AN: As always, thanks to my beta and britpicker, Charlio and Clumsy Ninjable. Both of you guys are awesome! Also, thanks for all those who read, review, favorite and or follow my story.
AN2: For those who are into TV Tropes, the website that chronicles tropes and how they are used in all types of fiction, you will be excited to learn I'm working on a TV Tropes page for The Gossamer Web! However, before I post it to TV Tropes I want to ensure there is adequate interest in both The Gossamer Web and the idea of putting it on TV Tropes, so I will post the page once this story has 100 reviews. Please, let me know what you think of the idea in your reviews! (And don't forget to review the story too!)
Chapter Twelve: A Meeting of the Minds
'One need not be a chamber to be haunted;
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
When Hailey exited the Ministry of Magic via the lift to Muggle London, she was met by a familiar face. Professor Snape, wearing a long Muggle coat and trousers (she was beginning to doubt the man had clothing in any other colour), was leaning against the wall of the adjacent pub, reading a Muggle newspaper. She started to cross the street to meet him when Professor Snape abruptly turned on his heel and headed down a nearby alley. Glancing around to ensure no one was paying her any particular attention, Hailey followed him.
The night before she had a long conversation with Albus, explaining her desire to meet with the Order of the Phoenix. As close as she was with Albus, part of her wondered if such a request was presumptuous. But he had readily agreed, and with a twinkle in his eye said he would ensure that this time she arrived at the Headquarters she would be conscious; evidently, he had heard of Moody's stunt. Despite the Headmaster's reassurance, she glanced around the dingy alleyway warily. The belligerent expression Professor Snape wore did not make her feel any more at ease. 'What you did was monumentally stupid.' Snape said by way of greeting.
Hailey stopped in her tracks. 'Pardon?'
'The press conference. Announcing the Dark Lord's return. It was beyond idiotic.'
She grit her teeth. After her campaign manager had seen the headlines, Miss Ruggles had been the saying the same thing. Hailey had gone from being neck and neck with Malfoy in the polls, to trailing behind Professor Allgood. Most of the media had promptly declared Hailey crazy, the most favourable article had merely called her, 'grossly mistaken.' Still, she attempted to stand her ground. 'The public needed to know. It wasn't right for Fudge to keep them in the dark like that!'
Snape lead her around cardboard boxes from the pub and piles of garbage until they were well concealed behind a skip. 'What you did may have very likely cost you the election. Was it worth Lucius Malfoy being the next Minister?'
Hailey looked away. 'Maybe,' her voice was quieter than she liked. 'If it prevents another King's Cross Massacre.'
He was silent and for a brief second she thought he almost looked sympathetic. Then he grabbed her arm and the world around her spun into blackness. He Apparated them onto a quiet street in a Muggle neighbourhood. 'Your head, Ahlgrim.'
She raised her hand to her hair wondering if she had accidentally lost some hair or an ear in the abrupt Side-along-Apparation. 'What about my head?'
'You're supposed to think with it,' Snape said with a sneer.
Hailey pursed her lips. The worst part was that she could not come up with a suitable retort. One that wasn't completely juvenile anyway.
Snape thrust a slip of parchment into her hand. 'Memorise it.' She barely had time to read the note (in Albus's handwriting) before he lit the parchment with the tip of his wand.
'A Fidelius Charm, I assume,' Hailey said as Number Twelve Grimmauld Place appeared before them.
'And a host of others You were only able to enter before because you were unconscious. I did not think you would care to repeat the experience.' Remembering Moody's rough treatment of her, Hailey shuddered. After unlocking the door with his wand, Snape lead her quickly through the front parlour. 'Hurry up, you're late.' She followed him through several dark and empty rooms. While the rooms was freshly cleaned, the doxie-eaten tapestry, faded rugs and chipped armoire told the story of a home long abandoned, or of a family who had fallen on hard times. The kitchen, however, was bursting with enough life and light to make up for the rest of the house. The long table was set in preparation of a hearty meal: a cauldron of soup, bowls of steaming vegetables, shepherd's pie and a basket of buttery rolls, just to mention a few. A group of red-haired teenagers were playing Gobstones on the floor, while the Auror Tonks sat at the table reading Witch Weekly. A wizard she vaguely recognized from the Ministry was chatting with Albus. She spotted Moody, whose magical eye focused on her while he continued to talk with a group of wizards, deep in conversation. Elphias Doge, Special Advisor to the Wizengamot, was warming his gnarled feet by the hearth. In all, Hailey estimated there were about two dozen witches and wizards gathered, excluding the children. Her heart sank; she had thought the Order of the Phoenix was larger than that.
His duty complete, Snape abandoned her to have a word with Albus. Moody was the only one who had noticed her and Hailey was just debating whether she should formally introduce herself to the group or just quietly take a seat at the table when a wizard carrying a bowl of mashed potatoes bumped into her.
She turned to tell him it was quite all right and froze. She was staring at none other than the Death Eater, mass murderer and Azkaban escapee Sirius Black. Hailey opened her mouth, but no noise escaped.
'Speechless?' Black grinned widely. 'Not to worry, a common reaction. I am a handsome devil, aren't I?'
The ridiculousness of Voldemort's right-hand-man flirting with her galvanized her into action. She whipped out her wand. 'Stupefy!' Black fell forward, his face landing into the bowl of potatoes.
The kitchen fell silent, every eye on her. She kept her wand raised, looking to Auror Tonks or Shacklebolt for help, but both were staring at her as if she were mad. Snape was unable to suppress a snort of amusement. Hailey took a deep, shuddering breath. 'That's... that's Sirius Black...'
A red-haired witch patted her arm (Hailey jumped) and attempted to hand her a cup of tea. 'Of course he is, dear.'
She kept her wand trained on the fugitive. 'Albus,' she fought to keep her voice calm, 'would you be so kind as to tell me why one of the most wanted wizards in Britain was invited to dinner?' A thought occurred to her and she glanced at the prone body by her feet. 'Was he under the Imperius Curse?' She had not heard that Black had asserted anything of the sort at his trial, but then again such cases were hardly predictable.
An ill-looking wizard in worn robes shook his head. 'No, Sirius simply didn't do it. He was framed.'
Albus nodded. 'Remus is quite right. Look at his arm. Sirius was never a servant of Voldemort, willing or unwilling.'
Hailey knelt down and pushed back the left sleeve of Black's robes: there was no mark. 'Perhaps an Obliteration Charm...' she shook her head. The magic used to sear the Dark Mark onto the flesh of Voldemort's servants was perverse and terrible; it would have taken more than a simple charm to disguise it. While the precise magic of the Dark Mark was unknown, Aurors had yet to discover a spell by which the Mark could be disguised. But still she was having difficulty wrapping her head around the fact that the Ministry, her Ministry, could have made such a mistake. Then she thought of Cornelius Fudge and of Dolores Umbridge. Hailey got to her feet. 'Rennervate.'
Black sat up and wiped the potatoes from his eyes. 'I hope while I was out Dumbledore explained how very, very innocent I am?' He attempted a winning smile, but his anxiousness shone in his eyes.
Hailey pointed her wand at Black (he flinched). 'Tergeo.' The potatoes stuck to his face and in his hair vanished.
Moody scowled. 'And no one listened when I said inviting her was a terrible idea.'
Esteemed veteran or not, Hailey was finding herself liking the wizard less and less. Shoving her wand back into her robes she turned to Moody. 'This is the perfect illustration of why I needed to come,' she said, gesturing to Black. 'If I am to-'
The red-haired witch cut her off with a clap of her hands. 'Fred, George, Ron, Ginny, Harry, Hermione, out.' Hailey glanced to the corner; she had not even noticed that Harry Potter was there. 'Serve yourselves some supper and then off to your rooms. I'll fetch you when it's time for afters.' Grumbling, the children piled their plates high with food and sulked off, the twins in particular, dragging their feet.
Black did not bother waiting for the door to shut before speaking. 'She's right,' he set the bowl of now inedible potatoes on the counter. 'If we want her help, we have to keep her in the loop, and I think we can use all the help we can get. Even slimy crooks from Knockturn Alley are useful, right Dung?' A wizard with stringy hair and yellow teeth grunted in agreement before returning his attention back to his tankard.
Albus motioned for everyone to take a seat at the table. Hailey noticed Black was quick to slide onto the bench next to her. Perhaps he was eager to make up for the fright he had given her, or more likely he recognised that as an Elder on the Wizengamot she would be a handy ally in sorting out his legal difficulties. Either way, he passed the basket of rolls to her with a smile. She murmured her thanks but couldn't help but feel a tad cross. She was grateful for the influence she held in the Ministry, in the ability she had to help others, but sometimes she wished others sought to befriend her without an ulterior motive. Hailey was close to many of the wizards and witches she worked with, she knew Lawrence Ware, Barbados's Mugwump, considered her family, but even around him she could not truly remove her mien of professionalism. She could hardly blame Black, though. If a bit of flirting was all that was keeping her from being sent to Azkaban, she would have worn a robe that displayed some cleavage.
The red-headed wizard reached across the table and shook her hand enthusiastically. 'Welcome to the Order, Miss Ahlgrim. I'm Arthur Weasley. I work at the Ministry.'
Weasley. Now she remembered. He worked in the Improper Use of Magic Office. He also helped write the Muggle Protection Act. Except...
Hailey deliberately set her silverware down. 'I have no intention of joining the Order of the Phoenix.' The pronouncement brought everyone's attention to her. She found Professor Snape's piercing stare especially unnerving. Even Albus glanced up from his pumpkin juice.
When she was a little girl, Albus Dumbledore was a frequent visitor to her home. Her father was a renown Arithmancer and her mother was a shrewd investor whose warmth and quick wit always made her the star of the galas and benefits she hosted. The visits increased drastically after her mother and brother died. During one particular visit, one of her father's cauldrons exploded suddenly and Hailey discovered that the Headmaster was a very difficult man to startle. She soon made a game out of it, jumping out from under tables, behind chairs doing whatever she could to surprise the wizard. Sometimes Albus pretended to be startled, but his surprise was always so exaggerated even she knew it was fake. Though it was now decades later Hailey found she had to suppress the urge to award herself a point on the rare occasions she did something Albus had not anticipated.
Snape raised a thick eyebrow. 'You do not want to accept the risks inherent in being part of the Order, and yet you expect us to hand over all our secrets?'
Hailey knew whatever goodwill the Order had towards her was rapidly dwindling and rushed to reassure them. 'If I was able to join I would, in a heartbeat, but I simply cannot. As an Elder of the Wizengamot it is unlawful of me to join an organization that "subverts or undermines the laws, rules and regulations of the Ministry of Magic."'
A wizard with a square jaw and straw hair snorted. 'You think we're trying to overthrow the Ministry? We're fighting the Death Eaters! They're the ones who want to take over the Ministry.'
'I know.' Hailey assured him, 'but can you, can any of you gathered here tonight tell me that in pursuit of that goal you haven't broken the law?'
The Order members glanced at each other, some looking rather uncomfortable, but no one attempted to contradict her. After a moment the curly-haired witch raised her hand shyly. Remus whispered something in her ear. The witch blushed, mumbled 'oh, right,' and dropped her hand.
Moody drew his wand and, propping his elbow on the table, causally aimed it at her. 'So you're here just to tell us to stand aside and let the Ministry get on with it, then? They don't even believe You-Know-Who is back!'
'That is not my intention at all!' Hailey said firmly.
Moody's mouth curled into a snarl. His face was hard. 'You've got some nerve-'
'Let her speak, Alastor.' The Headmaster's voice was soft, but as firm as Moody's was loud. Those gathered around the table were silent, unsure how to move pass the awkwardness.
'So, Miss Ahlgrim,' Elphias regarded her calmly over his steaming cup of tea. 'If you are not here because you wish to join the Order, what is the reason for your visit?'
Hailey gave him a brief smile, relieved to move on from Moody's outburst. There were many things she appreciated about Elphias Doge, but if she had to name only one, it was his levelheadedness. 'What made the War...' she frowned and amended, 'what made the First War such as dark and terrible time for England were not only the actions of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and His Death Eaters, it was the actions of the Ministry as well. In its zeal to bring Him and His Death Eaters to justice, the Aurors powers became unchecked. Unforgiveables were permitted. Wizards were interrogated, detained on no more than rumours.' She took a deep breath. 'And the Wizengamot was no better. Conducting trials behind closed doors-'
Sirius Black crossed his arms. 'Or sending people to Azkaban with no trial at all.'
Hailey regarded him sharply. Well, that certainly explained some things. When Black had escaped from Azkaban, Hailey had been asked by the investigating Aurors to unseal the trial records, including Pensieve records, in hopes that they might point the Aurors towards one of Black's allies or towards a possible hiding place. However the Aurors had overestimated her authority. Even as a Wizengamot Elder, she was not privy to the testimony of the captured Death Eaters such as Sirius Black or Igor Karkaroff. She had passed the matter on to Madam Bones and had assumed the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had given them the records. This was a matter that required immediate investigation. If these allegations were true...
She was not some wide-eyed idealist, no matter what Fudge may think. Hailey knew well the Ministry's faults and shortcomings. The Ministry was made up of wizards and witches and thus was fallible. Not everyone was in it for the common good. Some were in it for greed, some for personal aspirations and some just because they could not think of what else to do as a career. Hailey was an optimist though, and liked to think that most people, at their core, were well intentioned. That belief had been taking quite a few blows in the past few months- a bureaucrat had tried to chop off her head for Merlin's sake- and these allegations were just another blow.
'And send wizards off to Azkaban without a trial at all,' Hailey echoed in agreement. 'You all are doing England a tremendous service. If it were not for the Order the War would have ended very differently, if it had ended at all. But I am here to caution you as well. Do not think that because you are acting outside of the bounds of the Ministry that you are outside of the reach of her laws. If I hear of any of you using the kinds of tactics that made Bartimus Crouch's Aurors a terror to both the guilty and the innocent, I will lay charges against you and vote you as guilty.'
'This is what you've come here to do?' Moody roared outraged as he leapt to his feet. 'To order us to be good little lads and lasses, to use nothing stronger than a Tickling Charm? In spite of all those they've tortured? All those they've killed? Your own mother and brother were-'
The Headmaster was soundly ignored.
'Thirty-four.' The words tumbled out of her so fast she had to struggle to make herself intelligible. 'That is the number of wizards and witches who were discovered to have been under the Imperius Curse rather than in league with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Thirty-four in all. But for all but eight that discovery was made posthumously.' She would not stand for this man to bring up the deaths of Charles and her mother for nothing more than an attempt to win a row. Hailey rose to her feet so she could meet Moody's eyes with a steely glare of her own. 'This included a suspected perpetrator of the King's Cross Massacre. He committed suicide after the Curse was released and he had learnt what he had done. Don't you ever act like I am ignorant of what He and His Death Eaters have done.'
'That's quite enough, both of you,' Albus said firmly.
Alastor righted his chair and collapsed heavily into his seat.
Hailey sat down as well, the jangling in her pocket reminding her of her other objective. She cleared her throat. 'I may be unable to assist the Order directly, but it is my wish to aid you however I can.' She withdrew a bag from her robes, releasing the Shrinking Spell she had placed on it for convenience, and dropped it on the table. The musical clinks the bag made when it landed on the wood table revealed its contents as Galleons, and not a small number of them. 'Dung' peered at the bag over the rim of his mug, his bloodshot eyes suddenly alert, like a hound who had caught scent of its prey. Elphias Doge removed the temptation by taking the sack out of reach and calmly setting it down next to his tea. Hailey was unsure of precisely what sort of expenses the Order of the Phoenix incurred, but she guessed that donations collected from the members would hardly be sufficient.
'Splendid!' A wizard in a top hat squeaked. 'We can use that to purchase-'
Hailey held up her hand. 'I don't want to know.' She shook her head and rephrased, 'No, I can't know. The less I know the better.' She looked at all those gathered, the brave souls who alone were standing against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and His Death Eaters. 'I recognize a few of you,' she nodded at Arthur Weasley, 'and I've met a couple of you before,' she indicated Professor Snape and the two Aurors. 'Whatever roles you have, however you are helping the Order I must be ignorant of,' she bit her lip. 'I have many secrets I must keep already,' she said, thinking of all the sensitive information she had accumulated during her years on the International Confederation of Wizards, the cases she had dealt with as a Wizengamot Elder, 'I do not wish to have any more.'
Auror Shacklebolt nodded, seemingly satisfied, and Snape seemed to relax marginally. The witch with dark hair who had raised her hand earlier grinned, somewhat embarrassed. 'Not that I'm doing anything dark and mysterious.' She held up a plate of chocolate biscuits. 'I just run a bakery.'
'Nonsense, Hestia.' The wizard- Remus smiled, taking a large bite from a roll. 'You and your talents are invaluable. In fact I suggest we use the funds Miss Ahlgrim provided to buy every biscuit, crumpet and scone in your store.'
The group laughed and Hailey smiled, the tension easing from her body. It was imperative that she and the Order get along; the struggles they faced were dark and difficult enough without fighting amongst themselves.
With business out of the way, dinner began in earnest, with the group keeping conversation light with discussions of the latest Quidditch match and gossip. Hailey was having a lovely conversation with Professor McGonagall about the intricacies of Untransfiguration when the object had been bewitched multiple times. The only thing that was spoiling the delicious food and pleasant conversation was the headache she was rapidly developing.
She propped her elbow on the table and massaged her temple. It was difficult to concentrate on what McGonagall was saying; Hailey's mind seemed to be all over the place. A sharp pang brought the realization that she wasn't experiencing a headache. Someone was trying to break into her mind. Hailey slammed her eyes shut and cleared her mind, erasing all emotion: all fear, all sadness, all hate, all love, all joy, all- Only when the fortifications around her mind were strengthened did she open her eyes and warily scan the table.
Hailey had never been particularly adept at Occlumency. In her line of work Legilimency was far more helpful, never had she encountered someone trying to force their way into-
Snape's head was bent, seemingly focused on his meal, but his dark eyes were piercing hers. Hailey slammed against his wards desperate to make him retreat, but he was a far stronger Occlumens than she had ever encountered. Snape sensed this as well- his lips curled upwards. She could feel her shields shake as her panic grew. Again she pushed away all thought and simply focused on withstanding the impending onslaught.
Then there was a terrible crash of a vase falling to the floor. Hailey dropped her wards in shock. Snape's concentration broke as well. The effect was that of a piece of elastic that had been pulled taut, and suddenly released. Their minds slammed together, the force propelling their bodies forward, then back, sending her flying out of her seat and colliding painfully with the wall. Stars danced in front of her eyes, then colours and shapes and sounds as she was swallowed in a sea of memories not her own.
It was dark; there was rain, wind and a clap of thunder- no it was a door slamming. A teenaged Snape was storming out a house, a small building in disrepair with a yard full of dead, brown grass and scraps of metal and junk. He glanced behind him and Hailey followed his gaze through the front window. A man and a woman were arguing, or more precisely the man was screaming at the woman. He raised his fist and with brutal force struck his wife in the face. Snape tensed, and then forced himself to turn forward and walk away, turning the collar of his too-short coat up against the icy wind.
The memory changed and Hailey found herself in Dumbledore's office with the Headmaster and a Snape who looked much more like the one she knew, though at that moment he was pacing the office like a caged dragon, his jaw tense and eyes hard. Albus too appeared sombre. With a sinking feeling Hailey glanced at the calendar on the wall. It was the 24th of June, the night of the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament, the night He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had returned.
'-thought if he could see it with his own eyes he'd believe it,' Snape was saying, 'but that fool-' Snape halted for a moment and then resumed his furious pacing. 'He can't keep that memory. Even if he does not believe the truth of the Dark Lord's return, his knowledge of me could be ruinous to us all.'
Albus held up a hand. 'Of that you need not be concerned. I performed a Memory Charm on Cornelius before he left the castle.'
Hailey's eyes were wide. Albus wiped something from the mind of Cornelius Fudge? The Minister for Magic? What had he erased? The fact that Snape was a member of the Order of the Phoenix?
But before she could learn more, the memory changed. She was outside, the sun bright above her. She was near a pond, the tall grass swaying lazily in the summer breeze as dragonflies skittered about. An Alsatian ran past followed by a young Snape and a girl his age. She had long red hair and brilliant green eyes and imbued the aura of summer. Though they were both in the midst of adolescent awkwardness, Hailey could tell the girl would be beautiful someday. She wore a dress the colour of fresh cut grass, a floppy straw hat and carried her sandals in one hand and a fishing pole in the other. Snape, by contrast, reminded her of winter with his pale skin, long black coat and black trousers. He hadn't grown into his hooked nose yet and looked far too serious for his age.
'-so then Alice told me that Frank actually doesn't fancy Florence at all! According to Victoria- you know, the Hufflepuff who turned Sirius's hair pink? Well, she said that Frank went to Hogsmeade with Florence just so she'd stop pestering him!' She stopped and glanced behind her. 'Sev, are you listening at all?'
Snape jerked his head up guiltily. ''Course I'm listening.' Hailey started in surprise. Snape's voice was quite different than the one she was used to. She had thought Snape had grown up in the city with his London accent, but the voice he had now belonged to someone from Nottingham.
The girl set her rod down and turned to Snape, putting her hands on her hips. 'Are you okay? You've been acting off ever since we got here.'
'What? No, I'm fine, Lily. Really.' Snape glanced about frantically liked a cornered Kneazle.
Hailey noticed his faint blush and so had a very good idea why Snape was acting 'off.'
Lily frowned doubtfully. 'Sev, if I didn't know any better I'd say you-'
But Snape never let her finish her sentence. He darted forward and snatched the hat from her head and ran off into the grass, the dog barking at his heels.
Laughing, Lily gave chase.
The colours about her swirled and faded.
Snape, now in his early twenties, was charging up a decrepit staircase in what looked to be an abandoned house. His wand was out and he looked terrified. Somewhere a cruel voice of a witch called out in a singsong voice, 'You can run, but you can't hide!'
He tore down a narrow hallway toward a door that hung ajar. Bursting through the door, Snape came to an immediate halt. Hailey froze.
A wizard with black, shaggy hair, grey eyes and haughty face stood in the centre of the room. One hand held his wand, the other held the white mask of a Death Eater. A flick of his wand and the door behind Snape slammed shut.
'Regulus,' Snape's lips were curled into a snarl.
'Severus, I've been expecting you,' the wizard took a menacing step forward. 'I do believe,' Regulus said with regret that, to Hailey's surprise actually sounded genuine, 'that only one us shall leave this room alive.'
She was in another memory. Hailey wasn't corporeal, but she could sense she was in a confined space. She waved her hand in front of her face, but was unable to see it. There was a rustle to her left, a scraping sound, boots perhaps, and then a thud. '-don't trust him worth a damn. but Black seemed worried.' Snape fell silent, waiting for a response. 'Lily? Are you in here?'
There was a muttered spell and a ruby glowed in Snape's hand, illuminating the cramped space. They were in a dirt tunnel, and even though Snape was younger than he was in the previous memory (he was wearing his school robes) and hadn't hit his growth spurt yet, he had to stoop to avoid hitting his head. 'Are you there?'
'Shit.' Snape kicked the wall in frustration. 'I swear I'm going to kill Black one day,' he muttered, 'bloody liar.' Just as he was about to turn though, something seemed to catch his eye. He threw the stone down the tunnel, sending it skidding across the dirt until it landed on something soft. Snape and Hailey squinted at the object. It was a girl's jumper. Stained with something dark.
Just then there was an inhuman shriek, a cry of pure torture, a horrible animalistic howl- Hailey jumped, fighting every instinct to run, even in a memory.
'LILY!' It was somewhere between a shout and a scream, and Snape, torn between the unknown horror that lay before him and the safety that lay behind ran forward stumbling over the bloodstained jumper. Hailey tried to follow, but the shapes began to swirl together, the sounds of footsteps, howls and screams becoming muddled and distorted, fading into a grey mist.
Sounds began to emerge, real sounds, sounds from the present and not from the past.
'SHAME OF MY FLESH! TRAITORS OF BLOOD!'
'-shut the hag up!'
It was like awaking from an especially vivid dream. She had crumpled indignantly against the wall and her emerald robes had ridden up over her knees. A mob of concerned faces swam in her vision. A hand reached towards her, and she had a flash of instinct, a memory, curled up in a corner, a man with a hooked nose and cruel eyes, a fist.
'Don't touch me!' She shrieked, flinching away. Auror Shacklebolt took a step back, though his dark eyes examined her face with concern. She tugged her robes down sheepishly. There was no reason for her to be scared of him. 'Sorry,' she mumbled. It was like waking up from a nightmare, except it was real, the fears and horrors were real, but they did not belong to her. Hailey sat up blearily. 'How long was I out?' It felt like it had been hours.
Auror Shacklebolt frowned. 'Just a few seconds, actually.'
'Is she Confounded?' Tonks asked him, before yelling over her shoulder, 'What the hell did you do, Snape?'
The question spoke volumes of how Professor Snape was viewed by the Order. It could have just as easily have been her doing something to him, but the thought seemed to have occurred to no one. She leaned to her right so she could see Snape between a gap in the circle around her. The table was in the way, but she was able to see a bit of him. It appeared he had the unfortunate luck of colliding with the china cabinet. Only Professor McGonagall was by his side.
Auror Tonks snorted and crossed her arms. 'Well?' She pressed.
'Um…' Hailey floundered. She was loathed to divulge her ability as a Legillimens. Such magic was not illegal, but the practice of such magic was frowned upon and its practitioners viewed with suspicion. Hailey did not use Legillimency lightly. She only used it as a Wizengamot Elder, or in situations where not knowing the truth would have dire repercussions, like when had interviewed Harry Potter.
'I'm sure it was just an accident...' the red-haired witch was spelling the broken vase together, the source of the crash that had disrupted both her and Professor Snape's concentration and had caused the whole mess in the first place.
Arthur helped Hailey to her feet.
Snape was on his feet as well and regarded her disdainfully. Hailey felt out of sorts looking at him. She had seen several Snapes, each at a different point in his life and she had glimpsed parts of him she had no right to see. Through a spell gone wrong she had come to know more about the man than (she was willing to wager) most of the Order. 'For a witch who was so eager to assure us how important it was that you not know of our activities,' Snape said silkily, 'I find it intriguing that you neglected to mention you are versed in the arts of Legillimency.'
The Mind Arts, Legillimency and Occlumency, though useful, were obscure and difficult to master, so most of the looks directed to Hailey were ones of confusion, rather than accusation. The two Aurors glanced at each other.
'Legillimency, eh?' Auror Tonks sounded impressed.
'What's Legillimency?' Hestia asked.
Hailey pursed her lips, even though the question was not directed towards her.
In the end it was Professor McGonagall who answered. 'Legillimency is the magical art of extracting emotions and memories from another person's mind. It can also be used to determine if someone is telling the truth, or lying.'
'And if Snape knows Ahlgrim is a Legillimens,' Moody glared at Snape, 'that means he is one too.'
Given the looks that were exchanged among the Order, Hailey realised that Snape's status as a Legillimens had been a secret up to this point as well.
Sirius Black meanwhile looked like he had been slapped in the face with a fish.
Perhaps Professor Snape was feeling the weight of all the stares too, for he strode forward and seized her arm. 'Ahlgrim, I think you and I need to have a little chat, if you'd be so kind...'
She shook her arm out of his grasp, but followed him to the door. As furious as he was, she could see the anger simmering just below the surface, Hailey knew he was right. She needed to find out what he had glimpsed in her memories.
'Severus,' Professor McGonagall frowned, 'I don't think...'
'It's quite all right.' Hailey assured her, though truthfully she wasn't certain at this point. Hailey was not going to bother asking him why he had attempted to peer into her mind in the first place. He had every right to be suspicious of her, she had seen their Headquarters and Snape had to ensure she wasn't a Death Eater or one of their agents. Though honestly, he didn't have to be so rude about it. She gladly would have allowed them to use Veritaserum to confirm her loyalties.
Snape grabbed her arm, pushed her through the door and slammed it behind him.
The children who had been dismissed earlier (and who had been crowded around the door) all jumped to their feet.
'GET OUT!' Snape roared.
They did not need to be told twice. The children abandoned their half-finished plates and clambered up the stairs so fast they tripped over themselves in the process. Doors slammed shut, but Hailey still thought the children might try to eavesdrop so drew her wand. 'Imperturbatus,' she murmured, pointing it to the door behind them and in the direction of the doors upstairs.
With the Privacy Charm in place, she turned to suggest they seat themselves in the armchairs flanking the fire when Snape whipped out his wand. Hailey barely managed to duck just in time and the shouted spell, 'Obliviate!' flew over her head, missing by a scant inch.
Clutching her wand, she performed a Bubble-Head Charm. It wasn't a shielding spell by any means, but it would prevent Memory Charms from hitting their mark. 'What in Merlin's name are you doing?' she screamed. Part of her was beyond amazed that she had reacted so quickly and credited it to years of racing winged horses as a young witch. The rest of her was shocked at Snape's behaviour.
Snape seethed. 'What did you see?'
Her hand tightened on her wand. 'Not whatever it is you are so afraid of.'
His eyes narrowed dangerously and he stepped forward. 'Afr-'
'I saw nothing important, I swear. She held up her hands in a placating gesture as she barrelled on with the lie, searching desperately for memories she knew he would have had. 'Just of you teaching a class, writing an essay in your common room when you were a student, watching a Quidditch game and wandering about Diagon Alley!' As furious as she was, Hailey felt a stab of sympathy. There were parts of her, all the secrets she had to keep, many things she would be fearful of a stranger knowing.
He lowered his wand, though Hailey wasn't foolish enough to believe it made him any less likely to use it. Her Bubble-Head Charm remained firmly in place. 'And I don't suppose you'd let me perform Legillimency to ensure that you are, in fact, being truthful?' he sneered.
Hailey had to bite back a smart retort. 'Truce?' Hailey asked instead. 'Neither of us prying into the other's mind?'
Snape's lip curled. It was a pointless concession and they both knew it. The mental defences of a practitioner of the Mental Arts were more refined than the average witch or wizard. When Hailey performed Legillimency, the subject never knew his mind was being read. She would have to delve deeply into his mind before he realized something was amiss. Not so with herself. Immediately after Snape had come into contact with her mind she had felt the intrusion and Snape, meeting resistance to his probing realised she was adept in the art as well. It would be impossible for them to unknowingly attempt Legillimency on the other.
'You said you saw me studying in my common room. What did it look like?'
She crossed her arms. 'It had a low ceiling. The lamps were green. There were skulls scattered about. Tall bookcases flanked the fireplace. The chairs were green too. Not very cosy if you ask me.'
'I found it quite adequate.' If Snape was surprised she had answered correctly, he did not show it. He regarded her for a moment. 'Remove that charm, Ahlgrim, you look absolutely ridiculous.'
Hailey ignored him. She gestured to the worn wingback chairs flanking the fireplace. 'Why don't we have a seat and discuss this like adults?'
Snape's jaw clenched at the implication he was behaving as anything other than a rational adult, but he nevertheless followed her suggestion. Once seated, Hailey dispersed the charm and carefully laid her rosewood wand on the low table before her and folded her hands neatly in her lap. After a minute of her saying nothing, Snape impatiently set his wand on the table as well. It was an empty symbol of cooperation, but Hailey was willing to take what she could get. 'I must admit I am curious as to what memories of mine you saw. I told you' -lied her mind guiltily corrected- 'it would only be fair for you to extend the same courtesy.'
He sneered. 'What memories do you have that could possibly be of any importance?' he asked cuttingly. 'The most fascinating thing I learned is that you enjoy reading in the bathtub.' She flushed scarlet and self-consciously crossed her arms over her chest, a move that only made his smirk widen. 'No need to be so coy, Ahlgrim, the book held more interest to me.'
The only thing that kept Hailey from launching herself out of her seat and storming back into the kitchen was the knowledge that Snape would probably use the opportunity to Obliviate her when her back was turned. The man was a complete sod. She forced her hands back to her lap. 'I suppose it was better for you to see that than a closed session of the International Confederation of Wizards,' she managed to say evenly.
Snape rolled his eyes. 'Oh come off it Ahlgrim! There are no voters to impress here. You can stop being so goddamn virtuous for once! Merlin it must be exhausting.'
Hailey bristled. Some of his words hit closer to home than he knew, but not in the way he thought they would. Despite what Snape may think, she wasn't pandering, it was just who she was. She never was able to speak for herself it seemed, she was always representing the Wizengamot or the International Confederation of Wizards. She had to watch every word she said, any decision she made had to be planned out three steps ahead and at all times her behaviour had to be unimpeachable. Yes, at times it was exhausting. 'Contrary to what you may believe, Professor, this isn't some personae I've adopted. I'm not pandering for votes, this is who I am. This is just me trying my best to work within a system that at times is very broken.'
Snape clapped slow and sarcastically. 'Excellent, Hal. Extremely convincing.'
All colour drained from her face and her eyes stung. But she refused to let herself cry in front of him. She had not heard that nickname in decades. Never wanted to hear it again. Charles had given her that name and Snape had no business being anywhere near it. 'Do not call me that.' Her voice was little more than a whisper.
He idly examined his fingernails, not even glancing her way as she furtively swiped a hot tear from her cheek. 'I shall call you whatever I like, Hal.'
The temptation to strike him was frightfully strong. She was tempted to call him Sev and see how he'd like it. Ask him where his dear friend Lily was. But even now she could not do anything but take the high road. 'You bastard.' Or the higher road.
'Severus, that is quite enough.'
Both of them started. How long had Albus been standing there? She hadn't heard the door open.
Snape had gone very still. The Headmaster was radiating disappointment.
'Hailey, Molly has just begun to serving pumpkin pie. It's positively delectable.' Though Albus's tone was light, the gaze he pinned on Snape was anything but.
She dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief. Her makeup was running, one of the most sadistic wizards she knew had seen her naked and Albus wanted her to have pie with a bunch of people who would, thanks to the aforementioned wizard, view her with nothing but suspicion. No. Not today. 'Thank you for you offer Albus,' she rose to her feet and grabbed her wand, 'but I shall see myself out.'