DEALING WITH DOLORES

Or

TORTURING THE TOAD

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Disclaimer: Only some of the plot is mine. Anything you recognise is not mine. Everything else might be mine. I definitely typed in everything myself, so you can at least give me credit for that. *grins*

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Severus:

This was the worst school year ever. First he had to put up with that lowlife Black, then came Dumbledore's request -no, order- that he teach the brat occlumency, and then there was Umbridge. Umbridge, sticking her nose in everywhere, watching his every step, and, well, existing. So it was with a queer mix of satisfaction and regret that he gave her the fake Veritaserum. Satisfaction, because he was tricking her, regret, because he saved the brat some trouble.

The toadlike woman gave him a sickly sweet smile as she thanked him for the bottle of liquid he handed her. He bowed to her, mockingly, dismissing her in a way she was wont to dislike, but could not complain about. Snape sat at his desk for a moment longer, his fingers steepled in front of his nose. A firm knock at his door woke him from his reverie, and he scowled and snapped in his usual bad temper

'Come in!'

Minerva stepped inside, her green robes swishing the ground, as she walked up to him swiftly. One look at her face told him something terrible had happened.

'Umbridge?' He asked grimly.

She nodded. 'That... -that woman' she said through gritted teeth, he sneered and she continued, forcing the words through her clenched teeth, 'she found a group of children. They had founded a club. They called it Dumbledore's Army. Albus said it was him who had founded the club and she took the chance to take over his position as headmaster of Hogwarts.' Utter disgust was in her voice as she said. 'Umbridge is now headmistress of Hogwarts.'

The anger that always simmered inside Snape flared up instantaneously. Umbridge, headmistress? How could this woman even consider the possibility that she might replace Dumbledore? And how could those children dare to give her the opportunity to get rid of him? Trembling with rage, he rose from his chair.

'Where is that toad of a woman?'

Minerva shook her head. 'Albus wants us to keep quiet, so we can stay and protect the children.'

Those few words sufficed to get him back to reality. He could not, must not show any sign of displeasure. He, whom nearly everyone in the wizarding world presumed to be a Deatheater, could not show how much he disliked Dumbledore's replacement. Also, the more Umbridge trusted him, the easier for him to work against her. He sneered.

'She will pay, Minerva, I will see to that.'

It was a pleasure to see the steely glint in the deputy headmistress' eye as she assured him. 'So will I, Severus, so will I.'

They exchanged vindictive smirks before she left.

As soon as he'd shut the door behind her, Snape nodded appreciatively. Minerva was a force to be reckoned with. And so was he, for that matter. Fake Veritaserum would be Umbridge's smallest care once he was finished with her.

-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-

Minerva:

Her face was as stern as ever, her eyes as severe as usual, and her pace brisk and purposeful as always, as she strode through the corridors of the school to inform the rest of staff of what had happened only a short while ago. The discovery of 'Dumbledore's Army' and the parting of Albus, followed at once by Umbridge's declaration, that she would be headmistress from now on. Yes, on the outside she remained calm and cool, but inside her broiled great anger.

How dare the ridiculous woman question Albus! How dare she insinuate that he was up to mischief! And now she was headmistress of Hogwarts! Free to make any whim of her a rule all of the castle's inhabitants had to follow. There was one bright spot in the whole affair, however, and that one bright spot was the fact that the stone gargoyle in front of Dumbledore's door would not let Umbridge enter the headmaster's room. Every time she thought of this, Minerva McGonagall felt grim satisfaction.

In addition to that, Severus had as much as promised to her, that he would make Umbridge's life into living hell. Minerva knew her colleague well enough to know that Umbridge was in for a bad time as long as Severus was bent on pestering her. There was no question that Minerva would help him in any way possible to do what he set out to do.

Her first chance to act on that decision came that very night. All of the staff was sitting in their common room, sipping hot tea and enjoying chocolates Hooch had provided for their little late night chat. Severus was there too, a rare occasion, but Minerva soon knew why. He wanted to see how well his little trick worked.

Dolores Umbridge was having a bad time. Whenever she put her cup up to her lips, its contents began to steam, too scaldingly hot for her to drink. She was rather thirsty, and enviously watched the rest of the staff as they drank their tea. A wicked thought flashed up in the back of Minerva's head and so she turned to Umbridge innocently.

'Why, Dolores, you haven't even taken a sip of my tea yet! It's a fine Scottish blend I got from my parents for my birthday, and I'm sure you'll like it.' She put on a troubled face. 'Oh, I do hope you like it, Dolores; you're not just saying you like it for my sake, are you?'

What else could Umbridge do but take a swig, if she did not want to seem very rude? She gave Minerva a weak smile and assured her hastily that she loved the smell and it was impossible that she would not like it. Then, under Minerva's eagle eye, she put the cup to her lips and sipped the scalding liquid.

'Wonderful, isn't it?' Minerva exclaimed.

'Wonderful!' Umbridge replied, hardly daring to move her burnt lips.

She left soon after, saying she needed some sleep after the exciting events that had passed that day. Severus and Minerva's eyes met over the table. Score one for them.

-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-

The announcement that Umbridge was now headmistress of Hogwarts was officially made to the school the next morning. Notices hung everywhere, informing each and every student of the fact, that Fudge had made Umbridge head of school. At once, the rumours started, all of them eerily accurate.

On her way to the great hall, Minerva met a desperate Dolores Umbridge. The headmistress stumbled every few steps of her way and only barely managed not to fall on to the stone floor of the passage. Severus Snape hovered nearby, never loosing eye contact with Umbridge's form till he noticed Minerva and winked at her, before sweeping away, trademark scowl back on his face. From then on, Umbridge did not stumble again.

Minerva went on, straight faced. She greeted Umbridge with a perfunctory nod of her head, and then strode briskly ahead of her into the great hall.

-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-

Severus:

Snape was just having his lunch, contemplating what he might do to Umbridge next, without making her suspicious of him and the rest of the staff, when a sudden BOOM! shook the castle. It was followed by a great deal of CRACKs, WHEEEEs and BANGs, reminding him of fireworks. He leapt out of his chair and stormed through the crowds of students (who got out of his way readily) towards the place where the sounds came from.

They were indeed fireworks, and Umbridge and Filch were doing the most ridiculous antics to get rid of them. His gaze swept over to the secret door in the tapestry of the corridor. The culprits would most probably be watching from there. At every other time he would have pounced on them unhesitatingly, but this time he shrugged and left, revelling in the thought of the work that lay before Dear Dolores.

He had quite an enjoyable afternoon, sending a student to Umbridge whenever a firework found its way into his classroom, and they did so regularly, for he 'forgot' to shut his classroom door time and again, so the Catherine wheels could do nothing but find their way in. It would, in fact, have been a great day, had it not been for the Occlumency lesson he had to give the Potter boy in the late afternoon.

Potter was late, as usual. Severus finished putting the thoughts he didn't want the boy to see should he be able to get into his mind, and greeted him coldly. 'You're late, Potter.'

Potter didn't answer, but shut the door behind him, and after transferring the last strand of bitter memories into the Pensieve, Severus turned round to face him. 'So, have you been practicing?'

He saw the lie without using his Occlumency skills, as the boy answered. 'Yes.'

Severus couldn't pass the opportunity by to play with Potter a bit. 'Well, we'll soon find out, won't we?' He quipped smoothly, then: 'Wand out, Potter.'

The boy obeyed, a look of mingled anger and fear on his face. Severus couldn't help but enjoy this. He would punish the brat for his laziness; show him just how vulnerable his mind was. Lazily, Snape moved to face Potter. 'On the count of three then,' he said. 'One, two, -'

Here he was interrupted by his door banging open to let in Malfoy, who was in quite a hurry. 'Professor Snape, sir' -here he noticed Harry Potter- 'oh, sorry...'

Severus lowered his wand, his moment of perfect revenge spoilt. 'It's all right, Draco, Potter is here for a little remedial Potions.' He lied effortlessly and smirked inwardly when he saw the look of glee on Malfoy's face and how crimson Potter's face was burning.

'I didn't know.' Draco said, needlessly, and Snape had to ask him why he'd come to his rooms in the first place.

'It's Professor Umbridge, sir, she needs your help. They've found Montague, sir; he's turned up jammed inside a toilet on the fourth floor.' Draco told him.

'How did he get in there?' Snape asked demandingly.

'I don't know, sir, he's a bit confused.' Malfoy answered.

'Very well, very well.' Severus said. Of course it was unthinkable that he leave the captain of his house's Quidditch team to the mercy of Umbridge's help. 'Potter, we shall resume this lesson tomorrow evening.'

With that he strode out of his office, not bothering to wait till Potter had left, but leaving him to himself. It turned out, that his help wasn't needed, after all. Filius Flitwick had arrived earlier and had widened the toilet with a charm, so that Montague could be pulled out of it easily. Severus arrived just in time to watch Filius cast a levitating charm on the boy and followed the two into the hospital wing, where Poppy Pomfrey took charge.

Severus thanked Filius for his help with Montague and then swept off, back to his dungeons. To his surprise, the door to his rooms was still open, and the surprise turned into horror and convulsive anger when he saw the Brat, leaning over the Pensieve, poking into exactly those remembrances, Severus had put there so Potter would never see them.

He stormed inside and caught a glimpse of the memory the Brat was looking at and felt like his heart might burst with fury. Quick as lightning, his hand shot forward and gripped Potter's arm. The boy turned and, seeing him, blanched. Severus nearly choked on the words in his rage as he said, 'having fun?'

And as the cretin didn't answer, he went on. 'So... been enjoying yourself, Potter?' He felt his lips curl up in a snarl and he nearly trembled with rage. The boy struggled to get away.

'N-no.' He replied Severus' question, but Severus was blind and deaf in his fury.

'Amusing man, your father, wasn't he?' He exclaimed, now shaking the offender hard, so hard, the boy's glasses nearly slopped off his nose and his teeth clicked together repeatedly. In this moment, Snape was near to killing the brat.

'I didn't...' Potter protested and Snape, beside himself with anger, flung the boy from him, for he knew he would do the brat real harm if he stayed under his eyes much longer.

'You will not repeat what you saw to anybody!' He bellowed threateningly.

'No,' said Potter, who scurried away from him as far as possible. 'No, of course I w...'

Snape couldn't bear the presence of the Potter brat a second longer. 'Get out, get out,' He shouted, groping around him, till his fingers grabbed some jar, 'I don't want to see you in this office ever again!' And he threw the jar in his hand towards the boy who ran helter skelter to the door.

The jar full of dead cockroaches crashed against the door just as Potter reached it, and the roaches fell all over him. The boy hurtled through the door and Snape could hear him running down the corridor at top speed. He slammed the door shut behind the brat. He lacked the energy to go after him. After his explosion, he felt dead tired and empty. The shame and hurt he had felt so many years ago came back and he felt more miserable than he had in months.

Gritting his teeth he pressed his clenched fists to his brow. Like venom, his hatred for the Potter boy trickled into his heart and weighed it down, till it hurt in his breast. 'Potter,' he hissed, 'Potter! That stupid, arrogant little snot! I will tear out his fingernails, his tongue, -'

A soft knock at his door interrupted him. At first, he did not open, but the person on the other side of the door went on knocking. Irritated, he strutted to the door and opened it to see who was so bent on disturbing him. Her back straight, her face stern but kind, Minerva McGonagall stood outside his door. Her hand rose to knock again, just as he opened it.

-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-

Minerva:

Minerva had been walking down the stairs to the entrance hall when Harry Potter had streaked past her, a panicked look on his face. Knowing that he should actually have been in an Occlumency lesson with Severus and taking the fact that he was coming from the dungeons in mind, she was sure that it had been Snape who had frightened him so.

First, she contemplated going after Harry, but then decided that Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley would take care of him well enough. Severus was quite another matter. Normally, he would go to Albus if he had any problems, but now Albus was away, and Severus was left with nobody. So she decided to look in on him.

Minerva had all the known traits of a true Gryffindor. One of them Severus chose to call stubbornness, she herself preferred to call it determination, and it was that which made her knock three, four, five times, till Severus finally opened his door. He looked downright menacing, His brows furrowed, his eyes glittering angrily behind strands of black hair. But it was his mouth that worried her most. It was twisted as if he were in pain and looking down, she saw that his hands were claw like and twitched, as if yearning to get hold of something.

She ignored all the danger signals and proved that she possessed yet another Gryffindor trait. Courage. Stepping into his room, she sent him a crisp smile and spoke.

'Good evening, Severus. How is Montague?'

'Fine.' He answered curtly, motioning with an impatient hand for her to sit and retiring into his own seat with a flurry of dark robes. 'Flitwick got him out and Poppy's taken him into her care.'

'Excellent.' She said, then broached the subject she was anxious to discuss with him. 'You seem quite beside yourself tonight, Severus. What is the matter?'

'Potter!' He spat.

'What about him?'

All he did was point towards the Pensieve Albus had given him not so long ago. Minerva did not ask any further, but stepped over to the Pensieve and studied the memories Snape had stored there. She had been one of Severus' teachers in his years at Hogwarts and knew much of what had happened between him and the Potter gang. The memories he saw there were no surprise to her, but she did not yet see what Harry had to do with the matter at hand.

'Memories of your schooldays.' She stated neutrally, sitting back down onto her chair. 'But where does Harry come into this?'

'The sneaky brat looked into my Pensieve while I was off for Montague.' Severus practically hissed, making Minerva wonder if he didn't actually know Parselmouth. 'He knows my memories!'

That Harry had peeked a look into Snape's memories troubled her more than Severus could know. She knew that Harry had done the same sort of thing when Albus had left him alone with his Pensieve and Minerva earnestly began to wonder if Potter would ever learn not to do everything his emotions and instincts urged him to do, or if he would always act before he thought, endangering himself and others in the process.

'Have you punished him?' She asked grimly, thinking that if Severus had not done so, she would do so for him.

Severus seemed to sense her righteous anger and for a quick moment she saw an actual smile linger in his eyes, till he turned back into his usual, sneering self. 'No need to bother, Minerva, I think he learned his lesson well and truly.'

She nodded. 'Thinking of the look on his face when he passed me on the stairs five minutes ago, I am much pressed to believe you.'

Severus smirked. 'Thank you for that mental picture.'

However protective Minerva was of her Gryffindors, she could not admonish Snape for his evidently radical treatment of Harry. She fervently hoped that the boy had learned his lesson and would never again go into action without at least consulting someone. She hoped too soon, as the later events of that school year proved.

-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-

Severus:

He let her look into the Pensieve, for he trusted her not to laugh at him or tell others what she'd seen. Most of it wouldn't be new to her anyway; she had been teacher at Hogwarts, albeit a very young one, when he was a student there. He was grateful that she didn't comment what she saw. She called it 'memories of your schooldays,' quite coolly and neutrally, but she didn't seem to have understood what he wanted to say, yet.

He could barely control his anger and his explanation came out as a hiss. Minerva's lips thinned drastically when she heard that Potter had sneaked a look inside the Pensieve, she obviously did not approve of his conduct. When she finally even asked him whether he had already punished the boy, with the clear intention of doing so herself, if he hadn't, Severus couldn't help cheering up immensely. It was nice to see the head of Gryffindor siding with him against Potter for once.

She left, then, and he was left to his thoughts, which were now much less dark than only minutes before. Instead of cursing Potter under his breath, he turned to a more promising pastime: Thinking of tricks he could play Umbridge. During his night patrol, Severus prowled into Umbridge's classroom and cast a simple but affective spell at the blackboard. Unseen and unheard, he crept outside again, smirking.

-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-

The following morning, it was quite a shock for the headmistress when she found that she could not use her blackboard. However much she swept her wand, no writing would appear on it, the black surface staying carefully blank. After seeing her swishing and swishing with her wand time and again with no effect whatsoever, the second years she was teaching burst into giggles.

'Silence!' She commanded, her high-pitched voice even more breathy than usual. Then she sent one of the loudest gigglers to fetch Professor McGonagall, whose classroom was nearest to her own.

-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-

Minerva:

Minerva McGonagall did not look pleased when she arrived at the door, for she had an own class to teach and hated leaving it unsupervised. 'What can I do for you, Dolores? I do not like to leave my class to itself too long, so I hope you have something important to discuss?'

Dolores Umbridge looked rather flustered, 'Yes, yes, I see that, of course. Well, I have a little problem with the blackboard, as it seems, and -', Minerva looked down her nose at the squat teacher whining at her and then let her gaze sweep over to the blackboard. '-it doesn't respond to my writing-charm.' Umbridge finished.

Minerva cast a mild 'Finite Incantatem' at the board and tested it to see if her spell had worked. At once her name appeared in clear writing. 'Seems to have been a mild prank by one of your students, Dolores.' She told Umbridge briskly, 'I think you will see that your blackboard works perfectly again.'

The headmistress had turned slightly pink when seeing with what ease Minerva had gotten rid of the unpleasant spell of her blackboard, and the second-years were now positively sniggering. With a vicious flourish, she made their tasks appear on the blackboard in her favourite pink chalk and after a hasty 'thank you' complimented Minerva outside, who was only too willing to leave.

Minerva was not at all surprised, when Snape sat down beside her during lunch and asked about Umbridge's blackboard out of the corner of his mouth.

'I hope none of your future pranks will detain my own lessons, Severus!' She warned him. 'I have better things to do than to baby sit our dear headmistress.'

Severus sneered. 'So she came running to you, did she? How very impressing!' He murmured, sarcasm dripping acidly from every word.

'I daresay the second years appreciated the situation.' Minerva stated dryly, enjoying a bit of chaff.

Before Snape could answer, Umbridge sat down on Minerva's other side, stopping their raillery unknowingly. The two winked at each other, there would be other times.

-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-

There were other times, quite a lot of them, actually. The heads of Gryffindor and Slytherin worked together more often and better than ever before, it seemed, Snape thinking of ways to pester Umbridge, and Minerva McGonagall making sure they were successful.

Minerva saw Peeves struggling to loosen a crystal chandelier of its hold and couldn't resist advising him that it unscrewed the other way, despite the fact that a student, Harry Potter, was near enough to hear her. She had to suppress a smirk as she walked on; imagining how much work it would be for Umbridge to repair the damage after Peeves had done his work.

Things were going well for her in Quidditch, too. Ronald Weasley had actually managed to keep his team in the game against Ravenclaw, and Gryffindor won the school cup this year, too. Severus scowled at her for days after that, his lips in a perpetuous snarl. Umbridge, however, wore an even smugger smile than usual, which made Minerva suspicious. What was the woman up to? Something entirely unpleasant, that was clear, but WHAT?

Nothing happened for a long time. Nearly all the OWL exams had been held, except those for Astronomy and History of Magic. It was during the Astronomy exams, that matters came out of hand. Minerva was correcting the essays of the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw third years on Transfiguration of non-animate to animate forms, when she heard a great roar coming from Hagrid.

He had to be in his hut, but the roar was loud enough to startle her, so she crossed out a whole line of the essay in front of her. Not bothering about the roll of parchment any more, she sprang up and ran to a window facing to Hagrid's hut. The windows of the little hut were brightly lit, and behind them, she could see shadows, Hagrid's and those of six others.

'Umbridge!' She thought, and swept out of her study swiftly.

She heard a loud BANG! as she briskly stepped along the Hogwarts corridors, and her pace quickened abruptly. Then she heard Hagrid shout something and shortly afterwards a loud howl. Minerva had reached the entrance hall by then and now flung it open, just in time to see Hagrid throwing one of the men surrounding him ten feet away. At his feet lay the crumpled form of Fang, who obviously had been stunned.

One look at the battle sufficed. Minerva did not think twice, but sprinted towards Hagrid's cabin, and shouted in real anger. 'How dare you! How DARE you!' She was now halfway between the castle and the hut, near enough for the men to hear her. 'Leave him alone! ALONE, I say! On what grounds are you attacking him? He has done nothing, nothing to warrant such-'

All but one of the attackers, who was in Hagrid's clutches at that moment, turned and sent a Stunner at her. Minerva saw the hexes too late and although she managed to raise her wand just before they reached her, she did not have the time to cast a shielding spell around herself, before she was hit by four burning, tearing, paining bolts.

She felt a moment of great pain, then she felt herself being lifted up, as if in a dream, and, a red glow surrounding her, she floated backwards and fell, fell, fell, till she hit the earth and then there was nothing but darkness.

-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-

Severus:

Curse them! Curse Umbridge! Curse Dawling! Curse Bradshaw! Curse - Curse the whole filthy lot of ignorant bastards! And curse Dolores Umbridge thrice over! How dare they! How dare they come to Hogwarts like thieves in the dead of night, to first try and take Hagrid from under their noses and then attack Minerva like that! Four Stunners! Four bloody damned Stunners to the chest! They might just as well have cast an Unforgivable, the fools, the idiots, the NINCOMPOOPS! No wonder they worked at the Ministry, the cowards!

Well, at least Hagrid had got away, wherever that was. Severus had not had the time or inclination to cast a tracking spell on the baby elephant; he'd been too concerned about Minerva. He'd come to the entrance doors in time to see the stuns hit her, lifting her up, and glowing with the red energy that had hit her so hard, it had lifted her from the ground and flung her backwards on the ground, where she moved no more.

'COWARDS!' Hagrid had bellowed. 'RUDDY COWARDS! HAVE SOME O' THAT AN' THAT'

Severus had no eyes for what Hagrid did next. His gaze was fixed on Minerva, as he ran at top speed to her and examined her quickly. The four hexes had left ugly wounds on her front; she needed medical attention as soon as possible. To cast a levitation spell was risky, her body had had to absorb the energy of four BLOODY FOUR stunning spells already; it might not be able to take any more.

He looked up to see Hooch standing over the two of them. 'We need to carry her over to the hospital wing.' He told her coolly.

Hooch nodded, her face and stance business-like, though her hands shook as she extended them to take a hold of Minerva's ankles. Nobody said a word, as they carried her away from the scene. The other teachers went with them, on or two muttering 'Lumos' and lighting the way with their wands, the others flanking Hooch and him.

Poppy came running towards them, and did her best to examine Minerva while they were still walking, letting Sprout explain to her what had happened. Severus could see her turn pale at the mention of the many spells that had been cast at Minerva and heard her mutter 'and all in the chest, too! Oh my, oh my!'

They laid Minerva onto one of the hospital beds and Poppy examined her thoroughly, while the other teachers waited in the next room. When she came to tell them the news, her mouth had a grim set to it. 'I'll do what I can, but that won't be enough. I'll have to send an owl to St. Mungo's, I'll send an express-owl as soon as we've finished talking, and tell them to fetch her from here tomorrow morning.'

And that was that. They fetched Minerva and brought her to St. Mungo's at eight o'clock the following morning. Severus cursed bitterly.

-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-

His cursing was interrupted by a knock at his study door.

'Who's there?' He snapped.

'Draco Malfoy, sir. I have a message from Professor Umbridge.' Draco's voice answered from outside the door.

Severus just stopped himself in time from swearing out loud. Instead, he opened the door and regarded Draco with his most friendly glare and said in his most friendly tone of voice, 'Very well, I will come with you immediately. Lead the way, Draco.'

Malfoy led him through the castle swiftly and soon they were in the headmistress's office. 'You wanted to see me, Headmistress?' He asked, indifferently, acting as if there were no students struggling in the most hideous manner with each other. After all, it was Umbridge's job to keep order in her office.

'Ah, Professor Snape,' She answered smilingly, standing up from the chair she had been sitting on. 'Yes, I would like another bottle of Veritaserum, as quick as you can, please.'

Severus struggled to keep the malicious glee out of his eyes and managed to regard her quite coolly as he lied. 'You took my last bottle to interrogate Potter. Surely you did not use it all? I told you that three drops should be sufficient.'

Looking through his hair that fell before his face in strands, he saw her blush and sniggered inwardly. In a girly voice, she asked, 'you can make some more, can't you?

His lip curled. 'Certainly. It takes a full moon-cycle to mature, so I should have it ready for you in around a month.'

'A month?' Umbridge squawked, swelling as if she indeed were a toad. Maybe she was an animagus? Snape wondered. 'A MONTH? But I need it this evening, Snape! I have just found Potter using my fire to communicate with a person or persons unknown!'

Potter had always been a fool. He and Umbridge were quite the pair. Severus wondered whom the brat had contacted. Black? Or Lupin? 'Really?' He replied, looking at Harry, now. 'Well, it doesn't surprise me. Potter has never shown much inclination to follow school rules.'

Severus was astonished, however, when he realised that Potter was trying to communicate something to him using Occlumency. Pictures of Black, captured and being tortured by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named flashed through his mind, as he bored his eyes into those of the Potter boy. So, the boy had had a vision again? And he seemed very sure that what he saw was real. Severus would check on Black as soon as he could, but first he had to finish this interview.

'I wish to interrogate him!' Umbridge snapped, as if she believed that her insistence made any difference. 'I wish you to provide me with a potion that will force him to tell me the truth.'

'I have already told you that I have no further stocks of Veritaserum.' Severus replied, his voice smooth. 'Unless you wish to poison Potter -and I assure you I would have the greatest sympathy with you if you did- I cannot help you. The only trouble is that most venoms act too fast to give the victim much time for truth-telling.' The last words he directed to Harry, who was still frantic, by the looks of him.

And so was Umbridge. 'You are on probation!' She shrieked, causing Severus to raise his eyebrows at her. 'You are being deliberately unhelpful! I expected better, Lucius Malfoy always speaks most highly of you! Now get out of my office!'

Just what he wanted. Get out of her office. He couldn't help but bow ironically at his nemesis before he went, he enjoyed angering her greatly. Then he turned to leave.

The Potter boy chose that moment to burst out with his news. At least his message was coded. Nevertheless, Severus gritted his teeth and stopped his hand on the door handle when he heard it. 'He's got Padfoot! He's got Padfoot at the place where it's hidden!'

Umbridge pounced at the sentence eagerly. 'Padfoot? What is Padfoot? Where what is hidden? What does he mean, Snape?'

Sarcasm was the only remedy for this. 'I have no idea.' He told Umbridge. 'Potter, when I want nonsense shouted at me I shall give you a Babbling Beverage.' Then something to divert the attention away from him: 'And Crabbe, loosen your hold a little. If Longbottom suffocates it will mean a lot of tedious paperwork and I am afraid I shall have to mention it in you reference if ever you apply for a job.'

Then he had shut the door behind him and something like relief passed his features. They were replaced by a look of determination a second later. Better check on Black to see if what Potter had said was true.

-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-

Well, all was well. Black was alive and well at Grimmauld Place. Potter's vision had, after all, been sent to him by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to lure him to the Ministry. Why, Snape could not tell. He passed Umbridge's office on his way to the staff common room, when a muffled shout and scuffling sounds from inside alerted him.

A quick check informed him that the door had been shut from outside. Someone yelped inside, someone whose voice Snape knew only too well. Draco Malfoy.

'Draco Malfoy! What are you yelping for?' He shouted through the door.

From inside the room came a loud sigh of relief. 'The Weasel and his friends hexed us and locked us in here, sir. Please get out!'

Was Malfoy whining? Severus chose not to investigate that strain of thought any further, and opened the door with an 'Alohomora!'. He then proceeded to relieve the children inside from the hexes the Potter gang had sent at them and questioned them about the whereabouts of Umbridge.

'She went into the forest together with Potter and Granger, Professor Snape, sir.' Draco informed him hastily. 'The rest of them followed them as soon as they could.' He avoided adding the obvious fact that the 'rest' had managed to hex and lock up him and his gang before they went, but Severus felt no urge to remind him of the fact.

The wheels inside his head were going round and round quickly. 'How long are you in here already?'

'A quarter of an hour, sir.'

Long enough. Without further ado, Snape marched his Slytherins to the hospital wing and gave them into the care of Poppy Pomfrey. When Potter and his gang didn't return from the forest after another half hour, he informed the Order, telling them, where Potter was most likely was at the moment.

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Dumbledore told him what had happened in the Ministry Building. The Prophecy had been destroyed, Black was killed and Fudge finally had realised what he should have seen a long time ago. The Dark Lord was back. Oh, yes, and Potter chose to put all the blame on him, Severus Snape. Well, nothing new there. Severus was, after all, the perfect scapegoat, one person more or less who used him for the purpose made no difference to him.

But he was glad this term was finally over -today was the last day- and Potter would be out of his soon. He'd had enough of the Golden Boy to last him a lifetime! Now, however, it was time to meet Minerva. Dumbledore had informed him that she would return to Hogwarts about this time.

Stepping up the staircase into the Entrance Hall, his eyes caught sight of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, plus Crabbe and Goyle, facing each other, Potter with his wand raised.

'Potter!' The boy looked round to face him. 'What are you doing, Potter?' He kept his voice cold, as he strode over to the four boys. Much as he loathed Potter, he couldn't say he really minded if the brat hexed young Malfoy. Draco had worked together with Umbridge, hadn't he?

Potter replied his question fiercely. 'I'm trying to decide what curse to use on Malfoy, sir.'

The cheek of the boy! Severus would have none of it. 'Put that wand away at once,' he told the boy curtly. 'Ten points from Gryff-' He glanced to the hour-glasses on the walls and smiled, sneeringly. The Gryffindor one was empty. 'Ah, I see there are no longer any points left in the Gryffindor hour-glass to take away. In that case, Potter, we will simply have to-'

He was interrupted by Minerva McGonagall. 'Add some more?'

He turned to see her walk up to him, a tartan carpet-bag in one hand, leaning on a stick with the other. He forgot to respond to her quip as he strode towards her with a pleased gleam in his eye. 'Professor McGonagall! Out of St. Mungo's, I see!'

'Yes, Professor Snape,' she answered, shrugging off her cloak. 'I'm quite as good as new. You two -Crabbe, Goyle'

The two shuffled forward uncertainly and she thrust her cloak and bag at them. 'Here, take these up to my office for me.' And off they stumped, carrying her things up the stairs.

'Right then,' Minerva went on briskly. 'Well, I think Potter and his friends ought to have fifty points apiece for alerting the world to the return of You-Know-Who! What say you, Professor Snape?'

He said -no, snapped- 'What?' Then he relented. After all, Potter had already paid for his foolishness. Black was dead, and the boy felt guilty. And what Gentleman argued with an injured woman? 'Oh, well, I suppose-' He said, reluctantly.

So that's fifty each for Potter, the two Weasleys, Longbottom and Miss Granger,' a shower of rubies fell into the Gryffindor glass, 'Oh, and fifty for Miss Lovegood, I suppose', fifty sapphires fell into the Ravenclaw glass. 'Now, you wanted to take ten from Mr Potter, I think, Professor Snape, so there we are.'

Well, it could have been worse. She could have bloody given them a hundred points each, if she chose to. Minerva hadn't finished speaking, yet. 'Well, Potter, Malfoy, I think you ought to be outside on a glorious day like this', she said, complimenting the two boys outside. They went at once, leaving her alone with Snape.

'Well, you've got a valid excuse this time.' He said.

She didn't quite understand. 'What do you mean, Severus?'

'A valid excuse for giving those points at the last minute. After all, you were at St. Mungo's these past days and couldn't favour your Gryffindors as much as you'd wished to.' He sneered.

This conjured a little twinkle into her eye. 'How very generous of you, Severus, I trust you enjoyed the time you had Hogwarts all to yourself?'

He snorted at the idea. 'All to myself, you say? What with the toad and those Weasels-'

'There, there, now, don't get carried away, Professor, those Weasels happen to be in my house, you know!'

'How could I ever forget!' He quipped. 'Those two couldn't be anything BUT Gryffindors!'

'I'll take that as a compliment.'

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Minerva:

It was good to be back. Even if it was only for the last day before the summer holidays. St. Mungo's had been good as far as hospitals went, but she preferred to be up and about, in a place where no nurses told her to eat or sleep. Furthermore, it had been dull. Without Severus to argue with, she hadn't known how to pass her time. What with her eyes hurting so much that she couldn't read and her hands too numb for knitting.

Now she was quite alright again, as she'd told Severus this afternoon when she'd arrived. A pity she wasn't fit enough to walk without her walking stick yet, for she would have enjoyed watching the departure of Umbridge with her own eyes, but as Peeves had borrowed the stick from her, she was tied to her place at the staff table.

Severus didn't leave either. 'Good riddance.' He muttered. 'But however fancy the departure; I rather prefer not seeing her another time.'

Minerva agreed heartily and while the rest of the school saw Umbridge off, the two of them clinked their glasses filled with pumpkin juice and congratulated each other for another year of hard work done for a good cause.

'Well done!'

When the other teachers and students filed into the Great Hall again, they were already glaring at each other again. How could Minerva not glare, after Severus had declared he had only let her win the House Cup because he felt sorry for her, what with those four Stunners and all?

-THE END-