XIV

Severus, Jennifer, Alex and Ben walked into the Baker Street house, every one of them relieved in their own way to be home. But it wasn't more than a moment later when Ben stopped dead in his tracks on the way to his computer, calling out Lucky's name in surprise and causing the other three to peer in the parlor door.

"Lucky Snape, what in stars happened to you?" Jennifer reiterated as she saw the girl's blackened eye and red and purple marks scattered on her face and arms.

"Un pequeño accidente,"" she offered, immediately causing further suspicion from both Severus and Jennifer.

"Don't worry, Mum, it looks worse than it is," said Andrew, walking it with a potion kit. "I was waiting for it to come to a head and pulled her out of the brawl quickly."

"Now why is it that I suspect that you were the one that started the brawl in the first place?" Severus frowned at her.

"It wasn't my fault, I didn't throw the first punch. They kept insulting American soccer an' how the country as a whole treats it," Lucky said with a shrug. "All I did was point out that our American soccer league had something their league ain't got, and I got pummeled."

"And exactly what is that?" Severus asked impatiently.

"Beckham," Lucky said simply.

Severus and Jennifer looked completely confused.

"No doubt about it, you deserved to be pummeled," Ben said with a chuckle, turning to the computer. Andrew simply took out a balm and started spreading it on her face, ignoring her protests.

"So much for the 'safe' summer activity," was all Alex would say as she sat down and propped up her aching feet.

"I think I'll go make us all some tea," Jennifer said after a moment, having come to no decision on how to handle it.

"Once Andrew is done I expect you have reading to do, Fortuna," Severus advised with a frown, and she quickly agreed. He squinted at her suspiciously a moment as if debating if he could trust her to do so. Finally he moved over to the desk for a pair of note cards, glancing briefly to make sure they had the correct letterhead before walking into the kitchen and sitting at the bar. "Let's see, what's the date?" he said more to himself than to Jennifer, glancing at the calendar in the annoyance. "Where in the devil did my two weeks go?"

"Poor Severus," Jennifer said with genuine sympathy as she put the kettle on and went over to lean on the other side of the bar in front of him. "You have a few days left, I'll do everything in my power to make sure nobody disturbs the study."

"Although I appreciate the sentiment, I'm afraid it's too late for that," Severus said, writing out a note on the first card. Andrew walked in to wash the balm off his hands. "I am requesting another emergency council meeting…this one with a decent forty-eight hour notice, and I must make certain that everyone who needs to be there will be there this time…take this to Hermione at the school, Dodger. It needs to get out on the school friend's list."

"Wait a minute, Father, what ever happened to the whole 'staying neutral' on the Muggle card thing?" Andrew challenged him.

"I am planning to stay neutral, Andrew, I simply believe that the law should be considered by a full wizard's council not a lopsided one, not to mention the forty-eight hours will give time for the truth to come out about this planted scandal being nothing more than a silly plot to get Draco out of the picture during Mary's wedding," Severus muttered, obviously still annoyed about it.

"I take it that Alex is cleared of the murder now, though, right?" Andrew pressed. Jennifer turned around with her hand on her hip.

"How do you know about that?" she asked.

"Who do you think got the stamps out of her room?" Andrew answered evenly, sitting down at the bar.

"Thomas suspected Alex was involved in this early on, although I'm not sure he knew in what capacity; I would go so far to say that he probably suggested Arthur's arrest not only to try and get more details to what was going on as it was to entice me into getting more involved," Severus said with annoyance. "But one of the things that bothered the two of us the most was how quickly the council meeting was called…before the photos even broke in the paper, and yet Nelson seemed to know there had been a supposed "break-in" despite the fact that very little people at that point knew about it…I could have seen outrage after the papers hit the stands, but before? The fact that he had extensive knowledge of Muggle technologies made me wonder, although I admit I wasn't positive of where he had hid the bug until I spoke with Ron about who he had or had not spoken to about his part of the conspiracy before that point. I believe, circumstantial evidence withstanding, that Nelson saw several advantages of calling the hearing as quickly as possible, knowing that word may have not gotten around and there'd be a lack of interest in going to a meeting with such short notice, as well as giving him an extra day of mayhem in the Ministry. People would be going in and out of Conners office to protest or complain or throw in their support constantly, making it quite easy for someone to come in and slip something into his drink when he wasn't expecting it. As for motive, it seems that Conners had a large interest in Muggle investments and probably got involved with Nelson through bank issues…Nelson seemed to visit that office often enough over the last few years from what Penelope and Darla have told me, he hasn't been around the Ministry at all recently except for the meeting itself."

"Well, if your and grandfather's guesses are correct, I can understand why," Andrew said, gratefully accepting a cup of tea from his mother.

"Unfortunately, right now it's all they amount to…guesses. Thomas doesn't bring anyone in unless he's positive he'll get a conviction," Severus said.

"That's why everyone likes him, he actually makes arrests stick," Andrew agreed. "But that doesn't make me any more comfortable knowing someone capable of murdering someone like that is on the loose."

"Anyone's capable of murder, as you well know, Andrew," Severus said evenly, sipping his tea. "Although I admit this one was more daring than usual. We'll have to keep on eye on him from now on."

"We?" Jennifer repeated curiously.

"They, I meant they," Severus said, annoyed at the knowing look that spread across his wife's face. "As for the conspiracy itself, under the circumstances I won't be surprised if Draco dropped all charges and tried to clean the mess up as soon as possible. Although if I were in similar position, I'd probably throw them all in jail."

"Sure you would; for one night, so they can mull it over a bit," Andrew said knowingly. "But maybe if Draco and Harry hadn't gotten so pigheaded about trying to keep them apart, they might have realized their kids have grown up and they're going to do what they like regardless. Maybe you should have put them in jail instead."

"I tried that once, it didn't work," Severus muttered in annoyance. Andrew looked amusedly at him before getting up.

"I better head home, I have a date tonight…"

"Only one?" Jennifer teased him.

"It's been a long week," Andrew said dryly, tweaking a couple sandwiches off a plate that appeared on the counter before heading out the door.

"I wonder how long it's going to take for Draco and Harry to come around," Jennifer sighed, sitting down beside him.

"Considering how it was mishandled, I'd guess quite some time, even with Parvati and Ginny there to try and talk them down. They both can be quite stubborn when they have their backs to the wall," Severus said with a shrug.

"Yes," Jennifer said distractedly. "It's hard to let children go sometimes, no matter what age, when you're afraid it'll turn out badly. We did what we could in school and rightly so, but they are adults now, and have to make their own decisions."

"I'm hardly going to disagree with you, especially when I said as much to Harry before we left," Severus said.

"Yes, I know," Jennifer said in such a thoughtful tone that Severus glanced sideways at her. "Severus, I spoke to Alicia earlier today, she's decided to stay in the Yukon for longer than she expected, because Zoë and Jacob are coming up to do a bit of research and have bought some property up there…"

"Jacob?"

"Jacob Greencastle, Zoë's current husband," Jennifer explained. "Some sort of weather researcher I guess, they're expecting to stay until Yule."

"I wouldn't worry about it, Jennifer, it isn't as if they can't pop out for a breather if the location gets to them," Severus shrugged. "And isn't there a small wizard community in northern Canada somewhere? Xavier Platt still lives out there as I recall."

"Yes," Jennifer said, lacing her hands. "Did you also know that there's also never any true sunlight during the winter up there?" Severus suddenly stared at his wife.

"Oh, no," Severus said. He didn't speak again for a very long time.

Yes, I know. Terribly evil of me ending it like that, but there you are. I hope you enjoyed my newest of Headmaster mystery series. Now I'm going to take a break from the shorts, because there are just some things that just can't be handled as a short, and I need the freedom of breaking off on tangents if required...(no not Zed Tangent...the other kind.)

Shorts don't allow me to really express details on individual students or get deep into how the school and staff has changed since Severus took over and how it's effected not only his relationship with Jennifer or what's got him so worked up lately (although I trust I gave some clues to that in this one.) or what to me is one of the most important relationships in the series other than Severus and Jennifer...I trust you guess from my ending that I'm about to get into it.

I've now adding the last (because it's open ended) JC Series: The Heritage Series which begins with Jennifer Craw and the Paintings of Twilight which occurs the school year following this story...nine years after Headmaster of Hogwarts. If you haven't guessed it, that means it's mostly about Alicia and Pyther, and one I've been planning since Alicia was born, which is why I decided to come back after 2 years of not writing to dig back into it. Hope you stay tuned, it's a long one! JC Writer