It was mid September and Hogwarts danced in the colors of Fall, oranges, yellows and reds, but for Lucius Malfoy, the only color that mattered was green. The Slytherin common room was draped with it, and even with strange students, it felt like home. Everything reminded him of Narcissa so suddenly and violently that he could barely breathe. He turned and stepped out, coming face to face with the one person he had been taking care to avoid, "Father?"
Lucius closed his eyes and sidestepped the boy, hurrying off to his office and slamming the door behind himself. He slid to the floor with a soft sob and sat there, "I can't do this," he muttered.
"Don't give up. Draco needs you."
Lucius frowned, "I need you here, not him. I wish-"
"No, Lucius. Don't say that. I would die a thousand times to protect him. You have to do that for me now."
"I'm sorry, love. I'm trying," Lucius said, looking over and seeing no one, "I'm still trying."
He stood and went to his desk, sitting heavily and shuffling through his lesson plans and schedules, not looking up when a soft knock sounded on the door, "Come," he muttered.
"Hard at work already."
"You know me, Severus. I've always been a workaholic, maybe not as bad as you." He looked up and managed to look at lease somewhat pleasant.
Snape nodded, "We are grateful to have you here. Pomona asked me to offer you the Deputy Headmaster position."
Lucius actually chuckled, "Eager to be rid of it, is she?"
"She's old," Snape said.
"We're all old."
"I suppose that's right," Snape said, "I certainly feel it. We need to speak again, when you're up to it."
Lucius shifted and looked up to meet Snape's gaze, "I'll find my way to your office this afternoon."
Snape looked around the office, "It's good to have you here," he said, and then left.
"It's good to be here," Lucius said, and he meant it.
Remus looked up with one eye open, "What is it?" he muttered, still half asleep.
"Snivelus sent an owl," Sirius said, sitting on the edge of the bed, "He's going to the Ministry to petition for my pardon and your reinstatement as a teacher."
Remus grunted in response, closing his eyes again.
"Come on, Moony," Sirius said, laying a hand on his back, "You can't stay depressed forever. What you did was entirely accidental."
"That doesn't make it easier," Remus said, "I killed people, and I nearly got us all killed on that plane. I've never felt more like an animal."
Sirius sighed and stood, "You're just as much a man as I am, maybe even more. You can't blame yourself; if we hadn't been captured, you would be fine."
"Wouldn't we all be," Remus agreed, "But we aren't. I'm not sure I can take on a teaching position at the moment."
Sirius scowled and shoved Remus unceremoniously off the bed, "What would James say? Look at you! Whining like Moaning Myrtle! You are one of the only men who knows what happened to these children and you owe them!"
"So you throw me on the ground?" Remus asked, obviously angry.
Sirius continued, "You have a real chance to go out and do something important. I'll likely be arsing about this flat for the rest of my life. Now that is something to moan about."
"Yes well you give a whole new meaning to the term Underdog," Remus muttered, standing slowly.
Sirius chuckled, the tension broken, "Fine Moony, lets just agree not to let opportunity pass us by?"
"Deal," Remus said, sitting back on the bed, "Now, help me find my pants, will you?"
"If I'd known you were going to put me to work I would have let you laze about a while longer," Sirius grumbled.
"Hindsight is always twenty twenty it seems. Where's that letter from Severus? If he needs any help I suppose we should grant it."
Sirius tossed Remus his pants and then walked out of the bedroom, "It's on the table in the kitchen. Feel free to cook something while you're in there."
Remus shook his head with a smile as he dressed and then walked downstairs to find the letter.
Hogwarts was quiet, finally, after the celebrations and prying questions were over. Hermione was finally back to what she did best, learning. Ginny and Neville were busy planning their future, and so Hermione was more or less off the hook in that friendship with only Harry and Ron left to babysit, but they made things difficult enough. Harry was caught between Cho Chang and his memory of Cedric Diggory-which he thought was a big secret. Ron was busy deciding whether to give Neville a hard time or run off with Luna Lovegood and Hermione did her best to give them both sound advice, although trying to tell a boy about a girl is like trying to explain advanced muggle technology to a Death Eater, a waste of time and likely to be something you regret in the long run.
On top of this nonsense, she missed Viktor terribly. He'd gone home a hero, no longer able to play Quidditch due to his injury at the hand of the muggles. He'd promised to write, but nothing had come so far. She tried to be patient, but it did wear on her nerves and cause her to snap at Ron even more than usual, though she was certain he did deserve it.
"Hermione, help me with this Prefect badge would you?" Ron muttered, struggling to get it on his robe straight.
"I am not your house elf, Ronald!" she snapped.
Ron looked at her as if she were crazy, "What's gotten into you?" he asked loudly, "It's just a badge!"
Hermione scowled, "You didn't say please."
Ron gave her an angry, defiant look and Harry intervened, "I'll help you, Ron," he said, fixing the badge.
"Listen," Hermione muttered, "We have a lot of homework to do for Snape. Lets just get it done."
"We never worked that hard on Snape's stuff before," Ron said.
"You mean you didn't," Harry said, "I'm not keen on getting him angry. Besides... I think... I don't know. Maybe he's not that bad, with You-Know-Who gone, I mean."
Ron made a face, but conceded, "I am a prefect, guess now is as good a time as any to shape up."
Hermione was thoughtful, "Are we sure he's even gone for good? He came back once, after all."
Harry rubbed the scar on his forehead distractedly, "It doesn't do us any good to talk about it," he said, standing and leaving the common room.
"We'll now you've gone and done it, Hermione," Ron joked as he stood to follow, "See you in Potions later."
Hermione gave him a look and started her third letter to Viktor.
Snape was composing a letter, the seventh of the day, when Lucius stepped in, "Severus?"
Snape looked up, "Lock the door."
Lucius did as he was asked before taking one of the seats across Snape's desk, usually reserved for students in trouble, "This is about Voldemort isn't it?"
"It is," Snape said, "About what Albus discovered, mostly, the reason Voldemort was able to return."
Lucius seemed surprised, "You think he'll do it again?"
Snape exhaled, "According to Dumbledore, Voldemort created Horcruxes. he believes that six were made. His notes are sparse and cryptic as i suspect he feared discovery. I am doing what I can with it, but I will eventually need more than just myself."
"Six Horcruxes," Lucius said, "I might know something, or be able to find something out. The diary?"
"A Horcrux, according to Albus, but it was destroyed. Five would remain in that case."
"If the diary was one then maybe the cup of Hufflepuff that he gave to Bellatrix is one as well," Lucius offered, "I suppose the Lestrange's vault will be no trouble to get into and find the cup."
"The rest could be anywhere," Snape added, "I have to ask, Lucius, what do you intend to do with the cup when you fetch it?"
Lucius sighed, suddenly looking very tired, "Destroy it, I suppose."
Snape didn't say anything for a while, "You would betray Him?"
Lucius gave a snort, "In a heartbeat, I would. Narcissa is dead; Draco is... dallying with that boy and I am a teacher. Blood Purity had waned in its importance. Not to mention the fact that the muggles treated the Mudbloods as if they were the same as the rest of us. Our real enemy is all of those damned muggles, and it would take an army bigger than one I've ever seen to bring them all down." He shifted in his seat, "Thirdly, I haven't the patience for him always barking orders. I'm not the sort of man to grovel, not without good cause. Without him alive, I fear no wizard."
Snape took it all in silently, leaning back in his chair, "Then I'll begin researching in earnest. In the meantime, if you get the cup, bring it here. We can amass the Horcruxes that we find in this office until we have the means to destroy them, another thing I'm working on."
"We're likely not to get much help," Lucius said, "Not from the Ministry, anyway."
"I have no intentions of alerting them to it," Snape said, "For now, it is between the two of us until I learn more."
Lucius stood, "Very well, it's Gringotts for me then, I suppose. I'll need to hurry if I don't intend to miss any classes."
"Thank you, Lucius," Snape said as the man left, then he turned back to his letter, one small weight lifting from his mind.
"Professor Snape, I didn't expect to see you here in the Ministry so-"
"I haven't come to expose any secrets. I've come to petition the Ministry," Snape interrupted.
"Petition?" Fudge asked nervously, "Petition for what?"
"The pardoning of Sirius Black and the removal of the laws preventing Remus Lupin from teaching as the laws of which I speak are based in ignorance," Snape said calmly, never so much as batting an eyelash.
Cornelius Fudge didn't look pleased, but now he looked more confident, "What reason have you for Black's pardon?"
Snape gave him an icy look that made the man squirm in his chair, "The proof I have has escaped me at the moment," he said, "Although circumstances being as they were-"
"Very well," Fudge conceded grudgingly, scribbling out a decree, "Have your pardon. Dolores Umbridge drafted the werewolf laws; that's her baby to rock, I'm afraid."
Snape took the paper without a word and left the office as silently as he had come, bound for the Undersecretary's office.
Umbridge was an unpleasantly pink woman, a thin, fake smile stretched her face in a way that made Snape uncomfortable, no small feat. She motioned wordlessly for him to sit, "Severus Snape, the man of the hour," she said, her words like slime, "What brings you here?"
Snape regarded the woman who was still smiling at him in an expecting manner, "I am here on behalf of Hogwarts," he said, biding time, "We are in need of additional teaching staff. I am here to ask that your legislature against werewolves be overturned."
Umbridge busied herself with papers for a moment before looking back up, "What is this regarding, Severus?"
Severus caught the tone in her voice and had a decision to make, reveal his allegiance with Dumbledore or continue to play the part of Death Eater, "This is strictly administrative," he said, "But it won't hurt to have a degree of control over the remains of those who oppose us."
Umbridge's face broke out into a grin, "Very well, for you, for Him, I'll suspend the legislation. Also, Pettigrew has been looking for an audience with Lucius." She scribbled down an address and gave it to him, her hand moving to the locket around her neck, bearing a green snake, "If you'd be so kind."
"Of course," Severus said, "What a lovely locket."
"Oh thank you. It's an heirloom of the Selwyn family. I'm a descendant."
She gave him a meaningful smile and Snape had to struggle not to roll his eyes, "Lovely," he repeated and stood, "I must be on my way. My duties as Headmaster leave me little social time."
"Do send word if anything comes up," she called just before he let the door shut behind him.
Snape made a mental note to never set foot in the office of Dolores Umbridge again as he left the Ministry, eyes glued to the address she'd given him.
It was evening before he made it back to the castle, sending owl after owl and running a few small school-related errands. When he returned to his office, it wasn't empty, "I let myself in."
"I'm not surprised. Yours wasn't comfortable enough?"
Tonks laughed, "Not nearly as big, and the portraits are older than dirt down there."
Snape shook his head, "How long have you been waiting?"
"Not long, I had a lot of business to wrap up today. I ran into Lucius at Gringotts. He looked awfully pleased with himself, left you a package here too."
Snape turned and went quickly to his desk, opening the small box. Laying on top of a golden cup was a note that read,
Here's the cup. I emptied out the Lestrange's vault and closed it.
Don't touch the damned thing!
Snape looked up in time to see Tonks reaching for the cup, "Stop."
Tonks did as she was told, her fingers just millimeters above it, "What is it?" She asked, looking up at him.
"It's a Horcrux. Lucius left a warning against touching it," Snape said, picking up the entire box and placing it inside one if the glass cabinets he'd emptied, locking it.
"Another day," Snape dismissed, "I'm exhausted and I need to get a message back to Lucius."
"The two of you have a lot of secrets nowadays," Tonks said, "Is he up to no good?"
Snape weighed his options before replying, "He and I are on the cusp of a plot that will bring down Voldemort for good. If the Ministry hears of it and takes it out of our hands, it would fail."
"Just because I'm an Auror doesn't mean I trust those crooked politicians," Tonks said, "But if you're not ready, I won't push."
"I have happier news," Snape offered, "Sirius has been pardoned and the legislation against Remus' employment has been lifted."
Tonks grinned, "That's brilliant, Severus! How'd you do it?"
"Intimidation and deception."
"Dumbledore would be proud," Tonks mused, "I'll make some tea."
Snape raised a hand to stop her, "I will make tea. You sit and don't touch anything."
Tonks folded her arms and sat on the edge of his desk, a mischievous look in her eyes, "Now I have to touch everything."
A/N: Yes there you have it. After thirty years, I update. This chapter was very Dark Lordy, so maybe we'll focus more on those whiny kids next chapter. I also edited my fic Sort Me Out for those of you who read it and fixed some errors; I'm currently working on its third chapter as well. Thanks for reading!