This is a fanfiction based in the world of Harry Potter, created by JK Rowling. All her characters, obviously, are hers. All original characters are mine. No Pecuniary Rewards. No Spoilers to Half-Blood Prince, as this story and the prologue were written (and just barely completed) before that book was released. There are spoilers for all other JKR books.
Utterly Alternate Universe to Half-Blood Prince.
There is a prologue to this story entitled Lost Souls, which can also be found on this archive. It is not necessary to read the prologue to understand and enjoy this story, but it does provide a richer background of the characters.
Please allow me a long Author's Note here. I promise not to make a habit of it, but I wish to give credit where it is due. Many, many people have assisted me along the way with this story, and I would like to take a moment to thank them. It has been a work in progress for almost two years.
I must credit Annii Frazier with first introducing me to the intricacies of Snape's character, as she portrayed him on the first online roleplaying game I joined. Many years and many other Snape-portrayals and fansite lurkings later, I have a much broader view of his character than I would have gleaned on my own. My Severus Snape, in this story, is my own interpretation, but he is highly coloured by the information I have gathered over the years from many sources.
A very humble thank-you to Elaine, my first-ever Beta, and who has now beta'd every chapter, numerous times. Elaine is also the reason this story is complete. I had a personal tragedy in my life near the mid-point of its 'birth', and very nearly found myself unable to continue. Elaine's gentle support and never-ceasing encouragement allowed me to carry on.
Padfoot the Marauder also beta'd many chapters in the middle of the story. Kirasha, aka JL, stepped in to help beta the end chapters when I was trying to hurry and finish the story before the release of Half-Blood Prince, and also portrays Snape on my website. She has helped my 'internal Severus' grow as well.
Surgical Steel has helped me make the Texas-native character in this story true to Texas style. Kirasha helped me portray the Irish dialect you will see very briefly toward the end. Lady Claire assisted me with the necessary German translations and cultural issues. The Live Journal community, "hpbritglish" has been a fantastic resource throughout the story.
Most recently, Vaughn and JackieJLH, who have helped me to place the finishing touches on the story, particularly my own mechanics, in preparation for submission to Sycophant Hex.
Thanks also to Vaughn and WitchEcho for Brit-Picking for me.
Lastly, thank you to my reviewers at FFN and AFF who kindly pointed out errors and roughness when this was my first-ever, unbeta'd attempt at public writing. That was, indeed, very scary. I'm glad to say that I have improved tremendously since then, though there is always room for more.
Like most fanfic authors, I adore comments, constructive criticism, and reviews of any sort.
My final note, then, is a dedication.
I would like to dedicate this entire story to my beautiful niece, Meghan Marie, who was killed by a drunk driver on December 28, 2004. She was nineteen years old. Katrina, whom you will meet during the course of the story, was heavily patterned after my precious Meghan, and was all the more bittersweet to write after Meggie was gone.
I love you, Meghan. You are sorely missed.
Lost Souls Found
Chapter 1: Plans and Counter plans
Voldemort was back. Harry Potter had been insisting that for the past year, but no one had really believed it. His interview printed in March, though, gave Rowena pause. She had preferred to believe Dumbledore over Fudge all along. If Dumbledore was wrong to trust Potter, then he could be wrong in his trust of others, too.
Rowena was terribly vested in believing Dumbledore's trust couldn't be misplaced.
It didn't really seem to affect her personally one way or the other, though. She didn't know Potter herself, hadn't seen Dumbledore since she finished school, and worked in the Research and Development Lab at the Ministry. She had a strong financial incentive to at least pay lip service to Fudge's side of the story.
But then the Death Eaters battled in the very heart of the Ministry.
It was June of 1996. A huge battle had recently occurred within the depths of the Ministry itself. Sirius Black, somehow fighting against the Death Eaters rather than with them, had been killed. The Wizarding world was in shock, fear and uproar.
Rowena Lupin was spending longer and longer hours in her research lab. Minister Fudge had finally acknowledged the return of the Dark Lord, and suddenly the Aurors had been authorised to bring newly discovered Dark spells to her department to begin immediate research on the counter spells. Rowena had moved up the ranks of authority over her years there, and was now in charge of the Combative Spells Division, so these spells came directly to her.
She had grown from a slight girl to a slight woman, standing only three inches above five feet in height. She still maintained her honey-brown hair—her one concession to feminine vanity—very, very long and spent a good deal of time and money keeping it in fine, healthy condition. It was a mostly wasted vanity, as she primarily wore it in one long plait, which hung to her waist as she worked. Her lab robes were of rich, dark hues, to offset her mousy colouring, but designed to be functional, not flattering, with numerous pockets for notes and quills.
She was often the last person to leave the lab, being one of the few with no family or outside commitments. Even her closest friend, Elizabeth, was recently married, and so, while she maintained the friendship, she saw much less of her than before.
When the last person aside from herself left the lab, she made a point of sealing it against the entrance of anyone else. She had never forgotten Warrington's assault, and liked to believe herself to be suspicious and cautious to a degree that might have suited Alastor Moody.
It had been years since she had practiced any useful combative techniques. It was one thing to research spells and their effects, creating new ones and teaching them to those who would use them, deep in the safety of her own lab. It was another thing entirely to hone the reflexes and skills needed to actually use those spells in practise.
But now, seeing the curses and hexes the Aurors had been up against for the past year, she was completely put out with herself. She could have offered Dumbledore aid and been countering these effects months ago! She was almost the only one who had dabbled in any sort of Muggle sciences, and she was the only one who had taken the combination of maths, quantum physics, and magic to the levels she had achieved. In short order, she had countered many of the new spells sent to her, and the Aurors were already enjoying greater success in their work.
However, Rowena used to work in the Security Wards, Concealments and Alarms Division of the department, just prior to her promotion to Combative Spells. Now that another Azkaban breakout seemed certain, the Ministry had put a priority on its defence. She had been 'pulled' from Combative research and put back in Security, and set the task to strengthen the shields and protections of Azkaban. No one doubted that Voldemort would again attempt the release of his followers; it was only a matter of when.
This was the project which currently held her attention. Mozart played softly in the background as she sat at the large worktable. Rolls and rolls of parchment surrounded her, covered in fiendishly complex equations and diagrams.
Fudge was tying her hands more often than not. He wouldn't let her continue her research on her projects for the Combative Division, even though she insisted she had time enough for both. It wasn't like she had a 'life', anyway. What else did she have to do with her time?
With the stubborn self-deception of any professional politician, Fudge always cancelled any research that he believed to be too 'dangerous'. She felt stifled and frustrated. Her work could be so much more beneficial, if he wasn't such a bureaucrat!
In a moment of frustration, she drew out a new blank parchment and penned a letter.
Dear Professor Dumbledore,
I am Rowena Lupin. I finished my Hogwarts education in 1982. I am currently in R&D at the Ministry of Magic. I would like to assure you of my support in the current war, and offer you any assistance you may deem valuable. My area of expertise is Combative and Dark magic counter-spell research. I do not feel my skills are being used to best advantage at present.
I do, however, need to maintain my job, for obvious pecuniary reasons. It would be best for me if the Ministry did not know I had offered my assistance. Any work I might do for you would need to remain confidential.
Having said that, I would genuinely like to be helpful should you have any need of my particular talents, such as they are.
She quickly sealed the scroll, gathered her belongings, and Apparated to the door of her flat. Once inside, she sent the letter with her tawny owl, and promptly forgot about it.
The Order of the Phoenix still met in the rather dark and crowded basement kitchen of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Sirius had left the property to Harry, and Harry in turn had left it in control of Dumbledore and the Order. Sirius' death was still horribly recent, and a dark pall hung over them all.
There was currently a very noisy discussion going on around the enormous, scrubbed wooden table.
"We simply have to find a way to strengthen the wards of the school," Molly Weasley's anxious voice said. "You know that now that he couldn't get the Prophecy, he'll begin direct attempts on Harry's life. All the children will be in danger!"
"Yes, Molly," came the gruff but patient voice of Alastor Moody, "but we have to make sure Azkaban is strengthened first—he will try to free his Death Eaters before he goes after the school."
Dumbledore cut in, apparently tired of the circuitous discussion, "Please, let us not argue over particulars until we have more information. Severus should be here any moment. Would you like a sherbet lemon?"
"Speaking of your pet sneak, Albus," growled Moody, turning both his normal eye and his electric blue one to focus on his friend's tired face. "You don't think you're placing too much trust in the boy, do you?"
To Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody, anyone more than twenty years his junior was a 'boy'. He continued, "I know he's a damn good Occlumens—too damn good for my liking—but when Voldemort finally breaks him, we're all at risk. Or worse, if he gets outed by someone else… and that's assuming he's really on our side to begin with. It's a dangerous game you're playing, with a dangerous man, Albus. And I don't mean Voldemort in that."
"I am so pleased with your vote of confidence, Moody," came the silky soft baritone of Severus Snape from just behind him. He had entered the room unnoticed amidst the squabbling.
"I am also glad you are aware of just how dangerous I can be," he continued, the threat plain in his words.
Dumbledore cut across the exchange, his stern tone ending all argument, at least for the moment. "Severus, enough. Alastor, you as well. My trust in you both is absolute, and not the least misplaced. Now, Severus, I am glad you are here, what can you tell us?"
Severus sat in a vacant chair and surveyed those present. He sighed and began his report, his voice deep and firm, but with none of its usual sarcasm.
"Mrs Weasley and Moody are both correct. He wishes to free his Death Eaters, and then attack the school. However, he is attempting to do both with subtlety, not wanting to tip his hand. The number of Death Eaters in Azkaban slows his plans considerably. Malfoy, though, will likely be free soon due to bribes and the like.
"Apparently the Ministry has its Research and Development lab working on the Azkaban wards already. The Dark Lord has ordered several different methods to try to gain access to this research, or to stop it entirely before its completion.
"Narcissa Malfoy is currently trying to distract the scientist involved by offering private research projects, to be paid at an exorbitant rate. This has not been successful. The researcher seems above bribery, or they have not found her price.
"Others have been set the task to simply steal the research in progress. They are finding this difficult, as the woman who heads the project seems to have the lab heavily warded, and no one has been able to penetrate it."
He drummed his fingers absentmindedly on the table as he spoke.
"The scientist in question is a rather young woman, unmarried and living alone. His most recent plan in regards to this research is to send Death Eaters covertly to attempt to interest her romantically, if you can imagine, to try to obtain information that way. So far this has also been unsuccessful. The woman does not seem interested in dating."
He snorted in disgust at the very idea, and continued.
"If he cannot obtain the research with subtlety, the next step will be to use the Imperious Curse on her, though there are doubts whether it would work. Her usual department focuses on counter curses and defensive magics, so it is expected that she would have some ability to throw off that curse.
"The final options are torture and death, of course. He wishes his supporters out of Azkaban by Christmas at the latest, so we have some time. The woman is in no immediate danger, though she bears watching.
"It is in our best interest to keep her as safe as possible, and see to it that she is able to complete her research. The longer the Death Eaters are imprisoned, and the more of them that stay that way, the better, obviously."
Albus interrupted him then, "Who is the scientist, Severus? Do you have a name?"
"Rowena Lupin," he stated calmly, though he looked up at Remus Lupin's harsh intake of breath. "She's your cousin or something, is she not, Lupin? I seem to remember her a bit from school. Ravenclaw House, if I recall?"
Remus leaned back heavily in his chair, his face pale. He buried his face in his hands, and his voice was thick with emotion. "No, she's not my cousin—she's my sister. I made her agree to tell everyone we were only distantly related, in case anyone ever found out I was a werewolf. She never forgave me for pushing her away like that, among other things. I've barely spoken with her in almost twenty years."
Severus sneered at him, and the sarcasm was thick in his voice as he said, "Ah, how very noble. This is another example of 'love', is it? How very glad I am that I have never been so afflicted. I assume, then, she does not share your rather unique condition?"
Remus glared across the table at him. "No, she does not. She didn't even know I was a werewolf until her third year at Hogwarts. And yes, I love her. If anything happens to her that you could have prevented, I will hunt you to the ends of the earth!"
"Gentlemen, please!" Albus' voice cut through the discussion like a sledgehammer. "Remus, nothing is going to happen to Rowena. We know the risk now; we will be watching her. We will do what is necessary to keep her safe. I will not have Order members threatening each other and arguing like this. We must stand together and trust one another."
"Now, Severus, Please continue. What does Voldemort intend to do after he has his Death Eaters free?"
Severus continued to glare at Remus, but his eyes were thoughtful. At last he replied, "To use similar methods and means to break through the wards of Hogwarts. If he can drop the Anti-Apparation wards, they will simply Apparate inside and begin full-fledged slaughter. Children of Death Eater parents are already being trained in Cruciatus and the Killing Curses, and have been provided with Death Eater hoods and cloaks. If the Dark Lord gets the shields down, it will be a massacre."
Severus kept his implacable gaze focused nowhere but at the table in front of him. He felt the fear and distrust from the people around him as though it was he, himself, who would order the killing of children. Only Albus truly trusted him, and even that was a small comfort. Albus trusted everyone!
"He has also set Pettigrew to spy on the school," he continued. "No doubt at least part of his orders includes spying on me. The Dark Lord never trusts anyone. In his rat form, Pettigrew will be very difficult to detect and keep off the property. The grounds must never be considered secure from the Dark Lord's spies. Not only Pettigrew, but the student relatives of Death Eaters are rich sources of information to him," Severus finished at last.
"All right then, now we know. Severus, you must keep us informed of any changes. Yours remains the most dangerous position, my friend, and I would not have you risk your life needlessly. Do what you need to do. When the students return to school, you will have to be extra vigilant in your actions. We all understand what that means and bear you no ill will."
Severus snorted with a lift of his chin, still not meeting anyone's eyes. Of course they bore him 'no ill will' when he had to maintain his evil-bastard persona to the hilt. After all, it fit perfectly with their true opinion of him, and, obviously, the role suited him well.
Albus continued as though he had not been interrupted, but looked at Severus with grave concern. "Molly, Arthur, I leave it to you and the Aurors to spread word among the parents who support us. If the time comes that an attack is imminent, we will need every parent who is available to come to the school and aid in evacuation of the students.
"Aurors, you will need to redouble your efforts to capture the Death Eaters who are at large. And, of course, everyone should continue to keep eyes and ears open for any who might support us. The more we can get actively involved, the better off we will be. I think that is all we can discuss at the moment." Albus was matter-of-fact in his tone and directions, but his face was grim and tired.
"One more thing--I would like to arrange a small Memorial service for Sirius, to be conducted on the Hogwarts grounds next Saturday. Minerva and Tonks, would you begin the arrangements? Alastor, I will need you to arrange to transport Harry. We need a chance to grieve together, even in the midst of all this."
Murmurs of assent followed this, as well as many wiped eyes and blown noses.
"Remus, Severus, if you will please stay a moment," said Dumbledore as the room slowly emptied.
When everyone else had left, Dumbledore turned to Remus. "We need a viable option to observe and protect your sister without her becoming suspicious. It happens that she sent me a letter just a few days ago, offering her support, so this gives us an excuse to contact her.
"We need her to function as normally as possible for the time being. I wish to offer her use of Hogwarts lab space to use in her free time, in exchange for help in strengthening the Hogwarts wards. This will be our ostensible reason for taking her up on her offer of assistance. It will also give us the ability to keep a closer eye on her.
"The problem is who to send to speak with her on the matter. I need to know whom she trusts enough to approach her on this without arousing her suspicions. I cannot go myself—to deal with this directly would immediately alert her to the severity of the situation. I also do not want to send any of our Order members who work at the Ministry, as we must not risk any of their positions.
"I would ask you to go, Remus, but I know of the rift between you. I would like your suggestion as to whom to send?"
Remus sighed, and then scowled across the table at Severus. "Him," was all he managed to say, with a nod at the darker man.
Severus' brow rose at this in surprise. "Excuse me? She doesn't know me from Merlin."
Remus shook his head and looked pleadingly a moment at Dumbledore.
Dumbledore smiled softly and said, "I think you had best explain, Remus. Her life is in danger; this is not the time for childhood secrets."
Remus ran his hand through his hair and looked at Snape with an ugly sneer ... a sneer which would have been far more at home on Snape's own face. His words were bitterly spoken. "Rowena's main disagreement with me these past twenty years was my supposed mistreatment of you. Or what she deemed my 'selectively performed' Prefect duties.
"She had what I can only describe as a 'crush' on you when we were in school. I have no idea if she still fancies you. One could only hope that after nearly twenty years she would develop some sense! But I do know she'd be far more likely to speak to you than to me.
"And I know if you use this information against her or to hurt her, you will answer to me," he finished, his voice a threatening growl.
Snape had listened to this in astonished disbelief, and now it was his turn to sneer angrily. "I don't know what you're playing at, Lupin, but I won't have it. Your friends made fool of me enough in school; I won't allow it now as an adult. You can't seriously expect me to believe that drivel? Perhaps you have deceived Albus, but you can count me out at once. The girl is in danger, I admit. You figure out how to keep her safe, and leave me out of it."
"Severus," Albus broke in calmly, "what Remus says is true. For whatever reason, you were the object of Rowena's teenaged fancy. I doubt she remains infatuated, but I am certain she was once. It is also true that she would no more consent to see Remus than Voldemort himself.
"I think this might actually be a viable option, for you to be the one to make the initial contact. It would also answer your other commitment to Voldemort. You could claim to him that you volunteered for the job so as to be closer to her.
"For now just go, meet her, and speak with her on my behalf. We will need to arrange for discreet guardianship of her, much as we have done with Harry, though not to that extent of course. I suspect I will have to call on your assistance in that regard as well."
The Headmaster smiled benignly at him over folded hands, as though it was a settled thing. Severus, however, had other ideas. It was no great stretch to suspect Albus intended this 'solution' all along, and merely wanted to give the impression of discussion and choice. The man was a master of subtle manipulations—a trait Severus generally admired greatly—when it was not being used on him.
"You expect me to spend the summer minding a Lupin? Do you know what you are asking?" he asked, irritably.
"No, I expect you to aid the Order when possible in protecting a valuable scientist who is unaware that she is in danger. I would like her to remain unaware of the danger for a while, for her own peace of mind. In her lab, at Hogwarts or in her own home she is safe enough. But elsewhere, we will have need of observing her. You seem to be the best choice to make the initial contact at least. Do you have a better option, Severus?" His voice was still calm, but his eyes belied a twinkling of amusement.
Severus had never refused a request from Albus. Not since Albus helped and trusted him seventeen years ago, when he wanted to leave the Death Eaters. If he could be said to have true respect, trust or affection for anyone, it was Albus Dumbledore.
Still, he was on the verge of refusal this time. There was something more disturbing about this request than any assignment that he had received, from either side of his dual role.
He remembered her, vaguely. The image in his recollection was a slight, mousy girl with long plaits and a sharp tongue, superimposed with the shy, introverted student she had been during his first year of teaching.
Somehow the idea that she had had a 'crush' on him was unsettling. He couldn't shake the feeling that it was a horrible joke Lupin was playing at his expense, as a way to honour and remember the dearly departed Sirius.
However, he could not find a rational argument against Dumbledore's request. Scowling darkly, at last, he nodded. "Very well. I will do what I can."
Albus clapped his hands in delight. "Of course you will, Severus. Now, I need to get back to school. Remus? I believe you are on guard tonight at Privet Drive?"
Remus had scowled at Severus the whole time they were talking, but now stood and nodded. "She's my sister, Severus. If you need anything—if she needs anything... you tell me, all right?"
"I believe the reason I have been assigned this rather distasteful task is because she doesn't want anything from her doting big-brother, is it not? I am certain I can keep the girl safe without your assistance. Good day, Lupin." And with that, and the loud 'crack' of Apparation, he was gone.
Dumbledore, however, was still beaming happily. He clapped Remus on the shoulder and winked. "If Rowena is at all the fine young woman she promised to grow into, I think Severus is in for a bit of a rude awakening, don't you?"