Ginny couldn't sleep. She remained still for awhile, afraid moving would wake Severus. Finally, once her arm was asleep, she quietly pulled away from him and slid from the bed. Once free of the sheets, she stood for a minute, not quite sure what to do. She slipped on Severus's robe and crossed the room to stand at the window. She parted the curtains and gazed out at the not quite full moon.
Severus stirred and awoke when he realized his companion was no longer sharing his bed. He propped himself up, taking notice of the still warm sheets beside him. He scanned the room and his eyes fell on Ginny as she stood beside the window, dimly lit from the moonlight streaming in from the break in the curtains.
She jumped, startled by the sudden growl of his voice. "Oh! I am sorry. I didn't mean to wake you. I just couldn't sleep."
"Is there something on your mind?"
"No, nothing especially pressing. My sleep schedule can be somewhat hectic because of work."
He nodded, faintly noticed in the barely lit bedroom.
"I have an idea." He announced after a few minutes thought. He slid from underneath the covers. He strode to the bedroom door and held his hand out to Ginny. She stood for a minute, somewhat amazed that his stride had been his usual purposeful, wide, gliding steps despite his nakedness. She suppressed a giggle and crossed the room to join him at the threshold. He took her hand and guided her through the house and to the back porch.
"Severus! You are naked!"
He looked at her quizzically for a moment. "So?"
"Well, I… I guess I… Oh hell. Whatever." She finally dismissed his lack of clothing just as flippantly as he had.
He grinned at her, kissed her lips, and then stood a few feet from her. "Are you ready?"
"Ready for what? What are we doing?" Before she could finish her sentence he had changed. The dark, sleek, scarred panther now sat in front of her nonchalantly licking his paw.
Excitement ran through her veins and she transformed into the wolf. Once the wolf stood on the porch next to him he rubbed his body the length of her and purred. She wagged in response and he took off into the woods behind the house. She didn't hesitate to chase after him.
They ran for what felt like miles. This was more freeing and relaxing than riding Sherriff. They came to a clearing in the woods and collapsed in a heap together. Ginny rolled over onto her back and wiggled, relishing the feeling of the debris massaging and scratching her back. She noticed the large moon just above them. She flipped over and threw her head back, bellowing out a loud sharp howl.
"Seriously?" She heard the amusement in Severus's voice.
"I couldn't resist. It was too cliché to let the opportunity pass."
Severus purred out a chuckle. Suddenly their senses tingled and they both shrunk low to the ground. They heard loud shouting and a maniacal laugh come from above them. They saw a figure on a broom, dressed in a black cloak with a hood pass over the top of the clearing. Another individual was hanging from beneath the broom, their legs thrashing behind them and their hands seeming to be tied behind their back. Ginny glanced at Severus, whose fur had bristled. He immediately tore through the woods in the direction of the figures.
They ran, following the figure the best they could, until they were give out and they lost sight. Severus sat back on his haunches and panted, Ginny collapsing next to him.
"Who was that? What do you think is going on Severus? We have to do something!"
"And what do you suggest we do, Ginny? I have lost sight of them and we have no clue of their destination."
"Do you think that person faces the same fate as that patient the other night?"
"Yes, that is what I am afraid will be their fate. Let us get back to the house." He shifted back into the form of the naked potion's master and pulled her into his arms when she shifted, apparating them back to the bedroom.
"What do you suggest we do?" Ginny was driven to help the victim, but at the same time she herself felt helpless. She had no clue where to even start to intercept the figure on the broom.
"Let me think…" Severus began dressing, obviously intent on not returning to bed. Ginny followed suit. After a few minutes Severus froze.
"I knew that laugh…" He turned to look at Ginny, who was watching him intently. "That laugh… I believe that was Bartemis Crouch, Jr."
"So you think he escaped Azkaban?"
"He wouldn't have been the first to do so, nor would it be his first time. If I knew who the first victim was, I would have a better idea of where to start." He approached her and pulled her into him. "If it is Crouch, I can follow him in Death Eater form. I can take you with me if so interested."
Ginny pulled away and shook her head. "No. I was inducted into the order. I can track him just as well in my form and keep up just as easily."
"I don't doubt it, but I have more experience in this form of travel…"
"And if we have to defend ourselves, your hands will be full and I will be a helpless burden." Ginny cut him off.
He stared at her for a few moments. "Very well then…" he snipped, then mumbled "… and you are never helpless, nor a burden." Ginny couldn't help but smile. They returned to the back porch and took off into the night, a black streak and a white streak twisting around each other. They left a thin stream in the night sky that resembled the stream of a muggle jet engine, well, maybe a jet with one good and one bad engine.
Ginny soon lost track of Crouch's magical trail, but knew that Severus was having no difficulty. She fell in line behind him, and soon they were streaming above London. Severus slowed and landed in an alley way.
"What are we doing? I still don't see him anywhere and I lost his trail."
Severus held his finger to his lips and pushed Ginny against the wall. He pressed his mouth to hers and kissed her deeply. A group of drunken muggle men passed by, one pausing to urinate on a store front before carrying on loudly down the street. Severus pulled away from her, kissed her chastely on her forehead and pressed his back against the wall next to her. A few seconds later they heard the cackle of Crouch again. He circled above the street, his victim begging him for their life. The voice sounded female to Ginny, but knew some men could sound rather feminine when facing danger.
Severus stepped out into the street with Ginny trailing at his heels. "Ginny, the victim." Severus grumbled. Ginny nodded and pointed her wand at the bound victim hanging from the bottom of the broom making every attempt to thrash herself free. Ginny locked a silent levi corpus on the victim, careful not to shift the weight from the broom, avoiding drawing Crouch's attention to the interference.
Severus flicked his wand, cutting the rope that tied the victim to the broom and swiftly moving to his next spell with one smooth motion. "Expelliarmus!" He bellowed, hitting his target square. Crouch flew from his broom. Ginny guided the victim back into the alley way and gently set her on the ground. She approached the woman, and gazed into wet blue eyes.
"Are you okay?" Ginny asked.
"Yes.." The woman choked and sniffled.
Ginny began untying the lady, noticing she appeared to be within a few years of Severus's age. She had shoulder length disheveled blond hair. Her eyes were framed with faint wrinkles at the corners and very smudged eye liner. Black streaks of mascara ran down her face. The lady began trembling and sobbing. Ginny wrapped her up in her arms trying to comfort the woman.
"Cr.. Crouch!" The woman identified her assailant.
"We know… We know."
Ginny remained in the alley with the still unnamed victim as she cried hysterically. She wanted desperately to go help Severus, but knew she needed to stay with this lady. The dueling wizards passed the alley a few times during their assaults. Ginny threw up silent shields to deflect poorly aimed curses. Her body was taught with adrenaline. Her blood hummed in her ears and her heart beat heavily against her chest. The corner of a brick wall at the edge of the alley exploded when it was struck by a stray curse. She threw up another shield to deflect the bricks from her and her charge. She heard Severus bellowing out curses and she could hear the counter curse shrieked in Crouch's psychotic rasp. Finally, she saw a black smokey streak jet across the sky, Crouch fleeing. Severus then turned the corner and approached them in the ally.
"How is she?"
"She is very shaken up. We need to take her to St. Mungo's for evaluation. Where's Crouch?"
"He got away."
Ginny shook her head in understanding. She grabbed the victim and apparated to St. Mungo's. Severus arrived shortly after.
The receptionist greeted them taking a second glance at the woman leaning heavily against Ginny.
"Madam Westford!" The young woman seemed shocked. "What is going on? What happened?"
"From what we can conclude, she was attacked by a death eater escaped from Azkaban. We believe he intended on murdering her."
"Is she hurt?" The young witch inquired.
"I did a quick assessment. She seems physically intact, but mentally she is very upset. We don't know how long he had her or what he has done to her."
The young witch nodded, understanding what Ginny had implied. She took Madam Westford by her shoulders and guided her through a set of double doors. Ginny and Severus stood in the lobby, apprehensive to leave. The young witch returned a few minutes later.
"She is settled in an exam room and the mediwitches are looking her over. The aurors will be here shortly. They will want to talk to you."
Ginny nodded and turned to Severus. He wrapped her up in his arms and held her tightly. Relief swept over her, followed suddenly by fatigue. She leaned heavily into Severus, transferring most of her weight into him.
"I know." He crooned and stroked her hair.
Ginny had seen and dealt with a lot of bad situations at her job. It was common place for her to see dead bodies and mangled people groaning with pain. She had pressed her hands to holes in patient's heads, unsure whether she was more determined to keep blood or brain on the inside. She had wiped brain matter from her boots and dug teeth out of the tread in the soles after a bad call. All of this, she had never batted an eye. Tonight was different though. She had always shown up after the fact, able to distance herself from the circumstances that led to the need for her services. She had never prevented the need for her services.
Her mind felt like it was running wild, not much unlike her and Severus had been running wild just some time before. She thought about her family and hoped that Crouch would not target them. She wondered who the woman was to become Crouch's object of psychotic outrage tonight. She wondered if this was the beginning of a new war. She had so many questions and so few answers.
After a few minutes Severus took her hand and guided her to an uncomfortable chair in the lobby, sitting next to her. They sat silently holding hands. Ginny subconsciously stroked the back of Severus's hand with her thumb, craving any comfort she could manage.
The receptionist brought Ginny and Severus a cup of coffee each and some packets of cream and sugar. Severus took a sip of the black coffee and grimaced.
"This is aweful!"
"I have never known hospital coffee to be the best." Ginny explained, her voice still quiet as if speaking to loudly or too happily would be irreverent in regard to the situation.
"You mean there is better?"
Ginny turned her head and focused her stare on Severus. After a few seconds she spoke. "You have never had coffee before?"
"Most certainly not! I always thought of it as an American Muggle drink. Not something I have ever been too keen to try."
"Well, the taste varies on the type of roast, brand, etc. I prefer a lot of cream and sugar in mine personally considering it is aweful black no matter what brand or roast it is." Ginny explained, then her eyes sparkled and she suppressed a grin. "So, Professor, is there anything else you haven't been very keen to try that we may need to discuss?"
Severus stared at her quizzically for a moment before he caught her undertones. He grinned and leaned into her ear, his breath caressing her face slightly tousling her hair as quietly he spoke. "Oh… you know… I have never been to keen on experiencing things from another point of view."
Ginny immediately understood his reference to homosexuality. "I'm sure we could arrange something…"
"No thank you, I believe I have my hands full as it is." Severus quickly quipped, sliding his hand up Ginny's thigh.
Before Ginny could respond Harry entered the lobby with a young blond haired woman about Ginny's age. Ginny and Severus immediately stood.
"Potter." Severus greeted Harry in a fashion reminiscent of Harry's and Ginny's days at Hogwarts. This inexplicably made Ginny tingle in arousal.
"Professor, Ginny." Harry greeted each of them in a manner that clearly stated he was there on business. Ginny nodded in response. Harry's eyes widened briefly then he raised one eyebrow before returning to his professional façade.
He turned to the thick blonde standing to his left. "This is Scarlet. She is my partner. Scarlet, this is Severus Snape and Ginny Weasley."
Scarlet reached out to shake their hands. "Hey y'all." It was Ginny's turn to raise an eyebrow at Scarlet's unfamiliar accent.
"We are here to investigate the occurrence tonight." Harry explained.
They all took a seat and Severus began explaining what had happened tonight. Ginny and Harry sat quietly while Scarlet scratched away on a small notepad. When Severus finished Scarlet handed Harry the notepad. Harry flipped through Scarlet's notes and handed the notepad back.
"Where were you when you first took notice of the suspect and the victim?"
"At my house." Severus replied unabashedly.
"In Spinner's End?"
"No. We were at my new house." Severus rattled off the address and Scarlet frantically scratched away.
"And what were you doing when you first heard the victim and the perpetrator?"
"We had gone for a run in the woods… in our animagus forms."
"At one thirty in the morning?" Harry inquired; his eyebrows rose not hiding his judgement.
"I was having a hard time sleeping." Ginny explained.
Harry looked as if he had many more questions he wished to ask, but Ginny suspected they had nothing to do with the case so he refrained.
"Thank you. I believe we have everything we need right now. We will go speak to the victim. You two may return to your homes." Harry released them as he and Scarlet stood. "Or home…" He quietly added. Severus and Ginny stood and said their goodbyes. After Harry and Scarlet retreated through the doors to the evaluation clinic Severus turned to Ginny and took her hand.
"I would like for you to come home with me if you so wish."
"Of course!" Ginny answered without hesitation and actually a little hurt by the thought the he may have expected her not to go back with him.
"Beautiful." Severus whispered. Ginny was uncertain whether he was referring to her or to her decision, but she had no time to question him before he apparated them back to his home.
Once they arrived in his back yard, he led her to his back door and unlocked it with a silent charm. He led her into the house and directly to the bedroom. He turned on a lamp and began casually undressing.
"So what the hell kind of accent does Scarlet have? I have never heard anything like that before. And what did she call us? Y'all?" Ginny began asking questions as she too began undressing. Once she was completely nude she walked across the bedroom to the chair where Severus had neatly laid his clothes out. She picked through them until she found the t-shirt he had been wearing. She slipped it over her head and skipped across the room, leaping onto the bed. She crawled up behind where Severus was sitting untying his shoes and pulling them off.
"If I am not mistaken, I believe she is from the southern part of America. I have only heard that accent once before."
"Wonder how she ended up over here. Do they have schools of magic in America?"
"Well, yes. They can't send all of their witches and wizards over here for schooling can they?" Severus explained.
"Hmmm." Ginny rested her chin on Severus's shoulder. "I would like to go to America one day." She thought aloud.
"Maybe I can take you."
"No…" Ginny suddenly felt awkard and uncomfortable. She crawled to the head of the bed and slid underneath the covers.
Severus stood and dropped his pants to the floor. He walked around to the other side of the bed and climbed in still wearing his boxers.
"And why not?" He asked with concern, pulling her into him.
"I just… I just don't want you to feel like you always have to do for me." Ginny rolled over and pressed her back into Severus's chest.
"Ginny," His voice had become stern and professorly again "I don't know what type of relationship you and Potter had or you and anyone else had for that matter, but when you love someone that is what you do. You do for them. Anything you can just to see them smile. You dote on them. You think of them constantly. You worry about them, even when there is no reason to worry. You feel lifeless when they aren't around, and yet you feel as if you can hardly breathe when they are around."
Ginny turned to face him. She studied his intense gaze before answering. "Severus, did you just profess your love to me?" She asked in a light jovial manner, but Severus knew she was being serious.
"Yes. I love you Ginny Weasley. I thought I had loved before, but when you came along and showed me your kindness and your strong will not to mention your compassion for such an old cold coot I realized that I hadn't even had a taste of what love really was."
Ginny was lost for words. She kissed him deeply before pulling back to grasp his full attention again. "Severus, I don't wish to honestly say I love you yet. I know I care more for you than I have ever cared for anyone before. I always did have a soft spot for you ever since I was your student, but in all honestly I am afraid of love simply because I am afraid of pain. I am afraid that I cannot be who you need me to be and I don't wish to disappointment you or cause you pain."
Severus cut her off with another deep kiss. "You are so young yet so wise. I do not expect you to admit to love when you just recently began looking at me in a light different than what you have seen me in for so many years. If I have become anything with my age it is patient. I hope that one day you may respond to me openly, but for now I am completely happy, happier than I have ever been, with you just being mine. But heed my warning that I will not let you go anytime soon."
Ginny nuzzled her face into his chest and wrapped her hand around his arm. She was almost certain she loved him, but she wanted to be absolutely certain. She was too free with the four letter word in her relationship with Harry and she did not wish to make that mistake again.
"Sleep now honey."
They simultaneously pulled each other closer before each drifted off into a dreamless sleep.