"You think he's in a snake?" Tonks looked around at the faces in the Headmistress's office, frowning when Harry, Hermione and Professor McGonagall all nodded in succession. "I don't suppose a sturdy cage to contain him will suffice," she added, skepticism lending a sour note to her voice.

            "Not unless it can keep him from biting or possessing one of the Aurors," Harry said. "I'm not sure, but I think if you're close enough to capture Voldemort, he's close enough to possess one of you. Not that I can figure out how that would work."

            "You're not the only one who's curious," Tonks said, crossing her arms. "How is it possible that he can possess a snake, let alone that he has the strength to come after one of us? I thought he'd been nearly destroyed years ago." She turned to Professor McGonagall. "When you said Professor Snape is trying to return him to strength, I thought you meant he had a human body—albeit a weak one. I spent all of last night trying to figure out how we were going to overpower him when that may not even be necessary."

            "I would not underestimate his strength or resourcefulness," Dumbledore said. His eyes met briefly with Harry's before he spoke again. "Voldemort may be in a severely weakened state, but he was uncommonly powerful in the past. And, as Harry stated, at some point he may be in close enough proximity to possess one of the Aurors. Every available precaution must be taken."

            She frowned deeper at this, her bright pink hair turning a deep shade of brown within seconds. "We all have training against this sort of thing, of course, but it's not as if Voldemort is a common dark wizard. The Ministry tried in vain to catch him for years before, and now—" She broke off, looking from Harry to Dumbledore.

            "Now, he's only a few short steps away from being able to use his powers again," Harry said. "It may only be necessary for one of you to take on Snape, but you'll need a few people, at least, to capture Voldemort."

            "You will have my full support," Professor McGonagall said.

            "As well as mine," Dumbledore added. "I also have assurances from Shacklebolt that Sirius will be here within a couple of hours, along with Robards. While Sirius is not a trained Auror, I do believe his defensive skills are sufficiently up to par."

            Harry perked up at this mention of his godfather, torn between wanting to speak to him again after so long and wanting to stand next to him and fight Snape and Voldemort. "What about Lupin?" Harry asked. If there was any other Order member he wanted to see at that moment, it was his father's other best friend.

            "Remus?" Dumbledore asked. "I haven't been able to get in touch with him, but I don't believe he'll be needed. With at least two trained Aurors, myself, your godfather and Professor McGonagall, I'm sure we can figure out a way to trap Voldemort while he's still in snake form. He may still be powerful, but he won't be unstoppable."

            "And if he manages to possess one of us?" Tonks asked.

            "The rest of us shall deal with it accordingly," Dumbledore said in a soft voice. "You received top marks throughout your training, I'm sure you know what that means."

            She nodded at his cryptic words. "I hope it doesn't come to that."

            "Come to what?" Harry asked. As both adults turned to him—Tonks with a forbidding expression, Dumbledore, passive—Harry knew he was no closer to getting an answer to that question than if he'd just guessed.

            "Better if we do not discuss it," Dumbledore said. "That is why I want to make sure you and the other students are far away when the time comes. After lunch, Professor Snape is going to lead Auror Tonks to wherever Voldemort is hiding. In the meantime, Professor McGonagall and I will organize the teachers into getting the students out of harm's way, perhaps in the Great Hall. Yourself included, Mr. Potter."

            "But, I want to help," he said.

            Dumbledore nodded as if expecting the answer. Indeed, after viewing several years worth of memories, he knew the comment was as practiced to Harry as was Dumbledore's immediate negative response. This time, the feel of Hermione's hand in his did nothing to quell the sense of disappointment Harry felt when he recognized that he would not be allowed to participate as they took his stepfather off to Azkaban, he wouldn't even be close enough to watch.

            "You'll see the results of your help at the trial and no sooner," Dumbledore stated flatly. "In the meantime," he turned to Tonks, "you have one more brief mission if I'm not mistaken."

            She nodded. "I can catch up with Professor Snape after lunch, once we have the other children and Lily taken care of. If he thinks he's speaking to Harry one last time, he may give us a little more information. Then I can arrest him."

            "You make it sound simple," Harry put in. "It's not as if he's going to go quietly."

            Tonks frowned at his words. "I am trained to handle dark wizards, Harry. I hope I haven't given anyone else here reason to believe I can't handle this," she said, her eyes drifting over everyone in the office.

            "I’m sorry," Harry said immediately. "I didn't mean to imply that you don't know what you're doing, but—"

            "Harry's just anxious to see everything done," Hermione finished for him. "We know everyone is prepared to handle whatever may happen. We just want you to be careful."

            "Yes," Harry said. "Speaking of being careful, what's going to happen when we go to lunch? How do I know he won't try to pull me aside beforehand to get the Key instead of cornering me alone after?"

            "Auror Tonks can watch when all of you are outside," Dumbledore said.

            "She doesn't have to," Harry said. "He won't hex me in broad daylight in front of three people, especially my mother. I'm more worried about Snape attacking me before we get there. I'd be surprised if he sat with us at all. He disappeared instead of eating lunch with us last week. She'd be better off following him if he does it again."

            "Your mum wants to sit down and speak with both of you together," Hermione reminded him. "She won't let him disappear during lunch."

            Harry nodded, remembering the statement his mother had made about wanting the two of them to get along, assuming Harry himself needed to make the effort. It seemed so long ago, and so much had happened since, it was surreal to think how much further his life—and his mother's life—would change within the next few hours.

            "Besides that," Tonks put in, "Professor Snape has plans to meet with Voldemort this afternoon and will not try to approach you until after that time. I am hoping to draw him into a private conversation after we get an idea where Voldemort is hiding on the grounds and capture them both separately. He will not try to do anything to you before he gets final orders from Voldemort."

            "What if he tries to hurt you when he thinks you're me?" Harry asked.

            "I can handle him," Tonks responded. "Other Aurors will be close by. No one will get hurt today. I'll see to it."

            "So will I," Harry added.

            "No, Mr. Potter, you won't," Professor McGonagall said. "You are going to let the Aurors do their job. You only need to sit with your family at lunch and try not to provoke Professor Snape today. We'll need you in the Great Hall no later than three this afternoon. I expect it will all be over before sunset."

            "And then we'll just have to explain things to my mother," Harry said. "I don't want to do that. I mean, I know she has to know what 's going on, but she actually loves that—"

            "I will speak with Lily," Dumbledore said. "I promised her an explanation for what happened to your father and I will be the one to make sure she gets it. She will not blame your feelings towards Professor Snape for his arrest today."

            Harry nodded. While the Minister and Professor McGonagall were both sure his mother would eventually understand, he knew from experience that support from someone he loved in a difficult situation could be neither expected nor taken for granted. He was starting to learn the hard way that loving someone—in his mother's case, the wrong someone—was a complicated and unpredictable business. He knew he was doing the right thing. He knew the man she was married to didn't deserve his mother's love. But he didn't know for sure what it would take to get his mother to see past her knowledge of her son's prejudice and into the heart of the truth.



            "I don't want you to do this," Hermione whispered. She placed a hand on his sleeve before he could pull out one of the glass vials, squeezing as he tried to move beneath her grip.

            Harry looked over at her, frowning when his gaze was met with a familiar determined expression. "I thought you said you weren't going to argue with me."

            "That wasn't going to last forever," she responded. "You have to know this is wrong."

            "What I know is that Bellatrix Lestrange is on her way to Azkaban and Snape is going to face punishment one way or the other. I intend to help." He glanced over to where Tonks sat on a bench several feet away. Disguised as a student, Harry knew Snape would never suspect who she really was, but that also made it difficult for him to carry off his own plan. That, and Hermione's insistence on doing "what's right." Where was Snape's sense of right and wrong when he began slowing poisoning James Potter right under his wife's nose?

            "They won't let me join the arrest party," Harry said, "but that doesn't mean I can't contribute something." He released the vials back into his pocket and pulled out of Hermione's grasp. "Plan B is here just in case."

            "Plan B means you never intended to follow the instructions we were given this morning," Hermione said. "You promised you wouldn't put yourself in harm's way again."

            That was days ago, long before he realized he would ultimately have to give his life to fight Voldemort. Knowing that a confrontation with Snape would not likely lead to any permanent injury gave Harry a resolve he wouldn't have had otherwise. He couldn't tell Hermione this, of course. She'd only accuse him of being reckless. He'd argue with her that Snape deserved what was coming, and they'd have one of the arguments that he wasn't exactly missing from his past life.

            He turned to her and put one hand over hers under the table. "I'll make you this promise now. I will not get directly involved in his arrest unless it gets out of hand."

            Hermione snatched her hand from under his. "What kind of promise is that? You'll never know if it gets out of hand unless you're there to watch." She frowned. "Which you're not supposed to be."

            Harry sighed. "No one will see me. I'll have—"

            "Professor McGonagall has your Invisibility Cloak," Hermione said. Harry swore under his breath. "She's hidden it in her office somewhere. She figured you might try something."

            "That's not going to stop me," Harry said.

            "I figured as much," Hermione whispered. "I was just hoping you'd take a lesson from all of those memories you've shown me. If you listen to the people who are here to protect you, everything will work out."

            "Dumbledore was there to protect me for years and Voldemort and his followers kept coming closer and closer to killing me," Harry reminded her. "Now he tells me that's supposed to happen at some point."

            "He did not say You-Know-Who is supposed to kill you."

            "And," Harry continued. "How do I know he didn't deliberately let him get close to me a few times just to see what would happen? Everyone noticed Professor Quirrell was acting a little off the entire school year. Professor Moody was on a list of strange people going around my fourth year. He wasn't even talking to me most of my fifth year when Voldemort kept getting into my head and he knew exactly what was happening. Snape was the one who let me in on that secret. How do I know he's really around to protect me and not to see me fulfill my destiny or some rubbish like that?"

            Hermione looked briefly startled by this accusation, but said nothing. She merely pressed her lips together and folded her arms over her chest, looking out over the courtyard as Harry continued to speak.

            "Hermione, you didn't hear him yesterday. You didn't see him. He was telling me all the facts, yes, but the way he reacted when I asked if he wanted me to let Voldemort kill me—he didn't even answer the question. He changed the subject."

            "Because that's ridiculous!" Hermione exclaimed, turning back to him. "Why would he want You-Know-Who to kill you?"

            "Maybe because he thinks Voldemort will die at the same he kills me. Is it so far-fetched to believe that's why he doesn't want me involved today? He can't let me get hurt now because he has to save me, and Neville, for slaughter?"

            Hermione shook her head. "I can't believe he'd do that. You heard him, he wants to protect you and Neville as long as possible before the inevitable."

            "He also wants us to let Voldemort come back into a human form at some point so we can have our battle," Harry said, recalling their conversation from the previous day. "It's possible to kill him while he's in snake form, but Dumbledore doesn't want us to do that. Why? It would probably be easier on both me and Neville to at least try that first. And it has to be one of us, the prophecy is clear about that. You wondered why Dumbledore had that huge notebook of information on Voldemort with a lot of information on how he could come back to human form. He had instructions for it. Why would the Minister of Magic need that?"

            Hermione gasped. "Harry, you're not saying—"

            "You nearly suggested as much yourself last week."

            "Yes, but that was before—"

            "That was before we found a cure for the curse and he told me about the prophecy. Think about it, Hermione. When his notebook went missing, he sent Magical Law Enforcement inspectors looking for his notes, but didn't assign one Auror to the case permanently. I could ask Tonks, but I'm sure nothing about the notebook ever came through her office. He had to know Voldemort's supporters would be the only ones interested in those notes, but he didn't get anyone with the training to handle them involved. You read the Daily Prophet. He just let everyone think it was high security documents or something and they searched the homes of Ministry employees."

            Harry began ticking off points on his fingers. "He knew Snape was a spy in Voldemort's camp. He probably has a whole list of former Death Eaters he could've had investigated based on information Snape gave him years ago. He knew Snape hated my Dad. And now he knows Snape created this horrible curse and is working on getting Voldemort back into a body and he's taking the longest time possible to arrest him for it."

            "That's because they want to see him go to Azkaban on the evidence," Hermione said. "Professor McGonagall and everyone, I mean."

            Harry nodded. "Yes, that's what Professor McGonagall wants. You can tell it's killing her to be patient about this, but she is. Dumbledore, I'm not so sure. I don't think he expected me to ask too many questions about the prophecy. Neville certainly wouldn't have. I also don't think he expected the Harry he met last week to be quite so involved with what's going to happen to Professor Snape. How do I know he didn't want this to happen? How do I know he's not letting Voldemort's supporters get information because he knows it's going to lead to an end to the whole thing? How do I know who's side he's on?"

            "Harry!" At Hermione's exclamation, Tonks looked over from her bench. Hermione grabbed Harry's arm and lowered her voice as she spoke again. "You can't be serious. He's been helping us. I can't—I refuse to believe he's setting you up to die. You or Neville. He cares about you. He—"

            "He cared about my parents too in this life and the last and look what happened to them," Harry said. "You aren't stupid by any definition, Hermione. I had a lot of time my fifth year to think about what exactly Dumbledore has done to help me. You may not have all of my memories, but you've seen enough of them to notice the pattern. Everything I did, everything I got in trouble for, everything I uncovered when you and Ron and I were sneaking around the school—Dumbledore knew what we were up to and not only did he do nothing to stop it, he encouraged us, behind closed doors, of course."

            Harry continued, stopping Hermione's attempt at an interruption. He was beginning to relish the one time he'd be able to outtalk her. "He gave me my father's Invisibility Cloak first year. He knew I'd be able to get the Stone after he let me look into the Mirror of Erised a few times. He even explained to me how it worked. He rewarded me after what happened in the Chamber of Secrets."

            "Because you saved Ginny's life."

            "Because I know Parseltongue," Harry said. "Which he knew I had in common with Voldemort, The Heir of Slytherin. He didn't even turn Lucius Malfoy in for giving Ginny that diary. He probably knows more about me and Neville than we know about ourselves, but do you think he'll tell us? No. He'll wait until we get into some life or death situation and he has no choice. Even then, he's always said just enough to keep me from asking more questions. He's exactly the same in this life. He was only honest with me yesterday because he isn't used to dealing with me being so…"

            "Forceful?" Hermione suggested.

            "Yes!" Harry responded. "Didn't you say I'm far more aggressive than you're used to? I think that's why he wants me to think about going back. The other version of himself had a much more rigid control over the situation, whereas here, he has no way of controlling me directly. I've got Professor McGonagall on my side and I've seen and done things Neville can't even imagine. Neville will not willingly face Voldemort, especially once he knows it will probably lead to his death."

            "But you have a fighting chance," Hermione said.

            "Yes," Harry agreed. "But is that what Dumbledore wants?"

            Hermione was silent for a few moments as she let that sink in. "I really don't want to believe he'd set you up that way."

            "Believe this then," Harry began. "I know for a fact that he knew what was going on in my past and there's a strong possibility he manipulated a great deal of it because of the prophecy. What Dumbledore believes is good in relation to the prophecy could very well get me killed. I will fight to protect myself against him and those kinds of ideas as much as I will fight against anyone who supports Voldemort openly. You don't have to help me with it, but it would be best if you don't get in my way."

            "I will," Hermione said. "Help you," she added at Harry's quick frown. "I don't want to believe Dumbledore could lead you to your death on purpose." She put a hand on Harry's arm as he started to interrupt her. "But, I'll help you survive in whatever way I can."

            "Thank you," Harry responded. He turned his arm over on the table and let her hand slip into his.

            "That doesn't mean I support you giving Professor Snape a dose of that potion," she said quickly.

            Harry shook his head. "I know. It's enough that you won't stop me."



            At the sound of someone clearing their throat, Harry pulled away from Hermione, fighting down a blush as he looked up to find his sister and mother standing on the other side of the stone table. Raven was grinning as she watched them separate while Lily stood with her arms crossed before her, her expression unreadable.

            "Mummy says you're in trouble for that," Raven said, coming around the table to hug her brother.

            Harry laughed as he pulled her into his arms and covered her small face with kisses. "I wonder if I'll get in trouble for this, then," he said as Raven laughed. Hermione's smile matched his as she watched him tickle his sister, broadening when Raven came to her for a hug as well.

            "Isn't Professor Snape coming?" Hermione asked as Raven sat between her and Harry.

            Lily nodded. She took a deep breath and Harry knew she was holding back something. Probably because Raven was sitting there. "He'll be here very soon. I think you realize the four of us need to have a serious discussion," she said. "We may even need to get your parents involved, Hermione."

            Hermione nodded, but said nothing as she looked at Harry. He knew it was bothering her that his mother hadn't learned the truth yet, but as long as she believed her son and his girlfriend had been under a strict punishment courtesy of Professor McGonagall, Snape wouldn't be suspicious of that trap that was being laid out carefully for him that very moment. Harry didn't want to let on that anything unusual was going on. There was no way he wanted to be responsible for anything going wrong later.

            "There are some things we need to talk about," Harry began. Hermione's head whipped around towards him, her eyes widening. "The punishment Professor McGonagall put us on—"

            "Was temporary," Lily finished. She nodded at Harry's surprised expression. "She spoke to me about it briefly." Lily closed her eyes for a moment and took another deep breath. "She told me not to be too harsh on either of you and that there would be a full explanation later. I can't say that I believe there will be sufficient explanation for this after the talk we had last weekend," she sighed, "but I am willing to believe Professor McGonagall doesn't think too harshly of you after whatever you've done."

            "She doesn't Mum, but it wasn't because of something I've done," Harry said.

            "Then what, Harry? Why did she force the two of you to spend most of the week in her office?"

            "I—well, really it was my fault," Hermione said, drawing Lily's eyes away from her son. "I had convinced him to help me with something." Hermione looked away from Lily as she continued her lie. "We lost track of the time. When Professor McGonagall found out we'd been out of our dorm—"

            "Until all hours, as I heard from my husband," Lily supplied. "Forgive me, but I don't think you're telling me the truth, Hermione. After what took place last year, and after I defended your behavior with my son to your parents, I would hope you'd respect me more than to lie to my face."

            At Lily's words, Hermione lowered her eyes to the table and pressed her lips together in a contrite gesture. Harry reached over and squeezed her hand. He could appreciate how difficult it was for her to lie to his mother, but neither of them was really in a position to tell her the full truth at that point.

            "Mum, we really aren't in trouble for doing anything serious," Harry said. "Professor McGonagall isn't even upset with us. She—"

            "She's letting you off punishment, then?" Snape said. Harry winced at his sister's loud squeal of delight as he watched his enemy take the seat next to his mother across the table. "Strange, I expected she would wish to keep you there until long after you regretted your actions. Unless you've somehow convinced her you're truly going to change your ways this time?" he asked silkily.

            Harry frowned but forced himself to not respond as he took in Hermione's gaze out of the corner of his eye.

            "She's partly convinced she overreacted," Hermione lied smoothly. "We'll both be glad to return to our normal class schedules next week."

            "I'm sure your teachers will be delighted to have you back, Miss Granger," Snape said. "I've certainly noticed a lull in my lessons without your presence."

            "Thank you," she said, smiling at his bland expression.

            "I would still like to know the nature of the offense," Lily said. "I can't believe she would do something so harsh over a small incident that amounted to nothing."

            "Your son is a special case," Snape said. "Perhaps Minerva felt the need to give him special treatment instead of, say, a month's worth of detentions like he might have deserved."

            Lily frowned and tilted her head slightly as she regarded her husband. "Well, as our responsibility, I thought you said you would look out for him more. You know how worried I've been."

            "Yes, worried because he can't control his impulses, Lily," Snape responded. "I can't force him to grow up any more than you."

            Lily gasped. "Well, I can't—"

            "Mum, Sn—Professor Snape, would you mind changing to a more pleasant subject?" Harry put his arm around his sister then in a bid to remind both adults they were starting a loud argument in her presence. Raven had been following the entire conversation with all the curiosity of a child her age. If Harry remembered correctly, the sight of her parents arguing was having an effect that would manifest itself later.

            Lily cleared her throat and then turned to her husband, a small fake smile on her face. "How about drinks, Sev? It's warm out here."

            He nodded and then waved his wand briefly over the table, producing bottles of butterbeer for Harry and Hermione, a glass of soda for Raven, a glass of pumpkin juice for Lily and mulled mead for himself. No sooner had his drink appeared on the table did Snape pick up the tumbler and toss it back appreciatively, refilling the alcohol with a quick flick of his wand as his wife watched disapprovingly.

            Silence lay over the table for a few minutes until Hermione cleared her throat and asked about Bathilda Bagshot.

            "Her doctor's say she is doing considerably better under the circumstances," Lily said. Her voice sounded tired suddenly. And sad, Harry thought. "She's still got a long ways to go before she is able to live on her own."

            "An excuse for you to stay on?" Snape asked in a low voice.

            "I like living with Madam Bagshot," Raven said. "She's always giving me candy."

            Lily smiled at that. "And you've been good not to spend all day every day eating it," she responded, ignoring her husband's comment.

            "Can we see the unicorns before lunch?" Raven asked. "Last week you said there were some baby ones here we might be able to see. Please?" she begged, stretching out the word until her mother gave her a genuine smile.

            "Sev, would you mind walking her over to the forest? I'm not sure where Professor Hagrid is at the moment. You might have to take her a little ways in yourself."

            "Aren't you coming with us Mummy?"

            Lily began nodding almost before her daughter had finished the question, looking to her husband for confirmation. Their discussion was far from over, even Harry could see that, but without a word, Snape stood and helped his wife from the table, holding out his other hand to his daughter as they prepared to leave.

            "This shouldn't take long," Lily said over her shoulder to Harry and Hermione. "We'll have lunch when we get back."

            As they reached the edge of the courtyard, Tonks watched them walk into the building, her eyes shooting back to where Harry and Hermione sat at the stone table. After a few more seconds of hesitation, she got up and followed the three at a discreet distance, leaving Harry and Hermione alone in that section of the courtyard.

            "Thank goodness for my sister," Harry began.

            "Why is that?" Hermione asked.

            "I had no idea how I was going to do this with her sitting right next to me," he responded, reaching into his pocket for a glass vial. When he pulled the container of clear liquid from his pocket, Hermione frowned and crossed her arms, but said nothing. She watched as Harry poured a measure of Snape's drink onto the ground, replaced it with the potion, then performed the necessary transfiguration on it to make it undetectable.

            "I know you think it's wrong," Harry said, correctly interpreting her continued stormy expression. "I won't do it unless I think he's going to get away. With Voldemort on his side, there's always that chance."

            "There's a chance a lot of things could be happening, Harry. You can't take extreme measures for all of them."

            He nodded, knowing that if Hermione had been forced to experience even half the memories she'd watched, let alone if she had been the target of all of those attacks, she wouldn't be able to preach to him about his personal virtue being in jeopardy. The only thing that mattered was protecting his life. If it took a dose of his own potion to defend himself from Snape, Harry was more than willing to do that.



            Harry couldn't stop the smile that sprang to his face as he watched Professor Snape refill his cup for the third time. Surprisingly, the man could hold his liquor well. But that wasn't what was making Harry so happy. Judging from the looks Hermione was giving him, she knew exactly what that was.

            "Something on your mind, Harry?" Lily asked. She'd caught his smile too and answered it with one of her own.

            "Nothing," he said. "I just realized how beautiful today is. And how much better everything is going to be from now on."

            "How touching," Snape said. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you learned how to brew a Euphoria Potion. Remind me to get the secret to natural oblivious happiness from you later, Potter."

            Lily's eyes narrowed on her husband's face as she took in his address and harsh tone towards her son. Frowning slightly, she pushed her plate into the center of the table and touched her napkin to both corners of her mouth. "I couldn't eat another bite."
            "I could eat more pie," Raven said.

            "I'm sure you could," Lily said, "but it'd be best if you saved a little of your appetite for dinner. Why don't we all walk off that amazing meal on the grounds?"

            "We can't," Harry and Hermione said together as Professor Snape indicated his own unwillingness to go.

            Lily looked at them all in surprise.

            "I—we have an assignment to finish," Hermione said lamely.

            "You can always do that later," Lily said.

            "Yes, but we left some of our things in Professor McGonagall's office," Harry said. "I don't know when she'll be around so we can get them later. I think she mentioned being busy all day tomorrow." He looked at Hermione for help.

            "Yes, she…we have to get the rest of our books moved out because she's got a lot to catch up on after spending so much time with us this week," Hermione babbled. "Plus, I just know my Arithmancy essay alone is going to take the rest of the day. Never mind the Herbology assignment."

            "You'll have to help me with that one," Harry said immediately, feigning a worried expression. "They're giving us so much homework to prepare for our O.W.L.s, Mum."

            She nodded and her eyes dropped briefly. "I get it, Harry. You're busy. I can see you before I leave tomorrow."

            "It's not that I don't want to spend time with you." He stopped, seeing the small fake smile she reserved for when she was hiding her true feelings. Snape's eyes narrowed at both Harry and Hermione.

            "I understand," she said tersely. "We'll talk about it later." Lily turned. "Sev? Why aren't you walking with us?"

            "I have a few things to take care of. I'm sorry that it can't wait," he added before she could say something. "Perhaps I can meet you in my office in a couple of hours?" He nodded his head across the table. "Besides, I think our daughter is more ready for a nap than a walk," he added.

            As soon as he pointed it out, Raven let out a yawn so big she nearly slid from the bench.

            "I suppose I could take her to your quarters to lay down for a bit instead," Lily said uncertainly. "Are you sure your plans can't wait?"

            "I'm sure I want to get it out of the way so I can spend the rest of the weekend with you," Snape said smoothly. "Unfortunate that I couldn't take care of it this morning, but—"

            "Take care of what?" Harry asked.

            "Adult business," Snape responded, his voice lowering. "I think you have enough to worry about without getting involved in my affairs."

            "Harry, we should go," Hermione said, tugging him from his seat as she stood herself. They both waited long enough to receive goodbye hugs from his sister before Hermione dragged him into the building by one hand, practically shoving Harry up the stairs in the Entrance Hall. By the time they made it to the gargoyle guarding the Headmistress's office, Harry was favoring the stitch in his side he'd gotten attempting to keep up with Hermione's brisk pace.

            "Is there a reason we had to run all the way up here?" Harry asked as Hermione gave the password.

            "You want to know what's going on, don't you?" Hermione asked. "I think Professor McGonagall left the Marauder's Map up here earlier. We can follow Professor Snape's progress from here. If he's really going to see You-Know-Who right now," she said, stepping onto the staircase as it began to move, "we can see if he's close enough to the castle to possess you or Neville. At the very least, we can see the Aurors approaching to capture him."

            "Then it'll just be a matter of waiting for Snape to be arrested," Harry said.

            "Yes," Hermione said as they entered the office. "The rest of it is only a matter of time."

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