Disclaimer: Not mine.


A Best Forgotten Conspiracy

Chapter 9


Every day Redda would read the Daily Prophet hoping to find news about Severus, and felt relived if she did not. Rosmerta shared the customer's gossip with her, and on occasion would side up sweetly to an off duty Auror and gain even more, which she could then pass on to Redda.

Witnesses stepped up to say that yes, Severus had thrown the curse. There was no question of his guilt. Redda and the entire Wizarding World now knew he was with Voldemort. Her name appeared many times, and Rita Skeeter ran all the old articles of her, and added to them as she saw fit.

Redda no longer walked along the pavement and peered into the windows. She stayed out of sight, and when Aberforth received threats because of her employment, she slept in the Shrieking Shack, accepting Aberforth's hand out of food and blankets. She walked through the empty rooms and thought of the stories Sirius had told her and spent her time trying to close her heart as she had in Azkaban.

On occasion, Aberforth would coax her in the back door of the Hogs Head and sit with her by the fire late into the night. She would listen to his childhood stories as she stared mindlessly at the flames not thinking past the small circle of light and warmth they sat in, too afraid to think of returning to her prison.

When the inevitable day came that the owl post brought not only a copy of the Daily Prophet but Redda's summons, they at least knew the waiting was over. Aberforth handed her the summons and the going up stairs while she read it, returning only a few moments later with the sack Severus had brought her that night which seemed so long ago.

"I promised him you would not go to your trial looking like a waif." He smiled sheepishly. "Rosmerta will be here shortly, she is going to help you do something with that mop and fix you up a bit."

"Aberforth, if you keep talking like that you will turn my head." She tried to laugh. "I don't think it will matter what I look like today. I just hope this works, he just has to be released."

Redda had slipped the dress on over her head feeling the whisper of silk as it clung to her. She looked in the mirror at the woman who looked back at her, feeling a mixture of emotions. First, she was pleased at what Rosmerta was able to do to her hair. A simple trim had evened out the unruly hanks, and the recent growth had allowed her hair to curl up naturally, making her hair soft and curly, wrapping around her head in a cloud of dark red. She looked at the woman looking back and frowned. She was still unused to seeing the lost years on her face and the reflection that looked back at her was not the sixteen year old she still expected to see.

Aberforth was dressed for the outing as well and looked nothing like the barkeep he was. Redda smiled at him, and joked that he may find a new wife if he kept this going when he returned.

"Albus would haunt me if I turned up in nothing less then formal robes." He looked down at his robes. "The Ministry sent me a port key. They thought it would be more comfortable for me to avoid the crowds."

Redda nodded and stepped closer to him as he held out the charmed quill. Then taking one end in her hand, she looked up at Aberforth as he activated it and took them off to the Ministry. They landed in a small barren, windowless room where two Aurors stood waiting.

"Kingsley," Aberforth said. "I would not expect to see you on guard duty."

"I requested to be here," Kingsley said watching Redda. "His trial is over."

"What?" Redda panicked. "Already? It should have taken much longer, he should have had witnesses to speak for him, and Aberforth was not…"

"It is over." Kingsley held up his hand with a wide grin. "He is free. Professor McGonagall brought a pensive that showed what had transpired. He did not need a witness, he had the best."

"Thank Merlin." She breathed, feeling a wave of weakness wash over her.

"He has requested to see you." The dark wizard had not taken his eyes off her. "Before you are taken from here. You have ten minutes with him."

"Taken?" She gasped, blanching. "I have not had my trial."

"It will be explained," he said nodding to Aberforth. "It is time we left."

Redda watched them walk out at of the room, smiling thinly at Aberforth and nodding her head. She paced looking around the room, and seeing only two chairs and a small table recognized this as one of the pre-trial waiting areas she had been in before.

When she heard the click, signalling the door about to open, she spun around and pushed her back against the opposite wall afraid to see who would step though, wanting to escape.

"Miss Livingston." Severus's raspy voice reached her before she could fully comprehend who she was looking at.

"Severus," she said in a rush of breath. "You are free? They found you innocent?"

"Yes." He scowled at her. "I told you to leave this place. I told you to leave the country."

"I could no more run away then you could." She told him flatly. "You look like shite."

Severus felt his lip twitch as he tried to frown at her, then walking across the room he pulled her into a quick hug only to just as quickly release her.

"We only have a few moments." He walked to the small table and sat in one of the chairs. "I have asked Poppy to join us. Minerva is trying to get permission to bring her in."

"Why would I need Poppy now?" she said as she studied his face.

"Redda you must listen," he said, raking his hand through his hair. "Kingsley managed to keep your wand from examination, don't ask me how, I don't know."

"Then there should be no problem." She waited for the other penny ready to drop.

"If you plead guilty to the wand," he looked at her coldly, "you do one year. If you protest you go to trial and the wand will be tested."

"Aberforth told them…," she started.

"I know what he told them." He stood up and began pacing. "Redda, he is an old man, if he goes to Azkaban he will be dead in a month."

"Severus," she said shaking her head. "Please, just tell me."

"Take your year or go on trial," he said flatly. "If you go to trial you will get the kiss and Aberforth will be given fourteen years on conspiracy."

"Yes," she said sitting down heavily across from him. "I should have gotten rid of the wand. It never occurred to me."

"We want to heal you before you go back." He looked at her face with no emotion on his own. "The stone floors can not be good for you. Minerva talked to Poppy, she thinks she can help."

"No, tell Poppy no." She looked at him evenly. "The pain helps when the Dementors come too close. That is why I never wanted it fixed at Hogwarts. I always thought I would be sent back."

"They say it is better there now." He looked at her darkly. "The Dementors are with the Dark Lord, and not so often in the tower."

"The Dementors at least kept the guards at bay," she said , biting her lip to keep back the nausea that rose, thinking that the guards would now feel free to exact their own punishment.

"Redda," he said looking at the floor. "I asked Kingsley for this, to send you away I mean. To give you the year in Azkaban instead of risking a trial."

Redda only shut her eyes and concentrated on breathing, she heard the rushing of waves and knew if she did not calm down, she would vomit onto the floor.

"Redda!" He jumped up and hurried around the table to pull her up by her shoulders. "Understand that this is for the best."

"Best?" She opened her eyes and looked at him incredulously. "Best for whom?"

"Peter still pushes Voldemort to be rid of you. He still sees you as belonging to Black, and his jealousy in that quarter will not rest until he persuades Voldemort to let him kill you."

"If you put everyone in Azkaban that…,"

"Redda stop." He released her arms. "I will be in Voldemort's inner circle. If my position is discovered, they will kill you as well. We should have exercised more caution in public. You see my dear, neither side trusts you, or wants you near them. They both fear that you are somehow spying for the other. Even your association with Aberforth, in light of Albus's death, is raising questions."

"So, I am being hidden in Azkaban?" She stormed at him. "I am back to this?"

"Yes." He sneered walking to the door and talking to the guard who stood just out side.

"I sent Poppy away, perhaps you are right. When the year is up, you will be released to me."

"Last time they merely took me outside and let me go." She frowned at him. "Stay away, I can do it again, I am used to being alone."

"Yes, and you walked over a month to get to Hogwarts. Next time I will collect you. If I am unable Kingsley will come."

"Severus?" Redda said noticing a change in his tone.

"I plan for you to be there during the final battle," he said, locking his eyes on hers. "If I survive I will be there, if not Kingsley will collect you in my stead."

The door opened as they stood looking at each other, both at a loss of what to say. Kingsley stepped into the room and walked to Severus, and whispered in his ear.

"It is time," Severus said looking at her.

"I am sorry Miss Livingston," the dark gentle Auror told her.

"If you two mean to kiss, do it now." Kingsley smirked, then crossed his arms and looked at Severus.

Severus glared at the Auror, who then turned to face the wall, making Redda smirk and Severus roll his eyes. She stepped closer to Severus, raising her hand and laying it on his face.

"I know you could never really care for me." She sighed as her eyes moistened. "But, I do care for you."

His arms were around her as she finished speaking. One hand went behind her head and one holding her body close to his as he first found her ear.

"Do not be too sure of that," he whispered before finding her mouth. He felt her try to move closer as her hands clutched his robes, and felt her sobs in his mouth as he swallowed them, wanting to keep her near. To think of her in Azkaban sickened him, and made him want to rage at someone, but it was he that had set this in motion, and he could not stop it now.

"I am sorry for this," he said evenly, stepping back from her. "Kingsley, take her."

Redda watched as he left with his robes billowing behind him and heard his heels pounding on the floor.

"Well," she said turning to Kingsley, tying to act lightly. "I hear we have a date?"

.

.

.

Redda could not fall into her old habits when in her cell. Before, for fourteen years, she could shut off her mind, find the dark corners, quietly crouch, wait, and not dream. Now she paced, and thought of how she had chided him for doing the same. This time she smelled the dank air, wanted to smell him and his potions ingredients, and missed how he tried to cover his grins, and the way he pouted in his sneers. She would cry and let the tears dry on her face not wanting to remove them, because to do so would wipe him away.

Time seemed endless. The guards would still taunt and insult her, telling her in graphic detail what they planned to do. Kingsley had made sure that they knew this witch belonged to one of the inner circle and to touch her would mean a painful death. Only their insults and occasional spittle would hurl through the bars, while she turned her back, closed her eyes, and remembered tea at Rosmerta's café and the sweet sharp taste of raspberries covered in chocolate and dipped in cream.

Before, her fear had been that she was forgotten, or of never being touched by someone who loved her, to go unknown from here, to die alone and not be buried. Now her fears twisted into his, and she feared not for herself but for him.

She felt the mood shift in the prison, and guards stayed away from her cell more and more. Days often went by before a food tray appeared under the door, and she lost the only way she had of counting time. A new fear joined her first, and her mind blended the two and made it one. If she did not know how much time had past, who would count for her? She pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes and screamed needing to hear a human sound.

The morning she woke to find the bars of the door open she thought it a trick, she was sure if she stepped out to the dark damp hall, punishment would be swift in coming. She put her back against the wall and stayed squatting in a crouch until footsteps stopped in front of the cell and she looked up to see the tall Black Auror watching her.

"No," she rasped out in a voice not used to speaking, not wanting to voice the fear of seeing him here. "Severus is coming for me."

The wizard walked over, and crouching down in front of her took out his wand and with out saying a word he began cleaning her, and transfiguring her prison clothes to a dress and robes. Pointing to her hair, he grinned.

"You look much better with more hair my dear." He chuckled as he helped her up. "Professor Snape could not make the trip, so I came in his stead."

"The year?" she looked around at the empty cells on either side of hers. "How much time?"

"Do not be concerned with that, not even a year has past." He grinned at her and gently led her to the hall, and started to walk her out.

"The final battle has been fought," Kingsley said softly. "He has been grievously injured."

"How, where?" She asked struggling in the shock of the freedom and this news coming so quickly.

"You will be with him in just a moment," he said as they stepped into the light at the end of the hallway.

Redda looked over the vast North Sea and shuddered as the cold air whipped, fanning her robes and hair out around her. Lifting her face to the sun, she smiled as she felt Kingsley pull her under his arm for a Side-Along-Apparition taking them in to the infirmary at Hogwarts.

"Kingsley!" Poppy yelled, turning form one of the beds and scowling. "I know the wards are down but I insist that you stop this. These patients need their rest."

Redda saw the destruction that havocked the room, and smelled the smoke that hung in the air, and had done so since the destruction of the previous night.

"My Merlin." Redda looked around horrified at the number of beds filled. "How many…,"

"More then we can comprehend." Kingsley shook his head sadly.

"He is over here girl." Poppy called across the room. "I have only had time to extract the poison, and stop the bleeding. How much his body has already absorbed I don't know."

Redda ran across the room and leaned over his bed seeing his wounds for the first time. His throat looked like it had been ripped open, the side of his face held two long gashes, one of which extended across his lips and deeply cut into his chin.

"Snake," said Poppy from the next bed where she was attempting to heal a student. "Everyone thought he was dead until Mr. Potter went back to retrieve his body."

"What can I do to help?" she asked looking around the infirmary.

"My dear," Poppy said. "You just sit down next to him and let me know when he wakes. He need to know someone is here."

Redda looked down at Severus and nodded. She pulled up a chair and began her watch, only to think she should do more. Looking around at the beds full of blood covered students and staff she made her way to the back room and filling up a basin of water, and taking up a flannel, she began to clean up the recovering students. When she reached Severus she began scrubbing his arms, and opening his shirt, she started vigorously washing his chest, as if removing the blood would wipe away his injuries.

"I suggest you leave the skin intact," he rasped out then winced in the pain of talking.

"Arse," she said looking into his face and smiling. "You look like shite."

"We match then." He tried to sneer but failed miserably.

Redda reached over and took a glass of water that rested next to the bed, and tenderly lifting his head, she helped him to take a swallow. She put his head back down on the pillow and then leaned down to kiss his forehead.

"Well, I see he is awake." Kingsley's baritone filled the space around the bed and made Redda jump in surprise.

Severus looked at him and lifted a hand weakly towards the wizard, who stepped up and clasped Severus's hand in his own. They both strengthened their grips, and Severus attempted to nod his thanks only to roll his eyes as another pain shot through him.

"I have waited a long time to get you in this position." Kingsley smile widely. "I do not often have the chance to tell you what I think of you."

"Enough." Poppy's voice broke up the conversation. "He needs his rest. Out."

"I will come back latter." Kingsley chuckled, "but not so much later that you can talk."

Severus rolled his eyes, pointed to the hall door, and tried to glare at the Auror. However, Kingsley's laughter stopped any thought that he could be angry.

"I'll get you a pain potion," Redda whispered to him then got up to leave only to have him grab her hand.

"No, not enough," he struggled to talk. "Poppy …needs all."

"Severus, let me talk to Poppy, maybe there is something else we can do." She patted his hand and left to seek out Poppy.

A dark haired youth stood by the Medi-Witch twisting a wet bloody flannel in his hands. As Redda came closer, he turned and looked at her, then dropped his eyes to the floor.

"Miss Livingston? I just now heard of you," he asked not able to look at her. "How is he?"

"He is awake," she said looking from the boy to Poppy. "I think he will be fine in time."

"I shouldn't have left him there" The boy looked up at her. "The first time I thought he was dead."

"You are Harry, Harry Potter?" she asked, smiling at him.

"Yes," he said almost not wanting to admit it aloud.

"If you had not gone back for him, we would have lost him," she said, putting her hand on his arm.

"You knew my parents, and my godfather," he told her. "Maybe some day, when all this is over, maybe we can…,"

"I would love to talk about them," she said understanding an inability to finish what he meant to say. "I want to know things also, but the Git over there will not talk about them with me. "

"Yeah." He shook his head. "I wanted to tell him a few things, but I just don't know how."

"I would suggest if it is a compliment best send a howler and then leave the country." She laughed when she saw his face break into a grin.

"In the mean time we have need of pain potion," she said turning to the Medi-Witch. "Is it true that we are short?"

"I am afraid so." Poppy looked at all the full beds. "I just don't have time to brew it. Severus has always done it before, but he has been away so long that our supplies ran low."

"Madame Pomfrey," Harry said hearing of the problem. "It is not a hard potion, I am sure some of the Sixth and Seventh Years could do it."

"Perhaps, if the lab is not damaged." Poppy looked at the boy. "Could you find someone that may be able to help?"

"Sure," he smiled thinking that by brewing he could at least stay away from the press and prying eyes of those that were seeking him out. "It won't take long, it is a simple potion."

"Fine." Poppy turned to Redda. "That's solved, so take a vial from the table in the back. Make him drink it, hit him with it if you have to."

Redda hurried to get the potion, and as she was helping him to drink it, she told him about Harry offering to complete the next batch of potions.

"Merlin," he moaned. "We all die now."

"Severus Tobias Snape," she scolded, "that is no way to talk. That young man saved your life."

"Lab," he croaked trying to sit up. "Lab, now."

"No, you are much too weak." She protested and then turned around as she saw him struggle to get up. "Poppy, Poppy I need help here."

"What ever is the problem," Poppy said as she hurried over and pulling back the curtain saw for herself. "It is no good to complain, I have been patching him up for almost twenty years and if he does not get his way he will make every one here wish he had been left with that damned snake."

"You can't be serious," Redda said looking from Poppy back to Severus.

"Granger," Poppy called to a girl helping at the next bed. "Be a dear and levitate the Professor down to the lab. Make sure he does not walk, and make sure his chambers are liveable."

Severus protested, but the young woman seemed not to hear as she deftly waved her wand and levitated him to the lab. Twice he referred to her in unfavourable language and threatened to lower her N.E.W.T. scores, and twice she made sure that her wand slipped just a little, enough to quiet his tongue.

Redda watched amused at the interaction between the two, seeing a long time admiration that neither would admit. With Severus seated in the lab, where he could over see the preparation of the potion, Miss Granger inspected his rooms and told Redda that although the floo was damaged, the rest was quite liveable.

When the potion was completed, and the vial filled and taken to the infirmary, Redda helped Severus to his bed. She refused him pillows, making him keep his neck and throat straight as Poppy had done to try to take the strain off the wound.

"Do you have everything you need?" she said chewing her lip. "I should be going now."

"No," he said.

"What do you need." she looked around trying to see what she had forgotten.

"You," he said locking his eyes on hers. "Just you."

"Severus," she whispered to him. "We will talk when you are better."

"No," he hissed. "Robes, get my robes from Poppy."

"Severus." She stroked his cheek. "Please don't try to talk. It will make it worse, please."

"Robes," he rasped out.

"Fine," she said angrily and stomped of to retrieve his robes. "Although why you would want the bloody things is beyond me. If you think I will let you get dressed and try to walk around you are wrong."

When Poppy heard the request, she walked to her desk and opened the top draw. Taking out a small box, she handed it to Redda.

"I am sure this is all he wants. It was the only thing in his pockets," Poppy smiled. "Go ahead, it's yours."

Redda opened the box and found the ring Severus had carried in his pocket to the final battle. She knew then that he had planned to bring it to Azkaban when he collected her. Looking at Poppy she smiled, and slipped the ring on her finger.

"So," Poppy said laughing. "Are you going right back or make him sweat for a while?"

"I think a little sweating will be good for him." She grinned looking at the ring. "He can be such an arse you know."


NOTE: Thanks to grumpirah who gave me the idea for this in a review she left for my story "The Arrangement". Although there is no way effectively to gut a dead man as punishment, at least taking Albus to task seemed a good idea.

Reviews make it easier to write another one. So just push that little button… yeah that right, the blue one… thanks.