Chapter 22 "The Mercenary"
"My song is love
My song is love, unknown
But I'm on fire for you, clearly
You don't have to be alone
You don't have to be on your own"
"A Message" Coldplay
Snape's worse fear had just come true, and he could do nothing but comply to Voldemort's wishes. "Avada Kedavra!"
"No!" Lupin cast a shield spell between them as he ran in from the other room.
As Lucius had lost consciousness his spell dissipated and Clothilde was free from Crucio. She dashed back under the cloak of invisibility.
Voldemort roared now insulted that this new person had intruded on his fun. "Kill him!"
"Avada Kedavra!" Snape barely hesitated this time. There was little love between him and Lupin.
Not wanting to kill Severus, Lupin dodged the curse flung his way and cast a binding spell on Snape.
Under the invisibility cloak Clothilde groped for her athame.
Crabbe and Goyle, parents of Draco's long time school chums, reentered the room dragging none other than Harry, Ron and Hermione.
"What's this? What's this?" Voldemort's voice took on a rather delighted tone. One eye still on Lupin, he took a menacing step toward the trio.
Lupin raised his wand-
A moment later Voldemort had Lupin's wand, and lazily removed the binding spell on Severus. "Now Snape, get on your feet and do something useful."
The potion's master looked nearly like a puppet, forced to his feet at an odd speed that didn't seem his own.
Remus fell to the floor screaming.
Clothilde cut across the Egyptian tattoos on each arm with her athame. She winced as the blood flowed freely from the broken face of Anubis. Felt the magical shield she had worn for so many years destroyed as she destroyed the magical ink.
She pulled back the curtain of cloak just enough to aim her athame at Voldemort, "Discidium diripio!"
The dark lord had one hand raised behind him as if he had expected the attack and deflected it. Clothilde's favorite curse bounced against an exquisite settee blowing it to pieces and sprung back at Crabbe. It hit him with less then half the strength, and yet she could still hear an internal cracking, as if something within his torso had broken.
Crabbe slid to the ground releasing Ron and Hermione.
After destroying the tattoos, which had protected her from the Ministry of Magic for years, hiding the fact she still practiced magic, she knew just that one spell had alerted them to her whereabouts.
A moment later several aurors apparated over the nearly dead body of Lucius Malfoy.
The small group weren't quite prepared for the scene before them. Professor Snape torturing Professor Lupin. The bloody body of Lucius beneath them, an unconscious Crabbe lying in a corner and could that be... Voldemort?!
The dark lord shrieked not prepared to be identified just yet and disapparated suddenly leaving Goyle behind to fend for himself.
As he vanished the curse fell from Snape and he stumbed backward, still weak from the beating he had taken earlier.
Lupin passed out.
Clothilde's eyes dashed around the room trapped and on her way to prison. For a moment this had seemed the heroic thing to do but now, in the calm she realized she needed to escape.
"I have Potter!" Goyle said, a wand at Harry's throat.
The three aurors had their wands trained on the man.
Harry tumbled to the floor, beside him was Goyle's arm. The sound of a man's screams caused him to look up hastily and he saw Goyle holding the place his arm used to be, then the slashes all across his torso.
Snape slid to the floor finally spent.
Harry looked over at him exhausted on the marble floor, wand quivering in his hand.
Two aurors moved to Harry and Goyle, while the other checked on Severus.
Clothilde took that opportunity to transform herself into a cat- an 8ft long Sundarban tiger to be exact.
Snape knew the type, the only tiger known to seek out humans for food. A true man-eater. "Typical," he thought as he passed out.
She leap out a window and disappeared into the night...
The gloomy potions room was filled with the sound of teenagers chattering away about what happened to them over the weekend, but Harry, Ron and Hermione sat silently thinking of what they had witnessed over the weekend.
"Where's your bodyguard today Potter?"
"He must've heard what happened," whispered Hermione.
"Got a lot of nerve. Wonder what happened to his dad," Ron muttered.
"Azkaban I suspect," whispered Harry not so quietly looking at Draco.
A moment later Professor Snape glided into the class, his long black robes billowing behind him giving them the distinct impression of a bat. Yet, Hermione noticed a touch of crimson trim at the collar, with what looked like the letter S in a very small pattern around the wrists. His face was still battered from whatever had happened to him when he had been captured.
The potions master looked out into the sea of faces. He seemed to be searching for one face in particular.
"Oh... he's looking for Clothilde too," she whispered to Harry.
Without missing a beat he addressed Hermione, "ten points from Gryffindor for talking."
The collective group of fellow Gryffindor's seemed to deflate, all but Hermione who felt a little twinge of sorrow for his situation.
"Turn to page 113 in your potions books," Snape sat down at his desk in front of class. Something he rarely did. "Reading quietly to yourselves," he glared at Hermione, then let his gaze turn to Harry.
Harry glared back at him.
Snape glanced down at some paperwork in front of him, Charlotte's old journal. The angry expression turned to despair... she wasn't coming back.
-Four weeks later-
A rickety sign was swinging above Clothilde's head. It was hanging over a shop selling poisonous candles. Cigar in hand, she was a silhouette in the dim lamplight.
A couple raggedly looking wizards hobbled past. When she lifted her cold eyes and they were able to make out her armored visage they recognized her and gave her a wide berth.
An owl flew out of the murky morning fog on Knockturn Alley and dropped a letter for her... from Dumbledore.
Clothilde slid her book of curses into a backpack, then rummaged through her room at Hogwarts throwing in potions and explosives she might need along the way. Her eyes went to the old yearbook suddenly, to the photos of the faculty and of the younger Snape... She smiled a bit sentimentally at the way he looked there and set that gently into her pack as well. Dumbledore expected her to move hastily so she went through her things as fast as she could. She donned the armor she had shucked off in a hurry once weeks ago she dashed out the door.
No one was in sight. Just the dark dungeon hallway lit by candlelight.
Clothilde sprinted down the hall, jogged up a flight of back stairs and out a side door into the cold.
She turned around slowly. She hadn't wanted him to see her.
He stood at the door, slightly out of breath. Her eyes went immediately to the crimson trim at his collar.
"Nice robes. Is that S for Slytherin?"
"No, Severus." He glided over to her silently.
"I just stopped by to get my things from Hogwarts."
His eyes widened. "Why is that?"
"Well, I'm obviously no longer guarding Harry but Dumbledore has asked me to do something else for the Order."
"You are leaving then?"
She glanced down at their footprints in the snow, and said almost inaudibly, "yes."
Snape stood very still, his lips parted but she spoke first.
"You did that for me." Clothilde gestured to his robes and then met his eyes.
He touched the red embroidery on one of his wrists absently. "Yes. I had it made because of you."
A lopsided smile spread across her face and she turned away to hide it. "But... why?"
"Because," he glided toward her, "because I've loved you since I taught you to duel. I see no reason to deny this any longer." This honest little admission spoken with due strength faltered a little when he realized he had just said it aloud and to her.
Clothilde was staring back at him quite astonished.
"I love you." His eyes darted up at hers then to the ground just as swiftly.
All around the school was deserted. Everyone was inside at dinner, everyone but them. The wind swept snow up and around Snape's thin black form as he dared not look up at her.
"I'm at the Headmaster's mercy. He needs me to be where I am best suited... as a mercenary," she said despairingly.
"You needn't go, Hogwarts needs a dueling instructor-"
"Oh Severus, please don't fall apart on me now. You know I have to do this."
He pulled back briskly wiping his eyes.
"Yes, you're right of course." His tone was icy, his face the mask she remembered as a student.
Snape made a bit of a clucking noise with his tongue looking at her as if deciding something, then turned on heel, his black robes billowing behind him.
"Severus," she caught his hand in hers.
He looked down at her hand in his uncertainly, then lifted his glittering eyes to meet her own.
"I will write to you."
He raised an eyebrow. What a ridiculous lie. "I don't need your pity Charlotte."
She could barely stand to see him in so much pain. Clothilde threw her arms around his neck in a sudden surge of emotion.
"I don't want to leave." Her voice was teary and muffled in his soft hair.
He made little effort to hold her and so she pulled away, sniffling a bit and looked up at him.
"I don't want to leave you. I just have to leave so I can do my part against You-Know-Who. When I say I will write I do mean it, because that's as close as I can get without being here- it's all I will be able to do."
He looked over her armored form, the long blue cape, the white fur caressing her face...
"I love you," she whispered.
Snape crushed her body against his, enveloping her in his long black robes. She hid her face away in the crook of his neck, wanting to deny that she truly did have to leave. Longing for a life with him...
He looked out over the quiet snow covered grounds sadly.
In the distance the smoke of hundreds of chimneys were rising into the air as late afternoon was becoming evening and the snow was falling, muffling the sounds at Hogwarts and gently into their hair.