A/N: At long last a chapter is posted! My apologies for the wait. There really is no excuse. I planned for this to be a longer chapter complete with explanations and voldemort and Tess Carter, however I felt the need for a cliff hanger. I'm currently at camp so internet is sporadic. Hopefully I can post the next chapter Saturday so it is more of a rolling update. Enjoy and let me know your comments via PM or review.

Haunted azure eyes followed the Headmistresses path as she made her way to the table. An uncomfortable silence settled over the bunch, no one willing to bring up the Headmaster's recent actions.

"Albus…" Minerva spoke softly, gently patting him on the shoulder as if urging him forward.

Dumbledore just glanced down towards his folded hands and took one rattling breath before proceeding onwards.

"I am sure you all have seen the Daily Prophet."

Several heads nodded but not a one dared to vocalize their thoughts.

"He is in good hands. Kingsley, I'm sure, is playing his part well."

The Order members looked at him with muted anger. Never did they like Severus, but most respected him and his work for the organization.

"I am well aware of the position I have put Severus in. However, I have all the faith in him that this will work out for the better."

A cool gust nipped at the nape of the Headmaster's neck. In one fluid motion the doors of Number 12 grimmauld's place kitchen flung open. A drenched figure stood in the doorway, awkwardly leaning on the frame.

"Severus?" Molly questioned, clearly alarmed at his state.

At that, the man crumpled to the floor, his robes splaying outward and masking his cavernous face.

Moments earlier:

The auror grinned ruefully.

"Snape and Avery. Do you know how long the Ministry has been waiting to convict you two?"

"I was absolved of all charges. Remember?" I bared my teeth.

Slowly I rotated my position so I was now behind Avery. Skilled in wandless magic though I was, the safe silent approach seemed a better option.

I held my finger up to my lips, indicating the auror to be silent. Avery, in his blissful ignorance, still stared straight ahead.

I clamped my left hand over his mouth, stifling all cries. I felt his muscles tense up and his leg move to strike out. Unfortunately for him, I reciprocated the act and sent a well calculated foot to the back of his knees.

He tumbled down to the floor, giving me enough leverage to pinch his nose shut. His eyes went wide , the panic evident on his strained features.

It took only seconds for him slump against my chest and the color to drain from his physiognomy.

All the while, the auror stood in quiet disbelief. He too feared what I might do to him, regardless of the fact I stood unarmed and thoroughly worn out.

"Give me my wand." I growled.

"I…I.. can't do that." I had reduced the man to a stuttering mess.

"I just killed a Death Eater. Surely my allegiances do not lie with them."

The auror stepped back. My wand now lay in the middle of the corridor. I stepped forward and bent down to retrieve my most prized possession. Careful of my dislocated shoulder, I plucked the wand from the ground and stowed it away in my sleeve.

I flippantly gestured to the corpse stiff with rigor mortus. "Dispose of the body. I doubt his master cares much for him anyway."

At that, I shoved the impudent man to the side and dashed up the steps. Kingsley could very well take care of himself. He failed to keep me protected. Therefore, I could fail to do the same.

Halfway up the steps I lurched forward. I recognized that auror's voice. Several months back there was an initiation for new members. There was so much blood- too much blood.

I inhaled deeply and turned around. The auror in question now donned a silver mask, perfectly shaped to his angular jawline.

I closed my eyes slowly, resigned to the fact I had once again made a detrimental mistake.

He indicated towards Avery, "I highly doubt the Dark Lord will simply write off this man's death."

"You should have alerted me to your status." I answered gruffly, "It is as much your fault as it is mine."

"You should have alerted me to yours! How will the Dark Lord take to learning you aided a supposed auror?"

"It is paramount I retain my persona with the Order. As long as I do so, the ministry can't touch me and the public reamins unaware. The Dark Lord values me far more than that petty oaf you see lying on the ground before you."

"You're skating on thin ice Severus Snape. It's not wise to uphold this duplicity."

"The Dark Lord disagress with that. Now if you'll excuse me-"

The man had to audacity to step in front of me and block my exit. "No. I hear the whispers from the other Death Eaters. That you worhsip the ground Albus Dumbledore walks on, that you pick and choose the meetings you wish to attend, that you loved a certain Lilly Evans. I have dirt on you and I'm not letting you go until this is sorted out."

I titled my head to the side. This one had guts and a clear need to prove himself to the Dark Lord.

I smiled.

Those kind always perished first. In the Dark Lord's service, one learned to keep your head down and operate with stealth.

I twirled my wand in my hand effortlessly, "What do you want to know?"