Chapter - 19
Snape walked quickly and purposefully through the dark and damp corridor. He clutched something to him, a bundle. He paused for a moment outside of the door and glanced down at the green-eyed infant in his arms. Taking a deep breath, he tried to clear his mind of any bit of knowledge he didn't want Voldemort to know.
The door opened – by itself, it seemed – and Snape entered the room, bringing to his face a look of utter disgust at the child now whimpering in his arms.
"What is it this time Snape? You haven't brought me any valuable information in months, yet you still show your face?"
Snape did his best to avoid the red eyes glaring at him from behind the snake-like slits.
"My Lord," he said, bowing slightly, "I have brought you Potter's child."
Severus suppressed a shudder as Voldemort began to chuckle.
"Snape, you seem to have out-done yourself. I don't think you even realize what a find this is." Voldemort snapped his fingers and a Death Eater came from behind him and took the child from Snape.
Snape prayed that Hermione's plan would work and he wasn't sending an innocent child to its death.
- - - - -
Ron was running down the hallway. He could hear the other Aurors shouting curses and hexes as they ran but for some unknown reason, he just couldn't run and cast spells at the same time. They were being chased by the group of Death Eaters who had found them as they wandered around the castle. They had gotten lost, and awareness had waned. They hadn't realized that they were being followed until some clumsy person behind them had tripped over something and that had alerted the Aurors to the Death Eater's presence.
The shout of an Auror directly behind him brought Ron out of his zombie-like state. He turned his head a little just in time to see a jet of blue burst past him.
"Watch out, Ron! That was close!" Someone near him shouted.
Ron felt like he was back in Hogwarts, playing Quidditch and he had almost gotten hit with a bludger. He had to shake his head to remind himself that this wasn't a game, it was life.
Ron reached up and wiped the sweat that was already dripping down his face. They would have to find somewhere to hide soon; or else they would all become tired and would be too weak to face any foe that came at them. A door on his right attracted his attention and Ron tried to signal to the others to run in there, but none of them saw. For some reason, Ron thought it felt like a safe place to hide. He turned the door's handle and fell into the room in his urgency to hide, only to see a flash of green light and then nothing but black.
- - - - -
"Albus, have you seen Severus?" Remus was looking anxious as the hour quickly approached midnight. He had been hoping to find Snape so that he could give him some type of calming potion, but hadn't seen him since they'd arrived, and then only for a brief moment.
"I did see him, but he was on his way out, I believe." Dumbledore hoped that his vague explanation would be enough to satisfy Remus and he wouldn't have to divulge Hermione's plan while it was just beginning.
"On his way out? Albus, we're supposed to be in hiding, how can anyone 'be on their way out'?" Lupin looked at Albus, incredulously.
"Do you think I'm that daft? As to just let someone go wandering off unaccompanied? No, he had something to do. In fact, I gave him the permission to go." Dumbledore said.
Remus looked down at the ground, a shameful look on his face. He had not meant to undermined Albus' authority or state of mind; he had just been worried for his former enemy. Plus, if Snape were somehow captured, their hiding place would be revealed.
"Besides…" Remus looked up as Dumbledore continued talking, "This is Severus that we're talking about. I don't think it's likely that he went out for something frivolous. I'm sure what he had to do was very important, and that he won't be out wandering about in broad daylight."
The werewolf nodded in agreement, wondering why he had ever thought that Snape couldn't handle himself.
"Do you know where he went, Albus?" Remus asked, curiously.
"Indeed, I do. But by request of another person, I have promised to keep it secret, particularly from you and Harry." Dumbledore said. He was smiling, but his eyes lacked a certain warmth and twinkle that Remus had always found comforting in his times of need.
"I understand, Albus. Very well then, perhaps you can help me out then. I'm in quite the predicament. You see, I am in need of a potion…"
- - - - -
All the Death Eaters were gathered around. Voldemort had called a meeting in response to this new and welcomed piece of the puzzle. The infant lay on a small rounded table in the center of the Ring of Death Eaters. There were no blankets wrapping the child, and so the cold air of the dungeons was free to reach her skin. The faithful Death Eaters that had assembled could clearly see the child's resemblance to her father; the unruly hair, the green eyes, it all fit.
"I have called you all here today because something unexpected has happened. There will be a change of plans. Instead of a sacrificing Harry Potter…" there was a pause as a few of the newer and more rebellious Death Eaters gasped, "We will be sacrificing his daughter."
Snape tried to maintain his grim expression behind his mask, knowing full well that even though his face was hidden, the Dark Lord would notice any change in emotion. Voldemort continued on with his speech, as Snape had hoped – and planned – that he would. This would give them more time; time that they so desperately needed.
"I have learned from my most trusted Death Eater and Double-Agent Spy that this child here, has greater powers than even those of her father. Her parentage, no doubt, lends a hand in that." Voldemort fumed at the thought that a mudblood had contributed in producing a child with such powers as these, "I will be sacrificing her instead, as that will bring me even greater power. And since her father does not know of her existence yet, we will not have to worry about any pesky charms that destroy me and deplete my ranks."
A few people laughed, mostly out of nervousness, others because this seemed like the time where if you didn't laugh, you'd get Avada Kedavra'd.
'That's right, keep on talking' Snape thought. He wanted to look at his watch, to know how much time they had left, but had to resist.
"Snape!" Voldemort turned to address Snape and he felt a bead of sweat form on his forehead out of nervousness.
"Yes, master?" Severus bowed and rose again, not daring to look Voldemort in the eye.
"I want you to take this … child, since it seems to be most familiar with you. I don't want to have to listen to that racket if it starts crying again. Keep it quiet." Voldemort gestured towards the table.
"Yes, sir." Snape gladly took his chance to leave the meeting room and went over to the middle of the room to pick up Elizabeth. He quickly left and breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was going according to plan.
- - - - -
Dumbledore looked up as a small red light lit up on the wall in front of him. It was the board that he used to keep track of all the Aurors, and it only lit up if one of them fell. This could not be good. Albus stood up and walked to the wall where each of the Aurors had their own red light just below their picture. One red light was lit, but he already knew about that one. The Auror hadn't lasted long after he'd come back to the hideout. Jacques had been so ill that it had been hard for him even to travel back and Dumbledore had allowed his partner a reprieve from the rest of the mission in order to grieve. Anne had been quite upset to learn of his death.
But now another red light was glowing as well, a new one. Dumbledore followed the red light up until his eyes rested on the picture to whom the light belonged to.
"No… it couldn't be…" For some reason, Albus' eyes had decided now was a good time to play a trick on him. Because what he was seeing surely couldn't be true. But it had to be, magic didn't lie.
"Ron is dead."
There was a collective gasp throughout the room and Dumbledore cursed himself in that moment. He had forgotten that he was not alone in the room he had created for solitude, but in the end found it too lonely to stay in alone. A few unknown faces were just shocked at the fact that there had been another death. Dumbledore looked around until he found the face that he knew was there. Harry.
"Harry…" Dumbledore said quietly, as if approaching a wild animal, "Harry, you just have to stay calm about this. I know you are going to be upset, but there are children here."
Harry looked far from angry. Tears were forming in his brilliant green eyes and Dumbledore could see that in a few years, Harry would have worry lines that would far outnumber his own.
"Ron… is dead? How can that be? It just can't be." Harry said, then he laughed, "No, no, Ron isn't dead. It's just some joke he's playing. He'll be back."
Harry leaned back in his chair, relaxing, but his face still was tense and showed a look of extreme haggardness. Then all of a sudden he got up and looked around wearily before he said, "I'm going to go to… I'm going… Oh hell, I'm just going."
And with that he left.
- - - - -
Snape settled the child in a makeshift bassinet that he had found in the corner of the room, probably left over from some other infant sacrifice. There were blankets in this one, so the chill was quickly chased away and the baby looked up at him and smiled. Snape, away from the confines of the Death Eater meeting, smiled back before glancing at his watch. There were only 3 more minutes left; they had exited just in time. Snape took a seat in a chair directly across from where the baby lay, watching her.
Now there was only a minute to go. He wouldn't have long to wait now, and then the second part of the plan could begin. He prayed that everything would work like it was supposed to. It was a very … interesting plan, and he wasn't sure that Hermione had been thinking straight when she had come up with it. He didn't doubt that she was brilliant, maybe even up there with Dumbledore and the others of his skill and wisdom, but she had just given birth, been reunited with her husband and then had to deal with tremendous stress, all within 24 hours.
30 seconds left.
10… 9 … He could see the child transforming in front of his eyes
7 … her hair was growing longer and fuller
6 … she was growing taller and now longer fit in the bassinet
3 … her eyes changed from the bright green he had grown accustomed to, to a chocolate brown
1 … and finally, before his very eyes, Elizabeth Potter had transformed into … Hermione Gra- Potter.
"It's nice of you to join us." Snape said, once Hermione had recovered from the transformation.
"'Us', Professor? Since when do you refer to yourself as two people?" Hermione said, smiling and then she grew more solemn, "Thank You, Professor. I couldn't have done this without you. I'll still need your help, you know. You are the only one who knows your way around here."
"Hermione, you are no longer a student and I am no longer your professor. You can call me Severus… or Snape if you must."
Hermione nodded, and Snape gestured to a pile of black robes sitting on a table that he had gotten for her use. Hermione put them on, and after putting on Snape's Death Eater mask to test out the outfit, looked completely disguised. They were ready for Part 2.
- - - - -
Part of Dumbledore's 'Status Board' for the Aurors was a body recovery system. The wizard who had helped him create the spell in the first place had suggested it, but Dumbledore found it to be rather morbid. But this time it seemed to come in handy.
Ron's body had traveled back to the hideout without damage and he now lay in the newly made infirmary. His clothes had been changed and as he lay on the bed, he looked as though he were simply sleeping. Nobody was allowed in to see him yet, as Dumbledore wasn't sure what had killed him, and didn't know what would happen if he came into contact with other people. But Harry couldn't just sit there and not see his best friend.
So he did what he always did… snuck out. After hearing from Dumbledore that Elizabeth was safe with Remus – Harry had found this to be quite a shock as Lupin had seemed a bit reluctant to come in contact with either of them – he grabbed his Invisibility Cloak and walked to the Infirmary.
Kneeling by Ron's bed, he reached out to take his friend's hand. Frighteningly enough, Ron's hand was still slightly warm, although Harry knew that was just because he had been killed recently. Ron's skin seemed normal color and nothing about him seemed odd. So Harry found himself in a state of denial, thinking that there was no way that his friend could be dead. And so he stayed like that for hours, looking Ron over trying to find some sign of life, before his resolve finally crumbled and he began sobbing over Ron's dead body.
"Oh God, Ron. You just can't be dead. You have to wake up. Wake up!" Harry found himself shaking Ron's shoulders, "Ron you can't leave me here alone!"
Harry sobbed uncontrollably, and his tears fell onto the pillow that supported Ron's neck.
"Please… please… I can't take this any more. I can't take any more deaths." Harry prayed to whoever would listen that this was all a dream and that Ron would wake up. But somewhere, deep inside, he knew that Ron would never wake up.