The cold wind cut across her tear-soaked face as she ran frantically through the Forbidden Forest. She could barely see what lie ahead of her. In the background, the giant castle known as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was crumbling. The stone and wood structure had been set ablaze by Lord Voldemort's followers. The buildup of a decade long struggle between good and evil had finally come to a head here at the castle.
She had been minding her own business when they struck. None of the students, faculty or staff had seen this coming – at least to her knowledge. When the first spell had been cast, she heard the screams come from near the Great Hall; the flames and smoke appeared shortly after. She immediately dropped the herbs she had been picking for the following day's Advanced Potions class and made a beeline for the dense cover of the forest. Only when she found a wide tree to hide herself did she stop and look upon the destruction.
Most people might have called her a coward for fleeing and not standing up to these attackers, but she knew she was no match for the Dark Lord's army. Only the Order or that foolish Harry Potter stood a chance at defeating them. If she were to be captured by the Death Eaters, they would have tortured her mercilessly for Merlin knows how long, then dumped her unrecognizable body when it was no longer fun to watch her suffer. Yes, she may have been in Salazar Slytherin's house, but her blood is what kept her from truly fitting in with any high class magical folk. She learned that the hard way when her once 'best friend', Draco Malfoy, shunned her for being a Half Blood.
Listening past her own heartbeat and heavy breathing, she noticed rustling behind her. She quickly darted off again from fear that someone was following her. This section of the forest was so pitch black that she did not notice a gnarled tree root emerging from the ground. Falling face-down into the dirt, her right ankle began pulsing. Every time she attempted to stand she only collapsed. "Lumos!" she whispered, hoping it was safe enough to examine herself. As soon as her wand illuminated the area she saw what looked like a human figure rush behind a nearby tree. She swallowed hard and hurried to look at the throbbing ankle.
Her whole body was covered in the forest's soil and she had superficial cuts on both legs. The ankle was already red and swollen and the sight of a small compound fracture made her stomach turn. How did this happen? It was just a stupid root I tripped on! Pushing the confusion aside, she concentrated on remembering a spell to heal this, but her peripheral caught the same shadow figure once more.
"Put out your light." A man's voice ordered. She blindly followed his direction, but swore she knew the man behind the voice. She held her wand to her chest and began shivering with fear. "Don't move." There was a sudden flash of green light and she could feel the bone and skin being mended. She cried out in agony until the spell ended.
"If you're going to kill me," she tried to sound tough through the pain, "don't spit in my face by healing me first!"
"Shut up you stupid girl and listen to me!" The man hissed; she now knew who this was.
"I said stop. I didn't expect you to flee so quickly. I had to slow you somehow." Severus Snape explained, stepping out into view. "I was ordered to come and get you."
She furrowed her brow. "That Potter boy and Professor Dumbledore are more important than I am! Who cares about me?" she stood slowly. "And if you think I'm going back there just because I'm a student, I won't! Don't you know how much danger I would be in because of my status?"
Severus rubbed his temples. "Don't be an idiot. Besides, we don't have time for this nonsense right now. My main objective is getting you away from here." Suddenly they heard the collapsing of one of the castle towers. She turned around in time to watch the stones fall and crumble into a thick blanket of dust and debris. Oh gods… Gryffindor Tower. I hope no one was still up there. Her eyes teared up and she felt like vomiting. She was so desperate to save her home but knew she was powerless. "Let's go." His command broke her thoughts. He grabbed her arm and they Apparated into the night.
Her vision became terribly distorted and all of her senses had been interrupted. She had only traveled this way a few times for practice, and every time left her sick. She barely noticed that once the journey was over, Severus had left her and disappeared into a different room.
Slowly inching towards what she assumed was a couch, she sat and closed her eyes, waiting for the nausea and dizziness to subside. Soon she regained control of her wits and her eyes fluttered back open. The room was dimly lit and smelled older, untouched. There were only basic furnishings, and a fireplace was on her right. "Where am I?" she muttered.
Severus reappeared then, looking bothered. "Unfortunately, my home." He answered. She straightened up quickly in the armchair. This made her more uncomfortable than the traveling.
"I'm afraid to ask why…"
The cold man rolled his eyes and took a seat opposite her, but not before igniting the fireplace. He was rarely home anymore and the living room was freezing. It was only the beginning of fall now, and winter would be very intense this year. "Like I said before, I was ordered to help you."
"That doesn't tell me anything though, professor. Why is my safety suddenly an issue? Who gave you these orders?" she blurted out all these questions, searching his face for a useful answer. He did not break his composure.
There was silence for a while. The only sound came from the crackling of the wood. "You said that you would be in danger because of your blood, and you are right," he began, shifting in the black leather seat.
"I'm a stupid half-breed. Just ask the other Slytherins." She looked away, the hurt apparent in her tone.
"No!" Severus snapped, now glaring at her with his dark brown eyes. "That is because they do not know the full story. You may not be a Pureblood, but you have something in your veins they would kill for… and they've already begun." He leaned forward, lowing his voice. She looked back at him anxiously. "Marie… you are a direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin himself."
Marie's complexion became ten shades more pale. "I don't understand… the descendants are pure… are there even any left?" She had no clue as to how to process this. It wasn't adding up.
"It has not been uncovered until recently. Apparently, when Slytherin was alive he took on a mistress. That was not the surprise, but the mistress's history was… she was a Muggle." Marie gasped loudly.
"Sir, even insinuating this about Slytherin could be enough to start rioting among the Pureblood community… are you positive?"
Severus nodded. "I'm not a historian or one for gossip, but yes. Dumbledore has his sources, and if he trusts them," he sighed heavily, "then I have no choice but to trust them as well. The woman had been a family servant, before the common practice of House Elves gained popularity. When her pregnancy was too bothersome to hide, he sent her away, yet periodically check in on his new son and once lover. From there, the rest is history…that now sits in my den, staring at me with her jaw on the ground."
Marie was absolutely floored by this information. Was she supposed to be proud of herself now? "So wouldn't that mean I am actually safe? Why should I be worried anymore?"
"You will not like it. Are you sure you wish to know everything?" he asked cautiously. Marie continued nodding eagerly.
Severus shifted in his seat again, but this time it brought him no comfort. "Other than his obvious motives behind hunting Potter, the Dark Lord and his minions seek you for something, in my opinion, much more cruel." He paused and looked away from her; he knew she did not deserve this fate. Marie was a kind person, an excellent student.
"Sir, please, now I must know… you've already started." She was inching her way down the couch, coming closer to him.
He cleared his throat and looked back at her. His voice was firm but he had begun to fidget with his hands. Severus could not help but be nervous. "We have evidence to suggest that the Dark Lord wants the Malfoy men to, shall we say, continue the line of heirs through you." He felt disgusting finishing his statement. He watched as Marie buried her head in her hands, her elbows resting upon her knees.
"Tell me that's not true…" she began hyperventilating, pulling at her hair. "Not him… of all people…" she rambled.
"I'm sorry." Was all he could keep repeating to her. Severus hadn't felt this remorseful for anything or anyone in a long time.
Suddenly she lifted her head and swept her long brown hair out of her now red and irritated eyes. Severus always noted her joy-filled blue eyes, but now they seemed dark and lost. Marie pulled out her wand. "I'll be damned if I let them touch me." She held the point under her chin, pressing firmly.
Severus flew from his chair and grabbed her wrists. "What are you doing?! Let it go! Drop it!" he yelled as he wrestled the wand from her grasp. Marie even tried kicking him out of desperation.
"The only way I will ever be safe is if I'm in the ground! Don't make me do this!" she pleaded, losing the battle with him.
Finally Severus was able to steal the wand and he hid it on his person. He held on to her shoulders and continued to yell. "Do not give up this easily! We will make sure this ends and that you live a normal, full life. If you decide to make an heir, then it will be on your terms!" his face was inches from hers and she could hear the passion of his words ringing in her ears.
"Why do you care so much?" Marie whispered through tears. Her eyes darted across his face again.
"Because," he let her go and backed away. "I too am a Half Blood. I wish I could be as lucky as you are. You may not realize it now due to these circumstances, but you truly are a rare 'breed'. The most noble there is…" he had returned to his own chair and begun to calm down.
Marie wiped her eyes and thought for a moment. But what's the point of being so special when everyone is just going to use you?
"Until I believe you are back in your right state of mind, I will hold on to your wand." Severus rubbed his temples again, feeling a headache coming on. He did not realize just what he had signed up for, but then again this mission wasn't voluntary.
"If Hogwarts fell to them, what makes you think I will be safe here?" she still did not receive an answer for that.
"Dumbledore's orders. End of story." He snapped. Marie did not need to know about his double life or any of his relationships… yet.
Marie grew tired of the silence and attempted to lighten the mood after a while. "So do I still call you 'Professor' or do I refer to you as my flat mate?" That was a bad idea, and an even worse joke. I'm so stupid.
Severus shot her a nasty look. "I'm going to pretend that was just a bad attempt at…humor."
"I didn't mean it like that, honest." Marie lowered her head. "I guess what I mean is, it will be a big adjustment. It's been a strange night and a lot to handle." She really did not mean to offend her Head of House.
He softened a bit. "As long as it is my duty to protect you, I will also try to make this arrangement more bearable."
Just then the fireplace roared and the mantle shook. A Hogwarts school trunk flew out of the fireplace and onto the coffee table. A rough outline of Dumbledore's face appeared as well. "Severus?" he called out. It was comforting for Marie to know that the Headmaster was still alive.
"Yes, I'm here." Severus crouched near the fire to speak. His black hair and cloak were both draped around him. He always did know how to move gracefully and without a sound. "I have done as you asked and informed her of everything. Are you and the boy safe?"
"We're fine, thank you. The Order is taking good care on this end. We escaped but not without leaving protection for the rest of the castle. Thankfully their advance ceased once they realized their three targets were missing." Dumbledore explained. "Clean up is already underway and students are being escorted home." He did not want to mention casualties with Marie listening in.
Severus was relieved. "What can I do now?"
"For one, do not leave her unattended. That may be difficult and conflict with your other orders, but you're a smart man, Severus. Hopefully this will be resolved soon." He sighed heavily. "Oh, and Severus?"
"Yes Albus?" he perked up.
"Try not to scare the poor girl. She has been through enough already, and I'm afraid there's worse on the way. Liven up a bit please?" and with that he was gone. Marie had to stop from smirking, but couldn't help but wonder just what Dumbledore meant. What else were they hiding? She also didn't expect her and Severus to be friends now, but didn't want to be completely ignored and abandoned either. He was probably going to be the only living person she got to see from now on.
Severus stood and grabbed the handle to her school trunk. "It's been a long night. Let me show you the room we prepared." He motioned for her to follow him out of the living room, up the stairs, and down a long hallway. The rest of the house felt dark, cold, and damp. She missed the fireplace already. Neither of them spoke the whole way; Marie found it to be awkward. Once reaching said room, he waved his hand and the candles inside illuminated the contents.
This had to be Dumbledore's idea. The room was essentially a miniature version of her Slytherin dormitory. Ebony furniture was everywhere along with emerald sheets and blankets neatly laid out on the four poster bed. There was even an attached bathroom for privacy. He set her trunk in a random corner and began to leave.
"Professor…" Marie stopped him.
Marie latched herself to him before he could turn around. Her forehead rested on his back and he barely heard her mumbling. "Thank you… really. You're risking your life for mine. I owe you everything but can offer nothing…" she almost began crying again. Severus was shocked but fought the urge to shake her off. Once he couldn't stand it any longer, he carefully broke free and looked over his shoulder.
"… You're welcome…" He then left and she watched him briskly walk down the hallway and into the darkness, no doubt returning to his own room.
Marie closed the door, a little shocked at herself for acting that way. "Idiot…" she hit her forehead with her palm then went to her trunk to change for bed. I still can't believe that I'm an heiress to Slytherin… me… She ran a finger over the crest on her robe before sliding into the strange new bed. A pang of satisfaction washed over her as she thought of what this meant for her ancestors and future family. I just hope I get to choose who carries it on.