I am so sorry for the delay everyone. My job has just been insane with the overtime. Averaging 55/60 hour work weeks, so I've been plugging away at this chapter bit by bit when I have a spare moment. Starting Chapter 11 now so hopefully the next chapter will not be such a terrible delay!
Chapter 9 had an overwhelming response. Thank you all! Special thanks to FrancineHibiscus, leonix2009, Onyx Obsidian, , RavenclawIrene, Guest, Silver Orbed Lioness, Olivia Williams, Chelsea Always, HGxSS Always and Ciule for your reviews.
Sarah left the two lovebirds down in the sitting room and went to shower before bed. She knew they probably needed some time alone for a good snog before Kate came to join her in their shared room. She stepped into the hot shower spray, humming to herself and washing the day away. Lost in her thoughts, she failed to hear the door to her bedroom open.
As she dressed she patted her body down for the panic button that Kingsley had given her. While she thought it a tad extreme, she knew the wizard protecting her family would kill her if he found out she misplaced it and she did not want to incur his wrath or Michael's for that matter. Unable to find it, she started to tear the bathroom counter and drawers apart. 'Shit. Shit. Shit.' She thought, 'it must be on my dresser.'
She quickly finished dressing and towel drying her hair before opening the door to her bedroom. She spotted the small red device on her dresser among the various knick-knacks and sighed in relief. As she made her way to the dresser, a large man stepped out of the shadows and grabbed her arm from behind. Sarah went to scream, and the man's other hand clamped firmly over her mouth. Holding her tight to his body, Sarah's captor spun around. Nothing happened. As the man began cursing over the anti-apparition wards Kingsley and Michael had put in place she saw her chance. Sarah sunk her teeth into his hand, biting it hard enough to break the skin, and lunged for the panic button on her dresser. She pressed it and prayed for safety.
By this time, the man had reached her and grabbed her by the ankle, dragging her across the bedroom floor. She finally caught a look at his face, and she looked on in shock and horror. The man attacking her was her officer, Mark. This made no sense to her; there's no way Mark could be a wizard, surely, Kingsley would have known. However, Sarah could not deny that this man looked like her long-time SO1 officer and he was standing over her with a wand drawn.
"Feisty little muggle bitch isn't you," he spat. "I'll have to teach you to respect your betters, little girl. Cruc-."
Before he could finish the incantation for the unforgivable curse, the bedroom door flung open. Sarah relieved that Michael and Kate had responded quickly to her alert. Sarah was frozen in a state of fear and awe as she watched Michael battle this imminent threat. Sparks of red, green, blue and yellow flew across the room as the two men through curses and hexes at each other with the intent to kill or incapacitate. Sarah was so transfixed on the battle before her; she did not even realise Kate come up to her, touch her pearl ring and whisk them away to safety.
The women landed with an unceremonious thud in the dark, empty kitchen of 12 Grimmauld Place where Sarah promptly vomited, unused to the harshness of portkey travel. Hermione quickly banished the sick, conjured her charge a glass of cold water and began pacing. If she were not in a state of shock, Sarah Major would have been more impressed by the feats of magic she was witnessing. As it was, she barely even registered the fact that three silvery otters were currently facing Hermione taking her instructions.
Hermione Granger looked at the three patronuses she had conjured and began to spout directives. To the first, she firmly stated "Kingsley, 10 Downing has been compromised. I have brought Sarah to Headquarters. She is unharmed. Michael is still on location attempting to neutralise the threat. Will contact when I know more. Return immediately." The otter quickly scampered away.
To the second Hermione directed "Professor Dumbledore, threat at 10 Downing. Please bring assistance and Veritaserum."
And finally, to the third, "Professor McGonagall, please come to Headquarters immediately."
Her messages sent, Hermione slumped into to the cold stone floor next to her friend and wrapped an arm around her. She was sick with worry over Severus, but could not abandon Sarah in this dark wizard home. So, there was nothing to do but wait.
Severus threw another stunner at the wizard. He stared into Hermione's amber eyes and silently pleaded with her before bellowing, "Grab Sarah and get to safety! Now."
He continued to throw hex after hex in between blocking spells as he attempted to disarm this unknown wizard. As much as he'd love to use a quick Avada or Sectumsempra he knew he had to keep this man alive to be questioned. Severus had to admit; the wizard was skilled, luckily very few were a match for Severus Snape.
Finally, Severus decided if he could not get around his opponent's shield charm, he would have to be creative. He aimed his wand at Sarah's bureau and silently send an Expulso curse at the furniture. A burst of blue light emitted from his ebony wand and as the bureau blew apart, the explosion slammed the man opposite him into the wall, causing his wand leave his hand. Finally, Severus hissed "Incarcerous". Shining black ropes flew from his wand-tip and bound the man head to foot, rendering him incapacitated.
The assailant was struggling against his magical bonds, attempting to break free or wandlessly summon his wand. Severus picked up the man's wand and held it firmly in his left hand, while his wand was pressed against the man's neck.
"Give me my wand you little shit." The man bellowed.
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't end you right now?" he hissed. "Who are you really? And how are you disguised? Glamours? Finite Incantatem." Nothing happened. "Ah, Polyjuice then. Well, no matter. It should wear off shortly."
To prevent the man from listening to the messages he urgently needed to send, Severus stunned him with a silent Stupefy. There was a blinding flash of red light, and then the imposter was unconscious.
The spy then whirled around, missing the swish of his robes as he did, and conjured two of his doe patronuses to send to Hermione and Kingsley. To the first, he said in a hushed tone, "Little witch, I am fine. The threat has been incapacitated. I am waiting for the Polyjuice to wear off him. I will come back to you and Miss Major by morning. Both of you, get some sleep."
As he sent it off, he turned to the second, when Albus Dumbledore, Bill Weasley and Remus Lupin burst into the bedroom. Snape froze, fearful that any one of them could blow his cover. This was an unidentified Death Eater in their midst; they could not reveal his identity. Remus looked as if he were about to start talking when Dumbledore cut him off.
"Severus, son, what happened? Hermione sent a patronus to Hogwarts. Where are the ladies?"
"Portkey. They are safe. This person, I believe to be a Death Eater currently under the influence of Polyjuice Potion. He is impersonating one of Miss Major's protection officers. Today was his first shift in a few days, and I noticed strange behaviour. At shift change at 7 pm this evening I reviewed the perimeter. However, he must have either hidden or returned to the residence. Miss Major used his panic button at approximately half ten this evening, alerting myself and Miss Granger of her imminent danger. The ladies portkeyed away immediately to a secure location. The portkey had been given to Katherine days ago in case of an emergency."
"And now we wait for the Polyjuice to wear off?" pipped up the Oldest Weasley.
Remus reached into his cloak and thrust a vial at Severus. "Veritaserum… Hermione asked us to bring this when she sent her patronus."
Severus nodded, grateful for Hermione's quick thinking. 'Brilliant witch. His brilliant witch,' he thought.
"William, Remus, perhaps it best for you to inspect the residence to see how the attacked occurred." Ordered Dumbledore, "We should also obliviate the remaining protection officers."
As the two men left to inspect the area, Dumbledore conjured two armchairs and sat down; his eyes fixed upon the unconscious death eater bound and lying on the floor. Severus stared at him too. Minutes passed in silence. Then, the face of the man on the floor began to change. The short brown hair was replaced with spiky blonde hair, he only grew about an inch, but the man's body became broader and more muscular.
Severus immediately recognised the man as Thorfinn Rowle, Death Eater and one of his own Slytherin's only nine years previously. Severus muttered some choice expletives that made Dumbledore glare at him reprovingly.
"Well Albus," Severus drawled, "We can't kill Rowle. The Dark Lord will surely notice. Obliviate? Imperious?"
Dumbledore sighed and walked over to Rowle's unconscious body. "Obliviate, after we question him."
Severus pried upon the man's mouth and forced four drops of the Veritaserum into his mouth. Then, pointing his wand at Rowle's chest, he said "Rennervate."
Rowle opened his eyes. His face was slack, his gaze unfocused. Dumbledore knelt before him so that their faces were level. "Can you hear me?" Dumbledore asked quietly.
Rowle's eyelids flickered. "Yes," he muttered.
"I would like you to tell us", said Dumbledore softly, "how you were able to disguise yourself and enter the premises?"
Rowle took a deep, shuddering breath, then began to speak in a flat, expressionless voice. "Bellatrix Lestrange sent me to capture the Muggle Prime Minister's daughter. She was to be the entertainment during the Dark Lord's yule celebration. Bellatrix wanted it to be a lavish and dark occasion, as we believe this new year will be the year the Dark Lord conquers the wizarding world."
Rowle took another deep breath and continued in the same flat voice. "I have stationed myself in the area every day since the Muggle girl returned home. I took note of her guards and their routines, when they came on and off duty. This morning, the bloke was coming in for his shift, I stunned him, grabbed a fistful of hairs and then killed him. Dumped the body in the Thames."
"What did you do after you disposed of the body?" asked Dumbledore.
I spent the day inside the house, figuring out where all of the rooms where who was still in the house and where I could hide. I didn't think about anti-apparition wards in a Muggle home. But it looks like the Muggle's little friends are wizards." He said, indicating towards Severus, glamours still intact. "After the shift ended I disillusioned myself and hid in one of the drawing rooms waiting for my chance. The perfect opportunity presented itself when the little chit went to bed without her friends."
Severus breathed a sigh of relief as he realised Rowle had not seen them snogging each other senseless. It would not be due for Dumbledore to learn about that.
"The girl was in the bathroom, and when she came out, I grabbed her and tried to apparate away, but couldn't, and before I could make a run for it with her, she bit me and her friends came running in to stop me from torturing her."
"Does Lord Voldemort know you are here?" questioned Dumbledore.
The Death Eater shook his head no, "I am here only at the bidding of Bellatrix to surprise the Dark Lord."
Having served his purpose, Dumbledore quickly stunned Rowle again and hit him with a body bind curse.
Bill and Remus returned, having obliviated the household staff and protection officers. Thankfully, no one had been attacked during the day. Bill looked at the captive and was shocked "Thorfinn Rowle? He was in my year at Hogwarts…"
"You will find, William, that many of your peers have joined the Dark Lord, while the remainder chooses to remain ignorant of the Dark Lord's return," said Severus quietly. "Will you accompany me in depositing Rowle in a neutral location before returning to Headquarters?"
Bill nodded to his former professor and levitated the body.
"Albus, Remus, you should likely head to Headquarters and check on Miss Granger and Miss Major. I am sure they are frightened, and if Remus is here, the house is deserted. I can only imagine what could happen to a muggle-born and muggle girl stuck alone in a home so full of Dark Magic."
Severus followed the eldest Weasley out through the house. He disillusioned them and grabbed his former student and the unconscious Thorfinn Rowle, disapparated with a loud crack.
Suddenly, the apparated to a large forest clearing where Bill and Severus quickly dropped Rowle's body with little care or consideration.
"Where are we sir?" inquired Bill.
Severus rolled his eyes at the formality. "Merlin, Weasley, I am currently disguised as someone six years your junior, you haven't been my student for seven years, and we're disposing of a body together… call me Severus."
"Sure thing S-Severus", Bill gave him a lopsided smile, "So where exactly are we?"
"Epping Forest. 12 miles of forest between London and Essex. A common place for Muggle murders. While we're not allowed to kill Rowle ourselves, one can only hope someone else will come and do the job for us. Now, you are a curse breaker, and I believe you are quite skilled in an irreversible obliviate."
Bill nodded, pointed his wand at his former classmate at intoned "Obliviate."
Still stunned and in a body bind, the men watched as the wisps of memories flowed out of Rowle's mind, and were destroyed without a vessel to hold them.
With that done, Severus grabbed the man's walnut wand and snapped it in half over his knee and threw the shattered pieces down beside the body.
Hermione and Sarah were still slumped on the floor, silently holding each other in exhaustion and fear when the doe patronus arrived, unfortunately, Hermione was able to hear the message it relayed thanks to the shrill voice of Walburga Black screaming "stain of dishonour, blood traitor." Hermione jumped to her feet, wand drawn, shielding Sarah with her body when Minerva McGonagall burst into the kitchen. Hermione did not immediately lowered her wand but summoned her patronus charm to assure the woman that she was, in fact, Hermione Granger, despite the heavy glamours. The young witch then questioned her favourite professor, aside from Severus, "What colour did I change my eyebrows when we attempted human transfiguration for the first time?"
"Emerald Green. I'm still disappointed with your colour palette." Minerva smirked.
Hermione lowered her wand and grinned at her Professor and friend, "We both know Red is terrible with my complexion."
Minerva quickly conjured blankets for the girls, lit the kitchen fires and summoned her house elf, Lottie, to bring food for the girls from the Hogwarts kitchens. Minerva watched the two young ladies over the rim of her teacup. Hermione held her new friend close, stroking her hair and whispering reassurances in her ear telling her that she would be home soon and everything was alright, that she was safe now.
After what felt like hours at sitting at the kitchen table, Hermione and Sarah were fighting a losing battle with their fatigued bodies. Minerva was trying to chivvy them to bed, but Hermione would not hear of it until Severus returned to them. Eventually, Sarah fell asleep wrapped in her blanket, and her head was resting on Hermione's shoulder. Just as Hermione was about to join her in sleep, the door to the kitchen silently opened and in came Remus Lupin and Albus Dumbledore. Minerva quickly silenced them pointing to the sleeping muggle girl in their midst.
Casting a muffliato charm to not wake Sarah, Hermione looked at the two men questioningly "Where is Severus? What happened? Who attacked us?"
Remus sat down across from the bright-eyed witch and scrubbed his face with his hand. "Severus and Bill went to dump the stunned death eater and obliviate him. It was a known Death Eater Thorfinn Rowle under the effects of Polyjuice. He was sent to the house by Bellatrix and did not realise that either of you was magical until he was already in the house."
"And our covers?" she continued.
"Safe," whispered Dumbledore. Rowle was unconscious except under questioning and Severus did not drop his glamours. He has no idea either of your identities."
Hermione let out the breath she did not know she was holding in relief. "Will Severus and Bill return soon?"
"Sooner than you think witch," growled a voice from the kitchen doorway.
Hermione's heart picked up, and she wanted nothing to run and fling her person upon Severus, but she was conscious of the sleeping girl propped against her and the presence of Albus, Minerva and Remus, who would be none to impressed at her actions.
Severus came into the room followed by Bill Weasley and the two wizards seated themselves at the table and Severus summoned a large bottle of firewhiskey, pouring three fingers worth and downed it before pouring himself another glass and sliding the bottle to Bill.
"Rowle has been dumped in Epping Forest. William performed the obliviate …"
Before Severus could continue, he was interrupted by a loud yawn coming from Hermione. He arched his eyebrow and dropping the muffliato charm ordered her to bed.
Hermione slowly shook Sarah awake, and the bleary-eyed girl looked around at the new faces. She instantly smiled when she saw her male friend. "Michael! You're ok. Thank you for saving me."
"You're welcome. It was my duty, but I would have been most aggrieved if something had happened to you, Sarah."
The adults in the room looked around; jaws dropped in shock at the gentleness the man was displaying as both young women beamed at him.
Severus followed the girls out of the kitchen as they made to trudge up to the room Hermione typically shared with Ginny. He grabbed Hermione's hand and squeezed it before whispering. I must debrief and come up with a plan until Kingsley can return. I will come in to check on you both shortly. Hermione squeezed his hand back and gave him a quick peck on the cheek before leading Sarah to the third floor.
The next morning, Minerva McGonagall flooed to 12 Grimmauld Place bringing food and clothing to the trio in hiding. She was shocked at the deadly quiet of the still house, assuming at least Severus would be awake at that hour. Pulling out her wand, she made her way up to the third-floor landing and found the door to Hermione's bedroom slightly ajar. Peaking her head in to look after the wellbeing of her favourite lion, she froze at the scene before her. Of the two double beds, one lay cold and freshly made. In the bed furthest from the doorway, lay two still sleeping girls, looking much younger than their ages. They were curled up against each other, Hermione laying her arm across her charge in comfort and protection. The Transfiguration Professor's eyes then travelled to the wall. Slumped over in an old armchair that could not possibly be comfortable, was the disguised Severus Snape. His legs propped up on the foot of the bed, his wand and closed eyes trained at the door.
Minerva slowly backed away from the door smiling slightly. She was still upset that Hermione had been allowed and dare she say, manipulated, by Albus to join the Order, but she was glad to see evidence that Severus was taking his role seriously and protecting her. It also seemed that these two young ladies were thawing the severe man's heart.
Hermione woke up in desperate need of the loo. Slowly removing her arm from Sarah's middle and rolling away, her breath caught as she saw Severus slouched in the armchair against the wall. They must have fallen asleep before he'd returned to the check on them and had stayed all night. Her heart swelled at the sight of him, guarding her and protecting her friend just as he had defended Harry, Ron and herself all these years. She was once again reminded of her desire to scream at Harry and Ron every time they called him a git or Death Eater.
She slowly tried to step over his legs to get to the toilet when his hand reached out and grasped her fingers gently. She turned around, and he pulled her into his lap. Brushing hair away from his face, she tenderly kissed him, pouring in all of her love and happiness that he was safe, that they were all safe. He quickly deepened the kiss, his tongue gliding along the seam of her mouth, begging for entrance. She opened her lips to him and their tongues intertwined as they finally sought comfort from each other.
As Snape began grinding up against Hermione, she was suddenly reminded of why she'd gotten out of the bed in the first place. She pulled away, and as she saw the look of disappointment on his face, she placed her hand over his heart. "Need the loo, and," she said glancing over at Sarah's still sleeping form, "Maybe now isn't the best time. Once Kingsley arrives today, yes?"
"Yes." Severus rumbled, his voice deep and thick with sleep and the stirrings of arousal. "After Kingsley comes and takes Sarah home. In the meantime, we shouldn't leave her alone at all."
"Agreed." Hermione pecked his lips and sashayed to the washroom, smiling at the idea of teasing him just a little. Her smile broadened when she heard Snape growl something that sounded distinctly like 'bloody minx.'