Sirius had never been known for his restraint. Ordinarily, he agreed
that he deserved this reputation; but today he felt that he deserved an
Order of Merlin for not reaching across the table and strangling the
man who sat there. Sirius and the foreign minister with whom rested the
authority to grant or deny permission to construct the needed buildings
had sat alone in a cramped, sunlit room for most of the morning and
their conversation had begun to run in circles.
"The results of the last reign of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named were disastrous in this region," the minister stated.
*And everywhere else in the world, You-Whose-Stupidity-Knows-No-Bounds,* Sirius thought but did not say.
do not mean to indicate that you will not be able to place the
warehouse and the safe house within the bounds of our jurisdiction."
"We simply want to be certain that our citizens will be fully protected."
*As they would be if you didn't trouble yourself to help us fight Voldemort?*
"He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named . . . ."
Sirius tuned out completely. *Voldemort. Voldemort! Why can't people just say it?*
"You understand our concerns."
we understand your concerns." *Particularly because you've been
repeating them at length for the past four hours.* "But we believe that
the placement of the warehouse and safe house at the proposed location
will be beneficial to you."
"You made a good case today. You made a good case to Davina Thomas when you were working with her last week, as well."
"Sir, with all due respect, if I had made my case as I should have, you would allow the construction to begin today."
root of the problem does not lie with you." Sirius raised his eyebrows
questioningly, willing his opponent to speak before he did. "The root
of the problem is with your superior."
"I'm speaking on behalf of Albus Dumbledore!" Sirius objected vehemently.
"I understand that. Albus Dumbledore is not your Minister of Magic."
don't know how lucky you are that you aren't dealing with our Minister
of Magic.* Sirius could not hide the scowl that crossed his features.
"Albus Dumbledore acts with the complete consent and knowledge of
Eyebrows raised. "The last I heard, there were some rather passionate disagreements between them."
were in regard to the return of Volde-- You-Know-Who. His return is no
longer a cause for debate. Don't you agree?"
"I suppose I do. But I also wonder why Cornelius Fudge has not become actively involved in your work."
has been keeping a low profile and still he's causing problems.* An
evil expression entered Sirius' eyes unbidden, followed by a more
calculated conspiratorial expression. He leaned forward, and his
companion followed suit. "I had hoped to leave this out of my
"What?" There was glee in the foreign minister's voice.
*Nosy git.* "Cornelius Fudge is not entirely well."
"It's something we like to try to conceal. For appearance's sake."
Ministry is in no danger. None at all, between Dumbledore and the other
Ministry employees. And when Minister Fudge," Sirius adopted a
melodramatic expression "has one of his episodes--"
"Harmless, but he can't be entrusted with the safety of our entire population."
"Is he like-- like young Barty Crouch?"
nearly so severe. And there's no evil intent, and no harm in his
remaining as a figurehead . . . you understand that this is all
"I do." To Sirius' immense amusement,
the foreign minister looked much calmer now. "But, with all due
respect, I would like some confirmation of this . . . information."
Sirius tensed. "What sort of confirmation?"
attended a meeting several years ago on the advances of
plague-controlling potions. I met a wizard there by the name of Severus
Snape. He is employed by Albus Dumbledore's school, is he not?"
"Yes," Sirius managed to grit out.
"I would like to speak to him. See if his opinions are the same as yours."
can be arranged," Sirius answered tightly, hoping both that he was
successfully controlling his fury and that he was speaking the truth.
"I would also like him to be one of the wizards who
perform the spells, assuming we agree to your plan. He is a master,
after all, and I do demand that masters be used for this task."
"You can use any wizards you'd like to use. I had expected you to choose them yourself."
The foreign minister chuckled and shook his head. "I don't have the people to spare. You'll import your own."
process should be completed within a day of my meeting with Severus.
Shouldn't be too hard for you to round up a few more talents."
"That friend of yours who showed up yesterday afternoon will probably do."
"I suspect he will." Sirius smiled thinly. "And I'll find three more who will meet with your approval."
"I look forward to meeting them." The other man rose and grasped Sirius' hand. "It's been wonderful working with you."
"Likewise." *Except not really.* Sirius rose as well, and stormed back to the hotel where Remus was awaiting his arrival.
looked annoyingly relaxed and composed as he sat in a chair reading a
book. Growling under his breath, Sirius strode to his friend's side,
snatched the book, and threw it across the room.
Remus raised an eyebrow. "Bad meeting, Padfoot?" he asked dryly.
"It could be described as bad," Sirius admitted.
"They've changed their minds?"
"He-Whose-Stupidity-Knows-No-Bounds is more frightening than Voldemort any day of the week."
"He doesn't trust me."
"He's decided this after he and that Davina woman have been meeting with you for weeks?"
"So it seems."
uncomfortable with the idea of working this out without dealing with
the Ministry of Magic itself," Sirius explained. "I thought I'd gotten
around it by convincing him that Fudge is mad--"
"Not so far from the truth," Remus injected.
"But then he insisted--" Sirius broke off in disgust.
"That he speak to someone he already knows and trusts."
"Dumbledore?" Remus guessed.
"Snape," Sirius spat.
Remus looked unsure as to whether he should laugh or be very, very afraid.
"So I have to contact him," Sirius growled in disgust.
"Let me do it," Remus offered.
"He doesn't like you any more than he likes me."
"That may be true--"
"But I won't pick a fight as soon as I see him."
"Fight sooner, fight later, what's the difference?"
"We're all on the same side here."
"You don't expect me to go!" Severus exclaimed angrily.
smiled a grating smile that seemed to indicate that something amused
him. "On the contrary, Severus, that is exactly what I expect you to
do. I can't imagine that *you* expect to do anything else in this
"I expect to remain here and instruct my students."
"Have your students been so ill-educated thus far that they cannot spare you for a day or two?"
"What about Slytherin House?"
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. "Have they been struggling in their potions lessons lately?"
for the first time in his life, Severus bit back the urge to draw his
wand and hex the Hogwarts headmaster. He was under no illusion that he
could actually do Dumbledore harm, but the actual casting of the curse
would have given Severus a deep sense of satisfaction. He hated it when
Dumbledore teased him this way.
responded. "Each and every member of Slytherin House is perfect. They
don't need a Head of House at all, but I wish you would refrain from
allowing Minerva to pretend to discipline them while I'm gone." Not a
trace of sarcasm crept into his voice.
laughed. "Any discipline that they happen to need will come from your
prefects and from me." Severus nodded curtly and swished from the room
without returning Dumbledore's smile. It had been years since he had
truly smiled. He smirked, of course, on a daily basis; and sometimes he
grinned a vindictive or gloating grin; but he never smiled. There was,
after all, very little to smile about.
especially little to smile about on a day when he was supposed to go
and bail the murderer and the werewolf out of whatever situation they
were unable to handle themselves. He decided to visit his old
acquaintance in Ireland without first telling Black and Lupin of his
arrival. Let them sweat it out wondering if Severus was going to show
up and help them out of their trouble.
with the foreign minister went smoothly. The man was not unlike
Minister Fudge; he was unable to form his own opinions and was
paralyzed into inaction by the prospect of the Dark Lord's return.
Severus' assurances were enough to convince him to follow through with
Severus sneered as he followed the
street to the hotel in which the ex-Gryffindors were waiting. Black has
been in this region for weeks and hasn't gotten official permission to
set up the protections against the Dark Lord. Severus had been granted
permission after one short conversation. His gloating was, however,
tempered by anxiety. Does the Dark Lord know what I did today? Does he
expect me to tell him? Will I tell him?
spotted him first. (The man and the would-be man had been sitting
together outside the hotel and talking. In all likelihood, they had
been having a deep, poignant conversation about the pressures of
working oh-so-hard for Dumbledore and the Cause as well as their
ongoing sadness with regards to the death of James Potter. Revolting.)
"There you are, Severus," called the unfailingly pleasant werewolf. "Did you have a nice journey?"
"I Apparated. It was the same as any other journey," Severus answered coldly.
just though that it might have been eventful because you were told to
arrive here over an hour ago," Black put in despite a warning glance
from his werewolf half.
"We were concerned," the werewolf suggested unconvincingly.
need," Severus smoothly replied. "*I* am perfectly capable of
performing my duties." He removed a square of parchment from the pocket
of his light cloak. "The plans are agreed to. Have you actually managed
to contact the others who will be performing the spells?"
Dark creature nodded, failing as always to grasp the irony of a
situation in which a dangerous non-human was entrusted with the plans
meant to *save* humanity. "Molly Weasley is one." Severus scowled. He
had had a thankfully small amount of interaction with the woman herself
over the years, but he had spent all too much time with her miserable
children. Ill-mannered, ill-clothed, loud, and thoughtless were the
Weasley brats. "A Ministry wizard named Jim Kelly." Severus knew the
name— one of Dumbledore's trusted few— but not the man. "And Cynthia."
Severus' scowl became a sneer. "You and Cynthia have
decided that your students are so helplessly inept that it makes no
difference if neither of you descends to attend classes?"
"She'll be away from Hogwarts for less than a day."
"And I don't believe that *your* classes—" Black began, but he was cut off by a hard glare from his pet wolf.
it's hard to tell who is whose pet* Severus thought. *Which one is more
pathetic? It's a difficult decision. But I'm stuck here for at least a
day with them, and the Weasley mother, and Cynthia Ryan, so I'll have
more than enough time to consider the matter, if I want to, which I do
In truth, Cynthia Ryan did not particularly
bother Severus. He disliked her for sharing her job with the werewolf,
and for treating the pseudo-man kindly. He deeply believed that no
instructor of Defense Against the Dark Arts could be entirely competent
if he or she was unable to instill in the students a sense of the
danger that lurked in seemingly innocuous forms. Most significantly, of
course, he resented that Cynthia, who already had work as an Auror, had
been given the professorship that he himself craved.
for all his brilliance, clung fast to the prejudice that all
Gryffindors held against Slytherins. *No Slytherin graduate will ever
be allowed to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts.
Slytherins are just too dangerous— unlike, for example, werewolves. The
Slytherin students are expected to rebel against their upbringings and
their families and all they have ever known without ever seeing one of
their own in a position of trust.*
Cynthia, at least,
had been a Ravenclaw, two years older than Severus, and was therefore
not as full of herself as a Gryffindor and not as helplessly stupid as
a Hufflepuff. There was not nearly so much wrong with a Ravenclaw as
with a Gryffindor or a Hufflepuff.
"Well," said Severus
aloud, "Now that I have completed your work and rescued you from an . .
. awkward situation, I see no reason to remain with you." He stalked
through the doors to the hotel, cherishing the furious look on Black's
face deep inside his heart.
Severus did not feel as
much like gloating a week later. Each day the foreign minister came to
him with new reasons to delay the casting of the spells, and each day
he was forced to repeat this information to the other five wizards and
witches. Molly, Cynthia, and Jim, all of whom had arrived the morning
after Severus' first discussion with the minister, took the news with
resigned annoyance. Black offered sarcastic, biting comments. Lupin
grew a shade paler and more anxious, and anyone who had read the Daily
Prophet toward the end of the Potter brat's third year at Hogwarts knew
Dumbledore had been in communication with the
group and had naturally owled Severus so as to thank him for brewing
the Wolfsbane potion. He had not *asked;* he had simply *expected*
Severus to use his rare gifts and large amounts of his time and energy
to make the life of an animal— a bully that had once tried to kill him—
As it happened, Severus reflected
bitterly, Dumbledore was correct in his assumption. Severus had no
intention of being maimed because the animal had no conscience or
self-control. It fell to him to protect the town from a full-fledged
monster, and he would never be praised for this feat, this magnanimous
gesture, because he was Severus Snape and not a ridiculous prepackaged
hero such as the Potters had been.
Cynthia and Jim both
briefly appeared in his room while he was working and gazed in wonder
at the simmering liquid. Intellectually, they knew that Severus was
creating a potion that only a handful of wizards and witches in the
world were able to produce, but they did not appreciate the subtleties
that lay beneath the surface of the brew. The only one who could be
properly impressed by the brewing of Wolfsbane was one who could brew
it himself. Severus attempted to praise himself inwardly, but had no
luck. He only felt like a fool for doing anything to aid the disgusting
wolf and, by extension, his friend the would-be murderer.
more days crawled by. Severus was bored and furious at the thought of
the work that was piling up at Hogwarts. On the afternoon before the
full moon, he grimaced and brought a goblet to the wolf's room. He
would watch as the wolf downed the mixture and then retreat to his own
room, which he would protect with every spell he knew.
Pausing outside the door, he heard the voices of his two least favorite members of Dumbledore's team.
wish there was some way to get out of here," Lupin said. His voice was
as nervous and full of emotion as Severus had ever heard it. Still, to
an ordinary person, Lupin's voice would have seemed perfectly calm.
"It's not important," Black answered. His voice was
low, and soothing, and did not sound like it belonged to a killer.
Sounds could be deceiving. "It is important that none of us leave. It
would look suspicious."
"And it won't seem suspicious
when everyone in this county learns that one of Dumbledore's wizards
isn't a wizard at all? He's a werewolf?"
"No one will know."
won't they? Why don't they? Why can't they remember from the stories in
the newspapers when I got loose on Hogwarts grounds?"
"They remember the story and not your name and face. And do you know why?"
not important,*" Black repeated earnestly. "You have the potion and you
have me. What more could you possibly need?"
"Not to be in a town full of innocent people."
Severus imagined, was raising an eyebrow and pausing for effect. "I
doubt that many of them are all that innocent." A predictable joke. "I
won't let anything happen. Not to you or to anyone else."
sweet. Severus bit back the bile that rose in his throat. *Black and
Lupin should come with a warning label. "Touching friendship. May cause
insulin shock. Diabetics should not expose themselves."*
rapped his knuckles on the door but did not wait to be invited inside.
"Your potion, Lupin," he said emotionlessly.
"Thank you, Severus."
"Drink it now."
"I will drink it."
You understand why I am anxious to see for myself that you do so. There
is something of a precedent involving your lack of responsibility
regarding such things."
Lupin gave in and swallowed the
goblet's contents, probably to head off a confrontation between Severus
and Black and not because he wanted to indulge Severus' feelings.
Satisfied, Severus turned on his heel and returned to his own room. As
he had promised himself, he protected it against potential werewolf
attack. He had a supply of Wolfsbane and silver close at hand as well.
The chore of making the potion had been removed and
Severus passed his evening by reading. Shortly after darkness fell,
though, he heard a far-off shout, and then what was unmistakably a
*The potion . . . I didn't really think . . . * The commotion grew nearer.
Suddenly, a horrible thought crossed his mind.
Could the foreign minister have had an ulterior motive in keeping Dumbledore's team in the town until the full moon?