It was five o'clock in the morning when Severus woke, hearing the vague buzzing of the television from downstairs. It was low, but his war-honed hearing pulled him out of sleep.
"Elizabeth?" He asked sleepily, coming into the living room.
"Hey, Dad," Elizabeth was curled up on the sofa, watching the Muggle news.
"What are you doing awake at this hour?" Severus settled on the sofa beside her. "Do you feel alright?"
"Just watching," Elizabeth leaned against him.
"You've been quiet these last few days, hatchling."
"You're 'just' doing a lot this morning," Severus put his arm around her. "Would you like to tell me what you're thinking about?"
"My verbal articulation is completely lost on my offspring," Severus said, patting her hip lightly. "This 'stuff' wouldn't have anything to do with the impending war between the Light and the Dark that is threatening to destroy our way of life, would it?"
Elizabeth laughed a little. "Maybe."
Severus brushed her hair off her forehead and put his cool hand on her scar. "How does it feel?"
"Prickly," Elizabeth said, shrugging. "It's not a big deal."
"It is if it hurts you," Severus said quietly. "Does it still help when I touch it?"
"Did you have a nightmare last night?"
"And Wormtail." Elizabeth dug the nails of her right hand into her left palm so hard she drew blood.
"Elizabeth!" Severus pulled her hands apart. "What are you doing?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "I don't know… I just… I hate everything."
"Clear your mind," Severus said quietly.
"I don't want to."
"Do it anyway," Severus ordered. "We've got to get your emotions under control."
"I don't want to," Elizabeth said again, her face a mirror of Severus' when annoyed. "I'm stuck in the house all the time, you're watching me all the time, and no one believes me that Voldemort is back. I hate everyone."
"Elizabeth Rose. Clear. Your. Mind."
"I want to go for a walk."
"Dad, I'm going crazy."
"Which is why you are going to clear your mind. I'm not having a conversation with a whiny child."
Elizabeth glared, but closed her eyes. Grey wall. Stones. Stones. More Stones.
Severus watched his daughter's face as she fought against the meditation. He was almost sure he knew what she was thinking, weighing the chances of whether or not he would accept half effort on this. He smiled a little as her face started to smooth as she realized that she had to give herself over to her image.
The potions master left her in that state for twenty minutes before gently shaking her shoulder. "Alright, hatchling."
Elizabeth looked at him, her green eyes calm. "I think… I think he's making me angry."
Severus nodded, opening his arms for her to curl back against him. "We need to move to the next level of Occulmency," he said quietly. "We have to keep your shields up all the time."
"Sounds like a lot of work."
Severus snorted. "Not after a while."
"Where's Sirius?" Elizabeth asked suddenly. "Remus is in his bed, but there's no one in Sirius' room."
Severus winced a bit. Elizabeth had been very territorial over her family since the end of the school year, insisting that she know where they were. She was happiest when they were all in the house with her, and the men had been attempting to stay around as much as possible.
"He went to his house for the night," Severus said, shifting into a more comfortable position. "He meant to be back before you woke up."
"No one suspected that you'd be up at the crack of dawn; and he needs to clean up for the Order," Snape rationalized.
"We could help," Elizabeth offered.
"You're a sweet girl," Severus smiled a little. "Right now, you are in the safest place you can be. Before you set foot in Black's house, the wards must be strengthened and it has to be purged of all Dark items."
"Is that why you're waiting to move me?"
Severus sighed, then nodded once. "A fortress is being created. Someday, Spinner's End may no longer be safe. If that happens, you will have somewhere safe to go."
"You're coming too, right?"
"Of course I'm coming, foolish brat," Severus growled. "You are stuck with me, Elizabeth Evans, whether you like it or not."
"I'm going to Hogwarts for a few hours," Severus said, throwing his cloak around his shoulders. "Remus is upstairs. Check in an hour or so and see if he needs anything, alright?"
"Okay," Elizabeth barely glanced up from her Quidditch magazine.
Severus flooed away, and Elizabeth waited exactly ten minutes before slipping out of the house.
The fresh air felt brilliant against her skin and in her lungs. Summer sun, fresh air, the smell of flowers. It was all wonderful after weeks of incarceration.
She was just down to the corner when the sky darkened suddenly. A chill filled the air. Elizabeth looked up with a sick feeling of knowing. She knew what made the world feel like that. Dementors.
Miraculously, she'd decided to bring her wand. Pulling it out of her pocket, she raised her arm as the dark figure dipped close to her.
"Expecto Patronum!" She cast, focusing on her happy thoughts.
Her basilisk sprung from her wand, but there was more than one dementor, swirling around her. Just as she managed to throw one off, another took its place. She backed up, sending her patronus again and again at the attacking monsters, but soon she found herself with her back against the park's high fence.
"Expecto Patronum!" She shouted, this time fighting with the last ounce of her life, and her patronus blasted forward, chasing down the dementors as if it were herding them, chasing them away into the dark.
Almost immediately, the sky started to lighten, and Elizabeth found herself face to face with a frantic, furious Potions Master.
"What were you doing?" Severus shouted when they'd apparated back home.
"I just went for a walk," Elizabeth said shakily, the apparation and the dementors combining to declare war on her stomach.
"Of all the foolish nonsense!" Severus roared, spinning her around and smacking her solidly before jerking her back to look at him again.
Just then, a screech owl swooped in through the kitchen window. It soared across the kitchen, dropping a large parchment envelope at Severus' feet.
Snape growled, plucking the envelope from the floor and ripping it open.
Dear Mr. Snape,
We have received intelligence that your daughter, Elizabeth Rose Evans (Snape), performed the Patronus Charm this afternoon in a Muggle-inhabited area.
The severity of this breach of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery has resulted in her expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ministry representatives will be calling at your place of residence shortly to destroy her wand.
We regret to inform you that, as a parent of a child breaking such a law, your presence is required at a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Magic at 9 A.M. on August 12th.
Hoping you are well,
Improper Use of Magic Office
The floo roared to life, and Sirius emerged. "Dumbledore's gone to the Ministry to sort this out," he said to Severus before turning his attention to Elizabeth. "What the hell were you doing?"
"I just wanted to go out!" Elizabeth protested, tears threatening to spill over.
"You, sit over there before I finish what I started," Severus ordered, pointing at the sofa.
Elizabeth hurriedly sat, keeping her backside away from her irate father.
Another owl swooped through the window, dropped another envelope into Severus' hands, and took off again. Frowning, Severus tore it open.
Dear Mr. Snape,
Further to our letter of a few minutes ago, the Ministry of Magic has reversed its decision to destroy your daughter's wand forthwith. We ask that you confiscate her wand and maintain your custody over her until the disciplinary hearing on 12th August, at which time an official decision will be taken.
Following discussions with the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Ministry has agreed that the question of the expulsion of Elizabeth Rose Evans will also be decided at that time. Please consider your daughter suspended from school and remanded to your care pending further inquiries.
With best wishes,
Improper Use of Magic Office
"What does it say?" Sirius asked, his arms crossed over his chest.
"Albus seems to have stayed her expulsion for now," Severus said tiredly. "We both have to appear in court," he looked at his daughter. "Go in the kitchen and get some chocolate."
"Are you going to kill me?" Elizabeth looked up at him.
"After you get some chocolate in your system," Severus promised gravely, pointing toward the kitchen. "Go. And then go upstairs and check on Remus like you were supposed to have done."
Elizabeth grimaced guiltily. She'd forgotten about Remus.
"Wait," Severus stopped her as she started to leave the room. "Give me your wand," he held out his hand, waiting as she deposited it slowly in his palm before tucking it into his robes. "Now go."
Upstairs, she knocked and then pushed Remus' bedroom door open.
"Hey there, cub," Remus said weakly.
"Hey," Elizabeth came to sit on the bed beside him. "Do you need anything?"
"I am well supplied," Remus gestured to the water and food on his bedside table. "What's your father yelling about downstairs?"
"I probably just got expelled," Elizabeth said quietly.
"Expelled?" Remus raised an eyebrow. "Elizabeth, what did you do?"
"Fought a couple of dementors," Elizabeth said sullenly. "Of course, no one seems to be proud of that."
"Dementors in the house?"
"No," Elizabeth shifted nervously.
"I went for a walk."
"Pardon me?" Remus looked at her darkly. "You went out when a crazed murderer was after you? You went out when the only wizard at home was unable to protect you?"
"I just wanted to get out."
"You just…" Remus shook his head. "Where were you when God was handing out common sense?"
Elizabeth felt her face flush. "I shouldn't have to stay inside all day."
"Severus and I shouldn't have to worry every moment that you are going to disappear," Remus snapped.
"You don't understand," Elizabeth grumbled.
Remus sighed. "I understand that you're frustrated," he said quietly. "But you have to understand how many people are trying to protect you. And the job is hard enough without you willfully working against us."
Elizabeth bristled at the word "protect", but one look at her godfather's haggard face kept her from protesting. "I'm sorry."
"I'm sure you are, now that you've been scared out of your wits."
Elizabeth frowned. "I wasn't scared."
"Oh really?" Remus raised an eyebrow. "So dementors are no longer your greatest fear?"
Elizabeth paused, then shrugged. "Maybe. But I'm not scared now."
"You should be," Severus said from the door. "My wrath should be making you quake in your shoes."
"I'm sorry, Dad."
"You're exceedingly sorry that your little jaunt ended badly, I'm sure." Severus said dryly. "I suppose you'll be even sorrier after you spend ten days never leaving my sight."
Elizabeth looked at Remus, then back at Severus. "What?"
"Perhaps I was unclear," Severus said calmly. "Until the hearing at the Ministry, in ten days, you will stay within my sight at all times. Since you can't be trusted to be alone, even with one of us in the house, you won't be." He crossed his arms over his chest. "Questions?"
"No, sir," Elizabeth grimaced.
"Good," Severus nodded curtly. "Come along. I have work to do in my study, and there is a chair with your name on it."
"Severus!" Snape woke in the middle of the night to Moody, shaking him. "Elizabeth isn't it her room."
"She's over there," Severus said tiredly, sitting up and pointing at the twin bed against the far wall that Elizabeth had been sleeping on the past two nights.
"What's going on?" Elizabeth was sitting up as well, looking at Moody like he had three heads.
"Good," Moody said gruffly. "It's time, Snape, we have to go now."
Severus nodded, spelling his robes on and beckoning to Elizabeth. "Apparation?" he asked Moody.
The retired auror shook his head. "Too much of a magical signature. Brooms."
Severus frowned. "You don't think they're watching for that?"
"I've got an army downstairs, Severus. We'll make it to London."
"Elizabeth, come here," Severus ordered, drawing his wand.
"Where are we going?"
"You know where we're going," Severus said quietly. "No need to speak of a location more than necessary. Come here, I need to disillusion you."
"You need to what?"
"A Disillusionment Charm," Severus said, raising his wand. "Your Invisibility Cloak won't stay on while we're flying, this will disguise you better. Stay still."
He rapped Elizabeth hard on the top of the head and she heard his speaking the incantation Fred had used to help them sneak down to Hagrid's hut second year. she felt the same strange sensation as if Snape had just smashed an on her head; cold trickles seemed to be running down her body from the point the wand had struck.
"Excellent, Snape," Moody said approvingly, looking Elizabeth from head to foot.
Elizabeth looked down at her body, or rather, what had been her body, for it didn't look anything like hers anymore. It was not invisible; it had simple taken on the exact color and texture of Severus' bed covers behind her. She seemed to have become a human chameleon. She hadn't had a chance to really look at herself the last time.
"Come on," Moody gestured toward the door and Severus and Elizabeth followed, down the stairs and out into the back garden.
"Clear night," grunted Moody, his magical eye scanning the heavens. "Could've done with a bit more cloud cover."
Elizabeth looked around, astounded by the group of wizards she saw around her. In addition to Severus and Moody, she saw Remus and Sirius, surrounded by witches and wizards she didn't know.
"No time for introductions now, I'm afraid," Remus put her Firebolt in hand. "Tonks," he pointed at a witch next to Moody, "will be right in front of you, keep close on her tail. I'll be covering you from below. Your father is going behind you, and Moody is going to cover from above. The rest are going to be circling around us."
"We don't break for anything, got me?" Moody broke in. "If one of us is killed—
"Is that likely?" Elizabeth asked apprehensively, but Moody ignored her.
"— the others keep flying, don't stop, don't break ranks. If they take out all of us and you survive, Elizabeth, the rear guard are standing by to take over; keep flying east and they'll join you."
"Stop it, Moody," Remus said sharply. "She doesn't need to be frightened any more than she already is."
"I'm just telling the girl the plan," Moody growled. "Our job's to deliver her safely to headquarters and if we die in the attempt—
"No one is going to die," Severus said calmly, his hand on Elizabeth's shoulder.
"Mount your broom, that's the first signal!" Remus said suddenly, pointing into the sky at a shower of bright red sparks.
Elizabeth swung her right leg over her Firebolt, glad it was a warm night, since she was still in pajamas. The broom vibrated very slightly, ready to fly again after such a long holiday from Quiddich.
"Second signal, let's go!" Remus said loudly as more sparks, green this time, exploded high above them.
Elizabeth kicked off hard from the ground, and quickly found that the air was cooler farther up in the air. It was counter to what she'd learned in Muggle science classes. Wasn't heat supposed to rise?
There wasn't time to think about weather lessons as the house fell away, shrinking rapidly as she soared into the air.
"Hard left, hard left, there's a Muggle looking up!" shouted Moody from above. Tonks swerved and Elizabeth followed her. "We need more height. Give it another quarter of a mile!"
Elizabeth rose, her eyes watering in the chill. She'd wanted so badly to fly all summer, and now that she was in the air, no amount of cold or danger could dampen her happiness.
"Bearing south!" shouted Mad-Eye. "Town ahead!"
They soared right, so that they did not pass directly over the spider web of lights below.
"Bear southeast and keep climbing, there's some low clouds ahead we can lose ourselves in!"
"We're not going through the clouds," Tonks protested, "We'll get soaked!"
"Tonks is correct," Severus said from behind. "We don't need pneumonia on top of everything else, Alastor."
Elizabeth was relieved to hear this. Her hands were growing numb on the broom handle. She wished she had thought to put on her robes; she was starting to shiver. She was now so chilled that she thought longingly of apparation. It might make her ill, but it at least it was quick and warm.
"Time to start the descent," Lupin called. "Follow Tonks, Elizabeth!"
Elizabeth followed the witch into a dive. They were heading for the largest collection of lights she had yet seen, a huge, sprawling, crisscrossing mass, glittering in lines and grids, interspersed with a patches of deepest black. Lower and lower they flew, until Elizabeth could see individual headlights and streetlamps, chimney, and television aerials. She wanted to reach the ground very much, though she felt sure that someone would have to unfreeze her from her broom.
"Here we go!" called Tonks, and a few seconds later she had landed.
Elizabeth touched down right behind her and dismounted on a patch of unkempt grass in the middle of a small square. Shivering, she looked around. "Where are we?"
"In a minute," Severus said quietly, pulling off his robe and wrapping it around her. "I don't know what I was thinking, bringing you out here without a cloak."
Moody was rummaging in his cloak, his gnarled hands clumsy with cold.
"Got it," he muttered, raising what looked like a silver cigarette lighter into the air and clicking it.
The nearest streetlamp went out with a pop. He clicked the un-lighter again; the next lamp went out. He kept clicking until every lamp in the square was out and the only light came from curtained windows and the sickle moon overhead.
"Burrowed it from Dumbledore," growled Moody, pocketing the device. "That'll take care of any Muggles looking out of the window, see? Now, come on, quick." He looked at Elizabeth and Severus. "Snape, why are you wearing your pajamas?"
"Because that's what I had on when you ripped me out of bed, Moody," Severus growled. "Just get on with it."
"Here," Moody muttered, thrusting a piece of parchment toward Elizabeth's Disillusioned hand and holding his lighted wand close to it, so as to illuminate the writing. "Read quickly and memorize."
Elizabeth looked down at the piece of paper. It said:
The headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, London.
"Hush," Severus hissed. "Wait until we're inside!"
He pulled the parchment out of Elizabeth's hand and set fire to it with his wand tip. Elizabeth looked at the houses again. They were standing outside number eleven; she looked to the left and saw number ten; to the right, however, was number thirteen.
"Think about what you've just memorized," Remus said quietly.
Elizabeth thought, and no sooner had she reached the part about number twelve, Grimmauld Place, than a battered door emerged out of nowhere between numbers eleven and thirteen, followed swiftly by walls and windows. It was as though an extra house had inflated, pushing those on either side out of its way. Elizabeth gaped at it. Apparently the Muggles inside hadn't even felt a thing.
"Forgot you were a witch again?" Sirius teased, putting his arm around her shoulders. "Come on, hurry."
The black door was shabby and scratched. "Haven't had time to paint," Sirius smirked.
The silver doorknocker was in the form of a twisted serpent. There was no keyhole or letterbox.
Remus, leading the group, pulled out his wand and tapped the door once. Elizabeth heard many loud, metallic clicks and what sounded like the clatter of a chain. The door creaked open.
"Welcome to Black Manor," Sirius said quietly, guiding her through the doors and inside.
"I thought I couldn't leave your sight," Elizabeth said as Severus tucked the blankets securely around her.
Severus glared. "You step one foot out of this bed, and I'll hang you by your toenails."
Elizabeth smirked. "Why can't I come to the meeting?"
"Order members only," Severus answered, brushing her hair off her forehead. "Get warm, and get some sleep. There's still a few hours left of night."
"I don't want to sleep here," Elizabeth looked around.
Severus sighed. "Think of it as a sleep over. Close your eyes, you'll be asleep before you know it. We've had a long night already."
He watched as she did so, only moving from her bedside when her breathing had gone deep and even.
Rubbing his hand over his tired face, he went downstairs to the kitchen, where everyone was gathered around the table.
"She's asleep?" Remus handed him a cup of coffee.
"For now," Severus sat across from Moody.
"We were surprised you arrived so soon," Bill Weasley said, studying something on a large scroll. "Mad-Eye didn't make you come via Greenland, then?"
"He tried," said Tonks, looking at Bill. "Get rid of that, we have a child in the house now."
"She's upstairs," Bill defended.
"And how long do you think she's going to stay there?" Tonks shot back. "Your mum will be here soon, and you don't want Ginny and Ron to see that stuff."
"Ginny, no, but I don't know why Elizabeth and Ron shouldn't know. We're going to need all the men we can get."
"It's a good thing your opinion means very little," Severus said smoothly.
"I think Bill is right," Sirius said, looking at Severus. "Maybe not about Ron, that's Molly and Arthur's decision, but Elizabeth's done just as much as most of the Order. More than some."
"I know what she's done," Severus said quietly. "That doesn't make her an adult. When she needs to know something, or she comes of age, then we can have this discussion."
"It might be best she gets the facts from us," Remus put in. "Once the twins get here… do you think Fred will hide anything from her?"
"Worse yet, Fred and George won't know anything they don't get from their extendable ears," Bill said. "Do you want her to have garbled information, inflated by teenagers' sense of drama?"
"How many children do you have, Mr. Weasley?"
"Need I remind you that I'm not a first year in your Potions class, Professor?" Bill raised an eyebrow.
"That hardly changes the fact that I could kill you without a thought," Severus growled. "In fact, it makes it more likely."
"Enough," Remus snapped. "We have enough enemies, we don't have to create them here. Severus, we've learned over and over again that hiding things from Elizabeth does no good. How many more times do you need to be taught the lesson?" He turned his eye on the oldest Weasley. "Leave the parenting to those who have children, Bill."
"So what are you doing putting in your ideas, Lupin?" Bill bristled at being scolded like a child.
"Bill," Tonks said warningly.
"I won't dignify that with a response," Remus said tersely.
"Sounded like a response to me," Bill challenged.
"I could respond—
"Boys!" Molly Weasley's voice cracked from the doorway. "What is going on in here?"
"The men are having a pissing contest," Tonks offered helpfully.
Molly made a noise in her throat that might have been a growl. "All my children, go upstairs. Bill, if you can't behave yourself, you'll go as well. Severus, where's Elizabeth?"
"I thought I'd let her go night flying," Severus said blithely. "Blow off a little steam."
Molly looked horrified, "Severus!"
"She's upstairs, woman, where do you think she'd be? She and I are staying in the room Black set up for her. I'd appreciate your help in keeping your son away," he looked pointedly at George.
"What would I want in Professor Snape's bedroom?" George looked at Fred.
"It's a case of mistaken identity, brother," Fred grinned.
Severus gritted his teeth. He needed to mark them somehow.
"Has everyone gone mad tonight?" Molly looked around the room. "Upstairs, all of you, now."
"Absolutely," Fred and George said together before CRACK! they disappeared.
"You don't have to use magic for EVERYTHING!" Mrs. Weasley shouted up the stairs. "Honestly, since they turned of age," she shook her head furiously.
"Perhaps we all could use some sleep," Sirius said, standing up. "We'll have a meeting tomorrow night, no need to decide some of these things straight away. Some of us have been half frozen tonight."
Severus didn't need additional incentive to retire for the night. It was into the early hours of the morning now, but even a short rest would help the weariness in his limbs.
Checking that his daughter was still firmly tucked under her blankets, he collapsed in the bed across the room and let exhaustion overtake him.