Home | Members | Help | Submission Rules | Log In |
Recently Added | Categories | Titles | Completed Fics | Random Fic | Search | Top Fictions
Romance

Of Debts and Debt Collection by Anastasia [Reviews - 3]

<< >>

Would you like to submit a review?

Disclaimer: No fame, glory or money made here. It all belongs to JKR.

AN: Thanks for all of your reviews. All are appreciated and, frankly, prompt me to post more. Extra sparkly thanks to Ariadne. May her quill always be sharp.




Severus had to reach out to grasp the doorknob as the last three stairs were missing. He had barely opened it halfway when the world exploded with green light, the top of the door blasted outwards, and he was thrown backwards off the stairs to the ground.

Some part of Severus' dazed mind registered that Draco had run up the stairs and into the house.

Severus could only see a haze of deep green as his eyes struggled to refocus. He angrily threw a large piece of the door aside, and held his hands to his eyes. He heard Draco's voice shouting spells from inside the house, explosions, and the crashing sound of falling debris. Severus had barely succeeded in sitting up when the window directly above him blew out, sending a white spray of pulverized glass to rain down onto him.

Ignoring the fact that his sight was nothing more than a liquid blur, Severus Summoned his wand and struggled to rise. Using the shouting as a guide, he approached the stairs and looked up. He could make out two shapes in the hallway by the light of flying spells, flooding the area outside the door with shades of green and red. Before Severus could make his way up, he heard Draco scream “Avada Kedavra!” and was struck by something heavy, knocking him back down the stairs to the ground.

Shoving a body off of himself, Severus stared up to see the distorted vision of Draco's face come into view.

“Sorry about that," Draco said in a pained voice and panting for breath. He tilted his head as he asked, “Can you see anything?”

Severus scowled as he stood, saying, “Nothing much - just my entire life.”

Using his foot to turn over the tangle of robes lying on the ground, Severus shook his head and said flatly, “Goyle”. He noted that it was clearly insulting to have been almost killed by one of the slowest-moving humans ever to blight the wizarding world. Severus knew if it hadn't been for the missing stairs and Draco, he'd certainly be dead.

Severus didn't bother disguising his impressed expression as he observed Draco standing before him.

Draco glanced towards the empty doorway and said, rubbing his legs, “When I joined, Mother arranged dueling lessons for me over the summer. We covered the Unforgivables - of course.”

“Indeed,” Severus said, nodding slowly. “I meant what I said, Draco. She was quite an intelligent witch.”

Draco nodded, not exactly happy to have killed one of his classmates' fathers. “I failed her when facing my father. I just couldn't…”

It took Severus a moment to find words. “It's not the same - faced with someone you know, never mind your own blood.”

Draco looked uncertain as he stared down at Goyle's body. Leaning over, Draco gripped his right thigh, as if testing it. His face cleared, and then, pointing with his wand towards the house, he stated, “It's not far inside - if you're ready?”

Shaking glass out of his robes and hair, Severus nodded.

They climbed the stairs once more and entered the darkness.

---------------------------------------------------------------

“Lucius?” a crouched figure said hesitantly from the doorway. His short fingers drummed nervously on the splintered wood trim, ready to withdraw if threatened. He had learned to approach Lucius with care, as his mood swung more violently since he had broken out of Azkaban. Daring to disturb him had become a dangerous undertaking, one best avoided. While the Dark Lord's orders were that Lucius guard the Horcrux, he had instead spent all of his time sitting in one of the drawing rooms and ordering Wormtail around.

“What do you want, rat?” Lucius said with disgust, swirling his glass before taking another drink. Even though it was the middle of summer, he sat by a roaring fire that had taken Wormtail most of the day to build. An empty bottle of Firewhisky lay on the floor, and evidence of another, which had met an unfortunate end, littered the hearth.

Lucius turned just enough to reveal an expression of a disturbed mind. One that could turn violent with the slightest provocation and even less reason.

“The wards have been breached,” Wormtail said, cringing in anticipation.

Gritting his teeth, Lucius stared into the fire and simply asked, “Where?”

Wormtail began to move slowly into the room, holding his shaking hands up around his face. “I am not sure. I heard noise coming from the west side of the house just now-”

Lucius sat up suddenly and twisted around in his chair. “Who is with the Horcrux?”

Wormtail remained silent, his eyes round with fear.

Lucius threw his glass to shatter in the fireplace, and the flames flared upwards to touch the mantle. He shoved himself out of the chair, rushed across the room, grabbed Wormtail's collar, and shook him, shouting, “WHO?”

“Macnair,” Wormtail managed to croak out.

“THAT'S ALL? Have you no sense, you wretched excuse for a human? You never leave your post! UNDERSTAND?” Lucius yelled, twisting Wormtail's robes tightly, sending a flood of color rushing up through his face and into his scalp.

Trying to regain his composure, Lucius growled, “Where is Goyle?”

When Wormtail didn't answer immediately, Lucius screamed, “ANSWER ME!”

Wormtail shook his head in a frantic, jerking motion, gasping, “I - I don't know...”

Lucius yelled in frustration, threw Wormtail down, and stalked out of the room.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Severus and Draco moved quietly through the dimly lit hallway, trailing their hands along the raised paneling on the walls as a guide. Severus had developed a headache, either from being half-blinded or thrown more than ten feet - twice. As they moved along, he noticed that the floor flexed under their feet and hoped that it wouldn't completely give way. A part of his mind did think it would be highly amusing to simply come crashing through the floor into the basement and pretend it was all a clever plan.

“Here,” Draco whispered, placing his hand on a door recessed into the paneling.

Severus looked suspicious. Wonderful, another door. He took a moment to observe, and noticed the door opened outward. He glanced at Draco in the dim light and whispered, “Trust me?”

When Draco nodded, Severus motioned for him to stand next to him along the wall. He then swung his arm and violently pounded on the door. The sound of someone running up the stairs could be heard growing louder. As the door opened partway, Severus moved quickly and kicked the door back shut.

He smiled evilly as they heard the satisfying sound of someone cursing as they fell back down the stairs.

At the stunned look on Draco's face, Severus shrugged and said with a smirk, “Far more entertaining this way.”

Severus threw the door open and cast Lumos as he descended. Lying in a heap at the bottom was a furious Walden Macnair in the process of righting himself. Before he could recover, Severus Petrified him, effectively preserving the perfectly murderous look on his face.

Draco descended slowly, gripping the handrail.

Watching Draco rub one leg, Severus said, “Adrenaline does wondrous things - until it wears off.”

Draco shrugged and motioned towards the top of the stairs. “Only Wormtail is left.”

“I have learned never to assume,” Severus said, listening closely for any more arrivals. “There are more; of that I am certain.”

Severus scanned the room. He could see that it held nothing more than a few tables and the same wooden chest he had seen in Bella's mind. He knew that in order to destroy the Horcrux he would need to be fully engaged and unable to help should anyone else arrive. He looked back at Draco, who was sitting on the steps and trying his best to avoid showing any pain. Severus knew Draco would have trouble holding anyone off, let alone the one he was certain was in the house - Lucius.

Severus looked at Macnair, and then asked Draco the question he had asked his mother just days ago...

And a perfectly evil grin spread on his face at the answer.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Lucius' anger was beyond words. Even rage was an inadequate description, as he was past the upper limits of any sane person's range of emotion. He muttered under his breath as he walked in long strides towards the basement, clenching his hands into fists. His robes flew out behind him as he stalked, whipping against the wall whenever he turned a corner.

Reduced to lording over complete imbeciles. Sad excuses for wizards who can't even guard a simple Horcrux. If the Dark Lord loses this one, he will certainly kill me… The only one left lies directly under their noses where they'll never look…

Cowering in the darkness behind him, Wormtail followed, cringing whenever Lucius' voice rose as he muttered. Wormtail massaged his neck while he ambled along, and drew his wand, intending to destroy whoever dared come after his master's property. He hoped it was either Draco or Severus - or, even better, both. The excitement at possibly delivering them to the Dark Lord rose in him again. His dark eyes glittered while he kept his distance from Lucius, who had just pounded his fist against the wall, shaking large amounts of dust loose.

Turning the corner, Lucius seemed to forcefully compose himself as he neared the basement door. He snapped his head towards where Wormtail stood several feet away, and, pointing his wand at him, hissed, “Do not fail me, you miserable wretch.”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Severus levitated Macnair's Petrified body to the top of the stairs and explained to Draco what he should do if anyone should approach. “I will need to concentrate to destroy the Horcrux. It is extremely Dark magic, and if I am interrupted things could get - let's just say interesting. You must hold off anyone else who may be alerted to come here. Can you do that?”

“Absolutely,” Draco said, without hesitation.

“My orders still stand. If I give the word, you leave. Understood?”

Draco nodded, but Severus could see in his eyes that he would not abandon him. Severus noted that, while Draco looked just like his father, he had the heart of his mother, and that was what mattered.

Severus approached the chest, waved his wand, and watched as it slowly opened, revealing the statue of a bronze eagle. It shone with the power of its own reversal of light, vibrating, emitting a low, undulating droning. Taking a deep breath, Severus looked around the room, noting which objects in the room could become lethal debris should the Horcrux escape his control. Each Horcrux, he found, was different, in that the magic protecting them had become more complex, possibly because they were created at different points in Voldemort's life. Considering his record to date with the process, he thought it was better that Draco was not aware of how it usually ended.

Severus closed his eyes, raised his arms, and began to murmur the incantation. The eagle rose, brightened in color and slowly rotated in the air, frozen in a pose with its chest thrust out and wings thrown back. Each wing curved outward as if straining in flight, each feather separated by invisible wind. As the eagle's color intensified, the droning sound rose, becoming wilder in tone, wavering, deepening.

Points of light erupted from each feather's tip, cutting through the darkness. Trying to avoid staring into the bright light, Severus instead watched the shadows on the wall. Slips of parchment circled on the floor next to the wall, driven by a soft wind that had risen, slowly building in intensity. The circling soon slowed and the papers lay down. The wind, however, had not slowed; rather, it rose higher, swirling Severus' robes around his legs.

Severus had begun to believe that the destruction of this Horcrux might actually go well when he noticed something odd about the shadow.

When he dared to look up at the Horcrux, his eyes widened at what he saw.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Draco was mesmerized, watching as Severus worked to destroy the Horcrux. When he heard footsteps approaching, he was shaken out of his trance and stood to press his ear to the door. Quickly, he released Macnair from Severus' spell, and then whispered, “Imperio.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

When Lucius reached for the door, it opened on its own and Macnair appeared. Macnair closed the door behind him again, the poorly lit hallway hiding the strange glaze in his eyes.

Lucius relaxed considerably, but remained suspicious, “Where is Goyle?”

“I think he went to the west side to check where the wards were breached,” Macnair said in a slightly odd voice.

Lucius motioned to Wormtail. “Go check on him.” He watched Wormtail shuffle away down the hall, his feet leaving long, uneven stripes through the dust on the floor, then turned his lit wand back to Macnair. Lucius tilted his head, examining Macnair's eyes. “Everything in order - is it?”

“Yes,” Macnair said, positioning himself in front of the door.

“I would like to see,” Lucius said sternly, with narrowed eyes. He moved his wand along the floor around them, illuminating where there were several sets of footprints in the dust.

The expression on Macnair's face transformed from cordial to deadly in an instant. “I don't think that will be necessary... Malfoy.”

“What-” Lucius started, but was interrupted when Macnair raised his wand.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Draco listened at the door and gritted his teeth as he listened to his father speak. When he heard Macnair attack him, a grin spread on his face. The destruction must have been tremendous; he heard shouting and explosions travel down the hall and into another part of the house. When silence fell, Draco gripped the door knob and took a deep breath.

In his heart, for all the wrong reasons, Draco hoped it was his father who survived.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

When Severus shielded his eyes and looked at the eagle, he was stunned to find that its wings were moving. At first, he thought his eyes must have betrayed him, but not only was each wing flexing forward, the statue itself was steadily growing larger. The eagle's head moved as if it was struggling against an invisible force while the circle of magic carried it around in a lazy circle. Suddenly, it shoved its head down and began to beat its wings, throwing blinding beams of light around the room. Severus covered his ears just in time as the eagle let out a horrific scream that echoed around the room, magnifying in volume as it raised its head.

It spun faster, battling for control; thrusting its wings downward, twisting its head from side to side, pushing towards the outer edge of reason. Severus cast a Silencing spell just as it opened its beak to scream once more. Even without a voice, its tearing cry tore through the air, infusing terror, slicing like a bolt of lightning on a clear night. It twisted, breaking free of its pose, angrily arching its back and flexing its talons.

Growing at an alarming pace, the reverberating darkness intensified, drawing the light inward, devouring it.

Severus continued to murmur the incantation, absorbed in the sight before him. The vision was of a creature in excruciating pain - being ripped apart in silence, hauntingly beautiful and wildly hideous at once.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Draco opened the basement door slowly, allowing high, arching shadows to sway across the opposite wall. With a final glance behind him, he moved out into the hall and closed the door behind him. Light bled out from under the door, illuminating the dusty floor. Draco lit his wand and swept it in either direction.

He stood, watching and listening.

The wooden floor groaned and cracked under Draco's feet as he moved, inching along the darkened hall. Holding his wand out in front of him, he tried to ignore the fact that his racing heart was making his hand tremble, moving the light in a bouncing pattern along the paneling.

Turning a corner, Draco could see that the dust on the floor had been swept in every direction, the wall scorched, and what once was a doorway torn out, leaving a gaping hole. Moving his wand to the side, Draco found the door, still closed and in its door frame, lying sideways across the hall. Smoke from the recent flurry of spells and still smoldering wood hung heavily in the air.

Suddenly, Draco's world lit up in green liquid fire. He instinctively threw himself to the floor, covering his head as part of the wall and ceiling were instantly obliterated. Draco shoved himself through the wreckage and crouched low against the wall.

The combination of darkness and silence was maddening, magnifying the slightest sound or hint of a movement.

“I don't have to miss,” Lucius drawled, stepping out into the hallway from a side room.

Draco froze. Something heavy was dragging on the floor.

“Using one of my own against me?” Lucius said casually, sweeping the light from his wand over Macnair's face, revealing the final, shocked expression common to victims of the Killing Curse.

“A poorly performed Imperius Curse, Draco,” Lucius chastised, searching the dark for any hint of where Draco was hiding. “Didn't the lessons your dear, departed mother arranged teach you anything? Look at what you forced me to do... This is all - your- fault.”

Lucius dropped Macnair's body to the floor.

"You turned your mother into a traitor," Lucius said accusingly, sweeping his wand along the floorboards - enjoying the hunt. "You might as well have killed her yourself." He laughed - softly - waiting for the rage to build - knowing exactly how to push Draco into lashing out.

Draco clenched his jaw in the dark, but said nothing as his father's footfalls echoed on the hardwood. His legs were screaming at him for staying in such a position, twitching in anticipation of the need to run - pain or not.

“What can one expect from such a waste of pure blood? I always knew you were worthless. Weak. I should bring you alive before the Dark Lord - but - maybe I think I'll just say my wand simply… slipped.”

Silence. Lucius stopped, moved out into the center of the hallway, and listened.

Draco shifted, feeling some of the blood return to his legs. He positioned his hands on the raised paneling, intent on using it to drag himself up. His father was mere feet away - he was sure of it.

Lucius grinned in the dark, lunged forward, and screamed, “Avada Kedavra!”

The spell blasted a hole in the floor directly in front of Draco, and for one, terrifying moment, he almost fell through when his legs failed to respond.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Severus looked at the top of the stairs, only to see that Draco was gone. He continued working, even as he carefully climbed the stairs backwards. He drew his wand back, took a deep breath, and cast the final spell. Immediately, violent light broke free, flooding the room in a deeply rich red haze, blooming against the light, rising to the ceiling, shuddering as it spread. Darkness swept in like cold fury, tearing through, sweeping like a cloak, blackening, spiraling rage eclipsing all light.

Running up the final few stairs, Severus slammed the door shut behind him. He quickly took in the scene before him by the light of his wand, and observed the dust on the floor, disturbed by dozens of footprints, large areas where a body must have fallen, and major pieces of the walls blown away. Looking back towards the basement door, he saw the final stage of red light bleeding from under the door and knew that it was not a good sign.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Draco ignored his legs' refusal to flex and forcefully shoved himself upright. He lurched across the hall and into a doorway, cursing to himself as he found the door locked. The light of his father's wand swung from side to side, far enough away so he couldn't be seen. Draco struggled to keep his breathing quiet, even as the light passed his way again.

Then the light extinguished.

“I would expect you to hide, Draco. After all, you are nothing but a coward. Even your wretched traitor of a mother stood and fought me, in the end,” Lucius growled from an angle which told Draco he was moving along the opposite wall.

Draco thought that his best chance would be to reach the side door to get outside where he could at least see a little. As Lucius continued to approach, Draco waited. When he could tell that his father was on one side of the wall, Draco bolted past him and ran in a lurching gait towards the side door.

Lucius screamed, “NO!” as he sensed Draco running past him in the dark. He turned and ran after him, screaming incoherently and throwing curse after curse, blasting the house into pieces.

By the time Draco reached the door and awkwardly leaped over the missing steps, his legs were starting to give out from the pain. He could hear his father behind him, casting curses, and he knew this was not going to be a simple duel. What was more disturbing was his father's mindless ranting. His father had never been a kind man, but Draco still felt the loss of the little semblance of a family he had once had.

Draco turned and raised his wand, watching the doorway as the sound of his father's screaming competed with his own pounding heart.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Not again,” Severus muttered, watching the light simmer under the door. He looked up as he ran and was startled to see a stray spell fly across the hall from the direction of the side door. It set the wall alight, throwing tall shadows, then all was dark again.

As he reached the end of the hallway, Severus looked back just as the basement door exploded with enough force to drive it though the opposite wall. At the same moment, the flooring started to push up in a rolling wave towards where he stood. Floorboards bowed upwards to the breaking point, banging into the walls, revealing a firestorm of blood-red light below. A piercing scream eclipsed all sound, heard not only by the ears, but tearing directly through the mind into the soul.

As quickly as the light illuminated the destruction in the hallway, it receded, plunging the house back into darkness. The screaming died along with the light, fading into the cold, dead stillness of the dark.

Severus stood, exhausted, with one hand on the wall, trying to regain his breath. He then heard the distant, unmistakable voice of Lucius Malfoy.

Shaking his head, Severus groaned before running towards the source of the sounds.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lucius completely lost all composure at the possibility of Draco escaping, and cast any spells he could after him. When he could see the doorway ahead, he slowed and cautiously approached with his wand out before him.

“Going to fight like a man, Draco?” he called with a sneer. As he moved to the edge of the doorway, the side of the house next to him exploded into fine splinters.

When Lucius dared to look out again, he saw Draco standing on the grounds near the trees, waiting.

Draco held his wand up high, and said viciously, “I am more of a man than you'll ever hope to be.”

“You'd better aim to kill, Draco,” Lucius snarled, descending the stairs and raising his own wand.

Lucius turned quickly as an explosion rocked the house, and was nearly struck as Draco threw a Stunner at him. He growled loudly and charged at Draco, alternating between trying to disarm and kill, debating which end would provide him more opportunity to regain his position within the inner circle. He knew the explosion was Severus destroying the Horcrux, and that meant serious consequences. His only chance at redemption was to bring Draco or Severus back - dead or alive.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Draco cursed as his spell missed its mark. He threw another, only to find it blocked easily and sent back to blast a bush into flames next to him. Lurching further into the forest, Draco turned to see his father level his wand again. He threw himself down as the air flared in blinding flashes of green and red. Spells flew by close enough to blow his hair as they passed. Draco tried to stand again, but failed even to complete an incantation as the tree he was using for cover suddenly erupted into flames and split in two. It leaned to one side before twisting and falling into the thick brush.

Every spell Draco threw was easily blocked by his father as he stalked after him methodically. Draco ducked under a large area of brush and crawled with thorns tearing at his robes. He emerged on the other side and, as his father passed, Draco found himself presented with a clear shot.

He stood with his wand poised and struggled to allow the words to pass his lips - but just couldn't. He thought bitterly of when his mother stood facing her sister, but could not cast the curse.

Instead, he screamed, “Stupefy!” but Lucius turned and dodged fast enough so the spell only hit him in the shoulder. It spun him into a tree, which only served to enrage him further.

Draco thought to lead his father back towards the house, hoping that Snape would be able to help. The weakness in his legs began to spread, effectively disconnecting the movement from the knees down. Spotting a chimney through the branches, Draco ran in that direction. His father was drawing closer, and would soon overtake him.

Suddenly, the ground fell out from underneath him and he slid several feet down. Trying to avoid crying out loud, he gripped onto the edge of the steep hill. Earth crumbled in his hands while he gripped onto roots with his left hand and his wand with his right. His vision blurred from the pain as he found a foothold and blindly tried to haul himself back up.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lucius openly bared his teeth with rage as he watched Draco disappear out of sight. In the dim light, he failed to see the drop, and fell, slamming onto his back, losing his wand in the process. He growled in frustration as he turned over and clutched at anything he could to stop his fall.

Each time Lucius tried to climb, the earth gave way further, allowing him only a few inches' progress before mocking him again. Stopping to catch his breath, he raised his head and tossed the hair out of his eyes.

Draco stood at the top of the hill, staring down at him.

A strange silence stretched out. Draco held his wand steady, his face filled with calm resolution.

Lucius ceased his attempt to climb and stared back up at his son with utter hatred. The wind blew his hair off his shoulders, leaving a few stray strands to flutter across his face.

Draco shook his head slowly as the wind rose again, rippling his robes to one side.

"You fail, even at this?" Lucius sneered, driving his fingers into the hillside deeper as one of his footholds gave way.

The expression on Draco's face hardened. Clouds obscured the moon, leaving nothing but cold shadows between them.

Suddenly, Lucius raged, “Do it then! You are nothing but a traitorous coward, and you are no son of mine!”

“You're right - I am nothing like you...” Draco said contemptuously.

The shadows receded long enough for them to meet each other's murderous gazes as Draco drew his wand back to strike…

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Severus reached the side door and could see lights flashing through the trees. He leaped down the stairs and was startled to hear the sound of Lucius screaming under what was obviously the Cruciatus Curse. But instead of the abrupt silence that usually marked the release of the curse, the screams faded as if Lucius' voice had simply failed.

Before he could enter the forest, he was relieved to see that Draco was not only still alive, but that Lucius was as well, although he was Petrified and being dragged through the dirt. Not that he cared for the rotten excuse for a wizard, but he undoubtedly held extremely valuable information.

Draco was barely able to walk. Limping would be a kind description, as he was only just able to remain upright enough to move. Dropping his father unceremoniously to the ground, he painfully lowered himself to sit.

Draco handed Severus his father's wand and said, “I just couldn't.”

“There is no shame, Draco. No one expects you to kill,” Severus said sincerely. “He is far more valuable alive than dead.”

The slightest movement caught Severus' eye in the brush behind Draco. When Draco saw Severus' face grow serious, he turned and saw Wormtail emerging from the forest with his wand trained on both of them.

“Release him or I'll kill you both,” Wormtail said in a hesitant attempt at sounding vicious, his small eyes shining in the moonlight.

If Wormtail had expected an elaborate exchange of words, he was disappointed, as Severus strode directly towards him, ignoring his quaking wand. Wormtail's eyes widened and he opened his mouth to protest; however, his voice failed him.

"How dare you!" Severus roared and swung his wand. The spell not only struck Wormtail, it slammed him into the side of the house, knocking loose pieces of siding to the ground.

As Wormtail scrambled to his feet, Severus stalked after him, snarling, "Back not broken yet? Shall I assist?"

At the sight of Severus striding towards him, raising his wand again, Wormtail quickly transformed and started to scamper away.

Severus scowled and raised his right hand. Wormtail was drawn up into the air, his legs still moving in a frantic running motion. Severus stepped forward, grasped the screeching creature in his hand, and cast a spell preventing him from transforming again.

Holding the screaming rat by his tail up to the moonlight, Severus grinned evilly while swinging him slightly.

“Ah, Wormtail - I do believe I have a better idea. I know of someone who would very much like to see you again.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To anyone entering the Headmistress' office, it would appear that Harry and Ron were playing a simple round of wizard's chess. They sat across from each other, leaning forward in deep concentration over the small pieces on the board before them. Instead of knights and pawns, however, perfectly scaled-down replicas of dragons, Thestrals, and Hippogriffs stood in their respective places. The dragons puffed smoke from their nostrils and whipped their tails from side to side while the Thestrals and Hippogriffs stamped their hooves impatiently. Names were neatly printed in places, representing either traps or Order members. In place of a checkered pattern, there was a detailed map of Hogwarts and the surrounding grounds on the board.

Harry took his eyes off the board to observe Hermione sitting alone, staring down into her tea. Other Order members remained after the meeting, but no one seemed to notice how upset Hermione was since she hid it so well. Harry gave Ron a look, and they both rose and went to sit on either side of her.

“It'll be all right, he'll be back soon,” Harry said, trying to console her.

“Yeah, don't worry. He's got Draco with him, too,” Ron said, looking doubtful and shrugging when Harry gave him a strange look.

Hermione smiled slightly at their sad attempts to make her feel better. “Thanks, but I'll be fine. I just want to be alone.”

Harry and Ron left her, returning to their board. Ron frowned down at a dragon when it snapped at him as he tried to touch it. It moved on its own, traveling towards the castle gates and circling there. When Harry reached for it, the dragon landed on his hand and bit him. It then resumed its circling around the area just inside the gates. One by one, the other dragons left their places. They flew, nose to tail, swirling and refusing to be interrupted. Ron shrugged and looked towards Fred and George, who were watching from nearby. Fred turned to George - and grinned.

The office door banged open and Severus strode into the office. He tossed the squealing Wormtail to Lupin, and said as he passed, “We'll need a prison for Draco's guest outside, and keep this one away from the cat - for now. Poppy, Draco needs your attention.”

His eyes found Hermione by the window, and he crossed the room. When he reached her, he took her hand, pulled her to stand, and kissed her as if they hadn't seen each other in years.

Conversation in the room died as all eyes turned to rest on them. Minerva placed a hand over her heart, while Tonks held her tea cup at an odd angle. It moved to the edges of her fingertips before it slipped and shattered on the floor.

Hermione was stunned and didn't dare move, lest he remember himself again in front of so many people.

Slowly breaking the kiss, he said in a quiet voice, “I seem to have done it twice now. Happy?”

Hermione took a moment to find her voice. Her breath caught in her throat as she said, “Yes - but - what brought this on?”

“Tonight I had yet another opportunity to review my life,” he said softly, taking her hand and trying hard to ignore everyone's eyes on him.

Hermione looked concerned, then asked with a smile, “Anything good?”

Severus tilted his head and said with a slight grin, “Just the end.”


Of Debts and Debt Collection by Anastasia [Reviews - 3]

<< >>

Disclaimers
Terms of Use
Credits

Ashwinder
A Severus Snape/Hermione Granger archive in the Harry Potter universe

Copyright © 2003-2007 Sycophant Hex
All rights reserved