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The Unconditional Vow by Agnus Castus [Reviews - 8]

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Chapter Sixty-Four

Make This Go On Forever

Running down the stairs to the dungeons, Tess noticed a sandy-haired boy lurking in the alcove of the Potions office door.

“Robert!” she whispered as she came to a halt beside him. “What are you doing out of Gryffindor House so late at night? It’s past ten o’clock!”

The third-year boy stepped out of the shadows into the flickering light of the dungeon corridor. His brown eyes darted to the end of the passageway.

“Terry Boot is locked up in there, Miss.” He nodded towards the Carrows’ office. “There’s no-one in the DA left to rescue him, so I’m going to bust him out when the Death Eaters have gone to bed.”

Tess placed her hand on Robert Selwyn’s shoulder. “I think I can help you with that,” she said, unlocking the door to the Potions office. “Wait in here for a couple of minutes. I’m about to ask the Carrows to attend the Headmaster’s office. When you’ve heard us leave, go and get Boot.”

She hurried Robert inside the office and set off down the corridor, knocking briskly at the door to the Carrows’ room.

Terry Boot was chained up against the wall, with a bloody lip and a puffy black eye. The pair of Death Eaters regarded Tess with surprise.

“Your attendance is required immediately in the Headmaster’s office,” Tess said brusquely.

Alecto watched Tess from the comfort of her chair. “At this time of night?” she remarked.

“It’s urgent,” Tess pressed the witch.

Amycus stood up, his lumpy, pallid face leering at Tess. “Fancy a little ménage-a-trois with me and Snape, do yeh?”

“Don’t be so dense, Amycus,” Alecto interrupted. “Snape doesn’t share his toys.”

Tess bristled, wishing the Carrows hadn’t been so indiscreet in front of the only remaining member of Dumbledore’s Army. However, now her cover was blown, she could afford to be more direct.

“The Dark Lord wishes to speak with you both,” Tess said.

She noticed Boot assessing her, wide-eyed.

Tess waited for the Carrows to exit the room then whispered to Boot, “Help is on the way.”

She left the Ravenclaw boy alone in the office, with the door ajar to prevent the protective enchantments from resealing.

Jogging after the Carrows, she followed them out of the dungeons, hoping Selwyn would attest to her true loyalties.




Hovering in the flames of the fireplace, the snake-like face of Lord Voldemort was waiting for them in the Headmaster’s office. Severus stood with his arms folded as the Carrows knelt before the Dark Lord. Tess circled around the back of the room, standing at Severus’s side, out of the line of sight.

“I am certain,” Voldemort began, “that Harry Potter will attempt to re-enter Hogwarts castle very soon.”

Tess noticed Severus tensing beside her.

“It is my belief he will seek access to Ravenclaw Tower when he arrives,” the Dark Lord continued. “I shall leave for Hogwarts shortly, after I’ve attended to other matters. In the meantime, I expect you to apprehend Potter.”

“My Lord,” Alecto crooned, “I’ll go to Ravenclaw Tower and wait for Potter in the common room. My brother can replace Flitwick on his night-time patrol of the school.”

“Very well,” Voldemort replied. “Severus is to remain in the Headmaster’s office, where I may easily reach him. You will detain the boy and notify Severus. The Caterwauling Charm on Hogsmeade will alert me should Potter Apparate there.”

Voldemort’s face disappeared and the Floo extinguished with a crackle. The Carrows bustled out of the room to take up their respective guard posts.

Alone now with Severus, Tess felt a pulse of panic in her chest. Stuck inside the Headmaster’s office, there was no way Severus would be able to pass his vital information to Harry.

Tess wrung her hands together. “What are we going to do? We can’t just sit here and wait. The Carrows won’t hand Harry over to you if they catch him, and they’re stupid enough to kill him, given half the chance.”

Severus walked around to the back of his desk and placed his hands on the back of his chair.

“The Headmaster’s office is the best place for us to wait, which is why I suggested it to the Dark Lord,” Severus explained. He looked around at the dozens of portraits hanging on the walls, each former Headteacher poised and alert in their frame. “We have an army of spies who can patrol the castle for us.”

Tess gasped as she comprehended the possibilities.

Severus addressed the room. “Headteachers of Hogwarts, the crucial time is upon us. I need each of you to vacate the office and roam the portraits in the corridors, paying particular attention to the entrance hall, secret passageways and Ravenclaw Tower. If you hear or see anything which suggests Potter has arrived in the castle, return immediately to this office.”

A chorus of assent preceded their departure, and soon Tess and Severus were standing in a deserted room, staring at the empty canvases on the walls.

“Your office will be a nerve-centre,” Tess realised.

He gestured for her to take a seat, and retrieved his Tiger’s Eye ring from underneath his collar.

Tess unclasped her own necklace and placed her ring alongside Severus’s on the desktop.

“When we have Potter’s location, I shall leave you here in the office,” Severus explained. “We can communicate with each other using our rings, and you can keep me apprised of further developments from the Headteacher portraits.”

“You’ve got it all worked out,” Tess commented.

“I’ve had several months to prepare for this eventuality. I just hope the Carrows don’t find Potter first. If he’s using his Invisibility Cloak, it’ll be much harder for the portraits to trace him.”

Trepidation crept through Tess as they sat silently, awaiting news of Potter’s arrival.




It was past eleven o’clock when Severus suddenly leapt from his seat, clutching at his left forearm.

“Alecto has pressed her Dark Mark!” Severus growled. “They’ve got Potter!”

“No!” Tess’s voice was a tiny yelp.

They looked frantically around the office, hoping for one of the former Headteachers to put in an appearance. Finally, Phineas Nigellus Black resurfaced, puffing in his frame.

“Amycus is banging on the door to Ravenclaw Tower and Minerva just arrived too!” Phineas said.

Severus recoiled. “This is it, Tess.”

He snatched his Tiger’s Eye ring from the desk and pocketed it. Not looking at her, he strode towards the door and cast a charm at the fireplace.

Tess’s heart thudded, and seconds passed in slow motion as Severus reached the exit and placed his hand on the latch. He gazed back at her for a long moment, his face a maelstrom of conflicted emotion. Knowing how perilous the situation had become, Tess took a step towards him.

However, before she could reach him, Severus swept in her direction, his cloak billowing and dark eyes blazing. Tess found herself fixed to the spot by the ferociousness of his sable gaze.

And then Severus was upon her, glittering eyes mere inches from hers.

His strong hands slipped roughly into her hair, one hand holding her firmly beneath the ear, the other pressed against her temple, forcing her head to tilt to one side. His eyes focused on her mouth and, as he claimed her lips with his own, all the blood seemed to rush out of Tess’s body.

The kiss was fierce and unyielding. His lips devoured her hungrily, and her muscles melted to flaccidity as she returned his kiss. She pushed her tongue into his mouth, encouraging and welcoming him in return.

Severus seemed then to realise she was more than amenable to his forcible ravishing of her mouth, and Tess felt his hands drop from her head. One of his hands slipped to the small of her back, his other arm wrapped around her shoulders and the weight of his body shoved her backwards, up against a cold stone pillar.

His lips bumped against hers upon impact and, even though it didn’t seem possible, the kiss gained in intensity as Tess’s fingers slid into Severus’s hair. She pushed the long black locks out of his face and pulled him closer, further into the deep, fluid, intoxicating warmth of swollen lips and tussling tongues.

The kiss might have gone on forever, it seemed, washing away doubts and insecurities, awakening and fulfilling her. Their fusion offered a sense of wholeness which she hadn’t dreamed possible until this moment.

Tess perceived a similar change in Severus as their kiss slowed to a warm, luxuriant osculation. She stroked her fingertips against his hairline... the part of his neck not obscured by his high collar... the nape of his neck and the roots of his oily hair. Finally her hands came to rest either side of his head, her thumbs brushing against his temples.

As her touch slowed their lips parted, but Severus remained there, nose brushing against her cheek, hot breath warming her lips, eyes tightly closed.

And then he began to pull away, loosening his grip on her, eyes open but looking at the floor. Her hands fell from his head as he took a step backwards.

Knowing he was about to leave and risk everything to search for The Boy Who Lived, Tess’s heart pressed aching and swollen against her ribs.

“Severus, I –” Her voice broke.

Severus twitched, taking another step to extend the distance between them, and making it harder for Tess to say the words pounding inside her.

“I...” she croaked.

His eyes, afraid now, found hers.

She tried again. “I love –”

He touched her lips, enforcing silence, and then his fingers pushed past her teeth and onto her tongue. Her resolve diminished as his lips captured hers one last time in a slow, tender kiss.

The soft brush of his lips was then replaced by fingertips upon her mouth once more.

Glittering black eyes met hers in a wondrous, dizzying gaze.

“Don’t say it yet,” his deep voice murmured.

Tess wanted to rebel, say it anyway but, when his fingers left her lips and caressed her neck, the words evaporated on her tongue. She leaned her head into the palm of his hand.

“If I make it back in one piece, you can tell me then,” he said.

Severus stroked Tess’s cheek gently with the back of his hand, then marched across the room and left the office without looking back.

The Unconditional Vow by Agnus Castus [Reviews - 8]

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