By the time Severus arrived back at Spinners End he had considered and discarded more than a dozen plans to pass off Wormtail as the Easter Bunny.
It wasn't that the Dark Lord would notice the difference. The problem with his eyesight was a blessing in this regard.
The problem was getting the little rat to co-operate.
Severus opened the door to the living room and saw that once again Wormtail had settled himself down in the most comfy chair and had apparently moved on from Severus's own stock of alcohol and had instead been imbibing muggle spirits.
The rat was now snoring loudly and Severus had to consciously restrain himself from hexing him awake. Instead he slammed the door loudly and watched Wormtail bolt from the chair with an agility he'd never have believed he possessed had he not seen it for himself.
"You're late," Wormtail said in an accusatory tone.
"Am I?" replied Severus coldly.
"Is dinner ready?" Wormtail asked.
Snape raised an eyebrow but didn't bother to answer that question. He pointed his wand at the various bits of debris that were now scattered around his living room and set about cleaning up the mess.
"Are you ordering muggle takeout again?" Wormtail asked.
"Why is it," asked Severus, "that since the Dark Lord appointed you as my housekeeper, I seem to spend most of my time tidying up after you?"
Once the rubbish was cleared away Severus turned his wand towards Wormtail and delivered a glare that had never failed to leave any of his students quaking in their boots.
"Do you practice that look in a mirror?" Wormtail asked.
Severus turned the glare up a notch or two and advanced across the room. Something was wrong. Wormtail wasn't cowering as he normally did in such situations. Instead he looked almost brave as he looked up at him. He knew something that Severus didn't. The only question was what?
He didn't have to wait for long to find out. Wormtail couldn't keep a secret if his life depended on it.
"The Dark Lord has sent you an owl," Wormtail said as he pointed to the already opened missive.
"Reading my private correspondence again," Severus said in a deceptively silky voice. He walked across the room and picked up the parchment to see what more bad news was heading his way.
"So how are you going to produce the Easter Bunny?" Wormtail snickered. "The Dark Lord is expecting a meeting with it. I'm thinking you might not be the Dark Lord's favourite for much longer."
"Andyou aspire to that position?"
"The Dark Lord is grateful for all I've done."
"The Dark Lord will never trust you completely. You turned traitor once, he knows it's within you to do so again."
Wormtail scowled and looked like he was about to continue arguing.
Severus quickly skimmed the letter and rolled his eyes. It contained nothing more than a reminder of his mission and the usual death threats if he were to fail.
Failure was simply not an option. He looked at Wormtail and grinned maliciously. The rat shrank backwards before turning tail and running for the stairs.
"Run rabbit run," Severus snickered.
By the end of the week Severus had formed something of a plan and had descended into his laboratory to put the final stages of it into operation.
Wormtail had ventured into the basement only once. Severus had been pleased that his modification of the spell used on the girls' staircases at Hogwarts had been a success. He'd watched Wormtail slide down the stairs and then eventually scramble his way back up them again. The occasional mild spell blasted at the rat's backside had helped to pass half an hour or so.
"Felix Felicis is one of the most complicated potions ever invented," Severus said as Hermione sat on the couch of the living room taking voluminous notes. "The potion is in fact partially completed already. You will be continuing the potion to its conclusion by working from my own notes."
"I'm not making it from scratch?" Hermione asked in surprise.
"The potion takes far more time than we have available. It is also very dangerous if made incorrectly and I have completed the most dangerous stages for you."
Hermione looked disappointed.
"If you are successful in completing the potion then perhaps I may let you work on it again more fully before the end of the summer," he relented.
"What does it do?" Hermione asked.
"It brings a person good luck for a limited time period," Severus replied. He risked a glance towards the hallway and caught sight of Wormtail eavesdropping as usual. Perfect!
He turned to pick up his notes and passed them to her. He didn't miss the look of relief on her face at having instructions to work from.
As he directed her towards the laboratory he heard the sound of Wormtail scurrying up the stairs to the floor above. He breathed his own sigh of relief that Wormtail was so predictable.
"Excellent work Miss Granger," Severus said as he looked at the potion she had made. "I've never seen a more perfectly brewed potion."
"Thank you Professor," Hermione stammered as she blushed with pride.
Severus wondered if she would be so pleased with his praise had she known that it was given only so that Wormtail could overhear the same.
"Leave it on the workbench in the cauldron," Severus instructed in the same loud voice. "I'll sort it into vials later. I'm afraid I don't have enough at the moment and need to purchase more."
Hermione nodded and started to gather her things.
Severus guided her towards the door. With his wand hidden behind his back he cast a quick non-verbal spell to switch the potion with one he'd prepared earlier. Then he closed the door behind him and forced himself to answer Hermione's endless questions as they awaited her parents' arrival.
Severus made sure to keep Wormtail out of his laboratory until precisely the right time. It meant that he had to suffer the rat's company even more than usual but he knew within minutes that the rodent was positively straining to get at the lucky potion stored in the basement.
Finally the time for the meeting with the Dark Lord approached and Severus set his plan into motion.
"I need to go purchase a rabbit," Severus said as he picked up the floo powder and turned towards the fireplace. "I'll only be gone a short while and then we'll depart for our meeting with the Dark Lord."
"You're going to try to trick the Dark Lord?" Wormtail asked. "You'll never succeed."
"Oh I don't know," Severus replied as he stepped into the fireplace. "I'm feeling rather lucky today."
The last thing he saw before he disappeared to Diagon Alley was Wormtail's greedy look towards the door to the laboratory.
Once in Diagon Alley he wandered down the street and looked into a few of the shop windows. He purchased some extra potions ingredients and vials and once he'd determined that Wormtail had had enough time to give into temptation and descend into the basement he returned to Spinners End.
Severus knew as soon as he saw Wormtail that he owed Hermione Granger a debt of gratitude.
He was also grateful that Wormtail had been thoroughly abysmal at Potions when he'd been at Hogwarts, and as such wouldn't be able to recognise one potion from another if they were labelled in words of one syllable.
Hermione's experiment with the Polyjuice potion in her second year had been the talk of the staff room for some time. The cat hairs she'd inadvertently mistaken for the hair of another student had had the most unexpected effect and she'd grown a tail, ears and fur whilst remaining human in other respects.
He was pleased to see that adding rabbit's fur, acquired from Bugs who had taken up residence in the larder, to the already brewed potion he kept for emergencies had had a similar effect.
Wormtail's always rat-like features were now covered with snowy white fur. His head was topped with long flopping ears of pure white – he was currently trying to pull one of them off – and when he turned around Severus could see that a rabbit's cottontail was poking out of the back of his trousers. His front teeth were longer and Severus was hard pushed to understand a word he was saying as he raged and swore the moment he had stepped into the room. At least the Dark Lord wouldn't be able to understand him either and therefore wouldn't be able to tell who it was that was standing before him.
"I see you're nearly ready for the meeting," Severus said quietly. "Excellent."
Wormtail swore again and Severus could see that he would have to drag the rodent to the meeting. He wasn't too bothered about the idea, it would give credence to the idea that he had captured the elusive Easter Bunny.
He waved his wand at Wormtail and his clothes transformed to muggle clothing of pale pastel colours. He wondered whether to add a ribbon or two but decided that would perhaps be pushing things.
Severus apparated to the meeting place with Wormtail in tow. He let go of the other man as soon as they arrived and made a point of wiping his hand on his robes.
"I can't go in there like this," Wormtail whined. "What will people think?"
"They'll think you don't know how to make Polyjuice potion," Severus sneered. "Which is entirely accurate, since I'm quite sure you don't."
"I was very good at Potions," Wormtail argued.
"You were worse than Longbottom," Severus retorted. "The only reason you got an OWL in the subject at all is because you copied off Potter in the exam."
"How did- er…no I didn't."
Severus pushed Wormtail ahead of him as they went into the mansion and joined the rest of the Death Eaters.
Bellatrix Lestrange was the first to spot them and she let out of loud cackle of laughter as she watched Wormtail try to slink away.
"It's the Easter Bunny," Draco howled. "Where's my chocolate egg?"
Severus took a moment to wonder at the youngster's presence before he spotted the telltale sign of the dark mark peeking out of his robes. He scowled as he realised that the foolish child had decided to follow in his father's footsteps after all.
"I think he needs a few ribbons," Rodolphus suggested as he pulled out his wand and pointed it at Wormtail. Severus dodged rapidly out of the way as the multicoloured streamers flew across the room.
"I take it the Dark Lord is still…" Severus looked at Narcissa who was hovering near her son with an expression of concern on her face. She was the only one who wasn't rushing forward to greet the Easter Bunny.
"Completely crackers?" Narcissa concluded. "We don't know. He's not been seen all day."
"He seemed perfectly normal this morning," Draco pointed out. "When he spoke with me he…"
"Be quiet," Bellatrix hissed as she turned to glare at her nephew.
"We'll find out soon enough the state of the Dark Lord's mind," Severus commented with a shrug. Privately he mused that even if he was still over the border in the land of insanity he had plenty of company there. Many of his Death Eaters had either lost their sanity during their stay in Azkaban or had never been playing with a full deck to begin with.
A few minutes later and the meeting was about to begin. The sound of the Dark Lord descending the stairs sent those awaiting his presence scurrying towards the best seats in the room. The best seats being those near the back of course.
Severus sat down with Wormtail on the bench beside him and waited for the Dark Lord to speak.
"First order of business," Voldemort said with a glare around the room. "Which abysmally stupid imbecile put these dragon eggs in my basement?" He waved his wand and a large pile of eggs appeared in the centre of the room.
Severus was momentarily amazed at how many of the eggs had been smuggled into the country. He'd known the Ministry was a little lax on import/export security but this was ridiculous.
Several of the Death Eaters looked around the room innocently whilst one or two were edging towards the door. It seemed that the Dark Lord's latest episode was over.
"Don't you think they're a little close to the fireplace?" someone squeaked. "What if they start to hatch?"
"Then someone will have to round them up," Voldemort replied, even as one of the eggs started to move.
Several squeals sounded as the first of the eggs cracked open. Narcissa jumped on her chair squealing at the top of her lungs as she hopped from one foot to the other.
"Crucio!" Voldemort yelled and the spell shot across the room. Half a dozen Death Eaters hit the ground, including Narcissa, who had evidently decided that being on the ground with the dragons was preferable to being in firing range.
Voldemort sent a sweeping contemptuous glance around the room before his gaze came to rest on Wormtail. "Ah, Wormtail," he said. "Did you believe this meeting to be a fancy dress party?"
"Snape made me dress up like this," Wormtail whined. "He poisoned me."
Severus snorted at the barely audible accusation. Unfortunately Wormtail had had the presence of mind to point an accusing finger in his direction and the meaning of this was clear enough to everyone in the room.
"Severus Snape, explain yourself," Voldemort ordered as he pointed to the spot on the floor where he wished Severus to stand. The spot was point blank range for any spell the Dark Lord chose to fire off.
Severus stood and walked to the centre of the room, a close eye on the baby dragon that was even now breathing fire on the rest of the eggs that would no doubt be hatching too.
"Wormtail decided to sample a potion made by a student at my house during a private tutoring session. The potion was the Polyjuice potion which had unfortunately been contaminated with rabbit fur from a local pet. The potion was not for consumption and Wormtail did not have permission to drink it…or even be in my laboratory at all." Severus finished his explanation with a glare of contempt at Wormtail. Turning back to the Dark Lord he saw that he was being waved away and Wormtail was being beckoned.
Voldemort waved his wand to reduce the size of Wormtail's teeth and then gestured for him to explain.
"He said it was lucky potion," he complained as he pointed at Severus again.
"You mistook lucky potion for Polyjuice?" Voldemort asked incredulously. Several snickers sounded from the audience of Death Eaters. "Are you colour blind or just plain incompetent?"
"But he said…"
Wormtail stamped his foot in a temper but the sound was lost amidst the hatching of the rest of the dragon eggs.
Everyone hurried back from the swarm of dragons that now had the undivided attention of everyone in the room.
"Wormtail round them up before you leave," Voldemort ordered. "Meeting adjourned!" he called out as he bolted from the room.
The race for the door was on and Severus was pushed to the back as the Death Eaters ran for the proverbial hills.
Only Wormtail remained behind.
Severus caught one last glimpse of the little rat before he got out of the room. Peter Pettigrew, sometimes known as Wormtail was wailing like a baby, surrounded by newly hatched dragons and his cottontail was on fire thanks to one of the little darlings.
Severus left him trying to stretch round his ample proportions in order to put out the flames that were just out of his reach.
He wondered how long it would be before Wormtail was finished with his latest task and was fairly sure that it would take at least a week.
Which, of course, meant a week of blissful peace and quiet for Severus Snape.
Author Notes: I hope you enjoyed reading this story. If you enjoyed it I hope you will consider checking out some of my other stories. Thanks for taking the time to read this and especially bit thanks to everyone who has taken the time to not only read the story but to leave a review or write to me direct about it. The feedback and comments are all very much appreciated.