Disclaimer: None of these wonderful characters belong to me – unfortunately. Not that I would mind, though. Anyway, they belong to J.K.R. and I will be forever grateful to her for creating them.
Should anyone else already have had a similar idea to this one – which is likely, because there are so many HP-stories – please rest assured that I didn't steal from you. I happened to stumble across this idea all on my own.
Chapter 1: Commotion downstairs
„How can anyone be expected to concentrate with all this noise!" Harry shouted frustrated, flinging his copy of 1000 Magical Herbs and Fungi into the farthest corner of the room. It landed with a loud BANG. Irritated Hermione looked up from her roll of parchment and stopped re-reading her essay on "The Importance of Sandalwood in Potion Making" for the seemingly tenth time.
It had always been a mystery to Ron and Harry how their friend could get wrapped up in her homework so much that she wouldn't notice anything going on around her. A book on Quidditch or an adventure story, ok. But homework?
A door slammed shut downstairs and a second later Alastor Moody's voice could be heard echoing through the hallway downstairs and up the staircase. Luckily they had finally found a way to remove the Black family's portraits over the Christmas holidays, otherwise the racket outside would have been deafening by now.
"You will not just leave! You will stay here and answer some questions. NOW!"
Curiosity got the better of the three 6th year Hogwarts students. They knew they were not allowed downstairs or, as a matter of fact, anywhere near the staircase while the Order had a meeting. Mrs. Weasley called it protection. They called it unfair. As they were sneaking out of their room and into the upstairs corridor they met Ron's younger sister Ginny, who had already settled herself on the staircase's first landing. She was huddled in a woollen blanket and waved at them to come closer quickly.
"Aren't you supposed to be in bed sleeping off your cold?" Ron whispered to her in mock surprise.
Ginny smirked. "Would you be able to sleep with all that noise?"
Hermione motioned at them to be quiet and leaned forward slightly, trying to catch what was being said downstairs.
" … obviously seem to have failed to notice that I owe any explanations to you." Snape was just saying in a low voice that showed both signs of aggression and slight fear. No surprise to the listeners on the landing; their unloved Potions Master had always tried to avoid any direct encounters with the disfigured auror, a fact that had provided them with material for endless speculations over the last year.
"You know, we would all sleep a lot easier with some more sound background information." Arthur Weasley sounded slightly defiant and was backed up immediately by his wife.
"It's not that we don't trust you, Severus, it's just …" Her voice trailed off, the owner obviously at a loss for words.
"Except that we don't." The clanking sound of a wooden leg indicated that Moody was moving closer to Snape, who was nearby the banister now, trying to slowly but steadily edge his way towards the door.
"You probably won't believe this, but I could not care less about your trust", came Snape's curt reply. Determined he headed for the entrance door. The four teenagers caught a glimpse of his long black robes billowing in their characteristic fashion before he was pulled back physically and thrust against the wall directly beside the staircase. Hastily they clambered up again and out of sight, peeping through the gaps in the banister now. Mad Eye Moody was living up to his nick name, the magical as well as the normal eye staring wildly at the other wizard, fists clenched into Snape's revere.
"You must understand their fears". Dumbledore's voice came as a surprise to Harry and the others. They hadn't even known he was here today. "You worked for the other side for quite a considerable time and they fear that you might double-cross us like you are double-crossing them."
"They fear?" Snape rasped a little due to the very close grip Moody kept on him. "Or do you fear that as well, Albus? You know me. You know why I changed sides. You of all people shouldn't question my faithfulness." There was a hurt air to the younger wizard's voice.
Dumbledore sighed. "Yes, I know why you changed sides. What I do not know, however, are your motives for joining Voldemort in the first place."
"Exactly", Mad Eye interrupted, giving his rather helpless quarry another push against the wall. "We don't know why you did it the first time, so how can we know it won't happen again? How can we be sure it was not you who sabotaged our previous move?"
"You will just have to take my word for it", snapped Snape, trying to sound aloof but failing because of the slight quiver in his voice.
"I'm afraid that's not going to be enough this time, Severus", said Dumbledore quietly.