The head masters, the paintings that lined the walls of Dumbledore’s office, were in an uproar. The room was filled with shouting. Phineas Black especially, roared above the fray. Certainly, none of them were sleeping, though it was dark, and the hour late.
“The very idea!” sneered Phineas disgusted. “The man’s a popinjay.”
Roland Wood stood in the tower room of Dumbledore’s office. He would have chuckled at the cacophony of protect voiced all around him if it weren’t so serious a situation. The old paintings looked ridiculous but they had a point. Cornelius Fudge was an idiot to try to undermine Albus Dumbledore while He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named was creeping out from whatever rock that he’d been hiding under in the great beyond. It was a crime and would only fuel the Death Eater’s fire. It was a scandal.
“Fudge is planning to move in a few weeks, Albus,” said Roland. “He told me that he only needed proof of a conspiracy and he was very close to getting that proof.” The paintings began shouting again, but Dumbledore raised his hand to still them. They stopped immediately and listened.
Albus looked at Roland through half moon spectacles. He was calculating the list of odd ends and pursuits of leads that he wanted to accomplish before the Ministry invaded Hogwarts. His plan would surely work. It would save many lives in the long run if all went well. “It will be fine, Roland,” he said calmly. “I’ve been expecting the Ministry to interfere. Your warning only gives us a time frame to prepare for.” Albus tucked his beard back into his belt and rose to stroke Fawkes’ head.
“This administrator,” began Roland, “the one they have put in place here, this Umbridge woman.” He sighed meaningfully. “I’ve dealt with her type throughout my entire career, Albus. She will use any means to achieve the political agenda. Professional ethics mean nothing to her kind. She’s dedicated, ruthless, and I might add, damned ugly, as well.” He smirked. “Being ugly makes them bitter and more ambitious, I think.”
Albus chuckled. “Let’s be charitable, Ambassador!”
“My daughter has spoken of her. She says that she’s treacherous and devious.” All politicians had the potential to be dangerous because they always claimed to be acting for the people when mostly they had their own agenda that they were working on. More fodder for the masses is what they were all about. He knew he was a politician himself.
Albus was surprised that the man had mentioned his daughter. “I’m happy to hear that you’ve made amends with Felicity, Roland,” he said returning to his seat at the desk. He offered a lemon drop to the ambassador, who leaned over in his chair to pluck it from the coffer.
“I wouldn’t exactly say that we’ve made amends, Professor,” he said. He sucked on the sour sweetness of the lemon drop. “She’s a trial but I trust her dragon instincts. There’s no denying her perceptions when there’s a danger. She has the animal instincts.”
“Someone like Cornelius Fudge always attracts the ambitious and ruthless to be near them. It’s why he insisted on using the Dementors to guard Azkaban. His insistence on controlling the press will be his undoing.”
They sat in silence for some moments, both lost in thought. Roland Wood had come secretly to Dumbledore to warn him that Cornelius Fudge was planning on arresting him. Fudge’s woman Dolores Umbridge was planning to embark on getting rid of his teachers first. She had informed the Minister that her spies were very close to discovering a secret that would give Cornelius cause for Dumbledore’s dismissal. Albus hadn’t seemed too terribly surprised by his news.
Cornelius was a fool. To deny that there was a possibility that what Dumbledore said was one thing, but to go out of your way to discredit such a powerful wizard was insane. It was political suicide.
A voice sounded and broke the two men from their separate thoughts. It came from the case of silver implements and gadgets on the other side of the room. “Albus!” It said. “Headmaster!”
Dumbledore got up from his seat. He was energetic for one so very old. He walked lightly to the case and pulled a plain silver mirror from it. “Remus,” he said to the reflection. “What a pleasant surprise!”
“Headmaster, I have Felicity here at the house, sir,” said Remus.
Roland looked up at the mention of his daughter.
“There’s been a visit to Malfoy Manor from the Death Eaters.”
“Remus, you sound out of breath!” said Dumbledore calmly. He returned to the desk but stood in front of Roland so that he would be able to see the person speaking, as well.
Roland recognized the man his daughter had had to the house immediately. He sighed deeply. The werewolf, of all people to attract her attention, it had to be a werewolf. His daughter was going to be the death of him.
Dumbledore smiled as if reading Roland’s thoughts. “Let us speak with Felicity, Remus,” he said.
There was a jumble of images in the mirror as it was passed and Felicity’s face appeared. “I’m here, sir.” Her voice was like her mother’s, Roland suddenly realized. Her voice had changed to an almost a seductive song when she’d melded with her damned dragon. He mourned the change for years, but now he detected a hint of his wife’s nature still there. He was surprised.
“Felicity, it’s your father,” he said gruffly.
“Dad?” she said surprised. “What are you doing there?” The strain and worry could be heard plainly in the rise of cadence as she spoke. Felicity was distressed.
“He’s here keeping me company,” said Dumbledore soothingly, calming her. “What’s happened, my dear?”
Felicity bit her lip. “Bella, another Death Eater that I didn’t recognize, and,” she paused gulping, “a feral werewolf,” she whispered. “He was a murderer, a fiend. I could smell it on him. The death, his wanting to kill me, to attack them all was blatant. I tried to protect them, but it was a trap. They’d brought him on purpose to test Severus.” The tears welled in her eyes at the thought of his rejection of her. “He hated me. He told me to leave him. He’s become one of them.”
Dumbledore paused for only a slight moment in thought before he said anything. “Felicity, dear,” he said. “Our Severus Snape will never be one of them.”
“His thoughts were to protect them from me,” she countered. Her pain was plain on her face. “He was only thinking of them and he told me to tell you that he never wanted to see me again, that you should send me back to Tibet.” She wiped a tear from her eye.
At Grimmauld Place, Tonks, Remus and Sirius were sitting about the fire in the kitchen listening to the conversation between Felicity and Dumbledore in great earnest. Tonks and Sirius looked to each other with raised eyebrows while Remus looked stricken at the thought of Felicity leaving.
On the other side of the mirror, Dumbledore smiled indulgently. “We need you here, Felicity,” he said. “I’ll not be sending you back.”
“I want to go home, sir,” she whispered.
The listeners on both sides of the mirror looked aghast except for Felicity and Dumbledore. “Why is that, my dear?” asked Dumbledore. “Do you want Voldemort to win, now?”
“I want to go home, sir,” she said again. “He doesn’t want to see me. I can’t live any longer in this state. I must fly. I must…”
Remus went to her and put an arm around her shoulder. She leaned into him for comfort.
“I must be what I am,” she whispered.
Roland sat wounded by the plea in Felicity’s voice. His baby daughter, the dragon she had become, it cut him to hear her sadness, her desperation. He’d never realized. He’d only thought of how inconvenient, no, how ridiculous it was that she was a friggin dragon until that moment. He had always remembered the impetuous, vibrant sixteen-year-old daughter that he had mourned for years whenever he looked at her now. An imposter dragon had taken her place. He realized, unexpectedly, that she was still his own flesh and blood. She was still his Felicity.
“Don’t go, daughter,” he said aloud, his voice rough and trembling. “A Wood never runs from a fight.”
Dumbledore smiled. “Did you hear that, my dear? You must stay with us.”
Felicity nodded and looked up into Remus’ face for support.
“Stay there this evening, Felicity. Come back in the morning as you’d planned it. I’ll handle Severus. He’ll meet with Voldemort tonight. Don’t, under any circumstances, go to him.” Dumbledore merely smiled at Felicity’s alarmed expression. “Yes, he will seek an audience with him. Both he and I had hoped that it would happen this week end.”
Dumbledore ignored her question. “This werewolf? What did he look like?”
Felicity was flustered by the question. “I barely remember what he looked like. I was blinded by his malice and smell more than anything. His teeth were pointed, not human. He was older, I think. Evil, he was evil.”
“Hmmmm…. yes,” mused Dumbledore. “You stay the night, my dear, and come to the tower when you arrive.”
He closed off the mirror with a snap of his fingers and quietly went to put the mirror in the case.
Roland sat ashen faced in his chair. He felt very old. “Who was it?” he asked hoarsely. “Who was the werewolf?” But even before the Headmaster replied, he knew the answer.
“You know who it was, Roland,” said Dumbledore sadly. “He’s the only one it could be.”
“I thought he was dead. Fenrir Greyback is surely dead.”
“Apparently, not.” Dumbledore stroked his beard thoughtfully and slipped back into his chair. He looked at Roland Wood afresh. “It seems many of our old enemies have only been waiting for Voldemort’s return.” Roland winced at the mention of He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named. Dumbledore fixed his eyes on the man before him. “I would like a favor, Ambassador.”
“Anything,” said Roland still stunned over Greyback. He was an animal. He killed children, maimed people purposely. It was a shock.
“Someone that we both know has gone into hiding and I wish to find him.”
“Merlin’s testis, not another Death Eater?”
“No, your old professor, Horace Slughorn has disappeared.”
Roland was relieved and visibly relaxed. “Old Sluggy?” he chuckled. “I haven’t seen that old blowhard in years.” Professor Slughorn had been his potion’s professor during his school years. They’d kept in touch with each other since leaving school. He’d seen him at more than a few Ministry parties. Sluggy liked to know people who know people and after all, Roland Wood knew almost everyone. He hadn’t seen or heard of him in a good five years, however. Frankly, he’d thought the old man was dead.
“I would like you to find him.” Dumbledore’s expression was unreadable.
“I’ll do my best,” said Roland.
“He won’t want to be found. You’ll need to be discreet.”
“Of course.” He waited for Dumbledore to say more but the old man said nothing.
“Why?” said Roland finally. “Why are we looking for him?”
“Because Voldemort is looking for him,” said Dumbledore quietly. “I’d like to know why.”
Felicity handed the mirror back to Sirius dully. The four said nothing for a moment. Remus comforted Felicity by putting his arm around her. Sirius and Tonks looked at each other and shrugged. They felt uncomfortable, both of them for different reasons.
“Well, I suppose that I should be getting back to my tree,” said Tonks. “Mad-Eye will have a hissy fit if he’s found me gone.” She rose to go.
“No, don’t go back there,” said Felicity. “Dumbledore planned this, somehow. I don’t know why, even. He doesn’t want us to interfere. You should stay.”
“And we’ve the curry to eat,” said Remus rising. He clattered around the kitchen fetching bowls and cutlery. Sirius joined him only to avoid looking at Felicity. He would never understand her connection to Snivellus nor why Remus seemed to not care about it.
Tonks sat uncomfortably next to her trying to think of something to say. She shifted uneasily.
“So what is it between you and Sevvie, anyways?” she asked finally.
Felicity looked at the younger woman and grinned. “We’re bound for life. I saved his life in an unusual way.” She shook her head. “He’s pretty aggravated with me.”
“I’ll bet,” said Tonks. “I can’t imagine that old Sevvie would like the ball and chain part much. He’s such a git.”
They both laughed.
“Severus Snape is difficult,” said Felicity seriously. “He’s been uncooperative, snarling and arrogant, but he’s a great wizard and a genius. I’m devastated that he was so repulsed by me.”
“You’re hardly repulsive. He’s an idiot,” said Tonks, disgusted. “You’re a beautiful, wonderful woman and only Severus Snape would find fault in that.”
Felicity leaned over and touched her arm. Tonks was struck by the seductive nature of her suddenly. The woman was mesmerizing. She shivered involuntarily as she tried to remember Mad-Eye saying something about her after an Order of the Phoenix meeting. She was different, not like them, he’d said.
“Agatha Gray told me that you’re a Metamorphmagus,” said Felicity. “That’s very rare.”
“I am, it is, rare, that is,” said Tonks. She expected the usual questioning gaze filled with curiosity and suspicion but Felicity only smiled.
“I’m different, as well,” she said. “It’s why Severus hates me.” She rose as Remus beckoned them to the table to eat.
“Come now, you two, while it’s still tepid,” he said jovially.
“I’m a dragon and not entirely human,” said Felicity casually to Tonks. “Severus doesn’t care for mixing bloods.”
Tonks stopped. “You’re a what?” she asked. Both Sirius and Remus eyed each other and chuckled.
“You should see her, cousin,” said Sirius. “She’s wondrous to see. She’s got wings.”
Felicity laughed melodiously. She so loved these people.
“You knew?” demanded Tonks. “You both knew and never said?”
“It never came up,” said Sirius still chuckling. “What’d you want me to say? Oh, by the way, isn’t it special that Felicity is a dragon and Remus is a werewolf? They make a nice couple for not being quite human, don’t you think?”
They all sat about the long table. Felicity, who sat next to Remus, patted Tonk’s hand across the way. “It’s a secret, dear. The Ministry would not take kindly to a dragon here.” She explained what she was to Tonks who listened to the story with rapt attention.
“So, you became the dragon that you are right there in Malfoy’s parlor and then Severus threw you out of the house?” asked Tonks finally as they finished dinner. “He doesn’t like mudbloods, Metamorphmagus’, Animagus’, werewolves or dragons. The man’s a git, as I’ve always said.”
Sirius drained his glass. “Here, here, Snivellus is a git!!” he sang out.
“But he isn’t,” said Felicity. “He’s a very brave man.”
Remus, Sirius and Tonks all three snorted together.
“You don’t need to defend him, Felicity,” said Remus. “We know that Dumbledore trusts him. We just don’t like him much. We’ve had issues with him. He hasn’t been very kind to Harry.”
“You weren’t very kind to him, were you?” snapped Felicity. “Harry reminds him too much of your old friend whom he hates.
“That’s hardly fair,” said Sirius, his voice rising.
“You were cruel!” said Felicity stubbornly. “He’s only afraid of the animal in us. He has memories that he tries to shut out.” She frowned at Sirius. “Memories that you put there. You bullied him, Sirius.”
“It wasn’t as if he didn’t do the same, Felicity!” yelled Sirius. Remus was becoming alarmed at their argument.
“It’s true, Felicity,” he said quietly. “Severus tried to hex us whenever he got the chance. We had to watch him constantly.”
Felicity instantly calmed down. It was silly to argue over events that happened years ago that she had nothing to do with.
Tonks looked confused. “He’s never liked me, either. I’m a mudblooded weirdo as far as old Sevvie is concerned.”
“But he’s…” Felicity stopped mid-sentence. They weren’t her memories to tell. “He has nothing against people that aren’t purebloods,” she said finally. “He was loved by someone who wasn’t a pureblood. It ended tragically. He carries remorse with him and loss. It was very sad.”
All three mouths at the table fell open.
“It’s not possible,” said Sirius, finally. “I’ll never believe that he has a heart. Who was it?”
Felicity pursed her lips. They’d never understand even if she did tell them. Really, Master Tong would send her back to the caves for weeks if she didn’t start acting like a dragon should. “I’ve said too much,” she said. “He’s a good man.”
“You said that he was one of them to Dumbledore,” said Sirius stubbornly.
“Yes, you did. We all heard you.”
Remus had had enough. “Leave her alone, Padfoot.” He said it casually but there was an edge to the way that he said it. “It’s been a difficult evening for all of us and we mustn’t forget that Dumbledore trusts him implicitly. I, for one, trust his judgment. If he says that Snape’s to be trusted then I trust him.” He waited for Sirius to protest but Sirius didn’t want to waste a good dinner arguing about Snivellus.
“I still say he’s a git,” he said sticking a spoon in the pudding with a vengeance. He changed the subject to a book that he’d just read about pirates and adventure. It would be much more fun to talk about.
Several hours later, Severus Snape stood calmly before Albus Dumbledore.
“It’s done, sir,” he said stonily.
“He believes you?”
Severus nodded. He was exhausted. The entire affair had been tedious. He had a long day ahead of him. Monday brought his extra duties with Potter. The boy’s progress was dismal. Voldemort would eat the imbecile for lunch.
“Fenrir was unexpected,” said Albus conversationally. His eyes watched. Snape avoided them but it didn’t much matter. The old man read him like a book.
“He’s gotten worse. He’s a violent animal not a man anymore,” answered Snape. “I should have let Felicity kill him. He’ll give us trouble.”
“Yes, especially in Wolvin.”
Snape’s lip curled ever so lightly into a scowl.
“I believe that the Dark Lord is already in residence there.” He starred hard at Dumbledore. “The stench of animal was difficult to ignore. The house, the room that he inhabited was different then before. It was not in a city, certainly.”
“We must wait for the right time to strike him,” said Dumbledore kindly.
Severus sighed heavily. “My life is a payment for my sins.”
“We will need patience, my friend,” said Dumbledore. “If we’re to solve the riddle of the man who is no longer a man, we need patience.” Albus chuckled at his little joke. Severus rolled his eyes.
“It is hardly the time for frivolity, sir,” said Severus dryly.
“You should try it, Severus.” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. Professor Snape had a leg made for pulling.
“I imagine that Felicity was a drama queen about my performance,” asked Snape fishing.
“Come now, professor,” said Dumbledore seriously. “To her credit, it was hardly a performance.”
Snape grimaced. “It was difficult to watch. I wasn’t prepared for it, but I imagine that had been your plan all along. She’s dangerous.”
“She is beautiful and terrifying. Yes, I’ve seen them before. The dragon people are a magnificent race.” Dumbledore’s eyes crinkled in amusement. “I certainly hope that I’ll see her in flight before she returns home.”
“I hope that it’s soon. I don’t relish seeing her again. She unsettles me.”
“Patience, my friend,” said Dumbledore. It was critical that Severus be in control of his emotions. “Be kind to her. She cares greatly for you.”
Snape practiced being a statue.
“Have you anything more to tell me?” asked Dumbledore looking questioningly at the potion master’s gray stony face.
“Only what I always say, sir,” said Severus coldly. “The boy isn’t ready. The Dark Lord grows stronger daily and your supposed chosen one is a juvenile simpleton. Potter isn’t ready.”
“He will be, my friend,” said Albus knowingly. “He will be when we need him to be.”
“You say that but I have seen inside the boy’s mind, sir,” said Snape. This point particularly always made him uneasy. “He sees what the Dark Lord sees. He’s as dangerous because of his closeness to him. Tonight, the Dark Lord told me that he’d seen me. He knows, sees me and can see through Potter’s eyes. I can’t protect our secret with Potter involved. He’s uncontrollable.”
“It is imperative that you teach him Occlumency. Try, you must try. I cannot do it myself. You must be patient. Our plan is daring but given enough time, it will work. Patience.”
Snape tried to freeze his features but move his mouth. “That word should be written on my gravestone,” he said and turned to leave the room.
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