Harry & Hermione
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enahma - Coming off the Ropes
Chapter 19 - The betrayal
Betaed by Barbara
Next chapter will be the last.
Thanks for the encouraging words. I'm really tired.Chapter 19 – The betrayal
Severus was so shell-shocked that he couldn't even move a finger for long, too long minutes. His heart was racing in his chest, and he was making calculations in his head about how long Harry could have been kidnapped for.
What could he do now?
Who could help him?
The answer was clear and obvious, so he threw a handful of Floo powder onto the lit fire.
"Black Manor," he whispered. He would see Dumbledore in a moment, he tried to calm himself down. Dumbledore would find a way to save his son from there...
With a quiet 'pop', Lupin's head appeared in the flames.
"Hello, Severus. What happened?" he asked with a slight tiredness in his features.
"Fetch Dumbledore. Harry's kidnapped."
All the tiredness disappeared from the man's face and was replaced by deep worry.
"Albus isn't here. Moreover, I don't know where he is, or when will he arrive."
Severus clenched his hand in impotent rage and kicked the chair next to him.
"Shit!" Lupin could see as he tried to regain his composure and compel himself to think. "Any others?"
"Only me and Anne, Severus. There were attacks three hours ago. Death Eaters attacked several Muggle families who have wizard children. Many have died, the Ministry is quite impotent, so the Order went to help..." the werewolf's expression showed his exasperation. "I was left behind to look after Anne and receive the calls..."
Severus didn't hear the last sentence. He fell onto his knees, buried his face in his palms; his thoughts were racing in his mind as he tried to fabricate at least one usable plan to free Harry, or to get near him... He didn't see Lupin's thoughtful face, as he looked at the tall, dark man in severe emotional torment.
Suddenly, Snape jumped at his feet and stormed out of the room, his robes swirling around him as a whirlwind, and left the surprised Lupin behind. The werewolf was already about to follow him, when Anne called him from behind.
"Remmy, what was that?"
Sighing, Lupin turned around. For a moment, he had almost forgotten about the girl.
"Quietus is lost, and uncle Severus is worrying," he explained, but his mind wasn't there. He looked at Anne. "Put some robes on, Anne. I have to help him, but I can't leave you here. Hurry!" he ushered the girl to her room. While she was putting some warm robes, he checked his wand and pocketed some vials from his personal cupboard... Severus's modified Wolfsbane. So modified that it wasn't even perhaps correct to call it Wolfsbane, he thought. Severus had spent numerous nights and days with improving it, he knew, and Harry had been a skilful assistant to him, Snape was always overwhelmed by the boy – HIS SON, as the Potions Master had never missed to accentuate. Lupin shook his head. Not now. He didn't have time to think about them. He would bring Anne to Hogwarts, and give the girl to Minerva, then find Severus and... Here his thoughts stopped. He had no idea.
"I'm ready, Remmy. We can go," the girl yawned sleepily, and clutched a teddy bear to her chest. It was Sirius's gift for Christmas, Lupin thought sadly. Seemingly, things were always getting worse... He hugged the girl into his side with an arm and took a pinch of glittering powder out of the flowerpot, stepped up to the fire, and threw the powder into the flames. With a roar, the fire turned emerald green and rose higher than the two figures who stepped right into it, shouted, "Hogwarts, Severus Snape's quarters!" and vanished.
While Lupin was waiting for Anne in Black Manor, and Harry lay unconscious in an unknown place of the Brit Isles, Severus Snape halted in front of the sneering gargoyle and sneered back at it.
Perhaps some minutes before he had no idea what to do, but now, he knew precisely.
Harry was kidnapped by Voldemort.
One of Voldemort's most trusted servants was Lucius Malfoy, a Death Eater, with his own ugly mark on his left forearm.
Snape too still had his Mark.
He knew Lucius pretty well. He knew the Inner Circle's order pretty well. And he was an acknowledged expert in his field as well.
On his way to the Headmaster's office Snape had made a stop: he fetched a little bottle from his office with a mud-like, disgusting content. The potion needed only one element to be complete.
"Star-bearer," he leaned intimately to the statue as he whispered the urgency password, and for a short instance he shuddered over its meaning. It was lucky that Dumbledore hadn't wanted the password to be in Latin; 'Lucifer' would sound too similar to its present owner's name, not to mention other allusions...
The gargoyle let him enter the staircase, and entering, Snape muttered another password for the office itself.
"Quietus." This had been the internal urgency password for fifteen years, which allowed its user free entrance into the office without alerting anybody inside it. Nobody but Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape knew this password.
Generally, stepping into the staircase made Snape remember his lost brother – eve though he had never used the password before – but not now. Now, it strengthened him. He was marching off war for Harry and Harry alone. For Quietus Harold Snape. The Boy Who Loves Him. The Boy Whom He Loved.
His steps were completely silent, as were his movements. His robes stirred behind him without making the tiniest noise, and he entered the office's empty outer part. He was infinitely determined. Nobody would take his son off him, ever!
He pulled out his wand and stopped for a moment, then...
With a loud kick he opened the door, and in the same instant he was already inside, his wand pointing to Malfoy.
"Severus? What are...?" these were Malfoy's word, but a harsh-
"STUPEFY!" interrupted him.
Malfoy fell onto the table, unconscious from the attack's strength. Snape didn't bother to bind him; he pulled out the vial and looked over the silvery-haired man. With a sudden decision he lifted a limp arm from the desk and cut it with a little dagger he always kept on him.
Five drops of blood into the altered version of the Polyjuice Potion. It would be sufficient only for an hour, like any other kind of Polyjuice, but this blood-based one gave Snape enough Malfoy essence to feel Malfoy's summoning and be able to answer it.
But first of all-
"Accio Death Eater robes!" he yelled and wasn't too surprised when a door of a cupboard opened with an aggressive BOOM and a whole set of robes hurled out of it.
It took one minute to put them on. Grabbing Malfoy's wand to attain the perfect impression he left the office in a reckless run.
Nobody caught him. In the school gates he uncorked the vial and poured the disgusting concoction down his throat. He waited for a few moments for the effects, and he knew immediately, he hadn't been wrong. His forearm, which was generally and comfortably numb since last summer, now burned and hurt. Like in the good, old days, he thought sarcastically. He put on his mask, grabbed the cloak's front and continued his reckless race towards the Apparation Point.
He could only hope he wasn't too late.
Lupin stood in front of McGonagall's door, but nobody answered his knocking. His face contorted with worry, and suddenly, he felt extremely stupid. Why did he come to Hogwarts? What should he do now? He had to put Anne in a safe place before acting, but he couldn't think any other safe place in Hogwarts now, that Malfoy became the Headmaster...
"Come on, Anne," he tugged the half-asleep girl's hand. She didn't react. With a sigh, Lupin lifted her onto his left shoulder, his right hand was grabbing his wand firmly.
The empty corridors echoed the noise of his rushed steps; the building seemed dull and dead and uncomfortably unfamiliar. Lupin was appalled. Two years ago, when he had been teaching here, the corridors had never been so lifeless and silent at this time of the evening. Hungry students had been stealing towards the kitchen, dates had been searching for empty classrooms, prankers had been unnerving Filch, and teachers – mostly, of course, Severus – had been patrolling around to catch them.
And now – silence.
The Fat Lady stared at him expectantly when he asked her to let him in.
"I need the password, dear. You aren't a professor here any more, so I can't let you in without it, I'm sorry."
"But I need to meet..." he thought rapidly, "I need to meet Miss Granger. Urgent. Please."
"No, I'm sorry. The new order..." Lupin could see on her face the pity, but she didn't let him in nevertheless.
Lupin felt helpless, and the time was running out. Where to go now?
"Oh, Professor Lupin," said a sudden voice, bitter with sarcasm and malice. "You – here?"
Lupin turned on his heels just to face a sneering Bloody Baron. Just like Severus's sneer, Lupin thought nervously.
"None of your business," he muttered darkly.
"I don't think so. I saw you leaving Severus's quarters. What were you doing there?"
Bloody great. Just what he needed. A sneering, hateful, old enemy. Since Black's prank the Bloody Baron had hated them, all of the Marauders, and had done the thing no other ghost had done (except for Peeves, of course): he had been spying on them and reporting their movements in the school to Dumbledore himself.
And with his blasted luck, the first person he had come across, was him.
"Voldemort had Quietus kidnapped. I came to help Severus," he said finally. "But I have this girl to tend to, and I wanted to put her in a safe place before I go after him."
The ghost's reaction surprised Lupin. Worry flashed on the Baron's face, and a strange, foul-like light glittered in his eyes.
"The unfaithful boy..."
"But Quietus..." Lupin began, but he was interrupted.
"Not Quietus. Tom," he said and for a moment, Lupin had to think about who this mysterious 'Tom' was. "He's already killed a Noblestone, and now..." the Baron looked at Lupin with a calculating look. Lupin's jaw fell. Tom! The Baron was referring Voldemort as Tom, so simply? "What do you need?"
The question took Lupin off guard.
"So? Tell me!" the Baron was urging him.
"The password of the Gryffindor Tower," Lupin somehow managed to stutter.
"Brevi tempore," was the immediate answer. "And now, hurry!"
Lupin obeyed the ordering tone automatically. He turned to the Fat Lady.
"Brevi tempore!" he said and the portrait swung open without further questions.
Lupin almost collapsed with relief as he saw the crowded common room. It was about curfew, and Severus had told him about the new orders of the school, so the students' presence was surprising but welcomed. Lupin didn't really fancy the idea of shouting for Hermione, because no boy could enter the girls' dormitories – and Lupin either.
"Professor Lupin!" somebody yelled. "Do you know anything about Quietus?"
Lupin just shook his head in return.
"I'd like to talk to Miss Granger," he said, and to his surprise the crowd parted before him, leading him directly to a red-eyed Hermione.
The noise of the students woke Anne.
"Where are we?" she asked, her voice was hoarse from the sleep.
"In a safe place," he answered and looked seriously at the hiccupping girl. "Miss Granger, I need your help."
She tried to restrain her sob, and nodded.
"You don't have to worry about Quietus. I'd like to leave Anne with you, because professor Snape and I..."
"Voldemort killed my parents," the girl's voice was hollow and hoarse with tears.
Lupin dropped Anne as he froze with shock. Anne didn't complain, she ran to the red-haired girl and hugged her tightly with her little arms. She turned her face to Lupin.
"You can go, Remmy. Free Quiet. I will stay with her," she said seriously, and the noise in the room stopped. Anne looked around. "It was Voldemort who killed my parents too."
Hermione's arms suddenly wrapped around the tiny, fragile body and buried her face into Anne's brown hair. Her body was shaken with strong sobs.
Anne's words initiated a new line of thoughts in Lupin. Anne! And the manor they had found her with Sirius!
"Anne, Hermione, please go and find Mrs McGonagall, you know, that stern lady, and tell her we went to the same place where you were in captivity. We will need help. Right?"
"Don't have to search. She will be back in a few minutes. She went to inform the other Head of Houses about You-Know-Who's attacks. He killed..." Lavender Brown said, but Lupin interrupted her.
"I know. And now..." Lupin turned to leave but then-
"Professor! Let us go with you!" Three Weasleys, Seamus Finnigan and Neville Longbottom were standing in front of him barricading his way to the exit.
"No," Lupin said firmly. "We are going to meet You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters himself. It's not safe for..."
"We know that," George Weasley said seriously – it was a very unusual tone to him. "But it's not safe for you two alone either."
"But we are adults and trained enough to protect ourselves."
"We aren't that bad either," Neville said steadily, but when Lupin cast a questioning glance at him he gulped.
Lupin stopped and pondered over their offer for a moment.
"Can you conjure a shield?" he asked. The boys nodded.
"Professor Figg taught us," Fred said grinning. "We can conjure some kind of mist to blind our enemies."
"Mist?" Lupin asked appalled.
"The Patronus Charm," Seamus hurried to Fred's aid. "And some basic protecting and attacking spells."
Lupin didn't know what to do. He was about to open his mouth and refuse their help when the Fat Lady's portrait swung open again, and the figure of the Bloody Baron stood in the frame.
"Hurry, Lupin! You don't have time! Severus has already left!"
Lupin moved again without thinking and climbed out of the room. The boys followed him closely.
"You..." he turned to them, but the ghost's sharp voice stopped him in mid-sentence.
"Not now! We don't have time! To the Apparation Point!" he said and turned to show the way. The boys grinned to their ex-professor.
"We must go, you see," Fred said in a totally impertinent tone, but Lupin couldn't react. He was making plans for the next hours, while they were running after the ghost.
"Can you Apparate?" he panted as they recklessly hurried down the halls towards the doors leading outside.
"Fred and I can," George wheezed back, "but the others can't."
"There's a spell, which we can use," Lupin was suffocating. Of course, the Baron had no breathing difficulties. "When we arrive at the Apparation Point, you have to point your wands to me and say Alligo. It's a version of one of the various Binding Spells. Then I will Apparate and you come with me. Do you understand?"
"Alligo?" Seamus asked back.
Lupin made them repeat the spell several times, then he stood in the centre of the little circle and they vanished in the deepening darkness.
When Harry regained his consciousness he was sure his head was split in two. It hurt and throbbed, and a myriad of little twinkles were dancing before his eyes. The hood of his raincoat was sticky with half-clotted blood, and he felt that his wet shirt was glued to his skin. He didn't know how long he had been lying unconscious, but it couldn't be too long: he was lying in the same spot he had collapsed: the sharp stone on which he had beaten his head was still next to him.
"Our Lord hasn't arrived yet," somebody said in a thin voice, which was somehow familiar to Harry, and a large amount of relief washed through his body. Thank God. "And we couldn't reach him."
"He will be here in time, don't worry," a deep, crispy voice answered. "It will be a wonderful show, he won't miss it, believe me."
Well, Harry's relief disappeared in the falling rain at that statement. His thoughts were racing. The most important thing was stalling for time, until Severus would arrive to help. Because he would arrive, Harry had never been so sure of anything in his life.
The most important thing was maintaining his façade as Severus's son. With his left hand (which lay next to his face) he touched the back of his head, the still oozing bruise and smeared a good amount of blood on his forehead and face – in case they threw Revelo on him. Sometimes he opened his eyes and checked on his guards, but they didn't watch him too closely. They were sure (and Harry had to agree with them) that after that fall, the boy wouldn't be able to stand up by himself.
Harry released a painful groan and curled into a ball. The taller man cast a look at him.
"He doesn't feel too well, I guess," their laughs were unpleasant.
"And this is only the start!" the laughter increased into fits. One of them kicked Harry on his ribs and his eyes burst open in the sharp pain.
"Welcome to the Land of Pains, boy," the taller man said, and they laughed again.
Harry closed his eyes and slipped his left between his shins. He could barely suppress a relieved sigh. His wand was still on him! And it was still invisible, of course. Slowly, he pulled it out and slipped it into his left sleeve fixing it with his watch-strap. The watch was the first gift he had received from Severus, he thought gratefully. Every chance he had in this situation was somehow Severus's gift. His wand, the watch – and the hope that he wouldn't remain alone.
Several cracks sounded in the dull silence. Harry stated in half-panic that the first person that appeared was the Dark Lord himself. With a short wave he ordered the two men to carry Harry after him into the large, black building.
Harry was severely tempted to pull out his wand and cast the Killing Curse of the disgusting creature, but Severus's words restained him. 'You can't defeat the Dark with the Dark... You have to defeat Dark with Light.' After four months of study, Harry understood his words' truth. But he wasn't ready to die. Not yet.
To stun them was meaningless. He couldn't move without help, he could stun them and wait for the next people arriving to kill him. Otherwise, he remembered all too well the first rounds of torture of the last summer when Severus had tried to kill the Dark Lord, and his curse had been repelled on Voldemort's shield.
His feet barely touched the ground as the two men dragged him to a hall, which immediately reminded Harry to the Main Hall of Nightmare Manor and dropped him in front of the throne. Voldemort left after a whispered 'Lego', but they didn't remain in there too long: arriving Death Eaters began to file into the room. After ten minutes Harry bitterly realised that this time not only the Inner Circle would be present in his execution, but all of the Death Eaters. Well, it fit Severus's tale about the Galvanys: the traitor's and his family's execution were examples and warnings for the others. Excited whispers and conversations filled the air.
Harry lost his faith. This time he had no hope. Voldemort didn't want to put him in a prison. He wanted to execute him. 'Exemplary punishment' these were Severus's words for this kind of situation.
When Harry looked around, the rear part of the hall was almost full. His guards straightened themselves and their expressions changed from bored to serious. The members of the Inner Circle stood next to the throne facing the crowd.
Suddenly, a familiar, hated voice snapped above Harry's head.
"Did you search him? His pockets? His robes?"
"No, sir," the shorter answered in a trembling voice. "The girl said his wand wasn't on him..."
"Idiots," Harry heard Malfoy's voice again. "His father was one of us! He trained the boy! Move aside!" his tone was sharp and authoritative.
Harry froze. He was sure Malfoy would find his wand, and all his hopes would be gone...
The hands that examined him were surprisingly soft, and Harry tensed as he heard the barely audible whisper.
"I'm dad, listen, when they don't pay attention to you, break the Lord's shield, I'll kill him and Disapparate. Use the Alligo," Severus only dared hope that Harry knew that spell.
Harry nodded slightly.
"And the wards?" he whispered back. The fake-Malfoy slipped his hands into Harry's sleeves and leaned closer.
"With his death the wards will crumble down."
'And what about the Light defeats Dark – stuff?' Harry wanted to ask, but Severus finished the search and stood up. To Harry's utter surprise there was a dagger in his head.
The guards paled when they saw the sharp weapon.
"Sorry, sir," stuttered the taller, "we didn't suspect..."
"Idiots," Severus-Malfoy spat.
"Hey, Lucius, you were fast!" Avery stepped up to Severus who tensed for a short instant.
"Good evening," he answered in Malfoy's usual, cold tone. Malfoy had never befriended anybody in the Circle, the one exemption had been Severus. "These idiots didn't search the boy. Look," he showed the dagger to the other man. Avery released a short, sharp whistle.
"Ah. Good old Severus was preparing the boy..."
"Not enough," the fake-Malfoy shrugged and pulled up his hook. He looked at the row of his ex-fellows not knowing where his place was. Fortunately, Avery solved his problem, when he touched his elbow and they stepped to the throne. Severus's heart almost stopped beating. Malfoy was standing on Voldemort's right! But... that was McKinn's place! Apparently, the time hadn't stopped in Voldemort's circle either.
Harry saw him standing next to the throne and he couldn't help but argue with him in thought. Severus's plan wasn't good. Harry didn't want Severus to be the next Dark Lord, in any way. But now, he understood his feelings, his thoughts, his constant guilt, better perhaps than Dumbledore or even perhaps Severus himself.
Severus used Dark Magic to kill, to torture, to rule over the others. These curses poisoned his mind, his soul. Severus wasn't Light anymore. On the contrary, he was too close to become completely dark.
Harry knew that the only aim of Severus's plan was his rescue, but Harry didn't want to accept the price the man was about to pay. No. He wouldn't break Voldemort's shield even though he was probably the one who could do it. But no. Harry didn't want THIS kind of sacrifice from Severus.
THEN and THERE he suddenly understood the whole 'sacrifice-against-the-Killing-Curse' topic.
He wouldn't even lift his wand. He would reveal himself (either way Voldemort would give him to his Death Eaters to kill), and summoning his heart's every positive feeling, he would use the same words his mother had used to protect him: 'kill me instead'. He wasn't sure it would be enough, but he learned that in case of Love Magic the intent was the most important element of the magic, not the form.
He closed his eyes and began to collect his memories of the Wizarding World. Every memory: good and bad, new and old, Harry Potter's and Quietus Snape's memories... Voldemort wouldn't die, but the world would be unapproachable to his wickedness. He wouldn't be able to hurt it any more. Just like his mother's sacrifice...
Something deep inside him was still protesting against his decision, but he tried not to listen to it.
Suddenly, he wanted to apologise to Severus for running away after lunch. But it was too late now.
Harry's heart stopped.
Severus's eyes narrowed as he spotted the new light of determination on Harry's face. Harry knew precisely his dad's thoughts in that moment. 'Idiot.' He smirked slightly. So, he was an idiot, but at least the Wizarding World would have a chance to eliminate the Dark-minded Lord and his followers.
"We are here today to see what happens to a traitor's family," he began his speech. The buzz in the room halted. "You have to remember this well. There is no mercy for the traitors. There is no mercy for the leaks. There is no mercy for the cowards. There is no mercy for the weak! There is no mercy for anyone defying me!"
An agreeing roar rose in the hall. Harry shuddered. Voldemort went on.
"You all know Severus Snape. You saw him staying at my side for many long years. I gave him power! I gave him chances! WE gave him family!"
Harry couldn't help but shudder again and prayed for Severus's patience.
"But he betrayed us! He despised the offered power, chances, family! He despised me!" Murmuring, again. "And after fifteen years he returned to me begging for a second chance! I gave it to him. I was generous. I forgave his unfaithfulness. But he betrayed me. He went to Dumbledore, to the lover of the weak and Mudbloods and tried to play the double agent. He played his role for long years. It was his fault that many of our fellows died, or were arrested and put in Azkaban. But his worst deed was that he tried to save Harry Potter from my grasp. Potter finally died. Snape saved his own skin. He is not here today either. He is hiding cowardly in Hogwarts, fearing for his own life. But he can't hide forever!"
Loud agreeing. Some shouts 'He can't, he can't!' Harry cast a despising look at the crowd. Voldemort lifted his hand. It stopped the noise immediately.
"But now, his son is in our hands." Cheering. "We won't have mercy on him. And our dear Severus will receive his precious son's corpse tomorrow morning. It will be a clear message to him, I think."
Voldemort suddenly sat down. The crowd erupted. They were shouting and cheering, waving their fists at Harry and smirking with dark anticipation.
"Ennervate," Voldemort said pointing to Harry. He stood up and turned to the throne.
The noise stopped again.
"I..." Harry began, but a terrible shriek shattered the room and suddenly, all the torches went out. Harry froze in the darkness.
"The Aurors are here!" somebody shouted and chaos broke out in the hall.
"Lumos!" the Dark Lord roared – for a moment Harry had a strong urge to grin: the DARK Lord ordering LIGHT! – but seemingly nothing happened. Dense smoke filled the hall and bombs were exploding in almost every corner of the room.
The chaos became perfect.
"Libero," Harry heard Malfoy-Severus's voice and felt the magical ropes coming off from him. Severus grabbed his hand in the darkness. Harry snickered. Nobody ever took his hand. It was a... silly feeling, he realised, but before he could think of anything else, the crowd surrounded them.
The panic increased with every second. People were treading on each other, Harry heard the painful shrieking of those who fell onto the floor and the fear-blinded and mindless crowd trampled on them.
"PURGO!" Voldemort roared and a part of the smoke disappeared. Only for a minute, because several another explosions shattered the hall filling the air with the impenetrable mist.
"We have to get out," Severus tugged Harry's hand.
"The crowd..." Harry answered trying to over yell the noise. "We're trapped here!"
Somebody took a grip on Harry's shoulder, but Severus, feeling Harry's sudden tensing launched his fist towards the possible enemy's face. Something cracked and a painful yell-
"He's fleeing!" but nobody cared.
"STOP, IDIOTS!" Voldemort's voice was stronger than the noise. "THIS IS JUST A CHILDISH TRICK! PURGO!"
A few of the Death Eaters began to come to their senses.
"Purgo!" some voices yelled alongside Voldemort's.
Harry felt as Severus pushed a mask on his face and covered him with a Death Eater cloak. His heart was racing as the smoke slowly disappeared. But it was in vain: the whole hall was a complete mess. Harry looked at Severus and paled under the mask. The effects of the Polyjuice were wearing off.
"Your hair is black," he whispered into Severus's ear, and he nodded.
They were trapped.
The crowd somehow calmed down.
"Crabbe, Avery, Simpson, Grace, Rigger, Fare, Emmans, Sirens, Lestrange, go check the corridors. Our childish attackers are probably there. Everybody mask off!"
This was the end, Harry knew. The movement he reached to the mask was long, and he saw Severus's similarly slow reaction to Voldemort's command.
That was the end. But then a lot of green, red and orange spells were lightening in the air, and many Death Eaters collapsed to the ground.
"THIS IS THE MINISTRY'S SPECIAL AUROR TEAM! THE BUILDING IS SURROUNDED! AN ANTI-APPARATION WARD IS ERECTED AROUND THE MANOR! SURRENDER YOURSELF OR WE WILL ATTACK!"
A very ferocious fight broke out, but the Death Eaters were in the worse position: in an immense hall without any shelter. It took less than ten minutes to break the opposition. As Voldemort saw the Aurors' superiority in the situation he decided not to sacrifice more of his people. With a loud CRACK he broke the Ministry's ward.
"DISAPPARATE! NOW!" he cried and disappeared with many of his followers. But still, at least fifty Death Eaters remained lying on the floor in too bad shape to Disapparate.
Everything happened so fast, Harry thought. It was less than a half an hour that Voldemort had entered the hall.
Harry sat up relieved and unhurt. In the beginning of the fight Severus pushed him to the floor and lay on him to protect him from the flashing and zigzagging spells and curses, and both of them managed to survive the attack without injuries. Harry grinned at Severus who hugged him tightly to his chest.
"There were moments I thought I would lose you," the man whispered into Harry's hair.
"You can't get rid of me so easily," Harry whispered back teasingly and leaned his head to Severus's shoulder.
"You wouldn't break Voldemort's shield, would you?" Snape didn't look at him and didn't even loosen his embrace.
"No, I wouldn't," Harry confessed. "I didn't want you to be the next Dark Lord."
"I wouldn't," Severus answered tiredly. "It's not so simple. I..."
An Auror stepped to them.
"Get up! Masks off!"
They pulled their masks off and tried to stand up. When Severus looked up to the Auror to ask his help, his face paled violently. Harry followed his look and felt as the blood ran off his face.
"Bamberg..." Severus groaned darkly.
"Oh, an old friend," the Auror's mouth curved into an ugly smile. "And your impertinent son."
Harry wanted to scream. This was the Auror from the school who had questioned him torturing him for an hour. Now, he was looking at Severus, his eyes dancing madly.
"You don't need to show me your arm, Snape. I know what's drawn there. An ugly, ugly tattoo, isn't it?"
He waved his hand and two Aurors stepped to them.
"Here's the boy we're looking for," he said pointing to Harry. "Leave him. Put the other with the group."
"But he's my father!" Harry yelled. "He came after me to save me!"
The two Aurors stopped and looked at Bamberg questioningly.
"This time you won't get away with it, Snape. Show us that little mark of yours!"
"NO!" Harry shouted. "He is innocent!"
Snape put an arm on his shoulder.
"Go now, Quietus. We'll meet soon. I promise," he said and with an almost invisible speed he pulled out his wand and pointed to himself. "Obliviate."
"The bloody son of a bitch!" Bamberg shouted and ripped the wand from Severus's grasp. "Obliviated himself! Oh..." Harry didn't hear the loud swearing of the Auror. Again, everything went slow around him, slow, so slow...
Severus DID it.
Severus had told him he would do it for him.
And he DID it.
But Harry didn't want THIS sacrifice. It was too risky. He had told Severus many times. It wasn't worth it.
He reached for Severus, but the two Aurors had already grabbed him, checked his Dark Mark, twisted his arms back and marched him out of the room.
Harry didn't know how long was he just standing and staring into the air when a hand touched his shoulder. He wheeled around and the next moment five, very excited boys surrounded him.
"Oi, mate, are you all right?" Fred almost jumped on him with relief.
"Hey, Quiet, what do you think of the newest products of the Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes? The Smoke Bombs were great, weren't they?" George shouted from the top of his lungs.
"Neville was brilliant! It was his idea to take the security guards' robes off and join the show as Death Eaters!" Seamus grinned idiotically (and still a little bit shocked), and patted the pale-faced Neville's shoulder. They all were wearing Death Eater cloaks; Fred and George were still clutching their masks.
Ron didn't say a word, just stood and looked directly at Harry.
"What happened?" Ron asked quietly. It was his question, which stopped the others' happy babblings. Harry was still staring at the door in which Severus disappeared.
"They took father away," he said fighting his tears. "That Auror from the school..."
"Mr Bamberg?" Neville asked frightened.
"Do you know him?" Harry asked back. Neville nodded.
"He was my father's best friend. Grandma calls him his partner-in-crime. But you don't have to worry," Neville wheeled around and ran after the exiting Aurors. "Mr Bamberg!" Neville left the room.
Harry collapsed. His head was aching like the seven hells, he felt dizzy, nauseous and helpless. Severus had gone in a certain way. Self-obliviation wasn't an easy thing to repair. It was Ron who caught him as he fell. He helped Harry to the ground cautiously wrapping an arm around his shoulder.
Harry broke down then. The tension of the whole day, the fearful and sudden happenings drenched him. His tears ran down his cheek constantly, his shoulders were shaking with silent sobs.
"Quietus, everything will be all right," Ron said calmingly. "Neville will bring him back. Calm down, mate." But Harry just shook his head.
Nothing would be all right. Nothing would be the same again.
Suddenly, he regretted being alive. He rather wanted to be sacrificed for the Wizarding World, he wanted the Dark Lord impotent, his friends safe and Severus normal.
"Why did you alert the Ministry? Why did you come after us?" he asked in an accusing tone. "You should have remained at the school. I didn't need you here!" he shrieked the last words.
The twins stopped grinning. Seamus kneeled next to him.
"What's the problem, Quietus? You survived, and your father too!"
Harry ripped himself from Ron's embrace and jumped to his feet.
"You're wrong!" he yelled madly. "He didn't survive."
The others stared at him with wide eyes.
"But, Quietus, we saw him unharmed!" Fred mumbled uncertainly.
"UNHARMED?" Harry now was shrieking like a banshee. "He Obliviated himself to save me!"
Shocked silence was the reaction. It sobered Harry immediately. But it was too late.
"Why should he Obliviate himself?" George asked quietly. "Is there something the Ministry mustn't know about you?"
"And a lot of things YOU mustn't know about me," he muttered.
"Things? What things?" Seamus asked stupidly.
"Secret things, idiot," Ron moaned to him. "Didn't you hear?"
"Er..." Seamus risked an apologising smirk. "Of course."
Neville entered the room.
"They took him with the others. I wanted to find professor Lupin to help us, but he disappeared completely. I'm sure he would be able to..."
"He wouldn't, and you know it, Neville," Harry said softly, as his previous anger began to dissipate. "And even if Dumbledore or anybody manages to free him I will be glad if I see him alive..."
"How long has he been in the Ministry last time?"
"Three or four months," Harry said. "And another six in Azkaban."
"It's a wonder he's alive then," Neville whispered through tightened throat.
A tall Auror entered the emptied hall.
"Hey, boys, you have to go back to the school. Tomorrow, there will be an official questioning about what you were doing here."
"But I've already told you..." Ron began indignantly, but the man's impatient gesture silenced him.
"Shut up, boy. Come here," when they didn't move immediately, he yelled sharply. "All of you!" he reached his hand out. There was a Death Eater mask in it.
"Portkey?" Neville asked. The Auror groaned something like a 'yes'.
Harry paled. He wasn't a big supporter of Portkeys even before this day, but the experience in the barn stall with Leah...
Ron grabbed his hand and placed it on the mask.
"Let's go home," he whispered into Harry's ear.
Some moments later they landed in the Great Hall on the top of a surprised minister and some Aurors. Lucius Malfoy was standing farther away, his eyes glittering in fear as they caught Harry (Quietus for him) standing up. Harry was the first on his feet. He put his arms on his hips and grinned evilly at Malfoy.
"You missed a wonderful show, Lucius. And Voldemort missed you," he said as sarcastically as he could.
A frown crossed Malfoy's features, but Harry didn't know the reason: was it Voldemort's name or the remark about his missing?
"I think your father substituted for me perfectly," Malfoy replied fast.
It didn't take too much time for anybody to understand his answer. Fudge paled, the two Aurors were gaping like goldfishes.
The next moment Malfoy was grabbing the minister. He pulled the short man before him and pointed his wand to his neck.
"I'll go now," he said.
"YOU WON'T!" a voice came from behind. "Stu..." Mrs Figg began, but Malfoy was faster.
"Avada Kedavra!" he shouted.
The time slowed down, again. As Harry saw the woman collapsing, and the Minister's body, which was hit by the dead professor's Stunning Spell, going limp in Malfoy's grip, he pulled out his wand.
"STUPEFY!" he roared.
The spell hit Malfoy on his head. As he fell, he dragged the similarly unconscious minister with himself and they sprawled on the floor. Harry lowered his hand and stepping next to the hated man he kicked him with full strength.
"BASTARD!" he choked-shrieked-cried-sobbed. He leaned down and punched the face. "YOU BLOODY BASTARD!" he hit again.
"Quietus, stop!" Ron jumped to him and embraced him so that Harry wasn't able to move his arms.
"LET ME GO, RON! I WANT TO KILL HIM!"
"Don't be like him," Ron tightened his grip-embrace. "You're better than him, better than many of us. It doesn't suit you."
"HE DID IT! HE PUT ME TOGETHER WITH THAT BITCH! HE DID EVERYTHING, everything," he was sobbing again. "dad, dad," he repeated endlessly and slipped into a sitting posture.
Ron followed him and softly, cautiously began to rock him.
"It's over now. It's over. He will receive his punishment. Your dad will be back soon," Ron's peaceful babbling washed over Harry soothing him, calming him, reassuring him...
Harry didn't see as the Aurors step to the silvery-haired man, as they checked for the Mark on his forearm, he didn't see as one of them covered Mrs Figg's still body with a cloak. He missed as new Aurors came and took Malfoy's unconscious body with them, as McGonagall's crouched next to them, he missed as the Ennervated minister thanked him. He was completely deaf and numb from the shock. He was clinging to Ron as if his life depended on it. He tried not to think of his holder's identity, he imagined that Severus held him, whispered loving words into his ears, rocked him and protected him...
Later, strong arms lifted him and he felt something tickling his face and glittering over him. Beard, half-moon spectacles, bright, blue eyes. It was Dumbledore, he realised in his half-daze.
"Dad Obliviated himself," he whispered to the old man. "He's gone. Mrs Figg's gone... Who will look after her cats now?" he asked and felt his tears running again. "Leah gave me the picture. It was the Bloody Baron, did you know? It was a Portkey, like the mask later..." even Harry felt that his sentences were rather incoherent, but he couldn't help it. "Dad saved me. They would have trampled on me... Voldemort wanted to kill me... I should have died, Headmaster, now I understand the sacrifice, I should have sacrificed myself..." his muttering turned into an incomprehensible babbling.
"Shh, Quietus, all right, I understand," the Headmaster firm voice reassured him.
Harry felt as somebody tucked the blanket around him and felt a cool potion slipping into his throat, and then everything went blank and dark and warm...
Hope you liked it.