Severus Snape wasn’t very enthusiastic about having to go and get his former teacher in what he knew to be a virtual stronghold. He’d slipped into Honeyduke’s with ease and found the entrance to the tunnel in the basement with little difficulty.
“Lumos,” he whispered and a bright light appeared at the tip of his wand lighting the way.
He made his way quickly through the long and winding tunnel. He shivered and wrapped his cloak around himself to keep out the bitter cold of the tunnel. Soon he found himself face to face with a stone barrier.
He reached out and tried pushing against an outcropping with no success. He stood back and thought of a few moments. His master had no knowledge of the password or how to enter, so he began wracking his brain for a likely way into the castle. A sudden flash of a memory came to him.
He smirked and said quietly, “Dissemdium.”
The stone barrier scraped open and Snape peaked out into the deserted corridor. He stepped out and looked around. He turned and headed towards a staircase that would lead him to the dungeons.
So far everything was going according to plan.
Hermione arrived back in her room around ten in the morning. She had returned to Hogwarts to wait for Kathryn before their meeting. Then she would return back to Grimwauld Place for dinner.
She had enjoyed Christmas with The Weasley’s and was looking forward to having them over tonight. Ron and Hermione (with a little prodding of Harry) had invited the whole Weasley clan for dinner and she knew she’d need to get back as soon as possible to help Dobby get the house ready.
She had been a little upset at Harry though. He’d left when Fred and George were talking on Christmas Eve after dinner and never returned. She had seen Ginny leave a few moments later and had returned wiping away a few tears. She watched as Ginny quietly headed upstairs and she had followed.
When she had cornered Ginny in her room, Ginny had told her about her talk with Harry on the front porch. Hermione was upset with Harry over how he’d treated Ginny that night. It was frustrating for Hermione, but wasn’t sure what she could do about it. She would give Harry a piece of her mind when she saw him later tonight.
Wondering if Kathryn had arrived, she went over to her nightstand and opened the drawer. She reached in and took out the Marauder’s Map that Harry had given her before she’d come here.
She carefully opened it and took out her wand and tapped the map.
“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
The plain piece of parchment suddenly filled with the layout of the castle and it’s grounds. She first looked Kathryn’s office and saw she wasn’t there, so she looked around on the map at all the people still left in the castle.
Then her blood suddenly ran cold. She blinked again to make sure she saw what she thought that she’d seen.
The footsteps of Severus Snape walking towards the dungeons.
She sprang up and grabbed a handful of powder, “Grimwauld Place! HARRY! Come to Hogwarts quickly! Snape is here!”
She grabbed another handful and threw it into the fire.
“Professor McGonagall! Professor, Snape is in the castle and heading towards the Dungeons!”
She quickly raced from the room not hearing McGonagall’s voice in the back.
“Miss. Granger? What are you talking about Snape for? Miss. Granger are you still there?”
Snape was feeling much better as he approached his old classroom. He had not run into a single person or ghost since his arrival, but he knew that the hard part was fast approaching.
He slowed down and stopped at the doorway to the Potions room. He leaned forward and listened at the door for any sound. When he didn’t hear any he quietly and cautiously opened the door and poked his head in.
He entered and silently strode to the back where the office was located. He heard shuffling and some muttering coming from the other side. He took out his wand and prepared himself. He grabbed the handle, twisted it and rushed in.
He found Slughorn sitting behind a round table with many different bottles and potions. The other man looked up, his jaw dropped in shock and he went white in fear at the sight of Snape, wand pointed at him, standing in his doorway. Snape entered and looked around quickly.
Slughorn just nodded, his jaw still hanging open.
“Good,” Snape approached him slowly, “Now Slughorn, my master would like to have a little chat with you. So come with me now.”
Slughorn, trying to overcome his shock, stood and smoothed out his robes, “Very well,” he whispered. They walked out the door of the office, with Slughorn in the lead.
“What does your master want?” Slughorn said.
“My master did not tell me why he wants your pathetic self,” Snape sneered, “He just wants you. Turn right and head for the back stairs.”
They walked down the corridor in silence and started up the stairs. Slughorn paused for moment and Snape jabbed him in his back.
“Keep going,” Snape growled.
Slughorn swallowed hard and complied, “Ah, well, ahem.”
“Get off at the third floor,” Snape said as they reached the second floor.
Slughorn started sweating and his breathing became labored, “Severus, you don’t have to do this. You were doing so well...”
“Be quiet,” Snape hissed and pressed his wand into Slughorn’s neck, “I never wanted what Dumbledore wanted me to become.”
“But, why did you kill him for it?” Slughorn asked as they climbed the top of the stairs.
“His death was necessary in the grand order of things,” came Snape’s casual reply, “My master saw fit to reward me very handsomely for doing it.”
“Good God Severus!” Slughorn gasped, “Don’t tell me you enjoyed it?”
“You have no idea,” Snape said with a coldness in his tone that only the coldness of deep space could have matched.
Slughorn and Snape reached the top of the stairs and exited out into the still deserted corridor.
“Turn left, walk quickly and stay quiet,” Snape whispered.
Slughorn complied and walked as quickly as he could, which was considerable considering his weight. They were almost to the stone witch when Hermione Granger came running from around the corridor ahead of them.
She stopped up short and looked with mild surprise at Professor Slughorn’s presence, until she saw Snape holding his wand on him.
“Ah Miss. Granger, what a pleasure it is to see you,” Snape said with sarcasm dripping off every word.
“And you as well,” Hermione replied with equal sarcasm, “What are you doing with Professor Slughorn?”
“He has an appointment for a very important meeting,” Snape replied then his cold tone returned, “And you’re going to make him late.”
Hermione took out her wand and smirked, “Good.”
“Silly girl,” Snape spat, “You’re no match for me on my worst day!”
“That’s not what you wrote in my grade reviews.”
Snape rolled his eyes, “Oh please.”
Snape took two steps away from Slughorn and with a silent spell bounded the Potions professor from head to toe. Slughorn surprised at suddenly being turned into a mummy, grunted and fell forward onto the floor like a sack of potatoes.
“There,” Snape said his wand now pointed at Hermione, “now that he’s out of the way, I need to get you out of mine. Reducto!”
Hermione dove to her right behind a stone gargoyle only to have it blow up in front of her. She quickly raced over to take cover behind another gargoyle when it too blew up.
She turned quickly and brought her wand up, “Expelliarmus!”
Snape was ready, “Protego!” he said and easily deflected her spell, “Expelliarmus!”
Hermione gasped as her wand flew from her grasp. She turned on Snape but he was ready.
Hermione screamed in pain and fell to her knees. Snape released her from the spell and started walking towards her slowly and confidently.
“Brave but stupid you silly girl,” he said, “You just don’t understand the power you are dealing with!”
Hermione moved to get up and Snape again brought her to her knees.
She wailed loudly in pain at the ferocity of the curse. She fell to the ground crying and barely able to move. Snape’s sneer grew larger as he enjoyed the sight of her form, breathing heavy and groaning, on the ground. She saw him coming and began crawling away from him, still in pain and unable to defend herself.
“Yes, Miss Granger you are in over your head,” he said laughing at her trying to flee from him, “And now I think I’ll add the final touch,” he raised his wand, “Making it so you are unable to live.”
Hermione’s eyes widened in terror and she screamed one last time.
Harry, Kathryn and McGonagall raced along the corridors of the school. They had heard a scream of pain from McGonagall’s office when Harry had gone there to get her. As a bonus Kathryn had shown up to see the Headmistress and now all three were racing to the third floor pathway.
Harry had been home at Grimwauld Place when Hermione’s shout about Snape came. He had been in the kitchen and immediately came to the school. He had exited the fireplace and saw her room was empty, but the open Marauder’s Map on the floor. He picked it up and saw that Snape was with Slughorn in the dungeons.
When he’d gotten to McGonagall, she wasn’t sure that she had heard Hermione correctly. Since she young woman didn’t answer her back and Kathryn had shown up, McGonagall had been asking Kathryn about what Hermione might have been saying. Since Kathryn didn’t know, the headmistress wasn’t sure that Hermione had seen him.
That is until Harry Potter showed up in her office telling them that Snape was indeed in the castle and was heading towards the third floor with Slughorn. After a quick call to Madam Pomfrey to meet them on the third floor they were off. Then came the distant shriek of pain when they exited the headmistress’ office.
Harry’s blood was turning cold as they raced along the corridors.
Then came one final scream. The one Harry remembered from when he was only a year old. The one his mother screamed before she was murdered.
It stopped him in his tracks. The castle then became quiet again and Harry was becoming fearful for Hermione. He started running again to the spot on the map. His fears grew as they approached and when they turned the corner and came to a sudden stop.
There, lying in the middle of the floor, covered in blood was Hermione Granger.
Harry raced forward and dropped to his knees. He tried feeling for a pulse and had a lot of trouble finding one. It was as faint as her breathing, both of which were fading fast. The spell that was used on her was one Harry recognized from his sixth year. It was the same as the one he had used on Draco Malfoy. The same spell Severus Snape had invented.
A small whimper from Hermione brought Harry’s attention back to her. He looked down and she looked up at him and tried to speak.
“No ‘Mione,” he whispered, “Shhhhh… It was Snape, I know.”
She barely nodded and her eyes closed. She forced them opened and tried to speak, but Harry shook his head at her.
“Please don’t talk,” he said looking at Kathryn as she tried to stop the bleeding, “Just relax you’re going to be ok.”
Hermione weakly raised her hand and pointed in the general direction of the stone witch. Harry nodded to her and lowered her arm gently.
McGonagall had returned from checking the area and knelt down, “No one’s around here but us,” she paused as Madam Pomfrey rounded the corner, “Oh Poppy thank goodness.”
The school nurse rushed over to Hermione and began trying to help the young woman. Kathryn backed away, but Harry stayed put cradling Hermione’s head in his hands. Hermione’s eyes were closing slowly and her breathing becoming shallower.
“Hang on ‘Mione,” Harry whispered to her with a slight edge of panic in his voice, “Please hang on.”
“I need to get her to St. Mungo’s,” Madam Pomfrey said to McGonagall, “I can’t treat her here. Her injuries are too severe.”
“We’ll use the fireplace in the office down the hall,” McGonagall said.
“Will she be ok?” Harry asked looking hopefully at Madam Pomfrey.
“I don’t know,” the nurse replied and levitated Hermione’s body and gently pushed her down the corridor with McGonagall in the lead.
“Stay here Mr. Potter,” McGonagall ordered, “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“No, I’m going…” Harry made a move to follow, but Kathryn held him back, “Harry we need to find who did this. Hermione’s a fighter, she’ll be ok I’m sure.”
Harry looked from Hermione to Kathryn again, “This way,” he said and went over to the stone witch, “Dissemdium.”
The stone witch sprang aside and startled Kathryn. Harry rushed into the passageway with Kathryn right behind.
“Where does this come out?” Kathryn asked form behind him.
“Below Honeydukes,” Harry said, “This is a long tunnel, so we may catch up to the bastard,” Harry’s voice dropped to nearly a whisper, “First Dumbledore and now Hermione. I’ll bloody well kill him for this.”
“We need him alive Harry,” Kathryn said from behind him, “remember that.”
Harry grunted at her comment and remained quiet. Kathryn was concerned Harry might be too reckless about this, however he knew more about Snape than she did. After about twenty minutes of running they finally started to feel the floor rise.
“We’re almost there,” Harry said as he slowed up.
He climbed the small set of stone steps and pushed up carefully on the trap door as to just peak through a small opening. After scanning around he declared it all clear and opened the door all the way. They both climbed out and Harry shut the door.
“This way,” he said and Kathryn followed him up the steps and into the back area of the shop.
They were very busy in the shop. Harry looked around from behind the counter, “I don’t see him.”
“Excuse me? How did you get back here?” the wife of the owner asked them very upset, “Only store personnel are allowed back here.”
“Our apologies,” Kathryn said and pulled out her identification, “We’re Aurors and we were tracking an individual through here.”
The owner’s wife became very helpful once she saw Kathryn’s identification, “Oh I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.”
Kathryn smiled and put the witch at ease. Harry, getting antsy, looked at Kathryn, “I’m going to check outside,” and was gone before Kathryn could stop him.
She turned to the older witch, “Have you seen anything out of the ordinary in the last half hour?”
Harry exited the shop and looked around for any sign of Snape or Slughorn. He saw an old wizard sitting across from the store looking at Harry. Harry looked at the old wizard for a few moments before returning to his scan of the street.
“They took off around the side alley next to Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop. A pair of men, one was tall, thin with greasy black hair and the other was short and portly, right?”
Harry turned startled and saw the old wizard coming up to him. The old wizard limped and looked to be about a hundred years old.
“How do you know I’m looking for them?”
“When a expression of determination on your face I knew you must be looking for something or someone. As I said, I saw them head that way. That and the portly fellow looked like he was being pushed against his will.”
Harry thanked the old wizard and turned to enter the store when Kathryn opened the door.
“Quick, follow me,” Harry said and started off down the street, “An old wizard back there told me they were heading down this way.”
“Harry wait!” Kathryn said as she tried to catch up to him, “The owner’s wife said she saw two men head in the other direction.”
Harry stopped and looked back at Kathryn. His stomach turned to lead and he rushed back and looked up the street. The old wizard was gone.
“Where’d he go?” Harry asked, catching his breath, “He couldn’t have moved that fast.”
They headed in the direction of where Kathryn said they had gone and found nothing. They spent the next hour asking every shop in town and every witch or wizard they met if they’d seen anything. They turned up nothing.
Finally after leaving the last store Harry’s patience had come to an end.
“Damn it!” he shouted and sat down heavily on the bench outside. It was starting to snow and the temperature was dropping as fast as the sun, “This is my fault.”
Kathryn sat down next to him and looked at him quizzically, “How was it your fault?”
“I was duped,” Harry whispered, “by Voldemort.”
Kathryn’s eyebrow’s shot up in surprise, “I doubt it was
him,” she said and leaned back against the building, “It would to great a risk
for him to come here.”
Harry shook his head, “No it wouldn’t. Especially if Slughorn has information or could help him.”
“Like what?” Kathryn asked, “Slughorn comes off as a bit of a gossip and a pain in the ass, but hardly someone that would hold vital information.”
Harry didn’t answer her and stood, “You’d be surprised.”
Kathryn looked up at him with a questioning expression.
Harry ignored her silent question, “We should go.”
Kathryn nodded and stood, “St. Mungo’s then?”
Harry nodded and they both Apparated a moment later.