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Chapter Nineteen: Runes and Reunions

Snape felt himself falling back into his old habits at the first sight of the castle that had been his home on and off for most of his life. Striding purposefully, he let his robes billow around him to conceal his frame, aided by the light wind that blew across the field. Although he would never actually hunch, Snape's posture changed enough to make his pace into a prowl and made it easier for his hair to fall into his face, covering it from easy view.

Potter lengthened his strides to match Snape's, but wasn't able to quite enough to keep him from having to jog occasionally to keep up. The boy had grown, but he'd have to sprout further over the next few years to reach Snape's height; something that Snape wasn't eager to wait around and witness.

They reached the doors to the castle without incident; unsurprising due to the customary sparseness of summertime residents. Most of the teachers took the time to visit with family or to concentrate on projects of their own; only those whose duty was to Dumbledore and the fight against Voldemort remained on watch at the castle during the majority of the Summer months. This included the Heads of House and the other members of the Order of the Phoenix.

Snape paused just inside the castle, shooting a glance in the direction of the Headmaster's office before turning in the opposite direction with Potter trailing after him like a confused puppy. He waited for the questions and wasn't disappointed.

"Sir?" the boy started hesitantly. "I thought we were going to see Dumbledore."

Magnanimously, Snape decided to explain. "Before we go to see him, I want to get some information on what has been done- before he has a chance to change it." Stalking down the corridor towards the dungeons, he added, "It won't take long as the information will be processing on its own for some time once we are ... scanned."

"Scanned?" the boy asked as he jogged at Snape's side, the corridors quietly echoing their footfalls back at them in a way they aren't able to do when full of student bodies.

Sighing, Snape continued, expecting the boy would be easier to manage in this case with the increased knowledge. "Do you imagine we would not have been conquered finally by the Dark Lord if I didn't take steps to ensure that certain magics were not secreted about my person upon returning to Hogwarts? Paranoia is a good thing in moderate and realistic quantities. It prevents unexpected ... accidents and protects against unintentional opportunities for invasion of the castle." Thankfully the boy decided to save his breath for keeping up with him; the main reason he set the nearly blistering pace that he did.

Not wanting to show Harry the shortcuts to be had in the dungeons, it took Snape an extra couple of minutes to get them to his rooms. Murmuring his password quietly enough that Potter wouldn't hear, Snape produced his wand and touched the section of wall that hid his door, disarming the wards enough to allow a guest to enter and opening the door before leading the boy into his small suite.

Snape didn't have to look behind him to know that Potter was looking around at his rooms in curiosity; well that couldn't be helped. At least it would distract him from noticing the steps he took along with the spells for the ward disarming. The deed done, Snape turned to absorb the sight of Potter peering thoughtfully at one of his shelves- the one holding certain small potion bottles and a very light scattering of pictures. Not that he expected the boy to be drawn to the shelves of books; that would be a behavior more suited to the Granger girl. Potter startled satisfactorily and spun when Snape commanded, "Come."

Leading Potter into the room he'd had added to his suite, Snape activated the series of runes he'd meticulously carved into the floor with a series of spells he'd researched for the purpose just after he'd first turned to Dumbledore for help. With a subtle thrum of subliminal power, they indicated their readiness. He beckoned the hesitant Potter over with a brusque gesture. "We may as well scan us both; perhaps we'll learn just what these changes involve."

When Harry felt the thrum of power from the runes on the floor it nearly took his breath away. When Severus gestured him forward to join him in the center of the circle he was understandably hesitant to do so... but when he started sensing the directing force of the runes he understood that while they were a power of their own, they weren't undirected. They were firmly shaped and controlled by Severus.

Moving into the indicated spot, Harry watched Severus curiously as he produced his wand and murmured again to the runes. The power surged into something almost substantial in its vibrations and a faintly familiar sense he'd felt from the other in the circle with him. He began to see shadows of that power, lifting from the runes and moving around them both before sweeping over them- through them. It felt almost like a refreshing wind and Harry could almost feel his hair ruffling in it, however Severus' robes and hair remained unmoving. Soon it passed and Severus directed him back out into his rooms, following and closing the door behind and reactivating the wards.

When Severus went towards the door back to the corridor, Harry asked, "Why don't you get a new set of robes while we're here?"

Abruptly Severus spun on his heel and stared at Harry intently, "Because Dumbledore expects that I will be reporting to him as soon as I have arrived in the castle," Severus stated with a pointed and somewhat intimidating look, "And it is my wish that he believes that we have done so. Now," Severus continued firmly, "It's time for us to go to the Headmaster after which you will be delivered into Poppy's hands."

Not wanting to press Severus further but not liking the sound of finality in those last words, Harry silently followed. Stepping in front of the door to the Headmaster's office, Severus muttered a password with distaste (Devil Dogs) and walked onto the ascending staircase with Harry promptly on his heels.

The door opened to reveal the grandfatherly features of Albus Dumbledore at his desk, his voice warm and gentle with concern at the appearance of them both. "Severus," Dumbledore spoke as he stood from his chair to approach, "I'm glad to see you both safe, but don't you think you should have brought young Mr. Potter to the Hospital Wing on the way over?"

Harry watched as sparks of irritation limned Severus' aura which was otherwise deeply colored by his wariness and distrust. "I attempted to, but 'young Mr. Potter' was most insistent on accompanying me. I decided that the sooner this meeting was finished the sooner he'll be checked over."

Dumbledore actually seemed perplexed for a moment as he turned his attention upon Harry who met his inquisitive gaze with an almost defiant one of his own. "Harry?" Dumbledore asked, "Was there something important you needed to bring to our attention?"

Not quite able to disregard Severus' warning glance, Harry stopped himself from saying what he was going to and deferred to Severus' plans. "I think that Severus should tell you," Harry muttered, trying to keep Severus' negative reactions from appearing in his own behavior when Severus was putting such effort to keep them from showing himself.

"Severus," Dumbledore echoed thoughtfully even as Harry realized he should have stuck to the more proper way of referring to his professor. Dumbledore looked between Harry and Severus thoughtfully, his gaze solemn and without the customary twinkle of amusement, and Severus shifted once uncomfortably at the study.

As Severus was about to speak again to shift Dumbledore's attention from the form of address, Dumbledore's eyes widened in realization and he breathed, "Oh, my," as he studied Severus closer- but he wasn't looking at the state of Severus' robes or minor injuries. Harry felt his own eyes narrow as Dumbledore continued. "Oh, Severus- what happened to cause this?"


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