"Coward: One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs." – Ambrose Bierce
A set of black robes went gliding across the room before settling into a dusty and worn brown travel bag. A set of identical robes settled atop the first. The bag closed with a snap. Severus scanned the room, his black, beady eyes looking for any clue anyone had ever resided in the small bedroom. Pleased with his handiwork, he pulled on a set of warm outer robes before making his way toward the door.
"Going somewhere?" A voice from behind caused him to pause in surprise. He stood completely still as a red-robed figure strolled into his peripheral line of vision.
"I've not worked as a spy for so long only to die," Severus replied in a level tone.
The other man laughed. "O Snape, you are such a coward. But where do you plan to go?"
Severus' grip tightened on his bag. He had no idea where he was going to go; only that it would be someplace far from here.
"You don't have anywhere to go, do you? Nowhere that he wouldn't be able to find you," the man snickered. "Unless you're planning on going to Hogwarts!"
"Shut up!" Snapped Severus. "Just shut up and get out of my way."
The red-robed man strode closer and closer until his face was mere inches away. Severus stared at the man's gaunt appearance and deadened eyes, before unconsciously turning away from the pathetic creature. The other man laughed in a way that caused chills to run the length of the Potion Master's spine.
"What about the potion?"
"It will be fine," Severus stated assuredly. "If everything goes as planned, I'll return for it once this is all over."
"And if things don't go as planned?"
"Then the potion is useless," he sneered. "Now, get out of my way."
A ghastly white hand reached out and grasped his shoulder. Severus fought his initial urge to jump away, choosing instead to show a bit more dignity and merely take a step back. Another evil chuckle echoed through the room.
"I know just the place for you," the red-robe figure snarled. "We'll go back home."
"What?" Severus questioned dumbly. "Spinner's End?"
The man shook his head. "No you idiot, my home."
"Are you insane?"
"Perhaps, but no one will look for you there."
Severus considered his options, which were very few. He could go on the run and hope to Merlin that the Potter brat killed the Dark Lord before Severus was tracked down, tortured and killed. The second option would be to hide out in the last place where he'd ever thought to return.
"I suppose it is the best plan," he grumbled.
"Let's go then, before the snake-faced bastard comes looking for you."
The white hand appeared again from beneath the blood red robes and this time Severus forced his nerves to settle. He still flinched at the feel of those cold digits. A second pale hand reached up to grip the necklace around the man's neck. With a sharp tug at the chain, the man disappeared, Severus in tow. A moment later they reappeared in a dark and dingy hallway.
Severus forcefully pulled his arm away from the robed figure and made his way down the hall.
"Welcome back to Number 12, Snape," the man sneered coldly, before disappearing into the shadows.
The Hospital Wing was deathly quiet as Petunia made her way to the private rooms in back. She knocked at one of the plain white doors and heard a gruff "Enter" in response. The room was dark, with one small candle flickering softly on the bedside table. The man on the bed had a pile of papers spread across his lap.
"Good evening Petunia," Rufus greeted her without looking up from his work. "What brings you by so late?"
Petunia's hands shook slightly as the door closed. As soon as she heard the soft click behind her, she fell into the chair beside the bed and began to weep. Big, ugly tears made their way down her face, flowing over wrinkles and worry lines. After what seemed to be an eternity of her near silent crying, the Minister finally spoke.
"What happened?" He looked at her questioningly and reached out a bandaged hand in her direction. She instantly reached out and grasped it, holding on for dear life.
"I've just been told," Petunia paused, attempting to collect her thoughts which seemed utterly impossible at the moment. "I've just been informed that Vernon has been killed."
Rufus did not gasp. His expression did not change to one of shock and confusion. Instead he merely nodded and waited for her to continue. Petunia felt as if he might wait for her all night and that feeling warmed her slightly.
"A Death Eater found where they were staying in America. She killed quite a few muggles and muggle-borns. They found Vernon's body, but Dudley is missing."
"Has there been any word from Voldemort?" He questioned. Petunia shook her head. "Well, that's good then. If he had captured the boy, then I've no doubt he'd use him to try and draw Potter out."
Petunia nodded. "I just can't believe it. He was supposed to be safe there, they both were. If I would have gone with them…if I wouldn't have remained here…"
The clock on the wall ticked loudly through the silence. They both knew what would have happened if Petunia would have left with the muggles and muggle-borns. She'd be dead right now, or held prisoner by Voldemort.
"I'm sorry about your husband," Rufus said in a solemn tone while patting her hand consolingly. "I'm sure he was a good man."
Petunia snorted at that. Vernon was a lot of things and a 'good man' wasn't one of them. But still, he was her husband and in the deepest depths of her soul, that still meant a great deal.
"Vernon wasn't what one would call good, but he did his best for Dudley and I. He certainly didn't deserve such a horrible end." Rufus nodded, motioning for her to continue. "It's my son I'm really worried about. He's never been on his own before."
"Have some faith in your boy," the Minister urged. "He may surprise you."
"Draco, get back here you prat!" Ginny shouted at the top of her lungs.
Dudley came running from the bedroom. "What's going on in here? I heard shouting." He looked around the room and noticed Draco hiding behind the sofa. "What in the world are you doing back there?"
A pale, white finger appeared. "She's crazy, that's what she is. All I did was make myself a sandwich and she went completely barmy."
Ginny pointed a delicate finger back at Draco. "He used all the mayo, all the cheese and he only left the bread crusts. You should see his sandwich, it's enormous!"
"Just order something from room service then, if you're hungry," sneered Draco.
Dudley shook his head at the two. They really were acting like children. Sometimes he wondered if they really understood the gravity of the situation the three of them had found themselves in. From the pout on Ginny's face and the smirk on Draco's, he guessed not.
"Draco, we can't keep ordering from room service," Dudley stated as calmly as possible, attempting to keep the nervousness out of his voice. Really, he was scared out of his mind. Their money would only last so long, and then what?
"Why not?" Draco questioned snottily.
"Because we only have so much money and when it's gone we don't have a way to get more. Then what will we do?"
Ginny bit her lip. "Do you think we should try to get back to England?" She questioned.
Dudley shook his head. "No. We can't help there and chances are, we'd just get caught on the way. I don't know about you, but I'd prefer not to be tortured."
"Well then, we'll just have to keep a sharp eye on our finances. That means no more room service, Ginny."
"What?" Ginny yelled angrily and a pillow went flying across the room and straight into Draco's face.
Harry stood at the window in the Headmaster's office, gazing down at the Quidditch pitch. A group of intrepid muggles and muggle-borns were currently trying their hand on planting crops. It appeared they'd enlisted the help of a few wizards to assist them in forcing the plants to grow faster. The food was definitely needed, and soon. Their current food supply was beginning to run low. Their victory at the muggle-born camp had increased the amount of muggle-borns by a great deal and there was no way to get them to America now that Hogwarts had been completely cut off from the outside world.
"She'll be okay," Ron stated assuredly as he came to stand next to his best friend. Harry tried to work up a smile for the redhead, but it came out as more of a grimace. "She's a Weasley, we can get out of everything."
Hermione stepped up at Harry's right and put an arm around his shoulders. "It's safer for her this way."
Harry nodded. "I know, I just hate not knowing."
His friends both nodded in understanding and then the three fell into silence. Harry rubbed his forehead, feeling a familiar ache in his scar. Voldemort was angry; he had been ever since the Death Eater attack in America. It was obvious that things hadn't gone as planned.
"I don't know what's going to happen next," Harry admitted aloud, "But I'm glad you two are here with me." He turned to them and offered them the best smile he could manage at the moment.
"O Harry," Hermione sighed, pulling him closer. "As if you could actually get rid of us if you wanted to. We'll always be right here next to you, no matter what the future may bring."
Ron nodded in agreement and put his arm over Hermione's arm on Harry's shoulder. "How hard could it be?" He questioned cockily. "We just need to get past Voldemort's Death Eaters, maybe defeat a few giants, werewolves and Dementors, and then kill the Dark Lord. Nothing to it, mate."
Harry and Hermione both laughed.
"We've already taken out a troll," Hermione continued.
"And a basilisk," added Harry.
"And a bunch of Dementors," Ron ticked off on his fingers.
Hermione smiled. "We traveled through time."
"I pretty much singlehandedly defeated a dragon," Harry stated pompously, tugging on the front of his robes in a manner reminiscent of Fudge.
"O, of course," Ron smirked. "And you swam with mermaids."
"Defeated ze Grindylows," Hermione added in her best French accent.
"Freed a house-elf," Ron suggested.
"Fought off about a thousand spiders." Harry laughed as he felt Ron shiver.
"Ugh, don't bring that up," Ron complained while ruffling Harry's already messy hair.
"Bested Lucius Malfoy," Hermione smirked.
"Ah yes," Ron sighed, "That was wicked."
The three looked at each other and began to chuckle, and then the chuckling turned to laughter. Harry held his side as he laughed louder and harder then he'd ever laughed in his life. Finally they settled down and Harry pulled his friends so close that they were nearly caught up in a three-way hug. The moment was silent and solemn, but then Ron, never one to be comfortable with long silences, had to open his mouth.
"I bet Voldemort never does this with Bellatrix and Snape." And then the laughter started all over again.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I hope you all enjoyed "The Last of Albus". I will begin writing the next story in the series soon.