|Rise Up O Flame
Author: Saavik13 PM
Sequel to Whene're, which is re-posted as chapter 1. Hermione survives the war, but happens next? Can she overcome her past and find a place to belong in a world that is still as flawed as it ever was? Wars can't fix everything; the struggle goes on.Rated: Fiction M - English - Angst/Romance - Severus S. & Hermione G. - Chapters: 9 - Words: 34,521 - Reviews: 64 - Favs: 27 - Follows: 46 - Updated: 02-19-12 - Published: 02-08-04 - id: 1724275
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter Eight: A Half-Penny Loaf Will Serve Us All
Two Years Later: 2013
Severus Snape, Headmaster, was not any less intimidating a man than Severus Snape, potions master. And little James Potter was not a very brave child. It was therefore surprising that the small 3rd year was comfortable in the dark paneled office at the top of the stairs. For his part, Severus was never sure if this was the cruelest of ironies or a long overdue gift of fate. Whatever the reason, for the first time in his life, Severus Snape had come to the reluctant conclusion that he enjoyed time spent with a child. It wasn't that James reminded him of Lily - the child was so far removed from her vivaciousness of spirit as to make any comparison laughable. Nor was the boy anything like his father or grandfather. In fact, Severus had never known a child quite like him, either from his own youth or the considerable time he'd spent at Hogwarts as an instructor.
Ever since James' first year when Prof. Granger had driven him to near hysteria, Severus found he had a frequent visitor. Apparently, Snape's dry humor and honest sarcasm were welcome after the fawning of his fellow students and the closely hidden disappointment of his family. Surprisingly, James' father, the famous Harry Potter, was only encouraging to his son. Potter did not care if James was a brave Gryffindor or a quiet Hufflepuff. He only cared that James was happy, healthy, and doing his best. His mother Ginerva and her family were not nearly so understanding. Sure, his Uncle Ron said it didn't matter, and tried to pretend it didn't, but James wasn't a fool. His Uncle George was slightly better at it, but he too seemed to always be just a touch sad whenever he saw the yellow and black instead of red and gold on his nephew's robes. Family gatherings were always tense for little James and Hogwarts had become something of a refuge for him. Severus knew that feeling only too well. So he gave James what he himself would have given so much for at that age - someone to talk to, someone that would listen without judging him, someone that did not ask for anything in return.
It was because of this, and because Headmaster Snape had always done his best to make sure James wasn't abused too overly much, that the small boy had decided that his loyalty lay with the dark sour man instead of his Uncle Percy. Even if the matter really had to do with Professor Granger and James did not like Professor Granger, in fact if it would only have affected him, he wouldn't mind if Uncle Percy made her go away for a long long time. But Headmaster Snape liked her. Maybe more then liked her, if James' suspicions were correct. And it would make Headmaster Snape upset if anything bad happened to the potions mistress. James didn't want that and since Percy was never very nice to him, never did anything to protect him, not like Snape had, James figured his headmaster had earned his loyalty. Blood could only get you so far, after all.
So, as soon as the welcome feast ended, James worked up his not very substantial courage and left the line of Hufflepuffs on their way to their common room and instead made for the spiral staircase. The headmaster greeted him with what for Snape was warmth and James quickly found himself with a cup of tea and a seat by a roaring fire in the alcove off to the side of the massive desk that dominated the room. The collection of portraits that lined the office were all dosing, expect for Dumbledore, who peered down at the two with curiosity. No matter how many times he'd seen the two odd companions having a quiet tea, it still amazed the portrait to no end.
"What is it, James?" Snape asked, his tone carefully neutral. "You do not generally seek me out so quickly at the start of term. I thought Professor Granger had been more hospitable since your first year. It hasn't to do with your family has it? I read that your mother was ill."
James looked down and away, staring at the flickering flames in the fireplace. "Mum's more than ill, sir. She's dying. But the papers have already run with all the details so I won't bother you with them. And that's not why I came." James faltered to a stop and looked up with large eyes, green eyes, and blinked worriedly at his headmaster. "Sir, you should know."
Snape raised an eyebrow and James swallowed heavily. "Sir, my uncle said something when he came over for dinner yesterday. I think...I think you should know."
"James, you don't have to play spy on your family for me. I don't want that from you." Snape insisted quietly. "I won't put you in that kind of a position."
"But, sir, Uncle Percy is going to arrest Professor Granger." James hunched down in his chair as the headmaster's eyes flashed dangerously. "He told mum about it. Dad was putting the baby down for the night or he'd have tried to talk him out of it. But mum's been mad at Professor Granger ever since first year when she was so nasty to me. I think my uncle told her to try and cheer her up - she'd had a bad time of it at the healers. Uncle Percy said he could prove Granger was hiding Dark Arts objects in Hogwarts. That someone had turned her in and that the aurors would be raiding Hogwarts tonight. They wanted to make sure all the students were here so there would be the maximum number of objects on the premises. Sir, they won't stop with Professor Granger or the Slytherins. They'll come after you next and they plan on searching all of us, no matter House. Uncle Percy and the Wizengamot have made so much illegal, sir, I'm scared what they will find. I know even some of us Hufflepuffs are hiding things here. I even brought grandfather's cloak this year because dad said it wasn't safe at home with Uncle Percy around so much."
Snape stood up quickly and started pacing his office. "James, if I do anything to stop this Percy will know you told me. Things are hard enough for you at home."
"Dad would have told you if he'd been the one to hear it. Dad says what Uncle Percy is doing is wrong. Uncle Ron and Uncle George agree. I'll be fine. But we can't let them do this!" James' eyes flashed a bright green. "They want to burn books! That's just evil! Uncle Percy wants to regulate everything. He even made Uncle George stop selling half of the WWW's inventory because it was 'disruptive'. What was the point of the war you and dad fought if we loose our freedom to Percy and men like him?"
"I have been asking myself that question for the last 12 years, James." Snape sighed. "I'll take care of this. I want you to go back to your common room and warn your house. I'll take care of the others. When you've done all you can, I want you to go to third floor corridor and the Room of Requirement. I'm sure your father explained all about it." James nodded. "When you get there, I want you to ask for a place to hide. Stay there until I come to get you. I don't care who comes in to look for you, stay hidden. I don't want your Uncle coming for you when he figures out what you've done. Your father will calm things down for you but he'll need time."
"Yes sir." James stood up and started to go, but Snape's hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"Thank you, James." The headmaster's dark eyes glittered with some unknown emotion. "You are starting to remind me greatly of your grandmother. She could never stand an injustice either. For the first time I can truly see her in you."
As soon as James was gone, Severus threw a handful of powder into the fireplace. "Malfoy Manner." He growled. "Draco!" He bellowed. "Draco, get your good for nothing arse over here!"
"I'm coming. I'm coming." The muted voice of his godson came through the flow. "What's the disaster?" Draco's disheveled head appeared in the flames.
"Percy is planning on raiding the school. The entire school. I need you. We've got maybe an hour to get everything bolted down."
"Right." Draco ran a hand through his hair. "I'll be there with a legal injunction as soon as I can. At this hour it's going to take some time to track down enough of the Wizengamotto sign off on it - especially since they had to approve of this to start with. I'm going to have to strong-arm them into reversing their decision. It's going to take a lot of blackmail." Draco eyed him hopefully.
Snape frowned and snapped his fingers. A grey looking house-elf in a warn but well made pillowcase popped into being. "Haverd, I need you to take the small wooden chest from my wardrobe and deliver it to Mr. Malfoy here. Discreetly."
"Yes master Severus." Haverd the house-elf bowed low. "Anything else I can do for you?"
"Tell the others it is time. Have them go to the Houses and secure what needs to be hidden." Snape pinched the bridge of his nose. "I must go warn Hermione."
Haverd bowed again and popped away. Snape turned back to Draco. "Move fast. I'm told they plan to arrest her. I can hide the students, but I cannot hide her. She won't let me."
Draco frowned. "I can't promise anything, Severus. But I will try."
- - - / - - -/ - - -
"Hermione, you have to be reasonable about this. You know the Ministry has been after me for years. When you took over Slytherin and kept them from raiding you knew they'd come after you too. I have the protection of the castle as Headmaster to keep them from arresting me. You do not have that protection. The best we can do is keep you hidden until Draco can get the Wizengamotto reverse the warrant. I gave him enough blackmail to take down half the lot but he'll still need time to work."
Hermione shook her head. "No, Severus. I will not hide like a rat and cower behind a line of students. I did not fight a war only to be arrested by that prick Percy for doing nothing more then protecting broken bobbles and children's books."
Snape sighed. "Hermione, I can't protect you!"
"Who's asking you to?" Hermione sat down heavily and put her head in her hands. "What happened to fighting with a wand? I was good at that. This political insanity is not what I was trained for." She looked back and her jaw tightened. "But I will fight them, Severus. If Percy Weasley wants to arrest me and drag me before the Wizengamotthen so be it. I have done nothing illegal. His raid here will turn up nothing. He'll be made a fool of. And I will gladly pay to watch, even if that payment is a year in Azkaban while I wait for it. I made it out of Malfoy's dungeons. The Ministry can do nothing to me that hasn't already been done."
"Hermione," Snape started to argue but at the look of determination on her face he gave up. Instead, he dropped to his knees in front of her, taking her hands into his. "You do not have to do this alone. Ronald and I, we will do everything we can from here."
"I know." Hermione squeezed his hands. "And I expect Draco as well, if for no reason then taking down Percy will give him some personal satisfaction. Just, whatever you do, do not bring back that incompetent ninny Slughorn to teach my classes."
Snape smiled grimly. "I promise." The wards on the school quivered and Snape cringed. "They are coming."
Hermione smoothed her robes and took up her teacup. "Let them come."
- - -/ - - - / - - -
"Percy, you prick, what have you done now?" Harry Potter growled at the Minister of Magic.
Percy pushed his glasses back up his nose and frowned at the Headmaster of Hogwarts and the Boy Who Lived across his desk. "Really, Harry. I thought Ginny would have told you about this sooner. I have evidence that Hermione Granger was hiding Dark Artifacts at Hogwarts. I have a witness that has sworn under Veritaserum that he gave her two dark books to be hidden and that she did so freely."
Snape snorted. "Dark books? I would wager they were merely older tomes that most likely referenced nothing more sinister then blood magic. If you hadn't let the aurors run wild burning tomes without proper authority or identification we wouldn't be in this mess."
"Sex magic as a matter of fact." Percy corrected lightly. "And as you know, all sex magic, and blood magics for that matter, were deemed dark after the downfall of the Dark Lord. All materials that reference such magics are to be turned over to the Ministry for disposal."
Harry rubbed his forehead and sat down heavily in the hard wooden chair in front of the minister's desk. "Percy, I know you like to follow rules, but this is Hermione we're talking about. She helped bring down Voldemort. Do you honest think she's a dark witch? She probably hide those books because they were one of a kind. And you know Hermione and books. There's no way she'd let you burn knowledge like that. Besides, we both know sex magic isn't dark if it's done consensually and if it wasn't for blood magic I wouldn't be alive. The spell my mother used to protect me was clearly blood magic but hardly evil for Merlin's sake!"
"Be that as it may, both are legally dark no matter purpose or consent." Percy pursed his lips. "And Ms. Granger is in direct violation of Ministry edict."
"Prove it." Snape smirked and calmly took a seat next to Potter. "Your little raid of Hogwarts didn't turn up so much as a leaf of 'dark' magic text. Nor any other object your edicts have deemed to be questionable. You searched every student and every room. You have nothing."
"Every student but James Potter." Percy frowned at Harry. "We have yet to locate your son. Harry, you know he had to have warned them. He must have heard me talking to Ginny and gave Granger a warning in time to hide the items."
"Hermione and James are not exactly friends, Percy." Harry sighed. "What would you have done if you'd found him anyway?"
"Arrested him of course! He passed information to the enemy."
Harry's jaw dropped. "You plan to arrest my son! My 14-year-old son! What kind of man are you, Percy? I always knew you were an arse but this is unconscionable! You plan to go after Sirius next? He's 10 you know. He says he wants to be Minister. Might be competition."
"This is not a joking matter, Harry." Percy frowned. "And I do have serious concerns about young Sirius. He is quite unconventional in his interests for one so young and with Ginny's condition deteriorating I fear for his wellbeing."
"Leave Ginny out of this!" Harry stood up and leaned over the desk, his eyes flashing darkly. "Listen to me now, Percival Weasley. You come near my son, either of them, and you will learn exactly how foolish it is to cross Harry Potter. I did not survive the war by luck alone, you weasel. I don't care about Ministry regulations, or decrees, or your pointless witch hunt. You can start your own Spanish Inquisition, Weasley, but you will leave my family out of it. And you will leave Hermione Granger alone. She's done more for this world then your sorry arse ever will."
Percy stood up slowly. "I do not condone threats, Potter."
"And I don't make them." Harry stood up straight and glared, his eyes raking over Percy's taller form dismissively. "I've warned you. What happens next is up to you."
Harry turned on his heel and stormed out of the office leaving Snape sitting quietly in his chair, a small smirk on his mouth. The Minister turned to look at the headmaster and frowned. "Do you intend to threaten me as well?"
"No." Snape stood up slowly and pulled his robes tightly around himself. "I have no need to Weasley. You just pissed off the Boy Who Lived and what's left of the Order of the Phoenix. Merlin, even your own family is not likely to come to your defense once they learn you intend to arrest James. Come for me and for the school whenever you like. You know well what happened to the last wizard who attempted to take Hogwarts by force. We are not answerable to the Ministry. The Founders meant us to be independent and if we need return to that state, to exist outside of Ministry regulation, we can and we will. As for Hermione, you have no evidence against her and you will find none. Your so-called witness will be discredited. The Wizengamot will have no choice but to free her. You over estimated your hand, Weasley."
"We will see, Snape. We will see."
- - - / - - - / - - -
"You shouldn't have come."
"Hermione," Harry sighed softly, "I'm going to get you out of here." He turned and nodded at Snape where he stood behind him in the dank hallway. "Azkaban is no place for a hero of the war."
Hermione snorted. "I'm no hero, Harry. I was a foul and a child."
"You can't expect me to sit by and let them put you on trial?" Harry gripped the cell bars tightly. "Hermione, I know we aren't on the best of terms, but I can't let Percy do this to you."
Hermione shook her head. "Take care of the boys, Harry. From what Severus just told me, Percy's going to go after James hard and if he's trying to use Ginny's illness to get his mitts on Sirius things are going to get bad -fast."
"I agree." Snape growled. "James is protected for now, but if Percy intends to use Ginerva's indisposition to gain custody of Sirius you will be needed at home."
"If people knew what was going on..." Harry started but Hermione interrupted him.
"They'd turn on you just like they have before. Harry, go home. Get your kids out of there and make sure Ginny's as comfortable as you can make her."
Harry blinked hard, moister gathering in his eyes. "Ginny asked to see you. She wanted to tell you she's sorry for how things happened."
Hermione bit her lip. "It wasn't her fault, Harry. Just, take care of her please. You'd think that with all our magic we'd have a cure for cancer by now but we're no better off then the muggles."
"Worse really." Harry sighed. "I didn't even know witches got breast cancer. Apparently we don't even do screenings. If she'd been going to muggle doctors they might have caught it in time."
"Too many ifs in life, Harry." Hermione smiled sadly. "Now go home. Severus and Draco have this covered."
Harry looked about to argue but at the glower on Snape's face decided it wasn't worth it. Without another word, he turned and left leaving his former professor to make his own way home from Azkaban.
As soon as Harry disappeared around the corner, Hermione slumped into the bars. "Severus, you've got to get Sirius out of there. If Percy told Harry he was going after him, then he's already got a plan. Percy is many things, but he's not stupid. He knows Harry's a threat and going after the kids is the only chance he's got to control Harry, especially with Ginny so sick."
"I know." Severus glanced around and lowered his voice. "I have it in hand, Hermione. I cannot tell you more. Not here. How are you doing?"
"Peachy." Hermione sighed heavily. "Azkaban without dementors is still unpleasant but I'll manage. I trust you have something in place for that as well?"
"Of course." Snape smirked. "Your trial is set to start tomorrow."
"Good. I always preferred to get these sort of things over with."
- - - / - - - / - - -
The courtroom was packed when Hermione was lead in. The ubiquitous changed chair was front and center and Hermione lowered herself to sit in it as if it was a thrown. Draco Malfoy stood and moved to her side, acting in her defense. A nervous looking former student, one Harold Fleswanger sat in the witness box and Hermione raised her eyebrow at him. Severus smirked. The boy had barely managed two NEWTS the previous year and had been quite vocal in his displeasure when Hermione had refused to recommend him for a position at St. Mungos. He was also a former Gryffindor.
The trial went surprisingly quickly. Fleswanger gave his evidence, stating under veritaserum that he gave two dark books to Hermione to protect, and was questioned by the Wizengamot. Percy seemed to realize early on that things were not going as well as he'd hoped. Several prominent members of the Wizengamotwere not talking and refused to meet his eye. And Draco was looking overly confident.
Severus watched Hermione with pride as she sat emotionless, the ridiculously oversized chains wrapped tightly around her. She had given Lucius no quarter and she'd give the Ministry dogs none either.
Percy Weasley finally stood and adjusted his robes before turning to her. "What do you have to say in your defense?"
Hermione smirked. "Percy, you rampaging idiot. Did you even ask that nearly magicless lout the titles?"
Percy stiffened. Draco moved forward. "Mr. Fleswanger, please tell us the titles of the books in question?"
Fleswanger's mouth opened and closed. The Veritaserum would not let him lie.
Draco's grin was positively gleeful. "Do you know the titles?"
Fleswanger looked pained. "No."
"So you gave Professor Granger two books to protect without knowing their titles?"
"I don't remember them. But they had something about sex magic in them! That's why I wanted to hide them."
"But you never read them?"
"No! Of course not."
"So you have no idea of the actual contents of these books?"
"My father had them hidden! And we all know how evil he was."
Draco smirked. "Really? Your father was one Mr. Septumus Fleswanger was he not?"
"And Mr. Fleswanger was never convicted of any crime, was he?"
"Well no. But neither was Snape and it's common knowledge he was a Death Eater. And so were you."
Draco raised an eyebrow and the left sleeve of his robe. "No mark, I assure you. As for Severus Snape, he was vouched for by Albus Dumbledore himself. Now, if you have no clue what the contents of the books were, and you cannot remember the titles, then the only evidence you have that they were dark in nature is that your father hide them? If you felt so strongly about the contents, why not turn them over to the Ministry?"
Fleswanger's mouth closed. Draco smirked. "Come now, Fleswanger. You must answer."
He fought the veritaserum for a few moments before he spit out an answer. "Because I thought I might need them one day."
The court broke out in whispers. "You thought you might need them one day." Draco tusked. "So you took what you thought were Dark books to a school to hide them?"
"So the authorities wouldn't get them."
"Professor Granger said something to you, didn't she, when you gave her the books? What was it?"
Fleswanger tried to fight it again but it was useless. "She said she didn't think the Ministry would care about them." The courtroom broke out in murmurs again. "She said she'd take them, however, since she didn't think I was old enough to read them."
Draco nodded. "Thank you, Mr. Fleswanger, for finally being honest. Headmaster, do you have anything to add?"
Snape stood up and turned to face the Wizengamot. Percy made to object but his father cleared his throat and Percy reluctantly retook his seat. Snape sneered. "When the identify of the so called witness was revealed I was able to locate the books in question." The crowd erupted. Snape glared and they quickly quieted. "The Ministry aurors walked right by them. Professor Granger had them added to the library as a donation in Mr. Fleswanger's name." Snape pulled two books out of his pocket and handed them to one of the court aurors. "The titles are, for the record, A history of Sex Magic and The Lore of Seduction: Dark Arts, Sex Magic, and the Rise of Merlin. The books are historical in nature, Minister, and contain no spells, incantations, potions, or other instructions on magical practice. Mr. Septumus Fleswanger was an imminent historian and likely had these tomes hidden so his young children would not read them. Just as Prof. Granger had the books placed under restriction in our library at Hogwarts."
From there things went quickly. Snape watched with barely contained delight as the Wizengamot turned on Weasley. They clearly did not appreciate being brought together for something so innocent as the donation of history books. Hermione kept her face calm until Percy reluctantly ordered her released. As soon as the chains fell away she sneered at him. Snape came forward and took her arm, silently leading her out of the courtroom. Arthur Weasley clearly wanted to say something to her, but Snape didn't give him the chance. If he'd really cared he would have checked on her before now.
Draco, Snape, and Hermione made it back to Hogwarts in record time.
"I don't know what to say." Hermione sighed heavily before sitting down slowly in one of the plush chairs in the headmaster's sitting room.
Draco sneered. "Oh how about, I Hermione Granger owe Draco Malfoy a wizarding debt?"
"How about, I Hermione Granger, promise not to hex one Draco Malfoy for being an arse - good for the next half hour."
"I see Azkaban hasn't improved your disposition." Draco frowned. "Come on. Admit you owe us."
"Hardly." Hermione sniffed. "If you and Severus hadn't gotten me cleared of all charges, he'd have to run this school without me. And we all know how impossible that would be. And if Severus was that stressed, he'd turn to you for help. And you DO owe him a debt. So you'd have to help out. Prof. Malfoy - it does have a nice sound to it."
Draco paled. "Do not even threaten that. I may no longer have a shot at Minister, but I'm still rich. I have no desire to live in this hellish damp castle and teach a lot of incompetent whining babies."
"At least I did teach you something." Snape muttered. "Draco, why don't you go home? I'm sure your wife and children have missed your company."
"Amelia and the boys are in France for the month." Draco shrugged. "I didn't want them here in case the trial went badly and the Wizengamot turned on me instead of freeing Hermione. Blackmail can backfire you know."
"What did this cost you?" Hermione asked softly.
"We have exhausted our leverage." Severus sat down heavily across from her. "That was the last of it. If Weasley tries anything else, I'm afraid we have little to bargain with. And since the Wizengamot fell on our side only because of what we threatened them with, next time they are likely to be twice as harsh. We must keep a low profile."
"What about Potter?" Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose. "Percy's still after him."
Severus frowned. "I have James under my protection. I invoked an old ward that will keep James from being forcibly removed from the grounds. So long as he stays within Hogwarts wards, Weasley can't get his hands on him. But I'm concerned. James knows his mother's health is rapidly declining. He wants to be with her."
"Weasley is watching the Potter house." Draco shook his head sadly. "If that boy gets within a league of the place he'll be arrested. And Ginerva's too weak to be moved."
"That poor child." Hermione whipped her eyes swiftly. "I've been such a beast to him and he's going through this to help me."
"No I'm not." A soft voice said from behind her.
Hermione turned and found James Potter standing in the doorway to Severus' guest rooms, a blanket wrapped around his slim shoulders.
"He's been staying here." Severus admitted softly. "I know that most of the students are on our side in this, but I couldn't risk one of them stunning him and taking him off grounds while I was away at your trial."
"I'm glad your safe, professor." James came closer and Hermione could see the tear streaks on his face. "But I didn't do this for you." James turned to Severus and looked him squarely in the eye. "I did this because you have always been there for me, headmaster. And I know what Uncle Percy is doing is wrong and it would have hurt you. You care a lot about Prof. Granger - I know you do. We all see it. And you care a lot about this school and about all of us students. I couldn't let Uncle Percy get away with it."
"James," Severus started to speak but the boy held up his hand.
"Please, sir, don't tell me it's stupid. I know it's stupid. I know what this means. Uncle Percy will arrest me - someday. And that's okay. But you've got to promise something." James' green eyes fairly glowed in the flickering light of the fireplace. "Dad's going to ask you for a favor. When he does, you have to promise me you'll do your best to grant it."
Severus' eyes narrowed. "What aren't you tell us, James?"
"Only what I can't, professor." James closed his eyes. "If something happens, and Uncle Percy arrests me, dad will do something about it. And there are some things that will come to light when he does - unless you help him."
"And what makes you think I'd help Harry Potter?" Severus asked darkly.
James opened his eyes. "You won't. But you'll help his sons. I don't know why, sir, but I do know you will. And my brother will need you. Dad will do what he can for me, but that will mean Sirius won't have him there to protect him. And my sister's still a baby."
"Protect him from what?" Hermione asked sharply. "What could your brother possibly need protection from?"
James turned sad eyes to her before looking away. "Everything." With that the child walked out of the room, returning to his bed in the guest quarters.
"Well, he's got a penitent for the dramatic." Draco drawled.
"It's secret kept." Hermione narrowed her eyes at the empty doorway. "I could smell it."
"What the devil could be so important about a 10 year old that Potter would use a Fidelus?" Severus glared at the fire. "James has never spoken much about his brother. I assumed it was because they are four years apart. I thought perhaps he saw him as a responsibility he was glad to escape during school."
"No," Draco shook his head. "There's something else going on. Potter was asking me some rather odd questions during our prep for the trial. He asked if he could borrow a few things from the Malfoy Library - and not the one most people know about either. He wanted things from father's personal collection. He wouldn't tell me what. He just asked to be left alone down there to look around. He looked so desperate I made him take an oath not to breath a word of its existence to anyone and apparated him into it. He spent almost twelve hours down there before he signaled he was ready to leave."
"What the hell could Harry need Dark books for?" Hermione bit her lip. "And what in the world could it have to do with his son? Or do you think he's stupid enough to try and use Dark Arts to save Ginny?"
"It's Potter. I always lean towards stupid." Severus sighed. "But James wouldn't be acting like this if his father was planning something like that. And it's not Ginny the issue centers on. It's Sirius."
"Well, we'll find out more next year." Hermione reasoned. "He turns eleven soon."
"I'm not sticking around to find out." Draco sneered. "Since I was the one who made all the blackmail threats, I'm heading out to join my family for a while. I want to make sure everything's calm before I show my face around here. Weasley's already trying to find some reason to arrest me. This will only make him more convinced I'm out to get him."
"You are." Hermione and Severus responded and Draco laughed.
"Yes, but that's not the point. Try and stay out of trouble for at least the next six months will you two? I need a vacation."
"Take care, Draco." Hermione hugged him quickly. "I really can't thank you enough."
Draco's eyes clouded. "You know, I knew he had you." Hermione stiffened. "Father told me he had a Gryffindor with frizzy hair when we met for tea in Hogsmeade...I knew." Draco looked down and shook his head. "I didn't help you then, Granger. I couldn't. The best thing I could do was pretend I didn't know who he was talking about. I wasn't about to risk my neck to try and rescue you. Besides, classes were in session and if I showed up at the manor he'd have known something was off. And you weren't the first. Or the last." Draco looked back up and caught his godfather's eye. "I never told anyone I knew. I figured what was the point? It's probably a good thing I didn't know you were pregnant. If I had, I might have said something, tried to get something for the information. I've never been a good person." He turned back to Hermione and didn't flinch from her hard stare. "A person can regret a lot of things, Granger, and ten years is a long time to learn exactly how much. I stayed out of the war as much as I could, but none of us escaped it totally. We all have debts we owe. Severus pays for them in his way. I used to think that I paid for mine as an unspeakable, all the shitty nasty things they have to do to keep us all secret from the muggles and safe from each other, I figured that was my payment. Now that's gone and all I'm left with is the fact that nothing I do will ever make up for what I didn't do back then."
"If you'd tried to come after me you'd have died." Hermione insisted softly. "Besides, I wasn't a friend to you then. I was the annoying mudblood that kept getting higher marks then you."
"Doesn't excuse any of it, Granger. Don't pretend it does. I may have done nothing since you were nothing to me, but I did nothing plenty of times when they were friends too. Yours wasn't the only cell."
"War is hell." Hermione insisted. "I don't blame you for self preservation, Draco. But I can't forgive you either. I still thank you for what you did for me this time. That at least is in my power."
Draco ran a shaky hand through his hair. "I thought all this would end with us, you know? Now Potter's kids are caught up in our mess and it's only a matter of time till mine are as well. Does this crap never stop?"
Hermione sighed. "If it did, we'd only invent some new insanity to take its place. Humans cannot stand utopia, Draco."
- - - / - - -/ - - -
Two weeks later and things had settled back into something close to the normal order of things at Hogwarts. Hermione was back teaching potions, much the relief of the students who had decided that as bad as her temper was, it was nothing compared to the headmaster in the classroom. James Potter was back in the Hufflepuff dorms, much the hero it would seem for his actions in warning the school about his uncle's ill-advised plans. Even though the boy was confined to Hogwarts for the foreseeable future, in all it wasn't a bad situation except for his mother.
Ginny Potter was at deaths door.
James was handling the situation as well or better then one could expect a 14 year old boy to be. He was sullen and moody. His grades had hit an all time low. And his normally even temperament had given way to almost violent fits of anger at the smallest provocation. The worst part was his accidental magic. Like his father, it seemed the boy was given to emotional magical outbursts and several classes had been disrupted by these unpredictable out lettings of stress - and one hallway would never quite be the same since even house-elf magic didn't want to remove the scorch marks.
Of course, these accidental magical bursts only made James more a public figure then ever before. His knew celebrity status for his timely warning combined with his birth father's history and his suddenly exposed power levels had long reaching ramifications. Reporters were constantly trying to get to the boy, both to witness what were becoming legendary displays of powerful uncontrolled magic, and to see if they could get a few words from the boy about his mother's impending death.
Since students blowing things up, accidently or intentionally, was nothing new at Hogwarts, and since Snape had been dealing with reporters for what felt like an eternity - ever since his trial all those years ago at the end of the Dark Lord's first reign, things felt rather normal.
Of course, the fact that James Potter still came to have tea with him twice a week wasn't exactly normal at least not a normal that had existed for any great length of time. But Severus still liked the boy, even if he did cause mass destruction at least once a day. The pitiful look of contriteness on his face afterwards was oddly endearing. And Severus knew well enough what it was like to loose one's mother. Of course, he hadn't known it was it coming when he was James' age, but he knew the pain well enough. And he knew what it was like to be alone and scared at 14 knowing you no longer had something everyone else did - someone nearly everyone else had. Oh, Severus knew that pain all too well. So he continued to sit and talk with James whenever he needed it.
For her part, Hermione had let up on the boy. She'd even gone so far as to join them for tea once and to tell James a few stories from her youth. He'd listened, clearly relishing the chance to hear about his parents when they were young, but the sadness in his eyes never went away.
Things outside of Hogwarts, however, were a far cry from normal. All news from the Potter house had dried up a week after Hermione's trial. No letters had come for James, and Ron wasn't able to learn anything when he apparated to the house. The Ministry had warded the place so that no one could get in or out except the healers - for the Potter's privacy they said. The fact that the Weasley clan couldn't get in to see Ginny on her deathbed couldn't be excused away as 'privacy concerns' however. The newspapers had stopped covering the Potter residence in favor of stories on James and things were rapidly beginning to have a feeling of déjà. The Prophet was going after James like they'd gone after Harry during his youth - story after story questioned the boy's sanity, his allegiance to the light, and his loyalty to his family.
None of that did Snape have control over however, so as long as the happenings inside the castle were as normal as it was possible for Hogwarts to get, he was happy.
The dark crow that dropped a crumpled piece of cheap muggle paper on his desk a good three hours after nightfall was not normal.
Severus eyed the missive with distain. The crow made an indignant squawk before it flew off. After checking to see if the paper was cursed, Severus opened it to find a single sentence written in muggle pen.
Meet me at the kitchen table.
It took a moment to place the handwriting. It had been years since he'd had to pick out Potter's horrific scrawl. But there it was. Harry Potter's inelegant hand giving him a cryptic message.
Severus frowned. Kitchen table...what could the brat mean? Clearly not the Hogwarts kitchens, he'd have felt the school wards tingle if someone had breached them without permission. He had the entire school on high alert to keep out the Ministry and the reporters. But what other table...it came to him suddenly and he closed his eyes to absorb the realization. Potter could only mean Grimmauld Place. The only kitchen table that both of them had ever sat at together was in its kitchen. And Potter had vowed to never enter that house again after Black's death. And he'd kept to his word as far as anyone in the Order knew. They'd had to abandon the place when Potter refused to take ownership at the mutt's death. They couldn't maintain the complex net of blood wards without him.
Snape didn't waste time. He left a quick note for Hermione telling her he was going out and apparated to the park across from the old headquarters. There was no one around, being so late into the evening, and Severus slipped in through the door without incident. The meager wards they'd left behind were dulled with age and neglect but they felt intact. They were only meant to stop muggle thieves and the like from scavenging the place, but Snape tapped into them anyway to see if the house had been disturbed at all since he and Albus had shut the door so many years ago. A single incident flared in the wards and Snape knew he'd been right. Someone had entered the house not an hour ago and was still inside.
He found Potter in the kitchen. The ancient stove was lighted for heat and the infant Potter, a girl- Severus couldn't remember her name - was in a muggle carrier on the table. Sirius Potter was sitting in the corner, asleep against the cabinet doors. Their father, however, was slumped over the table, his head resting on his hands and Severus could see his shoulders shaking from the doorway.
"Potter." Severus called softly and the man jerked upright, his eyes red and still moist. "What is it?"
Potter wiped angrily at his eyes and Snape noticed for the first time that Potter's wand was clutched in his hand. "Ginny's dead." Harry whispered. Severus eyed the children and Harry shook his head. "I gave Sirius a sleeping draught. He'll be out for at least another 12 hours. And Molly can sleep through anything."
Severus nodded and moved to take a seat across the dusty table from his former student. "I take it you escaped quietly from the house and made it here to hide."
"No." Harry clutched his wand tighter but made no move to raise it. "I killed two aurors and ran like hell to meet you. I'll hide later."
Severus' eyebrow met his hairline. "You killed two aurors?"
Harry's jaw tightened. "They wanted to take my children. I couldn't let them do that."
"You had better explain from the beginning." Snape eyed the wand still clutched in Potter's hand. "And will you put that away? I hear you say you killed two people tonight, I'd feel better if that wasn't so prominently displayed."
"Three. I killed three people." Harry whispered. He slowly pried his fingers open and with great care put his wand back into his pocket. "I had to." Severus didn't say anything. Harry's head dropped and he slowly began to speak.
"Ginny wasn't getting better, but she wasn't getting worse either. The healers were keeping her just this side of alive but the pain was agonizing. She...she asked me to do it." Harry looked up, tears sliding down his cheeks. "She was in so much pain, Snape. Can you understand that? She wasn't going to get better. There wasn't a miracle cure. There was just more pain and more humiliation and it was going to just keep going and going... She'd begged the healers to stop their treatments, to let her go. But they were under orders from Percy to keep her alive. He didn't want to lose his sister."
Severus closed his eyes. "I understand, Potter. I do not envy you that choice."
"I didn't want to do it." Harry cried out loudly, banging his fist on the table. The baby sputtered for a moment but didn't wake. Harry's entire body shivered and the fire in the stove flared. "She begged me..."
"Then what happened?"
Harry turned to look at Sirius. "If I tell you something, Snape, you have to promise me you'll do everything you can for him." He turned dark eyes towards the headmaster and Snape had to contain a shiver at the desperation in them. "He's just a child, Snape. He doesn't know what he's doing."
"When have I ever not aided a child, Potter?" Snape eyed the sleeping child. "What in Merlin's name can both you and James be so concerned over? He's just a 10 year old boy."
"He's a necromancer." Harry whispered and Snape's head shot around. "Sirius, he's...he's been calling people since he was old enough to crawl."
"That's impossible." Severus managed to croak, his voice gone in shock. "Necromancy takes decades of practice."
"He was born with it." Harry insisted softly. "Imagine my shock when I walked into the nursery and saw my dead mother standing over his crib. He'd seen her picture on the mantle apparently, and wondered why she was never at the house. Mum explained what happened..."
"You talked to Lily?"
Harry smiled ruefully. "I talk to a lot of dead people, Snape. When Siri is awake there's nearly a constant parade. We had a devil of a time hiding it from everyone and he's the main reason we've never come back to the wizarding world. We used to have to drug him before taking him to family gatherings just in case. When he was old enough we explained he couldn't do that in public, only when it was just us could he risk it. It took a while to make him understand. But with Ginny..." Harry broke off, a sob cutting off his speech. He took several deep breaths. "His mother just died, Snape. He's going to call her, intentionally or not. It's hard for him to control when he's emotional. All he has to do is think he'd like to speak to someone and bang they show up."
"That could be awkward."
"Riddle was bad enough alive. Nearly died of a heart attack when Siri called him up to ask him his side of the story." Harry shivered. "We've had aurors crawling all over the place since Hermione's trial. They want James arrested. Since we won't pull him from Hogwarts...we wouldn't..." Harry blinked slowly. "Ginny knew I wouldn't leave until she passed. And Siri was having a hard time controlling his gift, it's especially hard when he's stressed. It was only a matter of time until he slipped up and one of the aurors or Percy caught him. She was in so much pain, Severus, and Siri...we couldn't wait anymore."
"So you killed her and the aurors on guard, grabbed the children, and ran." Severus finished softly.
"That's the overview, yes." Harry sighed. "I need you to promise me you'll look after him. Molly could go to the Weasleys and she'd be alright. I'd prefer if you'd take her to Ron, but if you can't I'll drop her off with Arthur. But Siris can't be out in the open. I need him secure."
"You want me to take him to Hogwarts, to extend the same protection to him that I did to James." Snape stated.
"Yes." Harry's eyes burned brightly in the flickering light of the stove. "His talent is under Fidelus, you can't tell anyone about it, but the charm won't hide it if he does something. And if someone catches him, they won't be under the spell restriction. There was no way to extend it to cover the full situation. I know the first thing he's going to do when he wakes up and finds out Ginny is dead will be to call her. I can't have him at the Weasleys when he does that."
"Who else knows?"
"Only James. Ginny and I didn't let on to a soul. She knew what Percy would do with the information. But, he suspects something. That's why he's trying to get the Wizengamot to take custody."
Snape's eyes narrowed. "So I take the boy and the babe. What do you intend to do?"
Harry's eyes hardened. "I intend to end this. Percy won't stop until he has my children, Snape. And he'll know Ginny didn't die of natural causes. I had to burn her body and scatter the ashes just in case. It's one thing if Siri calls her spirit. We couldn't risk him trying to bring her back. He's just a kid. I don't know what he'll do."
"You are going to call Percy out, aren't you?"
"Yes." Harry hissed. "I've had enough of this insanity. While Ginny was alive I couldn't bring myself to challenge her brother. But she's dead and this has to end. It may take me a while to get close enough to invoke a duel. He's under constant guard and it's not like I can send him an owl. I'll need to be within arms length to challenge."
Snape frowned. "You might loose. And even if you win, duels are illegal. The Wizengamotwill have to prosecute you - Boy Who Lived or not. You'll spend the rest of your life in Azkaban."
"Better me then Sirius." Harry affirmed. "So I need you to promise me you'll protect them."
Severus stared into Potters eyes, into Lily's eyes, and for the second time in his life he uttered the same damning oath. "I will do everything in power to protect your son and see he grows up as safely as possible, you have my word and my oath as a wizard."
The air hissed with magic as the oath took hold and Harry's eyes shined again with tears. "Thank you, professor. Thank you from the bottom of my soul." Harry pulled his wand out and pointed it a small scar on his left palm. "I'll need to transfer the Fidelus to you. If Percy wins, or I get caught, I can't risk the Fidelus ending with my death." Snape nodded and Harry muttered the incantation, a slip of gossamer silver light slipping from the scar to settle onto Snape's chest where it disappeared with a warm tingle.
Harry gave a mirthless laugh as he saw it fade away. "You know, professor, no matter what, it seems like blood magic and I just keep coming into contact."
"Few people even know that Fidelus is blood magic." Snape agreed softly as the magic of the transference spell suffused slowly through his system. "I'm surprised you knew how to perform one."
"Hermione taught me." Harry smiled grimly. "It was the last spell we worked on together, before she was captured. She said I had to know in case I ever needed to hide something. In retrospect, I think she was trying to tell me she was pregnant, trying to prepare me for that, but I was too stupid to see it." Harry sighed heavily. "Please thank her for me, will you? I know I haven't been there for her, and that I've been a horrible git about everything. But without her I couldn't have protected Sirius."
"I'll tell her." Snape promised.
Harry nodded and stood up, his chair scrapping the rough floor. "Sirius knew before he went to sleep that Ginny wasn't going to be alive when he woke up. She asked him to take the draught first so he wouldn't feel her passing. We don't know what that would have done to him. He's so young and there's so little written about necromancy, even Malfoy didn't have much on it." Harry trailed off, his eyes slipping closed in grief. "Please don't let him wake up alone, Snape." Harry turned bright eyes back to his former professor. "If I know Sirius, he'll start calling people as soon as he wakes, trying to find Ginny. It may be difficult to stay in the room. I can't promise who will come. When he's desperate anybody can answer him. It's usually Mum or Sirius Black, but dad's come a few times and so has Hedwig of all things. It's like they are somehow extra attached to him. Mum says they try and protect him from the other side, stop most of the bad things he could see or call."
Snape shivered. "I'll stay right next to him till he's awake." Snape stood up and moved to the baby's carrier. "I'll want to tell Hermione the truth. I'll need her help to hide them."
"Might as well tell Ron too. He's not half as stupid as he pretends to be. He'll figure it out. So will Neville." Harry chuckled. "So much for Ginny and I's darkest secret. We hid him from everyone for ten years and now, in less then 24 hours, you'll be telling half of Scotland."
"Not half, Potter. But I will need allies, especially if we have a shot in hell of keeping you from getting Kissed."
Harry's mouth quirked. "I notice you haven't tried to talk me out of killing Percy."
"Honestly," Snape muttered, "the thought had crossed my mind several times. You'll being doing us a favor." Snape sighed and shook his head. "I can hide children within the school, the wards will protect them. But I can't hide adults. If I could..."
"Thanks, Snape." Harry smirked. "Who would have ever pictured this?"
"Shut up, Potter, and get going." Snape growled, pointing his wand at the still sleeping Sirius. "I have to apparate two children and myself across half of Britain and you need to find a better hiding place. Percy will look here soon enough when he figures out what you've done."
"Don't worry." Harry smiled down at his son where he floated next to the potion master. "Good thing about having a necromancer for a son is having the undead help you plan. My godfather was rather good at hiding. I'll be safe until I can make my move."
"See to it that you are." Snape eyed him again. "Good luck, Potter."
"And to you, Snape."
Harry left first and Snape waited a solid two minutes before he followed the man outside. Things were still quiet but Snape didn't waste any time apparating away. It wasn't until he was safe on Hogwarts land, and met by a scowling Hermione at the gates, that he breathed a sigh of relief.
"What in Merlin's name is going on?" Hermione eyed the muggle baby carrier in Snape's arms and the floating form of Sirus and her eyes grew large. "What is that foul planning?"
"Something courageous and utterly Gryffindor." Snape answered back sharply. "Now help me get Sirius up to my rooms. And summon James and Ronald. I've got to put a firecall into Draco. I think we'll need all of them for what's coming."
A/N: Sorry for the long delay in finishing this story. I have a lot of PIP out there and I made a promise, in one of my Star Trek stories, that I'd finish all of these before I started posting any more chapter stories. Now that I finished Allocations, which was a very long ST piece, I've selected this story to be next in my 'complete all the stuff left hanging' mission. Two more chapters stand after this. Thank you to all my readers that have hung in there waiting for me to get back to this story.