A/N:Okay, I lied. It might be another chapter. :) The Kinship bunny grew some more and demanded that I update so I don't have a 50 page chapter. There are moments of drama, comedy, suspense, little romance, jaw dropping, and family moments. Enjoy.

Dealing with the Garbage

A week before Snape's thirty-third birthday, Madam Pomfrey released Tobias from her hospital wing. However, much to her displeasure and Snape's amusement at how riled up the matron would become, Tobias remained by Eileen's bedside as he had done throughout the time, holding his wife's hand. On occasion, Tobias would make his usual off-color remarks during Snape's and Eileen's physical therapy sessions, which would only further irritate Madam Pomfrey and cause Snape and Harry (when Harry didn't have classes) to laugh every now and then, forgetting their troubles for just a few moments.

On the morning of Snape's thirty-third birthday, the matron deemed Snape physically fit to teach once more and stated that he was free now to leave the hospital wing. Making it quite clear to him not to use his link with Aurora again, she gave him a scathing lecture that he'd swear his mother would have said. She, in fact, informed him that if she found that he was using that link, he would find himself tied to a bed in the hospital wing and sedated until she saw fit to wake him. He made no comment at this warning, though. He had no plans ever to use that link after learning that it harmed Aurora, at least not until he could solidify and stabilize their link. So, he merely inclined his head and headed with Harry to their temporary rooms on the third floor, since their quarters in the dungeons were still being repaired by the house elves and not scheduled to be completed for another few days.

Father and son quickly set into a routine after Snape's release. Every morning they would have breakfast with Eileen and Tobias in the hospital wing. Harry would give his grandmother a quick kiss on the cheek and his grandpa a hug before the young Gryffindor meandered out the door to his first class, while Snape would merely incline his head at his parents and leave silently to head to his first class as well. They were on autopilot, going about their day silently. They likely couldn't even explain what had occurred in any of their classes. Every evening, they'd have dinner together, father and son, before wordlessly heading to their bedrooms and suffering another restless night filled with nightmares. Each day that passed and Aurora wasn't found, a bit more of their hope chipped away.

For four and a half long months this routine continued. Harry didn't even notice the owls once again flying back and forth between the Gryffindor and Slytherin tables during this time. Oh, he knew that Hermione and Draco had made up and became friends again, much to Ron, Crabbe, and Goyle's dissatisfactions. He just didn't really care all that much anymore. And he had yelled just as much to Ron once, among other things, of course. Didn't they understand how much he hurt? His mum was missing, and they were carrying on like nothing had happened—that everything was perfect, just bloody damn perfect. Harry hated it. Absolutely hated it. So whenever he could, he'd spend his free time with his father, the one person in the whole damn castle who understood and who cared.

On the other hand during these four and half months, Snape continued to use every available moment he could to find Aurora. In total, five months had passed since she had been taken, and he felt no closer to finding her now than he did before. He had spoken to every person he could think of, but no one knew anything. He had even owled that idiot Igor Karkoff at Durmstrang in hopes that the Russian knew where she was. Nothing came of it, though. Just a brush off like everyone else. It led Snape to believe that some of them knew more than what they were telling like Minister Fudge for example.

When asked repeatedly by Dumbledore, Snape, Kingsley, and a flurry of others over the past months about Leonidas Montgomery, Minister Fudge immediately became hostile at every encounter and told them all that the matter would best be dropped. It wasn't of course, which only further irritated Fudge. The man now barely answered an owl addressed by anyone from or affiliated with Hogwarts, citing that he was much too busy. But much to Snape's discontent, Dumbledore refused to press Fudge any further than the weekly owl or appearance.

Eileen had remarked once that whatever Snape hoped for from the Ministry, he'd never receive it from that bunch of bureaucratic cowards. So far, he had to agree with her there. There had been no sightings of Leonidas for months. It had left him frustrated as hell. Why did nothing ever go his way? Had he truly deserved this much punishment? This much cruelty from the Fates? He knew he had made horrific choices, but hadn't he atoned for them? He certainly thought so. From Pomfrey, he knew that Aurora was still alive, so she was somewhere out there. He just had to keep searching. He'd find her sooner or later. He wouldn't give up. He couldn't give up. He just wished that there was some sign, some indication where she was. But all he ever saw was the damned sporadic blackouts at the Ministry.

~FKTF~

The last day in May, Snape found himself standing in front of his class of second-year Slytherins and Gryffindors. His black eyes passed over his horribly withdrawn son before he glanced away guiltily. He was failing as a father. He didn't know how to comfort the boy. Hell, he didn't know how to comfort himself at this point. He glanced at the chalkboard where he had written the instructions of a potion earlier and closed his eyes. What was he doing?

"Professor Snape?" Granger said quietly.

"What?" he snapped, wincing inwardly at the sound of his harshness. He needed to get a hold of himself. He was acting weak and pathetic. A fool with his heart on his damn sleeve for all to see. Prior to his learning Occlumency so many years ago, his emotions had always consumed him. It was why he relied so heavily on the barriers, so they wouldn't. He felt so deeply that he couldn't control himself at times. The barriers were to balance him. But now he just felt so empty.

"Is everything all right, sir?"

Kindness. Granger was showing him kindness when he only showed her anger. His heart clenched painfully, recalling another witch who did the same. Aurora.

He shouldn't have felt like this. He knew that. He had only been with Aurora for three months. Was it possible to love someone after dating them for just three months? No. No. He had been with her longer than three months. He just didn't realize. She had always been there for him. Like the night Lily died. She required nothing in return. No ulterior motive. Just offering her shoulder for him to cry on. She had only brought that night up once. Not out of anger or to hurt him like so many others in his life had, but to comfort him once again. Kindness drove her actions. Kindness and love.

Snape blinked back the ghostly image of Aurora sitting in the second row next to his son, where Granger previously had been. She wasn't there. It was Granger. Not Aurora. Upset with himself, he sneered, feeling his control shattering. He should have dismissed his students, but he couldn't. His emotions were suffocating him. He drowned in his grief, unable to come up for air.

"What do you think, Granger?" he heard himself snarl. He caught the witch's eyes widen and heard her gasp of surprise. "Honestly, you stupid girl. You'd think—"

"Stop," a voice abruptly whispered across from him.

He obeyed instantly, his mouth hanging open slightly as he caught the transparent witch standing across from him. He blinked several times and even rubbed at his eyes once. He couldn't be seeing this. There was no way Aurora was in his classroom. But there she was. His eyes darted to Harry, noticing the boy staring at him fearfully as if Snape had grown a second head. So, then, Harry didn't see her.

"Where are you?" Snape pleaded, taking a step towards her while openly ignoring his class full of students.

"Weasley," she whispered before she faded from the room.

Snape groaned loudly, grabbing his head and leaning against a nearby table. Pomfrey was going to murder him, and it wasn't even him who had initiated it this time. His head felt as if someone had slammed it repeatedly into a brick wall. His full weight rested on his hand that kept him upright. He panted and shuddered when he felt a hand rest on his forearm.

"Dad?" Harry asked quietly. He then raised his voice. "Get Pomfrey!"

Snape slowly lowered himself to the ground, breathing in and out. When he was sitting on the ground, he felt himself fall backwards and stare up at the ceiling a moment later. His head hurt like hell. At the sound of a herd of hippogriffs, he turned his head to the side.

"Weasley," he rasped, trying to reach for the redhead. He was tired. So in pain. He frowned when the boy squeaked and glanced towards his friend. "Tell." Snape groaned, clutching his head again. The pain felt worse than a two-minute Cruciatus. The boy had to know. Or at the very least someone in his family knew. She had given Snape a hint. "Tell me, Weasley," he hissed out his pain.

"Tell you what?" Ron glanced around, shirking back a bit at the intense glare Snape gave him. "I don't—all right, fine." He sighed heavily, a hand rubbing the back of his neck. "Yeah, Crabbe, Goyle, and me wrote those stupid letters to Malfoy and Hermione, but it was just because it was so wrong. A Gryffindor and that nasty Slytherin git all cozy. S'not right, you know, sir?"

Snape's eyes glared at the idiot Gryffindor. Weasley was lucky that Snape couldn't move more than an inch or the boy would have found himself cuffed upside the head.

"I can't believe you, Ronald!" Granger hissed, slapping the redhead.

Snape, however, turned back. He could only imagine how this debacle would be spread around the school. Snape lost his marbles in class this morning. No, no I'm telling you. The greasy git was going on, and then he just went sort of, you know, funny. I don't know. Who cares? The voice in his head sounded annoyingly like Weasley's. Why were his son and Weasley friends anyway? Weasley didn't really contribute much if one thought on it. Trouble and Wizard's Chess.

"Dad?" Harry asked, moving into his line of sight again. "Are you all right?"

Snape grabbed a hold of his son's hand and squeezed it firmly. "Weasley," he rasped, holding his son's dull green eyes. He needed the boy to understand. "Weasley," he repeated while grimacing. He watched Harry blink once then twice before the boy's eyes widened.

"Mum?" Harry breathed with wide green eyes.

Snape squeezed his son's hand again, unable to respond in the affirmative. However, before they could continue, Snape quickly noticed Madam Pomfrey bustling into the room, her wand already drawn and her lips pursed. It wasn't his fault this time. Honestly, it wasn't. He watched her wand trail down him as she did her scan, her eyes darkening at the results before she shot her fiercest glare at him.

"Mobilicorpus," Pomfrey cast, her spell levitating Snape a few inches off the ground instantly. With her wand pointed ahead of her to levitate Snape where she wanted him, she and Harry followed the prone Potions Master up to the hospital wing.

The minute the double doors opened, Snape heard his father shout "What in the nine hells?" He closed his eyes. It was one thing to deal with Pomfrey's lectures. It was a whole other thing to deal with his mother's, and he knew it was coming by Merlin almighty. He let out a low groan when Pomfrey ended her spell abruptly, which resulted in him landing hard on top of a cot.

"Your son decided to use his link again."

"No," Snape argued, groaning. "Not me."

"Who else could it have been?" Pomfrey snapped.

"It wasn't me," Snape continued to claim, wincing and drawing in a slow breath.

"Impossible." The matron clucked her tongue angrily. "Aurora's never shown any indication of having any sort of ability or control whatsoever when it came to the Mental Arts, Severus."

"Not me," he repeated, clearly out of breath.

"It's not possible!"

"Are you certain, Madam Pomfrey?" Tobias asked, moving to his son's bedside.

"Positive!" She huffed, feeling obviously insulted by the insinuation.

"There's nothing, not even remotely possible, that could explain it otherwise? Cause my son said it wasn't him, and I take his word at it, lass."

Snape winced when he caught Pomfrey thrusting a vial in his direction, nearly spilling the potion on him. He wordlessly drank it, closing his eyes as he felt the pain quickly recede thanks to the pain relieving potion. Sometimes he truly loved being a wizard.

"There's one possibility, yes, but it's so remote that it's laughable to consider."

"Which is?"

"I'm telling you that it's not possible."

"Don't care, lass. What is it?"

Snape turned and glanced at the matron. She clearly was wrestling with herself. He frowned and thought back on all the books he had read concerning mental links. Because he was naturally predisposed to the mental arts, it would be rather easy for him to create a bridge between their minds. However, Pomfrey was right. Aurora had no inclination towards the Mental Arts. Frankly, she didn't have the necessary control and focus. So, it shouldn't have been possible for her to reach his mind. Unless the serum was adapting and changing her mind so she could, but that didn't seem likely.

"It's not possible." Her eyes darted to Snape. "Unless you're lying about when you started your relationship, Severus."

He frowned. "I'm not. We've only been together since late September. She's been missing longer than we've been dating."

"Then, as I said, it's not possible."

"Let us be the judge of that, Pomfrey. What is it?"

She sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "I'm not even certain if it's possible to occur, Severus. I mean, you two would have had to choose this."

"Choose what?"

"A binding of your souls." She shook her head. "Frankly, you two wouldn't have had time even to attempt it, least of all start one. It takes decades to complete."

Snape searched through his mind for everything he could recall about binding one's soul to another. He knew of the lovers' bonds, of course, but they weren't as strong or chaotic as this bond between him and Aurora. He frowned when his mind drew a blank. It must have been older than his books, likely from before the Founders' time.

"Continue," he said softly, his curiosity winning for a moment.

"It's said that if a couple meets all of the set criteria that their essences are entirely bound together with their hearts, minds, magic, and souls all as one. It's generally referred to as 'finding your soul mate.' However, to those with magic, it can be something much deeper. If you're lucky, you can find a person to bind with magically, by a shared choice of course. As far as I'm aware, you and Aurora aren't that far into your relationship where you're both ready to commit your lives to one another, so it's absurd to think that you'd both choose to make this decision already. In fact, it rarely happens without the knowledge of both parties, so I don't see how it's possible."

"What's the criteria?"

"Of a soul mate?" she asked incredulously.

"Yes, Pomfrey," Snape growled. He'd ask the ridiculous childlike question. "What's a soul mate?" If that's what the hell we are now, he thought darkly in his mind.

"Well, it's like a best friend, but more." She thought for a moment before she continued. "It's the one person in the world that knows you better than anyone else. It's someone who makes you a better person." She then paused. "Actually, they don't make you a better person, you do that yourself because they inspire you." She inhaled slowly. "A soul mate is someone who you carry with you forever. It's the one person who knew you and accepted you and believed in you before anyone else did or when no one else would. And no matter what happens, you'll always love them. Nothing can ever change that."

Snape stared at her. There had to be more. Otherwise, there'd be loads of bonded couples this way. Molly and Arthur came to mind as prime examples of this. Molly and Arthur. His head snapped towards his parents. How had he become so distracted? Honestly, he was worse than a squirrel.

"Weasley. Aurora said 'Weasley' to me earlier when I saw her," he quickly explained, turning back to Pomfrey. "I need to talk to all of them but Ron. One of them holds the key to finding her."

"How? All of the Weasleys here have been in class."

"One of them knows something." He instantly watched the matron's face morph into outrage.

"Are you honestly claiming that a Weasley knows where Aurora is and isn't telling us?"

"I need to talk to them."

"No, you need rest, Severus Snape," Madam Pomfrey growled, leveling her wand on him.

"She's right," Tobias chimed in. "They'd be in class or whatever. So it's got to be their parents or the older ones. I'd reckon it'd be the parents before the kids in fact."

"Yes, but how do you suppose we go about this, Tobias? Ask them flat out what they know?" Eileen stated, picking up the conversation as she now stood next to her husband. "We have to find something direct to ask. Otherwise, it'll be a waste of time."

"The pipes. They run up into the ceiling. There's a tank. I . . ." Snape closed his eyes, trying to recall what he had seen the times he had seen her. His brows furrowed as he remembered something. "There were no windows, just one door, and everything led up to the ceiling. It was dark, little light. So, it's possibly underground." Snape watched his dad quickly walk towards the fireplace.

"Just what do you think you're doing?" Madam Pomfrey demanded, hands on her hips.

"Getting the Weasleys, witch," grunted Tobias, throwing the Floo powder into the flames and Firecalling. He stuck his head into the frozen green flames a moment later before he stepped back.

Easter had been the last time the Snape family had seen Molly and Arthur. They had all gathered around at the Burrow for an Easter dinner together, Tobias and Arthur's idea. It hadn't improved Harry and Snape's spirits in the slightest, but it had provided a distraction for a bit. And, more importantly, it got the Snapes out of the castle and away from Madam Pomfrey.

When Molly Weasley stepped through several seconds later, her quick eyes darted about the room before she quickly bustled over to Snape's cot with a concerned look. Just what he needed. Three women to fuss over him. Well, his mother wasn't fussing quite yet, but she likely was biding her time until the other two left.

"We need to know what ya know about underground pipes going to the ceiling, Molly," Tobias asked respectfully, clearly attempting to speak properly. Something everyone had noted at Easter.

The Weasley matriarch glanced at him and shook her head.

"Nothing, I'm afraid. Arthur might, though." She shrugged and wiped her hands off onto her apron before she pressed a hand to Snape's forehead and promptly removed it with a faint apologetic smile in response to his mild glare. She truly couldn't help herself sometimes. "Sounds like something the Ministry would have, I'd imagine. Not that I would set foot in that place anytime soon. Not with these strange blackouts that Arthur's had to investigate. And, of course, he gets the run around."

Snape's eyes narrowed.

"Arthur's looking into the blackouts?"

"Oh, yes," Molly replied, waving her hand with a laugh. "He thinks the electic's gone out."

"We don't use electricity, though," Eileen stated with a frown that mirrored her son's.

"I know, dear." Molly smiled. "But according to one of Arthur's coworkers, the Ministry converts that electic rubbish into energy for us to use somehow. Sounds like rubbish to me, but that's the story his coworker told." She shook her head slowly. "Arthur's been trying to find out if it's true. Comes home positively filthy. I've told him time and time again that it's likely his coworkers pulling his leg again, but you know him. Anytime Muggles might be involved, he has to know."

"Can you send him a message to come here now? We need to speak with him."

"I can certainly try." Molly's eyes then narrowed. "Have you a clue where she is, then?"

"Possibly. She said 'Weasley' earlier to Severus."

The redheaded matriarch nodded before her eyes met Snape's. "Well, you can count us, dear. Merlin knows you deserve happiness like the rest of us." She flicked her wand, sending off her Patronus. When an ethereal weasel returned a few moments later, she smiled.

"Coming, dear," Arthur's voice replied by use of the talking weasel Patronus. And true to his word, Arthur Weasley appeared, stumbling out of the fireplace a few moments later. "Goodness! There's a bit of a drop off there, isn't there?" He quickly brushed a hand down his dirtied robes and shook his head. He strode to his wife, nodding his head at Tobias and Snape. "What's going on?"

"Severus thinks he heard Aurora earlier. She said 'Weasley' for some reason," Molly explained.

Arthur frowned and glanced at Snape again. "Did you really?" He shook his head, shrugging. "I'm not sure I can tell you much. I haven't seen her. I've been waist deep in trying to figure out these blackouts. Strange sort they are."

"You travel a lot for the Ministry, don't you, Arthur?" Eileen asked quietly.

"Oh, yes." Arthur nodded. "There are loads of incidents where I have to help smooth things over with the Muggles. Just dealt with one the other day in fact. Seems Otto Bagman was at his usual again and bewitched some sort of Muggle contraption into dancing." Arthur shook his head. "It was a brilliant idea, but of course the Muggles saw it. Poor Otto. Seems like the Ministry usually has to smooth things over with him, but he's quite happy living with the Muggles of course. At least that's what he says. Personally, I think he's just happy to be out of his brother's shadow."

"I see." Eileen inclined her head slowly. "Do you recall ever seeing a room with pipes leading up to the ceiling? A cylindrical glass tank, perhaps?"

Arthur scratched his jaw line, frowning as he clearly tried to recall. He shook his head a moment later. "No. Can't say that rings any sort of bells, I'm afraid. Though, that does remind me of something interesting that happened today." He glanced back at Snape once more. "You asked me to tell you of anything that I found peculiar at the Ministry. Well, I was down in the lower levels earlier, just a step off the elevator when two men quickly approached and informed me that the level was closed. Naturally, I informed them that I was the head of the—"

"Just get on with it." Snape noticed the look of surprise at his interruption, but he needed to know right then and Arthur was just dragging it out like always.

"Well, they stated my clearance wasn't high enough, which is impossible. I'm allowed to enter the Department of Mysteries at will, so you'd think I'd be able to visit the lower levels of course."

Snape glanced to the side as his mind started to work through this information. Aurora had said 'Weasley.' So, she was giving him a hint obviously. Molly had stated that she knew nothing about it, and he was quick to believe her since she appeared to have not left the Burrow lately. The rest of the Weasleys at Hogwarts had been at class, so they'd be worthless. There were always Bill and Charlie, the oldest Weasley boys, but they had said during Easter that if they heard or saw anything they'd owl. And so far, there were no owls. Which led Snape to Arthur who was stopped after two men stated his clearance wasn't high enough. Could it be related? Could it have been Arthur she was trying to point out? But how would she have known it was Arthur that she needed to hint at? How did she know he was wherever she was? Arthur was an observant man. He'd have seen her. So, how, then?

"Did you say anything? Raise your voice maybe when you were talking to the men?"

"In fact, I did. When I argued, they started to get rather agitated. Course that's not rather hard to do these days at the Ministry. So, naturally I argued more, because I'm right. My clearance should have been high enough to be down there."

Snape quickly turned to the matron and interrupted Arthur.

"Pomfrey, tell me. The tank I described earlier, is it possible it could be at the Ministry?"

"Well, yes, of course, they were put into storage down there. But to run it, it'd require a significant . . ." Her voice trailed off before she glanced at Arthur with wide eyes.

"Son of a bitch," Tobias whistled.

"Always said they were corrupt," Eileen remarked, shaking her head.

"She's been at the Ministry this whole time?" Arthur stated astonished. "Unbelievable."

"And to think just the other day Minister Fudge looked me in the eye and said he knew nothing about her disappearance," Molly huffed. "Well, I assure you. He won't be getting my vote anytime soon. The crook. Honestly, holding her hostage like this . . . he should be ashamed of himself."

"Now, Molly, dear," Arthur said placating. "Let's not get our feathers ruffled. It could just have been a coincidence."

Tuning out the others, Snape processed everything, his eyes moving back and forth while his mind raced with half a dozen thoughts. She had been at the Ministry this entire time? How could that be possible? The most respected building in all of the Wizarding World, and she was being held there? Had the Aurors even looked for her? Unless Fudge was involved and had told the Aurors not to look all the hard. Snape frowned deeply at that particular thought. Yes, he knew some minister asked to meet with Leonidas the last time he had seen Aurora. But, honestly, he didn't know what to believe at this point.

He shook his head. Fudge's involvement didn't really matter at this point, though. Once he had her back and Leonidas was dealt with, then they could find out if Fudge was involved or not. Until then, they would just be overly cautious. It was all they could do at this point. Everything about this was purely supposition based on circumstantial evidence, and it was better to wait with all the facts than to accuse a sitting minister of consorting with a criminal. That didn't usually go well for the accuser.

"All right." Tobias clapped his hands together with a determined look. "Let's mount a rescue and storm the Ministry, kids."

"Tobias!" Eileen snapped with a disapproving frown. "Use your head for once."

"What?"

"Storming the Ministry would be the most idiotic thing to do ever."

"So?" He shrugged.

Eileen pinched the bridge of her nose before saying exasperatedly, "Why did I marry you?"

Tobias glanced towards their son, then to his wife again. "Well, I'd tell you, but our son's right there, El." He grinned cockily, ducking when she went to cuff him upside the head.

Snape frowned, ignoring his parents—which at this point he wasn't certain they were his parents. They'd need a plan. That was for sure. And an Auror. Just in case they were wrong and shit hit the fan.

~FKTF~

Not long after Pomfrey had told Snape and his mother 'no' to accompanying the others to the Ministry, Shacklebolt arrived by Floo. Of course when Slytherins hear 'no,' they plot a way to make it 'yes.' So, with Shacklebolt there now, Snape glanced towards his mother who sat on a cot across from him. While Pomfrey's back was to Eileen, his mother's eyes met his before she slowly bowed her head.

Since Pomfrey had allowed the Slytherins to be involved in plotting the rescue mission, mother and son's secret plan was further cemented, especially when Harry pouted and stormed off to his common room after being asked to leave. Weasleys, Tobias, and an Auror were no match for the determination of Eileen and Severus. Then again, Snape knew the real reason was that the other four just understood why the two had to be there at the Ministry better than Pomfrey did—who only saw it as actions of entirely stubborn patients of hers.

So, the Ministry plan was made. They'd go together in pairs. Snape would work with Kingsley, while the other married couples would remain together. Since it was the Ministry, they decided stealth would be the best method in rescuing Aurora. They would rely on their nonverbal magic and cast non-lethal spells if they could help it. There could be no mistakes, lest they'd start a war between the Ministry and Hogwarts.

With that arrangement taken care of now, all that remained was how Snape and Eileen would escape Pomfrey's clutches. The two didn't need to voice how they'd do this. Mother and son were on a similar wavelength usually. So, they just bided their time and waited.

Snape and Eileen forced frowns to their faces when Shacklebolt, Tobias, and the Weasleys said their goodbyes. They felt Madam Pomfrey's eyes on them, watching their every move. However, they were Slytherins. They knew all the tricks in the book.

When the doors to the hospital wing burst open not long after, the trio's eyes darted to it. Snape smirked inwardly extremely proud of his son as the young boy, Granger, and Draco entered the room. Harry and Draco were on either side of Granger, their arms around her waist as they helped the crying Muggleborn witch.

"What on Earth?" Pomfrey cried, her wand slipping into her hand as she went into full on matron-mode.

"Uh, well, um, Hermione." Harry's face was bright red. He shifted his weight, dragging his trainer over the stone floor in front of him. "Well, she's been, um, with Draco."

Draco nodded slowly, swallowing with his head hung. He and Granger looked absolutely pathetic and distraught. They were selling the lie perfectly. There would be definite points awarded to Slytherin and Gryffindor later.

"And then?" Pomfrey glanced hard at them.

Hermione sniffled, slowly raising her head up. Who would have thought the Gryffindor would be such a good of an actress like this? She wiped at her red, puffy eyes.

"I-I-I'm late!" the second-year girl cried, sobbing before her head quickly buried into Draco's shoulder. Harry gently rubbed her back.

"What?!" Pomfrey clutched her chest and took a step back.

Snape bit back a chuckle. Normally, this type of situation wouldn't be funny in the slightest. But knowing that it was all a ruse to provide a distraction for Eileen and him, that was what made it utterly hilarious. How on earth Harry and his son's friends came up with this particular distraction of all things was beyond—well, actually not. On second thought, he knew exactly where his son had gotten the idea. Him and Aurora. There would be no way that Madam Pomfrey, fierce Mama Bear of Hogwarts, wouldn't take the bait in front of her now.

"Back there. Now, Miss Granger," barked Madam Pomfrey, prodding the sobbing second-year towards one of the private rooms while glaring darkly at both boys.

The exact minute Pomfrey had disappeared behind the door to the private room, Snape and Eileen hopped up off their cots and sprinted for the doors. They were making a run for it. They had just opened the oak doors that led to the corridor when they heard it.

"SEVERUS SNAPE!" screamed Madam Pomfrey. The ruse was up. She knew.

"But we snogged, Madam! Honest!" Granger cried after her. Snape and Eileen were gone.

~FKTF~

Still running as fast as they could from the hospital wing, Eileen and Snape rushed to the front gates of Hogwarts. They sprinted past the Stone Circle, down the large hill, and around Hagrid's hut. They slowed as they approached Shacklebolt, Tobias, and the Weasleys who were all waiting patiently in front of the wrought iron gates.

"Took you two long enough," Tobias remarked, handing a wand to his wife.

"Oh, hush, you," Eileen replied quietly, shaking her head as she slid her wand up her sleeve.

"Remember to attract as little attention as possible," Shacklebolt instructed. "There will be Aurors stationed throughout the atrium, and if they notice us acting suspicious, we'll be detained. Blending will be our best bet."

Snape bit back his usual snarky comment immediately about just how tough it would be for them to blend in and act naturally considering who they all were. For once, sarcasm was not something he desired to use. He closed his eyes and drew in a slow breath to center himself. He needed to be at the top of his performance. They all needed to be.

"When we arrive in the atrium, fan out and head for the elevators. We'll move from there."

Without another word, the group turned on their heels and Disapparated. Mere seconds later, they all reappeared in various places in the large atrium of the Ministry of Magic. None of them looked at each other. Instead, they made their way through the thick crowds gathered around the large fountain.

As he continued weaving through the throngs of people, Snape's eyes glanced upwards. He frowned inwardly at the large waving banners of Minister Cornelius Fudge. If he found out that Fudge was involved, Merlin help the Minister above when Snape was done with him. He shook his head quickly, though. He needed all his attention on the matter at hand. Aurora needed him.

Snape reached the elevators not long after, noticing his parents and Weasleys join a moment later. His eyes darted to Arthur when the man stepped forward and pressed the down button. The elevator appeared promptly, all six of them entering soon after. Once more, he watched Arthur press a button, the lowest number on the keypad. Snape closed his eyes at the feel of the elevator lurching as they started their way to the desired level. None of them spoke a word the entire ride.

Once the elevator jerked to a stop and the doors opened, they quickly fanned out and hid in the shadows. Upon first sight all seemed quiet on the level as if no one was there, so they waited just in case. A shadow from the far side of the corridor approached a minute later. There it was.

Snape glanced at Shacklebolt and nodded sharply. He watched the Auror step out of the alcove that had hidden them and flick his wand at the unsuspecting guard who had been patrolling near them. Snape rushed forward as the red jet of light flew at the man and gently grabbed then lowered the now stunned man to the ground, tucking him into a nearby alcove. One down and who knew how many left.

The two continued onward, deep in the heart of the Ministry of Magic. Their every move relied on stealth and efficiency. They could make no mistakes, and so far they hadn't made any. But they were just getting started.

Snape glanced at his parents who flanked the left side. He watched them work perfectly in sync with one another. It was as if his parents had done this sort of thing hundreds of times before. For all he knew of them, which really wasn't a lot, they could have. He glanced away after his mother flicked her wand at another unsuspecting fool. At hearing no body thump to the floor to his left, he knew his father had grabbed the now unconscious man in time.

Arthur and Molly were just as effective as the others. Then again, Snape should have assumed as much since the couple were both proud members of the Order of the Phoenix. He watched Arthur sneak behind a man and nod to his wife before they quickly struck. The three pairs were three for three and hadn't attracted any attention yet. So far so good.

They continued down the darkened corridor, taking care of any nearby patrols silently and hiding the unconscious people in dark areas of the hallway. They swept each room one by one, leaving no one able to alert others of their presence until all that remained was the last room at the end of the hallway.

Snape and Shacklebolt were on one side, Molly and Arthur on the other, with Tobias and Eileen standing in front of the door. However, Snape shook his head and waved them back. It would be too easy for them to be incapacitated if they all entered at once. If all of Leonidas's people had their wands trained on the door like they were, they'd only see to knocking each other out. No. They had to be smart about this. While there usually was strength in numbers, sometimes it took less in brute force and took more in the element of surprise. He pointed to himself and then to the door. He would go in alone. At least at first. He watched them nod before they moved further into the shadows away from the door. He knew they would be there at a moment's notice.

Without further delay, his long fingers closed around the handle and turned it. The door quietly opened. He stepped inside and held his wand a little tighter in his hand. He drew in a slow breath, his heart in his throat at the unnatural sight in front of him that had taken all the air out of his lungs. Aurora.

Still unconscious in the large cylindrical clear glass tank, Aurora floated eerily in the pea green liquid. A tube now had been inserted into her side. Another inserted into her mouth. His eyes followed the side tube out of the tank, down along the sides, and finally into a slowly filling container. He felt his insides lurch as he realized that the red liquid filling it was her blood. They were bleeding her dry. Of all the sick things he had been forced to watch while in the Dark Lord's service, it had never compared to this. He took a step towards her, quickly catching movement off to his side that stopped him instantly.

"Beautiful, isn't it, Severus?" a balding man asked, looking towards Aurora as he stepped out of the shadows. A sickening smirk graced the man's lips, clearly showing an appreciation of his work.

"Leonidas," growled Snape, his hand squeezing his wand even tighter. Pure rage coursed through his veins. He took a threatening step towards the man, only to take a large step back at the sight of the man's evil red eyes. When Snape had seen him five months earlier because of the link he and Aurora shared, Leonidas hadn't had red eyes.

"I must admit," announced Leonidas loudly with dark amusement coating his voice. "This body is much better than Quirrell's last year. It's much less constrictive. Not to mention, no turban impeding my view." A low chuckle filled the room. "Don't you agree, Death Eater?"

Snape stared in complete shock. It couldn't be . . .

"Surprised? You shouldn't be." The voice lowered to a hiss. "As if your brat could ever truly vanquish Lord Voldemort. Could ever defeat ME!" roared the balding man with red eyes.

~FKTF~

Meanwhile in the hospital wing, Harry sighed heavily as he swung his legs back and forth in his chair. He kept his head down. Hermione and Draco sat near him with their heads bowed as well. Honestly. He didn't understand why they were in trouble. His dad was the one who had asked for a distraction. He was just following his dad's orders.

At the sound of the door opening, Harry glanced towards the oak doors and quickly sighed. It was just Professor McGonagall. He kicked at the floor moodily. He knew it'd take time, but he really wished his dad would hurry up. Spending fifteen minutes with an angry Madam Pomfrey was murder.

"There you are." Madam Pomfrey quickly turned to McGonagall with her hands on her hips.

"What's the problem, Poppy?" McGonagall's eyes sharply narrowed on her little lions.

"These three helped Severus and his mother escape!"

Harry watched his Head of House's lips twitch slightly. He glanced towards his friends, noticing that they saw it, too. Maybe they wouldn't be in that much trouble.

McGonagall sighed, shaking her head. "Really, Poppy. You should have known two Slytherins wouldn't take 'no' as an answer."

"Well, of course I knew they'd ignore my orders. Severus gets it from his mother, I swear. But they used these three to carry out a horrible distraction."

"What sort?"

"A pregnancy scare. Of all the things they could think of—"

"Well, it worked on Dad and Grandpa," Harry quickly pointed out before wincing at the harsh glare Madam Pomfrey shot his way.

"Of course it worked on them. Men have no comprehension of babies. The minute one cries, he hands it off," Pomfrey muttered. "But that is neither here nor there, Mister Potter. Do you have any idea what could have happened if Miss Granger wouldn't have said that she thought she was pregnant by snogging Mister Malfoy?" He shook his head, unable to reply. "She could have been expelled."

Harry heard Hermione gasp. Well, he didn't know that either he guessed. He rubbed the back of his neck. It didn't make sense that they'd expel her for being pregnant. Adults were strange.

"Poppy," McGonagall quietly stepped in. "Mister Potter was just helping his dad. And I'd imagine Miss Granger and Mister Malfoy just wanted to help, too. There's been no harm done."

"There has, too, been harm done," bristled Pomfrey. "Severus Snape is out there after using that link of his again. Not to mention that his mother is out there as well. She's still coming back from her time captured, you know. What if something goes wrong? I mean, neither of them is fully healed."

"That being said, this is Severus and Eileen we're talking about here. Even if they're fifty percent healed, they'd still be the best bet in rescuing her. You know it as well as I do."

"Minerva!"

"No," McGonagall replied firmly. "Severus had to go. If he didn't, he'd always wondered if the outcome, whatever it may be at this point, would have been different. And Eileen, well, she's a woman out for revenge, but mostly a mother. She knows her son needs her, even if Severus won't admit it."

Pomfrey frowned but nodded slowly. "I suppose. Doesn't mean I have to like it, though."

"Of course."

Harry glanced between the witches. While he understood why his dad left him here, he wished there was some way to know how everything was going. He hated not being included. Of course, that was mostly because experience had taught him that others were always plotting behind his back.

"Um, Madam Pomfrey?" the young boy asked softly. "Could you do your spell thingy and check on Mum for us?" He watched the matron glance to McGonagall before she nodded slowly. Pomfrey flicked her wand, and numbers quickly hovered in the air. He caught the mediwitch's somber look.

"She's getting weaker by the minute," explained Madam Pomfrey. "She's alive, though."

"We should contact her mother," McGonagall suggested, her green eyes softening. "Maybe Syra knows something about this illness affecting Aurora."

"It's worth a try." Pomfrey glanced at the young trio. "I'll Firecall her, while you watch them?"

"Deal." Once Pomfrey was out of earshot, McGonagall turned to Harry with a smile. "You're definitely the son of a Slytherin." Harry grinned proudly. The son of two Slytherins he liked to think.

~FKTF~

Rarely shocked to the core, Snape stared at the balding man whom he had known to be Leonidas, quickly raising his Occlumency barriers. It seemed unreal. It didn't make sense. What on earth was—

"My Lord, I—"

"Save your words, traitor," hissed the Dark Lord speaking through Leonidas, his red eyes flashing. They stood feet apart from one another. "I have little value in your lies anymore."

Snape's brows knit together. Was his cover truly blown or was all this just a test? He had witnessed the Dark Lord test others before to ensure there were no traitors in his midst. More often than not, the tested were killed. He decided that he had to maintain his status if he wanted to survive.

"You have a choice to make now," the Dark Lord announced.

Snape couldn't respond. His mouth refused to work. The words still stuck on the tip of his tongue. This had to be a horrible dream. This couldn't be real. Since when had the dark wizard relied on others? Quirrell was one thing last year, but to completely possess another wizard? It didn't make sense.

"You can choose to avenge the death of your filthy Mudblood that I killed. I can only imagine how much that's weighed on your mind over the years. Or . . ." His voice trailed off before he chuckled darkly. "Or you can choose to save your pathetic blood traitor before I take her away from you, too. Either way, you have a minute to decide which witch is more important to you. Choose wisely."

Snape glanced at Aurora before he looked back at the balding man. Why did he have only a minute? He quickly turned back, his eyes darting to the large container her blood was being collected in. She had lost a tremendous amount of blood so far by his estimate, but—no it couldn't be that. He then looked at the other tube inserted into her mouth. He followed it down to the ground before he saw the emerald liquid slowly moving up the hose towards her. Based on how quickly it was moving, the liquid would reach her lips in exactly fifty seconds.

Lily or Aurora? That was always going to be the question if he let it, wasn't it? Which witch meant the most to him? One choice was redeeming his past mistake. The other was choosing to move on with his future. He drew in a sharp breath and chose to stick with his future, running towards her. Aurora had never given up on him. So why the hell would he give up on her?

"How weak you've become, Snape," the voice hissed behind him.

"And how stupid you've become, Riddle," another voice added to the mix.

Snape turned suddenly, torn between trying to figure out who the voice was and saving Aurora. At the sight of his mother jamming a syringe into the balding man's neck, his eyes widened. Just what the hell was she thinking?

"You—AVADA KEDAVRA!" However, no Killing Curse or spell of any kind flew out of the yew wand of destruction now pointed at Snape's mother. Once more, the Dark Lord was unable to kill.

Tobias growled. "That's my wife, you red-eyed son of a bitch!" He slammed his fist hard into the other man's face. When the man crumpled to the ground instantly, Snape's dad jerked his head before he spit on the knocked out man. "And stay down, you bastard."

"Forty seconds," Shacklebolt yelled out, running into the room with the Weasleys on his heels.

Whirling back, Snape quickly yanked the tube connected to the container full of emerald liquid. However, the coupling refused to part. He slashed his wand at the plastic hose, hoping that would cut it. But the tube remained undamaged.

"Help me!" he shouted. They had to get her out of there before that dark emerald liquid reached her. His mind raced with the potions and poisons it could be. He watched his father, Arthur, and Shacklebolt all send various blasting curses at the tank. Their actions had no effect.

"Thirty seconds," Eileen announced.

Deciding that magic wouldn't help and that the tube couldn't be removed from the container, they each broke off metal parts from various items scattered about the room and slammed it hard against the glass tank that held Aurora. Slowly, the glass started splintering, crackling.

"Twenty seconds," Tobias called out, all of them still swinging their metal objects hard against the cylindrical tank. The breaks cracked more, the pea green liquid now spurting out from tiny fractures.

Snape swung with all his might against it, hissing. His heart was in his throat. He could barely breathe. No . . . It would not end like this. He would not lose her. With one last swing with his full force behind him, he felt the glass shatter on contact, sending them flying against the wall from the power of the gushing liquid. He scrambled to his feet, stumbling to Aurora's limp body suspended in the air several feet above them. He jumped up, trying like hell to grab hold of the chain swinging next to her.

"Ten seconds, Severus," Arthur shouted.

On his fourth attempt, Snape had a hold of the chain securely, wrapping it around his arm. He used his magic to stabilize him and quickly grabbed the plastic tube. He yanked it, noticing that the thin hose had hit her gag reflex. He brushed it off, though, and kept pulling. The emerald liquid was mere centimeters from her lips now. He cursed wildly in his mind as he kept pulling more and more tube furiously. How much of the damn stuff had been inside her?

"Five seconds!" cried Molly, fear etched in her trembling voice.

Snape tugged the small hose as hard as he could, pulling and pulling some more, not stopping even when he noticed the emerald liquid at her lips. He would not lose her.

"Dammit, come on!" he snarled. How much more was there? Oh, how he wanted to slaughter Leonidas, the Dark Lord, both of them for this. When he finally reached the end of the tube, he tossed it behind them and grabbed a hold of Aurora. Her body was jerking wildly now as she convulsed, the shackles slicing her wrists. He slashed his wand the best he could at the swinging chain that held her up in the air, inhaling sharply when they both dropped towards the ground suddenly. He caught them thankfully before they hit the solid floor and wrapped his arms tightly around her, slowly lowering them to the floor.

Once on the ground again, he laid her down gently onto it. He knelt over her, his ear to her mouth. He heard no breathing, felt no puff of air. He quickly swallowed back his emotions. It wouldn't be like this. Not this time. The Dark Lord would not win.

Snape clasped his hands on top of each other and promptly started chest compressions on her. He could feel the others standing around him, but brushed it off. He pressed hard against her sternum several times, hearing a cracking noise under his hands from the force he used. He then leaned over her, tilted her head back, and covered her mouth with his lips. He breathed and breathed and breathed some more into her. He breathed until he felt light headed. Then, he pulled back and returned to the chest compressions. He would not lose her. Not without a fight.

Tasting the salt from his tears with each breath of life he gave her, he kept this pattern up, compress and breathe, until she finally took a weak gasp that truthfully sounded more like a strangled breath. He turned her head to the side, sighing in relief as he felt her chest rise. He'd never let her out of his sight ever again, her and Harry. He'd chain her to goddamn bed if he had to by Merlin's wand.

"There's . . . my . . . witch," whispered Snape, each word emphasized with a short pause. He felt the smile tug at his lips as he watched her slowly open her warm brown eyes. There was his sweet Aurora, whom he loved and missed.

"Uh, kids," Tobias said suddenly, alarm engrained in his voice.

Snape glanced at his dad and frowned. What now? His eyes darted to the unconscious wizard lying at Tobias's feet. So whatever the problem was, it wasn't Leonidas/Voldemort.

"We got a problem here." Tobias pointed towards the broken tank.

"What?" Snape followed his dad's gaze before his eyes widened. A countdown was now visible behind the broken glass of the tank. Something had been rigged to explode. The time 00:02 flashed.

"Hogwarts now!" shouted Shacklebolt.

Snape didn't need to be told twice. He wrapped his arms around Aurora and Disapparated. He groaned when they both slammed hard against the ground a moment later, Snape's back taking the brunt of the impact. A series of harsh cracks rippled around them as the others reappeared soon after.

"Well, that was fun," mumbled Tobias, groaning as he slowly pushed himself up. Automatically, he held a hand out to his wife and helped her stand.

Picking Aurora up into his arms a moment later, Snape carried her up to the castle. He needed to get her to Pomfrey. He knew the others would soon follow. They could deal with the aftermath of whatever just happened later. For now, he needed to push forward. Aurora wasn't quite out of danger yet. He heard the others join them, noticing Shacklebolt levitating Leonidas's limp body next to him as the two couples walked side by side. He'd leave the Auror to deal with that piece of garbage.

A/N:If you had some moments of confusion or intrigue when reading this chapter, don't worry. It'll be explained in the next chapter, which I am working hard away at. I promise. Until next time. Hope you enjoyed, and as always, feedback is appreciated.