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Spots that Don't Come Off by Lily Severn

Format: Short story
Chapters: 5
Word Count: 11,758
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Strong Language, Mild Violence

Genres: Drama, General, Angst
Characters: Dumbledore, Snape
Pairings:

First Published: 02/26/2005
Last Chapter: 04/04/2005
Last Updated: 07/04/2006

Summary:

Severus Snape is not a man to take intrusion lightly; especially when it comes from an Auror he despises: Alastor Moody. Secrets will be revealed, and just like his precious vials, past wounds will be reopened.


Chapter 1: No Less than Horrid
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Author: Lily Severn
E-mail: imwaxingpoetic@aol.com
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, settings, plots, themes, quotes, events, ideas, props, and other assorted items are property of J.K. Rowling. There is no money being made from the reading, writing, posting, correcting, listing, printing, or any other actions in connection with fan fiction of this fic. Any original characters not previously seen in any of J.K. Rowling's books, the movies related to the books, or in any other related medium are my property. If it any time there is another character using the same name, spelling, etc., there is no connection unless verified by the author.
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Chapter One: No Less than Horrid
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" Absolutely not, Headmaster."


" Severus, this is a routine--"


" I will not hear of it."


"--inspection, and if you deny his presence, you will only be condemning yourself--"


" This is my private office!"


"--and such an action would be detrimental, not to mention on the level of Ministry jurisdiction!"


Severus Snape's black cloak swirled about his legs, though he ceased all pacing, gripping the back of a chair in a white-knuckled grip, gritting his teeth. His onyx eyes flashed as he growled," Damn the Ministry."


Albus Dumbledore threw his hands in the air, a single golden ring sparkling in the firelight. " Heavens to Merlin, Severus, the longer I tell the officials that you will not cooperate, the more angry letters they owl me, and they will be breathing down your neck, too."


Snape narrowed his eyes, and breathed," Let them try."


Dumbledore leaned over his desk. "Severus, I have tried to be reasonable countless times, but as your Headmaster and a friend whom I would hope you consider dear--"


Snape's eyes softened, and a muscle in his neck relaxed. His fingers eased off of the back of the chair a bit.


"--I am asking you, respectfully, to allow the Ministry, when they send their Defense professor--"


Snape's eyes darkened, and the grasp on the chair tightened.


"--that you allow the inspector to conduct a thorough search of your office and classroom."


Snape took a deep breath, his thin shoulders rising and falling emphatically. He looked down at the floor and allowed a lock of hair to slide away from his ear, slipping down his face. " If I must, I will concede."


Dumbledore crossed to him, smiling and pressing a hand to his shoulder. " That's my Severus." He turned." Now, I know this is a difficult time for you--"


Snape rubbed his left arm absently, looking up slowly at the Headmaster.


"--and this is a very private part of your life I am asking you to let be trampled upon, possibly even violated to such an extent that you will never
forgive me--"


" Could you live with that?" Snape asked incredulously, coming around the chair and sitting lightly.


" Could you?" Dumbledore countered.


Snape huffed quietly under his breath, defeated. " No, Headmaster." He sniffed.


Dumbledore resumed his previous banter with a triumphant collapse into his desk chair. " It was my understanding, to be perfectly honest, that you were always willing to be in compliance with Ministry regiments and regulations. Am I correct in assuming this?"


" Of course."


" And you will, I trust, not be deliberately cynical or condescending with them?"


" Never."


Dumbledore sifted through several parchments and lifted a large, gilded scroll, peeking under it and retrieving a long red quill. " And you will break the enchantments surrounding your doors and windows, and various other artifices, if only for the time being?"


Snape's mouth twisted and his eyes reflected more than a little apprehension." If I must."


Dumbledore nodded appreciatively. " Well, that's settled, sarcasm and your saturnine attitude aside. Thank you for taking time out of your evening to discuss this with me."


Snape stood and bowed slightly. " Our conversations are always provocative."


" In the best sense of the word?" Dumbledore asked as Snape's hand curled around the door handle.


Snape paused, pivoting and smirking sardonically." In all senses of the word."




He closed the door behind him and walked quietly down the steps, meandering through the dark hallways of an unoccupied castle, one of the last days of summer when it would be. He navigated the dungeons with ease, finding solace in the shadows and feeling oddly exposed in the torch light. He neared his office and waved his wand, muttering an incantation. The door swung open, to reveal his meticulous and well-stocked room.


He was not accustomed to having his personal space trifled with, nor was he inclined to ever let anyone into his private stores of potions and ingredients. He was quite sure many had been banned years ago as fatal or worse, which he thought was ridiculous, because plenty of things could be worse than a fatality and none of them involved a poison. The ingredients that he kept stowed away in the cool, dry, walk-in closet were also a bit shady, in that many were poisonous, and if they were animals, would have been XXXXX according to Ministry law. Fortunately for him, the Ministry did not know, up until tomorrow, that he had such suspicious items.


Thus, it would have been highly recommended that he confiscate all evidence, yet something in the back of his mind told him not to. What did he have to hide? A six-year Mastery of Potions and Alchemy degree? Auror training? Anything that would even resemble connection to the Dark Lord, whose gaining power troubled him immensely, was hidden under his robes, and no one could see through his shirtsleeves.


He stepped into the dark closet and waved his wand, illuminating the space with a hissed," Lumos" under his breath. He inspected the Atropa, the Delphinium, the Larkspur, and decided that though they were poisonous if ingested, and extremely harmful if properly--or improperly--mixed, there was nothing 'bad' about having them around. In fact, in many situations such destructive substances would be helpful. The Ministry might frown on keeping delicate, non-corrosive potions for the students and blame him for never educating them thoroughly enough. Yet this was the same board of witches and wizards who decided years ago that Veritaserum could not be included in the Potions curriculum, nor could Polyjuice Potions, both of which were supposedly difficult to make and highly classified, and here he was, teaching them.


Severus Snape was never one for adhering to the Ministry.


As much as he revered, and almost feared, its power, he also knew that Fudge was just a puppet suspended from a mass of tangled strings, all being tugged on by cheery witches and sour wizards who wanted everything and nothing to do with the lives of their subordinates. Unless it involved a Dementor or Sirius Black, it was not worth their time; therefore, simple-minded tasks were delegated to Fudge, who bungled them up constantly and could never do anything right, least of all for the professors who struggled to tell their students as much as possible without being fired immediately. His latest and greatest achievement involved getting chocolate-sprinkle shakers put into Fortescue's, and even that had been a complete catastrophe until the very last minute.


Snape sat in his desk chair, completely exhausted and overwhelmed. Term was due to start in two days, and his inspection was tomorrow. He was not looking forward to it in the least. Privacy was something he treasured; solitude, shadow, a crackling fire and a cool glass of brandy, along with a rather nice book to sit down with for hours. He hated being disrupted during anything he ventured to do, whether it was stirring a potion with the precise amount of ingredients or buttoning his cloak.


He learned long ago not to make mistakes.


Yet how many had he made? He couldn't count. And those he could recall had grown fangs and had latched on to him, never to be forgotten nor made to appear no less than horrid. The most obvious of them was the Dark Mark burnt into his arm, but, then again, no one could peer through his clothing.


Crossing his feet on top of his desk, he lay back and sighed heavily, his mind completely blank. He should be worrying, should be running about the office in a wild frenzy, throwing into the flames of his fireplace books like Salazar Slytherin: Purist and Perfectionist or Alchemy and the Principles of Mysticism, or even Deadly Poisons Common to Most Fatalities, which was a dull book, though full of fascinating facts and statistics, many of which he longed to use on his students. But somehow, he thought, sneering," I could easily poison you with a draught that races through your bloodstream in 1.354 seconds, as measured by Salinus Stirrum in 1854..." didn't sound so intimidating. Nor was it true.


It had been 1855.


Nevertheless, some tidying up had to be done, and he was not one to suffer a failed inspection with his pride in tact. No, this was quite possibly the most monumental event of his teaching career. One false move, one slip of Nightshade, and he might as well burn his degree and cast a Disillusionment Charm over himself.


To be a wizard without magic and succeed would be better than to be a wizard with magic and fail.



He searched the shelves full of books, ancient and new, some of which growled as he passed. Somehow, he figured, they could sense his uneasiness, bent over the titles, his finger pressed to his lip, black eyes shrewd. There was something about his posture, the way he snuck along the walls like a ghost drifting through rows of the living, that would scare off any student, or professor, who ventured into the room, whose door was open.


Luckily for the one soul that approached, Snape's honed senses picked up on their soft footfalls before their shadow graced the threshold of the door. He straightened and shoved a thick red tome into place with his hip, crossing his arms over his chest and sitting heavily in his chair. He opened a book of grades to a random page and pretended to be occupied.


Someone cleared a throat outside the door, and he lifted his gaze, cold. " Yes?" he asked idly.


Minerva McGonagall entered, her nose in the air, her eyes stern and possibly more riveting than his at the moment. " Severus, I heard you've given the Headmaster a bit of trouble as to your inspection tomorrow."


Snape's shoulders lifted as he took a slow, irritated breath. " Yes, that is true, Minerva." He thinned his lips and made a point of raising his eyebrows. " I would have thought it really wasn't any of your business, but, then again," he swept his arms to encompass his desk," I am but a lowly Potions Master." He shook his head reprovingly, ignoring her stare, which was becoming more like shards of blue ice than eyes. " I suppose the doings of Defense professors are far above my caliber."


Minerva stalked forward angrily. " Severus, stop this ridiculous nonsense! You know full well this is routine--"


" If it is so predetermined, Minerva, so routine, explain to me why this has never been done before," Snape said coolly, allowing himself a slight smirk, savoring her confusion.


Minerva bristled. " You are as immature now as you were in your sixth year. You and
Luc--"


Snape had looked down at his papers by now and lifted a finger, silencing her next attempt at words. " Ah, watch what you say. You may come to regret it later. And, as for immaturity, I'm afraid that lovely title can be bestowed with far more confidence upon James Potter and his cadre of fools. Alas, since he is dead, I suppose the honor will have to be given to Sirius and Remus. We all know Peter's not 'worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face'."


Minerva twisted her lips, her ears flushed red. " I just want to know, a simple question, mind you, and I expect nothing short of a complicated answer, asking a man of your...disposition," she finished uncomfortably.


" My disposition?" Snape spat, standing and pressing his palms to the desktop. " What exactly do you mean by that?"


Minerva took a deep breath. " Severus, let's try to control ourselves..."


Snape smiled briefly. " I am perfectly calm, Minerva. I am not a man who flatters himself with outbursts."


Minerva rolled her eyes, turning away. " Funny how you do it so well."


" Excuse me?" Snape asked, slightly annoyed. She did not respond, so he sat again and stroked a black quill, thinking. " Very well," he said after a lengthy pause." What is it you have to ask of me?"


Minerva looked around the floor for a moment, appearing disappointed. " Do you have another seat?"


Snape waved his wand irritably. " No, I am not accustomed to receiving visitors."


A black leather chair swept Minerva off her feet, and she muttered under her breath. " If you are human enough to answer this..." She trailed off, seeing the pain in his eyes. She scrambled for words," Severus...I didn't...well, I certainly..."


Snape lifted a hand, though the pain did not fade." Continue."


Minerva took a deep breath. " Why does this inspection bother you so? Why is it so much trouble to allow an Auror into your office?"


Snape's eyes widened, the pain replaced by sheer agony and terror. " An Auror?!" he shouted, his mouth twisted. " An Auror! In my office! Minerva, do you realize I have potions, and not just poisons, that are considered banned and illicit by the Ministry? I could be sent to Azkaban! Again!"


Minerva stood, hushing him with her hands. " Take a breath, Severus." She took one herself." This Auror...he's not what you think."


" Not what I think?!" Snape cried, his eyes burning. " I know exactly what Aurors are like! Deceptive, conniving, judgmental...need I go on?"


Minerva crossed her arms over her chest and said snidely," If you feel you must."


Snape threw his hands in the air, glowering. " And I suppose you know whom the Auror is as well, being so damn omnipotent!"


" Omnipotence has nothing to do with it," Minerva shot back, annoyed. " I am told information, I do not seek it. That is your job."


Snape's eyes narrowed and he said coldly," Oh, how kind. The Order finally accepts my sacrifice after fourteen years of ignoring it. And you have to be the one to break it to me."


Minerva inhaled through her nose impatiently. " Do you want the name or not?"


Snape said idly," I'm waiting."


Minerva reached into her robes and pulled out a thin, white letter, and held it out to Snape briskly. She turned to leave, but said over her shoulder," You have met him."


" Met him?" Snape said incredulously.
" Well, I'm sure this scenario will make a reunion all the more sweet." He ripped open the envelope and set it on his desk. There was no letter, just a name, which made him cringe and gasp loudly at the same time.


Alastor Moody.


" No," he hissed, clenching his fists and setting the letter on the desk with more force than was necessary. He looked up. " Minerva?"


But she was already gone.

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Yes, there shall be more soon, don't you worry. Reviews would be wonderful and very much appreciated; thank you!


Chapter 2: Hell Itself Invited for Tea
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Chapter Two: Hell Itself Invited for Tea
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It was said in Hogwarts that one could sense Severus Snape approaching. The air grew colder, there was an unpleasant prickling sensation on the back of one's neck, some guessed from the Dark aura he radiated. One student even attested to watching a thunderstorm accumulate right outside of the Slytherin dormitories mere minutes before Snape burst in to do an emergency search for his stolen gillyweed. Most professors did not believe in the rumors, for they tolerated and respected Severus, least of all Albus Dumbledore, but when he felt ill after eating a bit of treacle pudding, he sincerely debated blaming the sickness on the pudding or Severus's imminent approach upon news of Moody's summons.


When a polite but loud knock resounded on the heavy oak of his office door, he was inclined to blame the latter.


Dumbledore had no sooner opened the door a crack with his wand than Severus had stormed in, as if hell itself had been invited for tea, bringing with him a whirl of black robes, smoldering eyes, and an unfriendly draft from the stairway. He held up the white letter, severely crumpled along the edges and asked softly, so softly Dumbledore almost had to strain to
hear him, tilting his head," Can you explain this, Sir?"


Another aspect of Severus all agreed to with instant unity: He was most dangerous when speaking quietly.


Dumbledore nodded. " I can." He looked away, waiting for the outburst. Three...two--



" Well?" Snape asked acidly, taking a step forward, brandishing the letter like a sword.


--One.

~~


Dumbledore slipped his gold spectacles onto his nose and sniffed, gently taking the letter from between Snape's fingers and setting it with irritating caution onto his desk. " Severus, I myself am not particularly excited over Alastor's appointment, as a matter of fact, I found out scarcely five minutes after you left, and then I had the necessity to explain the situation to Minerva."


" Is she being inspected, too?" Snape inquired, fervently hoping the answer was 'yes'.


Dumbledore hesitated a moment too long. The flash was in Snape's eyes before the Headmaster opened his lips.
"...No..."


Snape's lip curled. " I knew it," he hissed." I knew Fudge and his petty excuses for underlings would crawl over here, hoping to unearth some evil artifacts and dirty little secrets about my life, ripping open every book and uncorking every bottle--", his voice was getting louder,"--that I've worked so diligently, so faithfully, to read or concoct for the last thirteen years of my life. They'll be trying desperately to find a reason to throw me into Azkaban for something as simple as an uncovered cauldron!"


Dumbledore tilted his head." Is that really how you feel about the Ministry you've come to defend? The Ministry your father, and you yourself, found solace within?"


Snape's silence, his gaze like obsidian, and just as emotionless, conveyed more than words possibly could have.


" It ruined you," Dumbledore mused quietly. " He ruined you."


Snape did not meet Dumbledore's eyes, but looked away, taking a shaking breath, his fingers curled in his lap uncomfortably. "Yes."


" Is that why you hate Alastor so?"


Snape's gaze hardened, full of fury this time, not blank and bottomless. " You have no idea...the things he's said to me, what he's done to me...the filthy lies he tells when he thinks I can't hear him..." He lowered his eyes. " But I'm always listening," he whispered. " Always waiting for the moment when he'll slip, let the whole world know what a low, pathetic excuse for a wizard he is. If there's one thing infiltration taught me, it is to always listen, even to those who never speak."


His voice was icy. " I can see it, in the way he moves, the way his lips grind together when he hears my name, the quiver of his muscles in his throat, the way his eye swivels madly in his head, like he's searching. I've known many deceivers, and they are about as skilled in telling the truth as they are in hiding their lies. They betray it, in their every breath. I can almost taste it, the fear of being caught, the uneasiness."


Dumbledore's eyes were round and wide, and he coughed to stifle his surprise. " If I'd known you harbored that
much loathing--"


" Come off it, Albus," Snape said in an uncharacteristic lapse of silky tone, his voice rasping out in a harsh snarl. " You know as well as the next member of the Order that Alastor and I have had our differences, many of them almost settled with a bit of wand waving. Needless to say, if it had gone to that point, he would be dead. " He smiled cruelly." Pity. Maybe I could be thrown to Azkaban for a murder I was willing to commit."


Dumbledore pulled his desk chair closer to Snape's, folding his hands in his lap. " Severus, come now. Your life is not worth a moment's gratification."


" A moment's?" Snape seethed, standing abruptly. " Everyone seems to think that murder is only satisfying for the split second, that the joy in watching someone else's agony is..." He searched for the word. " Intoxicating," he finished. " But it's not. It is either an eternal torment for a sin committed, or it is a constant ecstasy at the end of someone's life." His eyes narrowed. " I may be a Death Eater, Albus, but I am certainly not willing to kill Alastor for the pure fun of it. I have my reasons," he added, nodding slightly," for perhaps thinking such dark thoughts as I've mentioned before. But to murder Moody would be because of something he's done to me, not to laugh in his face."


" And what did he do to you?" Dumbledore asked carefully. The lofty tension in his tone suggested his knowing that he was treading on hallowed ground.


Snape tensed visibly. " Many things. But I must show him that I am capable of controlling myself, that I am better in all ways of contending than he is." He sat again. " Thus, I wait. I long for the moment when..." He trailed off. " It does not matter."


" Of course it matters," Dumbledore countered. " And if you would only tell me what it is he's done to you, perhaps we could waive this inspection and save it for another time..."


" Or another Auror," Snape said coolly. " Will he be leaving as soon as he's finished? And I'm carried off in irons?" he added silkily.


Dumbledore twisted his fingers in his lap. " Not quite."


Snape's eyebrows shot up at this, and he asked smoothly," Not...quite?"


Dumbledore took a deep breath, standing and circling around his desk. The chair he had sat in disappeared in a puff of smoke. Snape swatted it away irritably. " Alastor...has been asked to take up the Defense post." He turned away.


The gaze being burned into Dumbledore's back was one of immense pain, disappointment, a rejection for the thirteenth time. The Potions' Master's voice was thick with hurt. " You have chosen someone else again," he said softly.


Dumbledore nodded quietly, looking out the window of his office, at the sparkling stars that glittered over the lake. " I have."


" Why?" Snape asked, strained, painfully. " Why do you insist on cutting me like this?"


Dumbledore gripped the windowsill." I am doing no such thing."


Snape stood, slowly rising and creeping toward Dumbledore like a great black shadow." Then what is it you're doing?" he asked quietly. " What is it you look for? If devotion and sacrifice are the criteria for such a position, I certainly qualify. And if bloodshed and torture count for it, I'm the man you seek. But if you intend on hiring someone incompetent and ridiculously inept, then you have found the professor you sought."


" No, I save those skills for Potions," Dumbledore shot back heatedly, visibly unable to stand his ground with Snape's aquiline nose and onyx eyes mere inches from his face. The moment he said it, he turned sharply, his eyes wide.


Snape took a step back, appalled. " I see," he said tightly, turning on his heel. He opened the door and then turned,
pointing his wand at the envelope on Dumbledore's desk and catching it on fire without a word.



Snape hurried to his chambers, a dark cloud of fury seeming to hang over him. How dare he! The insolent old man! Of all the people in the world to have said such scathing remarks to, of all the Dark wizards he could have chosen, Severus Snape was a poor decision. He had sacrificed his all for the Headmaster and then some.


And this is how I am repaid? A burst of insults and a grizzled Auror to tell me I'm doomed for Azkaban?


He threw open the doors to his private rooms, waving his wand like he was producing the Killing Curse and tensing as the heavy oak rebounded off of the stone walls. He thundered inside, the door banging shut behind him. As he strode through the living area, papers left on a low coffee table ruffled and books flipped open to pages where he had left bookmarks. The fire sprang to life and the ashes dusted themselves out of the way. The power of such a man was not to be
contested.


He sank onto his bed, running his fingers through his greasy hair. A shower would do him well, something to calm his nerves. He looked out the window, relieved to see that it was still evening. He turned to look at his antique hourglass. About seven fifteen. He had time to wash up before going to sleep, which was always fitful and never relaxing.


He stood wearily and opened the door to the bathroom, running the silver taps a moment later and letting the room fill with steam. He stepped into the comforting stream of water moments later, after laying out an array of simple black nightclothes and a fluffy green towel. If any of his students discovered he used warm, magically heated towels...


When he finally stepped out, refreshed and more than a little damp, he meandered over to the large, silver mirror, swiping at condensation and peering at his reflection. The many scars that crisscrossed his neck and chest would make anyone recoil, though he was grateful for his high-collared robes that hid such disfigurements. He stared into his face, which stared back with an intensity that would scare the skin off of Neville Longbottom. If he was on the receiving end of that glare, however, he didn't think he'd be so quick to be afraid. He understood people like himself, the weary lost souls, the redemption-seeking murderers.


Sirius Black, however, did not gain his pity.


He toweled his hair dry and hung the towel, stepping into a leisurely pair of black pants and a button-up black shirt. Wiggling his toes, he walked into his living area and waved his wand, which never left his side except when he showered, at a teapot. It filled with water from the small sink-area and then levitated to the hearth, where it boiled merrily.


He was about to curl up on his low black couch with a book when there was a knock at the door, hesitant. He stood with a small growl and set the book down, as well as his steaming cup of blackberry tea. He called through the door," Yes?"


Dumbledore's voice came back through to him," It's me, Severus."


Snape was tempted to reply acidly," I don't know a me" but did not. He opened the door and stepped back, wincing at a sudden draft of cold air. " Yes?" he asked loftily.


Dumbledore lowered his eyes. " I wanted to apologize."


Snape turned and waved two fingers, letting the Headmaster walk in a bit farther. The door shut as soon as his heels left the threshold, and he sat opposite Snape in a dark plush armchair. " Apologize for what, exactly? There are so many grievances that have been made against me in the past day I am not quite sure where you would begin." The Headmaster was about to open his mouth to argue, but Snape would not allow it. He lifted the teapot. " Tea?"


Dumbledore nodded slightly. " Please." He studied Snape as he worked at pouring the tea. Such deftness, cleverness, in those hands. It was hard to imagine anyone finding fault in his Potions work. " I feel you will do incredibly well in your inspection tomorrow," he said timidly, taking a ginger sip of the hot tea.


Snape lifted an eyebrow. " Really."


Dumbledore nodded. " I would never lie to you, Severus."


Snape's eyes narrowed, and his nasal snort conveyed his disbelief.


Dumbledore set his teacup on the low mahogany table. " Let me clarify. I have never lied to you in an instance where it was not necessary."


Snape smiled briefly. " You can always tell me the truth, Headmaster. I can handle it, you know."


" But the truth hurts."


" So does the deception," Snape said pointedly. He sipped his own tea and then coughed lightly. " And I don't need your apology. Many things are said in the heat of the moment that we really do not intend on vocalizing, and I understand that completely."


Dumbledore spread his hands. " It's just not fair--"


" You're right," Snape conceded with a glint in his eye. " It's less than fair, it's cruel. It's cruel that I should have made you apologize for something you meant to say."


" I didn't mean to--"


Snape raised a hand. " Headmaster, please. You're putting me in the same room as Alastor Moody, for one. You're making me a subordinate to a man whom I detest, personally and professionally. You are expecting me to be able to control my famous murderous urges for one day. These are trying enough, to be sure, yet I am confident in my own strength. It is his I worry about. And now you want me to let you walk away with words that should never have been said, words that cut deep."


" You just said you underst--"


" I do understand," Snape nodded. " But we are not all forgiven for what we do and say. It is a fact of existence. Pardons cannot be dealt out like free pasties, Headmaster, they take time."


" I see," Dumbledore said hesitantly.


Snape stood. " Excellent. If you don't mind, Headmaster, I had really best be off to bed. I've got a trying day tomorrow."


Dumbledore squeezed his shoulder, walking to the door. " You'll pull through."


Snape raised his cup of tea like a toast as the Headmaster left. " Let us hope those words prove to be prophetic."



There will be a third chapter, I promise! Reviews are greatly appreciated. Thank you!



Chapter 3: The Morning of Our Discontent
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Chapter Three: The Morning of Our Discontent
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The next morning, Snape opened his eyes only slightly, and as soon as he had done so, he had to squeeze them shut again. There was a driving rain spattering against the windows, thunder boomed and lightning riddled the sky in bright flashes. It was as gloomy as he felt, weighted down with a dampness he couldn't quite place. It settled on his shoulders and made him tense.


He shook his head, stroking his forehead. It was the same guilt and regret he felt shift on his soul every morning
after the relative respite of sleep. He managed to sit up and light the candle by his bedside, which had burned down low last night while he read, trying to keep his mind off of the next day's unpleasantness, but could not. Brief paragraphs had interrupted his frustrated huffs and clenching of fists, but when he tried to focus on something else it would crash back down on him again. It was like trying not to forget something delegated to someone else to remember.


He personally enjoyed a rain-ridden morning like this one, and hoped it would not enable Alastor to fly to Hogwarts, or if he did, that a crosswind would blow his filthy carcass into the Whomping Willow. He smiled grimly at the thought. Mission accomplished, and his hands wouldn't even get dirty.


He showered and dressed, then straightened before his mirror, inspecting his reflection. It wasn't as if he was preparing himself to impress Alastor, but his longest and deepest black robe would do for intimidation. Alastor may have been an Auror, but the instrument of the Ministry's power that he struck fear into Severus Snape was dead, and had been.


He blew out the candle and stepped out, locking his doors and meandering up the steps from the dungeon. He stopped at the mouth of the hallway, savoring the sweet silence of empty corridors and student-less stairwells. Only until tomorrow, he remembered with a twinge of anger. Only twenty-four hours of freedom without Potter and his cadre of annoying Gryffindors.


He opened the bronze doors to the Great Hall and smiled as he saw the professors lining the Head Table, who watched him with curiosity and hesitancy. They eyed him like a criminal just released from Azkaban, wary and wondering when he would snap again.


He took his seat calmly and smiled at Dumbledore. " Good morning."


Dumbledore veiled his surprise, except for the signature twinkling of his eyes. " How did you sleep, Severus?"


Snape shrugged, stabbing a piece of sausage and dropping it on his plate with his usual deftness. " Well, I suppose, considering the circumstances under which I was privileged to wake."


Dumbledore sighed. " Stubborn man."


Snape raised his fork as a toast and looked down the rows of empty seats and tables. Chewing thoughtfully, he let another half-smirk twist his lips. Soon the voices would rise and he would get the mix of adoration from Slytherin eyes and loathing from the rest of the Houses. They would be sorted in the endless and amazingly boring ceremony, which he had managed to sit through, completely sane, for thirteen years running.


He nearly choked. Thirteen. His thirteenth year of teaching in Hogwarts, and it was the beginning of this year that Alastor chose to make his inspection round. He coughed lightly, touching his napkin to his lips. Dumbledore slid his gaze over to him oddly, but Snape shook his head to let him know he was in no grave peril and simply took a sip of tea.


As if reading his thoughts, Dumbledore turned to him once more and said," You know, whenever a professor here reaches his thirteenth year of professorship," Snape curled his lip," Trelawney offers a blessing and warding off of malignant spirits. Are you interested?"


Snape took another sip of tea. " Mildly," he said in the same tone. " Sybil's skills are extraordinary, but don't you think I've been blessed with enough...luck...already?" He quirked his eyebrows.


Dumbledore thinned his lips. " It was simply a suggestion."


Snape nodded, focusing on a fascinating piece of leaf in his teacup.


Dumbledore added after a moment's silence," But the last professor who refused the ceremony was Professor Binns. And you, of course, remember what happened to the poor fellow."


Snape's hand, halfway to his lips with his teacup, froze. He gave a half-nod.


Dumbledore chuckled." Good lad."


From down the table, Professor Trelawney was clutching her forehead, moaning. Dumbledore leaned over and peered down the row, asking kindly," Sybil? Are you all right?"


Trelawney coughed and clutched her neck, nodding and smiling, her eyes magnified by her round, black glasses. " Worry not, Albus!" She cast a glance at the Great Hall's doors, which Snape was kind enough to close." We have a guest."


Snape's hand, around his teacup, tightened with a white grip. The bone china shattered, sending splinters flying. The
professors lining the table swiveled to face him, worry and concern etching their faces. Sinistra bit her lip, outlined in a deep black cherry paint, and asked softly," Are you all right, Severus?"


Snape nodded, his eyes glinting." Perfectly," he hissed.


" Just who are we expecting?" Sinistra asked, her violet eyes and thick black lashes riveted on Dumbledore.


As if on cue, the great doors swung open, and outlined in the flickering of an orange torch was the huddled form of a man. His limping gait brought him forward, into the full light of the levitating candles of the Hall. One bright azure eye rolled madly around in his head, the other, a dull grey-blue, was faceted on Snape.


Severus was no man to be intimidated, least of all in front of his colleagues. He was not afraid, no, though he had once been no stranger to fear. His thinned lips, his darkened eyes, his clenched, arching white fingers elucidated another feeling: complete fury.


The man was clad in a traveling cloak, buttoned at the chin in the deepest green, and he wore leather boots that were creased from many years of tracking and wandering. His face was scarred and pitted, and a large portion of the bridge of his nose was absent. Any witch or wizard who had lived through the terror of Voldemort in his earliest years knew who Alastor Moody was. His grizzled visage was easily recognized in the public eye. But few men, Severus excluded, would challenge his authority. Severus not only challenged it, he abhorred and saw himself superior to it.


Adherence to protocol did not mean a liking for it.


And since Moody was no longer a real Auror, no longer wore the crimson robes, but instead carried a flask at his hip to ward off unpleasant poisonings, he was no longer a complete extension of the Ministry's power.


Snape's sharp nose lifted a bit higher as the man drew nearer. He hissed," Here we begin the morning of our discontent." He stepped down from the Head Table, extending his hand before he drew close enough for Moody to grab it. Bad form on him for hobbling forward so infuriatingly slowly, he thought acidly.


Moody scanned Snape, from austerely polished black shoes to perfectly buttoned waistcoat, and managed to fling himself forward enough to clutch the Potions' Master's hand. He had to let go quickly, Snape supposed out of fear of letting the coldness spread beyond his fingers. He let one bushy eyebrow quiver before goading," Cold outside as you are
inside, eh, Sev'rus?"


Snape's lip curled." One of my more...endearing qualities." He towered over Moody, like the giant black spire of a foreboding castle stares down on the serf's dwelling. The loathing in his eyes was incomparable, and every professor could feel the angry static crackling between the two wizards, as was evident in their wide-eyed, apprehensive stares.


Dumbledore leapt to save the situation as Snape's hand drifted to his wand, which never left his side. He clapped once and said," Well, now that the introductions have been made, Alastor, would you fancy a cup of tea?"


Moody's eyes narrowed." House Elves: can they be trusted?"


Dumbledore spread his hands." I would not have asked, had I thought they were up to something."


Moody huffed as he climbed the steps to the Table, which Snape ascended moments later with a despicable glare in his eyes," Rotten creatures, they are. Had three myself, tried to suffocate me once."


" Is that all?" Snape whispered coldly.


Moody spun to face him, but couldn't place where the voice came from, as Snape was dabbing a napkin to his lips. He continued, eyes on Snape," They create their poisons...they give them to me when they think I'm not watching...a little drop here...a taste of something fatal there..."


" Pity you couldn't name them," Snape said icily.


Moody sank into a chair next to Sinistra, who separated the two men and did not seem very happy about the entire affair. Her eyes darted between the two, nervous. She laid her wand on the table and held it with a finger. He grated, " Sometimes I consider sending them to Azkaban for their treachery...backing out when my needs were greatest..."


" Loyalty must be gained," Snape hissed.


" Occasionally I find myself wondering how much trouble I'd find myself stuck in if I just wrapped my hands around their scrawny necks..." Moody said with a hunger in his eyes.


" I'm sure they'd be willing to risk the same," Snape said loftily, tapping a finger on the table.


From down the table, Flitwick asked," Are we still speaking of House Elves?"


Moody thrust a fork into a piece of toast and lifted it to his lips, biting off a piece angrily." Oh, yes."


Snape stood, sliding his chair back calmly." Excuse me, Headmaster," he said quietly. He gave a gentlemanly bow to
Sinistra and nodded to the rest of the professors, descending the steps. Suddenly, a harsh voice called out:


" Oh, no you don't, you filthy snake!"


He turned, his eyes murderous. Moody was standing abruptly, difficult with the curvature of his back, his mouth covered with crumbs." You think you're going to slither on down to your hole, tidying up before the big bad Auror finds something wrong with your nasty potions? You think I'm going to let you burn all your Dark Arts books? If you think, for one second, that I'm going to let you take another step while I'm here inspecting, you've got another thing--"


Snape backed up a step, closer to the doors. A defiant fire was in his eyes. He smiled. " Continue."


Moody's mouth was working around something invisible, and he was having difficulty chewing it." You are a coward, Severus Snape! You run from adversity like a spider from the basilisk!"


Snape said coldly," Now who's the snake?"


Moody stood, thundering," You will not hide anything from me, Snape!"


Snape spread his hands, his lips sliding upward into a wolfish smile." Oh, I have nothing to hide, Alastor," he said smoothly, taking another step back." Come with me, I shall show you into my wicked lair," he added with a dramatic flourish of his hand." I shall enthrall you with the noxious fumes and banned elixirs of my tortured existence!" He gave a short, mirthless laugh." Are you afraid?"


Moody growled," Fear isn't in my vocabulary."


Snape said silkily," So few things are."


Moody gave a snort." And you? Dithering about useless powders and cauldrons--"


Snape had been starting for the door, but now, like a hellish wind, he spun round and withdrew his wand. He looked no less than a Death Eater. His eyes burned with absolute contempt." How are you insult my profession!" he seethed, his wand pointing directly at Moody's face, which, in the instance of being confronted with Severus Snape's wand, had dropped its smug grin. " How are you speak of things of which you have no knowledge! I would so love, I so ache, to pour a little draught into your morning tea, I would rejoice to see you writhe in agony before me!"


Moody slammed his fists on the table, rattling Sinistra's plate. She was pale and shaking as she watched the duel of words between the two men. " Is that a threat?"


Snape enunciated perfectly," One which I am more than willing to carry out!"


Moody shouted," You are too spineless to do anything more than spit on my shoes!"


Snape was murderous." I have committed crimes you'll never know! I have done things that your feeble mind only wonders about at night and quivers at the mere thought of! I am not a man to be insulting!"


Moody smirked." Try me."


Snape's lips were white, and his right hand was twisted around his wand, which had not wavered." I have murdered with Curses you've never heard of, I have destroyed minds, homes, children, I have spilled blood on the account of a Lord you'll never have the magic in you to confront!"


Moody said arrogantly," And you, so proud of your useless war efforts."


Snape cried," I have given my sanity and have sacrificed more of myself than you could ever fathom! I am more of a wizard than you could ever be!"


Moody thrust his thumb in his chest." At least I am not a traitor! At least I am not--"


At this, the argument stopped, as Dumbledore shot to his feet. " I have let you both vent for the time, but this is not
behavior I want to see in grown men." He clapped his hands, and Dobby appeared at his feet, his huge green eyes shining with obedience." Dobby, please show Master Moody to his rooms. I must speak with Severus in my chambers privately. Send for me when Alastor is settled and has had a bit more to eat. Make him comfortable."


Dobby nodded and hopped off of the terrace, smiling toothily up at Moody, who looked ready to kick him. He bowed graciously, oblivious to the row that had just taken place, and opened the doors to let the guest out. Snape stood, seething, and watched with hawk eyes until the doors rattled closed. He turned and looked at Dumbledore, his lips thin. " I hope you're satisfied," he said smoothly, sliding his wand into his robes. " He seems perfectly fit to take up the vacancy of resident git when I'm killed off."


Dumbledore came closer to him, patting his shoulder. He led him out of the Hall, into the cool, dark hallway." This will be difficult for you, I can see this plainly, but we must not let your emotions and his...hostility...overwhelm us. You are every bit to blame as he is--"


" Do you have any inclination as to what he did to me?" Snape asked, stopping in the corridor. He faceted his gaze on Dumbledore, pinning him in place as easily as a viper would stun its prey. " When I was in my first years of service, he went out of his way, before my Death Eater brethren, in any public place, especially in front of the Minister, to mention my...affiliations. He nearly got me killed several times. I am thoroughly convinced that he, along with one other Auror whom you've met and who is, and I say this gleefully, deceased, was the reason I was caught years ago and condemned to Azkaban. And this is the man you want me to spend an entire term with." He waved a hand." It's ridiculous."


Dumbledore whispered," Though not impossible."


Snape sucked his bottom lip between his teeth, contemplating. Finally, he said," If one day you find me dead, turn to him for conviction. My blood will be on his hands, I assure you."


Dumbledore, never a fool but always a meddling old wizard, commented," How would I know if you didn't--"


Snape hissed," Because I keep potions concealed in my robes to save my life, not end it. As much as everyone would like to think." He pivoted, a signal that the conversation was over. " Now," he began, starting a new one," what is it you wanted to discuss?"


Dumbledore inhaled slowly." I wanted to tell you that I had the House Elves enter your office--"


Snape took a sharp breath, surprised and offended." You what?" he murmured.


"--to bring your Dark Arts books up into my office, where Alastor will never be permitted to enter as long as he is a professor here," Dumbledore finished." They have also found some rather shady elixirs that would have been brought to the Ministry's attention, and have put them under my care as well. I knew you, being proud of your abilities and one of the few to stand your ground before Ministry jurisdiction, would never confiscate them. I took the liberty."


Snape paled, all color draining to a hidden spot in the floor. " You did."


Dumbledore shrugged." It was best." Seeing the complete devastation in Snape's eyes, he added hastily," Oh, perhaps 'confiscate' was not the right word...no...I hid them. Alastor has no proof that they existed."


Snape straightened slightly, as the effort of being shocked and appalled had deflated some of his ramrod posture. " I see." He was bewildered, an odd and out-of-place emotion for such a man." Well...thank you," he said with an inclination of his head." I shall see to it that you are repaid."


" Come now, Severus, you've more than repaid your debts," Dumbledore threw the matter away." Have a glass of
sherry with me, Alastor won't be ready for some time yet. I gave Dobby specific instructions earlier to check on all matters, trivial and important."


Snape chuckled." Dobby will suffer for this, Headmaster."


" Dobby has powers within his kind that we can't begin to understand," Dumbledore remarked, walking stiffly up the stone steps to his office." He has been told to check sheets, thread count, goblet design, bed skirts, ewers, mirror frames, bathroom towels, soaps, candles...all items necessary to make a guest comfortable."


" You never checked them with me," Snape muttered, casting his eyes to the windows. The rain had not relented.


Dumbledore grinned." I knew from years of acquaintance with you exactly what you wanted." He spread his hands. " You are an easy man to make comfortable, and I knew the more sparse your accommodations, the more you would slowly let trickle in from your own collections, and the more you would inadvertently let me know about yourself. You were a very guarded and private young man."


Snape said, lips barely moving as he admired the storm outside," I have not changed."


" Indeed," Dumbledore assented, letting the gargoyle leap aside and stepping onto the moving stairs. Snape joined him, his hands crossed over his chest. " You do like sherry, do you not?"


Snape sighed." It's not my favorite, but it will do."


" And just what is?" Dumbledore asked carefully, opening his door and stepping into the warm golden light of his
office. Fawkes gave a low crow and nestled into his pile of ashes. Dumbledore stroked him while Snape inspected a small set of brass scales.


Snape smiled craftily." Perhaps if you let the House Elves do a bit more cleaning, you'll soon discover."


Dumbledore worked his bottom lip thoughtfully." Hmm." He opened a cabinet and withdrew two goblets and a bottle. Pouring some of the sherry out and handing a glass to Snape, he dipped his head." Cheers."


Snape grinned briefly." Slainte." He took a sip, and then reached over to peer at a vial of some potion he'd made, sitting in the Headmaster's wine cabinet. As he did so, he knocked over an inkwell. " Mae'n ddrwg gyda fi," he said hurriedly, waving his wand to clean it up.


Dumbledore chuckled, sitting at his desk and handing over a thick packet of parchment." The Ministry sent these this morning. They are regulations and criterion for your inspection. If Alastor violates any of these, he faces Ministry punishment, as well as a revocation of his former Auror status."


Snape flipped through the pages dismally, a dim smile playing across his features. " I shall read these carefully, of course." Becoming suddenly serious and very pallid, he murmured," If he so much as disrupts a single vial, Headmaster, I assure you, there will be such fury as he has never--"


Dumbledore lifted a hand." Calm yourself, dear boy. We don't need you flying off our Nimbus like this."


Snape quietly fumed, nostrils flaring.


" I will be in my office, here, should any problems arise."


Snape nodded, but a thought sprang into his mind, one which he wanted an honest answer for, one which, if an answer contrary to what he hoped was given, would disappoint him greatly." Headmaster?"


" Albus," Dumbledore said offhandedly, lighting a candle.


" Yes, well, I...I have a very solemn question to ask you, one which I hope you might consider and answer truthfully," Snape managed, wary of Dumbledore's response.


His eyebrows perked." Yes? And would you expect anything otherwise?"


Snape looked down at his feet, running his finger along the edge of the etched glass goblet." Well, I...sometimes..."


" Go on, Severus," Dumbledore laughed, waving a hand.


Snape lifted his head, taking a deep breath." If Alastor...does...anything---"


Dumbledore's brows lifted a bit more.


"--shall we say...characteristic? Of his nature?"


It seemed the old man's brows would reach his hairline.


" Would...you...apprehend him...for...it?" Snape finished uneasily. Dumbledore relaxed." I mean, would you treat him as you would...my professors and I?"


Dumbledore nodded firmly." I would indeed."


Snape did not seem neither happy nor disappointed, simply glassy-eyed and thoughtful." What if...he commits an act...against someone..."


" Who is 'someone'?"


" Me," Snape clarified softly, his word barely heard even in the relative silence.


Dumbledore could see, by his knowing smile, that, clearly, this matter was bothering Snape, enough to make him
take time with his words, whereas his normal tirades were well-thought out, skeptical, cynical, and scathing to the end of every punctuation mark. He stood. " Oh, Severus, you mustn't think that I favor him." He sighed through his nose." If
anything, I favor you."


Snape blinked." Me?" he repeated, aghast." Why me?"


Dumbledore stood in front of him." Because you are the most intelligent, fiercely devoted, and skillful man I've ever met, and you've faced more adversity and tests of true character than any man I've ever known. You are the epitome of the name of 'wizard' and you do it justice. Now, more than ever do you do it justice, and yet despite your triumphs you have flaws and shortcomings no one else can seem to glance past."


Snape lowered his gaze.


Dumbledore said quietly," But I can."

__________________________________________________
There will be more after about a week, I think. I'm going to be extremely busy, and as much as I would love to keep adding chapters that have already been written, I don't think I'll find much time. Many thanks to those who reviewed; it means so much to me!



Chapter 4: I Don't Make Mistakes
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Chapter Four: I Don't Make Mistakes






If there was any place in the castle that struck fear into students, it was the foreboding office of the Potions Master. This Snape knew, like he knew his own name, and he did his best to make it as chilly and unwelcoming as possible. It must have shown through in his sparse decor and the eerie vials he kept on mahogany shelves. When he strode in, parchments in hand, he found Moody sitting at his desk.


He took a deep breath.


It was going to be a long day.

~~

Moody frowned at the titles of books littering Snape's desk. " One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi?" he asked coldly, flipping open a page with his thumb, as if the pages scalded him." Quite a popular text with Herbologists, I would think."


You would, wouldn't you? Snape's nasty voice whispered in his head. He tuned it out. " There are many plants necessary for brewing potions, surely you know this."


Moody nodded, clearing his throat." I do," he said gruffly." Potions is part of Auror education."


Snape raised one eyebrow carefully, not wanting to show that he, too, had gone through Auror training, mainly because the Dark Lord had told him to. His service was not completely without benefits." Indeed?"


Moody dipped his head." Sure." He fingered the bookmarks." Mind if I...?"


Snape did not object, though his lips were pressed thin. Moody opened the designated pages and drew back." Ohh, well, that explains quite a bit. Larkspur, death camas, iris, belladonna..." He smiled grimly." You like your poisons, don't you?"


" For the seventh year curriculum," Snape replied smoothly, reaching forward to close the book.


Moody opened another one. " Magical Drafts and Potions," he read." Seems fitting." He made a check on a small clipboard and then stood. " Would you mind if I opened a few drawers?"


Snape suddenly leapt into action, opening his mouth to protest.


" Thanks," Moody said quickly, sliding one open.


" No, I really didn't--"


" Ohhh, what's this?" he asked with a smile on his face, smug." A photograph?"


Snape bit his lip." Please, Moody, put that down..."


Moody waved the silver frame in the air. " But it's such a pretty picture...ickle Severus in his school robes, first day, maybe? And who's this man behind him?"


Snape growled," Put it down." His eyes were murderous. Any student in their right mind would have fled. Moody saw the gaze and crumbled, setting the picture back in the drawer and slamming it shut. Snape grit his teeth as the rattle echoed.


Moody meandered over to a stack of parchments. " Let's see...papers from last term? Tut tut, you need to actually return these, Snape."


Snape hissed," They are end...of...term papers."


Moody's brows lifted." Oh, I see. Hmm...a D, another D...this is six Dreadfuls in a row, Snape, you're no light grader."


" If the students were competent, I would not need to rip their averages to shreds," Snape replied with a curt smile.


Moody lifted the last paper." Oh, an A...from a Miss Hermione Granger. I'll have to keep this name in mind when I teach Defense this year."


Snape remained stoic, his arms folded across his chest.


Moody opened a vial and sniffed it, staggering backward." Wuff! What is this?"


Snape simply looked at it." Green...thick and odorous...I'd have to say Flesh Eating Slug Repellent."


" Where'd you buy this? Borgin and Burke's?"


Snape's eyes narrowed." I made it."


Moody's lips pulled down in a carefully satisfied expression." Hmph." He looked at another one. It was silvery and full of chunks and pieces of random objects." Cauldron a bit too cool to melt anything properly?"


Snape exhaled slowly." A Polyjuice Potion."


Moody asked," Ohh, to turn into what, now?"


Snape hissed," Whatever venomous creature I most feel like turning into. Preferably one with fangs."


Moody caught the hint and kept walking. He inspected cauldrons, though obviously had no idea what he was looking for or warding against, held up ladles, scales, vials, vial racks, tongs, measuring cups, mortars, pestles, and anything else he could get his grubby hands on. Nothing seemed to be out of place. " You run a tight ship, Snape." He uncovered a cauldron, checking its innards.


" I don't make mistakes."


Moody kept perusing, knocking over vials carelessly. Snape was on the verge of screaming when he almost brushed against a corrosive, and explosive, potion that he had removed from its case and left on the shelf. He ran forward and slid it back in, when he heard a loud boom! in the corner of the room. He spun, setting the case down, his eyes searching for the hole in the floor, the smoke, the puddle of mud that was Moody at one point, but only saw a bright purple stain on the stone wall. He clutched his face miserably. " My Wiggenweld!" he cried angrily." Get out of my office!"


Moody uncapped a vial, throwing the cork carelessly into a boiling cauldron. It exploded, sending shards of copper everywhere. Snape, who knew that the slightest disturbances in any simmering cauldron, could be damaging or worse, dropped flat on the floor as soon as he saw the stopper sail through the air. Therefore, when it exploded he was safe and unharmed. Moody had managed to hold up a text, which was now pockmarked with holes and stuck through in some places with long, slender pieces of metal.


Moody made a mark." Uncovered cauldron..."


Snape seethed," You uncovered it! I saw you!"


Moody continued writing."...Alleges that Inspector opened it..."


Snape pointed a long white finger at him." Don't...you...dare!" he snarled.


Moody ignored him and swiped a layer of dust off of a shelf." Little used, Severus?"


Snape growled," It's my shelf of Doxy poison. Doxies do not frequent any rooms but those heavily adorned in tapestry, and I have had the Headmaster put several cabinets in those rooms stocked with Doxy anti venom to ward off any unpleasant student injuries."


Moody nodded. " Well, caring for the students for once." He uncapped another vial, this time a red one.


" Antidote to Common Poisons," Snape said coolly." Not used as often as my Deflating Draught, but still lovingly kept close during any class of mine."


" How many vials of this do you have?"


" Thirty," Snape said quickly. Perhaps a bit too quickly.


Moody asked suspiciously," You sure?"


" I am positive," Snape said confidently." I am always aware of how many potions I have on hand."


Moody went through a list, calling off names and taking down their quantities.


" Wiggenweld?"


" Forty-five."


" Doxy Anti venom?"


" Twelve."


" Polyjuice?"


" Three."


"Veritaserum?"


" Two."


" Forgetfulness?"


" Six."


" Love?"


" You mean 'aphrodisiac'?" Snape asked condescendingly." Two."


" Why so little Veritaserum?" Moody asked.


" It takes a month to mature fully. It is too much work to go through unnecessarily."


" Wolfsbane?"


" One."


" Any...ah...fatal potions?"


Snape thought back to what Dumbledore had said in the corridor. They have also found some rather shady elixirs that would have been brought to the Ministry's attention, and have put them under my care as well." No."


Moody snorted. " Really."


Snape gestured." Do you see any?"


Moody had to relent. He circled around a set of scales." Expensive looking."


" One hundred and fifty Galleons. It was a gift."


" Maybe someone wanted you to brew something fatal and administer it to yourself," Moody said absently.


Snape jerked. He knew Moody hated him, and he detested him even more, but this was over the line. He stood still, letting his eyes do the talking. Moody, however, ignored him. Not enough gall to face me, he thought.


At last, it seemed that the inspection was over. Moody had found nothing legitimately wrong, and Snape would argue the "uncovered cauldron" count vehemently, as any Ministry official for Misuse of Substances would know instantly that a covered cauldron meant trouble, and only extremely corrosive and stable potions, and few brews were ever both, would necessitate a lid.


In the doorway, two more Aurors, real ones this time, in full red garb, stepped in. Snape gaped at them, but quickly closed his mouth and stood off to the side. They swept through the shelves and rummaged through his desk. One stopped to admire his quill, though behind his hood and mask Snape couldn't tell his facial expression.


Moody muttered something to one of them, his artificial eye rolling madly. The Auror nodded, and came forward quickly, approaching Snape. The Potions Master lifted his head, ready to answer any questions. What he got instead was much more painful.


The Auror coiled his hand around Snape's left arm. The Dark Mark burned angrily, singeing his black sleeve. The Auror, with scarlet gloves, felt nothing. Snape collapsed, letting out a shrill cry. He hung his head, moaning. Moody stood over him, growling," You slime. I always knew you were a Death Eater, and now I've got proof."


Snape held one hand against the floor to keep himself upright." You...don't...know...anything..."


Moody pointed to his eye." See this? I can see everything. I can see right down to your Dark Mark. There are some spots that don't come off, Snape. Keep yourself aware. I am always watching you."


He felt another horrendous flash of white hot pain in his arm before collapsing as something collided with the back of his head.


And all went black.



It feels so good to be back! Many heartfelt thanks to those of you staying with and following this story! The next chapter will be the last...


Chapter 5: Potions Once More
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Chapter Five: Potions Once More




When Snape woke, he was very alone and very cold, lying on the stone floor of his office. His arm throbbed where the Dark Mark burned his skin. He moaned loudly and lifted his right arm. His left was useless. The Auror must have applied pressure even after he was struck unconscious.


He crawled toward his fireplace, reaching for the small pot of Floo powder. He tossed it in, groaning," Dumbledore."
He inched forward and thrust himself into the fireplace. In a rush of green light, and choking on the swirling ashes, he arrived in a heap on Dumbledore's office floor.


The Headmaster was not there, and Snape cursed mentally, struggling to at least his elbows. He leaned against the hearth, taking deep, even breaths. With every heartbeat he felt his Dark Mark throb angrily, the cause of his irritation, the surly glances when Voldemort's power grew stronger, the wariness.


Dumbledore's office door swung open, the ancient oak creaking against its hinges. The Headmaster nearly dropped his parchments, along with a rather large cup of tea, as he saw the dark figure slumped against his fireplace." Severus?" he inquired softly, almost hesitantly.


Snape nodded, and managed," Moody has more pull in Ministry affairs than I first imagined."


Dumbledore set his papers and cup on his desk, bustling forward and kneeling beside Snape. " Are you all right? How did you get up h--"


Snape sighed shakily." Floo," he replied with a moan, straightening himself against the bricks. " Two Aurors came down during my inspection...which went better on my behalf than his, I think, and meandered around for a bit..." He trailed off as he saw the worry in Dumbledore's eyes, as well as the dark, foreboding shadows under his brows as they knit together. " Headmaster?" he tried.


Dumbledore shook his head quickly, as if shaking off snowflakes." I thought...no..."


" Yes?" Snape pressed.


" Well, Alastor was to come alone, without direct Ministry interference...that was the entire purpose of sending a retired Auror, was it not?"


Snape smirked." May I divulge a piece of...sensitive information to you?"


" Of course," Dumbledore replied somberly.


" Moody was fired," Snape said, relishing the moment with barely restrained triumph. He looked ready to burst out laughing, but the man was quite beyond that.


Dumbledore nodded thoughtfully." Severus...would it be possible that...Death Eaters...such as ones whom you've named in the past...those who had ties with Alastor...is it conceivable that they might have the abilities to gain access into the Ministry and its Aurors?"


Snape sighed." They've been known to do it before. I wouldn't put anything past Antonin. He's a brilliant man; if only he could devote his mind to something better," he added regretfully." Murder is not the path to greatness." He sniffed.


Dumbledore dipped his head. " But why would Alastor converse with known Death Eaters? He despises all elements
of Black Magic, the Dark Arts, anything in those areas of expertise."


Snape's thin eyebrows lifted." Expertise?" he repeated." My, Headmaster, we're getting a bit of admiration when we speak of such treacherous practices, aren't we?"


Dumbledore muttered," Do not think for one moment that I condone Death Eater motives." Snape lifted his head slightly." We must get you cleaned up," he said in a sudden subject change. Snape got to his feet surprisingly well, feeling had returned to his lower extremities and he was able to flex his left arm.


" I think I'm all right, Headmaster--"


" You most certainly are not. There's a bruise on your face that makes Sybil's purple scarves green with envy. Sit, by the fire. We need to look at this," Dumbledore said, waving a hand. A stool and a bowl of water appeared, as well as a white towel.


Snape sat on the stool obediently and tilted his face toward the light of the fire. He bit his lip, thinking. Would Moody be reprimanded as Dumbledore vowed he would be? Verbal insults were not grounds for a 'sacking' as the students lovingly referred to the dismissal of a professor, but would bodily harm suffice?


" Headmaster," Snape tried, his voice sliding into the silky, reverent, wary tone he used when speaking to superiors," What...what will the Ministry...and other...forces...employ to apprehend Moody's actions?"


Dumbledore clicked his tongue in disapproval as he wiped at a scrape on the back of Snape's neck. " Oh, the Ministry knows nothing, of course, as they often do. And even if they did know, they would not consider it. They would address a letter to Hagrid before they addressed this matter." He chuckled at his own joke.


Snape shot back," This is not a time for witty puns, Headmaster, I am quite serious." He swiveled to face Dumbledore, his eyes alight. " I am not going to sit by and watch a potential colleague run free from punishment before he has taken office." His eyes narrowed to dangerous black slits." As I have done before."


Dumbledore ran his hand through his beard." I understand, but without sufficient proof--"


" Proof?" Snape pointed to the bloodied rag Dumbledore held in his hand." This is not validation?" He straightened." I take my occupation here seriously, Headmaster, as seriously as I favor my duty to the Order. Which I know you will be starting again soon, with new threats previously unseen rising to the surface."


Dumbledore acquiesced with a silent nod.


" I also want you to be aware that I am more than willing to accept his position as Defense--"


" Under no circumstances will you do such a thing," Dumbledore said coldly, holding up a hand for emphasis. " You
are a Potions Master, and thus you shall remain."


Snape's lips quivered, and his hands clenched around the edges of the stool." Headmaster, do not be impudent. You know full well I am more qualified for this job than he will ever be--"


" Yes, I agree," Dumbledore said smoothly. "Pardons cannot be dealt out like free pasties, Severus, they take time."


Snape stood, enraged. " What do I have that needs a pardon from you?" he cried, hurt." What have I ever done, short of give every drop of my blood for this cause which you so arduously uphold? Why must I wear this stain, like some...like some proud banner of honor? It's not who I am anymore, it's not who I want to be, don't they realize this?" He sank to sit on the stool again. " When will it be my chance to get rid of this shame?" His voice had died down to a whisper.


Dumbledore laid his hand on Snape's shoulder. " Severus, you must understand. It is not safe, not now, and not at any point in time that I can foresee in the near future. You must realize...I do this for your own safety."


Snape nodded." I apologize for my puerile behavior, Headmaster, I did not mean for it to go so far." He hung his head. " I have overstepped the bounds, as a professor and as one whom I would hope you considered a friend."


Dumbledore smiled." I do, and that is why I wish to protect you. You are correct, the Order will be forming soon. I can see a new threat on the horizon. It is like a storm gathering in the distance, and though I cannot stop it, nor can I hear
the thunder, I can smell the rain."


Snape took a deep breath, holding his left arm gingerly." Storms always wash away what needs to be cleansed."


Dumbledore nodded." Too true."


Snape stood, swallowing. " I have an exploded cauldron to repair and a Veritaserum mix to tend to, Sir. If you don't mind, I shall be readying for tomorrow's classes as well. I am simply shivering with anticipation."


Dumbledore smiled." Good luck to you."


Snape had reached for the door, but turned slowly." Oh, and on the matter of luck...I shall be visiting Sybil soon, in need of a specific...blessing, I believe?"


Dumbledore nodded.


Snape sighed, hanging his head. " It's going to be a very rough year." He gave a sardonic smirk. " Let us hope those words do not prove to be prophetic."


Heartfelt thanks to those of you who have dutifully followed this story, to the very end. I appreciate your reviews immensely. Thank you very much!

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