The Shakedown.

Sorry I'm late - I tripped over a chicken . . . no. Sorry, I'm late - I was attacked by a fire breathing chicken . . . perhaps not. . I had to help put out a fire . . . Tonks mentally rehearsed possible excuses. What sort of fuckwit would put a thing like that in a box anyway, she raged, and then just leave it there? When she found out, she promised herself, she would rip off their heads and spit down the holes.

Actually, the Metamorphmagus, Auror in Training was probably strong enough to do just that. She had seen a young woman climbing up the underside of a rock on her granny's television . . . and concentrated.

Soddit, she thought, disgustedly. She paused, took a deep breath, and then pushed through the door.

"I'm late," she announced, breezing into the classroom.

"Oh, we noticed," said Styles.

"And you're in charge," said Gates.

She stopped, and tried hard not to look wary.

"Ah, Ms. Tonks," said McMillan, peering over her glasses, "it would seem that you have been voted leader of today's little exercise. This will count towards your "Assessment", so please think of it as an opportunity to show us what you are capable of."

Shit!

Gates and Styles just grinned.

After eleven years, and far too many examinations, her Certification as an Auror awaited only the completion of the process known as "The Judgment of Peers". This being the "Confirmation", following "Assessment", by fully qualified Aurors, that she was suitable to join them. People had been known to work for years, in various capacities, before receiving a favorable "Assessment". And now she had this most excellent opportunity to screw up.

"Your team will be carrying out a Licensee Conduct Review," continued MacMillan.

Wonderful, thought Tonks. Some bloody bastard couldn't be arsed to do their own dirty work and has found a way to palm it off on the bloody cadets. As bloody usual. It wasn't even that difficult. Just go and find the "Licensee", usually some refugee from bloody Azkaban, and check that they hadn't been backsliding. And harass them a bit. It was just . . . distasteful.

McMillan rescued a file from the precipitous pile on her desk and tossed it to her. "I'll just leave you to get on with it, shall I?" she inquired, neatly capturing another, as it attempted to escape, and opening it. "Moria Murgatroyd," she remarked to herself thoughtfully, "which reminds me . . ." For a moment she deliberated. "Ok, I'll see you when you get back" she told them as she headed towards the door. Tonks watched her leave without comment.

"Right. Who've we got then?" said Gates, rubbing his hands.

"Yeah, who is the lucky punter?"

Tonks obediently opened the file and then swallowed.

Unspeaking, she handed it over. The grins disappeared rapidly.

"Oh fuck. Oh damn fuck. Snape," whispered Styles.

"Coffee," stated Gates urgently, before leaving in a style entirely befitting the proposed object of their "Review". Tonks retrieved the file from Styles and then turned to follow Gates. Oh dear, Oh dear, she thought. Gates, Styles and herself had endured two years with "Professor" Snape. These had been quite sufficient to persuade her that what they were about to attempt was a distinctly bad idea.

Down in the canteen, Tonks sipped coffee and nibbled on a pastry. Terror always made her hungry. She perused the brief résumé that they had been given, and considered some of the multifarious omissions. The Ministry's files on Severus Snape were more than extensive. She had had the opportunity to investigate them, pending the official investigation of events leading up to the displacement of a large flowerpot: one that had, inopportunely, nearly struck one of her superiors. At least the prat won't look up my robes again, thought Tonks savagely.

"Hello children." It was Mehitabel Fortinbras, an Auror chiefly notable for the astonishing amounts of alcohol she could consume while remaining vertical and apparently compos mentis, and her terrifying sang froid in the face of all situations excluding closing time.

"Hello Fortinbras," they chorused.

"Conduct Review," sighed Tonks handing her the file.

"Ooh", she said, "Snape." She sat down. "Well I always got on alright with him."

Three sets of eyes regarded her cautiously. Fortinbras had been known to be . . . well . . . unpredictable . . . before. Then Styles got up and fetched a cup of coffee for her.

"The trick is knowing how to handle him," announced Fortinbras. The team eyed one another.

"With a very long pole?" suggested Gates evenly.

"Well, no," said Fortinbras. "Roughing him up was never going to be a good idea." She sounded amused.

"Who tried that?" asked Tonks.

"Blair, Phillips and . . . forgotten his name, useless little paper pusher. Drayton, that's it. They came back with seven extra fingers, one extra nose and . . . well, Blair was silly enough to use the toilet while he was there."

Tonks snorted into her coffee, narrowly avoiding spilling it.

"Not 'Wanker' Blair," said Gates in tones of both awe and dismay.

"The same," remarked Fortinbras matter-of-factly. "Of course Snape claimed that some dunderhead had caused an explosion in the Potions Classroom and it wasn't his fault if he'd been splashed."

"Gods," breathed Styles. "What else?"

"Well, Murchison and Fowler decided to upend his potions." Fortinbras grimaced. "The complaints actually got back here before they did, you know? Apparently Snape had been brewing something particularly delicate for Saint Mungos." She considered her coffee. "Cost the Ministry thirteen hundred Galleons just for ingredients and replacement potions and, trust me, they were not pleased. Even worse, Snape had to brew up some more. Of course this meant that he didn't have time to prepare properly for lessons, so both of them ended up, back at Hogwarts, cutting up toads and the like for the better part of a fortnight," she took a swallow of her coffee, "under Snape's supervision".

They all thought about that.

"Have you ever ... erm . . ." inquired Styles delicately.

"Oh yes," replied Fortinbras. "I don't think I've ever run so fast. Opened a jar labeled 'Live Acromatula', 'Live, Shrunken Acromantula', would have been more like it. Of course, as soon as they got out of the jar . . ." She swallowed more coffee. "Snape was out through the main door faster than greased lightening . . . and he bloody locked it behind him too . . . we had to flee down some sort of old garderobe into the lower dungeon. It was memorable. You do not want to know what was down there."

Memorable? thought Tonks. But then, to Bel Fortinabras, 'Self Preservation' involved the ingestion of large quantities of alcohol. "Has anyone ever done this without ending up up to their ears in it?" she enquired carefully.

Fortinbras considered. "No," she said. "And then there was that cupboard Yeats tried to hide in. He disappeared for three weeks and then turned up jammed into a toilet. They had to break it to get him out."

Tonks took another pastry. Gates and Styles started to fight over the plate.

Tonks turned back to the Fortinbras. "Is there anything else you want to tell us?" She sounded thoughtful.

"Did you know that Snape has got the most peculiar boggart?" enquired Fortinbras enthusiastically. "Really. The "Assessment Team" were trying to be polite for once. Snape warned them that there were boggarts in the bathroom. So they checked . . . just boggarts . . . so they got him to open the door." She leaned across and took the last pastry. "Well I have no idea what the boggarts became, but they were all so bloody scared of them that they couldn't get them to change. So, naturally, they took off and, of course, the door was locked. After the boggarts came out of the bathroom, Snape just nipped in there and locked that door as well. When they started hammering on it, he yelled something like "Do I look like Siegfried Weaver?""

"Siegfried Weaver?" queried Tonks.

"Hard to tell, what with all the breaking glass and that." Fortinbras drank some more coffee.

Gates leaned forward. "Did these things have teeth?"

Of course, thought Tonks, both his parents are muggles. Although, how did Snape . . .?

"Teeth and then some," reported Fortinbras cheerfully. Gates began to laugh rather strangely.

"Ok," muttered Tonks. "Don't manhandle him, don't spill anything, don't open any jars and don't hide in any cupboards. If he says there's a boggart in the bathroom, don't open the door. Anything else?"

"Oh yes. Stay out of his underwear." There was a long and ominous silence. "Seriously," said Fortinbras "there was a guy - I think he's working at The Leaky Cauldron now - thought he'd embarrass Snape by going through his underwear drawers." She bit into her pastry, chewed and swallowed. They all just looked at her. "So he opened a drawer," she continued, "and this bloody book leapt out and started snacking on his lunchbox - bastard, Snape that is, claimed that it was a school textbook." For a moment, Fortinbras appeared to be elsewhere. "Of course, our man might have been alright if he hadn't panicked and attempted to hex it off."

Gates and Styles looked at one another and then shuddered.

"Anyway," said Fortinbras, finally, getting to her feet, "can't stay here all day chatting to you lot. Have a nice day."

They sat as the silence recollected itself.

"We're doomed," opined Styles sorrowfully, his blonde head in his hands. Gates nodded grimly.

But Tonks, herself, was actually feeling better. After all, all of the people that Fortinbras had mentioned were now, in fact, qualified Aurors - except Bush of course - now working at the Leaky Cauldron. And she could not think of anyone more eminently suited to an encounter with the Slytherin Sock Drawer of Doom. In fact, after the rumors that he had seen fit to spread about her, she rather wished that she'd seen it.

"Right then," she said resolutely. As one, the team rose and went about obtaining some more coffee.