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Chapter 15- The Order Met

Two days had passed, and Snape and Hermione had still not found hide nor hair (nor evidence of death, thank Merlin) of Harry, Ron, or Draco. The two of them—dressed in their purchased muggle clothing—had been searching all the areas that Hermione had said that the boys might go. The first, after the clothing boutique, had been a bookstore. Of a muggle construct. As soon as they had arrived at the coffee-and-paper-smelling place, Snape had eyed her.

"Why so many muggle establishments?" he had whispered as they began what had hopefully been a non-suspicious search of the premises.

Hermione shrugged. "They seemed the least likely places for Voldemort to find us. Not all the places are muggle, and, by the way, what's so wrong with muggle places? You have a muggle background! Are you ashamed of it?"

Snape's skin had turned an odd color at that accusation, and Hermione had instantly regretting making such a claim. How was she ever going to get the man to open up to her if she kept saying things that made him want to keep quiet?

With a deep sigh, Snape leaned in and said, in a harsh whisper, "No, I am not ashamed of it. I was simply wondering as to why you would pick a place that is both unprotected and full of innocents."

Hermione pursed her lips. He was cutting deliberately deep. She had touched a nerve, but he had retaliated on her in full force. Questioning her morality in, possibly, sacrificing innocent muggles to keep her friends safe. She sniffed at him, rolling her eyes.

"To be blatantly honest, I was not thinking of that at the time I picked this place as a possible meeting spot."

The two had continued their search of the bookstore, spending at least another two hours there, in silence. Finally, Hermione, with a heavy heart, had announced that Harry, Ron, and Draco were not there and would probably not be coming. Snape had looked a little sympathetic for her then, but had simply asked where they were going next.

"A wizarding shop, if that's perfectly all right?" she couldn't help but snap.

Snape jerked in head in some semblance of a nod and motioned for her to lead the way. With a huff, she had exited the shop, forcing a smile at the clerk as she did so.

They had kept walking once they were outside and did not stop until they had reached an alleyway that looked fairly secluded from prying eyes. It was only then that Snape turned to Hermione.

"So…this shop? Where is it?" he had asked, a sneer playing about his mouth.

"It's in Cornerstone…an alleyway on the other side of Diagon than Knockturn. It's a bakery."

He raised a brow. "Did you pick all the meeting places, Miss Granger?"

Hermione had huffed and crossed her arms, glowering. "As a matter of fact, I did not choose this one. Ron did."

"Of course."

They had apparated to a shop a little ways from the bakery, but still on Diagon. As their destination was a small one, it took them only a matter of thirty minutes before Hermione had found herself satisfied—and very depressed—that Harry, Ron, and Draco were not going to show. Snape had actually tried to comfort her, assuring her that the boys were fine. But she would have none of it.

This left them with their current position, sipping coffee—for Hermione—and tea—for Snape—in a small, out-of-the-way muggle café. It was tiny, almost tinier than the wizarding bakery had been, but cozy in its own way. The table the two now occupied had absolutely cushioning on it and was really quite hard, made out of a cherry-stained wood. The table, of the same color that could seat, easily, four people, was stained with the many cups of coffee and tea that had been set upon it and spilled. The waitresses, circling around filling various orders, were all smiling and dressed in regular street clothes, with the addition of little white aprons. One waitress arrived, offering to refill Snape's tea, but he declined with a wave, and she bustled off with a smile. However, the former potions' master was not smiling when his eyes fell upon Hermione, who was just staring, blankly, into her half-full coffee.

"Snap out of it, Granger," he hissed, causing her to slowly raise her head to stare at him. "We'll never find them if you don't stop moping about!"

"I'm sorry," she snapped. "I just can't help it. I thought we would have found them by now…or at least have heard some scrap of news of them. But nothing! We're running out of places to look!"

Snape signaled for another cup of coffee for Hermione, which the waitress was quick to comply with. Apparently, the poor young woman just looked like she needed a cup. Hermione muttered a polite "thank you" to the waitress, who bustled away again. Snape shook his head.

"Child, you must control your nerves. I've seen what you've done for your friends in the past. This situation is no different than what you did making your way to the Sorcerer's Stone or tricking Umbridge, or brewing Polyjuice Potion."

Hermione blinked. "You know about that?"

He smiled triumphantly. "I do now."

"Damn it," she swore, causing Snape to chuckle.

He sighed, shaking his head once more. "Well, my point being clearly made, allow me to reiterate it. You've helped your friends in desperate times of crisis before, successfully. You'll do it again."

"This is different. Before, I've always been right there, or I've known what was going on, at least. Now…I have no idea."

Snape huffed, pushing his cup of half-drunk, cooling tea to the side.

"You are not their mother, Hermione, so quit acting like it. As much as I hate to admit it, despite not having a single grain of common sense between them, those boys are quite capable on their own. They know how to stay out of trouble."

Hermione did not reply, allowing that statement to sink it. Inevitably, she knew Snape was right. She needed to quit her worrying and think. She smiled, a bit sheepishly, up at her companion.

"Thanks…you're right, of course. I'm just too much of a worrywart," she said.

"Which goes without saying. Now, where was another place you told them to meet you at?"

She shrugged. "Really, there's only one more place that we set as a definite. We left a lot open, not knowing where our travels would take us."

"Yes. And?"

"It's the Shrieking Shack."

Snape's eyes were wide and unblinking. Hermione narrowed hers at him in confusion.

"Why did you not mention this before? The Shack is a place that all three are familiar with…they would have most likely gone there first!"

But Hermione shook her head, which set her bushy hair waving. "No. I gave them implicit instructions to make that the very last place to go to, no matter what, for that same reason. They are familiar with it, and everyone knows they're familiar with it. That's why I picked a vague meeting place, and I goaded Ron into doing the same."

"So Potter picked the Shack?"

Hermione nodded as Snape scoffed and said, "Typical."

The two stood up from their table as Hermione laid a nice tip upon it. She made quick work of paying for their drinks and moving out into the street. It was a murky, cloudy day that just made her shiver from head to toe, despite the fact that the temperature was actually quite tolerable.

"We need a place to apparate," Snape said.

Hermione nodded, jerking her head to the right. "There's an alleyway I spotted on the way in."

He nodded and the two moved silently, and hopefully inconspicuously, into the alleyway. They hid themselves, as much as they could, from the public eye behind a dumpster. Then, on a three count, they both removed their wands—a safety precaution—and apparated to just inside the Shack's main, upper room.

…And were immediately hit by a Disarming spell, sending both their wands flying in opposite directions. Both held their hands up, their palms being at equal level with the tops of their heads, as they took a moment to register who it was who had attacked them. After a moment of confusion, finally, Hermione smiled.

"Lupin, Mr. Weasley, Tonks!" she said, staring at each in turn as she dropped her hands.

"Hands up, Hermione, sorry," Mr. Weasley said, taking the slightest of steps forward with his wand at the ready.

The young witch scoffed and did as she was told. "What's going on? It's me."

"With Snape," Lupin growled, his wand trailed directly upon the former potions' master.

Snape rolled his eyes as Tonks moved her wand back and forth between the two new arrivals. Hermione narrowed her eyes.

"Didn't Harry explain? Didn't he find you?" she asked, worry rising in the back of her throat like sour bile.

"He found us. And we've just now figured out that he wasn't under Imperious. However, you might be. And we could be wrong. We have to be sure," Tonks explained, her vibrant purple hair managing to shine even in the day's dim light that leaked through a broken window.

"And just how do you intend to prove that, Remus?" Snape sneered.

"Shut it," Remus snapped in return.

"But he's right, Professor. Proving Imperious is terribly difficult, if not impossible," Hermione protested.

"The only way is to break the holder's spell by breaking his concentration…like a curse," Mr. Weasley explained.

"Arthur's right," Tonks admitted, a little sadly.

Both Hermione and Snape exchanged a look.

"How?" the young witch asked a bit hesitantly.

"Sorry, Severus," Remus said, adding, seconds later, "Crucio!"

Snape fell to the floor, screaming and writhing in pain. Hermione's breath was caught as she watched, for moments that seemed like small eternities, in horror. Finally, she began to scream.

"Stop it! Stop it, I said! He hasn't got me under any bloody curse!"

"She's still defending him…the boys were right. Let it go, Remus," Tonks said, placing a gentle hand on his arm.

With a sigh, the spell ended, leaving Snape, breathing heavily, upon the floor. Hermione ran and knelt beside him, helping him sit up. She glared up at Lupin.

"Was that completely necessary? Surely, there had to be another spell you could have used," she hissed.

"It's…all right, Granger," Snape said, moving to push himself to his feet.

He wobbled a little, causing Hermione to reach out and catch him, but he pulled himself—gently—out of her grasp almost immediately.

"We had to be sure what we have been told was true," Remus said, by way of further explanation.

"Ever think of a veritaserum, werewolf?" Snape hissed, straightening his clothes.

"All out, I'm afraid," Lupin said with his lips pulled in a wry smile.

"I'm sure."

Hermione sighed disgustedly and stepped forward, drawing all attention upon herself.

"Is Harry and the others with you? Are they all right? Where did you find them? We've been looking everywhere!" she demanded.

"They came here directly, according to their account," Arthur said, a brow arched at Hermione.

Snape actually chuckled a little while Hermione growled softly.

"Stupid boys…" she muttered.

Remus laughed and locked eyes with Snape. "Sadly, Severus, you're not completely out of the clear. We still need to do a bit of interrogating to find out what all you've been up to lately."

"As expected. You'll get no fight from me."

With a nod, Tonks and Arthur both moved to either side of Snape, each taking one of his arms and careful to keep their wands on him. Hermione took Lupin's arm as the group, as one, apparated away.

End Notes: Okay, so not a terribly long wait…but not a short one. I had school and NaNoWriMo to contend with…not to mention the finishing off of some of my fics…well, I hope everyone enjoyed. Also, about the poll, please vote as I will be putting up a new on one on Monday! Please review!

Edited 12-31-09- Much thanks to Juila for her Brit Picking! I need a little of that every now and again!