Chapter Seven – Who is he heir of Slytherin?

October had been a long month! According to Bella, and the dirty looks Potter gave him at every opportunity, the boy had obviously not understood his intention behind the Slytherin pitch invasion and clearly blamed him for being complicit with Malfoy. Miss Granger had taken to harassing him by letter about the history and protocol for a deathday party the trio had somehow been invited to and now this…..

Snape stood, obscured by the darkness of the corridor, mentally debating if he should intervene or just leave them to deal with whatever mess they'd stumbled into this time. He was sorely tempted to stay hidden in the shadows but then he witnessed the intense looks Weasley and Granger were shooting Potter. Something was definitely not right with the Gryffindors, which, added to Malfoys gloating exclamation, the use of that abhorrent word, the cryptic message daubed on the wall and the plight Mrs Norris found herself in, meant he could not just simply walk away.

He watched with detached feelings as Dumbledore removed the cat and then reluctantly followed the others to the blonde buffoon's office. He did nothing to hide his disgust at the self-indulgent, narcissistic adornment of the new defense teachers office and under normal circumstances nothing short of the imperious curse would make him cross the threshold – how he longed for a normal day! Looming at the back of the room he watched with a sneer as the portrait Lockharts' fled out of sight, if only the puffed up, self- important one strutting around in front of him would do the same.

While Dumbledore examined the cat, Snape cast around the recesses of his mind for any mention of a chamber of secrets but had to conclude the phrase meant nothing to him. Just as he thought he could bear no more of Lockharts 'helpful' wittering or the racking sobs of the caretaker, the Headmaster made an announcement that confirmed that the trio had nothing to do with what was happening. This was more than a petrificus totalus spell cast as a dubious prank on an annoying feline. Complete petrification of this magnitude was dark magic. He had to ask himself, was it coincidence that Draco mentioned mudbloods? Did the Slytherin have any knowledge of what had happened tonight?

But these were questions for later. Filch was starting to become hysterical as he accused Potter and Snape caught the discreet glance the Headmaster shot him. Stepping out of the gloom he, once again, prepared to play his part. Casting the warming spell he saw a flash of relief cross Hermione's face as she quickly brushed Ron's arm with hers and touched her necklace when he turned to look at her. His silent message delivered, for the sake of listening ears, he proceeded to cast doubt on anything the trio said in his own unique fashion.

As he stalked to meet Dumbledore, Snape was still seething over Lockharts attempt to interfere with his potion making - As if he would let that fraud anywhere near anything as dangerous as a mandrake restorative draught, he wouldn't even trust the charlatan to brew a cauldron of murtlap tentacles in his presence.

But what he heard in the Headmasters office pushed these thoughts from him mind. He listened in silence to the older man's memories from fifty years ago.

They talked for what seemed like hours about the possibilities. Despite his dark enthusiasm for the opening of the chamber, they quickly ruled out Malfoy, the boy had been in Snape's sight since early afternoon and his goons did not possess the ability between them to perform such a curse. Similarly, Lockhart was dismissed, even though in a moment of dark humour Snape had offered to hold the man down and check the back of his head! The two men seriously discussed the idea of Tom Riddle having a child, perhaps while he was a young man, before he became a megalomaniac, and whose own offspring was now amongst the new intake of Hogwarts pupils. Or perhaps another branch of Slytherins own descendants, previously unknown, was in their midst. Unfortunately for Snape, who could see his own work load multiplying before his eyes, they agreed that the culprit could be practically anyone. By the time he left, Snape had agreed to research the family history of all their pupils, from all houses, starting with the first years and any older students who showed signs of change from the previous years, while Dumbledore carried out yet another search of the Castle.

Deciding it wasn't worth trying to get any sleep with what was left of the night, Snape sat in his reading chair, contemplating what he'd learnt during his meeting with Dumbledore. Finally, he knew why Hagrid had been expelled, but the knowledge didn't satisfy him as he'd expected. On the surface he and the half giant appeared to have a lot in common. Both had made a wrong decision, a decision that had resulted in pain and death and both had been given a chance by the Headmaster to atone, to find a new path, a new home. But Hagrid's story was so much more – he'd been innocent, a pawn in a psychopath's twisted power struggle – while he had been a willing participant, a marked initiate, a member of the psychopath's inner circle. His superiority was stripped away, in that moment he knew the gamekeeper was a better man.

To rid himself of the uncomfortable realisation he thought about the task at hand. There was no denying it was practically impossible to research family trees for all the students, even pureblood families had their skeletons, a small indiscretion with a likeminded witch or wizard leading to a child raised with the wrong name, a magical baby born out of wedlock, abandoned in the muggle world. A witch or wizard choosing the muggle world and abandoning their heritage. The possibilities were endless …. but then he reasoned that someone had to know to teach the 'heir' what was involved, that path was already trod, all he had to do was find it - then follow it.

Because he already had easy access, he summoned the Slytherin files from his office. The rest would have to wait until Dumbledore talked to Minerva and copies of the other House files could be delivered to him.

He commandeered the dining table and surrounded himself with piles of green files, which he first separated into years and then into sub piles relating to blood status, just waiting for the other house information to be added to them.

Which is where Bella found him three nights later, greasy head laid on a piece of parchment as he gently snored, hidden behind a wall of green, red, blue and yellow files each displaying the Hogwarts crest. Frowning slightly, she moved as quietly as she could to get a closer look. It wasn't that late but he was clearly exhausted. She buried the slightly hurt feeling, tonight was their night but clearly that wasn't his priority, and tried to think of a reason why he would have the all the students files in his private quarters, but nothing came to mind. She hesitated and then leaned over him to get a better look at his pile of notes, but as she did her velvet cape brushed his hand and in less than a heartbeat she found her back pinned against the table with her husbands wand dangerously close to her face.

Frustrated, Snape slowly lowered his wand and stepped back, his eyes narrowing coldly. "What are you doing here? I could have hurt you."

"It's Wednesday." Bella answered, deliberately keeping her voice light. She untied the thick ribbon at her throat and casually laid her cape over the dining chair he had just vacated. "Your reflexes are too good, you wouldn't have hurt me and anyway, if I was an enemy you'd want me in one piece to interrogate. What are you doing here?" She asked casually, turning his own question back on him as she gestured to the files.

She subtly watched him from under her eyelashes as his expression became instantly, predictably, closed but then as he rubbed his tired looking eyes he gave a gentle, resigned sigh. What harm could it do to involve her, she came from a different world, perhaps she could even shed some light on the Heir of Slytherin or the chamber of secrets, perhaps her mother would know something.

Bella could see his struggle and recognised his need for space. She wandered to the kitchen and poked her wand at the kettle, soon the inviting smells of coffee floated through the dungeon rooms. Setting her blackberry and vanilla tea to steep, she warmed some oatmeal cookies from the biscuit barrel and topped them with cinnamon cream that she expertly froze with a flurry of her wand. By the time she'd floated their late-night refreshments to the overflowing dining table her husband looked more at peace with her presence.

Grasping his coffee mug like a lifeline Snape sat back in his seat and watched as his wife poured her tea and joined him. "Does the chamber of secrets or the Heir of Slytherin mean anything to you?" He asked without preamble, his dark eyes scrutinising her face for any flicker of recognition.

But Bella couldn't help and she shrugged her shoulders as she sipped her tea. "No sorry, they mean nothing. What are they and what do they have to do with all these students files?"

He'd known it was a long shot and now he realised he would have to explain what was happening. To buy a few moments to organise his thoughts, he drank deeply from his mug. As he contemplated how to begin telling his wife that their charges were once again in the midst of an 'unusual' situation he spotted a book on the table that he knew wasn't his, his own copy was a much older addition.

Bella noticed his frown at the book she'd dropped on the table when he'd grabbed her. "Hermione wrote and asked me to bring it, she couldn't fit it in her trunk because of Lockharts books." She explained. "I was going to ask Minerva to pass it to her tomorrow."

Snape silently cursed. Hermione had been sending him messages asking about the chamber of secrets, the first one arriving the morning after they had found Mrs Norris. At first he'd ignored her but she'd just become more insistent, even trying to get his attention after class. After that he'd had to answer her but clearly his terse reply telling her to stay out of things that didn't concern her had not quelled her inquisitiveness. He should have known the defiant girl would find another way. Quickly he swiped the book off the table and pushed it at Bella, "Take it back home, she is not to have it."

Bella had no choice but to take the heavy volume as he practically shoved it on her lap. "Why not?" She asked, bewildered, "I've already told her I'll bring it." She couldn't imagine what could be in this book that would cause such an extreme reaction. "Severus – what is going on?"

Recognising the slight edge in Bella's voice Snape knew she was running out of patience with him. "Hermione wants the book to find out about the chamber of secrets, the legend claims Salazar Slytherin built a hidden chamber in the school to conceal a monster, a monster that was capable of ridding the school of undesirables and when he left he magically sealed it claiming only his heir would be able to re-open it."

"But why is Hermione suddenly so interested?"

"It appears the chamber exists and someone opened it on Halloween night, Filch's cat was petrified by dark magic. Writing was daubed in blood on the wall where the cat was found, it claimed the chamber had been opened and that enemies of the heir should beware."

"And you're sure someone isn't just playing a prank or having some sort of sick revenge on Mr Filch."

"Dumbledore told me that it had been opened once before, fifty years ago, a student died and it mysteriously stopped when Hagrid was expelled. But he knows it wasn't Hagrid, Tom Riddle was a student at that time, it was he who accused Hagrid."

"You think Voldemort has a child!"

"We think it's more feasible that another descendant of Slytherin has come to the school." He pointed to the wall of files. "I just need to work out who it is."

Bella's eyes narrowed, she'd know him long enough to know when he wasn't telling her everything. "You still haven't told me why our daughter is so interested in this 'myth'!"

Snape could sense Bella's annoyance growing and he knew he couldn't avoid the question any longer but that didn't mean he wanted to meet her eye while he explained. Suddenly the stone walls of his academic home became very interesting and he found himself fixated on a particularly unusually coloured stone just above the fireplace as he explained. "The trio found Filch's cat, they were first on the macabre scene. And now there are whispers flying around the school the Po… Harry is the Heir because he had a run in with Filch earlier in the day."

Bella gave a long suffering sigh, "Why, why, why is it always them?" She shot her husband a shrewd look. "You think they're going to try and figure out who did this don't you."

"Indeed." Snapes frustration and annoyance at his charges was clearly expressed in that one word. "I have told them both to leave it alone. I purposely kept Potter behind in class to remind him that he must not meddle in adult responsibilities. However, he refused to meet my eye and I got the distinct impression he was trying to keep something from me. And Miss Granger clearly did not heed my written instructions as she then wrote to you."

Bella didn't challenge his use of their surnames, right now she recognised his need to separate Harry and Hermione from Granger and Potter. She got up and went to the table, very aware of her husbands eyes following her. She quickly scanned through his notes and turned to face him with a determined glint in her eye.

"So we need to solve this as quickly as possible, then there's nothing for them to interfere with. How far have you got?"

Snape was not accustomed to admitting to failure but even he had to knowledge that this was not a simple task. "It is complex and there is no magic that can help assist me."

Bella absently picked up a red file and glanced at the name 'Ginevra Weasley'. "Well I think we can discount Ginny and the rest of the Weasley's." As she put the file back a thought occurred to her. "What if there was a muggle assist instead?"

Snape frowned, he couldn't imagine what she was thinking but in fairness he was open to anything right now that might help. "What do you have in mind?"

"DNA – If we could get a blood sample from every student and then compare it to the DNA in Slytherins bones we could find out if anyone is really related to him. I don't know if there is any magical way to test it but I could find a private muggle lab who wouldn't ask any questions for the right price." Bella looked at him expectantly.

Snape had to admire her ability to think outside of the box, he understood about DNA and Slytherins final resting place was well documented, levitating a bone would be relatively easy but anything that involved blood in the magical world was considered dark magic despite their intentions. "Your logic is faultless but, unfortunately, in reality, it would not work. We would need parents' permission to take blood and I doubt many pure bloods would give it. At best they would think we were questioning their purity and at worst would be concerned some irregularity show up. Blood magic is dark." But seeing the disappointment on Bella's face it did give him cause to rethink the idea.

His pale forefinger traced the contours of his lips for a minute, his brow creased in deep concentration. Moments later his eyebrow raised and his lips twitched with cunning. "However….. we could use the idea to narrow down our pile of files. As you say DNA is very much a muggle invention, I can't imagine muggle parents or possibly even the parents of half-blood children questioning the need for the boarding school to keep up to date records of blood types in case of accidents or object to testing for common magical childhood diseases. It would still mean getting written permission which would be better done in person though…. " Snape could imagine nothing worse and truth be told, he really did not have time or patience to traipse across the country making small talk with gushing parents of dunderhead offspring. But if his wife really wanted to help…..

Swiftly he began re-organising the piles of files, with the pureblood pile ending up being considerably smaller. He turned back to Bella, "Are you really prepared to help?"

Moving towards him, Bella gave a sad smile as she slipped her arms around his waist and tipped her chin up to look at him. "I made a vow in the grounds of this school to love and support you. Perhaps if you'd let me in a bit more I could do more to help!"

Snape frowned down at the top of her red head and felt the line blurring even more. "Perhaps…." He acknowledged in a soft voice, allowing her to hold him close for a moment before gently moving his hands to her forearms and putting a little distance between their bodies. He looked her intently in the eyes with almost enough intensity to penetrate her mind, "Would you visit the parents, get their permission, I imagine they would be receptive to a medi-witch with a letter of introduction from the school."

Bella's smile was brighter now, she knew she'd be getting to spend more time with her husband now even though she'd be travelling the country to speak with parents. "Leave the parents to me. What about the bones?"

Snape was all business now as he let go of his wife, achioed a book from his shelves and a map from his office. Pushing the files to one end of the table, he spread out the map and quickly referenced the book before pinpointing an area in the most rural and secluded area of the welsh valleys. With his quill he marked a grid location and silkily murmured a complex incantation over the spot. Within seconds an image appeared, projected above the map, showing the landscape in real time. Snape walked around the image for some time, viewing it from every angle.

"I will apparate in behind those rocks just in case there are any enchantments protecting the site. If someone is mentoring the 'Heir' they may have placed alerts but at least as Head of Slytherin I have a legitimate reason for visiting, perhaps if someone does appear I could integrate myself and find the students identity that way."

"Do you want me to come with you?"

"No!" Snapes answer was sharp, while he was prepared to accept her help with the more mundane, a clandestine visit to Slytherins burial site was more like his work with the Dark Lord and he wasn't prepared to taint Bella that way.

Bella didn't even try and hide her relief at his refusal and gave him a weak smile of gratitude just as he shot her a knowing smirk. "When will you go?"

"I will need a couple of days to secure the location in my head so that I can guarantee the apparition so the weekend will be best."

"You will be careful won't you?"

"Always." It was the nearest he could come to an assurance, he knew from past experience you could be as careful as magically possible but things still had the potential to go wrong.

Bella tried her best to stifle a yawn as she started to flick through the files that required her attention but Snape was no fool. They'd done all they could that night and he was feeling just as exhausted as his wife.

"Come. We'll achieve no more tonight, let us retire." In one fluid motion he extinguished the light and guided his wife to the bedroom.

However, things did not quite go to plan and it wasn't until ten days later that events came to a head and it became imperative that Snape leave the school and retrieve the bones.

Firstly, he needed to warn the trio once and for all not to meddle in things that did not concern them and he had assured Bella that he would advise Miss Granger that she would not be getting her book. The ideal opportunity came the very next day during potion class. While stalking around the classroom he loomed menacingly over the Gryffindor table, as expected Miss Grangers potion was exemplary even with Longbottoms 'assistance' while Potter and Weasleys was generally acceptable.

"Potter… Weasley …. abysmal as always I see." He announced loudly.

As predicted, Miss Granger glanced over at the boys cauldron and then frowned up at him. As their eyes connected briefly, he sent the warming charm to her necklace. "And don't expect Miss Granger to save it for you unless you all wish to forfeit lunch and scrub the store room floor instead!"

A flash of understanding passed over Miss Grangers face while Potter and Weasley glowered mutinously. Snape deliberately prowled over to the other Gryffindor bench, his bat like ears waiting for the telltale hiss that indicated something had been added to the boys potion along with the clink of the stirrer on the side of the cauldron.

He swept back, arms folded, glare in place. "I warned you not to meddle Miss Granger." His voice was dangerously low yet managed to travel to the four corners of the room. He ignored the whispered glee from the Slytherin side of the class as he, regretfully, scourgified her potion from the cauldron. "My office …. now!"

So that he didn't have to see the tears that pooled in her eyes he turned his attention to the others. With another wave of his wand, their potion disappeared too. "Potter … Weasley… As you appear incapable of getting along without Miss Grangers help you had better go and join her." Eyes narrowed he watched them crossly stuff their books into bags and trudge in the direction of his office.

Satisfied he had them where he needed them, he turned to the rest of the class. "Well, what are you all staring at, unless you want to fail today, finish your potions, leave a vial on my desk and leave – Silently."

Returning to his desk, he deliberately ignored his students as they filed past his desk to leave their potions and escape as quickly as they could.

Finally satisfied that he was alone, he locked the classroom door and headed to his office where he cast a privacy spell before uttering a word to the three Gryffindors sat in front of his desk. With a wave of his wand he produced plates of sandwiches, snacks and cakes along with a flagon of pumpkin juice. The relief on Weasleys face was comical and was matched by Miss Grangers when he announced that their potions had been graded before he removed them.

He handed out plates, "Eat and then we will talk."

It didn't take long for the sandwiches to be demolished leaving the three of them sat looking at him expectantly. Moving from behind his desk, coffee cup still in hand, he propped himself against the edge of his desk and crossed his legs at the ankles. He fixed each of them with a searching stare before talking.

"Hermione, I do not appreciate you going behind my back and asking your Aunt to provide a book when I have already declined your request." His tone was no-nonsense, something they recognised from home and he wasn't at all surprised when she blushed and dropped her head. "Bella will not be bringing you the book and I suggest you do not ask again…."

He left the threat hanging in the air before addressing all three of them. "Harry, Hermione, Ronald I am going to say this once and once only – stay away from things that do not concern you. What happened at Halloween is none of your business, catching whoever did this is not your responsibility. Leave adult matters to adults – AM I MAKING MYSELF CLEAR?"

He watched the three children glance at each other and then down at the floor as they mumbled, "Yes Sir."

Not wholly satisfied, given the slightly rebellious undertone, but unsure of what else he could say to convince them to leave things alone, he dismissed them.

Hermione and Ron were quick to collect their belongings and head for the door but Harry almost seemed to linger for a moment as he half turned back to look at his Godfather.

"Stay a moment Harry." Snape's voice was light, in what he hoped was an encouraging tone but the boy was already heading for the door. "Potter… stay." Snape's command was now clipped, an order he knew Harry would have trouble disobeying. Something was bothering him and Snape hoped to find out what it was.

Harry huffed and waved his friends on, defiantly he slammed the office door shut again and then flinched as if he expected retribution. The movement wasn't lost on Snape and the hatred of the Dursleys swelled within him again.

"Quite …. finished…. tantruming ?" He asked silkily, his infamous eyebrow raised.

Snape watched the fight fall from him as his shoulders dropped and he turned to face his Godfather. "Yes Sir, sorry about the door." He gave a rueful smile of apology.

"Indeed." Snape shook his head and rolled his eyes at the boys dramatics. "Is there anything you wish to tell me or even anything you would like to ask?"

Harry looked down at the ground and scuffed the toe of his shoe against the stone floor, it was as if the man could read him like the pages of a book. A small part of him, the part that lived with Aunty Bella and Uncle Sev just wanted to confess about the voice, to let go of his secret in this room and leave it to the adults as they kept telling him he should but the bigger part of him, the part that had lived with the Dursleys, knew he couldn't tell them anything – all he kept replaying was Ron telling him that hearing voices, even in the wizarding world, was not a good thing and then he vividly remembered how Snape had reacted over the snake incident. No,telling was not an option.

He looked up from the floor, knowing his Godfather liked eye contact, "No Sir, there's nothing I want to tell you and questions are more 'mione's thing." He glanced at his watch just so he didn't have to look him in the face anymore. "Can I go now please Professor? Lessons start soon."

Snape knew from the slightly disrespectful way the boy said 'professor' that he was resetting the boundaries, Snape would never ask Potter if he wanted to talk, that wasn't who they were supposed to be at Hogwarts, and it left Severus feeling frustrated, despite these being his own rules. He rubbed his hand tiredly across his face.

"Yes, you may go…. Potter."

He heard the classroom door shut in the distance but before he had chance to analyse what had just happened a steady stream of voices filled the room beyond his office announcing his next class.

His attempts to study the burial landscape were being thwarted at every opportunity. Lockhart seemed intent on following him everywhere, desperate to ask something and no matter how many times Snape cut him off or how rude he was doing it, the buffoon kept coming back. Finally, he found himself summoned to a meeting with the Headmaster who explained what the idiot wanted. As if he didn't have enough to do, Dumbledore now wanted him to supervise a duelling club led by that fraud. He didn't even dignify the suggestion with an answer.

Miss Granger had clearly not heeded his words of warning and had just found another way to get the information she craved, and from the moment word got out about Professor Binns explanation of the chamber he found himself surrounded by groups of children discussing the legend and his monster in hushed tones. His own House were just as bad but the relish in the voices of some of them at the idea of Slytherins Heir concerned him deeply, what with Voldemorts brief appearance last year and now the rise of Slytherins pure-blood mania it was becoming much harder to steer his students towards the light. Most evenings were spent monitoring the common room as he listened to his House rubbish the theory that his own Godson was the Heir while they debated who was, what their ultimate plans were and how they could help.

On top of that, the first quidditch match of the season was fast approaching, a match he knew Lucius Malfoy would be at, which would inevitably lead to questions about the chamber and his need to resurrect a persona he detested.

Despite his cocky bravado, Snape knew Draco was nervous. He'd come across the boy, still up, after lights out, practicing catching a training snitch and in an uncharacteristic display of understanding he'd chosen to ignore the infraction. Even though he'd despised his own father, he had still harboured a deep-seated desire to gain his approval. He'd doubted Draco had really understood the expectation that would be heaped upon him when his father had first offered to buy his way on to the team but clearly it was starting to sink in now. He knew he'd have to find an unobvious way to talk to the boy before the match, to allay his fears and enable him to focus as much as possible.

But unlike last year, his loyalties were now divided, Snape wanted Slytherin to crush Gryffindor while Severus knew how disappointed his Godson would be if his team lost just because of superior brooms. He tried to explain the conundrum to Bella who seemed delighted that he was feeling so conflicted, apparently it was a positive thing, evidence that he was feeling more comfortable in his role as teacher and parent! He'd just shaken his head at her rather bizarre logic and tried not to groan out loud when she announced she planned to watch the match from the infirmary to support Gryffindor so he didn't have to. The last thing he wanted her to see was his necessary pleasantness to Malfoy but she wouldn't be deterred so he'd convinced Minevra to make sure the Slytherin supporters were seated out of sight of the infirmary view. It had cost him on the odds of the outcome of the game but it was the least important thing on his mind at that moment.

Snape had deliberately turned up to the match just as Madame Hooch blew the whistle, anything to limit his contact with Malfoy, but pretty soon other concerns invaded his mind. It was only a matter of minutes into the game when it became obvious something was wrong, Potter was flying erratically and one of the bludgers almost seemed attracted to him, as the rain started he cast a magnifying spell to get a better view. It took all of his willpower to remain in his seat and he mentally gave a sigh of relief as Wood called for a time out. Lucius leaned close to him and asked in a conspiratorial whisper, "Very creative, is this your doing Severus?"

Without looking at the other man, Snape shook his head. Over the sound of the rain and wind he heard angry voices coming from the Gryffindors and Potter say the word 'forfeit' but then within seconds the red and green streaks were in the air again. The bludger was still targeting the seeker and he continued to do his upmost to avoid it. Snape risked a quick glance at McGonagall on the commentators podium, her lips were pinched in worry as her eyes followed Potter through the skies and he was relieved to see her wand gripped in her hand, ready for action. He was conscious of Lucius next to him, who seemed to alternate between taking delight in Potters misfortune and berating his son's stupidity.

And then the bludger found its target, the sound of the impact echoed around the stadium as the spectators took a collective breath. Snape knew instantly the boys arm must be broken but he was incapable of doing anything. For a moment it seemed like Harry was suspended in time and then the life appeared to rush back into him as he sped towards Malfoy. Despite everything he'd caught the snitch and the game was over. Next to him, as Lucius let out a bitter diatribe about wasted money and Slytherins dismal performance, Snape relaxed a little, a broken arm could be healed in an instant. But then he saw the boy and broom hurtling towards the ground. Professor McGonagall had already turned her attention from the pitch to head down to her injured student and Madam Hooch was examining the now docile bludger. Before he had time to even think about formulating a plan they'd crashed to the ground.

Snape tried to convince himself that at least he was now safe on the ground and McGonagall would make sure Harry got the care he needed. He reminded himself again that bones could be mended easily and Bella would be in the infirmary waiting for him anyway. He had a reputation to protect and could not be seen to be concerned about any Gryffindor, let alone the boy-who-lived. He allowed himself to be distracted by a very dissatisfied benefactor, determined to get the school governor off the grounds as quickly as possible, so that he could focus his attention on what or who had caused the rogue bludger before unfounded accusations started to fly. As he shepherded Malfoy out of the stands Snape felt a sense of control start to return, that was until he saw Lockhart raise his wand to his Godson!

As the clock struck 2am, Snape continued to pace his chambers, still stoically furious that Harry was having to spend the night regrowing an armful of bones. What sort of imbecile confused a removal spell with a simple episkey spell. Snape had been determined to hex the man back to some far-flung part of the world but Bella had been the voice of reason, talking him out of anything that would bring attention to his connection with Harry, especially with a man not known for his tact and ruthlessly courted pubic attention. Lockhart had already proved in Flourish and Blotts that he wasn't above using Harry's status to further his own fame, who knew what he would try to do with the knowledge that a 'Death Eater' was the guardian to the saviour of the wizarding world.

After floo calling Poppy to satisfy herself that Harry was in the best place and on schedule to regrow all his bones by the morning, Bella went to bed leaving Snape to his brooding. She knew he'd be in an impossible mood after the drama of the day and after flitting around the country all week to visit parents she was too tired to put in the effort needed to placate him. It was only because she wanted to be close by incase Harry needed her that she'd decided to stay in the castle, any other time she'd have just gone home.

Snape had finally given up pacing, wearing a hole in his rug was not going to rid the school of Lockhart, discover who'd jinxed the bludger or solve the problem of the chamber of secrets. He knew nothing could be achieved in the middle of the night but he wasn't yet ready to retire. He'd only just picked up a copy of the latest Potions Monthly, in an attempt to settle his mind, when there was a firm knock on his door. Only fellow staff members used that entrance, a knock on that particular door could only mean one thing – trouble, and something told him it wasn't Filch with a wandering student. He cast a privacy spell towards his bedroom door so as not to disturb his wife and stalked to the door. He wasn't surprised to find the Headmaster and his Deputy on the other side of his door. Without a word he stepped aside and ushered them in, even in the dark Albus' serious expression and Minevra's paleness did not escape his notice. Wordlessly he offered them a seat as he sat in his own chair.

"It's happened again Severus," Dumbledore began gravely, "a child this time, found petrified in the corridor by the infirmary."

"Young Colin Creavey." Added McGonagall, her Scottish brogue wavering with emotion. "He's only a first year."

"Have you found anything that could help Severus?"

Snape glanced at the piles of coloured files still occupying his dining table. Thanks to Bella, there were now a considerable number with permission slips attached, all they needed was the Slytherin bones and a small amount of blood from each pupil so that they could begin eliminating students.

So far he'd neglected to explain the plan to his superior but now he recognised that he had little choice. Quickly he outlined Bella's idea. There was no denying his elders initially looked shocked but they rapidly saw the merit in the idea.

"I will go to the grave tomorrow, as soon as it gets dark." Snape knew the time for procrastination was over. "Minevra, could you ask Rolanda to keep an eye on my House and prepare Poppy for what must be done, I will ask Bella to assist her. Then as soon as I return she can take the samples to be tested."

Dumbledore and McGonagall rose as one, neither had lost their haunted look, and Snape couldn't help but think the two of them had aged before his eyes as he escorted them to the door.

"Take care my boy." Dumbledore offered as a farewell while Minevra laid her age spotted hand gently on his forearm, "Be safe Severus, the school needs you."

Despite being oddly touched Snape only offered an impassive "Goodnight" before shutting the door and finally heading for bed.

Tomorrow could prove to be a very difficult day.

Snape's motto had always been 'prepare for the worst then anything less was a bonus', it had served him well during his time as a spy and every day since he'd entered a classroom. But as the cold, damp welsh air whipped around his face and he held the femur of one of the Hogwarts founding fathers in is hand, he was suspicious as to how the bonus had come so easily. The burial site was unprotected, nothing had triggered an alert, neither his magical signature or the disturbance of the grave had summoned the Heirs mentor. Had he been the one to discover and train the Heir, this spot would have been at least symbolic of what they wished to achieve and worthy of some form of safeguarding magic.

Confused, Snape cast a spell to reveal any other recent magical traces - but there were none. No witch or wizard had visited the site for many years. As he apparated way, something told him that the mystery of the chamber of secrets and it's Heir was far more complex than they had first thought.