Disclaimer: All characters from the Harry Potter universe belong to J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Publishing, Scholastic Inc., AOL/Time Warner and associated companies. No offence, legal or otherwise, is intended by the online publication of this story. Neither is profit. Make love, not lawsuits!

Notes: Voldemort finally succeeds in storming Hogwarts--but what he finds is an empty school. He already knows that the children have been evacuated, but where are the teachers? Where is Harry Potter? Where is Dumbledore? [Eventual Severus/Harry slash.]


by switchknife


'We don't have much time.' Dumbledore passed a tired hand over his eyes, leaning back in his chair.

Not in his brightly lit office, no. The light here was dim, and the stone was bare. There was a sense of muted magic around them--the magic of camouflage.


If Severus Snape had known that they would be spending the final months of the war hiding, he might not have been so concerned with consolidating his research and making out his brief, almost non-existent, Will.

Snape looked at Dumbledore's tired, determined eyes--and the equally exhausted faces of his colleagues around the table. There was McGonagall, hands folded and face drawn. Next to her was Longbottom, war veteran and Herbologist. Vector's short, dark hair stood on end, and her fingers tapped a quill nervously against her usual set of scrolls. And finally, leaning away from the table with a strangely expressionless face, was Harry Potter--Defence Against the Dark Arts professor and self-sacrificing brat extraordinaire.

Six of them. Only six. A motley and fatigued group of teachers--the only ones left in the fallen bastion that was Hogwarts. The only ones left to defend it.

Beauxbatons, the 'fucking bastards' (Potter's words, not his) had beat a cowardly retreat instead of taking a stand against Voldemort along with Hogwarts--since Olympe Maxime's death, the new headmaster of the French school had not been amenable to maintaining their war-time alliance with Hogwarts. With the Ministry in a shambles and their only ally gone, Albus Dumbledore and his school were the only ones left holding anything resembling a front against Voldemort.

It was ridiculous, really.

Evacuating the students had been their first priority--and Dumbledore, idealist that he was, had told the staff members that they too could leave if they so wished. There wasn't enough time for the rest of the Order to launch an attack when Voldemort was already practically at Hogwarts' doorstep--but Dumbledore wasn't leaving, the fool, because the captain always went down with the ship.

Wasn't that the Muggle expression?

At any rate, all the professors had pledged to stay and help fight the Death Eaters--a stupid and suicidal idea, and Snape found himself wondering why on earth he'd volunteered to stay as well. Only six of the professors had survived the initial attack, which was miraculous enough--and when the Death Eaters finally broke through Hogwarts' wards a week later, white masks gleaming and wands pointed, Dumbledore had commanded the unthinkable.

A retreat.

A retreat to where?, Snape remembered thinking, since they were trapped in Hogwarts and could hardly go out--but Dumbledore, scarlet robes swirling, had simply turned around and pointed down the dungeon steps. 'Here.'

Understandably, the other staff members had been apprehensive about holing themselves up even deeper in what they had begun to think of as their mausoleum--but Dumbledore had only smiled--smiled, in that situation!--and said: 'Tom Riddle didn't know all the secret passages of Hogwarts, my friends.'

And so they had followed him. Below the Great Lake, below even the dungeons, under even the set of passages in which the Chamber of Secrets was found. Hogwarts was a huge, mythical creature with many secret veins--and there were places constructed in its deepest parts that were meant only for hiding, for times of war, equipped for nothing other than camouflage.

A fort within a fort.

A most ingenious idea.

Dumbledore had pointed out to them, as they'd made their hasty retreat down twisting, winding passages--that only the Headmasters of Hogwarts had ever been privy to these secrets, and he was most fortunate that he could lead them there now.


Snape had almost laughed.

So here they were. Hidden away in this set of passages deep in Hogwarts' bowels, safely hidden from the intruders above. Bodies still aching from rebounded curses, minds tired after the rush of battle, eyes dry after nights of sleeplessness--here they were, all huddled together, the last soldiers fighting for the defence of Hogwarts. They had lost so many--Kettleburn, Flitwick, Firenze. This was their last refuge--and even here they didn't have time to grieve, to think about what had happened, to let it sink into them.

But how long could they stay here--how long could they possibly hide here before they had to emerge? Before they had to fight?

Suicide, Snape's mind kept whispering. It's suicide, Severus.

And then Dumbledore, in this dark, makeshift little office, telling them this.

'We don't have much time.'

McGonagall's face tightened slightly. Vector's quill nearly snapped in half. Longbottom quivered--but Potter, of course, showed no signs of distress. His mouth only curled slightly--a sardonic expression always surprising on that young, be-spectacled face--and he said: 'How much time would you say we have?'

Dumbledore looked back at him tiredly. 'As little time as possible. Hogwarts will keep us shielded for a maximum of three months--it will try to protect us as long as possible, but if the Death Eaters stay here too long they are bound to discover us.'

'Wait. Headmaster.' Vector sat up, an alert expression on her face. 'Hogwarts will try to protect us? What on earth...?'

McGonagall, who had been at Hogwarts much longer than the young Arithmancy professor, smiled. 'Hogwarts is alive, Vera. It isn't a magical quirk or two that causes the stairways to move, the rooms to rearrange themselves... It knows its enemies from its friends--it will try to keep the Death Eaters away from us for as long as possible, and these chambers are warded powerfully. But...' She sighed. 'It can only do so much. If the Death Eaters decide to scan the castle, these chambers will not remain hidden for a period of more than three months--the building's sentience isn't strong enough for that, it couldn't hold them off for much longer.'

'We're going to be stuck here for three months?' Longbottom exclaimed--then blushed when everyone looked at him. 'I... I mean...'

'Hopefully not that long,' Dumbledore said wryly. 'The Order must have arrived outside by now, but they won't be able to make it past Voldemort's new wards unless we help them by disabling the wards from the inside.'

'You can't be serious,' Snape heard his own voice say flatly--and he only managed to temper the rudeness of his comment by adding: 'Albus. We can barely leave the safety of these hidden chambers at all--how on earth do you suggest we make it to the upper levels--and disable the wards--without getting killed?'

Potter sneered at him from across the table. 'Afraid for your life as always, Snape?'

'At least I'm not suicidal,' Snape snapped back at him.

'Gentlemen.' Dumbledore's voice had a hard edge to it. Potter fell silent, managing to look vaguely guilty--Snape himself just managed to bite back an insult. 'Harry,' Dumbledore continued, more calmly, 'Severus is right--we cannot leave at this point in time. However, I am sure that with a little time and with such fine minds amongst us,'--Snape curled a disdainful sneer at Longbottom, who blanched, 'we can find a way.'

Potter took a deep breath. 'And we have three months to find it.'

Dumbledore nodded. 'Precisely.'

'And if we don't find a way?' Vector again, eyes sharp as always.

'Then,' sighed Dumbledore, 'I'm afraid we'll have to leave this shelter and do what we can--Hogwarts will not keep us hidden.' He hesitated. 'We... will likely not survive the battle.' Collective gasps from around the table, except from Snape, who was keeping his face calm, and Potter, who was similarly expressionless. 'But the most dangerous thing,' Dumbledore continued, 'is that Voldemort will have complete control over Hogwarts, arguably the most powerful fortress in existence.'

There was a ringing silence.

Snape, who had always had a flair for the dramatic, almost found himself smirking in response to Albus' speech. It occurred to him to point out that Hogwarts wasn't that perfect a fortress, since it had just fallen to the enemy--but then he also realized that said fortress had had only six wizards and witches to defend it, whereas Voldemort had an army of hundreds. And Dementors. It wouldn't do to forget the Dementors.

McGonagall cleared her throat. 'Since we are... short of time,' she said, pushing her square, black-rimmed spectacles up her nose, 'we should immediately start looking for ways to leave the protection of this enclosure without revealing ourselves.' She paused. 'Perhaps... a scouting mission? We could trace the boundaries of this area, determine where they lie, and see if we can extend the wards behind us as we go.'

Vector looked excited. 'We're beneath the dungeons. Aren't we, Professor Snape?'

Snape, who had always found it amusing that Vector called him 'Professor', even though she was a little younger, said: 'Yes.'

'All right then.' Vector's quill began to move quickly across the parchment--but it was in a brain-storming squiggle, not a neat line of notes. 'Considering that the Death Eaters would have posted guards around the circumference of what they think is all of Hogwarts, they must have guards near here as well.' She bit her lip. 'We should take up Minerva's idea and go scouting for them, staying within our warded region, of course. But we need to know where they are.'

'I'll go,' Potter said quickly, almost before Vector had time to finish speaking.

Snape felt himself twitch with discomfort. The idea of Potter scouting for Death Eaters alone... Bloody Gryffindor brat. Just as he was about to say: 'I will accompany you,' another voice spoke up.

'Excellent!' Vector tucked her quill behind her ear, leaving odd little ink-stains on it. 'I'll go with you.'

Over-eager little chit, Snape thought uncharitably.

'Wait,' Dumbledore held up his hands. 'Wait. Are you sure you want to go scouting immediately? A night's rest is required, I should think?' He looked kindly at Vector's adrenaline-bright eyes, which did nothing to hide the pallor of her skin or the slight tremble of her hands. Potter himself looked as though he'd narrowly survived a few nasty hexes. Which was true.

They both looked surprised by Dumbledore's comment, considering that they'd just been talking about being short of time, but McGonagall, always one to back up the Headmaster, said: 'You won't be able to protect yourselves effectively until you're rested.'

Vector sagged slightly in disappointment, but nodded agreement. Potter didn't voice any protest. He just looked bone-tired.

A few moments of silence passed, before Longbottom, tapping the edge of the table with surprisingly steady fingers, asked softly: 'Um... Rest's a nice idea, Headmaster, but... where are we going to sleep?'

Everyone gaped at him--and Dumbledore, after doing the same for a few moments, started chuckling. 'A very valid point, Professor Longbottom. Hmm.' He looked brightened all of a sudden, and Snape, who hadn't seen that look on his face for weeks, felt suddenly and annoyingly grateful to Longbottom. In fact, if he didn't know better... he'd even say that Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling a little. Mischievously.

'Sleeping arrangements will be interesting.' Dumbledore lifted his hand and pointed it at the door of the chamber in which they were having the meeting--it opened onto a poorly lit corridor. 'If I recall, there are only three separate rooms in our little haven here, so we will have to share.'

Snape's heart sank. No. Merlin. No.

'Who'll share with who?' Longbottom didn't look very happy at the idea either, and Snape had a sudden nightmarish vision of having to share a room with the Herbology professor--who had also been, after all, his most hated student. Snape glanced at Potter. Well, second-most hated.

'Minerva and Vera should share, don't you think?'

Minerva nodded calmly--Vector, however, blushed for some undetermined reason.

Longbottom was looking vaguely ill with anticipation. Snape imagined the chant that must be going through his mind: Please Harry please Harry please...

'Severus and Harry can share the second room, and Neville and I can have the third.'

It took a few moments for Dumbledore's words to sink in--and then there was an explosion of 'No!' from both sides of the table.

Snape realized that he and Potter had called out almost simultaneously.

Potter was sitting tensely. 'Er... Headmaster. Wouldn't it... Wouldn't it be better if Neville and I shared?'

Dumbledore looked at him innocently--too innocently. 'And why is that, Harry?'

Potter sputtered. 'Because... Because! Snape is... he and I...' He seemed at a loss for words before exploding: 'We'll hex each other!'

'Really.' Dumbledore's eyes were somewhat amused, but his voice was firm when he spoke. 'I should think you would have overcome your baser instincts by now, Harry.'

Potter, unaccountably, blushed--his eyes sliding away from the Headmaster altogether. It was rather reminiscent of Vector's earlier blush--and Snape, who had no inkling of what went on in the brat's well-shielded mind, was intrigued.

'Would you rather stay with Harry, Neville?' Dumbledore asked Longbottom conscientiously.

The fiend. Of course Longbottom, who wouldn't be impolite to the Headmaster if he was threatened at wand-point, said: 'I'm quite happy w-with you, sir.'

Potter looked as though he could have groaned.

Dumbledore smiled.

Snape grit his teeth.

Obviously, Albus was up to something.

Dumbledore stood up, looking pleased, if still rather tired. 'Very well then. Neville, did you bring what I asked for?'

They all glanced curiously at Longbottom, who was suddenly riffling through his pockets with a look of intense concentration. He pulled out a group of small, velvet pouches and placed them on the table.

Dumbledore looked even more pleased. 'Good.'

Everyone else looked flummoxed. 'Just what are those things, Albus?' asked McGonagall.

'Seedlings.' Dumbledore's eyes twinkled again--McGonagall's mouth dropped open in surprise.


'Yes.' He lifted a pouch and drew its string out so that it opened, spilling a sew small, dirt-brown seeds into his palm. 'Surely it hasn't occurred to you what we'll eat while we're here?'

There was another one of those Dumbledore-induced silences in the room. Snape felt rather foolish for not thinking of such a practical thing--they had just been running from their deaths, after all. Obviously, Albus managed to keep himself more organized. To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure...

'Of course, we can't transform or transfigure things into food, because any extraneous magic performed here will be picked up by the Death Eaters, and we'll give our position away.'

Everybody stiffened.

Potter was beginning to look vaguely alarmed. 'I thought the wards...'

'The wards keep us hidden as long as we're intelligent enough to hide ourselves, Harry,' the Headmaster explained patiently. 'If we decide to start casting spells that disturb the wards here, it won't be long before the Death Eaters know that they aren't the only occupants of Hogwarts.'

Snape felt his stomach twist unpleasantly. 'How do you propose we do our domestic tasks, then?'

'I think you'll find that the rooms are furnished properly, but you'll have to do most tasks the Muggle way.' Dumbledore actually looked excited about this, the fool. Snape only felt horrified.

'No magic?' Vector almost seemed to be repeating Snape's thoughts. 'None at all?'

'Only two forms of magic can go undetected here,' Dumbledore said calmly. 'Earth magic, since it uses Hogwarts' own power--this is what Professor Longbottom will use to grow and harvest the seeds,' he paused, 'and mind magic, such as Occlumency or Legilimency.' His eyes landed on first Potter, then Snape. 'But any spells to move things, transfigure things, anything of the sort--no. No other charms at all.'

This did not bode well. Snape realized, suddenly, how difficult it would be to not use magic for everyday things--he'd have to be conscious of everything he did, careful not to mutter a small spell to levitate his clothes onto a shelf or to bring him water from across the room. A nuisance. An utter bloody nuisance. One little slip, from any of them, and they'd be caught.

The atmosphere was tense.

'Of course,' Dumbledore said in a now irritatingly relaxed fashion, 'I'm sure there won't be any problems. There is a supply of stored bread here, but little else in the way of food--which is why I suggested that Professor Longbottom bring his supplies here.'

'All edible,' Longbottom said, pointing at his pouches and smiling. 'I've got egg-plants, cucumbers, fruit of almost every variety...'

'Where will you grow them?' Snape found himself asking.

Longbottom looked fairly surprised that Snape had willingly spoken to him, and without a jibe at that, before he responded. 'In my--our--', he glanced at Dumbledore, 'room, I expect. Or maybe even here.' He studied the floor of the little chamber carefully. 'If we move the table a little bit--yes. All I need is two or three square feet of ground.'

'You'll call up the magic in Hogwarts' soil, won't you?' Vector was looking intrigued. 'Very clever. No one will be able to detect it as being separate from the building, since it is the building's magic...'

'Right.' Longbottom smiled at her. 'We'll have food to eat apart from stale bread, at least.' He made a face, and Vector smiled back.

Snape snorted quietly. Day after day of vegetables wasn't exactly what he'd call ideal--but this was a war, and they could have done much worse. He felt a strange, grudging respect for Longbottom's skills as a Herbologist--he was quite talented at harvesting the right plants for Snape's potions, as well. Pity that Snape would murder him if he ever touched one of Snape's potions...

Potter, meanwhile, was looking at Snape oddly. Snape startled slightly at discovering Potter's silent scrutiny--but Potter glanced away almost immediately, looking strangely disquieted.

Hmph. Apparently he wasn't looking forward to sharing quarters with Snape either. Well, at least seeing Potter suffer would be worth it.

He got up from the table gracefully, not allowing his sore muscles to affect him, and inclined his head at Dumbledore. 'I take it that we have discussed everything?'

Dumbledore nodded, pointing out the door to the left. 'You'll find your room there, Severus. Harry.'

Potter got up as well, wincing slightly at what was no doubt a sensitive bruise in his abdomen--a miraculously shallow injury--and looked resignedly at Snape. 'All right.'

Vector and McGonagall were getting ready to leave as well. As Snape stepped to the door with Potter close behind him, Vector called out: 'First thing tomorrow morning, Harry! We go scouting!'

Potter's mouth curved in a smile. 'Yeah. Have a good night, Vera.' He looked at McGonagall. 'You too, Professor.'

Snape noted that Potter that had the same strange habit towards McGonagall that Vector had towards Snape himself--the inability to call them by anything other than their professional names. Perhaps it was because they'd had their colleagues as teachers... Although Potter often lapsed in respect towards him.

After bidding the others 'good night', although it was a term Snape found strangely ironic in these times, he and Potter went out of the door and into the corridor, turning left as per Albus' directions. Minerva and Vector went to the right, as did the Headmaster and Longbottom.

Snape... did not react well to the idea of living with Potter. Even if it was for a period of no more than three months, and even if it was forced. Potter was the most uncooperative, annoying upstart he had ever had the displeasure of dealing with--and since he wasn't allowed to hex the DADA professor (oh, how sorely he would miss using magic!) he might end up throttling the man himself.

His eyes slid sideways, to his companion, but Potter wasn't looking at him--he was looking at the floor, as if lost in great thought.

What an anomaly. A brainless Gryffindor, thinking. Snape didn't interrupt him. The silence was no doubt short-lived, but he'd enjoy it while he could.

Their room, when they reached it, was a pleasant surprise. Snape had been expecting a bare, stony barracks--but instead it was a neat, reasonably large room--about the size of Snape's old bedroom--and it was warmly lit with what Snape could see was a self-sustaining magical fire. These rooms maintain themselves, Snape thought. Of course... We don't have to cast any spells here.

Potter was looking similarly relieved. There were two beds at opposite ends of the room, about six or seven feet between them, and a somewhat threadbare couch against the third wall. The fourth wall held the fireplace, the door and--Snape was pleasantly surprised--a cupboard with shelves rather suited to potions as well as clothing. There was a thin curtain separating the main area from a smaller one, where a self-filling tub rested on four feet, ready to be filled with bathwater the moment a body climbed into it. Not enough modesty for Snape's tastes, but tolerable.

'It is... acceptable,' Snape said.

Potter snorted. 'I'm glad it meets with your high standards, Professor.'

Snape didn't have to ask what Potter meant by that--it was obvious, from the few times Potter had come to his chambers to deliver a message or to talk about work, that Potter didn't think much of Snape's dark and eerily appointed quarters.

Well, he wasn't going to rise to jibes this early in their imprisonment. Let the brat say what he willed. Instead he simply took a little cube out of his pocket and placed it on the floor near the wall, stepping back quickly.

Potter stared at him. 'What are you doing?'

Snape only smirked. 'Don't step within two feet of the cube, Potter.'

Now the brat only looked irritated. 'Listen, I think I need to know wh--'

Just then a small 'pop' startled him into silence, and instead of the little cube on the floor, there was... a shelf. An entire shelf, stacked with books and potions and clothes.

Potter's mouth worked soundlessly. 'Wh-what?'

Snape tried not to look too smug. 'Self-expanding storage, of course.'

'But we're not allowed to--oh, I see. You time-set it beforehand. You didn't even have to cast a spell to restore it to its real size--you'd already done it beforehand, so that it would expand by itself a few hours later...'

Perhaps the boy wasn't so stupid after all. Well. Let's not get carried away. 'Quite.' He flicked his fingers. 'Three hours. I estimated it would be long enough to reach here, and I didn't want to be under-supplied. You, on the other hand...' Snape gave a pitying look to the slim brown bag that Potter had slung over his shoulder, 'probably have nothing but a few changes of clothes.'

Green eyes narrowed. 'Yeah, well, I don't need all those... fancy robes here anyway.' (Snape's robes were hardly fancy.) 'Or books. Or potions.' His voice sounded childish, and he probably knew it.

Snape only shrugged nonchalantly, unbuttoning his outer robes, not planning to change into night robes today. He was too tired... All he wanted was a bed. 'Which bed?' And why was he even asking?

Potter himself shrugged in response, although his eyes seemed to be fixed on Snape's fingers. He turned away suddenly. 'I'll take this one,' he said, throwing his bag onto the nearest bed and taking his wand out of his back pocket--didn't old Moody always go on about not doing that? Snape thought--so that he could put it next to his pillow. Potter started unbuttoning too, although he didn't stop with his outer robe--and if Snape didn't know better, he might almost think that Potter was trying to prove something. What, that you're not so tired you'd rather fall asleep in your shirt?

Snape decided to look away, although Potter wouldn't know he was watching--Potter wasn't facing him, after all--but just before Snape turned he caught sight of a fire-lit, finely muscled back, with a single, white scar running from right shoulder to left hip.

That scar caught his notice: a startling thing, shaped like a dagger--not thick but finely edged, like white lace. Snape stared at it, trying to place where Potter might have earned such a decoration, but then Potter's shoulders flexed as though he were turning around, and before he knew it Snape was in his bed, pulling the blankets up, looking at the ceiling instead.

He felt ridiculously like a child caught spying--but since Potter didn't know anything, Snape didn't have to worry about it.

A few moments of silence followed, punctuated by the rustle of Potter pulling on what might have been a nightshirt--Snape didn't turn to look--and then Potter's voice said, quietly: 'We can't dampen the fire, can we.'

Since it was magical, and they couldn't use their wands... 'No,' Snape answered. He finally turned his head to see Potter standing by the other bed, looking across and down at Snape. His eyes looked strangely dark--and suddenly Snape wondered if he had been caught looking. Well, it wasn't his fault--Potter shouldn't go around hoisting a scar like that in public view.

But then Potter was sliding into his own bed, a soft sigh of relief escaping his lips--and Snape, inexplicably, found himself thinking of tomorrow.

'Potter,' he said, just as quietly as he had been addressed before.

'Yeah?' The answering voice was tired.

'Perhaps... I too should accompany you on your scouting mission tomorrow.'

Another rustle as Potter turned towards him--and this time Snape did look, and that pair of eyes glinted back at him like a cat's in the firelight. 'Vera and I can take care of ourselves, thanks.' Potter sounded almost hostile. 'You should stay here and help the others come up with a plan.'

Vera and I can take care of ourselves. Didn't the fool realize he was being obvious? 'Far be it for me to interrupt your tryst, Potter.'

'My--my what?' Potter sounded startled--honestly so, and Snape's own eyes widened in response. Potter actually laughed--a short, cynical bark of laughter--and said: 'Trust me, Snape, I'm not her type.' Almost under his breath: 'And she's not mine either.' Snape's ears perked up at that, but he said nothing. 'You really should help the Headmaster, you know.'

'Don't presume to tell me what to do,' Snape snapped. He was silent a few moments. Then: 'I think I'll help the Headmaster.'

There was the strangely muffled sound of Potter laughing into his pillow. 'A very good idea, Professor.' His voice was almost teasing for an instant--as though he had understood Snape's bizarre sense of humor--and then all was silence again, their small room filled with no sound but the crackling of a false fire.

Snape wondered, as he heard Potter's breathing slow and even out, at the sheer foreignness of this situation--it felt like a strange dream, something out of a madman's Pensieve. He. He was. In the same room. As Harry Potter. Who he had, for some unforeseen reason, just bantered with. The very realization of it made his mouth curl in distaste. Perhaps the exhaustion of the past few days, and particularly of today's escape, was telling on him. They had all nearly died. They probably would die, all of them, and soon. Potter was going scouting tomorrow. He may not return. If he didn't return, the rest of them would fall prey as well, because they would have been discovered.

But we can't sit here for three months while the Death Eaters strengthen their wards around Hogwarts. We can't wait for our deaths to come to us.

Dear Merlin. So what were they supposed to do--go looking for their deaths instead?

Snape turned restlessly under his sheets. Already Potter's insidious presence had begun to infect his mind. He was starting to think like a bloody Gryffindor.

He was exhausted, but his eyes wouldn't close. He kept staring up at this foreign ceiling, plain and bland, the grey of it flickering like water in the firelight--not the dark, beautiful arches of his dungeons.

Snape was struck with a sudden, incongruous and highly unusual nostalgia.

Snape had never been nostalgic.

But he had also never been robbed of a home he had known for nearly twenty years--by people who had nearly killed all his colleagues, who had emptied these halls of their snot-nosed, unintelligent, infuriating children.

A strange coldness worked its way around his heart. They had to free Hogwarts. They had to. If Potter had to go scouting with nothing but a flimsy Arithmancy professor as his partner, so be it--if Snape had to tolerate hours of strategy with Dumbledore, McGonagall and, oh Merlin, Longbottom--so be it.

They were trapped--six people against a foe that numbered in hundreds--and the only hope of freeing Hogwarts at all meant near-certain death for most of them.

Oh, joy.

And people wondered why Snape was a pessimist.

The firelight continued to dance hypnotically across the ceiling, making Snape's eyelids droop heavily. Potter's breath had evened out to an almost-silence--and Snape didn't think of the battle they had fought before being driven here, didn't think of it because if he thought of it--Flitwick falling with a startled look on his small, fierce face--Kettleburn struck down with the Killing Curse--if he thought of it, he'd never be able to sleep at all.

Life, Severus Snape surmised, never got any easier. Whether one was with the Death Eaters or the Order, there was always war--constant and steady as the beating of his heart, as the pulse of magic that bound them all. The only difference with the Order was, of course, that he didn't have to feel ashamed for what he fought for--but the battles themselves never changed, the heat of them, the terror of them, and he wondered how Potter and Longbottom--so young, and still so innocent in many ways--could possibly have survived.

He was thinking too much. That's what Albus always said to him: You think too much, Severus.

Snape sneered as he thought of Potter, sleeping comfortably and thoughtlessly on a foreign bed. Obviously, he never had the problem of 'thinking too much'.

Idiot Gryffindor.

Snape refused to admit that he found Potter's presence, all the way across the room, at all comforting. A strange shivering had set in across his body, even under the blankets--and the darkness, when he closed his eyes, had a strange green tint to it, a tint suspiciously like that of the Killing Curse.

Then Potter turned over--a sudden burst of noise and rustling sheets--and the green illusion dispersed, leaving behind nothing but the orange of firelight.

Fool, Severus Snape thought to himself, the shivers leaving his body. He was too old. Too old for this. Fool.

Potter hadn't wished him a good night. Snape, holding on to the sound of Potter's breathing as though it were a thread, didn't wish him a good night either.



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Notes: Canon doesn't say much about Vector, so I decided to shape her myself--she's about Tonks' age, perhaps a little older, but still young in the larger scheme of things. She's a gifted Arithmancist and, if I can help it, a dyke. Perhaps I can pair her up with McGonagall before my time is up.