He looked out of the window over viewing the forbidden forest. There was no movement, they could be anywhere.
Looking for Potter in this immense castle was a fairly frustrating task; the boy had been sneaking around undetected for the past five years. He decided to check the obvious places first and then work on to where he shouldn't be.
He quickly checked Umbridge's office again and made his way down to the great hall. The students were wreaking havoc without the ever suppressing presence of Umbridge and the last of the exams out of the way. The only teachers in the room were Sprout and Flickwick, neither of which had a hope of regaining control. Snape stood in the doorway and scoured the room for Potter or any of his friends; there was no sign. He supposed he should do something to regain order but as the Slytherins were by far the worst; instigating food fights, tonight it was somebody else's problem.
There was no sign in the library so the next point of call would be Gryffindor tower. His stomach lurched, he hadn't been up there since. since he wished he couldn't remember. He stood in front of the fat lady suppressing any senses that weren't necessary.
"Have you seen Potter this evening?" He said gruffly. The fat lady didn't take well to his tone but thought she would have some fun anyway.
"I haven't seen him for hours, but if you give me the password my lovely I will let you through my entrance" she grinned. Snape felt uncomfortable, he shuffled where he stood but he carried on talking
"Have you seen Granger, Longbottom or any of the Weasleys?"
"Only Fred and George" she said curling her hair with her finger. Snape turned and walked swiftly away without addressing her again.
That left any deserted toilet that took their fancy, probably his store room and Hagrids hut.
By the time he got outside it was dark, Hagrids hut was deserted. He looked towards the forbidden forest, sighed and started to make his way though the gnarled silver trees. He kept as quiet as he could scanning the horizon every few steps for a sign of movement, human or otherwise.
And then came the white hot pain in his arm, he flinched with the sudden rush of it, but now he was convinced that Potter had made his way to the Ministry, straight into a trap. He closed his eyes and collated a message to send to Dumbledore, Lupin, Shacklebolt, Moody and Tonks saying 'Potter is in danger, The Order must act'
Tonks replied quickly, the bright letters changed colour 'We are all at headquarters, Dumbledore on his way, Sirius has explained'
Trust Black to get overly excitable before it was necessary. He sent a message back to Tonks and Black; 'Sirius you should not go, stay and explain to Albus, I am in the forbidden forest and will continue to search'
Black simply replied 'I have to go' Then Snape was left in the darkness of the forest, searching for someone who he was convinced wasn't there.
He searched aimlessly for several hours, most of which was hiding from a 'small' giant. He sent out a few messages to members of The Order, but he never got a reply, quite often the charm wouldn't work if a persons mind was closed to it due to distractions.
The Dark Mark burned on another two occasions. It wasn't as sophisticated method of contacting each other as The Orders was, but defiantly more brutal. If this calling was meant for him, he'd have to come up with a better excuse than 'wandering around the forbidden forest' and 'informing The Order.' It never hurt to have an alibi for either side since there was constant suspicion of his motives thanks to mangy old dogs like Black.
He made his way back up to the castle trying to develop a working plan, upsetting someone normally worked because they rarely forgot about it but it was late and the castle was deserted. McGonagall was always great to use in times like these, he could rile her so very easily, a perfect cover up, but what with her at St Mungals (shame) he'd have to resort to other measures. He closed the castle door behind him as quietly as he could and listened hard for any movement, any sign of life, a footstep, a giggle. He walked silently through the castle, making his way downwards
And there it was, somewhere near the kitchens, the sound of young male voices.
It was three Hufflepuff first years, they were leaving the toilets and on their way back to the dormitories. They were quietly chatting about their Charms homework. Snape silently caught them up; they didn't hear him until he was just behind them.
"What are you boys doing out of the dormitories after dark?" He said sternly
The boys jumped out of their skin, looking horrified "P-P-Professor" said the furthest one away "W-we were just using the toilets, there was a que.."
"A likely story" Snape interrupted, "you boys are up to something and I won't tolerate it" Snape grabbed the nearest boy by the robe hood and who let out a girlie squeal. "Come with me all of you" and proceeded to usher the small child down the corridor. The other two followed at some distance, one of them started to cry. Snape made his way to Professor Sprouts office and banged loudly on the door. There was a distinct sense of relief as the boys thought they were going to the dungeons.
Sprout opened the door bleary eyed and in her night clothes. Snape thrust the boy at her at such a force that he bounced off her cleavage, which may just haunt him for the rest of his life.
"I found these boys wandering around the corridor at this late hour" Snape said furiously. "You need to explain to your first years that this is unacceptable behaviour, fifteen points off Hufflepuff for all three of you."
Sprout was miffed, she stood in the doorway looking down at their tiny quivering faces, the crying one sobbed "W-we just w-wanted the toilet"
"Shut up and stop lying" Snape snapped at them.
"Why don't you boys get off to bed and I will see you tomorrow break time" Sprout said in a soft voice. Her tone changed however when she turned to address Snape. "Right you, inside now!"
Snape followed her into her office, smirking behind her back, it was just too easy.
And then the ranting started;
"What on earth do you think you are doing terrorising my first years, or any student as a matter of fact, you may treat your own house like that but I will not abide Hufflepuffs being treated in such an unfair manner"
"Maybe you should try controlling your house better then" Snape protested, but he didn't really need to, she was fine on a monologue
"Are you trying to be ironic? Do you know you've got three Slytherins in the medical wing for beating each other up, and they had food fights during dinner this evening? If you weren't being randomly vindictive and concentrated more on managing your own students, we'd all have easier lives." Snape resented being call randomly vindictive; his vindictiveness was nearly always calculated.
"..I can assure you Severus that on Dumbledores return, I will be reporting this incident. .and what on earth were you thinking of telling my second years herbiology was just potions for the talentless?.."
Snape's mind wandered as she flared her arms at him, now the old Sprout would have to vouch for his whereabouts and he could tell the Dark Lord he was otherwise engaged with a teacher and couldn't be seen to leave the castle. Lies based on truth had always served him well.
"..and while we're on the subject McGonagall tells me you've been deducting Gryffindors points because they knew the answers to questions that Slytherins didn't! It's downright outrageous."
Snape gave it another ten minutes to be sure, whilst he was inflicted with sound bites such as "..it just isn't fair play.." and "..supposed to set a good example.." and "..if the parents found out.." and ho yawn. When he had had enough he said
"Are you finally finished or would you like me to set you an essay?" Sprout made a kind of high pitched growling noise in her throat and gestured towards the door.
"Oh and Severus" She shouted after him as he left the office "One hundred points off Slytherin for, what was it, oh yes 'unacceptable behaviour'" With that she slammed the door in his face.
Snape snorted, you can't deduct points off the head of house! Well he would make it up; he still had the Hufflepuff homework on his desk.
He waited for news in his office, wrapped up in his cloak by the fire for warmth. His arm still ached. Eventually he received a message from Dumbledore 'Harry is safe, will ring for you when I can.'
Snape watched dawn break, more time passed and still nothing, he was now pacing his office looking at the bell in the corner of the room with headmaster engraved on it, willing it to ring. The morning sun now streamed into the window and Slytherins were starting to make their way up to the great hall for breakfast. Finally the bell rang.
Snape walked into the Headmasters office and was visibly shocked by Dumbledore's appearance. He sat slumped in his chair looking so old and frail, like he had had all the emotion sapped out of him. Dumbledores presence had always been one of power and majesty, Snape had never noticed how aged he was looking. He noticed a lunascope in the fireplace and pieces of another instrument over the floor, something hadn't gone well. Dumbledore gestured for him to sit down, the seat was still warm.
"Would you like me to order you some tea master?" Snape said, trying to not let the concern sound in his voice.
Dumbledore smiled at him wearily "That would be lovely" Snape flicked his wand informing the house elves in the kitchens and a few minutes later a steaming hot cup appeared on the desk. They sat in silence whilst Dumbledore drank his tea, Snape tried to not look too impatient and refrained from asking questions. Eventually Dumbledore spoke
"Sirius is dead"
Snape raised his eye brows but couldn't think of any emotion he wished to convey "Who killed him?"
"Bellatrix Lestrange" Dumbledore was clearly upset "Harry is distraught, I blamed myself, I should have been closer to him this year, I should have taught him Occlumency"
Snape felt like Dumbledore was implying he'd let him down, he clenched his teeth and crossed his arms trying to avoid getting into another discussion about it at this hour. Dumbledore registered Snape's disgruntlement
"Some of it did get through Severus, it wasn't a waste of your time, Voldermort did get into Harry's head but he managed to throw him out"
They sat in silence until Dumbledore spoke again
"The prophecy was destroyed but The Minister does now believe that Voldermort has returned, Lucius Malfoy was caught, I expect he is now on his way to Azkaban"
It was a shame about Malfoy, Snape had always got on with him, even though he was an evil Death Eater and all, he was still more normal that the rest of them, and of course they had Draco in common.
Snape looked over at Dumbledore who was struggling to stay awake
"You can tell me anything else I need to know after you have slept" He stood up and walked round to Dumbledores side of the desk offering his arm to help him up "Its time for bed" He said with a faint glimmer of fondness in his black eyes.
Dumbledore got up and Snape made his way towards the door
"Albus," - he just remembered - "Do you have a. a secret weapon ?"
Dumbledore looked at him curiously but answered;
The corners of Snape's mouth turned upwards slightly even though he didn't want them to.
He descended to the dungeons once more, and decided to miss breakfast as time was best spent brewing an adrenaline potion. First lesson was with Gryffindors, it was hard enough tolerating them on a full nights sleep.