It had probably been a mistake to call her 'my good woman', Moody reflected.
It had taken her a further twenty-five minutes to locate his dress robes and then another ten to sort out the bill. He could, of course, have had them done by a magical laundry but there was the risk of malicious interference. Instead he had handed them in to a small dry-cleaners in Hammersmith. He had claimed to be an actor. Unfortunately this has caused the woman to become even more disapproving. Apparently thespians rated rather lower on the social scale then common or garden lunatics. She had been entirely unimpressed by the eye.
The old Auror had been helping out at the ministry, had left late and was, by now, running very late indeed. He would no longer have time to oversee the arrangements for the Headmaster's funeral, and would instead be forced to rely upon the care of others. Alistair Moody would have denied paranoia but, despite the attendance of almost every Auror still capable of breath, he remained acutely uneasy. As he left Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, still fastening his cuffs, a gust of wind caught the door and caused it to swing back open behind him. Moody leant back and caught the handle to close it. He was down the steps before he realised his mistake.
As the flagstones swung up toward his already ruined nose he realised that it had been a bad one.
'There are potions that can produce anything from a mild unease to outright terror, and many of them are quickly absorbed through the skin,' Snape had once declared. There would be no need for such potions Moody decided. The one that had rendered him unconscious and his current situation were entirely sufficient. 'On the door handle?' he grouched.
'Indeed,' replied Snape. 'Accio magical eye.'
Without the magical eye the room was deeply shadowed. Moody was briefly grateful that Snape had not simply said 'Accio eyes', but perhaps that would come later.
Snape had no reason to like the Ministry. The nature and duration of the former Death Eater's interrogation at the hands of his colleagues has worried even the old Auror. The second time that Moody had arrived at Saint Mungo's to escort Snape back to Azkaban, the healers had flatly refused to release him. Eventually Malfoy's money and Dumbledore's persistence had paid off but Moody had questioned if someone who had been tortured as Snape had been could ever truly be on their side. Apparently his doubts had been justified. He pulled ineffectively at the bindings that held his hands behind him.
The set up was familiar.
Grimly, he recognised the office chair that he was bound to and the battered wooden desk. It was the grimily claustrophobic lock-up beneath the railway arch that the Order used for 'interviews'. In a way this was a relief. Moody knew that his absence would be noted soon and a search made. Whatever Snape had in mind, it would not, apparently, take long.
On the other hand this was Snape: a man whose intelligence and inventiveness were nothing if not exceptional and Voldemort's one time Inquisitor. That had been Snape's function before and perhaps it was again. Despite himself, Moody hoped so. He really hoped this wasn't personal.
'Get on with it,' he rasped.
Snape took hold of the back of the chair and turned it around to face the desk. 'Did you ever read "King Lear",' he enquired, leaning back to perch on the edge of the desk.
Moody had read "Lear". He said nothing as Snape's wand brushed against his jaw and drifted upwards.
Snape smiled and turned to drop Moody's magical eye into a glass of water on the desk and the small splash made Moody wish that he had used the toilet before coming out. 'Why d'you do it, Snape?'
Snape looked thoughtful. 'I wonder,' he mused, 'if you really want to know or if you simply want to keep me talking.'
'Dumbledore trusted you. He protected you. Do you really think that scum'll be grateful? It was my understanding that your "Dark Lord" doesn't like competition.' Moody tried not to blink at the wooden shaft a scant inch from his eye.
'Dumbledore was old and the curse from the horcrux had already taken his hand, arm and shoulder. His living flesh was dieing. Even the arm's removal would not have saved him. I could preserve the dead material and magic could give him the use of it, but it was only a matter of time.' Snape lowered the wand. 'And not a great deal of time at that.'
Moody actually startled himself with the burst of invective. Snape waited until the swearing ground to a halt. 'I believe', he said smoothly, 'that I would prefer not to enjoy your good opinion of me given the appalling depths of your stupidity.'
Moody choked. Snape turned and tapped the glass with his wand. Immediately a beam of light emerged from the pupil to form a circle of brightness on the wall. 'Show me the Order of the Phoenix,' murmured Snape. The magical eye began to rotate slowly. As it turned images were projected onto the walls: images of very familiar faces accompanied by distorted snatches of speech. Abruptly the walls seemed to be moving, the voices seeming to come from far away, whether from the after-effects of the potion or his own horror, Moody didn't know. It was hard to breathe.
Snape tapped the glass again, the light went out and the voices ceased. 'You mentioned that it tended to stick after you got it back from Crouch. Didn't you wonder why?'
'It was checked,' Moody protested sickly, 'I checked it.'
'Not well enough.'
Slumped in his chair, Moody forced himself to face the traitor. 'So you've got the Order and you've got the Ministry. You must be very proud.'
Snape got up and went to switch on the muggle light, the harsh illumination flooding the dirty little room. 'You are still not thinking,' he stated.
'So I'm stupid,' huffed Moody.
'What did Potter tell you?'
'That you killed Dumbledore.'
'Did he tell you that Dumbledore pleaded with me?'
'Dumbledore would never beg!' growled Moody.
'Nevertheless he did. Ask the boy. And then ask yourself what it was that he wanted.' Moody stared at the Order's one time spy. 'I think,' continued Snape, 'that you are familiar with the Janus Archive?' Moody nodded slowly. During the first war against Voldemort, a series of reports originating from within the Death Eaters had saved a great many lives, but shortly after Dumbledore had found a new source of information the reports had dried up. Never having officially been opened, the archive had not been closed. Instead it had been quietly set aside and the very existence of the files denied.
'I'll be in touch,' said Snape. 'In the meantime you will speak of this to no one. Right now, I think that you should sleep on it.' The wand came up.
'Why should I trust you?' demanded Moody.
'You shouldn't. Were I to be discovered . . .' Snape turned away.
Moody considered the former Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts Master. 'Why?' he asked softly. 'What would Dumbledore plead for?'
'Fenrir Greyback was on the tower. A werewolf with a taste for the flesh of children and a craving to afflict them with his own disease was in the his school and only I could make it leave, but only if breaking an Unbreakable oath to kill the Headmaster did not kill me first.'
'Are you saying that he chose to die so that you could live?' demanded Moody aghast.
'Would that really be so unlike him?' countered Snape turning back to face the Auror.
'But why would you make such an oath?' stormed Moody. 'You were never that stupid.'
There was a small movement at the corner of Snape's mouth. 'Because my refusal would have sent Lestrange back to her Lord in a heartbeat with news of my disaffection and, in the throes of the spell, I would have been unable to escape. I have no more desire than you do to answer the Dark Lord's questions. It was better to leave and take what time was left to me.'
'So why agree to pledge at all?'
'You understand the role I play,' said Snape.
Moody realised that, while that didn't really answer the question, it was the best answer he was going to get. 'Ok. You can untie me.'
A swift movement of Snape's wand released the Auror. 'My wand?' he enquired.
'In your back pocket.'
Swearing, Moody drew his wand. 'So tell me, who do you know who's lost a buttock?' Snape asked.
Pointedly, Moody said nothing and Snape smirked. Ignoring him, Moody fished his eye out of the glass and glared at it. 'If thy eye offends thee . . .' murmured Snape. Moody threw the eye into the air and a flick of his wand reduced it to a fine dust that filtered downwards to the filthy floor.
For the first time Moody really looked at Snape. The pale wizard had never really appeared well but now he looked dreadful. Moody realised that killing Dumbledore had done Snape no favours at all. All the future could hold for the spy would be increasingly suicidal missions from Voldemort in a world where every wand was turned against him. As he opened the door to leave, the Auror called out to him. 'Snape!' Moody knew better than to try and express sympathy or encouragement. 'I though Slytherins were supposed to be good at self preservation.'
For a moment Snape paused in the doorway. 'Let's hope so,' he said.
JKR has given Snape's birthday as January the 9th. This is the date of the 'Agonium' the feast day of the Roman god Janus. Janus is the god of doorways and hence, amongst other things, endings and new beginnings.