Continuing Tales

Thirty-One Days

A Harry Potter Story
by keelhaulrose

Part 22 of 29

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Thirty-One Days

6 June, 1994

The door to Lupin's office was ajar, but he knocked anyways, hoping he could pass the goblet full of Wolfsbane potion to his former nemesis without having to talk to him, something he had been avoiding since Lupin confronted him about Hermione. There was no reply, so he cautiously opened the door. There was plenty of time before the moon rose, but he still knew to be cautious.

Wherever Lupin had gone he had done so in a tremendous hurry, leaving a sandwich half-eaten on his cluttered desk. An old piece of parchment was laid across the desk, and Severus glanced down to see what it was. In front of him was the most amazing map of the castle, with passages and nooks he had no idea existed, though, he breathed a sigh of relief, whoever made the map seemed to not know about the secret potions lab. Scanning the map he saw nothing out of order, at least, not much. The Minister was coming back up to the castle with Dumbledore and Macnair, meaning he would certainly be avoiding the Headmaster's office for the next few hours. Knowing Lupin needed to take the potion quickly lest he become a danger to the students he scanned the map quickly, and his stomach dropped as he noticed a rather conspicuous absence, or three. It took a minute of scanning before he found Hermione and Potter, and he was shocked to see they were heading deep into the Forbidden Forest alone Then he found Lupin, exiting the castle and moving towards the Whomping Willow, and he saw a passage going from the tree off the map towards Hogsmeade. And, much to his confusion, Hermione was going through the passage with Potter. He just caught a glimpse of their dots as they disappeared off the side of the map. Was Lupin going to have someone private to pass the transformation, and the trio had the bad luck to be heading to the same place? Or, and his stomach quickly knotted, was it a trap? Had Lupin sent the trio to the place where Black was hiding?

Quickly he rushed from the castle and across the grounds, pausing to decide which way to go, and deciding that the werewolf was not to be trusted. Right before he hit the tree his foot hit something, causing him to slip, and when he looked down to see what was tangled around his leg he saw it had disappeared. Ice ran through his veins as he realized he had just found Potter's invisibility cloak. Now he knew the students were in the shack, and if Black wasn't there, a werewolf was about to be. How could Hermione have let herself get into this situation? He knew the girl was reckless, and didn't seem to mind to bend a rule or two, but this was downright dangerous.

He rushed through the passage, coming out in the Shrieking Shack. As silently as possible he crept through the house, coming to the dingy bedroom where Hermione, Potter, and Weasley were standing across from Lupin and Black. The latter two of these were explaining what they had done during their Hogwarts years, Black admitting to being an illegal animagius. They seemed to be trying to convince the trio that they were not harmful, and then they started admitting what they had done to him. At first, the trio seemed to be skeptical of the story, Potter in particular was worked up. And then he noticed something. Black was studying Hermione, scrutinizing her as though he were trying to place her. There was no way he was going to give Black the opportunity to realize who Hermione was, or talk to her at all. He revealed himself, taking control of the situation. It would be sweet revenge to be the one who turned Black in, the icing on the cake would be sending the werewolf with him for helping the convict into the castle.

He hadn't been expecting the trio to attack him. And when he came to he really didn't expect to be back on the Hogwarts grounds. He had no time to orient himself, as the first sight he saw was the trio, cowered together. He hurried to shepherd them back to the castle, and that's when he heard the growling. Panic overcame him, and he moved in front of Hermione, and by extension the boys, praying that if Lupin was going to attack them that the wolf would attack him first, and give her a chance to escape. Suddenly Black appeared as the giant black dog, fighting the werewolf. Something called the wolf into the woods, and Black staggered off, obviously injured. Before he could stop them Hermione and Potter ran after them, and at the same time Weasley tried to move, too, stepping into a hole and further damaging his leg.

"What the hell were you thinking?" he growled as he bent by Weasley, conjuring up bandages. "You're going to get her killed!"

Those wasted seconds were everything, and by the time he caught up with Hermione and Potter a strange sight greeted him. Potter and Black were unconscious by a pond in the forest, Hermione terrified nearby, the Dementors in the area being kept at bay by a stag patronus. He managed to get over the shock quickly enough to send a message to the castle, and he approached the scene carefully.

"Granger, are you okay?" he asked, as he came up to her.

Wide-eyed she nodded. "Help them," she pleaded.

Together they knelt between Potter and Black. He was still too concerned by the nearby Dementors to feel elation as he secured Black.

"Please, don't, Professor," Hermione begged. "He's innocent."

"Miss Granger," he started.

"No! It was Pettigrew!" she protested.

He looked up at her in surprise.

"Please. Pettigrew transformed. He was Ron's rat. He escaped!"

"Quiet," he ordered, and luckily the Headmaster arrived with the Minister in tow. The protests continued, both from Hermione, and then Potter when he woke up until he left them under the watchful eye of Madam Pomfrey. But to his horror it was discovered soon after that Black had escaped. He knew Potter had something to do with it, and was prepared to expose him when Dumbledore asked how he expected Potter and Granger to be in two places at once. And he realized what happened. He had been told Hermione had been given a Time Turner. Anything he said against Potter would fall back on her. And he decided to stay quiet. It was only later that he realized that if he really wanted to guarantee that she never returned to his Hogwarts years he had been handed the opportunity on a silver platter, and he had let it go.


25 December, 1994

He was already in a foul mood, the Dark Mark becoming more prominent, a sure sign that his first Summons would be happening soon. He could only hope that it happened after the school year. The Dark Lord was probably going to be very upset at them, and would take out his anger with them physically. He did not want the students to see him in that state. He also did not need Karkaroff following him around like a dependent mutt, trying to get him to talk about it regardless of who might overhear them. If Igor did not watch himself, he might not need to worry about the Dark Lord.

Albus would be upset if he committed murder on the grounds, but his patience was wearing thin and it would almost be worth getting the headmaster furious at him.

And so he was getting out a little frustration during his outdoor patrols during the Yule Ball, catching students, taking away points (more from Gryffindor, less from Slytherin, but points either way). But even that was losing its appeal, and when nature called, he decided to call it a night. He cast one more spell around the courtyard as he walked up the steps to the entrance hall, and smirked as he heard several yelps of students who had managed to elude his searches.

"Ten points from each!" he snapped over his shoulder, and he glanced at the hourglasses and felt a mixture of annoyance and pride as he saw most of the upward moving jewels were from Slytherin. He bypassed the Great Hall and turned down a smaller hallway for a shortcut to the bathroom, but was stopped dead by the sight of two figures joined at the lips, snogging furiously, seemingly unaware of their audience. He opened his mouth to chastise them when he recognized the periwinkle-blue dress Hermione had been wearing during her grand entrance, and the exquisitely tailored robes of Viktor Krum.

"Hermione!" he snapped involuntarily, and she jumped away from Krum as if burned by him.

"Sir!" she cried, wide-eyed, face rapidly turning red.

He couldn't speak for a couple seconds out of rage. "Twenty-five points from Gryffindor," he snarled.

She stared defiantly at him. "Professor, sir," she said, slowly and evenly. "I know I am breaking no rules."

"Another ten!" he snapped.

"You have no right…" she started, but Krum wrapped an arm around her and talked soothingly into her ear to calm her before she made things worse, but his actions achieved the opposite of his goal, and Severus felt his hand twitching towards his wand with fantasies of destroying the young foreign wizard playing through his head.

"Another ten for telling a teacher how to do their jobs," he growled through clenched teeth.

"Sir," she said, but Krum quieted her again.

"Mr. Krum, you may take your leave to your ship," he said, drawing himself up to full height. "Trust that I will be having a talk with Headmaster Karkaroff about this."

"Yes, sir," Krum nodded. "Good night, Hermy-own-ninny."

"Good night, Viktor," she whispered, with a smile before he nodded to Severus and left them alone in the corridor.

"Hermy-own-ninny?" Severus sneered. "You couldn't find someone with enough brains to learn to pronounce your name right? I must admit being disappointed in you, Miss Granger."

"That was uncalled for, Professor," she said, and he could tell she was barely controlling her anger at him.

"You were acting inappropriately in the hallway…"

"There is no rule against a little light snogging in the corridors as long as we are not being distracting or disruptive!" she nearly shouted.

"I forgot I was talking to the walking manual of rules at this school. Let me assure you…"

"You are out of line, Professor," she interrupted suddenly, and he realized that he had advanced on her, and now had her backed into a corner, her back pressed against the stone of the curve in the wall, and with a rush of blood below he remembered their stolen kisses against various stone surfaces. The memories were now merging with the exquisitely made-up version of the young witch in front of him. How he wanted to grab her and kiss her the way they had once kissed, to show her how a proper man kisses a woman and not how some trumped-up foreigner snogs, but as quickly as the thought came, guilt at it overtook him. She was fifteen for Merlin's sake! He found himself breathing heavily, and there was genuine fear in her eyes, something he had never before seen in the young Hermione. Curious, saddened, but never frightened.

"Go," he ordered. "To Gryffindor tower. No points will be taken for this if you go now."

She slithered by him, taking care not to touch him, a feat in the cramped corridor. She moved in a half-run to the end of the corridor, back towards the dance. He followed her out of the corner of his eye as he pretended to stare down the other side of the corridor. There she turned, twice opened her mouth to say something, and then disappeared.

That night he found it impossible to sleep. Every time he was close the image of her pressed against Krum, their lips dancing together came charging back to the forefront of his mind and brought him back to consciousness with a flare of jealousy. That night he realized something. Even though her beauty was understated and clearly not her main concern, even though she was intelligent and seemingly was more interested in her studies than men, it seemed like men were showing an interest in her, and it was not limited to the socially awkward like Neville Longbottom, who he had seen stare at her longingly on several occasions. She had garnered the affections of an older, intelligent, highly sought-after wizard, and it cemented one idea in his mind: that Hermione Granger was too good for him.


18 December, 1995

An insistent knocking on the door brought him out of a troubled sleep, and he answered still wearing his night clothes and ready to murder whoever was on the other side. To his surprise it was Dumbledore, holding a flask of bubbling liquid, concern lining his face.

"Arthur Weasley has been attacked, Severus," he said without a greeting.

A million questions passed through his brain, but he realized what Albus was holding. "Venomous?" he asked with a nod to the flask.

"Voldemort's snake," he nodded.

Severus scowled. When he first laid eyes on Nagini he was quite sure that this was the reason Hermione had been pushing him towards antivenin. He was wondering how he would manage to get enough venom to successfully make an antivenin. Any direct attempt would be reported by the snake to Voldemort, and he would be outed as a spy and killed. Now here was Dumbledore, with enough to create the antivenin.

"How bad is he?" Severus asked.

"Stable, but he won't stop bleeding. You have a few days."

"It'll be done in two."

And he hadn't lied. Two days later he decanted his cauldron of antivenin into a dozen phials after a successful test. Half of these he packed in an unassuming container and delivered to Dumbledore. The other half, along with his carefully written notes, he stored in his locked cabinet. There were only two people in the castle who would be able to retrieve it, himself and, when she returned, Hermione. That way he assured there was a way for Hermione to save his life, while guaranteeing he wouldn't be kept alive by anyone else. There was only one reason he would want to survive the impending war, and if she was unwilling or unable he would happily accept his death. He had set up his survival, but he was still not sure if he'd be willing to tell Hermione when and if the time came.


27 December, 1995

"Moony, I've been wondering if you and I are on the same page about young Miss Granger," Sirius said, handing Lupin a glass of firewhiskey and settling on the chair opposite him. It was two days after Christmas, and the children were all in bed after much prompting by Mrs. Weasley. It was the only time of day he felt safe talking to Lupin about sensitive matters, with the gratuitous Extendable Ear use by the Weasley twins. Even though he was sure the twins were in bed, he cast a Muffliato just to be safe.

"What about her?" Lupin asked slowly.

"She's starting to look an awful lot like a juicy little tart who turned me down so many years ago, don't you think?" he asked with a smirk.

"You're talking about Puckle," Remus said with a sigh. Sirius had been around so many women during his Hogwarts years, he had kind of hoped Hermione would fly under his radar, but apparently, a woman who rejected The Sirius Black was much more memorable than the women who fawned all over him.

"Of course I am, Moony!" he said with a barking laugh. "That arse does not lie. They are one and the same girl, I know it."

"You do realize you're talking about the rear end of a sixteen year old?"

"She wasn't sixteen when I first stared at it," he pointed out.

"All the same, she's sixteen now," he rolled his eyes.

"Sixteen is damn close to seventeen. Not to mention the same age we were when she first appeared to us, the age she claimed to be," Sirius sighed, taking a long drink before looking into the amber liquid contemplatively. "I can't let her do it, Moony."

"Let her do what?"

"Go back. Snog Snivellous. You know what happened. It's unnatural. She must have been doing it on someone's orders."

"I seriously doubt she was snogging him that way on someone's orders. Someone sent her back, but I'm thinking the snogging was voluntary."

"What do you mean, 'that way'?" Sirius asked, genuinely curious.

"I would think of all people, I don't need to spell it out for you," he replied, trying to keep his voice low.

Sirius shivered. "There's a mental image I didn't need. That git has been stalking around here, and don't tell me you haven't noticed his eyes wandering below her neck or her belt. I'm not the only one looking at sixteen year olds."

"The difference is they saw each other way back when. You just panted after her, but you never got to touch."

"I should have got to touch. It was a crime I didn't get to touch and Snivellous did. And now I have to sit here, knowing what she's going to do, and I can't in good conscience let her do it."

"Don't, Sirius. We don't know why she went back. Whoever sent her, and I have a sneaking suspicion who, obviously wanted her to do something. It's between her and that person if she accomplished her goal or not."

"I seriously doubt her goal involved snogging Snivellous."

"All the more reason to think she did it voluntarily."

"She's young. Young girls make dumb mistakes. I'm pretty sure I can talk her out of it…"

"Don't," he repeated forcefully. "Just leave it, Sirius. Let Severus have one win."

"Win?" he scoffed.

"The girl he desired went with James. The girl you desired went with him. I'm pretty sure Severus considers that a win in his book, especially with as hard as you were trying. Or will, when she finally comes round to him permanently."

There was a horrified look across Sirius' face when he realized Hermione's fling might not stay only in the past. With a renewed look of determination he said, "Which gives me reason to stop it. Can you imagine what it's going to be like if they get together now? It was bad enough to be subjected to it then. Now it'll be a bloody nightmare. You know he won't keep it private around me. The prat would love to show her off in front of me. I won't stand for it. I don't like being one-upped by Snivellous."

"There are precious few people who remember you getting one-upped by Snivellous. In fact, I think it's you, Severus, probably Dumbledore, and myself. Let him have this one thing. He has had so little good in his life."

"My life has not exactly been a walk in the park either, Moony," Sirius grumbled, then he quieted as he thought hard for a moment. "But I guess I have to concede Granger to him. Can't imagine what I might say to her that won't let her know what's going on anyway. I don't like it, but I can't stop it."

"You really are taking one for the team, there, Padfoot," he rolled his eyes.

"Hm," Sirius grunted. After a moment he asked, "You

think she shagged him?"

"I think it's none of our business," he replied, hoping the confidence in his voice covered for the fact that he was sure they had slept together.

"I know, but I want to be there to see the look on Potter's face when he finds out. Or to keep him from doing something rash. Harry is not known for underreacting to situations, and Snivellous can be a tricky bastard, and with an arse like that to fight for…"

"Sirius," Lupin groaned.

"Sorry, mate," he said with a lopsided grin. "Can't help myself. Now, enough of my problems dealing with the fairer sex, and let's talk about yours."


18 June, 1996

He waited in the entrance hall, pacing quickly, glancing out the open doors awaiting Dumbledore showing up with the students. After leaving the students with Umbridge, he hurried to check on Black, and finding the dog staying where he should be, returned with a phial of out-of-date Veritaserum, which would prompt Potter to tell half-truths and feed misleading information to the Head-pain-in-his-arse. He was surprised to find the room devoid of Gryffindors, with the befuddled members of the Inquisitorial Squad lying around, attempting to repair the damage of various hexes and jinxes. He sorted everything out in two minutes, then demanded to know what happened. Draco told him that Granger had admitted that Dumbledore had a secret weapon, and that it was being worked on by his army and kept deep in the woods where no one might come stumble across it. The story oozed bullshit, but apparently Umbridge had bought it, and took Granger and Potter into the woods. After they were gone, the Weasleys, Longbottom and Lovegood managed to overpower the Squad, despite being outnumbered and unarmed, and rushed from the castle to find Potter and Hermione. He shouted at them for all being thicker than a set of encyclopedias, took ten points each, stripped them of their duties and sent them back to the dormitory. He then ran out of the castle, hoping to catch Potter and tell him that his Godfather was fine, but there was no sign of them. He was about to go into the woods himself when he saw several Thestrals lift into the air, each with a student clinging to its back.

He had to make a split decision. He could fly to them, try to catch up and explain, but it would take too long to get a broom and he had no desire to reveal that the Dark Lord had taught him to fly without assistance. Besides, with Dumbledore gone, Minerva in the hospital, and Umbridge most likely insulting something that was going to kill her, he suddenly found himself acting Headmaster of Hogwarts under a well-hidden set of paper Dumbledore had insisted on writing up, and leaving the grounds without formally appointing a successor could leave the castle vulnerable. If the Dark Lord knew Hogwarts staff were being forced out by the day, he might see it as a prime opportunity to take over the castle. He had to stay and protect it. So he rushed to the closest fireplace, which was in Hagrid's hut. The place smelled like that damn dog and something he wasn't sure he wanted to know, but there was some Floo powder left, and he tossed it into the fireplace growling "Spinner's End!"

Dumbledore was sitting on his threadbare couch reading the Prophet, and he looked up the moment Snape's head came into view.

"I know you don't live here much, Severus, but it could use a good cleaning…" he said in way of greeting.

"It's happening," Severus cut him off. "Potter and his friends, they're gone. I neither know nor care of what came of the toad, but she went into the woods and hasn't come out. Potter seems to think the Dark Lord has Black, but I've confirmed Black is at Headquarters. He must be getting to the boy, Albus, and you must hurry or he won't be coming out alive."

"Thank you, Severus. Stay with the school and keep it safe," he said, jumping to his feet and reaching for his wand.

"Yes, sir," he grumbled in mock salute as he stepped out of the fireplace. He warned Poppy that there may be injuries coming in, but refused to say who, how many, or why. The less she knew, the better. Then he went to wait. It was hours that he was pacing in the hall, twice shooing away Filch, who was looking for Umbridge, before Albus appeared, several Order members behind him, several stretchers moving in front of them.

Of course the worst of these had to be Hermione, who was unconscious with a large burn mark across her chest, and he instantaneously knew that she had lied about being in a car crash. He tended to her himself, but not being at the Ministry to see what she had been hit with, he wasn't sure which curse he was working on.

"Who saw her get hurt?" he demanded to her friends, who were all on their own cots getting tended to.

"I did," Neville replied weakly, fighting the effects of the sleeping potion Poppy forced upon him, his clothes still coated in blood.

"What did it look like?" he asked.

"Purple. Purple flames."

"Purple flames?" he said, knowing immediately it was a curse of Dolohov's, his signature, and it was usually lethal.

"Yeah, but I didn't hear it. Hermione had silenced him, so he couldn't say it."

Ah, so that's why she was alive. Dolohov, never one for subtlety, had difficulty putting power behind his non-verbal curses. But it would have caused extensive internal damage, and if he didn't get the proper potions in her, it might still prove fatal. Though, in the back of his mind, he knew it wouldn't. His memories of her proved she had survived this.

"Dumbledore!" he snapped, satisfaction thick in his voice. He might follow Dumbledore's orders everywhere else, but in here, with lives on the line, the old man answered to him. He gave Albus a list of potions he needed from his private stores, which held more powerful potions than Poppy felt comfortable storing where a student would have the opportunity to nick them. With the help of a couple of House-elves, Dumbledore had the potions in the hospital in minutes. Severus administered the proper dosages, writing down what he was doing, as Hermione would have days of these potions to endure, and at least a week hospital stay.

Most of the students were healed, monitored for a night, then sent away. He stayed that first night, offering to help out Poppy and making sure Hermione got her potions on time. He kipped on the bed next to hers, getting up every two hours to give her another round. Ron Weasley had earned a couple more nights when he was still Befuddeled enough to propose to Poppy in front of Fred and George (and even he had to hide the smile threatening to emerge at the look on the twins' faces when their younger brother did that), but left in time for Sunday brunch. But the students, who had been told that there was confirmation that Voldemort was indeed back, were coming in droves for stress related problems, and Severus 'volunteered' to continue to spend the night in the bed next to Hermione's, under the guise of giving Poppy a break, but after a couple nights merely had to wake her so she could take the potions on her own.

A week and a day later, Poppy declared Hermione well enough to leave, and Severus provided her with another week's worth of potions to help her finish recovering.

"I wanted to thank you, sir," she stopped him before they walked out of the hospital wing. "For making these potions and making sure I took them properly."

"It's nothing worth thanking me over. There probably would have been a fallout had I let you die," he retorted.

"Still, you didn't have to come every night to make sure I took them. It was… kind of you."

"Don't mention it," he said, forcing himself not to let his lips upturn.


30 June, 1997

If he had a soul, he was sure part of it went tumbling off that tower with Dumbledore. Bellatrix was beside herself with happiness, randomly hexing anything and everything in her joy. She was all for getting Dumbledore's body and hanging it in a public place to prove their prowess. She had no idea…

He had hoped beyond hope that he had given Hermione a task to keep her at the post Potter had given her down near the dungeons. He told her and the Lovegood girl to watch over the supposedly passed-out form of Flitwick, but the girls didn't listen. As he and the Death Eaters entered the main part of the castle, he was confronted with the sight of Hermione fighting, narrowly missing several killing curses thrown at her by Rowle, with Greyback nearby, eyeing her hungrily.

"We're leaving," he announced, grabbing the werewolf's shirt and pushing him towards the door and away from Hermione.

"We can defeat them!" Bellatrix argued. "Half their fighters are children!"

"The Dark Lord does not wish us to take Hogwarts right now. We had our mission, it is accomplished. We are to leave," he ordered.


"Do you doubt your Master, Bellatrix?" he snarled.

She stared at him defiantly, but the order had come from Voldemort, and she would never disobey her Dark Lord. She joined the fray, battling furiously towards the Great Hall, and the exit beyond. Severus stayed as much in the shadows as he could, but he did risk a glance back at Granger, who was visibly exhausted from keeping up a battle with older and more practiced wizards, but was physically okay.

Once they had all made it outside the grounds, he chanced one last look back at the castle. If she was smart, she'd never return to it. If she were smart, she'd leave the country and run as far as she could as fast as she could. He was sure she would be leaving Hogwarts for good after the funeral, and she would run, but she wouldn't leave the country. Dumbledore had told him that part of Voldemort's soul lived in Harry, and from there, it wasn't hard to figure out what was going on. The Diary that possessed the Weasley girl was no mere enchanted book. It, too, contained part of the Dark Lord's soul. And most likely the ring that cursed Dumbledore's hand, which wasn't cursed to kill non-Slytherins, an obvious lie Dumbledore had tried to feed him. Voldemort had made Horcruxes, at least four of them, as he was sure that's where Dumbledore and Potter had gone that night, and probably more. The Dark Lord was obsessed with the number seven, and he was sure that the seventh Horcrux was to be made with Potter's murder, but had in fact made Potter into one. Which is why Dumbledore told him that Potter was to be killed by Voldemort. Dumbledore said he was leaving Potter the sword of Gryffindor, but had no faith the Ministry would hand it over. And so he and Severus hid it in the wall behind where Dumbledore's portrait would hang. Perhaps the only person who had more confidence and calm regarding his death than himself was Dumbledore.

So Hermione would follow Potter, off to find the last of the Horcruxes. And he would have to wait until the right moment to give it to him. But for now, he was going to have to play his part. With one final look at the castle, and his last look knowing where Hermione was and that she was safe, he Apparated away.


1 September, 1997

It was his first night as Headmaster, and he was frantically moving through every nook and cranny he could find, trying to find whatever Albus had left behind that caused Hermione to go back in time. He had not seen her since the day of Albus' death, but had heard only of her exploits since then through channels and rumors. He was not surprised when she, Potter, and Weasley had not shown up at the castle, he probably would have been terrified had they actually done so. Because Hermione Puckle was still a memory that haunted him, Albus had gone to his grave without destroying whatever means she had to go back and torment him. So this was his last chance. There was no way he could convince her to not go back now, so now his only option was to destroy her means of doing so. Dumbledore would not hide whatever it was outside of the Headmaster's office unless he could have constant surveillance, and at the moment there were more pressing security issues. There was nowhere else in the castle that was guaranteed to be safe. He had spent hours opening every book and removing every portrait, but he couldn't find a thing.

He looked up at the empty portrait that normally held Dumbledore's likeness, but he had a tendency to disappear when Severus was alone in the room. Severus had gone through the place with a fine-toothed comb several times and had not found a hint of what Albus had left for Hermione to travel back in time.

There was a knock at the door, and he waved his wand around to set the room right.

"Enter!" he barked.

Alecto Carrow came in, dragging a bruised, bloodied, dazed, and yet defiant looking Neville Longbottom. Severus sighed. It was going to be a very long year.


26 December, 1997

"They are in the Forest of Dean, Headmaster," Phineas Nigellus' portrait announced.

"You know what to do, Severus," Dumbledore's portrait said. "You must not be seen."

He swallowed hard, then waved his wand at the portrait, which swung forward, revealing the hidden compartment. He took the sword, tucked it under his robes, and left the castle. He Apparated to the Forest of Dean, and looked around, quickly noticing a small pond that had frozen over. It was a good place to hide the sword before he went to go find Potter and lead him to it. He went to the pond, vanished the ice, then moved the sword to the middle of the lake with his wand and let it drop to the bottom before he covered the pond with ice again.

The more challenging part was finding Potter and Granger. He wandered through the woods, floating just above the ground as to not make a sound. It was subtle when he found it, just a shimmer of a protective spell in the moonlight. It took a couple minutes to figure out which spells she was using, and he carefully categorized them in his mind for later. He took down each one slowly and meticulously, knowing if he made haste he might set off some sort of alarm, but nothing sounded. When the wards were all down he got a view of the tent he knew had been her home for months. She was sitting outside, curled up against the cold, a book across her lap. She was looking worn, and on the edge of looking defeated. But that could be attributed to the locket around her neck. She was cold, he knew that look even from a distance, and wanted nothing more than to conjure up some more blankets for her, but it would probably cause her to panic and run again, and he had to get the sword to Potter. He watched her for a few minutes before he realized that she wasn't flipping the pages of the book, and when the moon came out from behind the clouds he could see the reflections of tears down her cheeks. A few minutes later, Potter emerged, and in a silent exchange that had been rehearsed several times, she handed over the necklace and her wand, and disappeared inside.

Severus put the wards back up, waiting until he was sure Hermione was asleep, and sent his Patronus through the trees, ready to entice Potter to the sword.


March, 1998

He opened and closed his fist several times trying to alleviate the pain from the Dark Mark that was radiating up and down his forearm. Something big was happening, but he didn't have his Floo hooked up, and he wasn't sure he wanted to know. The last time there was this much pain, Harry Potter had narrowly escaped from Godric's Hallow. So he poured himself three fingers of firewhiskey and waited for the visitor to come bearing the news he was sure was coming.

Amycus didn't bother knocking, as was his custom nowadays.

"Frightful night at Malfoy Manor, Snape," he said in his grating voice. "Frightful night," he repeated, helping himself to some firewhiskey.

"Are you going to tell me what happened or are you going to sit there and drain my last bottle of Ogden's Finest?"

"Some Snatchers caught Potter and his little friends out in the woods when they used the Tabooed word. Brought him to Malfoy Manor. There was a bit of a problem. Seems Potter had the Sword of Gryffindor. So Bellatrix tried to find out how they came to possess it, she interrogated the Mudblood…"

Despite just having taken a sip of firewhiskey Severus' mouth was suddenly dry.

"… Not sure what it said, just that it denied knowing how they got the sword. Somehow Potter and the Weasley boy got out of the basement, attacked Bellatrix and the Malfoys, stole a couple of wands, and escaped."

"How?" Severus managed to ask.

"Some house-elf, from what I've heard."

"A house-elf?"

"That's what I heard. The Dark Lord is less than pleased, as you can probably tell."

"Obviously," he muttered. "They all got out?"

"Them and Ollivander and the Lovegood oddity. From what I heard, the Dark Lord left quite a few bodies to clean up."

"Unbelievable," he breathed.

"You're telling me. I'm not upset I'm here instead of there. Only good thing that came out of the night is that apparently Bellatrix gave the Mudblood a reminder about her station that she'll carry for the rest of her life, however short that may be."

His eyes narrowed. "What kind of reminder?" he asked with a pit in his stomach.

"Gave her a mark of her own," he smirked sinisterly. "Right on her arm, in her own blood."

The information made him feel momentarily sick. He knew about the scars on her arm before, but she must have altered them so he didn't know what they really said. And who could blame her? If she really had 'Mudblood' written on her arm, it might have been suicide to walk into the Slytherin common room. "Don't you have rounds to do?" he grumbled. "Aren't you supposed to be finding where all those Gryffindors are hiding?"

"Yes, Headmaster," he replied, with no small hint of sarcasm. He downed the rest of his drink and was gone, leaving Severus alone with his thoughts.

Thirty-One Days

A Harry Potter Story
by keelhaulrose

Part 22 of 29

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