author's note: Naturally I own none of the copyrighted bits, including the characters and their situation. The first couple chapters of this fic were posted and removed a while back, later chapters are new material. I'm afraid it still isn't quite polished, but here you are anyhow. I did warn you there was a little bit of angst, right?

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Snape picked up a quill, a jar of green ink, and a piece of parchment. He scribbled out a brief note, choosing his words with as much care as he could in his haste:

Dumbledore –

I have to tell you something re: the prophecy. Go to the large hill in the woods four miles west of Hogsmeade at midnight tonight. I will meet you there. The message is for your ears only—

And Snape underlined this phrase so firmly that he tore a hole in his parchment. He could only hope Dumbledore would play honorable and bring no extra guards with him. Well, Dumbledore was a match for any six Death Eaters, there was no need ...

Snape paused a moment, the quill hovering over the parchment. At last he signed it with his usual S.S. Dumbledore would know well enough whom it was from.

He sealed the message with a tap of his wand, then muttered a spell over it so it would burst into flames if any but Dumbledore tried to open it. A clever wizard could remove the enchantment, but most would not think to look for a booby trap until the message was already destroyed. It would have to be safe enough.

He raised the hood of his cloak to conceal his face in shadow, and Apparated into Hogsmeade, heading straight for the post office. He chose an ordinary-sized owl, passed it the note, whispered "Take this to Albus Dumbledore in five minutes," and dropped a few Knuts into the slotted box underneath the owl's perch. Then he glanced round, made sure no one was looking, and cast a Disillusionment Charm on the owl – which made it squawk in apparent offense, but Snape silenced it hastily. He only cared about keeping the message a secret. The owl might be annoyed, but the charm would wear off after a while.

"Go," he whispered, and a moment later he waved his hand over the perch through empty air. The owl had gone.

Now there was nothing to do but wait.