Disclaimer: Not mine.
This is one of the first fan fics I wrote. Although I still like the plot, I did not like the way it was written, or the mistakes it contained. Thank you to the few kind readers who left reviews on the original regardless of the poor workmanship and errors. I hope this sits better with you.
Severus Snape had just returned to his quarters after seeing the students off for the summer. He hated being in the throng of students vying to be the first on the train, forgetting their manners in the process and fighting for the best compartment. He was glad to be done with them and enjoyed the peace of the castle on the leisurely walk back to his rooms.
He planned to spend the afternoon taking stock of the potions left in his cabinet, knowing that Madame Pomfrey would soon request a complete list. Such mundane activities calmed him and for a time he could forget his two would-be masters and the impending war. He looked forward to the mindless work of the summer and to the new potions research that he had been putting off for too long.
He finished his inventory of the remaining potions and having made Poppy her list proceeded up from the dungeons to deliver it to her. Glancing at the clock before leaving, he was thankful it was dinnertime as he had worked through lunch, and breakfast was a long time past.
"Poppy," he called as he entered the medical wing of the castle. "I have the inventory. It appears we have used most of the stock."
Poppy came over frowning and sighed as she reached for the parchment. "We seem to need more and more of some of these each year. Why, the first year I was here I would have been horrified to get a request for a contraception potion. Now, all Sixth and Seventh Years should be required to bring their own supply. And, why do students, young people of this age use so much headache potion? It must be a sign of the times."
"It is the talk of war Poppy," he scowled. "That and forcing them to grow up too soon."
"Yes, I believe it is," he added seeing her beginning to protest. "The young girls in my house are encouraged to join with the Dark Lord. What would you have them do? They are merely seeking what they see as acceptance, a way out perhaps."
"You think they seek love in the hallways of Hogwarts, Severus?" she grinned.
"No, Poppy, I do not. That is why, contrary to staff opinion, I do not deduct points from the Slytherin students I catch in such an intimate positions. They don't know what they are looking for, other than to run from their problems for a short while and to rebel against what they cannot fight."
"Severus Snape, you have a heart!" Poppy clutched her chest in mock fright.
"Certainly not, I was merely explaining how a Sixth Year girl would see it. It also gives me some control over them," he smirked. "They fear I will report them to the Headmaster, that and delayed punishment keeps them in line."
"Always planning ahead I see," Poppy grinned.
"Albus has some idea that with only a small number of people in the castle it may be unsafe for the females to walk alone in the hallways. I told him I would collect you for meals," he smirked and held out his arm to her.
"Severus, next time let a lady think that you are gallant. No wonder you are alone after all these years," she teased and took up his arm to walk to dinner.
The staff table was shorter and wider for the summer since so few opted to stay behind. The chairs were now arranged so that the staff now sat opposite one another, encouraging conversation and lightening the mood. They joined the others that already were eating. Severus held Poppy's chair for her and sneered down at Sybil as she began to laugh at something Hagrid had said before walking to the far end of the table to sit next to Professor Sprout. He preferred a meal spent listing to the gestation period of a liverwort to Trelawney's doom and gloom prophecies that had not changed since she had first begun at Hogwarts.
As the summer wore on, fewer staff members would remain in the castle. They would leave for their summer vacations and their personal homes, often leaving just Albus, who considered this his home, and Severus, who considered this more comfortable than his place at Spinner's End, together in the large castle. Until they had left however, the Headmaster still insisted they take meals together thinking it would foster house unity.
Severus had just picked up his fork when the flesh on his left forearm began to burn. As always, caught unaware, he gasped in pain, and grabbed at it with his right. Looking quickly at Albus, he nodded his leave and then hurried to his chambers, cursing the need to attend to the Dark Lord. Fighting the pain in his arm while putting on his Death Eater robes, he grabbed for his mask and ran up the stairs hidden in the back of his chamber's closet. Exiting the castle on the east wing, he sped towards the Forbidden Forest, trying to stay in the shadows.
The sun had not yet set and still cast out long shafts of light between the gathering clouds. He could not risk being seen apparating in full Death Eater regalia from the front gates, so decided on the more private route to the Forbidden Forest already darkening by the fading sun. Hurrying to a small clearing about fifty meters inside the boundaries, he almost tripped on a figure lying on the grass obscured by leaves and sunken into the soft moss.
He ran on, thinking some dead animal lay on the path and made a mental note to take care of the matter or to notify Hagrid on his return. Still smelling coppery blood in the air, he thought it odd that he would come across a fresh kill this close to the edge of the forest. Running into the clearing, he pulled on his mask, turned in mid stride, and silently apparated out.
He fell at once to his knees on the grassy field, bowing his head and waiting for Voldemort's command. Keeping his head bowed, he looked up from under his brows to see the commotion around him and realized that his Dark Lord was not standing in front of him. He saw him instead yelling orders as Death Eaters cast tracking spells, looking at each other secretly, unsure of how to proceed. Severus stood and strode quickly toward him, clearing his mind as he went, pulling up his walls and preparing for the onslaught that was sure to come. He dropped to one knee, expecting a rebuke for his lateness and again assumed the position of a slave.
"Severus, up. She is gone, escaped. A boon goes to whoever finds her and returns her to me." Voldemort shouted.
Severus stood and bowed. "Yes my Master. Who do we look for?"
"Who you ask?" He turned and strode angrily to Severus who did not move or flinch. "A witch! A whore of a witch that I want found! Find her! Find her now!"
Severus turned and ran to a part of the field not covered by other Death Eaters, casting tracking spells on the ground as he went. He had not dared to ask the how or the why. The fact that a mere witch had somehow escaped a Dark Revel should have been enough to throw the conclave of wizards into a panic, and yet he saw no evidence that anyone but himself was concerned. Either she would alert the Aurors, or the Dark Lord would kill one of them for failing to find her. Either way Severus thought, this was not a good place to be.
Severus kept casting the spells as his mind tried to make sense of what was happening. None of the Death Eaters seemed to be running for safety, so the thought that the escaped witch would report the meeting to the Aurors was not a factor. The method of escape meant she was a witch, not just a Muggle they brought here for fun. Yet they held no fear that the Order would arrive, nor a vengeful family. Severus kept his head down and watched from the corner of his eye.
He saw blood on the ground and cast a tracking spell. It had been from here that she had left, and he knew then that she was in the Forbidden Forest of Hogwarts under a pile of leaves, lying on the thick, musty carpet of damp ground. In addition, he knew if she had fled to the Forbidden Forest, she had knowledge of the light, knowledge of Albus and perhaps knowledge of the Order. He scowled as he kept his eyes fixed on the ground and continued to cast spells as if searching, while his mind raced to understand what had happened.
Checking around him that it was safe to do so, he cleaned the blood and wiped away the traces of her apparation. He continued his pretence, casting spell after spell, searching long into the night, keeping up the ruse, until the Dark Lord himself called them to quit.
"Master." Severus fell to one knee as he brought his right arm across his chest. "I can continue to look my Lord. Dumbledore does not expect me back before the sun."
"No Severus, you have done quite enough. You are free to go this time. You were not yet here when the wretch escaped. I have some questions to find the answers to yet this evening. Nevertheless you, my loyal servant, are safe for now," Voldemort sneered and looked at him briefly before his eyes returned to the others. "I do not believe she acted alone. I am sure someone here helped her and shall die for their efforts."
"Yes, my Master." Severus bowed, walking backwards, keeping his head down. He glanced behind him as he bowed once more seeking Lucius.
Hurrying to the silver-blond wizard, he pulled him back into the shadows and cast a silencing shield.
"What the fuck is going on?" he hissed.
"I arrived just before you," he snipped. "I have no idea, nor do I know why I was not notified that there was a gathering tonight."
Severus looked around the field seeing many still searching in ever enlarging circles. "This is foolish. Surely someone saw where she left from."
"I understand that it was chaotic, that she saw a chance and took it," Lucius spoke quickly, backing further into the shadows. "This is one time we should not be disappointed to be called last."
"You think she did this herself?" Severus raised his eyebrow. "It seems our Lord is indeed still weak from his ordeals if he allowed this to happen."
"That's just it, from what I understand she was not being held against her will, she came willingly."
"It appears she also left willingly," Severus sneered.
"Something is afoot Snape," Lucius lowered his voice despite the silencing spell. "Look around. This was not an induction. She was not just receiving her mark. Something else was going on."
"Whatever it was, I am sure the Dark Lord has a valid reason for keeping us at a distance."
"I know," Lucius turned his eyes to where the Dark Lord stood watching the scene in front of him, holding his wand loosely. "I think it's time for you to leave. Hopefully I will not be far behind."
"What's the matter old friend?" Severus sneered. "Getting nervous?"
"It does not bode well that none of the inner circle was included in this," Lucius frowned. "I don't like it Snape, not at all."
Severus lowered the silencing shield and backed up three steps, then turning on his heel he apparated back to the Forbidden Forest.