Harry Potter was good at not being noticed. Years of hiding from his cousin's gang and from the worried glances of adults who bothered to notice him had taught him to stay silent and stick to the shadows, so even if someone had been looking out of their window that night on Privet Drive, they would not have seen the small boy in oversized clothing trudging down the street.
At the end of the lane, Harry hiked the one working strap of Dudley's old backpack more securely onto his shoulder and breathed a sigh of relief. He had done it. He had left. Even as a grin began to break over his face, however, he felt worry settle in. In all his hours of thought he had not planned further than getting away, and now he had he realised just how little idea he had of where to go. Automatically his feet began to trace the familiar path towards the graveyard out past Marigold Lane, but the second his brain caught up he stopped himself. No one wanted him there, of that much he was certain, and if he wanted a new life filled with adventure he couldn't be tempted by that again. Stepping onto the opposite path he began to walk, clutching his backpack strap for comfort as he remembered the stories of all the books in his bag where the adventures found the child. He would walk until something came along, he told himself, and so he marched forwards, past the houses, past the playground, past the wards which he didn't even notice as he stepped though, out into the world.
Severus rushed into the headmasters office the second the silvery Phoenix patrons had alerted him. Stepping in, he was glad to have been patrolling the halls rather than in bed as the sight of the distressed headmaster clad in violet pyjamas did nothing to alleviate the surreal feeling he had about the entire situation.
"Darker than it was" Severus replied, pulling up his robe to reveal the skull and snake darkening with each passing moment on his arm.
The dark mark on Severus' arm had been growing darker with each passing day for weeks. At first it had been pale and slow enough in its growth to convince him that it was nothing more than guilt manipulating his mind into seeing more than it should, but at the first twinge he knew that he had to notify the headmaster. Stepping through the doors into Dumbledore's office he pointedly ignored the immediate offer of Lemon Drops and paced around the desk, raising his sleeve as he did so. Immediately the twinkle in the headmasters eye dimmed and, sighing deeply, he nodded his head in reluctant acceptance.
"It seems our borrowed time is almost up. We must make our preparations."
"Were you expecting this, headmaster?" Severus asked, struck by the easy manner in which Albus had accepted the turn of events.
"It is not a surprise, no, nor should it be one for you, you know as well as I do that he was never really gone. Even I must admit, however, that I was hoping for a few more years of reprieve before being plunged back into the dark."
"You could find him though, stop him before he gains any real power. He can't have much given how weakly this shows. He might not even have a body at this point and he feared you even at the height of his power."
"Your faith assures me Severus, yes of course I will try. The Order must be informed too, I suppose, though we must keep it to the inner circle or else risk him discovering our knowledge or else incidentally informing Death Eaters of what this means and pushing them to his side ourselves. I must ask you though..."
"Yes. My role of spy was never compromised, I will continue whenever that becomes necessary." At this the glimmer in Albus' eyes returned and, though sadly, he smiled.
"I thank you, my boy. I hate to lay such a heavy burden upon your soldiers, but know that you of all people can manage it. This means you must be prepared at all times, keep the robes with you and potions should his rage over his temporary defeat be expressed in an... unfortunate way... against those of his servants who walked free."
"And what of the Potter brat? Is the security around him sound?"
"He is in the safest place in the world for him at the moment, masked by muggles he is at the least risk with as minimal magical interference as possible. I fear sending any additional security to the area would risk alerting our enemies and placing him in even greater danger than he currently is. He is still so young, best to leave him to his innocence for as long as we can."
"Very well headmaster. I had best leave and prepare." And with that Severus left the room, his face a mask of grim determination and arm pulsing with an energy he knew was only going to increase.
END OF FLASHBACK
Severus was about to asked what had happened for Albus to be so immediately aware of how close his mark indicated Voldemort was to returning to power, but before he could form a question Albus continued.
"Harry has left the wards around his house, from what I can tell he went willingly but there are traces of magical activity around the border and he cannot be located." Severus felt his stomach sink, certain in that moment that all was lost, that the Dark Lord's plan had come too far to be stopped and that Lily's sacrifice would be for nothing.
"He has him then." It was a statement, not a question, and saying it only worsened his sense of dread and anticipation.
"I cannot be certain but to assume otherwise would be foolish. He is not dead though, I would know and so hope is not lost. I am doing what I can to locate them but if you are called you must get him out. His survival is the single most important thing at this moment, if you have to reveal yourself as a spy to save him then you must. I trust you to do whatever it takes, for Lily if for no other reason."
Severus snarled at those final words, but before he could say anything his arm burst with pain and power and the grey lines surged to black. As he ran to the flew to escape the wards of the castle he heard Albus urgently restate the importance of Harry's survival, but had no time to reply.