A/N: What can I say? I mean, other then the fact that I am the worst at updating and I do apologize. Also, surprise! The good news is, I am already working on the next chapter so I feel as though I'm officially back in the game. The bad news? I suppose it should go without saying that you shouldn't expect consistent updates from me. On that note, here is long overdue conclusion to that little cliffhanger I left you all with so long ago.
Chapter 12: Not Like This
Severus Snape crouched low to the ground, his form hidden behind a large oak tree. He wasn't sure exactly where he was, having simply followed the magical tracking charm on Harry's ring by Apparating to the same area. He assumed he must be south, more near London, as the snow had been replaced by rain. It was still cold enough to see his breath, however, and he folded his arms over his chest to provide some warmth from the chill. He could hear voices in the distance, in a vast clearing not too far from the woods in which he lurked. One voice he recognized immediately, as it was Harry, and Snape breathed a sigh of relief. The next voice to speak made his blood boil. It wasn't surprising, Bellatrix's presence often had that affect on him. He knew he had to get closer to hear what was being said and, more importantly, to figure out the best way to rescue Harry.
Smirking to himself, Severus removed Harry's invisibility cloak from a pocket within his own dark robes. He remembered the look of shock on Weasley's and Granger's faces when he burst back into the office. The Headmaster was filling in the two Gryffindors about how Harry had been kidnapped and even Albus had a look of slight shock upon his features. Though, anyone who didn't know him as Snape did would not have seen it. It didn't take long for Snape to convince the two teenagers to tell him where Harry kept this precious possession. Indeed, if it would help save The-Boy-Who-Lived, Severus wagered the two pupils would confess their most embarrassing secrets.
An opportunity wasted, Snape mused to himself.
As time was of the essence, he quickly and quietly draped the invisibility cloak over his form. He had to continue to crouch, however, as his height left a rather sizable gap between the ground and his calves.
He moved closer to where Harry was being held. As he approached, he could make out that the boy was bound to a large maple tree with his arms stretched out behind him and along the sides of the massive trunk. There appeared to be rope between his wrists, tying them to each other, and Severus knew better then to assume a simple unbinding spell would do the trick. He could see that the teenager was soaked to the bone, and only wearing a tee shirt as he had been abducted from the castle. Severus could tell that Harry was trying his best not to visibly shiver, but knew that he must be freezing. He crept closer but still stayed within the relative cover of the woods. The last thing he needed was for a strong wind to reveal a portion of his body.
He could now see and hear the group that surrounded Harry, and counted five Death Eaters in the immediate area. He hoped there weren't more.
"So how did you like our little trick then, hmm?" Bellatrix questioned as she sauntered over to Harry and ran her fingers down his arm.
Snape could see the look on the teenagers face was murderous.
"Rather clever of Lucius, don't you think?" she smirked.
Harry continued to glare at her, not deeming her worthy of an answer.
Bellatrix frowned at this. "What's the matter? Ickle Baby Potter mad that he was so easily fooled?"
"Indeed, it wasn't hard," Lucius chimed in with his usual air of superiority. He appeared as himself now, the Polyjuice Potion having worn off. "Severus was right. Potter seems to truly believe that he cares for him. The idiot boy followed me all the way from the dungeons to the third floor. He would have just walked right into the cabinet had his halfwit Gryffindor fan club not stumbled upon us."
Lucius and the other Death Eaters fancied this humorous, and all began laughing at Harry's expense.
Snape could feel his body tensing up. A hot feeling of rage coursed within him and he was finding it difficult not to hex Lucius on the spot. However, he realized with relief, Harry remained stoic. He couldn't have been more proud of Harry at this moment. In the past, the teenager wouldn't have been able to hold his tongue in the face of such antagonization. He would have given it back to them just as quickly. But here the boy stood, still looking angry and defiant as ever, so maybe not so stoic, but remaining silent. Not daring to give away any information that may be useful to the enemy inadvertently by lashing out.
The laughter of the group died down and Avery stepped up this time, slowly approaching Harry. "Still have nothing to say, Potter?" he sneered. "It doesn't matter. The Dark Lord will be here any minute and you can bet he'll be able to get what he wants out of you."
Harry couldn't help himself and rolled his eyes. Though on the inside he was having a difficult time figuring his way out of this one.
Avery bristled at the boy's impertinence and punched him across the face, his ring slicing into Harry's cheek as a result.
Harry's glasses were knocked off as his head cracked against the tree trunk.
"Avery!" Lucius called angrily as he grabbed the other man roughly and pulled him away from the boy. "He is to be untouched. The Dark Lord will deal with him when he arrives!"
Harry squinted through his blurry vision, blinking and trying to will the dizziness to stop. It was then he could see the outline of Bellatrix approaching him again. She was clearly taking advantage of the fact that Lucius and Avery were otherwise occupied with their argument.
The deranged witch was upon Harry suddenly, a devilish smile playing across her lips. "I know a way we can get some noise out of you."
Harry cringed and braced himself. However, before Bellatrix could utter a curse, Goyle Sr. suddenly shouted and startled her.
"What in the bloody hell is that?!"
All five Death Eaters, as well as Harry, looked into the distance. There, in the middle of the clearing, was what appeared to be an ethereal, glowing animal.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. It's a Patronus. Someone from the Order must be here to help him.
"I want all of you to spread out!" Lucius commanded. "We have visitors." So as not to reveal their identities to any one who could potentially convict them, Lucius motioned for everyone to put their masks on. "You stay with the boy," he directed Mulciber. "You two, head back into the woods," he motioned at Goyle and Bellatrix. "And you," he beckoned Avery, "come with me."
Harry watched as Lucius and Avery headed off across the clearing in the direction of the Patronus. The teenager screwed up his eyes to try to get a better look. The Patronus looked an awful lot like his, as far as the size and shape went. It was then that he finally got a good enough look that he realized it was a doe.
'A doe,' Harry thought to himself. He wondered who in the Order would have a doe patronus. If his dad's was a stag, like his, it made sense that his mum's could have been a doe.
He continued to ponder, now that he knew of Snape's feelings toward his mum, could his love have manifested itself in such a way?
Comprehension dawned on the teenager then, and he smiled to himself. He was pretty sure he knew who his rescuer was.
"What are you smiling about, Potter?" Mulciber stepped closer, breathing into his face. "Think your little friends can help you, do ya? Because I've got news for you. Once the Dark Lord get's here-"
"Oh, you mean Voldemort?" Harry interrupted sweetly.
"W-what did you say?" Mulciber stuttered in shock.
"Oh, sorry, little hard of hearing are we? I said: VOL-DE-MORT."
"Oh you're going to regret that," the older man warned through clenched teeth. He raised his wand slowly, the Cruciatus Curse on his lips, when he was suddenly and forcibly knocked off his feet by an invisible blow.
Harry flinched with surprise, and looked down upon the man who was now knocked out cold.
"POTTER," an all-too-familiar voice, and not at all an unwelcome one, hissed from behind Harry somewhere.
Harry couldn't help the smile that formed on his face as he craned his head around to try to find his professor.
Before the Boy-Who-Lived could comprehend what was happening, he felt his hands freed of their binds, and his body spun around as a cloak was thrown over his head. As Harry's glasses were returned to his face, the exasperated expression of his mentor came into view as clear as day, mere inches from his own.
"THAT," Snape began angrily, "was unnecessary."
Harry looked slightly chagrined. "He deserved it. And I knew you were here, sir," he added with a grin. Despite his best efforts not to, the teenager shivered violently.
Snape sighed. "How did you know-?" he stopped himself and a look of concern crossed his face for only a moment as he took in the bleeding gash across his student's face and the trembling of his frame. Anger flashed in his eyes, quickly replaced by urgency. "We will talk about this later," he huffed. "Which one has your wand?"
"Malfoy, of course," Harry grumbled.
Snape nodded curtly. "All right, we're going to get your wand back and then Apparate out of here. And we're hopefully going to accomplish this without anyone knowing I'm here. Understood?"
Before Harry could voice his confusion and say that 'no, not really. And how are we going to do that?' Snape had grabbed him by the wrist and started running toward Malfoy and Avery.
"Sir," Harry hissed. "What are you going to do?"
"Just keep quiet, and stay with me!" Snape whispered back. "Hold onto me and stay low to the ground while we run."
Harry nodded and, with his free hand, grabbed the invisibility cloak to help keep the two men covered.
They were halfway across the clearing, and quickly approaching Lucius, when both men were startled by Goyle crying out from behind them.
"Oi! Man down!"
"And Ickle Baby Potter has disappeared!" Bellatrix added with maniacal glee.
"WHAT?" Lucius called out as he and Avery both spun around on the spot, now facing the direction that Snape and Harry were approaching from.
"Sir, shouldn't we stop?" Harry questioned nervously.
"No Harry, keep running," came Snape's command.
"But he's looking right at us," the teenager whispered with unease.
Snape didn't seem to mind, however, and all Harry could do was brace himself as his professor lowered a shoulder and barreled into Malfoy's side, sending the blonde wizard flailing as he was knocked off his feet.
"Who dares-?!" Malfoy shouted angrily from the ground.
Snape slowed their run, still holding onto Harry's wrist, and turned to see Malfoy sputtering about. Harry's wand had been knocked out of the other wizard's possession, and was lying a few feet away.
"Accio Harry's wand," Snape whispered.
The object flew in their direction and Snape snatched it from the air, exposing the lower half of their bodies for only a moment to reach out from under the cloak. He handed it to a very thankful Harry Potter.
"What was that?!" Avery shouted, having seen a slight movement when Snape had moved the cloak.
While he still had the chance, Snape spun himself and Harry on the spot to escape. However, nothing had happened. Steeling himself, he tried again. And again, nothing.
"Sir?" Harry whispered with worry.
From all of the commotion, Bellatrix and Goyle were running to join a very confused Malfoy and Avery.
"Something's moving right there, I saw it!" Avery cried out as he pointed at Snape and Harry.
"Is that you, Harry?" Bellatrix asked breathlessly, having just caught up with the other Death Eaters.
The witch and three wizards held their wands out, aimed in Snape's and Harry's general direction, and waiting for any sign of movement.
Snape gripped Harry's wrist tighter, and pulled his wand out with his free hand. Mentor and student met each other's eyes and Snape gritted his teeth.
"RUN," he commanded.
They took off together, legs pumping as fast as possible, leaving behind their concern for hiding their ankles in favor of putting as much distance between them and their enemies.
"There's two of them!" shouted Avery, spotting the two pairs of retreating feet.
"GET THEM!" commanded Lucius.
The four conscious Death Eaters took off after the two wizards, firing off any hexes they could think of as they ran.
"Why aren't we fighting them?" Harry asked angrily between breaths.
"Not today, Harry," Snape shook his head. "Not like this."
"But where are we going?" he asked impatiently. He didn't understand. What good would running do if they couldn't escape?
The aim of the hexes became more accurate, hitting the ground near their feet. One managed to graze Snape's calf, causing the older wizard to grimace before firing one back out from under the cloak. Harry followed suit, shouting "Stupefy!" as he aimed for Lucius.
Curses ricocheted off of them as Snape did his best to shield them both with his own blocking spells. Harry continued to fire off spells as often as he could without slowing the two of them down. Due to all of their attention being consumed on spell casting and blocking, as well as their focus to hold onto one another lest they get separated somehow, neither man was gripping the invisibility cloak.
Harry's heart leapt into his throat as he realized the cloak was slipping off of them both. His hand that wasn't in Snape's vice-grip reached out behind him, and he somehow managed to grab the cloak without losing his grip on his wand. Saving the cloak, as relieving as it was, was a small consolation prize.
"Snaaaaaaape!" Bellatrix cried out murderously. "I knew it!" She began laughing maniacally as she cast the Cruciatus Curse in his direction.
Harry looked at his mentor with something akin to panic. Snape, determination in his eyes and now free from the constraints of the cloak, cast one giant blocking charm. It acted as a wall of sorts, one that the four Death Eaters ran right into. Stunned and hitting the ground, it took them a few moments to get their bearings before beginning the chase once again.
"Brilliant, sir!" Harry couldn't help himself from exclaiming.
"We're almost there…" Snape responded under his breath.
"Almost where?" Harry asked with confusion.
It was then, when their pursuers started firing hexes again, that Snape stopped abruptly and turned himself and Harry on the spot. Harry felt the familiar sensation of side-along Apparition, nauseating and disorienting as it was. He felt as though he was being sucked through a straw and when it seemed as though they were arriving at their destination, they jerked to the side instead and continued to spin. They landed on the ground suddenly and roughly, and Harry felt as though he were going to be sick, or pass out, or both.
Before he could get his bearings, his Potion's professor grabbed him by his arms and lifted him to his feet. Placing Harry's arm over his shoulders so as to assist the teenager's rubber-like legs, he walked them quickly through what Harry now recognized as the main gate to Hogwarts. No sooner had they walked through and the gates locked did Harry hear four familiar sounding cracks, signaling that their pursuers had just Apparated here as well.
Harry, feeling more steady, removed his arm from Snape's shoulders, and the two wizards turned around to face their assailants.
Lucius, Avery, Bellatrix and Goyle all glared hatefully through the protective wards of the Hogwarts gate.
Snape looked down at Harry, the teenager in turn looking at his mentor with emerald eyes full of unease. The Boy-Who-Lived steeled himself before he turned a loathing glare at the Death Eaters on the other side of the gate. Before Harry could do or say anything, Snape placed a hand on his shoulder and turned them both around. Without a word, they began walking toward the castle.
"You can't protect the boy forever!" Bellatrix called madly from behind. "Especially now that we know your dirty little secret!"
They ignored the threat, and the calling and taunting that continued, and made their way to Hogwarts. The castle was now the only safe place for both Harry and Snape.