"There was no need for such drastic action." There was nothing kindly in the old wizard's tone as he glared from the canvas, but Snape did not flinch beneath the reproach, folding his arms calmly over his dark robes.

"Perhaps you had another plan you neglected to share with me?"

Dumbledore winced, even in oils disliking as ever to admit that there had been any oversight in his elaborate plans. "I had not anticipated that Longbottom –"

"And yet he has," Snape interrupted, reaching into his desk drawer to withdraw a thick handful of parchment, each envelope emblazoned with the heavy wax seal of the Ministry. "And the owls are more and more frequent, so if I am to retain my position, this rebellion must be stopped, and utterly."

"Torture, floggings, poison, Severus!" The horror was clear in the exclamation, but just as much a layer of guilt that made him very nearly chuckle at the sight of the discomfort prompted by the necessary results of the actions taken in his name. "These are children!"

"They are the same age as Potter." Sixteen years blackmail became a cool smile. "We all do what we must, of course…for the greater good."

THE END