Still holding the boxed-up pieces of Dumbledore's pensieve in his left arm, Harry made his way down the narrow, curved hallway leading to the Minister of Magic's office. It was the lunch hour, and the dark-brick halls usually filled with bustling witches and wizards now seemed eerily empty to Harry. Of course, it could have been Hermione's note playing on his nerves.
"Emergency. Norbert. Come to the Minister's office now."
Norbert was the codename he, Ron and Hermione had been using for the past 19 years to refer to Corban Yaxley, a high ranking Death Eater who had disappeared after the Battle of Hogwarts. Since before Harry had become an auror, finding Yaxley had been at the top of the department's priority list. Outside of the office, the trio also worked on the case, lacing together any clues they could round up over the years. Obviously, Hermione now had a lead on Yaxley. Harry felt a surge of adrenaline at the thought of finally putting the murdering bastard in Azkaban. As he approached the office door, Harry attempted to calm himself, not knowing exactly what information Hermione had. He knocked quietly, not wanting to draw attention to any lingering ministry staff who could be in the hallways.
"S'Harry," he said quietly, face close to the door.
Swinging backward, the door quickly opened to reveal a frazzled looking Hermione, who ushered him past gold leafed pillars flaking the door and into the office. Harry waited to make sure the door was closed behind them before talking.
"Should I cast a Muffliato," he asked, looking around. "Or, should we wait for Ron?"
"I haven't heard from him yet," she said, biting her lip nervously. "It always takes the owls a bit to get to Azkaban."
Every auror was expected to take at least one shift at Azkaban a week, with Harry and Ron serving as shift commanders for longer, 24-hour shifts since they had been promoted to high-ranking positions in the department. Unfortunately, it meant they didn't often get to work at the dank, depressing facility together. Even with the dementors gone it was not a pleasant place to be.
"Right," he said comfortingly. "I'll bet we'll be hearing from him any minute."
"I'll have to get you updated though. We could have very little time," Hermione said as she steered Harry towards the Minister Shacklebolt's desk, which was covered with parchment, including what looked like datebooks, journals and personal letters.
"Merlin, Hermione, is this-" Harry sputtered out as he placed the pensieve on a plush red velvet armchair facing the desk.
"Believe me, it was necessary," Hermione said, scanning the piles. "Here," she said, selecting a letter and handing it to Harry. Pulling his gaze from the minister's usually pristine mahogany desk, Harry read over the letter, his green eyes growing wider as he went.
"So this person claims to know where...Norbert...was this whole time and Kingsley never told us? Did he tell you?" asked Harry.
"Didn't say a thing. Now, when I came across it, I though surely he must have vetted it out. It could have just been someone looking for attention…"
"I guess," said Harry, frowning.
"But look at the postmark." Harry turned the letter in his hands and looked up to Hermione in confusion.
"Majorca? Do you think this has something to do with the minister's vacations?"
"Absolutely. I started looking through his correspondence today, because we had the strangest floo conversation. Harry, I could swear there was someone there with him, someone controll-"
At that moment there was a loud bang and green fire erupted from the minister's fireplace, causing Harry and Hermione to jump to their feet.
Severus hadn't realized how tightly his fingers were grasping the arms of his wheelchair until Ginny offered him a chilled glass of pumpkin juice. Though the day was quite warm and sunny, he could could feel a chill even in his dark robes and scarf while he watched Lily and Hugo speed and twirl around on their broomsticks in the Potter's backyard. After Ginny casted a obfuscating charm to make the children invisible to muggles, she seemed content to sit next to Severus and complete some Daily Prophet edits that were owled to her earlier that morning, glancing up nonchalantly every now and then.
Having small children zip around on brooms seemed like a needlessly hazardous proposition o Severus, who felt close to vomiting every time Lily and Hugo narrowly sped under a branch.
When had he become so fragile? He tried to conjure up the utter apathy he felt during decades of watching students whip themselves around on brooms at Hogwarts to rid himself of the feeling. It was not working.
He could he hear the distant scolding of mother from decades ago as he watched. Eileen would let him read any book he could get his hands on about Dark Magic yet would faint at the mere thought of him looking at a broom. No wonder Severus was miserable at Quidditch.
"Everything alright?" asked Ginny with a tense, uneasy smile as Severus turned away to take the juice.
"Yes," he said, eyebrow arched judgmentally. "What happens when one of them falls?" he asked, angling his head to the sky.
"Oh, they've been flying for years-they hardly ever fall anymore. Anyway, we have plenty of Skele-Grow in the pantry," she said, smirking.
Ginny had decided this morning that, as long as Snape was living in her house, she would have to be just as snarky as he was. If she had to keep it in, she feared she might go insane. So far they had made it through breakfast and early afternoon without issues,but she felt extremely wary of the situation.
Apparently this quip wasn't the straw that was going to make him snap. Snape merely nodded his head, straightened his scarf and took a small, soundless sip of juice. She noticed how his thin frame shivered in the heat.
Never in her life did Ginny ever believe she would be sitting next to Severus Snape in her backyard. Processing the fact that her weird, greasy-haired potions teacher was living in her house was still a moment by moment struggle.
During her Hogwarts years, Ginny never really hated the man as much as Harry and Ron did. She was actually not bad at potions. After being trapped in the Chamber of Secrets Snape even came to visit Ginny in the hospital wing. Sometimes she enjoyed his snide remarks, especially those aimed at her brothers, though she would never admit it. Despite this, he was still intimidating. And weird.
Yet, he seemed genuinely concerned about the kids, his eyebrows knitted together as he watched them fly. Maybe it wasn't that dangerous having him around.
While Ginny was mulling this new thought over, Severus peered at a small spec growing larger as it loomed closer to Hugo and Lily. When it flew through Ginny's barrier, his hand jerked, causing a splash of juice to fall on the back porch.
"Oi, relax. It's just our owl," Ginny said as she stood to let Athena rest on her arm. "Ah, looks like we've finally got a letter from Al! I was worried he forgot all about us."
"Its from Al?" shouted Lily from her broom. "What does it say?"
She and Hugo both flew down and nearly effortlessly dismounted their brooms to run towards Ginny and crowd around her as she read the letter.
In the commotion, Severus backed up his wheelchair to let Hugo and Lily by, a slight thread of irritation that they were both probably better on brooms than he was.
They begged Ginny to read the letter, but Severus could see her face became increasingly puzzled as she looked over the parchment. What are Potter's kids up to, he thought, feeling some of his own professorial exasperation return.
"Mum, what does it say?" demanded the usually quiet Lily.
"Your brother is doing well," Ginny said, patting Lily's head, her face looking a bit distant. "And he's been sorted into Slytherin."
Her eyes caught Snape's-it was his turn to look puzzled.