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Author: Lily Severn
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.
Chapter One: No Less than Horrid

" 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

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.

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

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