Stalking down the eerily silent halls of Hogwarts, the resident potions professor and infamous "greasy git"/"bat of the dungeons", Professor Severus Snape was hurrying to Headmaster Dumbledore's office for a meeting discussing the events that had taken place in recent weeks. Not a month before, the legendary Tri-wizard Tournament had concluded with disastrous results. A student had died, and if the story given by the witness was anything to go by (Snape snorted derisively at that), then Lord Voldemort was back in a corporeal body and gaining power.
As much as he hated Harry Potter, the boy did seem to attract an unnatural amount of trouble and the rumor was more than likely true, much to his dismay. So now he was on his way to discuss possible courses of action from this news. Of course, the Ministry was doing nothing aside from everything in its power to cover the "incident" up. Minister Fudge, being the imbecile that he is, was vehemently denying the return of Voldemort and threatening to put anyone saying otherwise under full auror investigation. No never mind the escape of Barty Crouch Jr. who had impersonated a former auror and infiltrated Hogwarts for an entire year before being caught. He had been given the dementor's kiss before he could be properly interrogated and the full truth died with him.
Of course Severus knew more than most in the wizarding world, he had fully felt the affects of the Dark Lord's resurrection thanks to the Mark branded into his left forearm. He knew the moment that his followers were summoned, and felt his stomach clench coldly as he realized he couldn't respond to the call due to his presence at the tournament. It would raise too many questions if he vanished suddenly, only to have something happen involving the Dark Lord. And his instinct had been right. Potter had arrived within an hour, bearing the cold, lifeless body of his peer in his arms. The summons hadn't occurred again since, but it was only a matter of time, and if he was going to resume his duties of spying for Dumbledore, he would have to fabricate a story that would save his life to explain his absence. As a Slytherin, such a task would really not be too difficult and he worried little about it.
Arriving at the stone gargoyle that guarded the Headmaster's office, Professor Snape's face twisted into a sneer that made him look vaguely like he had swallowed something slimy and disgusting. "Cockroach clusters," he murmured, while mentally cursing Dumbledore for his affinity for sweets as his password and food of choice. He watched the gargoyle move away to reveal the stairway to Dumbledore's office and strode up as the stairs rose. Before he had a chance to even knock on the wooden door in front of him, the Headmaster's amused voice beckoned him from within.
Severus shook his head and strode in, glancing around quickly to see that the only ones present were himself, the Headmaster, his phoenix and the portraits with terrible acting skills as they all pretended to sleep.
"Ah, Severus, punctual as always. Would you like a lemon drop, my boy? Or perhaps some tea?" Dumbledore offered with a warm smile, belying the serious nature of the meeting. Not once had Severus accepted a lemon drop from the old man, and he certainly was not about to start now.
"No lemon drop, Headmaster, but tea would not be amiss," he replied, gracefully planting himself on one of the plush chairs before the desk. Fawkes, the phoenix, crooned softly before fluttering to Severus, landing on the arm of his chair and leaning into his hand before he had even a chance to pull it away or realize that the phoenix had come to him. Severus smirked uncharacteristically and indulged the bird with a light scratching on the nape of its neck. The Headmaster quickly conjured a tray of tea onto his desk, quickly preparing two cups exactly as each of them preferred and passed one of Severus.
"Thank you, Headmaster," Severus said with a nod, freeing himself from petting duty to accept the cup. He took a sip, closing his eyes briefly to enjoy the warmth that spread down his body briefly from the warm liquid as he relaxed into the chair before turning his attention to the Headmaster once more.
"I'm sure you can imagine why I called you here, Severus, though I wish it wouldn't even be an issue. Due to all the hassle with the Minister, I've not had a chance to properly talk to you on what you think about what happened. I know you felt the summons, you made that much clear, but what since then?" Dumbledore spoke up once he was sure that his colleague was comfortable and ready to approach the subject at hand.
"Yes, I felt the summons, but none since then. This could, of course, mean two things. One that the He has figured me a deserter and has stopped attempting to summon me, or else he is lying low while he gathers strength. I'm more inclined to believe the second explanation before the first. If he figured me a deserter, undoubtedly we would know by now, least of all due to his ability to send unimaginable amounts of pain through his mark. And from what Potter," his lip curled and his nose scrunched a bit as though he had smelled something foul here, "has said, it seems that he is probably waiting for the most opportune time to strike out, once he has a secure foothold in power and followers. The question is, Albus, what would you have me do when he summons again?"
The headmaster sighed, the twinkle in his eye dimming a bit at the summary as he nodded slowly. He took a long sip of his tea before answering, "I believe you are correct in your assumption that Voldemort does not figure you as a deserter yet. As for what I would have you do, what do you wish to do my boy? You have already redeemed yourself for sins past," he raised his hands, forestalling the argument that was about to come, "so it is entirely up to you if you wish to return to spying. Granted, if you decide not to, we will have to act quickly and seriously in our attempt to sever your connection to him through the mark, lest we find you dead from it." The Headmaster's face was drawn and a bit pinched at that thought and he took another fortifying sip of his tea while allowing the potions master to compose a reply.
"You know as well as I do that I could not have made up for everything I have done in my life simply by telling you a few damaging secrets of the Dark Lord's. If he summons again, I will go and find out what I can. If he suspects, I can use my emergency portkey to get out of there, but I believe we should look into ways of severing the connection in case it comes to that. He would be swift to retaliate," Severus replied, hoping to end the subject of his supposed redemption and reassure the old man that he would not dive headlong into a situation that would likely get him killed. After all, he was no Gryffindor.
"My boy, one day I hope that you will see how many times over you have redeemed yourself, but since you will not listen to this old man on the subject, I'll let it drop for now. As for your plan, I believe it would be wise to try to salvage your position as a spy, especially now that I am reforming the Order. Even if it is for one meeting, you are a valuable asset to us. Nevertheless, I do want you to take the portkey with you, since we know all too well how volatile Voldemort is. If that is all you wish to discuss my boy, I'll let you get back to your free time. I'm sure you have a lot to do to prepare for the upcoming school year and your own research."
"Yes Headmaster, that's all…I will keep you updated on His activities as best I can, and I will let you know when I am summoned. I assume you still have my robes and mask?" At this, Dumbledore nodded and opened a chest behind him, pulling out the mask to show Severus briefly before closing it again. "Very good. Then I'll be off. Should you need anything, do let me know." With that, Severus polished off his tea and left the office to return to his beloved dungeons.