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Chapter Twenty-Two

Harry felt the man throw himself into him. He realised too late that the man was a Death Eater, and he pressed a Portkey of his own into his hand. His own Portkey pulled him home, towards Grimmauld Place, but the other was stronger and was taking him somewhere else entirely. He felt his own Portkey wrenched from his hand and himself thrown through space.

There was a distinct crack as he landed on the ground and a shot of pain up his left arm informed him that he’d broken it. Harry forced himself into a sitting position and examined his arm. It was clearly broken and incredibly painful to move. Next to him, lay a Death Eater, unconscious.

This was an odd situation, Harry found himself thinking. He had no idea what to do. He was sitting next to an unconscious Death Eater, with a broken arm, who had brought him to the gates of Hogwarts, during the midst of a battle at the Department of Mysteries. There was no way that wasn’t suspicious.

Using his one good arm, Harry ripped off the Death Eater’s hood and turned his face so that he could see the man who had brought him here.


The one man he had no idea whether or not he could trust. Should he awaken him and demand to know what on earth he had been doing, or should he leave him there and enter Hogwarts alone? He knew that Remus, Bill and Ron were inside there. At the same time, if Snape wanted to enter with him… Hogwarts was a particularly picky castle. Harry had heard tales of dark witches and wizards unable to enter the grounds simply because Hogwarts would not allow it.

Harry sighed. “Ennervate.” He saw nothing else that he could have done.

Shuffling back slightly, Harry watched as the dishevelled Snape awoke and glared at him.

“Very smooth landing there, Potter,” Snape growled and sat up. He pulled out his wand and pointed it at Harry, who was beginning to think that waking Snape had been the wrong decision. Harry already had his wand pointed at Snape and several rather nasty curses on the tip of his tongue.

Snape smirked. “Don’t be a fool. I needn’t have brought you hundreds of miles just to kill you. Give me your arm, cretin.”

He waved his wand quickly over Harry’s arm, and it mended in an instant, leaving an odd tingly feeling running down it.

“Thanks,” Harry muttered.

“Now get me inside that castle,” Snape demanded.

Harry raised an eyebrow. “You really think I’m just going to happily walk in there with you? You don’t think that Hogwarts might prevent the person who killed its last headmaster from entering?”

“Potter, the castle knows damned well that I was acting upon Dumbledore’s orders that night. Even if you refuse to believe it, there is no denying the truth,” Snape snarled and hauled himself to his feet. “Hogwarts will not let anyone who is not a current student or member of staff within its boundaries without one of the aforementioned, however, so get up and get walking.”

“What do you intend to do once you’re in there? Why would you want to get back into Hogwarts?” Harry pushed.

Snape rolled his eyes. “Why do you think I want to get in there, Potter? The Dark Lord has taken a recent liking to torturing people he believes to have had anything to do with the not too recent disappearance of his beloved snake. He can’t get to me whilst I’m in there, so shut up and prevent more pain on my part!”

“So you managed to get rid of it then?” Harry asked as he got to his feet.

“Of course. Do you presume me entirely incompetent? Though the potion you sent me left much to be desired, I must say.” Snape walked towards the castle gates, ahead of Harry who trailed behind somewhat.

“What are you going to do once you’re inside?” Harry asked cautiously. “It is still term time, so the school’s still crawling with students.”

“I’m going to hide,” Snape announced. “You are going to provide shelter for me inside that school somewhere, I neither care where nor how, and I am not going to be found until I wish to do so. I will have access to the entire school, should I need it, and the ability to find Minerva McGonagall, should the need arise. In short, you’re going to protect me from Voldemort, which I know you love doing for people so much.”

Harry frowned slightly but did not object. He reached out and opened Hogwarts gates easily and passed through. Snape followed him, strongly expecting to be thrown back through the gates at any moment, but he wasn’t. The school trusted him.

It wasn’t every day that Harry was sneaking around his old school, followed by his most hated of professors from the past, whilst hiding from Remus Lupin and two of the Weasleys. Then there was the matter of avoiding Minerva herself, Filch, Mrs Norris, the prefects, any students who might be up and about, and of course, any other member of staff.

Somehow, the two of them managed to get up to the seventh floor without having been seen or chased by Mrs Norris. Though it had not been the easiest of tasks; more than once, Snape had almost got the two of the discovered by telling Harry just what he should have gone and where he should be going when someone was passing them.

“I hope you’re not planning on hiding me in Gryffindor Tower,” Snape sneered. “I fear I might stick out rather badly in there…”

“I know where I’m taking you,” Harry told him and walked on towards the Room of Requirement.

He managed to get a room for the past Potions master which would alter to what he needed it to be when he wanted it. It had no access to the Horcruxes stored in there, but the Horcruxes could be accessed by Minerva when she needed them. All in all, Harry thought he’d done some good requesting from the room.

“I don’t quite know how you’ve managed this, Potter, but it will suit my needs,” Snape said as he stepped inside the room which had been created, and the door disappeared into the wall behind them as they entered.

“What do you plan on doing now then?” Harry asked as he sat down on the edge of a chair.

“I plan on remaining well hidden, whilst avoiding morons such as yourself and developing some kind of strategy to keep you from being murdered the next time you meet the Dark Lord,” Snape said icily. “Your chances of staying alive are quite low at the moment. Alas, there are so many people we can throw between you and the Killing Curse, so I’d get thinking on how to stay alive, if I were you.”

“But the Horcruxes—” Harry began.

“—are not enough to kill him alone. Even if you destroy all but him, then you still have to kill Voldemort himself. Short of getting the entire Order to gather around him yelling ‘Avada Kedavra’ then you’re not going to get anywhere fast,” Severus said. “Now I suggest that you leave before I kill you first. You’re starting to get on my nerves…”

Harry rolled his eyes and walked out of the room without so much as a backwards glance. It wasn’t as if he’d expected reams of thanks from the man, in fact, if he’d actually thanked him Harry might have laughed hysterically for some time, but still… some kind of recognition or cease of hostilities might have been nice.

He walked quickly down the corridor until he heard a spell cast softly behind him and felt his feet fly out from under him. Harry couldn’t help but wonder why Snape was magically hauling him back down the corridor to his room, moments after he had told him to leave it.

“Get over here, Potter,” Snape hissed at him as the door slammed shut behind him. Harry sprawled on the floor in a daze, not quite understanding what was going on yet. “Now!”

He managed to stagger over to where Snape was standing. They were by an open window, one which Harry was sure had only materialised there because Snape wanted to see outside into the grounds. The waning moon lit the area well, and Harry could easily see the figure which stalked towards the castle with an arrogant gait a little too familiar to him.

“How did Malfoy get in here?” Harry muttered and glanced up at Snape.

“He’s a student, or should be. The fact that he left last year isn’t stopping him getting back in now, however,” Snape explained. “What is infinitely more pressing at the present is just what he wants at Hogwarts.”

“Well he’s clearly using what’s going on at the Department of Mysteries as some kind of decoy to get in here,” Harry said, “but there’s nothing in here that he could want, is there?”

Or was there? Malfoy had been inside his own home when it had been destroyed by several New Order members earlier in the year. He may well have known what had been stolen from them, even if he wasn’t aware quite what its significance was. The Hufflepuff cup was a Horcrux, though Harry was reasonably sure that the Malfoys would not have displayed it so prominently in their home had they known. Which meant that he was simply trying to regain what was previously his. Which was not going to happen.

“Your Occlumency well reflects the failure you are,” Snape said idly, as he watched Malfoy get closer to the castle. “Though that does seem like a good reason for Malfoy coming to the school. There’s just one fine point, if Voldemort realises that Malfoy was not inside the Department of Mysteries, which he will, then he will want to know why Malfoy was not there. When Malfoy cheerfully informs the Dark Lord that he was going after Hufflepuff’s cup, then Voldemort will realise that your Order are taking Horcruxes. He’ll realise that several of them have already gone, and that only one, aside from himself, will remain.

“Clearly, he’s going to protect that one all the more strongly, which means you’re going to have to get hold of it, and very, very quickly.”

“But the potion…” Harry reminded him.

“Has three weeks left of brewing, I know, but you can hold the Horcruxes safely in the castle until then. If you don’t then you’ll lose that one to Voldemort forever,” Snape told him. “Now what on earth are you waiting for? Get out there and tell Minerva that her school is about to be invaded by an irate Malfoy.”

As he spoke, a fireplace sidled over and stopped just by Harry. Floo powder sat on top of the mantelpiece. It was all as convenient as Harry could have wished it to be, and without a moment’s hesitation, he staggered through the flames into Minerva’s office, where he found Remus, Bill and the owner of the office.

“Harry!” Bill cried and leapt to his feet the moment he fell through the fireplace. The other two occupants of the room were fast to get to their own feet and cross the room to their new addition once they saw him.

“What are you doing here?” Remus asked, and cast an eye along Harry’s torn robes and the blood soaked arm, where he had lost part of it to a redactor curse. It was only then that Harry realised that Snape had healed that and any other wounds he had acquired also.

“Malfoy’s trying to get into the school,” Harry said, not bothering to answer Remus as he moved to the window. Sure enough, the four of them could see from there that Draco Malfoy had almost reached the main doors to the school and was intent on just walking straight in and finding what it was that had been taken from him.

“What do you think he wants?” Bill asked cautiously.

“The Horcrux,” Minerva answered instantly. “I want him prevented from entering the school, by Aurors preferably. Bill, get Tonks and Kingsley over here, or one of them at least if they’ve not all yet returned from the Ministry. Remus, make sure that Harry’s not been injured. I’m going down to meet Mr Malfoy with whichever other staff I can gather with me.”

And with that, she was gone. She left the room through the door, as Bill almost ran through the fireplace in his haste to get to Grimmauld Place.

“Really, Remus, I’m fine,” Harry sighed as Remus cast spells over him, checking for wounds, magically inflicted or otherwise. “I healed them myself.”

“Not particularly well though,” Remus said, turning over Harry’s previously broken arm. There were marks where the bone had jolted through the skin, which was likely to form an ugly scar. Just another one to add to the collection.

“I’m hardly a Healer,” Harry said with a slight smile. “Where’s Ron?” He had realised for the first time that Ron had been told to stay with Bill and Remus in the school. Yet there was no sign of him and Harry had not seen him since he arrived there.

“He was particularly displeased about not having been able to go to the Department of Mysteries with you,” Remus said slowly, choosing his words carefully. “There was some arguing and he was sent back to Grimmauld Place, which right now sounds like a good idea for the two of us.”

“Don’t you want to see what happens here?” Harry asked, peering through the window into the darkness. The front doors were closed, and there was no sign of Malfoy or any of the teaching staff.

“I’m not entirely sure, but if Minerva wants Aurors then I don’t want you here,” Remus said determinedly and pushed Harry towards the fireplace before he could say another word.

There was some arguing, on both their parts after that. Remus trying to get Harry to leave through the fire and Harry trying to persuade Remus to stay there and see how things unfolded. Eventually, Harry won and the two sat around nervously, the conditions being that Harry would not leave the office, unless Minerva desperately needed their help.

Downstairs, Minerva was wishing that she’d taken Harry and Remus with her. Having sent a message to every member of staff in the school whom she could think of in a moment’s panic, she entered the Main Entrance Hall to find Draco Malfoy stood waiting for her.

“There is no welcome for you within these walls, Draco,” she said quietly. “You are a valued spy for us, and for that we cannot give enough thanks, but despite this I, and the school, ask that you leave.”

“I will not leave, there is something in the school which is mine, and my family’s, and I will not leave until I have taken it back,” he told her, defiantly. “You must return Hufflepuff’s cup to me.”

Footsteps echoed down the corridor; people were running towards them, though neither of them knew how many. Malfoy knew that he had to act fast if he was to obtain the cup from Hogwarts. He had expected Minerva to stand against him, but he hadn’t anticipated that she could gather a small force against him in so short a space of time. She had had virtually no warning of his coming at all.

He had not gone directly against Voldemort’s orders for nothing, he couldn’t have. If he didn’t return with the cup then he would have failed for nothing. Voldemort had strictly told him that he was to remain at the Department of Mysteries until everyone else had gone, but if he didn’t arrive there until later because he was running his own errand that night then he was sure that the Dark Lord would forgive him that at least.

The small problem was that he had absolutely no idea where it would be kept. The most likely location was within McGonagall’s own office. That was to where he would set off; he was confident that he could guess the password and from there he could Floo back to any place he could, just to get out of the building.

He opened his mouth as if to say something to the headmistress and took off at a sprint past her, amid her yells and curses to stop him. The Felix Felicis was working like a charm, her spells skimmed over his shoulders, easily missing him. He ran up the stairs to her office, after shouting an array of likely words at the gargoyles at the foot of the tower. A little too predictable really, ‘phoenix’ being the password in.

They were gaining upon him though, he could hear their yells of confusion and determination from behind him. He was sure that he recognised one of them as the voice of Flitwick. He flung himself through the doorway and found himself faced with Lupin and Potter. Malfoy’s eyes scanned the room in an instant, but there was no sign of the cup. Even as he ran for the window, his summoning spell failed to bring him the artefact he had come there that night in search of.

He had failed. Even with all the luck that a potion could bring him, he couldn’t escape the castle, not alive. Not when faced by two more people in the same room as him, already casting curses at him, and the staff running behind him.

In one last defiant move, Malfoy threw himself through the window. Shattered glass flew backwards at his attackers, magically propelled towards Remus and Harry. The former of the two threw up a shield faster than anyone else could have reacted, but they didn’t move in time to prevent Malfoy from escaping.

He had taken a school broomstick, and was flying away from the school on it, fully aware that the gates would not have opened for him a second time. They could easily have caught him on more superior brooms, but there was no need; Malfoy was of no further concern to them, and was no threat. He had failed in taking what he had come to the school for, after realising in an instant that the cup wasn’t in the headmistress’s office, it could have been anywhere else in the entire school and he did not have the means to locate it.

It had taken all the luck in the world to ensure that he had not been captured or killed that night, but Malfoy was on his way to the Department of Mysteries, at least in the knowledge that Potter was not where they had been told he would be.

“Well that was nicely done, all of you,” said Phineas coolly from the wall. “Good work, letting him escape like that. You’re really on your toes.”

“Shut up, Phineas,” Minerva muttered. “At least no one was hurt and he took nothing from the school.” She turned to the assembled staff to thank them for their time and their effort, though in the end it had not really been needed.

“I’m surprised he didn’t throw a good curse or two at us, to be honest,” Remus said once the staff had returned, grumbling, to bed. Harry nodded slightly, his mind in thought about why Malfoy would have taken such a risk, even though most of the Order was at the Department of Mysteries still. It was clear that Tonks and Kingsley were both still there, as Bill had never returned with them. Minerva wearily sent him a message not to bother and that the crisis had been averted.

“I don’t think he cared about us being here,” Minerva said. “He wanted to get the cup and get out. He didn’t think it would be anywhere but prominently displayed in my office, so he clearly isn’t aware of its true value. It’s a matter of Malfoy pride.”

“Then he wasn’t sent here tonight by Voldemort,” Harry said. “So who does he work for?”

“Not for us, that’s certain,” Minerva said. “I think he’s doing what the Malfoy’s have always done, when not too cowardly – he’s going his own way and doing what he thinks will benefit him the most. He wanted that cup back, and letting us know about the Department of Mysteries tonight got us mostly out of the way for him to go get it, but he wouldn’t take it to Voldemort. I don’t think he poses any danger to us.”

“I think it really is time we returned to Grimmauld place now, Harry,” Remus said, clearing away the glass on the floor with a wave of his wand.

Harry silently nodded, wondering whether he should have told either of them that Snape was living inside their castle. But if Hogwarts itself didn’t mind Snape being thee and he wasn’t about to cause any trouble or problems then he could stay there for the time being. He would just have to ask Dobby to keep an eye on him the next time he was there. It was with much weighing on his mind that Harry returned to the house in which he lived.

“Go on then, tell us what happened,” said Ron, once he appeared through the fireplace and managed to pull away from a very worried Molly Weasley. It was only when Mad Eye appeared opposite him holding a Portkey that Harry realised that he’d meant to be with him at all times. He wondered whether Mad Eye had realised where he’d gone, or whether he was going to start asking questions about the Death Eater that tackled him with a Portkey.

Still, it didn’t look like he was going to have the chance to answer any of Moody’s questions, at least not that night; Ron and Hermione seemed to have enough questions to keep him talking for a good few hours longer as it was.

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