A/N: Here you go, everyone! Have a new chapter! Enjoy!
Mione' rocks (guest) – Thank you so much for your enthusiasm, but I must make one small clarification. In your review, you paired off the family names written on the wall with the adjectives I used. That was not my intention. I meant for all six words to be read as a single group. They're an important plot detail and I do not want you to be confused later on when I do not refer to the whole Black family as traitors, the whole Max family as cowards, or the whole Peverell family as liars. You will see what I mean when the words on Hermione's bedroom wall are explained in a later chapter.
Hermione and Snape stumbled forward into Grimmauld Place, Hermione letting out a small yelp in surprise when Snape's grip on her wrist kept her from falling to the floor. The moment she was steady, though, he let go and immediately headed into the depths of the house in the direction of the kitchen. Growing a bit irritated with Snape's silence, Hermione took chase.
"Professor, what's wrong?" Hermione tried asking. Any answer she could have gotten, if Snape was even going to bother to open his mouth to provide her with one, was cut off as they entered the kitchen and came face-to-face with most of the Order.
"Ah, Severus! Miss Granger! We were about to send out for the two of you." Professor McGonagall spoke up in a surprised, but pleased, tone. "We needed to move the meeting up to today."
"Not right now, Minvera." Snape hissed, making his way around the other Order members to the far side of the kitchen. McGonagall looked taken aback by Snape's comment, looking towards Hermione for an explanation as the younger woman also made her way through the crowd in an attempt to keep up with Snape.
"Sor...I'm sorry, Professor!" Hermione called as she stumbled past people. "But...but something has come up."
"Kreacher!" Snape yelled at the house elf's 'home' in the kitchen, ignoring the confused looks everyone was giving him.
"Hermione, what happened?" Remus spoke up. A look of concern flew across his face as he considered the situation. Whatever had Snape worked up and Hermione in a mild panic could not be good.
"Yes?" Kreacher pulled himself out into the open, muttering his usual insults about the Order members under his breath.
"I need the key to Regulus' bedroom." Snape ordered, holding a hand out to the elf.
"Wait, what?" Hermione turned from the group to give Snape yet another confused look. "What does Regulus have anything to do with what happened? And why do you need to get into his room?"
"Kreacher does not have the key any longer." Kreacher informed Snape with a scowl.
"What?!" Snape yelled in disbelief. Letting out a growl in frustration, Hermione strode forward to put herself between her professor and the house elf.
"He doesn't have the key anymore because I have it! Sirius gave it to me when he gave me Regulus' bedroom to use." She interrupted before Snape could turn his ire on her. "Something about, and I quote, reminding him about his 'swot of a baby brother'. Now why do you want in?"
The quoted Black could be heard snickering from his place at the kitchen table, which promptly turned into a yelp when Remus smacked him upside his head.
"Regulus' journals." Snape supplied with absolutely no details.
"Why do you want Regulus' journals?" Hermione elaborated. This had something to do with the words written on her old bedroom wall. She just knew it.
"I need to check something." Snape shot back through clenched teeth. The 'showdown' was becoming entertaining to their witnesses even though everyone else had no idea why they were arguing in the first place.
"Well, his journals aren't here." That small bit of news made Hermione feel a tad bit of glee, as it created a mixed look of anger and irritation on Snape's face, but she knew she would have to explain. "I use his room when I'm here visiting, but anything of interest I transported to my apartment for further study. That includes his journals."
"Why, pray tell, did you do that?" Snape asked with barely restrained sarcasm.
"You don't honestly believe the stories of how he died, do you?!" Hermione shot back with her own tone of disbelief. "It's a load of bollocks is what it is! Something happened to Regulus Black and his possessions are the first place to look to figure out what!"
"Hey, hey, hey!" Remus stepped in before the argument got worse, irritated that he was the one who always had to play mediator. "Would you two please explain what has you two so worked up? I have never seen you like this, Severus. It's particularly worrying."
Hermione and Snape looked back and forth between each other and Remus, wondering who was going to answer the demand first, before Hermione's emotions from before she fetched Snape came back with a vengeance. She burst into tears, shocking nearly everyone else except Snape, silencing the background whispers that had been going on behind Remus. Snape barely caught her in time when her knees gave out and led her to the nearest kitchen chair.
"Oh, my god, why did this happen?! Who did it?! I know you have an idea, otherwise you wouldn't be asking for Regulus' journals! Who is it?!" Hermione gave Snape a pleading expression, barely able to see the man through her tears even though he was standing right next to her. Snape gave her a calculating look before making his decision, turning his attention to the rest of the Order.
"Miss Granger's parents were attacked last night. They're currently at St. Mungo's."
"My goodness!" McGonagall exhaled with wide eyes as everyone else looked on in surprise at this turn of events.
"Who?!" Hermione demanded again, ignoring the others.
"Honestly, I have no idea. The identity of the attacker or attackers is not why I am interested in Regulus' journals." Snape placated her. He, like most of the men in the room, was unable to deny anything to a crying woman for long. "What I am interested in is important. I cannot confirm or deny anything until I have had the chance to read Regulus' journals, so do not ask what it is about, but I assure you it is important. Where in your apartment are they?"
"Umm..." Hermione wiped her eyes with her hands in a futile attempt to clear them. "In...in a box, under my bed. I've been reading them before I go to sleep. I'm only up to year 1974."
"Why are the journals important?" Remus spoke up to insert himself in the conversation again. "Why would the ramblings of a teenaged, pureblood boy have anything to do with an attack on muggles?"
"Like I said, I cannot explain." Snape replied in a terse tone. "I am not even sure my answer will be there, but it's the first place I can think to look considering the circumstances."
"That only answers my first question." Remus called Snape out on his avoidance. Snape turned to look at Hermione, as if asking her if she wanted the others to know everything right away.
"The attackers left a message on the wall of my old bedroom." Hermione provided, taking the focus off Snape. She was making an immense effort to force herself to calm down. "It doesn't make any sense to me. It seemed logical to ask Professor Snape if he knew what it was about."
"The message being?" Professor McGonagall found her voice again.
"A few family names. A few insults. No actual statement." Hermione summarized. "It looks like it was written in blood."
"The names?" Remus prodded. Something about this was setting him off.
"Black. Max. Peverell. I know asking Sirius about this is the obvious option, but the blood made me think this attack was personal and is related to something relatively recent. Being disowned sort of cut Sirius off from the flow of information." Hermione warbled on autopilot. A curious expression had appeared on Sirius' face the moment Hermione had said his name, but careful consideration of everything she just said was making him focus on Snape with a look of sudden clarity.
"Perdita." Sirius breathed out. It caused nearly everyone to look at him in surprise that he actually had something to say. The name, however, produced a scowl on Snape's face instead of surprise.
"I'm not sure." Snape hissed in response. "That's why I need Regulus' journals."
"Who's Perdita?" Hermione turned to Snape once again, as if he held all the answers.
"Yeah, Sirius." Remus turned to his friend with his own seeking look. "Who is she?"
"No one." Sirius and Snape replied at the same time. The rare statement of agreement between the two of them wasn't lost on anyone, though, and cast an uneasy feeling over the room.
"If she's no one then why do you need to check the journals?" Hermione pushed, refusing to back down.
"Because Regulus' journals would be more up-to-date on the goings on of the Black family than what our current source can provide." Snape motioned towards Sirius as he spoke. "And I'm not about to risk questioning Narcissa at this point in time. Gossip of your parents being in St. Mungo's is probably already making its rounds throughout the hospital and every socialite in Britain will know about this attack by dinner."
"Oh..." Hermione couldn't exactly argue against Snape's logic. As she had figured, he knew what to do and was acting on that knowledge.
"You stay here while I go skim over the journals I need. Until I know for sure whether or not they'll be of use, it would not be wise to allow you to go to St. Mungo's." Snape began to walk towards the entrance of the kitchen.
"Wait! How are you going to get into my apartment?" Hermione questioned with wide eyes. "It's heavily warded."
"After being your teacher for several years, Miss Granger, I think it is safe to say I know how you think. I can get past your wards." Snape replied smoothly, not breaking his stride. "Keep her here, Lupin."
Hermione continued to look at the doorway with a put out expression after Snape had left, ignoring everyone else as their attentions turned towards her.
"Am I the only one here wondering why Snape is suddenly so concerned for Hermione's safety?" Harry spoke up after a few moments of silence. McGonagall and Remus threw looks at him, causing him to quickly clarify his question. "I mean, yes. He's always been concerned for our safety when an attack happens and whatnot. But he seems particularly focused on Hermione this time around. He's more concerned than usual."
"He has every right to be." Sirius' eyes didn't leave Hermione as he replied to Harry's inquiry.
"Why?" Harry's turned towards his godfather.
"Bloody hell, Sirius!" Remus interrupted, finally letting out his irritation. "What aren't you telling us?"
"Let's call it Pureblood Politics and leave it at that, Moony." Sirius slowly looked towards his fellow Marauder. "If Snape's line of thought is going in the right direction, and never before have I wished this hard that he is wrong, then a lot is going to be changing. For the worse."
"Like what? We're in the middle of a war. It could hardly get worse." Remus scoffed.
"It would change the playing field. And I certainly would be questioning my trust in Dumbledore." A grim look grew on Sirius' face. It was a look that hadn't been seen since shortly after he had escaped Azkaban, alluding to just how serious the situation was.
"Where is the Professor?" Hermione finally spoke, her gaze turning towards McGonagall. "You said the meeting had to be moved up."
"On his way. He had to meet with someone before coming." McGonagall answered. She appeared slightly confused by Hermione's change in focus, but decided not to question it. Letting the young woman dwell on her parents when she had been ordered to stay in Grimmauld Place may not be a good idea.
"Then why don't we begin? He can catch up when he arrives." Hermione forced the entire group back to their original purpose for being there in the first place. Her expression left very little room for argument. Hermione was clearly putting all her trust in Snape's hands and wasn't going to address the issue with her parents until the man returned. Nodding in agreement, McGonagall let out a small sigh before switching her focus to the packet of information she had in front of her that was the topic for their meeting.