. His low voice was barely discernible, even in the quiet room.
Stephen licked his lips, his tongue running over the dry and cracked skin. "Yeah, I figured." He frowned, looking up at the man in the black robes.
He stifled a yawn, trying to think through the thick haze of sleep clouding his thoughts. "Wait a second… Do you… work for Dumbledore?"
"Obviously," The man in the black robes sneered.
"Then you're…" Stephen stopped. He mentally doubled back, checking to make sure if the name was right. The messy, unkept hair, the filthy, matted robes… "You are one… Rubeus Hagrid, aren't you?" He asked.
The man in the black robes stopped, and glared into Stephen's eyes, and he felt a sharp spike stab into his brain. He scowled, clutching his forehead.
"My name is Severus Snape, the Head of House Slytherin and Potion Master of Hogwarts," The man in the black robes snarled. "Remember that. It would do you well to respect your superiors, you ignorant whelp."
Oh, no he didn't.
"Excuse me?" Stephen spat. "Hate to break it to you, buddy, but I'm the Sorcerer Supreme. If anyone outranks anyone here, it's me. So watch your tongue, you sonuvabitch."
Severus Snape bared his teeth, and Stephen's migraine tripled in severity. He winced in pain.
"Oh, you bet I do-"
"I have the power to make you suffer like nothing you've ever-"
"You want to see pain? I'll show you pain, alright-"
The door of the hospital wing creaked open, and Stephen spotted Dumbledore enter the room. The Headmaster gave a grandfatherly smile at the two men.
"Ah, Stephen! And Severus! I take it you've both become well acquainted with each other?"
"You could say that," Stephen grumbled. He shot Severus Snape a look that promised the pure suffering and agony of the damned. Snape responded with a stare that swore Stephen an incoming world of pain.
They both looked back at Dumbledore. "Yes, I've gotten to know your acquaintance very well, sir," Snape said.
Dumbledore beamed, completely oblivious of the pair's hidden animosity. Either that, or he was internally reveling in their shared hatred of each other.
Suddenly, Stephen remembered why he was in the hospital wing in the first place. The blood drained from his face.
"The Cloak," He said, looking up at Dumbledore. "What happened to it? Is it alright?"
Dumbledore's face tightened. "Oh, dear. I had hoped I didn't have to discuss this with you so early on." He said, sitting down by Stephen's bedside. A little, fearful voice in Stephen's head whispered that this was a Very Bad Sign.
"Your Cloak of Levitation was built using magic completely foreign to me," Dumbledore began. The old man had pulled out his wand, fingering the orb-like patterns along it. "At first, we were unable to repair it at all. It has some kind of Charm preventing almost any physical changes, from what we could gather."
"You're wrong," Stephen said. His heart was thumping ferociously inside his chest. "The Dementors. They managed to do it. They ripped it apart."
Dumbledore's bright blue eyes met Stephen's through his half-moon spectacles. "You're right. They did." His gaze turned back to his wand. "And that is why I did not stop until I found the means by which to fix it."
Stephen perked up. "So it's okay?"
"To an extent." Said the Headmaster. Snape hung by Stephen's bedside like a wary shadow, unsure of what to do. "After many efforts, I have mostly repaired your Cloak's physical damages."
The Sorcerer Supreme drew imaginary lines, connecting Dumbledore's status on the Cloak and his own body's flaws.
"It's not going to be the same again, is it?" He asked.
"No." Dumbledore said. His grip tightened around his wand. "No, it won't."
Stephen slowly swallowed, taking it all in. He systematically got to his feet, staring into space.
"I'm sorry." The older man whispered. He looked away. "I should have never asked you to do this."
Stephen blinked. "What are you talking about?" He asked.
Snape turned to Stephen. "His situation with Black, you-" He paused, stopped. Snape awkwardly shifted back to his staring contest with the curtains.
"No, really," The American sorcerer started, whirling to face Dumbledore. "Of course you should have asked me. I'm the reason why you have to do this in the first place!"
He froze, realizing that no, in fact, he wasn't. Stephen was in no way responsible for a crazy man-eating table. In fact, he'd volunteered.
This whole thing had put Stephen completely out of his depth. Wizards, magic prisons, magic creatures, death-defying breakouts. He had partnered up with a werewolf, a shapeshifter and a war veteran he'd never known to rescue a person he'd never met. For heaven's sake, he was a doctor.
It wasn't like when he was the only one who could stop Dormammu, or the sole defense against Kaecilius.
It wasn't like Mordo or Infinity Stones or whatever mystical threats plagued the world.
It wasn't all about him.
And suddenly, Stephen had a revelation, standing smack-dab in the middle of the hospital wing in some unknown part of England.
If Stephen was going to be involved in something that wasn't about him… He might as well find a reason to change that.
The Cloak of Levitation, an artifact that had lasted for thousands of years, had been torn to pieces by the Dementors of Azkaban.
Stephen was going to make them pay for what they'd done.
If this breakout wasn't about him, he would make this all about him.
Everything had just gotten personal.
Hey, everyone - I apologize for this little bit of filler, but I felt as though an update was very badly needed. While I hope you're all enjoying the story, real life and other more important writing duties are currently taking priority.
In the last four days during the week, I've gone through seven examinations that have the potential to change my life.
Yeah. I know.
This sort of pressure has been increasing a lot lately, and it's taking a savage priority over all other matters. Almost all of my rapidly-dwindling free time is now being spent working with The Freelancer Collaboration on their latest fanfiction, a DC/Hunger Games crossover 'When Blood Calls For Blood.'
A sequel to the super-amazing, completed Hunger Games crossover epic, 'In The End, You Always Kneel', I have been given the chance to write the perspective of Harvey Dent of District Two.
(For the less nerdy, he is better known as Two-Face... The gangster dude with half a melted face. The one with the coin and stuff. From Batman. Yeah, for a while I forgot he was a thing, too, and I'm the one writing him.)
Hell, you don't even have to read DC comics to get the concept. Superman and Wonder Woman and the Joker and Harley Quinn are in the Hunger Games, people. You'll work out who everyone else is as time goes on. I did for the first one.
I probably will only have to write about five to a dozen chapters over the next two years, depending on how awesome you guys find my writing skills. The first chapter of 'When Blood Calls For Blood' comes out soon, so I'd recommend reading through 'In The End, You Always Kneel' as something to do without my chapters to entertain you.
You can read through all of the Tribute Reapings or skip right into the Games themselves; I myself initially jumped from chapter 4 to 40, and I still actually had a good idea what was going on. The Games are amazing, and I can see now why getting kids to fight to the death was so entertaining.
But long story short; I'm sorry to have to say it, but expect slow, sporadic updates for a while. I probably won't have much time to produce much work anymore. Instead, please shift all of your attention to 'When Blood Calls For Blood," posted by The Freelancer Collaboration, and be sure to cheer extra loud when you see Harvey Dent come on!