"Where. Is. He?" Severus asked, teeth clenched and arms crossed.
"Sev, I don't think your father—
"He's not my father," Severus ground out. "Where is he?"
"I don't know—
"Don't lie to me!" Severus roared. "You told him where I was going that night. Where is he?"
Minerva sighed. "I really don't think he would do something like this, Sev."
Severus rolled his eyes. "Prior behavior would say otherwise."
Minerva paused. "There's a hideout. In the Forbidden Forest. He's staying there until we've dealt with Umbridge."
Severus nodded sharply and turned on his heel, bellowing the names of the other Order members in the house as he stalked into the kitchen.
"What?" Remus asked, jogging through the door, everyone in the house in tow.
"We're going to the Forest," Severus said shortly. "Albus Dumbledore and I are going to have an abrupt conversation."
"Let me grab my shoes," Ron said, heading back up the stairs.
"You aren't going," Molly shook her head.
"No one underage is accompanying us," Severus said firmly. "The four of you," he pointed at Elizabeth, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, "should go upstairs and stay there until we return."
"Elizabeth, I may not remember our past, but I can guarantee that I do not allow you to go into the Forbidden Forest." He pointed at the staircase. "Go."
Elizabeth stood her ground, but Fred put one hand on her back, and leaned close to her ear. "Come on," he whispered, steering her upstairs and into her room.
Once inside, she whirled on him. "You aren't going if I don't go with you."
"Pardon me?" Fred raised an eyebrow.
"I won't let you," Elizabeth snapped, staring him down.
Fred hid a smile. "Betsy, I could put you in a body bind right now, and we wouldn't have to have this conversation."
"You wouldn't dare!"
Fred walked around her and sat on the bed. "What is this about?"
"What is what about?" Elizabeth spun to look at him. "I think I've made myself clear."
"That you want to go?" Fred asked quietly, "Or you don't want me to?"
Elizabeth glared at him, her shoulders moving with shallow breaths.
"Betsy," Fred held out his hands.
"Leave me alone," Elizabeth crossed her arms.
Fred laughed. "Betsy, come here."
"Don't laugh at me!"
"I'm not," Fred assured, getting up and coming over to put his arms around her. "Talk to me, please."
Elizabeth was quiet and still for a moment, then uncrossed her arms and put them around his waist, her face buried in his chest. "Can't lose you too," she muttered.
"You didn't lose him," Fred said gently, walking backward until they hit the bed. "We're going to do everything we can to fix this." He sat down, pulling her with him to lean against the headboard.
"I'm coming with you," Elizabeth said decidedly.
"I think Snape rejected that," Fred said uneasily.
"He won't know," Elizabeth reached into the drawer in the nightstand and pulled out her cloak. "Let's go."
"Betsy…" Fred looked nervously toward the door.
"Let's go," Elizabeth demanded again, standing up.
"He's going to be pissed," Fred remarked matter-of-factly, swinging his long legs off the bed and standing as well.
"Only if we're successful," Elizabeth shrugged. "Right now, he doesn't care what I do."
"That's not entirely true," Fred said, but didn't interfere as she draped the cloak over her head. "It was nice knowing you. I'll see you in a year when you're ungrounded."
Elizabeth grinned. "I worthy trade, I say."
When they reached the hut in the woods, Albus Dumbledore was standing outside, his face twisted into a grimace.
"I assume that expression means you know why we are here," Severus said, stepping to the front of their little group. Elizabeth hung back, evaluating the situation.
Albus shook his head and held up a pouch of Bertie's Every Flavor Beans. "Rubbish flavored, if you can believe it," he tucked the beans into his robe. "Say what you will about Muggles, their sweets don't taste like something out of the bin."
"Where are they?" Severus asked quietly.
"Where are what, son?"
Severus took a menacing step. "My memories, you doddering old man."
"Severus, I thought we'd decided that you would move on—
"Albus," Remus spoke up from Severus' left. "What do you think you're doing?"
Elizabeth looked at the hut. With magic in the equation, there was no telling how large the space inside would be. If the hut was really a hut, slipping in and searching the place could take moments. However, if she went inside and was faced with a mansion rivaling Malfoy Manor, her quest would be more challenging.
Even then, she wasn't sure what she was looking for. Voldemort had kept his share of Severus' memories in a bottle. But that was no guarantee that Dumbledore had hidden the rest in anything similar.
First thing's first, Elizabeth thought, edging her way around the group, thankful that it was not winter so she didn't need to worry about her footprints in the snow. She moved slowly, careful not to break sticks, and even more careful to watch what was going on around her.
Strange how nearsighted being invisible can make you, Severus' voice echoed in her head.
The front door was in everyone's eye line except Albus', and even if he wouldn't notice, Elizabeth didn't want to broadcast to the world that she was going through the door. It would take Remus three seconds to figure out what was going on.
Luckily, on the other side of the building was another door, which Elizabeth carefully opened and slipped inside.
The interior of the hut was somewhere between the options she'd anticipated. It was certainly larger than it looked from the outside, but it appeared to be one level. She stood still, evaluating her surroundings. She could hear voices outside, raised in irritation, but couldn't make out what was being said.
Where would Dumbledore keep stolen memories?
The voices were getting louder, and it was clear that she was running out of time. And then she saw it. A pensieve that looked very much like the one in the Headmaster's office at Hogwarts. She glanced at the door and then sprinted across the room, leaning over the basin and allowing herself to be pulled into the swirling fog.
Severus and Lily stood at the edge of the lake, Severus in black dress robes and a green cape, Lily in a long white gown with a burst of crimson in the train. Remus stood to Severus' left. A woman Elizabeth didn't recognize stood to Lily's right. Dumbledore and Minerva stood before the couple, saying something Elizabeth couldn't make out.
They were all so young. And happy. And alive. Elizabeth had a deep desire to stay, here on the edge of her parents' wedding, where everyone was happy and safe. But the world swam before her eyes and the memory changed.
Severus was sitting in his armchair at the Spinner's End house. He hand his feet braced against the coffee table. Elizabeth nearly fell over when she saw his feet. They were clad in red socks. She desperately needed a camera.
Severus had a baby lying against his bent legs, and the infant had both hands fisted around his pinky fingers.
"Da-Dee." Severus sounded out the word, jiggling the baby a little. "Come on, Rosie. Da-Dee."
Elizabeth wasn't sure who she thought the baby was, but for some reason it came as a shock that she'd ever been that small. She took a step forward to get a better look, and the memory changed again.
Severus was alone in a dark room. Aside from green-flamed torches, the room was all shadow. It was clear that something had happened, the room reeked of death. Elizabeth watched as Severus knelt beside a body on the floor. She inched forward as he rolled a woman onto her back.
Elizabeth looked up at the fading Dark Mark hovering over the carnage and realized that she was seeing the aftermath of a Death Eater meeting. All her curiosity at what happened at those meetings left her in a rush.
Severus was closing the woman's eyes and levitating the body so he could wrap it gently in a white shroud. He went to the next body and repeated the actions. Over and over until the room was filled with floating white-covered bodies.
Elizabeth pulled back, out of the memories, out of the pensieve. It was clear that she'd found what she was looking for. She'd found what made her father human. All those memories he had now, those were his Snape memories. The memories in this pensieve made him Severus.
Hurriedly, she looked around and found a large-lidded candy dish. Dumping the lemon drops behind the sofa, she took the edge of the pensieve and tilted it, pouring the fog as carefully as she could into the dish.
There were people at the door now; she could hear Sirus' voice. She shoved the lid on the dish, grabbed the cloak off the floor from where it had fallen, and fled out the back door, closing it behind her.
Suddenly, there was a flash of light and a figure appeared in front of her. Lucius Malfoy.
"Elizabeth Evans," he sneered. "I should have known you'd be here. Dumbledore's little pet."
"I am not," Elizabeth snapped. "What are you doing here?"
"Taking care of something," Lucius drew his wand from his cane. "But it looks like I'll be able to take care of another bit of business before that. Won't the Dark Lord be pleased? Elizabeth Evan's body? I think we'll hang it in the streets so that everyone will know that Dark magic is a power that cannot be conquered. It might teach your father a lesson as well, not that he cares right now."
"Leave my father alone," Elizabeth said, drawing her wand.
"Don't play games," Malfoy snorted. "You stand no chance against me. You're a child. You're standing there with a candy dish for goodness sake."
"You're just Voldemort's errand boy," Elizabeth jeered, raising her voice, hoping that she could be heard on the other side of the hut. "He's got you doing his dirty work for him. How does it feel to follow a half-blood master, Malfoy?"
"You're not in a position to be making threats," Lucius sneered. "The only reason you aren't dead right now is that I think the Dark Lord will enjoy doing that honor himself. So I'll just make sure you're begging for death when it comes."
He raised his wand. "Crucio!"
Elizabeth felt the spell hit her, felt the familiar feeling of her body turning inside itself, as every nerve in her body screamed. She tried to choke out a disarming spell, but she couldn't make her voice work around the pain.
"Careful, Lucius," an oily voice hissed from the trees. "We must be gentle when playing with our food."
Elizabeth felt the spell end as she regained her feet as Voldemort, his robes hanging from his gaunt frame, slid out of the woods. His wand was dangling from his fingertips, like an orchestra conductor's baton.
"I have nothing to say to you, Evans," Voldemort said quietly. For a moment, he sounded disappointed, like a father who had no idea what to do with an out-of-control teenager. "You have irked me too often, for too long. AVADA KEDAVRA!"
Elizabeth ducked. Not so much to avoid the spell as to fall to the ground so she could cover the candy dish with her cloak. The green jet of light hit the hut and left a burn mark.
All of a sudden, Dumbledore was standing beside her. Lucius stepped back wand pointed at Elizabeth, but looking unsure about whom to attack first.
"It was foolish to come here tonight, Tom," Dumbledore said calmly. "Did you really think I wouldn't notice someone coming through the back door?" He didn't look at Elizabeth, but his tone rang in her ears as an accusation.
"You won't need a door soon," Voldemort spat. He sent a Killing Curse at Dumbedore but missed, hitting the hut again, this time setting it aflame.
Dumbledore flicked his wand and sent a stunning spell at Voldemort, who threw up a shield to deflect it.
"You do not seek to kill me, Dumbledore?" called Voldemort, his red eyes narrowed into slits. "Above such brutality, are you?"
"We both know that there are other ways to take a man's life," Dumbledore glanced at Lucius. "Merely taking your life would not satisfy me, I admit. However, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness—
Another jet of green light flew from behind the silver shield. Dumbledore calmly stepped aside and drew back his wand like a whip. A long, thin flame flew from the tip; it wrapped around Voldemort, shield and all. For a moment, it seemed Dumbledore had won, but then the fiery rope became a serpent, which relinquished its hold upon Voldemort at once and turned, hissing furiously, to face Dumbledore.
Leave him alone, Elizabeth hissed in Parseltongue, knowing that Dumbledore, no matter his past acts, was her best chance at survival.
But the fire-snake seemed not to speak the snake language and reared from the floor, ready to strike as Voldemort vanished. He reappeared to the side of the hut, behind Dumbledore, releasing another jet of green light.
"Look out!" Elizabeth screamed as the snake came down.
Fawkes swooped down in front of Dumbledore, opened his beak wide, and swallowed the jet of green light whole. He burst into flame and fell to the ground, small, wrinkled, and flightless. Dumbledore brandished his wand at the snake, exploding it into wisps of smoke.
Then, from behind Voldemort, a group of figures appeared. Remus, Sirius, Severus, Fred, and George, all with wands drawn, surrounded the area. Elizabeth started to move toward them, but Sirius shouted, "Stay where you are, Elizabeth!" from the other side of the battleground.
A net of something, water perhaps, blasted from the wands of the Order. It enveloped Voldemort, pulling him off the ground and holding him, trapped, suspended like a Christmas ornament. Elizabeth scrambled to the cloak-wrapped candy dish and tied it fabric around her body, trapping the dish to her side. In case she died… she wanted someone to find the memories on her body. Not hidden, invisible in the grass.
And then Eizabeth's scar burst open. She knew she was dead, it was pain beyond imagining. Worse than any Crucio. Worse than any pain she'd ever felt.
She was gone from the forest, she was locked in the coils of a creature with red eyes, so tightly bound that Elizabeth did not know where her body ended and the creature's began. They were fused together, bound by pain, and there was no escape—
And when the creature spoke, it used her mouth, so that in her agony she felt her jaw move…
"Kill me now, Dumbledore…"
Blinded and dying, every part of her screaming for release, Elizabeth felt the creature use her again…
"If death is nothing, Dumbledore, kill the girl…"
Let the pain stop, Elizabeth thought. Let him kill us… End it, Albus… You've never done anything for me… do this now… Death… Lucius was right… I'm begging for death... Dad…Fred…
As her heart called out for those she loved one last time, the creature's coils loosened, the pain was gone, and Elizabeth was lying facedown on the ground, her glasses gone, shivering as though she were covered with snow, not warm summer air. She felt her body go limp, and she let herself slip away.
She woke tucked uncomfortably tight into her bed at Headquarters. Every bit of her body hurt. Even opening her eyes caused pain.
She turned her head, wincing at the sensation, and saw Fred sitting in a chair a few feet from the bed. "Hi," she said weakly, her mouth dry as cotton.
"How do you feel?"
"Thirsty," Elizabeth said raspily.
"I'll get some water," Fred turned his head toward the door. "Professor!"
"Why aren't you moving?" Elizabeth managed, trying to sit up.
"Don't," Fred warned. "You're not ready to move much."
"Are you hurt?"
Fred laughed. "No. Snape stuck me to the chair."
"So he's okay?"
"I am," Severus said, sweeping through the door with a tray of potions and a glass of water. "Though my hair is significantly greyer, something we will discuss at length, I assure you." He gave her his patented glare and set down the tray before waving his wand at Fred. "Go eat something and rest, Mr. Weasley."
"Yes, sir," Fred got up reluctantly and went out, patting the end of the bed awkwardly on the way.
"He's been sitting there for hours," Severus commented, carefully moving her into a sitting position and situating himself behind her so that her back leaned against him. "Careful," he cautioned, holding the water glass to her lips.
Elizabeth drank until he took the glass away. "Dad… the cloak…"
"Is going to be in my possession until you are of age," Severus said firmly. "Perhaps longer than that."
"So you found it," Elizabeth nodded and closed her eyes, leaning against him.
"I did, as well as its contents," Severus said quietly, wrapping one arm around her and using the other to select a potion. "I haven't finished with it yet. I can't wait to discover just how many times I've had to take that cloak in the past."
"Drink this," Severus said, tipping a vial against her lips.
Elizabeth made a face as the potion oozed down her throat. "Dad?"
"Yes?" Severus asked, fatigue evident in his voice.
"I had to look," she said, looking up at him. "I'm sorry. I had to look in the pensieve."
"I'm far less concerned about your nosiness than the fact that you were there to begin with," Severus said. "Which we will discuss later, after I've restored my mind and know exactly what I've promised to do to you in the past when you've so blatantly disobeyed me."
"You usually give me ice cream," Elizabeth smirked.
"Funny child," Severus kissed the top of her head. "What did you see, in your poking around?"
"Your wedding," Elizabeth turned her head so her cheek lay against the rough fabric of his potions jacket. "Mum was beautiful."
"Yes she was," Severus said quietly, his voice caught a little in his throat. "What else?"
"You, trying to make me say 'Daddy'."
"That took nearly a year of coaching," Severus affirmed. "What else?"
Severus snorted. "What's the one you're not telling me, hmmm?"
"I don't remember."
"Have it your way," Severus picked up another vial. "Here, this should help with the sore muscles."
"Damn Crucio," Elizabeth muttered after she downed it. "Doesn't get easier."
"You've been hit with that spell before?" Severus frowned.
"You need to work on the rest of those memories," Elizabeth said tiredly, tentatively stretching out her arms.
"I have a fair amount," Severus said, standing and easing her back onto the pillows. "I'm not sure I want the ones that involve you being tortured." He straightened the blankets. "You, young lady, need to take it easy for a day or so. Though once you're able to be up, you might wish you were still sick in bed." He raised an eyebrow. "I'm going to finish the restoration this evening. I already have two memories of you ending up in a similar situation because you ignored my instructions. Are there going to be others?"
Elizabeth shrugged. "Which ones do you have?"
"A lot," Elizabeth said quietly. "But this time…" she looked at him, "I needed you back, Dad. I swear I wouldn't have gone, but I needed you back…"
Severus sighed. "I'm sorry about the last few months, hatchling. I desperately wish that this wasn't your life."
"What was Albus thinking?"
Severus gritted his teeth. "Dumbledore is playing a chess game. It seems that he's taken the cliché 'the ends justify the means' to an uncomfortable degree." He looked at his daughter. "You've never trusted him, Elizabeth. You're a good judge of character. Listen to it. We may all have the same goal in this, but Albus' plan… a man that's been around as long as he has develops plans that span decades. I don't know that we'll ever understand. All I know is that you need to be careful. Very careful. Understand?"
"Yes," Elizabeth said softly.
"No matter what his plan is, we have one goal. To make sure that you make it through this alive. Nothing else matters to me." Severus looked seriously at her. "And we'll discuss exactly why you haven't been living up to your part of that deal when you're fully recovered." He bent and kissed her forehead. "Rest."
"I feel fine—
Severus fixed her with a Snape-glare. "You needn't hide the effects of the Cruciatus Curse from me," he said firmly. "I know all too well what your body is feeling right now. That curse is brutal in any form, but you were subjected to a rather prolonged dose of it. It's a wonder that you are conscious now." He fussed absently with the edge of the blanket. "The world is a very different place than in was a day ago, Elizabeth. You must be well and ready for it. There's a bad moon rising."
"It's been rising," Elizabeth said quietly, closing her eyes. "Only now everyone can see it."