LP III: REPERCUSSIONS

Disclaimer: All cannon characters are the property of JKR and her publishers. No copyright infringement is intended. Extract from 'Si tu savais' by Robert Desnos: copyright his publishers.

LOST PERSPECTIVE III : REPERCUSSIONS

By Bellegeste

Author's note: 'Repercussions' is the third part of the Lost Perspective series. There are frequent references back to parts I and II, so it would really help if you read those first, especially Part II 'Snape's Confession'.

Harry's actions in Part I have repercussions that affect everybody differently; everyone also has his/her own agenda, which again affects the way they react to Harry. Personal issues are set against a wider context of national events. Setting is post OotP but not compatible with HBP or DH.

A brief recap on parts I and II:

Part I - Harry learns Snape is his father (it is a Severitus fic) and betrays him to Voldemort; Snape is severely tortured but they escape.

Part II - Harry and Snape spend a week together away from Hogwarts to thrash out their relationship. The first few days do not go smoothly.

And now for Part III. What is the fall-out from Harry's tricking of Voldemort? What happened during the rest of the week at Snape Cottage? Why is Harry being so secretive? Why did Snape leave in such a rush? Harry has had no contact with his friends since the day he lured Snape into the clutches of Voldemort…

REPERCUSSIONS

CHAPTER 1 RETALIATION

Resolutely cheerful, Molly Weasley placed a large, gently steaming glass bowl in the centre of the kitchen table, and smiled round at the assembled members of the Order.

"Freshly mulled pumpkin punch, everybody. Just what we need to warm us up on a chilly night like this."

She began to ladle the hot, peach-coloured liquid into a row of pewter goblets and pass them along. Her hand trembled as she poured, spilling a trail of shiny, pale-orange drips.

The young witch, Nymphadora Tonks, her hair unusually chic in a navy and white pin-striped bob (the smartness undermined, however, by the pistachio-green duffle-coat with flexing dragon-claw toggles), leaned across to the draining board and chucked her a dish cloth. It hit a goblet with a soggy thwack, knocking it right over: a squash-scented tide spread with alarming rapidity, seeping towards a pile of Muggle newspapers that formed a precariously stacked centrepiece on the long table.

"Sorry, all." Mopping, Molly took the blame with a forced laugh. She shot a harassed glance at Dumbledore, wondering why the old wizard did not call the meeting to order and make a start. What were they waiting for? And what was so important all of a sudden? It had to be that dreadful business with Harry. But Dumbledore had said the boy was safe. Merciful Merlin! A misunderstanding the headmaster had said. There'd be a lot less misunderstanding in the world if he'd stop playing his cards so close to his chest.

"I've just had an owl from Arthur," she continued, brightly. "He's been held up by Whirlybuns near Wandsworth Common, but he's on his way now. Oh dear, Scourgify!" she added with a hasty flick of her wand, as the lowest newspaper began wicking-up punch like a lapsed alcoholic.

"These weird goings-on – they'd be funny, if they weren't so serious," Tonks said, diluting the silence. "I read a corker this morning. Where was it now? Oh, yes…" She pointed her wand at the papers and called, 'Grimsby Gazette!' A well-thumbed tabloid squeezed out from near the bottom of the paper tower, which wobbled and tottered for a second before righting itself.

" 'Fish-Bang-Wallop!'," Tonks read, emphasising the headline. "'Grimsby fishermen aboard the fleet trawler Marlin Mariswere unable to offer any explanation this morning for the explosive loss of their entire night's catch. Eyewitness reports describe the scene: 'The whole lot went up like a rocket. It were rainin' sushi.' Police are anxious to interview an unidentified deck-hand, last seen wearing purple oil-skins and an unusually pointed sou'wester…'."

Tonks put down the Gazette.

"Bet there are a lot of very happy seagulls tonight on the Humber estuary." As she said this, her nose briefly mutated into a beak. But nobody laughed.

"Muggle-baiting. It's no joke," Kingsley chided.

"This one is equally blatant." Emmeline Vance spoke in a creamy, rounded voice which always sounded as though she'd been sucking truffles. She reached up and plucked the Huntingdon Herald from the top of the pile.

"I'll dispense with the headline. Pure sensationalism," she pronounced, her plump wrist swivelling in a gesture of regal dismissal. Molly, still standing at the sink rinsing the dishcloth, bristled. Who did Vance think she was – the Queen? Emmeline skimmed the columns aloud: "'… freak occurrence… the Rev. Fennimore Boothroyd… inexplicably deliquesced…'" Pausing, she adjusted her focus upwards and, Molly felt, directed the next comment specifically at her."Deliquesced. That's 'liquified', if any of you were wondering. 'The congregation, horrified at the sight of their rector dripping in gelatinous globs from the pulpit…' I should imagine they were. And so forth, and so forth." She skimmed again, picking up at a later paragraph, " 'Police have issued warnings that a man seen in the vicinity wearing a multi-coloured trench-coat may be armed and should on no account be approached by members of the general public…'."

"Sounds like a load of irresponsible young thugs who can't hold their Butterbeer. Ought to have their wands revoked, no questions asked!" rasped Mad-Eye. "By the way, Arthur's coming up the path. For Merlin's sake, get the door, somebody, quickly, so the bell doesn't wake up Her Ladyship."

With his magical eye still checking the front door and hallway, Moody directed his beady, good eye at Dumbledore.

"You must do something about that portrait, Albus. Ghastly screeching creature. We've all had a go at getting her down but she still won't budge. Now that Black's not here to be offended, there's no need to be gentle with the old battleaxe." If Moody felt uncomfortable insulting Sirius's mother, he did not show it.

Molly might have felt a flicker of maternal solidarity, but over the past months the wretched woman's shrieks and insults had worn her patience down to a whisker. You couldn't nip to the kitchen to make a pot of tea without having to sneak through the hallway on tiptoe like a burglar. At least they were no longer obliged to live in this dreary, dark house. Coming here for meetings was bad enough. Her suggestion to use The Burrow as an alternative venue had fallen flat; by common consent the Order of the Phoenix had decided to retain 12 Grimmauld Place as their headquarters. As far as they knew, its location was still unknown to any of Voldemort's followers. In Molly's mind, Kreacher's disappearance was still a worry, but Dumbledore said the house-elf had submitted to memory modification and posed no threat. Molly still couldn't bring herself to trust Kreacher though, even if his allegiance was now, theoretically, transferred to Harry. And Harry's own behaviour had been downright odd recently, poor child. Anyway, the house's complex protective and disguising spells remained in operation. And it was empty and available. As Molly understood it, its legal ownership was something of a grey area: the Lestrange sisters were hardly likely to come forward with a claim; as far as anybody knew, Harry had as much right to the property as anyone. He had raised no objection, though he said he had no desire, personally, ever to set foot in the place again. It seemed a fitting tribute to Sirius's memory that his house should continue to serve a useful function in the name of the Order - however many unhappy memories it might evoke.

Arthur Weasley bundled into the room, bringing with him a blast of cold, October night air and the faint, but unmistakable smell of rotting vegetables. His woollen overcoat hummed like a damp dog. He stood unwinding a multi-coloured, hand-knitted scarf that was wrapped in several loops around his neck, his horn-rimmed glasses fogging in the warmth of the crowded kitchen.

"Evening one and all. Sorry about the pong. Bewitched Wheelybins. it's a job for the sanitation department, really, but they don't want a bar of it. Better wash my hands…"

He ambled to the sink and began soaping-up vigorously.

"Are we all here?" Finally Dumbledore took charge. "Remus is unfortunately unable to be with us this evening, and I have received apologies from Sturgis. He hasn't felt up to Apparating since his release from Azkaban. Hagrid is still - er - away, and Minerva is holding the educational fort for me at Hogwarts."

Molly felt the wizard's gaze slide over her as he surveyed the group: Arthur, his old friend Alastor Moody and the two Aurors, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Tonks. Daedalus Diggle, Elphias Doge and Hestia Jones were huddled in a tight cluster at the far end of the table comparing newspaper cuttings. Emmeline Vance had drawn her chair back a little to allow herself more room to recline – that woman could perch on a stick-backed kitchen seat and somehow make it appear like a throne.

Hestia Jones looked up from her clipping, noticing that the room had gone quiet and Dumbledore's attention was upon her.

"It's been utter pandemonium in Cardiff," she volunteered, her florid complexion even pinker than usual. As she spoke, her head nodded in time with the words, the springy, black, lambs-wool curls framing her face like a Welsh bonnet. "Five unrelated cases of spontaneous human combustion in the space of a week. The Muggle Fire Brigade is close to panic." The lilting timbre of her voice gave the long syllables a bardic, lyrical quality.

Dumbledore rested his elbows on the table, bony hands steepled in front of him, tapping his lips slowly and thoughtfully against pressed fingers. He looked at them all over the top of his half-moon glasses.

"Anything else to report? Anyone? Elphias, any news from the North-West?"

Elphias Doge shook his head.

"Same story. Not good. The Muggle press are referring to the outbreak of mystery illness as 'Sudden onset CJD' but that's only a label. There's no medical evidence to support it. Four reported cases so far, all in Cumbria, all within a twenty mile radius. There's already talk of an epidemic, and all that that involves - culling entire herds, livestock relocation and export bans. Beef production could be at a standstill within days. And all for nothing. It's nowt to do with the blessed cows. It's him. He's frying people's brains!"

"Sightings?"

"In or near the vicinity of each incident."

"Is there anything to indicate that the Muggles have made the connection?" asked Emmeline. "Between the incidents, I mean, not with He Who Must Not Be Named."

"It is only a matter of time!" Excitable at the best of times, Diggle was getting more jumpy with each passing minute.

"Let us pause to clarify the position," said Dumbledore, unflappable as ever. "What we have here is a series of extraordinary occurrences that have taken place throughout the country, all within the last ten days. Not all of them are overtly magical in origin, but they are unusual enough to arouse our suspicions, and - I think I am right in saying - those of the Ministry too. Is that not so, Kingsley?"

"Questions have been raised," Shacklebolt confirmed, his voice deep, reasonable and resonant, "but, as yet, all the so-called 'antisocial manifestations' have been attributed to pranksters. Fudge is no help. He won't budge. He's still denying the possibility that You-Know-Who might be responsible. Look at it from his point of view: it threatens the status quo; his own position is still precarious. Any further scandal… Even though he saw him with his own eyes last summer, he still refuses to believe - publicly, at least - in his return. Out of sight, out of mind."

"He's not the only one who's out of his mind!" squeaked Diggle.

Ignoring him, Dumbledore scanned his team as he summarised:

"We are agreed, then, that the person responsible, directly or indirectly, for these attacks is Voldemort?"

The collective intake of breath sucked the oxygen out of the room. The candles flickered. The use of the unspeakable name unleashed doubts and anxieties hitherto held in check, and the meeting devolved into a hubbub of comment and exclamation:

"Why now, all of a sudden?"

"…total violation of the Statute of Secrecy."

"…not to mention infringement of at least nine subsections of the International Wizard Code."

"Where's it all going to end?"

"Door!" growled Moody again, unheard amidst the babble by all except Shacklebolt, who slipped silently out of the room. For a big man he could move very smoothly. Indignant mutterings swelled to fill the space left by his absence.

"What can he hope to achieve by murdering defenceless Muggles?"

"…who pose no threat at all. He must be insane."

"…senseless, unprovoked attacks…"

"Not wholly unprovoked."

To the impassioned group around the table, absorbed in their discussion, it seemed as though Snape had materialised out of thin air. He had not raised his voice, but his words cut through the choppy conversation like a shark's fin. Hushed, they waited for him to elaborate, but Dumbledore waded in:

"Ah, Severus. I'm glad you were able to join us after all. You have had a long day but, I hope, a productive one?"

Snape answered with the barest of nods and a slight curl of the lips, but said nothing. He took the remaining vacant chair, at the end of the kitchen nearest the door, and sat down, suppressing a sigh. Despite the heat in the kitchen, he was still wearing his greatcoat as though he was poised for a rapid exit.

"Molly, a glass of your excellent punch, I think, for Professor Snape, if you would be so kind." Dumbledore eyed the younger wizard. "Are you ready for this, Severus?"

"I am." Snape's expression betrayed no emotion whatsoever.

"Well now." Dumbledore initially addressed the Order. "In the light of recent developments, we feel it is now necessary for you to be told the full facts. Forewarned is forearmed, so they say. You are all aware of Professor Snape's recent altercation with Voldemort…"

Again the involuntary group hiss and tightening of features.

"So it's Snape we have to thank for all this." Diggle shot to his feet. His accusation shrilled through the kitchen, bouncing off metal pans and hard surfaces like a trapped, angry bluebottle.

"Not so fast, Daedalus." Dumbledore motioned his agitated colleague back down. "As I was saying… An altercation, in the course of which he had the opportunity to observe our adversary at first hand. His report, as you will hear, is illuminating and invaluable. What you are unaware of is the significant role in this story played by young Harry Potter."

The silence in the kitchen was absolute. You could have heard an owl fly.

On cue, Severus took up the narrative, his voice cool and detached as though he were enumerating the ingredients for a standard Potion. Only the vein pulsing in his temple gave a hint that this was any more stressful than the daily routine of marking the class register.

"On his sixteenth birthday, on 31st July, Harry… Potter" - there was a fractional pause before Snape pronounced the surname - "received a letter…"

x x x

"The Obligatus, you say?" Moody's eye gleamed as though he had just taken it out and polished it. "And the Natqah rite? Hah! Haven't seen a case of that for a good few years. And the kid blew your cover with You-Know-Who? Vindictive lad you've got there, Snape - he'll need watching… As a matter of interest, how would you rate his residual ability for independent thought while acting under Obligatus?"

Dissecting the Dark curse gave Snape a much-needed reprieve. Time and again he had redirected the subject to Voldemort's capacity for retaliatory action, only to have it twisted back towards his 'family' drama. Prurience prevailed. The members of the Order were, in spite of themselves, gripped by the personal revelations about Snape: his relationship to Harry fired their imaginations. Beetroot-haired, Tonks goggled at the sweating Potions master.

"Snape a dad. Blimey! Who'd of thought it?" she mused.

Molly Weasley was unashamedly partial in her defence of Harry.

"Of course, the poor child didn't know what he was doing," she said. "He must have been terrified. Harry can't have cast those curses himself. I know Harry; he wouldn't. He didn't, did he?" She appealed to Snape and to the general goodwill of the group; there was no way Harry – her Harry – would have been cruel without a good excuse.

"Apart from the initial Cruciatus, no." Snape kept his answers factual, minimal.

"But you said yourself that the circle of Death Eaters had their wands on him. What choice did the poor boy have? Oh, that poor, poor child!"

Molly was wilfully blind to the salient detail that Harry's presence at that gathering had been both voluntary and premeditated. She repeated the phrase 'That poor child' to herself at intervals, melting with maternal compassion at Harry's predicament. She had no pity to spare for Snape.

"And did you, in the course of the 'questioning' reveal to anyone your kinship to the Potter boy?" said Emmeline Vance.

"If that's your way of asking whether i cracked under torture, then no, I did not."

"We can't expect it to stay a secret for long. Walls have ears - 'Extendable' ones, sometimes," Kingsley commented, with a significant glance at the Weasleys. Molly blushed for her absent, unruly children.

"What I don't understand is why he is taking it out on a load of blameless Muggles, fish, animals and so on," queried Doge. "You, Snape, are the one who's been double-crossing him for years; young Potter has always been a bugbear, and now Potter's gone and AK-ed him - you must admit he has a grievance. Why doesn't he concentrate on a more deserving target i.e. the two of you?"

That was a thorny one. Even Snape didn't have a satisfactory reply.

"One must assume that he supposes Potter's affiliation with Muggle society to be stronger than it actually is."

"That poor child! As if he didn't have enough to worry about!"

"How does Harry feel about it?"

"Was Harry hurt at all?"

Harry's welfare became the focus of attention. Snape made no attempt either to mitigate his own guilt or to solicit sympathy. He fielded their questions.

"How have the other children reacted?"

"The school will be informed in due course."

"And for the past week, Harry has been where, precisely?"

"He has been under my supervision."

Molly could contain herself no longer. She had never liked or trusted Snape. She turned on him like a cornered Occamy defending her eggs.

"Your supervision! You're not fit to supervise a dead Dung-Beetle! You have made that child's life a misery ever since he started at that school, and now you expect us to believe this… nonsense about him trying to kill you - really! I can't say that I blame him! And then you cart him off to the country for a week of… well, I dread to think what! And as for being his father… If this is some sort of a joke then it's cruel. Very cruel. You've got some nerve! Pretending to be a parent is no way to atone for a lifetime of depravity. Do you want to ruin the boy's life? Over my dead body! You might as well condemn him to penal servitude. He'd be happier in Azkaban!"

"Calm yourself, Molly," soothed Dumbledore.

"I most certainly will not calm myself!" she shouted. "In fact, I'm sorry everybody, but I can't stay…" She faced the others, red-cheeked and fuming. Then, salvaging her dignity, "I'm afraid I have left some knitting on the go… Must dash, you know. The sleeves will all be making themselves far too long… Goodnight."

Seizing her capacious shoulder-bag in one hand and the lapel of her husband's jacket in the other, she marched to the door, with Arthur stumbling after her remonstrating mildly. Her indignant voice still sounded in the hallway, where Arthur had stalled their exit while he wound himself into his scarf.

"Oh, do come on! I refuse to spend another minute in the same room as that appalling man!"

The front door slammed, much to the fury of Sirius's mother.

The Weasleys' departure broke up the meeting. One by one the others found excuses for leaving, even Tonks who had, for the last hour, been staring avidly at Snape with new eyes, as though he had metamorphosed into a many-headed but strangely exciting Hydra. Kingsley Shacklebolt paused on his way out to give Snape a comradely clap on the back.

"Tough call, man."

Moody's parting words to Dumbledore were less comforting.

"This will escalate, Albus," he warned gruffly, before stumping off into the night.

x x x

"That went rather well, don't you think?" Dumbledore pronounced with heavy irony, lingering on the threshold as the clunk of Moody's staff on the path dwindled until it was finally swallowed by the sounds of the city.

A sucking rush of wind drew the door closed with a bang and the curtained portrait in the hall instantly leaped to the offensive:

"Who's there?" it screamed in outrage. "I can see you, whoever you are! Leave my house this instant! Burglars! Intruders! Villainous scum!" The tirade would have continued, getting increasingly voluble and abusive with each shriek, had not Dumbledore intervened.

"Toffocollus!" A jet of sticky caramel arced in a glutinous, golden string from the tip of his wand. Behind the curtain, the screeching was replaced by a choking, slurping sound.

"Rather a pleasant form of punishment, in my opinion," said the old wizard, sucking a toffee drip. "That should keep her quiet for an hour or so. Come, Severus, let us adjourn to the parlour; the ambience in the kitchen is a little too highly-charged for my taste…"

Without waiting for Snape's reply, he led the way across the hall and through into the cheerless sitting room which, since Kreacher's defection and without Molly's house-keeping skills, was already reverting to its former state of dereliction and neglect.

Another wave of the masterful wand and a diaphanous shroud of dust peeled itself away from every horizontal surface in a thin, grey, continuous sheet. This began to fold itself, corner to corner, envelope-fashion, growing smaller and more compact with each fold until it was the size of a large garden snail. Dumbledore picked it up with distaste and threw it into the fireplace.

"Incendio!" Flames leaped. The headmaster stretched his fingers out to the warmth, stiff joints cracking. "I think we could both do with a drop of something stronger than Pumpkin Punch. I keep a secret supply of some very fine brandy here somewhere, for occasions just such as this."

From the back of a sideboard Dumbledore produced a tall, cylindrical tin. It bore a picture of a kilted, dancing Scotsman and the name MacGreggor's Magnificent Mintoes. Prising off the lid, he extracted a squat bottle.

"I'm always afraid that if I keep it in the kitchen it will end up in some of Molly's cooking. Which would be a pity, a great pity…" he said, making conversation as he effortlessly transfigured a couple of nondescript paper beakers into two crystal brandy glasses. Settling himself before the now blazing fire, he relaxed back into his chair and contemplated his shell-shocked companion.

"Severus, it was inevitable that feelings would run a little heated. It is an emotive subject. Take no notice of Molly. She has no idea how much you have done for Harry." Dumbledore said, hoping to offer some form of consolation.

All this time Snape had not spoken. Rigid with tension, he perched on the chair's rim, hunched forwards, elbows resting on open knees, the brandy balloon cupped between both hands. Slowly swirling the glass, he stared morosely at the smooth, rolling, amber cognac. His greatcoat had been shed in the kitchen in the first flush of confessional embarrassment, and later, as he countered successive volleys of relentless questions, his jacket too. Now, with his top button undone and his sleeves pushed back, his face grey with exhaustion, he looked like a man on the edge. Dumbledore could tell that however rigorous the Aurors' debriefing Severus had endured earlier in the day, it had been a feather-fight compared to the uncompromising interrogation he had just received from his colleagues in the Order.

"Severus, we need to discuss the outcome of your 'interview' with the Ministry this morning," reminded Dumbledore gently.

Snape was gazing fixedly into the brandy glass, as if scrying his future from the surface of the sheeny liquid, though he would have scoffed at the very idea. He dragged his gaze up and, with a sudden, brusque gesture, raised the glass and downed the contents at one go.

"The Weasley woman may be right," he muttered.

"She is not right. She is ignoring the facts and letting emotion cloud her judgement," said Dumbledore. He was annoyed with Molly for the histrionic outburst which had brought the meeting of the Order to a premature close. Despite all his years' experience he failed to comprehend how a level-headed, sensible woman like Molly Weasley could be so irrational; how her sensibilities could be so fine-tuned in respect to Harry's needs and so indifferent to those of Severus.

It occurred to Dumbledore that the week of enforced companionship at Snape Cottage might not have been an unqualified success. As yet he had had no opportunity to talk about it with the Potions master.

"How was your week with Harry?" he asked.

"Fine." Snape was not forthcoming.

"You kept him usefully occupied then? Has the break done him good?" Dumbledore knew the question might be misconstrued, but he felt it incumbent upon him to ask. Molly's suspicions might, after all, be justified. As a parent, Snape was an unknown quantity. "Is he well?"

"Oh indeed. His entrails are reducing in a cauldron of antimonium acid, even as we speak. I fed him on Monkshood, flayed him regularly with Oleander stems and seeded his intestines with Fasciola flukes as part of an investigation into parasitic infestation. Well, that is what everyone expects to hear, is it not?" Snape answered bitterly, rising from the chair and beginning to pace the room.

Dumbledore let that pass without comment.

"Severus, pour yourself another drink, and come and sit down. You're not on trial here. I merely wished to know whether Harry had benefited from his holiday."

"Harry has been acquainted with the immediate history of the Snape family. In the course of the week he has proved himself to be disobedient and argumentative; he has also shown resourcefulness and consideration. He has displayed a hitherto latent talent for Potion-making, and remarkable ability in the extraction of Viper venom. We …"

Snape stopped speaking, censoring his already stark account of the weeks' activities. Noting his confusion, Dumbledore found himself wondering exactly what memories the Potions master was so reluctant to share.

"It sounds as though you have written the boy's end of term report," he said, his smile twitching into his silvery beard and whiskers. "Can I take it that you have reconciled your… differences?"

"Harry no longer wishes to transfer to Beauxbatons. He is Floo-ing back to Hogwarts tonight to resume his studies." Snape confined his answer to practicalities. His gaze slid to the large casement clock at the far end of the room. "He should be there by now."

"And how are you, Severus?"

"I'm fine."

That's what you said when they were carrying you semi-conscious into the hospital wing, thought Dumbledore, despairing of him.

x x x

Dumbledore had not been idle during the week that Snape and Harry had been at the cottage.

Harry's repeated contravention of the Apparition Act had forced the Ministry into action.. During those first few days after the escape from the cellar, with Harry fogbound with guilt and depression, numerous Ministry owls were found hooting mournfully around Hogwarts, perplexed by Harry's blank refusal to accept, unfasten or read the official scroll summonses. Dumbledore was obliged to intervene.

"You know I would have spared you all this, if I could - the Aurors and the Order," Dumbledore said, leaning forward and failing to catch the younger man's eye. "But I am rather running out of strings to pull."

Snape shrugged.

"You've done enough. Harry'd be up in court again if it weren't for you. And with his history…" He shook his head as though the weight of his new parental responsibilities were only just beginning to dawn on him. Dumbledore chuckled.

"Quite so. Underage Apparition on top of everything else. The Spell Scrutineers are already having a field day with his wand. Regretfully, I had to let them have it unmodified."

"It would have been suspicious not to." Snape nodded. "When will he get it back?"

"That, I fear, is a question for the Aurors. You might have asked them this morning."

"I had other things on my mind," Snape retorted, showing a flash of spirit. "It's not often they get their hands on a tame Death Eater. They were determined to get their money's worth." He sank back into the chair with a guarded look that Dumbledore had seen too often before.

"It was one of my stipulations: that if you volunteered yourself for interrogation in place of Harry, you would be well treated."

"Define 'well'." Snape's gaze held more than a hint of defiance. He shifted uncomfortably, leaving Dumbledore with the impression that he might well have been physically as well as mentally bruised by the morning's session. "I have to assume it was a coincidence that Kingsley and Tonks were both out of the office today."

"As far as I know their association with the Order is not common knowledge." Dumbledore ran his fingers through his beard in perplexity. Was this another leak? Rumours of Harry's run-in with Voldemort were already leaking to the wizard world and soon the news of Snape's fatherhood would be rife. "They accepted your right to act on Harry's behalf?"

"Pomfrey's medical evidence was incontrovertible."

Unaware of the significance of the document before her, the counter clerk in the Department for the Registration of Wizard Births, Marriages and Deaths, had passed it on the nod and, with bored indifference, had also stamped Harry's 'Age of Attainment' form. With this rite of passage completed, Harry would now have been entitled to present his own defence - irrespective of Snape's wishes. Snape and Dumbledore had decided that it was politic not to tell him.

"And they agreed to a non-custodial sentence. However did you manage to achieve that?"

"Plea bargaining," Snape said, without elaborating. "That and the fact that this case is legally unprecedented, and they were floundering around like headless hippogriffs. The combination of being summoned by the Dark Lord while under the influence of the Obligatus, cast by a third party, compromised their case for infraction of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery. I invoked the provision for the 'use of magic in life threatening situations' and, given that the curses were cast in self-defence…"

"Self-defence?" Dumbledore challenged the word. "Severus, you do realise you are committing perjury for that boy? If you are ever required to give evidence under Veritaserum…"

"I will lie. I have broken the serum before, and I can do it again. Or arm myself with an antidote," Snape said, now meeting Dumbledore's eyes without flinching. He had not survived so long as a Death Eater by being timid. "In any case, the Dark Lord's spell signature identifies him as the primary offender. That part of the story is verifiable."

Frowning, Snape fell silent, and began absently twisting the thick stem of the brandy glass between his fingers. His expression had hardened. Dumbledore could see him mentally reliving the horror of those vile spells that contaminated Harry's wand.

"Plea bargaining?" Dumbledore queried.

Snape snapped out of it.

"In return for certain information concerning the Dark Lord, they will allow Harry to remain at Hogwarts under our joint jurisdiction. When his wand is returned, it is to be used for educational purposes only. This is all conditional on him agreeing to undergo certain courses of corrective treatment…"

END OF CHAPTER 1. Next chapter: HARDLY A HERO'S WELCOME. Harry gets back to Hogwarts. Why won't he tell his friends what happened during that week with Snape? Is he hiding something?

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