Zia paced the kitchen in Severus' sizeable house. She didn't know why, but a feeling of dread had settled in her stomach. She knew from experience that this was never a good sign.

"Can, I help you Mistress?" Wormtail asked, coming into the kitchen.

"Get out, you slimy toad!" she screeched. She didn't care how long she and Severus acted as double agents, she hated Wormtail with every fiber of her being. It was he who killed James and Lily Potter and framed Sirius for it. It was he who caused Remus the crushing agony of loneliness. It was he who the Dark Lord had sent to be their house servant. And, it was he who Zia would cheerfully smite for no reason what-so-ever.

But, Severus had ordered her not to, lest she blow their cover. And, although he did not have the early ties to the Mauraders, as she did, he hated the despicable rat all the same.

"Rat, Mistress. I'm not a toad. I'm a rat." He spoke in a haughty tone that he would never use with Severus.

"Avada," she started, whipping out her wand.

He threw himself into the wall and screamed in terror.

The teapot whistled and she put her want away. "You're not worth it," she hissed as she walked past him.

--

She opened the door to Severus' study. "Tea," she said gently. She knew he had a terrible migraine and a cold forming on top of that. She took note of the dim lights and his handkerchief just barely peaking out of his sleeve.

He smiled. "I heard you tormenting the rat," he said smoothly. Cogestion lingered on the edge of his voice, but she said nothing about it.

"Nothing he doesn't deserve. I should have killed him when I had the chance," she answered darkly.

"Now, we've discussed this." He quickly withdrew his handkerchief. "Hetchachoo!" He winced as he sneezed and then again as he blew his nose.

"Bless," she said, handing him his tea.

"Thank you," he whispered. "Go," he said, suddenly on alert.

"Visitors?" she asked. He had put wards up around the house to warn them of unexpected guests.

"Upstairs, now!" he ordered, giving her back the tea.

"Bellatrix?" She and Bellatrix never saw eye to eye. In fact, although the other Death Eaters had somehow overlooked the fact that Zia hadn't gotten the Mark, she made it a point to heckle Zia about it at every turn. Neither trusted the other, and with good reason.

"And Narciss-hah-atchew!" He winced again.

"Bless," she said, hastily picking up any evidence of Severus' ailment. Just before she left the room, she ran her hand down Severus' face, leaving him with the warm feeling of healing energy. The edge was taken off the migraine and his insides no longer tickled.

Just as she made it up the stairs, the two women came in like a force of nature.

--

When the two women left, Zia went back to his side. He was considerably more pale than when she had been only a few minutes earlier.

"What did they say?" she asked softly. When he didn't respond, she tried another tactic. "What did you say?"

"I will," he said darkly.

"You will what?" she asked. Again no response. "Severus…"

"Pull it," he said quietly.

"Sev, what is going on?" she asked gently. Something had happened. Something serious.

"Pull it!" he yelled. "Huh-Wuffa!" he sneezed into a cupped hand.

She instantly made eye contact with him, and started to read his memories.

She saw him tell Bellatrix and Narcissa he knew of Narcissa's current plight.

She felt the feeling of panic as it swelled with him.

She saw him be goaded by Bellatrix, and heard Bellatrix threaten Zia's life with the killing curse.

She heard Severus call her a prop in his ultimate game.

She watched as he made an unbreakable vow to protect Draco to the best of his ability.

She watched as he continued to vow that he would help the boy in any way possible.

She watched in horror as he vowed to finish the quest if Draco was unable to.

"No," she whispered pulling out of his memories.

"I can't fight the Dark Lord for me too. I'm already protecting you." He was nauseous, but it had nothing to do with the migraine.

"Maybe Draco won't need your help," she said, hopefully.

"One can only hop." His head fell into his hands and he started to sob.

Zia sighed as she held him close. She mentally prepared herself for the future. These were dark times. Almost as bad as they had been nearly 20 years prior. But, she knew the worst was yet to come.