The heavy cloak felt reassuring across his shoulders in spite of the musty smell that encased it. He had been surprised to find it, amidst the piles of boxes that lined the cellar wall, but someone had kept his old school trunk and seen to it that it remained safe. Safe from other people, that is, as they had been unable to protect it against the damp and mildew that permeated the long room. The soft wood had now warped, jamming the lid so tightly shut that Harry had to strain to force it open. His books had all pretty much disintegrated, the pages crumbling beneath his fingers, and a couple of cloudy vials littered the bottom, their contents having long since evaporated. His cloak had been the only thing he had found whole, and even it looked decidedly worse for wear. But it was his, and he was not about to let it go.
Snape wrinkled his nose as Harry entered the kitchen, but refrained from making a comment beyond casting several harsh cleansing charms on the cloak one after the other. The charms got rid of the smell, at least, but now the worn patches stood out even more prominently against the faded black. Pulling it tightly round himself and breathing deeply, Harry could almost imagine it smelt of the tower…of burning fires, butterbeer and slowly melting chocolate frogs. A small part of him knew he was being ridiculously stupid, but the bigger part overruled him, taking comfort in the one familiar thing in such a foreign world.
‘I will have to get rid of that,’ Snape said flatly as Harry looked up at him in bleary eyed confusion. ‘The House crest,’ Snape clarified, pointing with his wand to where a threadbare red lion pranced regally on his chest.
‘Hogwarts doesn’t have Houses any more?’
‘It does,’ Snape contradicted. ‘However it is not wise, for you especially, to advertise that one.’
Harry regarded him with suspicion. ‘You’re not turning it into a snake,’ he declared challengingly, crossing his arms and shifting his whole body slightly, moving the crest out of sight.
‘I will merely hide it.’ Snape waited patiently for Harry to consent, a quick charm blocking the roaring lion from view. If he squinted, though, Harry was sure he could still just about see it, finding it somewhat reassuring. ‘If you were cold, you could have asked,’ Snape interrupted his musings in a decidedly bored tone, regarding Harry with condescending amusement. ‘One can still acquire a basic cloak with the bare minimum of hassle.’
‘You sure about that?’ Harry bit back sarcastically, glaring through his fringe. ‘Voldemort isn’t worried that someone somewhere will overthrow him with the much feared cloak of doom. Or did he ban the sock instead?’ Snape quirked an eyebrow as Harry glowered. ‘It’s mine, all right. I mean really mine. I found it.’
‘Well, that at least would explain the foul smell if it has been down in that disgusting cellar for all this time.’
‘You aren’t going to demand I hand it over?’ Harry snapped, further infuriated when Snape did no more than shrug.
‘If it makes you feel better to wear it, then wear the damn thing.’ He strode across the room, thrusting a small bag into Harry’s unsuspecting hands as he passed him. ‘And keep this with you at all times.’
‘What is it?’ He turned the pouch over, feeling the contents shift smoothly as his fingers brushed the soft leather.
‘Floo Powder,’ came the sharp reply, accompanied with a metallic ringing as the kettle was snatched from the fireplace and tossed into the sink. Harry loosened the cord and peered inside. ‘Should anything happen, or at a word from me, you will come back here.’
‘You’re expecting something to happen?’
‘With you around I always expect something to happen.’ Snape rolled his eyes, turning and lighting the fire with a swish of his wand, the flames crackling in the dry air. ‘In this instance, however, the risk is greater. We are looking for people who will not wish to be found, especially not by me.’ Harry swallowed, nodding as he placed the bag carefully in one of the few pockets he had not littered with holes and tears.
‘You said something about allies,’ Harry prompted as Snape stepped towards the large fireplace, throwing in a handful of powder that made the walls glow eerily green, reflecting the light.
‘Indeed I did; however, it is purely conjecture on my part. I may be wrong.’
‘That’s a bit rash of you, isn’t it then?’ Harry asked hastily. He had no idea where Snape planned to take him, and the tiny shred of trust he had managed to spare was quickly smothered by Snape’s own lack of confidence. Besides, after having his own foolhardy behaviour thrown in his face so painfully so many times, he felt it worth mentioning. Personally he didn’t care if Snape decided he needed to single-handedly track down every member of this so called resistance whilst wearing a big flashing sign. At that moment, all Harry really wanted to do was return to the damp basement, the only place he had been that didn’t scream about how much he didn’t belong here. ‘Running off to confront them? Don’t you want to find out a bit more about them first?’
‘How very insightful of you,’ Snape sneered, not rising to Harry’s antagonism. ‘Although I never said we were running off to confront anyone.’ Harry considered both the Floo powder and the roaring green flames with scepticism. ‘However, in this instance, you are correct.’ Harry cast the professor an unfounded smirk. ‘And whilst I would much rather not be forced into running headlong into unknown situations, time is something of an issue at the moment. Therefore…’ He reached out and dragged Harry into the fireplace. He was almost getting used to being hauled everywhere by his arms or robe and barely put up a show of resistance. Throwing another handful of powder into the flames, Snape shouted, ‘Flourish and Blotts!’
The shop was crowded as Harry stumbled out of the fireplace, coughing as Snape stepped out gracefully beside him, whispering in Harry’s ear for him to remain silent. The shop was a lot busier than it had been on his previous visit, bustling and crowded so that Harry felt uncomfortably small as he was jostled and knocked. He hit the shoulder of a richly and heavily robed figure so hard he had to spin around the avoid losing his balance, meeting a set of intensely familiar eyes before the person disappearing into the throng. He stumbled backwards, reaching out for Snape and turning carefully when he realised the Potions Master had moved on.
Two horribly familiar sets of eyes were swivelling round to focus on him before he could move.
‘You! We warned you!’ one of them screeched, her sharp voice piercing the crowd as Harry fumbled for his wand, wondering where Snape had gone and biting down harshly on the momentary fear that he had been deserted. ‘We warned you not to come back here!’ Audrey stepped out from behind the counter with surprising ease, her movements still stiff but focused as she advanced down the shop towards him, her own wand firmly in hand. A couple of jerky steps backwards and Harry’s back hit solid matter, the corner of a shelf prodding forebodingly into his spine. Forgoing the curses he knew, that would no doubt at least slow the woman, if nothing else, Harry readied the Patronus Charm in his mind. Snape had told him enough to figure out the fate that awaited most half-bloods, and even if everything else had been a lie, Harry still had faith that that particular fact had been nasty enough to be true.
A shadow moved out of the corner of his eye, and in his panic Harry almost mistook the billowing robes for those of the Dementors. Mere paces from him now, Audrey had also halted with a gasp upon noticing the presence of Snape, hand flying to her mouth as he stepped directly into her path. ‘You,’ she whispered with a breathless mix of awe and dread, leaning back on a bookshelf for support in a way reminiscent of Harry’s own defensive posture.
‘Quite.’ Snape sounded distinctly bored as he snapped his fingers. All around him quietly watching customers sprang to life, skirting warily around him as the store emptied until the door finally shut, the chimes of the rusty bell fading in the engulfing stillness.
‘You brought him back here?’ Ethel asked flatly from the background, not having moved from her seat, her gaze still scanning the book held open in her lap with uninterested indifference. Snape nodded, not that the woman noticed. Her entire bearing reeked of despondent defeat. ‘What for?’
‘You allowed him to leave this store with the full knowledge of what he is.’
Audrey’s hitched breathing was a harsh contrast to her colleagues’ grim acceptance, and Harry found he dearly preferred the former. The near sobs and pitiful exclamations of apology crawled beneath his skin, but still bothered him less than the thought of what the other woman clearly believed. She had been prejudiced and biased, and as hateful as her snivelling friend, but she seemed to accept she had done wrong without as much as a flicker of rebellion. ‘I wanted to find you!’ Audrey’s interruption was near hysterical, and she was still clutching the rotting wooden shelf behind her as she lowered her head out of fearful respect, but at least she recognised the unfairness of it all.
‘Yet you did not.’ Snape stared critically at the still silent figure of Ethel sitting tall behind her desk. In comparison to her friend she merely glanced at him and shrugged dismissively. She looked sad.
Without warning Snape raised his wand in an unavoidable, fluid movement, pointing it at the shaking Audrey as the spell shot wordlessly from the tip of his wand. The frenzied sounds of her breathing, which had since been reduced to muffled hitches and the occasional fearful gasp for air, stopped abruptly, a vaguely blank expression crossing Audrey’s face as she gazed around the store in confusion.
‘Audrey, dear,’ Ethel said slowly, not once taking her eyes from Snape, who seemed disinclined to offer any instructions or explanations himself. ‘Would you be so kind as to fetch our esteemed guest some tea? You may as well get something for the boy too.’
‘Of course,’ Audrey mumbled, pulling herself upright and turning stiffly before making her way down the aisles until she was out of sight. She had wiped her face and seemed unable to comprehend the dampness of her sleeve as a result. Ethel just sighed, shifting on her stool and looking Snape up and down distastefully.
‘Obliviate, was it?’ It wasn’t so much of a question as a statement made to verify undeniable facts. ‘Not quite what I was expecting. Not what Audrey was expecting either, I would imagine.’ There was a calculating look in her hard gaze as she considered him, as though some previous assumption had been proven erroneous and she was now searching for an alternative. ‘So what is it you want then, Severus Snape, Protector of the noble Lord Voldemort and enforcer of his laws?’ She raised her eyebrows to accompany her scornful address of his full title.
‘I wish to discuss your attempt to save the life of a half-blood.’
‘Him?’ Ethel said with a dismissive wave of her hand in Harry’s vague direction. ‘I sent him out so the Dementors could find him. Surely one as important as yourself has far more pressing needs to be seeing to than the occasional defenceless half-blood.’ Despite the content of the sentence, every word she spoke indicated the unwavering belief that Snape’s importance was marginal compared to her own.
‘Defenceless half-bloods are my speciality,’ Snape continued with a nasty sneer. ‘And I do not appreciate it when one is permitted to almost slip through my fingers. You know the rules.’
‘I did not want his foul presence in my store any longer than was strictly necessary.’ It was not an excuse, but there was something to her words that made Harry feel uncomfortable, something that was being carefully hidden.
‘My Lord will not be pleased to hear of your transgression.’
‘Oh, stuff your Lord,’ Ethel snorted impatiently, the book slamming shut with an impatient snap as she tired of the stand off. ‘Say what it is you mean to say and get on with it, or are you truly the coward the rumours say you are?’
If the insult hit its mark, Snape didn’t let it show. ‘You helped him,’ he challenged.
‘What?’ Harry sounded indignant, shrugging Snape’ hand from where it had come to rest protectively, yet heavily, on his shoulder, Snape obviously still of the impression that Harry was liable to bolt into the great unknown at any second. It refused to be dislodged though, and tightened its grip even though his outburst was ignored.
‘You gave him your cloak.’
Harry was not about to be so easily dismissed, his annoyance bubbling beneath the surface with exasperating familiarity. ‘If she wanted to help me I can think of a fair few damn sight more useful thing she could have done.’
‘Shut up, Potter,’ Snape snarled, acknowledging his existence but not bothering to look down at him. ‘Considering what you were wearing she did you a great favour. You would have been spotted and killed within seconds without it. She also warned you. Warned you, it would appear, against me.’
‘No, she bloody well didn’t!’
‘I think I’d bloody well remember bloody instructions to bloody avoid you!’ Harry took immense amounts of childish pleasure in ignoring Snape’s instructions as much as he felt he himself was being ignored. The Potions Master still didn’t pass him so much as a glance.
‘“Someone else will find him.” I believe those were your very words?’ Ethel just shrugged again as Harry spluttered with outrage, struggling against the painful grip of the fingers and pulling himself free. He backed away from the man sullenly, focusing resolutely on a spot a couple of inches above Snape’s left shoulder.
‘I never told you that. You used Legilimency on me!’
‘Many times. Now, if you have quite finished.’
Harry looked sulky. ‘And I wouldn’t exactly call that a warning.’
‘It had you on your guard didn’t it?’ Snape asked smoothly. ‘Much better to be wandering the streets knowing there is a danger, than to just be wandering.’
‘Since you have apparently determined my guilt all by yourself, why don’t you just get on with it?’ Ethel interrupted impatiently. Harry didn’t think she saw the flash of intrigue that flickered in Snape’s eyes at the comment, and it was gone a moment later. ‘Allow an old woman at least a little dignity in death.’ She stood, knocking over her stool as she moved to stand in front of him, looking up to meet Snape’s gaze fearlessly even as his wand trained on her. They stood in battling silence for several seconds, neither even blinking until Snape broke contact, his eyes widening as his wand hand dropped in shock from which he quickly recovered.
‘Nymphadora,’ he finally said with a sneer, and Harry’s immediate thought was that there had to have been some mistake. He gaped as the face before him shifted, the lines smoothing and disappearing until the familiar features stood before him again. Only a few creases remained to give any indication she had aged at all, as beyond that she looked almost identical to the last time he had seen her. And with her standing next to Snape Harry felt a brief sputter of hope that this whole thing was some elaborate mistake, some intricate ploy. But despite initial appearances there was no doubting that Tonks was indeed older; the occasional sign that the Metamorphmagus could probably cover with thought, but didn’t naturally bother to do so. ‘How on earth did a half-blood such as you manage to survive so long?’
‘Get over yourself, Snape,’ Tonks retorted with unexpected nastiness. ‘I may not be able to keep you out any longer, but you’re not the only one capable of Occlumency. And at least I’m only keeping my dirty little secret from the Dementors.’ Snape growled in the back of his throat. ‘I see you caught up with him.’ She gestured in Harry’s direction. ‘Yes, I helped him; as much as a person can help another in this day and age.’
‘Yet you still sent him out onto the streets,’ Snape commented lightly, smirking in a way that set Harry’s teeth on edge. ‘Didn’t manage to escape the Obliviators, did you?’ he continued with a knowing sneer. It was true though, Harry knew. There was no way Tonks would have sent him away had she known who he was. She would have battled hell and high water to see him safe. He tried to bury the niggling hurt at the knowledge that she hadn’t.
‘I’d ask what Obliviators, but I guess that would be a fairly stupid question.’ Tonks folded her arms defiantly. ‘Get it over with then. Make the world a better place. You won’t be getting any more from me than what you already have.’ Snape raised his wand in pleased response to her request, the spell leaving his lips before Harry could even find the words of protest he needed. Tonks just looked down at herself before glaring back at Snape. ‘I’m not dead then, and I certainly do not suddenly recall anything life-shatteringly important.’
‘Not yet.’ Snape pulled Harry roughly forwards by the collar of his robes as Tonks once again focused on him, recognition lighting her eyes before it was replaced with full-blown panic.
‘Bloody hell,’ she whispered as Snape curled his lips.
‘Quite, you can imagine my reaction.’
‘Actually, no,’ Tonks reached out and grasped Harry’s wrist, pulling him bodily away from the Potions Master as she raised her wand and placed herself defensively between the two. ‘Won’t your Master be displeased that you waited so long before presenting him?’
‘I have no intention of him ever finding out,’ Snape said flatly.
‘He could have handed me over any number of times by now,’ Harry added reluctantly as Tonks looked at him, her eyes wide and expression soft. She ruffled his hair as though expecting her hand to pass straight through it, scowling slightly although it was not aimed at him.
‘I’m so sorry,’ she offered with a small, guilty smile. ‘I forgot about you, and then I turned you away. I just left you to wander the streets knowing full well what was out there.’ She didn’t seem to be able to stop gaping at him, as Harry fidgeted under her stare. ‘God, you look so young.’
‘Snape got to me before the Dementors,’ Harry offered helpfully in an attempt to make her feel better, as Tonks scowled again.
‘You don’t trust him, do you?’ Harry shrugged. ‘You do know what he did, what he has done?’
‘He told me about Professor Dumbledore.’
‘Albus was merely the tip of the iceberg.’ Tonks turned back to Snape, her eyes full of accusation. ‘You didn’t tell him about Minerva though, did you?’
‘What, Professor McGonagall?’
‘And I highly doubt you shared the fate of Remus.’ There was real bitter hatred in her voice at the comment, uncontained anger and loathing burning in her eyes.
‘What happened to Remus?’
‘Listen.’ It was more of a threat than a request, as Snape towered threateningly over Tonks, eyes narrowed and dark. ‘Some of us didn’t have your talent to hide in the shadows and just fade from existence in order to survive.’
‘I would sooner have faced that monster you follow and spit in his face than I would have lowered myself to your methods of survival.’
‘This was a mistake,’ Snape frowned, reaching out for Harry at the same time Tonks pushed him protectively behind her, so his fingers closed on thin air and he was forced to retreat empty handed. ‘I came looking for those who could help, I did not come to justify my past to the dead.’
‘It seems to me there is only one person you need to be worried about justifying yourself too.’
‘I am painfully aware of that, thank you very much.’ Tonks anger was fading, but was being just as quickly replaced with desperation and disbelief.
‘What are you going to do?’
‘Unfortunately Albus’ last instructions did not come with a complete step-by-step plan to cover every eventuality.’ Snape sighed, his whole posture relaxing slightly although still not particularly at ease in the dim room. Clattering sounds could be heard from beyond the shelves, reminding them that they were not alone. Tonks screwed her eyes shut as her face shifted again, aging as she hunched over and slid back into her stool. ‘For the meantime, however, I am going to report to the Dark Lord as always, and hope that nothing I do gives cause for suspicion.’
‘You are insane-’ Tonks head snapped up at hearing his intention ‘-if you think I am letting you leave here so you can report all your little discoveries to your Lord.’
‘You can sit there,’ Snape queried incredulously, ‘with Harry Potter within your grasp, and honestly think I came here for you?’ She had though, Harry now realised. She had seemed so defeated earlier having complete faith that Snape had discovered her true identity.
Tonks herself conceded that exact point, even if reluctantly. ‘At first, yes.’ Snape snorted as if mocking her for every believing she could have been that important. ‘There is only one other thing I can imagine Severus Snape having to look for, however, and I have no desire to see you find it.’
‘Of course,’ Snape’s lips twisted in distaste. ‘The little resistance of which you are, no doubt, a prominent member.’
Tonks glowered darkly. ‘Don’t insult me by acting as though this is the first time the thought has crossed your mind.’
‘It isn’t,’ Snape scoffed, pulling haughtiness around him, ‘but you can rest assured that, having found you, I have no need to search any further.’
Tonks drew her wand defensively. Snape appeared markedly unconcerned at facing the tip of one belonging to an old Auror. ‘So you were looking for it?’
Snape lifted his chin. ‘I believe I made that clear already.’
‘And you dragged Harry with you on what basis?’ Tonks demanded. ‘I find it hard to believe you didn’t plan to just use him as a last ditch effort to hunt us all down. You-Know-Who must find your repeated failure very tiresome.’ The thought obviously gave her a moment malicious glee that passed quickly. ‘And if by some miracle what you say is actually true, then you can’t have had any more than a suspicion, and if you had been wrong…’
‘But if you had been!’
Snape stepped threateningly closer. ‘You forget, dearest Nymphadora, that my wand is one of the few still remaining that is permitted to cast an Obliviating spell.’ He had constructed an icy veneer of cold disdain that didn’t just suggest, but forcefully listed all the other spells he was also permitted to cast. Harry shuddered. ‘I could have defended myself, and Potter both, against any misunderstanding. This is more than I credit to you, with your righteous air and empty threats.’ He slapped the tip of her wand aside with a careless gesture.
‘Then explain it.’ Tonks demanded again.
Snape cast Harry an irritated glower. ‘Since being here Potter has shown, time and time again, that he cannot be trusted unattended.’
Harry’s objections were swallowed by Tonk’s spiteful reply. ‘Unattended whilst you need see to you precious Master’s wishes, correct?’
‘You believe it a better plan if I just sit and wait for the Dark Lord to come looking for me?’ Snape matched her, looking at her questioningly, inviting an alternative.
‘There are more important things than your life now, Snape.’
‘No, there are not.’
‘If you go you risk exposing Harry.’
‘If I don’t go the risk is much higher,’ Tonks looked doubtful, but didn’t argue, fussing over Harry although she seemed almost fearful to even look at him. ‘I can evade the Dark Lord’s presence in my mind, but only provided he believes he has nothing to look for. If he ever decided I was hiding something he would rip my mind to shreds in order to discover the secret. Then, if I was lucky, he would kill me.’
‘So you’re just going to walk willingly into his presence?’
‘Yes.’ Snape pulled himself upright, the action appearing to bolster him into actually leaving, drawn as he was between the call of the Dark Lord and the confrontation. He took a deep breath, apparently not finding the words he wanted with it and taking another. ‘I should not be gone for more than an hour. Any longer and I suggest you take Potter and hide.’
‘You’re really leaving him with me?’ Something approaching admiration flickered behind Tonks eyes, although it was still tainted with scepticism and uncertainty. ‘What’s the catch?’
‘You must be out of practise if it took you this long to ask, but there is none,’ Snape didn’t seem to want to trouble himself with sounding sincere, which was fine since Tonks apparently felt looking as though she believed him was an inconvenience. ‘You would not normally, or ever, be my first choice. However up until a moment ago, there was still the possibility I would have to leave him to fend for himself. Were it not for the mitigating circumstances I would not have even considered approaching you until I was sure I had reason to trust you.’ Tonks snorted at the idea that the trust had to come from Snape. ‘The issue of who you turned out to be is irrelevant.’ Snape’s tone descended into boredom. ‘Please do try to ensure he doesn’t run into trouble.’
‘That’s it?’ Tonks sounded distinctly unimpressed. ‘What about my trusting you?’
‘I really am not fussed either way,’ Snape said with heartless honesty. ‘And it isn’t a matter worth much consideration. So before you think of using this as an opportunity to save Potter from my evil clutches, remember that I am the one with all the power and all the influence. It would not take much effort on my part to find you again, and I would likely be most displeased when I did.’
‘Reduced to threats are we now,’ Tonks chuckled emptily as Snape frowned. ‘Don’t worry; Harry will be safe and sound when you return. And don’t you think that you’ll be getting rid of me that easily when you do.’ Harry glowered, feeling as though he were being used as some sort of barter by each of them to gain the upper hand and have the final dig.
‘I don’t need a babysitter,’ he said firmly.
‘It is that or I shall lock you back in that cellar you seem so attached to until I am ready to return,’ Snape smiled coldly as he said it and Harry almost invited him to go ahead.
‘Look, just go.’ Tonks gestured for the door. ‘If what you say is true, then your being late isn’t a good idea either, and Audrey will be returning any second. I’ll deal with her, and we will all be waiting for your return like a happy family.’ Her voice had dipped once again into contempt and Snape grimaced, but nevertheless made for the door, pulling it open sharply before pausing in consideration before he spoke, his words grave and weighted.
‘Should Draco Malfoy enter the store, or should you even notice him walking the streets, I recommend you and Potter both hide. Return to Grimmauld Place if you must, but do not let him see you.’ Tonks nodded in reply and her expression was serious and lacking the previous hatred it had contained.
‘You should know he was in here earlier then, not long before you both arrived.’ Snape frowned at her words. ‘The shop is normally his last port of call before he returns to the school, as he likes to use our Floo connection.’
‘Then it is highly doubtful he will visit again,’ Snape didn’t seem to even be able to comfort himself with the words. ‘But still, do not let your guard down.’ The door slammed closed, the bell tinkling again in the awkward silence as Tonks just stared at Harry. He smiled nervously, holding himself back from throwing himself at her just to verify that she was still real and was still here with him, one person who would not only look out for him, but would do so without hating him for being there. Tonks suddenly let out her breath with a whoosh as she smiled in return and patted his hand in reaffirmation.
‘I seem to be a bit behind the times,’ she said in light mocking, earning herself a forced laugh in reply. ‘You should probably pull up a stool yourself then, since no doubt it will be a long story. Hopefully Audrey will remember herself and bring that ruddy tea before we both die of thirst.’
‘I don’t know much myself,’ Harry said apologetically as the first of the customers started to filter warily back into the shop.
‘Then perhaps if we tell each other what we know, the picture will start to look a bit clearer for both of us.’
‘He is here, my Lord.’ The large room soaked the words up eagerly, demanding more in the silence that followed. Heavy curtains hung across the high windows, blocking the few straggling rays of sunlight that managed to pierce through the dark clouds. A tiny pattering sound filtered through occasionally in warning of the heavy rainfall that was to come.
‘You are certain?’
‘Most definitely.’ The speaker bowed again, lower and slower to rise so that the rest of the sentence was delivered deferentially to the cold stone floor below. ‘He ran into me in Diagon Alley.’
‘He is early then. I assume that would be your fault.’
‘I am unsure as to exactly what happened. The principle behind the transference was a mere theory at best, and not one that was even fully explained to me; there may have been outside influence. The chain went around his neck though; everything beyond that was uncontrollable.’ The feeble excuse was rewarded as the pale green light of the Cruciatus Curse sped towards him, leaving him panting desperately on the ground, his failed legs buckling beneath him. ‘Do you wish for me to bring him to you?’
‘Not yet.’ Voldemort sat back thoughtfully, translucent skin standing starkly against the rich hangings of the ornate throne in which he sat. ‘There is still much he could uncover for us. Let him believe, for the moment, that he is safe from me.’
‘As you wish, My Lord.’ He pulled his shaking body to its feet, staggering only slightly before he was dismissed to leave.
‘Our plans have not changed, however,’ Voldemort called as the figure reached the door, his trembling hand closing around the handle which sprung to life under his grasp, long ago charmed to turn for those who may not have the strength to do it for themselves. ‘They will merely have to be pushed forward. I trust you remember what I expect of you?’
‘Every detail, my Lord,’ he bowed his head again as he turned back to his Master. ‘I am honoured that you still consider me worthy for the task.’
‘You have always been loyal,’ Voldemort said softly. ‘And for that I would not deny you the reward of seeing everything I have worked so hard for come to fruition.’ The voice was victorious in anticipation. ‘I shall quash this last remaining thread of rebellion, and you will help me. And then, when they are dead and the world is finally pure, finally the way it was intended to be, I shall build an empire more magnificent than anything you could dream. The traitors will be found.’ The words seemed to light the very room with determination as they declared that this was the way things were going to be, and that nothing would stand in Voldemort’s way.
‘Thank you, Master. I will not fail you.’ The figure bowed again before slipping silently away.
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