He had said that he would let Moody take care of it. He had told himself that again and again and again.
But the truth was: he'd been lying to himself.
The boy's owl had arrived earlier in the day; it sat on the windowsill regarding him with golden eyes as he stewed in the dim corner of the sitting room. He was ready to act.
It wouldn't undo an ounce of harm that the man had inflicted on Harry. He might have told himself that it was what the man deserved, and that might be right. He might have told himself that it would be serving justice. But he didn't; what was justice really was, after all? Snape thought he might not recognize justice if he saw it, so uncommon was it in the world he knew. In the end, it would be vengeance, and Snape accepted that.
A quick spell cast on the Protean-charmed galleon given to him as a member of the Order of the Phoenix, and a press of his fingerprint to verify his identity, led the object to display several symbols, each indicating a member of the Order who was available at the moment.
He sharpened a quill, carefully shaving it to a razor point as he contemplated his choices. Mungdungus Fletcher. Remus Lupin. Kingsley Shacklebolt. The assorted Weasleys. Nymphadora Tonks. Alastor Moody.
He'd sooner take Arabella Figg than Fletcher; Shacklebolt wouldn't do, as the man was entirely too moral for this assignment; the Weasleys… too emotional, they'd be nattering over the boy rather than longing for the Muggle's blood; Moody… a viable option, but in the end Snape decided against it, as the man would most likely blast the entire Muggle house out of existence and leave the family in the smoking crater—Snape intended for a more subtle punishment than Moody could engineer.
This left Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks. Somewhat less than ideal, but it would have to do. Among the many codes used by the Order's, there was none which would convey "I have taken a seriously injured Harry Potter from the home of his guardians and into my own home, where he is ambulating on a sofa, and require the presence of fellow order-members in order to seek revenge on the Muggle who inflicted these injuries upon him." Therefore, Snape was forced to write a message which would merely catch their attention.
"Kindly requesting the pleasure of the company of Mssr. Lupin and Ms. Tonks for afternoon tea.
That should do, he thought. The snowy owl regarded him solemnly as he affixed the message to its leg. "12 Grimmauld Place," he instructed it, and it hooted softly before flying off through the narrow window.
He had not yet notified the Order of any of the events which had transpired, only that the boy was now safe. There would be consequences, later. He would be called to explain himself, to the Order… and to the Dark Lord. He would find some way to save his own skin; self-preservation was a Slytherin specialty, after all. He would not brood on it now.
The potionsmaster cleaned the now-empty vials discarded by the sickbed, replacing them with a fresh set of potions: blood-replenishing potion, strengthening solution, a bone-fusing solution; he considered between a calming draught and a draft of dreamless sleep and in the end set both out.
Though the dose he had given the boy would last another four hours at a minimum, Snape was not one who would fail to provide for contingencies; and he began to write out instruction for dosage. It shouldn't be long now before the pair arrived… sure enough, within moments, he felt a ripple in the wards, resulting from a nearby apparition.
Snape opened the front door, watching the pair approach. Tonks sported violet robes, presumably to lend maximum contrast with her enormous beehive of orange hair, while Remus looked remarkably ordinary by comparison, though thinner, wearier than ever, ever more ragged at the edges. Snape suspected that the patched grey robes he wore were the same he had worn two years earlier.
"Come in." he told them curtly.
The werewolf's expression was openly suspicious, his eyes scouring Snape's face; the girl by contrast smiled. "It's two hours early for tea, so I guessed this isn't a social call. But," she said, hefting a package, "I've brought biscuits just in case. The chocolate-covered kind…" Her eyes flew to the sofa, widening. "Oh." The hair faded abruptly from orange to brown, and flattened itself out.
"He's stabilized, and he's taken dreamless sleep. I expect that he'll make a full recovery. Eventually."
Lupin stepped around her as she whispered almost to herself, "Definitely not a social call."
Lupin looked from the boy to Snape, then back; Snape could see the emotion flickering in his eyes, and he regarded the man with extreme interest. "The Muggles," he said, at last, his lip curling into a snarl that revealed white teeth. Snape had sensed the diagnostic spells that the man had run on the boy, silent and wandless, detecting every half-healed bone, every fading bruise. His eyes were fixed on the opposite wall, and Snape was fairly sure that it wasn't the light of the afternoon sun that led them shine with a peculiar golden light, like the spark of a burning fuse.
"Correct." Snape summarized the events, from his arrival at Privet Drive to the present moment, curtly; the horrifying details delivered in a voice that was cold and controlled. Tonks was regarding Lupin in a peculiar way, as if she were…afraid—for him or of him, Snape wondered. "There's little to be done here at the moment, but monitor the boy," he said, and from the look on each face, both understood entirely what Snape suggested.
"I told Sirius…that I would take care of him, if anything were to happen…I promised him…" Lupin was talking, half to himself, half to them, his voice so quiet but roughening into a growl. From across the room He turned his eyes to Snape, then, and the Potionsmaster felt the hair rise on the back of his neck, despite himself. The look in those amber eyes was purely feral. It was the look of the wolf, hungering for the hunt.
He had intended, when writing that note, to leave Lupin with the boy, and that Tonks would accompany him to on his visitation to Vernon Dursley; he had seen evidence of her temper and her… creativity while she had attended Hogwarts and he had patrolled the halls. But seeing Lupin now, he reconsidered.
It was only days from the full moon, after all.
Thank you for all your kind reviews!
Well, the last chapter hardly qualified as an update, as some of you noted, so I put a bit of effort in to get this one finished before the weekend. It's another extremely short one, so I thought it was only fair! Hope you liked it!
(also, I realized only after I finished this that, while I said that the Weasleys were too emotional to go after Vernon with Snape, Molly Weasley would probably have been an excellent candidate—she's got that protective instinct, and it'd be similar to the reaction one gets when getting between a bear and her cub…ie, Vernon would be in for some serious pain. Someone, PLEASE write a fanfic where Molly takes the Dursleys to task—I will adore you! )