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    Chapter One
    The Best Laid Plans


    Harry rose from his spot on the ground, taking with him Lily’s eyes that Severus had so wished to be the last thing he would see before he departed from this world. He wanted to beg Harry to stay with him just a moment longer, just until he slipped from this world for good, but his throat had been ripped away and his voice along with it.

    Severus watched from behind still, glassy eyes as his three former students left his presence for the last time. Convinced that he was dead, they had left him without saying a word or bothering to shut the door behind them. The room was quiet, silent to the bone, and he was completely alone.

    The heavy metallic smell of blood became overpowering, and the vivid red color took over his vision. The deprivation of his human senses forced him to turn to his own thoughts, the last place he wanted to find himself. Was this really where it all had lead to? All the loss of human life just so Potter could be offered up as some sort of sacrificial lamb to Lord Voldemort? And who was to say it would even work? Even the best laid plans could have their flaws. Even the great Albus Dumbledore was capable of being wrong. Had Lily’s death been worth it all?

    Would she be the one to greet him when he finally crossed over, whenever that would be?

    Severus breathed in deep and sighed, despite the sharp pain it caused him. He closed his eyes and waited for the darkness, or the light, or whatever it would be to take him away.


     

     









    “CLEAR!”

    With a sudden jolt, Severus felt every muscle in his body begin to convulse, a sensation similar to being stabbed with thousands of needles felt over his entire body. This was what happened when a person died? He had never heard this near-death experience told before. Once the initial blow subsided, Severus swore under his breath, an action that brought an even worse pain to his throat.

    “Okay, he’s back,” the same voice informed. “You can start driving.”

    The ground under him shifted and Severus felt himself begin to move. The sudden jerking motion caused him to groan, leading to more doubts about what happened to those who crossed over to the other side. Even after the needle-like pain had faded away, a sharp pain still existed in his throat, refusing to subside. When he reached his hand up to touch it, he felt a thick gauze wrapped around his neck, nearly soaked through with dried blood. Then another hand reached for his to pull it away from the wound, and brought it to rest back at his side.

    Finally, Severus opened his eyes and found himself looking up into a human face. Slowly things began to shift further back into focus, and the face above him became more defined in shape.

    The soft features of a young man stared back down at him, a concerned look pressed onto his face. Chestnut-colored hair fell messily over his eyes, standing out in icy-colored contrast against the tanned coloring of his skin. He seemed almost familiar somehow, but he was most definitely not Lily.

    He tried to clear the jumbled thoughts, and for a moment felt completely lost. Of all the stories he had been told about near-death experiences, what was happening now did resemble a single one of them. He felt almost cheated.

    “Professor Snape?” the young man asked, making sure to enunciate his words very clearly. “My name is Elliot Rogers. I’m an Auror-in-training. Do you know where you are?”

    It took a few more moments of though, but it finally dawned on Severus where he recognized this Rogers-character from.

    Elliot Rogers? Severus thought to himself. That jelly-spined little Ravenclaw who could be frozen with fear with a mere glare? How on earth did he manage to become an Auror-in-training?

    He vaguely remembered Elliot as a student: small and squeamish, always looking as though he was trying to hide inside his own robes. Severus did recall that he was also one of the few who had dared to brave his N.E.W.T. level Potions class. Though Severus usually prided himself on his excellent memory of his students, the outstanding and the mediocre, he couldn’t quite recall what kind of student Elliot Rogers had been. Most likely nothing that was worth remembering anyway.

    What was becoming very clear to Severus was that he was still alive. Through some kind of miracle or sick joke, he had survived a planned attempt on his life, and now lay flat on his back, very much still a part of this world.

    “Mr. Rogers…” Severus gasped, despite that piercing pain it caused in his throat. “From Ravenclaw…”

    “Oh, so you do remember me!” The young man seemed to almost laugh, despite what Severus felt was a highly inappropriate time to do so. “I wondered if you would. And I wouldn’t try to talk anymore until we get a Healer to look at that wound.

    “Here,” Elliot said, and handed him a notepad and a pen, “you can use this to communicate. Now, do you know where you are?”

    Severus winced as he turned his head to survey his surroundings. From what he could tell, he and Mr. Rogers were the only passengers. Had he not felt the movement of the engine starting, he may not have known they were in a vehicle at all. Lined up like a hospital ward was bed after bed, though each was dust-covered from disuse. There was only one logical answer to the question: the Knight Bus.

    What he didn’t know was how this was possible. The Knight Bus driver had been arrested, the transportation had been out of service for more than a year, the numerous trouble in the world far outweighing the need to hire a new driver; and yet, here they were, speeding through the streets of London. The kid behind the wheel, swerving and flashing hand gestures at the passing cars, barely seemed old enough to drive at all. Yet there was no mistaking where he was, especially when the drive decided on an impulsive left turn, sending all the beds crashing sideways into one another.

    The Knight Bus, Severus wrote in his small precise handwriting once he recovered from the sudden jolt.

    “Good,” Elliot breathed a sigh of relief. “When you went into the Shrieking Shack and got away from me, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure you were going to make it.”

    But I died, Severus wrote on a fresh sheet of paper. I felt myself going.

    “Yeah, and you had me really worried when I finally found you,” Elliot agreed before reaching into his coat pocket and pulling out an empty vial. “Thank Merlin for this little beauty here! Who would have known that whole ‘stopper in death’ speech on our first day of Potions could actually be useful in real life?”

    Severus clenched his jaw as Elliot laughed at his own joke. This new, more arrogant attitude did not suit Mr. Rogers at all. At least not in a way that was to his liking. He preferred the little boy who would quake at the sound of his voice. Oh, if a viper had not just ripped his throat out, the tongue-lashing he would have given him.

    His thought process was soon interrupted again, however, by another sudden jolt caused by the slamming breaks. And in accordance with the laws of physics, the beds all jerked forward, not as quick to stop as the vehicle that carried them. Elliot actually toppled of the edge of the bed, onto the floor, to which Severus rolled his eyes.

    “End of the line!” the strange driver called out. “Everybody off!”

    “Everybody, that’s us, Professor.” Elliot jumped to his feet, shaking the dirt off his robes as the doors opened. “Can you stand up?”

    Nodding, though the action caused even more pain, Severus pushed himself up off the bed and tried to force himself to stand. He struggled with every shuffling step, even with nearly all his weight supported across Elliot’s shoulders. Nevertheless, very slowly, the two men did climb off the bus into the fog-thick night. Across the streets and sidewalks, Elliot led Severus to the only lit structure on the street: a brick building with “Robin Arms” written across the doorway in neon lights.

    “I’m afraid we’ll be slumming it in a Muggle hotel tonight. We'd be idiots to go anywhere you might be seen by someone who could possibly report you to You-Know-Who.”

    Quite certain he would not be able to write and continue to stand at the same time, Severus mouthed the question Healer? How would he be able to be a Healer if they couldn’t be exposed to any other wizards? Mr. Rogers certainly hadn’t seemed to think his little plan through very well.

    “We aren’t going to be able to go to St. Mungo’s, Professor,” Elliot explained, as though Severus were daft for not having figured this out for himself. “Maybe you haven’t noticed, but there are people out there who want you dead.”

    Severus found this statement entirely unnecessary, and not in the least bit humorous. People had been wanting him dead his entire life; he didn’t need his former student joking about it.

    “Consider yourself lucky, Professor,” Elliot went on to say, opening the hotel doors ahead of him. “You’re probably going to be getting your first house call since the nineteen fifties.”


     

     









    “I hope you know how fortunate you are, Professor Snape,” the Healer lectured as she applied new bandages to Severus’ wound. “Surviving a wound like this—we should be crying over your grave right now.”

    There had never been a time in Severus’ life when he had longed for his voice as much as he did right now. He didn’t know how much more of this condescending talk from people he could remember as eleven-year-olds he could take. Judith Logan: yet another old student of his, a Gryffindor, was now also holding his life in her hands as she examined every little puncture Severus had for signs of an injury that could result in his death.

    Either way, he doubted anyone would cry over his grave, least of all this arrogant little Gryffindor.

    Judith had also been former student of his N.E.W.T. Potions class, but at lot more cocky than even the newly arrogant Elliot could have ever hoped to have been. Time certainly didn’t seem to do much to change that attitude either. The way she spoke in that condescending manner as she gave him instructions was the exact tone she had used to talk back to him whenever he had criticized her in class.

    “Alright,” she said, finally satisfied that Severus wouldn’t drop dead the moment she left, “you’re going to need to keep that wound covered for at least a week, and change the dressing every day. That pain you have when you try to speak should be gone now, but I would still hold off on any heavy conversations for at least a few days. Use that notepad for the rest of the night, just to be safe.

    “Follow my instructions,” she finished her little speech, packing up her medical satchel, “and you should heal up nicely. I’m sure that Mr. Rogers will be more than happy to help you.”

    Severus shot them an irritated glance. Did they really think that he needed instruction on how to take care of his injuries? Elliot shifted slightly where he stood, revealing a small trace of the more timid student that he remembered. Judith, however, simply snorted at the glare and rolled her eyes.

    “Relax, Elliot,” she directed at her former classmate, not even granting Severus eye contact as she spoke. “We aren’t students anymore, and he’s not our Potions professor. He has no authority over us.”

    Clearly uncomfortable with having the conversation in such close proximity to their former teacher, Elliot gestured for Judith to join him in the darkened entryway of the hotel room. Even in the shadows and with their hushed voices, Severus was able to gain a vague idea to the tone of their conversation. Elliot stood alert, occasionally shifting his gaze back to Severus, as though he were afraid they would suddenly be ambushed, either by Death Eaters who had followed them, or by Severus himself.

    Judith, on the other hand, seemed more annoyed than anything else; she had been pulled out of bed in the middle of the night to make a house call from who knew how far away. It was also abundantly clear that any past respect or fear she had held for her former professor was long since gone.

    The two seemed comfortable speaking with on another, though; the way Elliot touched her on her shoulder, and the way they stood so close together as they spoke. They had to be more than just casual friends for Judith to risk her life to run out in the middle of the night to treat a man whom the Dark Lord desired dead. Both of them had been in the same year together, though he couldn’t quite remember if they had been friends. As well as Severus could remember a student’s academic achievements, he had never been the type of professor who took a vested interest in the personal lives of his students.

    With a quick hug around Elliot’s neck, Judith departed out the door. Severus heard her footsteps move swiftly, as though she could not leave the building fast enough. Elliot listened to the footsteps for a few moments until they faded out of range.

    “Okay, Professor,” he sighed and turned back to Severus, attempting to shirk his once jovial attitude now that his former classmate had left. “I imagine you have a lot of questions right now.

    “Well, the plan was originally that I was supposed to infiltrate the school disguised as a student, which I did. And then I was supposed to have the Carrows see me do something worthy of being sent to the Headmaster’s office, and believe me, I had something good in mind.”

    The presumptuous declaration grated on Severus’ nerves. He’d seen his share of pranks played within the corridors of Hogwarts, and he doubted that this unimaginative excuse of a Ravenclaw would have thought of anything that extraordinary. Not to mention that the Carrows had started taking the discipline of students into their own hands, rather then let him have much of the fun. It would have to needed been a very major breach against Hogwarts statutes for the case to be taken to him.

    “Once I got to you office, I was to lock the Carrows out, and create a very loud, but not visible, scene. Then I was supposed to ‘kill’ you, transport you off school grounds, and make it look like the work of a rogue rebel.

    “Of course, as you probably already know, before I could put it all into action, you had already left for the Shrieking Shack. When I found this out, I ran about as fast as I could. Whose brilliant idea was it to keep people from Apparating on school grounds anyway?

    I’m sorry my school had to enforce basic safety measures and inconvenience you! Severus thought to himself. If he remembered correctly, the evening had not been exactly pleasant for him either.

    “And by the time I got there, you were pretty much hanging on by a thread. When I saw all that blood on the floor, you not breathing, and that creepy dead-fish eyes look on your face, I thought you were a goner. But then I remembered the Blood Halting Potion I had with me. Did I mention that you really need to keep giving that ‘death-stopper’ lecture for the rest of your teaching career?”

    Once again, Elliot chuckled at his own rhetoric. Severus did not return the smile. He didn’t find this funny at all.

    “Once the blood flow stopped,” Elliot continued, clearly not shaken by any of Severus’ nonverbal, but imposing tactics, “I was able to Apparate to the Knight Bus stop. After I got you on the bus, I was able to perform a Revival charm, and that’s about when you woke up.”

    And what is all this? What is happening to me? he scrawled quickly. He wanted answers, not a bedtime story praising this overgrown prat’s wondrous rescue of him.

    “For now, Professor Snape, it’s easier for everyone to just continue to believe you are dead,” Elliot explained to him. “The planning for this operation began months ago. We had to pull a lot of strings, but we were able to get you into the Ministry’s Witness Relocation Program. A lot of the spots in the program have been going to Muggleborns lately, so that they may flee the country. But in recognition of your past services which apparently I am not entrusted to hear the full details of, you have earned a spot in the program.”

    If he’d been able, Severus would have sat up with a jolt. The Witness Relocation Program? Were they expecting Voldemort to win the war after all? Or was it that no matter the outcome of the war, there would be people after him? He’d been more than convincing in his role as Death Eater. He’d killed Albus Dumbledore, after all. Not to mention the cruelties heaped on the students of Hogwarts during his short tenure as Headmaster, despite all the abuses his post had allowed him to prevent. He doubted it really mattered what side he was on. He’d made enemies on both. Never one to be forgiving of the past actions of others, Severus did not expect others to forgive him for his.

    “The only catch is that you have to leave tomorrow morning,” Elliot confessed. “We need to get you out of here as soon as possible.

    “Please understand, Professor. What would you be facing by not leaving?” Elliot appealed to his former professor. “Even if You-Know-Who is defeated, any of his followers would more than likely shoot you on sight, regardless of the outcome of the war. And with all these crimes on your record, how much more merciful do you believe his opposition will be on you? What will either side do when they find out that you escaped him?

    “It’s not like you’re going to be doing this alone, Professor,” Elliot told his former teacher, speaking cautiously as though trying to sympathize with Severus was more dangerous than laughing at him. “There are agents here, agents where you’re going; there’s going to be a whole system of support to help with the transition. And once you’re established in your new identity, even though those around you won’t know the whole truth, they’ll still be able to help you in any way you need.”

    Severus sat silent, he face seemingly devoid of any expression. He had never been used to people wanting to help him. A lifetime of needing to rely on himself had made him reluctant to accept help from anyone. And many times, when help had been offered to him, it would always be little more than an attempt to use him, or would come back to bite him in some other way.

    “I’m going to sleep,” Elliot stated nonchalantly as he curled up on the sofa, clearly wanting more than anything for the conversation to end. “Night, Professor.”

    With a wave of his wand, the electric lights in the room extinguished and Elliot fell asleep almost instantly.

    Severus, however, stayed awake, not moving from his spot on the edge of the bed. All that had occurred tonight was happening all so fast. The Ministry’s Witness Relocation Program, the possibility of Britain being ruled by Lord Voldemort, and now he truly would be running away from it all. He spent the next many hours staring at the ceiling, sleeping continuing to evade him.

    He was thankful, though, that Potter could not be around to see this; to gain proof that Severus really was running away, that he was a coward.
     

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