Chapter 1

Ring a Ring 'O' Roses A Pocket Full Of Posies A-tishoo A-tishoo The Wards Fall Down

All the teachers were sitting in the Staff room, talking and arguing left, right, and centre, although it was much more subdued than usual; war would do that to anyone, unfortunately. Their schedules had already been written up and Prefects picked; the letters would be sent out to the students in two days time, along with the results for those who had taken their O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s. Albus Dumbledore was rubbing his temples, feeling a migraine coming on just listening to the noise. There was only one other person who was just as quiet as him, for the moment anyway. The noise died down when a loud whistling began to echo around the room. If they had been elsewhere, they would have surely realized that it wasn't just in the Staff room, everywhere in Hogwarts was whistling. Everyone was staring at Albus now, not understanding. This was the noise they would hear if the wards were being brought down... it was the equivalent of the siren Muggles used back in the Thirties and Forties to warn of an impending attack... an 'air raid', as it were.

"What's going on?" asked Flitwick, automatically drawing his wand out; he wasn't the Master of Charms and a champion dueller for nothing. People underestimated him because of his size, but never for long.

"What in the blasted hell is that noise?" demanded Severus, wincing at the loudness of it. To say he was the least popular teacher in Hogwarts would be putting it lightly, these days. Even the teachers could barely tolerate him now, as they had done before. Going back to the Dark Lord had soured his mood beyond anything the students could have thought possible. Not that they knew, of course, He took points for the most idiotic things; what they didn't realize was the pressure Severus was under. Spying against the Dark Lord was no small feat; thankfully the Dark Lord was not great at Legilimency. Otherwise Severus would have been killed upon returning to the Dark Lord, nearly three years earlier.

"The wards around Harry Potter's house have just fallen," said a shocked Albus Dumbledore. His face was paler then Severus', if it was even remotely possible. There were a few seconds of tense silence before Albus jumped from his chair. It shouldn't have been possible, they were supposed to hold until his majority... he wasn't seventeen yet. "We must go at once."

Just then Severus hissed for a second; the teachers stared at him in confusion. Only Albus seemed to understand what was bothering the dark-haired man. Severus looked at Albus helplessly―whatever was happening, wasn't good at all. It was no coincidence that the wards around Potter's home fell at almost the same time he was called.

"Come, Severus," demanded Albus Dumbledore, gesturing for the Potions Master to follow him, which he did. He had to gather the order and pray Harry was still at Privet Drive. Hopefully the Dark Lord, like himself was watching Privet Drive. He wished he'd had more than just Figg keeping an eye on Harry, that way the boy would already be back at Hogwarts, safe from harm. Harry had a war to end, and he would see that the boy succeeded. The life of everyone in the Wizarding and Muggle worlds depended on it. In fact, he planned on teaching the boy a few spells this term. It was vital he know some spells... only Light ones of course. He didn't want his weapon going around casting Dark magic. It would destroy the reputation he had spent years cultivating for the young man. It didn't help matters any when he recklessly cast the Cruciatus Curse at Lestrange. It was a good thing so much magic had happened in the corridor, they didn't know who cast what. So far the only thing making him seem anything other than Light was his ability to speak Parseltongue. Thankfully the brat had had the sense not to tell anyone he was almost sorted into Slytherin.

Severus nodded curtly, and both powerful wizards left the staff room, and the silent, baffled teachers behind. Thankfully the noise had stopped now; the persistent whistling had annoyed the hell out of them all. Especially having to listen to them argue about students, house points, after school clubs and the wards around Hogwarts needing to be strengthened. "Be careful Severus, if he's there, you know what we must do?"

"Of course," snapped Severus, kept desperately on edge by both the constant pain in his forearm and the situation. We? what bloody we? it was him who was risking his life. He was rather hopeful that it was merely a coincidence, but Severus wasn't a fan of those. I don't believe in coincidences, he always sneered, as if it was an absurd notion to believe in them. Severus summoned his 'Death Eater' garb, which was kept in a small bag for situations like this. Everyone knew what the Death Eater mask looked like; he couldn't be seen summoning it through Hogwarts, could he? It would give his position away. That done he swiftly left the castle, his robes billowing more urgently around him than usual. He knew the Dark Lord was impatient, and he'd probably pay for the delay in getting to his side.

Albus alerted everyone by using the charm Hermione Granger had used for the D.A in her fifth year. A very good invention, that, one he was rather proud of... and annoyed that he hadn't thought of it himself. Only his was blank of anything that could be used to identify them. All that appeared on them was a series of numbers useless to those not in the Order. So far nobody had lost one, which was a rather good thing. Each coin had a tracking charm embedded in it, so if anyone got in trouble they'd be easy to find, even through the toughest of wards, although it wouldn't get the Headmaster past them, just to the approximate vicinity. With quick strides he ran as quickly as he was able, realizing how long he'd spent dallying. Severus was nowhere to be seen.

"Everyone here? Good, let's go," said Albus immediately, as he found a dozen of his Order members waiting at the school gates for him. They all knew where to go: Privet Drive; they had all guarded him at one point or another. They'd kept him safe from trouble, like those blasted Dementors that Fudge should have kept away. As Dumbledore passed the gates, thirteen simultaneous pops could be heard as they Apparated from Hogwarts.

"Oh dear," said Albus when they arrived, looking bleakly at the sight before him. The house was on fire, if the clouds of smoke gathering around the house were any indication. Also up in the sky, was a very ominous sight indeed: the Dark Mark hovered overhead. They were too late, that mark was only put up as they were leaving.

"HARRY!" roared Remus. His cub! He had to get to him! He couldn't let anything happen to the last of his pack. He bolted for the house, praying to Merlin and every deity he knew, that Harry was still alive in there. Dangerously hurt if he had to be, but for him to just be alive. Not for the sake of the war, not for Dumbledore, not even for his own life…no, he just wanted Harry to live. Then it was as if Remus' shout had woken them all from slumber, as they took up a run for the house... hoping and praying a miracle would have happened for them.

"Aquamenti!" called several wizards, making the flames climbing around the house to go out. They continued on as the smell of burnt-out wood, fire, smoke, and ash filled their nostrils.

"Kitchen is clear," said Tonks coughing a little as finally the room she was doing was searched. With one final flick of her wand, the rancid smell of smoke was gone, evaporated to leave behind a scentless room. It was very, very clean despite the fire, just like the last time. Her kitchen was never like this, it was just too tidy, too Muggle for her tastes.

"Bathroom is untouched," said Shacklebolt.

"So are the bedrooms, I don't think they even came up here," said Diggle, as he closed the rooms' doors.

"The living room isn't," said Remus grimly. He couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction at the Dursleys' deaths. If he'd had the guts, he would have done it himself years ago. They'd treated his cub horribly, yet he'd been continuously sent back to them. If he'd tried to take Harry away, it wouldn't have done the teenager any good. He'd have just been sent to Azkaban and Harry…well, he'd have just ended up back where he was. He knew the warning they'd given the tubs of lard had done nothing for Harry.

Suddenly the small living room was filled with Order members; how they all fitted in the one room, they wouldn't know. Especially with all the electronics they had in one room; if they'd cared, or counted, they would have seen five Television sets in just the living room and kitchen. What a sight the three Muggles made; they hadn't just been killed, but tortured to death in a way that would have made even the proponents of the old ways proud. Albus Dumbledore stared down at them sadly; he had told them they were safe.

"Harry isn't anywhere," said Remus, his knees bucking under him. This was probably worse than finding a dead body. He was terrified for Harry, he truly was; if this was what they'd done to his family―and he used that word with full rancour, they'd been related, but never a family―what would they do to his cub? Why hadn't Harry fought back? Remus was barely able to keep the tears at bay.

"Then there is hope, we must find him immediately," said Dumbledore. Removing his galleon, his wand waved in complicated fast movements. Everyone watched him silently.

Closing his eyes, Severus touched the Dark Mark, allowing it to pull him towards his undisclosed destination. A loud pop later he was standing outside the wards of the place the Dark Lord was residing in: Malfoy Manor. The beautiful building had lost its grandeur. The Peacocks Lucius bred were wandering around like lost ghosts, in fact there were fewer than half left, if he remembered aright, and Severus wasn't one to forget anything. He would have winced, but Lucius was bringing it all on himself. He should never have returned to Voldemort. The marble and stone statues, which used to gleam with prideful care, were broken, chipped, and filthy. The grass was up past his ankles as he trod on it to get into the manor as quickly as possible. As he did so, he placed upon his person the dreaded mask and robe.

Ignoring everything, his long legs had him entering the Grand Hall that the Malfoys reserved for special occasions, parties and birthdays. Which was quite often, but then again what else would you expect from a pair of social climbers? That's exactly what the Malfoys were; they'd do anything to survive, including play both sides. He would never trust them as far as he could throw them. With magic, that was actually very far, but not to the point. Severus let out an inaudible sigh; there were still holes in the circle. Which meant others had still not arrived, and the Dark Lord didn't seem to be in a good mood. Unfortunately, with this snake-faced bastard looks were deceiving.

"My Lord," said Severus smoothly, inclining his head in respect before swiftly taking his place in the circle. So far nothing seemed amiss; he wasn't going to relax until he knew Potter was safe.

"You are late, my slippery spy," said Voldemort, his red eyes meeting Snape's filled with suspicion.

Severus' lip curled as he replied, "Dumbledore had us attending yet another Staff meeting." His tone was respectful despite his evident distaste for the conversation.

"My Lord," said another Death Eater appearing in the grand hall, extremely frazzled and nervous as he took his own place. It didn't take long for the rest of them to appear, as one by one the circle was formed.

"Today my servants, is a good day; today the war tips in our favour after all these years," said Voldemort. His voice was little more than a hissing mess, yet his words were unmistakable and shivers went down everyone's spine. Despite the Dark Lord's apparent good mood, nobody dared to interrupt him. Voldemort did not like to be interrupted; they'd learned that one, a very long time ago. "Dumbledore and his order will lose."

"My Lord?" questioned Bellatrix, she was quivering with excitement. It was the news she'd been waiting for. She wanted so badly for them to have the upper hand, and here was her master telling them they finally did.

"My dearest Bellatrix, the thorn in my side will soon be extracted," said Voldemort, his red eyes gleaming with triumph. With one swift movement, he stepped aside and revealed the seemingly unconscious body of Harry Potter, confirming all of Severus' suspicions as his heart sank. Despite his fear his face never changed once, it remained as it always did, impassive.

Harry Potter was unconscious, and he was twitching. Severus immediately knew what it was. He had been under the Cruciatus curse, probably for quite a while, if those spasms were anything to go by.

"Severus, I thought you of all people would be more surprised by this," said Voldemort, his red eyes once again singling out Severus Snape.

"Why would I be my lord? I knew you would eventually catch the brat," said Severus bowing to his lord. He hated being in the centre of attention; Bellatrix was staring at him in blatant hostility. She hated anyone that got more attention than her, and with him being a spy, he received a lot of attention from the Dark Lord. Had Dumbledore discovered the boy missing yet? Had he started searching for him? He didn't want to give up his position, not unless he really had to. If it was suicidal spying, well, being found out he might as well slit his own wrists. The Dark Lord would have his head for a price larger than Potter's head if he was found out.

"Who would like some…sport with Potter first?" asked Voldemort his lipless face turning into a parody of a smirk.

Severus would have paled if it was possible; he wanted to close his eyes in horror. He didn't just want to kill Potter; no, he planned on breaking him. Voldemort hadn't done this since he came back. It only happened to traitors and those that had joined the Order, and he considered those wizard and witches traitors anyway. Shit, he would have to stall them until Dumbledore got here. Which was actually fine with him; if more than one Death Eater wanted Potter, they'd have to fight for that right.

Considering Potter had pissed off more than one, it didn't surprise Snape that more than one voice shouted out he wanted a piece of Potter. Or she, since Bellatrix was most ardently saying she wanted the pleasure of torturing him.

"My lord, I want him," said Severus over the noise and pleading. "After all, I've put up with over six years of teaching the brat."

"I think we have ourselves a challenge, do we not?" said Voldemort, retaking his seat on his throne, looking at them as if he was a proud father and his 'kids' wanted to impress him. "However, I will be the one to kill him," he said, his voice filled with dark promise. After all the embarrassment the boy had caused, he wasn't about to just kill him. No, he wanted the boy to suffer, suffer like nobody else ever had.

It seemed the Dark Lord had not learned that Potter was just too damn squirrelly, he could get out of any situation people threw at him. Somehow, someway, the boy had more luck than a leprechaun could give out in two lifetimes. He was like a cat, with nine lives.

"Lucius and Theodore first I think," said Voldemort and it wasn't a request.

The two Death Eaters smirked; the blood thirsty grins on their faces would have made anyone sane run for the hills. The other Death Eaters automatically left the circle, and began taking their places away from the two duelling figures. Both bowed, aimed their wands, and before long the bloody battle commenced... and Harry Potter was the prize. They weren't allowed to kill each other, they won by beating the wizard or witch that admitted defeat first.

Then the spells went back and forth, the duel was on.

Edited by Jordre thank you.