Disclaimer: All characters and situations utilized herein belong to J.K. Rowlings, with the sole exceptions of Polaris Black (mine) and Caius the Raven and Caligula and Agrippina Snape (Draqonelle's).

Posted by:  Elspeth

Thank you to Earthwalk, whose excellent Snapefic "I Was Right" gave me the idea of having one of Snape's relatives killed by aurors, and to Rune, whose fics "Casus" and "Temptation" were the first place I saw the suicide idea.  Also thanks to Draqonelle, who once said that Snape probably doesn't read The Daily Prophet "because it's written on an eleven year-old reading level and isn't intellectually stimulating,"—the final idea this story needed.

The excoriatus curse comes from Morrighan's fic "The Long Road to Damascus"—it sounded so nasty and gruesome that I just had to use it.

Companion piece to "Not All Scars are Visible"—if you want to catch the reference to this episode in that fic, read the beginning of chapter five.

"But I see clearly that the time had arrived when it was better for me to die and be released from trouble. . . ."—Socrates, at his trial.

Prophet of Doom

            "MONSTER FINALLY SLAIN" the headline blared in letters two inches high.  "Notorious dark wizard Caligula Snape, a known Death Eater responsible for the gruesome deaths of countless wizards and muggles, was finally brought to justice today by a crack team of aurors, three of whom lost their lives in the struggle."  The article went on to give, in glorious purple prose, a blow-by-blow account of the battle, ending with Caligula's bloody death, and heaped praise upon "the selfless and dedicated" aurors who had "courageously risked their lives" to "rid the world of the monstrous evil represented by a man as twisted and brutal as his namesake."  The Ministry, the writer continued, had already begun searching the Snape family manor for dark artifacts, and the entire estate, as well as the sizable fortune the powerful pureblood family had amassed over the centuries, was being confiscated.

            "Right on!"  Sirius Black cheered, as he and the other Gryffindors gathered at their table in the Great Hall, clustered around a copy of the Daily Prophet.  "The only good Death Eater is a dead Death Eater, that's what Pols always says."

            "Sirius," Lily Evans said, looking up from her breakfast, "please don't quote your sister.  I like Polaris, but she scares me sometimes."

            "Bit of grim luck for Snape, though," James Potter put in, taking advantage of Lily's momentary distraction to filch a slice of fried bread from her plate.

            "Well, yeah, I s'pose it would be, at that," Sirius said thoughtfully.  "Pretty gruesome way to lose a parent.  I wonder if  'e's got 'is letter from the ministry yet.  I know they sent Pols and me one when our mum died."

            "What letter?" a cold voice demanded sharply from behind them.  "What are you babbling about, Black?"

            "Oops, guess not."

            "What are you dunderheads looking at?  Is there something about me in it?  Let me see."

            "No, wait."  Remus tried to snatch the paper back, but it was too late.  Severus Snape had yanked the copy of the Prophet out of his hands and was now staring, transfixed, at the huge color photograph covering the entire top half of the front page.  Staring at the image, presented in gory and lurid detail, of the bloody, mutilated form of Caligula Snape.

            "Look, Snape, I'm really sorry…"

            Severus turned abruptly and fled from the room, paper still clutched in one hand, and Remus let his sentence trail off into the sudden, stifling silence.


            It couldn't be true!  It couldn't possibly be true!  Caligula was much too skilled a wizard ever to be caught by the Ministry.  He was untouchable, infallible, a fish far too big for Moody's aurors to catch in their puny, ill-woven nets.  It was impossible, Severus told himself.  There had to be some mistake.

            That picture splashed across the front page couldn't be Caligula.  Caligula was the essence of power and menace, tall and imposing and capable of quelling a room with a single glance.  That tattered heap of torn flesh and bloody robes, the only motionless thing in an otherwise constantly shifting photograph, could never be him.  Caligula would never let anyone do those things to him, never let himself be reduced to that shattered, broken form.  The Prophet was always making mistakes, spelling people's names wrong, misquoting things; this was merely another stupid journalistic blunder.  The body in the photograph was some other wizard.  Someone else tall and clad in all black robes, someone else who just happened to share his father's pale skin and slightly receding, lank, black hair.

            "Don't cry, boy," the voice snarled inside his head.  "Only weaklings cry, and I refuse to have a weakling for a son.  Do you want everyone to think you're a baby?"

            He wouldn't be weak.  He refused to cry, to scream, to do anything that would shame the family name, the name he'd always so pathetically failed to live up to in even the smallest fashion.

            "Potions.  The last refuge of those whose magical skills are too weak for anything else.  Do you think your opponent will wait when you stop in the middle of a wizards' duel and whip out your little chemistry set?  Do you think he'll be impressed?"

            He'd always meant to show him one day, to prove himself worthy.  Score higher on the NEWTs than James Potter, beat Sirius Black in a wizards' duel, come up with the perfect potion or hex that would finally earn him a smile instead of a sneer.  Now he never would.

            He'd had to leave the Great Hall, had to get out, away from Black's triumphant laughter and Lupin's false sympathy.  Yes, false; the werewolf would have been happy enough to eat him that night in October—those concerned, pitying looks were only a front to conceal the glee he must have been feeling.  The glee they all were feeling.  Severus wasn't stupid; he'd noticed the pleased looks, the cheerful voices, the air of smug triumph that had permeated the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables.  And that gloating article…  Had they really used the excoriatus curse?  And the bone-break hex?  Those were supposed to be illegal.  At least, they were illegal when Slytherin "dark wizards" used them—nothing was against the rules for the Ministry's golden aurors.

            The thought of those malevolent fools smashing their way through his family home made Severus's blood creep.  "Searching for dark artifacts"?  The idiots would smash magical artifacts older than Merlin, burn books whose value and rarity they couldn't even begin to comprehend.  Defile and destroy and "confiscate" anything worth even half a galleon until there was nothing left of Caligula's library or Agrippina's sacrificial knives or any one of the heirlooms left by the centuries of wizards who had come before them.  And then would go home and congratulate themselves on a job well done, a threat removed.  Because that was how they wanted it.

            No one cared about the family name and history they would be wiping out; they wanted it gone.  Oh yes, they'd care if the Snapes were Ravenclaws, or Hufflepuffs, or Gryffindors, but a family of Slytherins?  One less Slytherin makes the world a better place, and let's everybody join hands and rejoice.

            The aurors would probably be coming for him next.  Like father, like son, everyone always said, and wasn't he a Snape, a Slytherin, a spawn of evil?  Everyone said so, and after they found the laboratory in the basement, picked their way through all the illegal ingredients and smashed all the delicate glassware, they'd know for certain.  They'd come and haul him away, like they'd tried to do to Caligula, and no one would bother to protest.

            "Sev-a-rus?" the soft, croaking question distracted him from his thoughts for a moment, and he reached over mechanically to preen his fingers through Caius's feathers.  Well, Caius would probably care, but the raven would be the only one.  Caligula was gone, his wife Agrippina had died years ago of something convenient, and everyone else would be only too pleased to see the last of the Snapes vanish from the wizarding world.  They'd made that pretty evident this fall, sending Black off with barely a slap on the wrist, completely ignoring the blatant attempt Potter's thug had made to kill Severus.

            There was no one left.  Not a single soul remaining, in the wizarding world or out of it, to whom his existence held the slightest bit of value.  Caligula Snape's death had knocked a hole in the middle of the world, a great aching void that there was nothing and no one left to fill.

            Absently, Severus continued to run the fingers of one hand through Caius's black feathers, as he stared blankly at the cool glass vial in his other hand.  More evidence of his differentness, his wrongness, thought it had been fun to make.  But then, what kind of person finds fun in such a thing?  In calculating substances and proportions and their effect on the human body?  It wouldn't be painful…  Like falling asleep, that's what all the sources said.  A deep, quiet, peaceful sleep that would last forever.  Caius would find another wizard to stay with, a better one, and there would be no more taunts, no more sneers and comments and disappointed looks.  No lengthy legal battle with the Ministry and the school governors, no looking at wills the Ministry's lawyers weren't going to honor anyway, or signing papers giving them "permission" to cart what remained of his life away for "inspection."

            And he was so tired….


            Minerva McGonagall was sitting in Dumbledore's office, discussing plans for the end of year transfiguration exam, when the headmaster suddenly sat up sharply and turned to face his office door. 

            "Minerva, go let whoever it is at the door in," he said. 

            Obediently, she got to her feet and crossed over to the office door, pulling it open and sticking her head around the doorframe, expecting to find a student waiting in the hall.  Instead, a black steak shot past her into the room, cawing frantically.

            "Sev-a-rus!  Sev-a-rus!" it shrieked, launching itself toward Dumbledore and alighting on his desk, where it hopped excitedly up and down.  "Sev-a-rus!  Potion!  SEV-A-RUS!!"

            "That's Severus Snape's familiar, isn't it?" Minerva asked, approaching the desk.  "What on earth is wrong with it?"

            The little raven was a mess of broken, bloody feathers, covered with small shards of glass.  He was still hopping and shrieking, flapping his wings and fluttering about in a state of absolute panic.

            "I'm not sure, but the poor thing looks in a dreadful state.  I think he's looking for Severus.  We had better go and find Mr. Snape and return Caius to his master."

            The moment the two of them started toward the door, Caius was in the air and swooping down the hallway, cawing harshly.

            "Headmaster, I'm aware that this sounds absolutely idiotic, but I think he wants us to follow him."

            "I wouldn't be surprised.  Great Ravens are exceedingly intelligent birds, smarter than some humans."

            Caius led the two of them down a corridor and up a flight of stairs, stopping in front of a large wooden door.  "Sev-a-rus," he repeated for the umpteenth time, coming in for a landing on top of an old statue of Aeldred the Unreliable positioned next to the doorway.  "In in in.  Sev-a-rus."

            Dumbledore stepped up and knocked slightly on the closed door.

            "Mr. Snape, are you in there?"


            "Severus, would you come out and take charge of your familiar, please?"

            No response.  If it weren't for Caius's increasingly frantic croaking, Minerva would have suspected that there was no one there.  But familiars, particularly those as intelligent as ravens, could always find their wizards, and if Caius was this strongly convinced that his master was beyond that door, it must be true.  Which meant that the boy was deliberately ignoring them, which couldn't possibly be a good thing.  He was either upset or up to something, and with Severus Snape, up to something meant illegal potions, toxic fumes, dead animals being dissected for potions ingredients (or God knew what else; the child's mother had been an auger[1], after all), nasty curses being practiced on younger students, or possibly something even worse.

            "Alohamora," Dumbledore said, pointing his wand at the lock.  Nothing happened.  "He's spelled the door against unlocking charms.  We're going to have to use alternate methods."  From a pocket of his robe, Dumbledore withdrew a small bit of metal with a hooked end, which he inserted into the lock.  He poked and wiggled the metal probe around for half a minute before being met by a faint click.  What on earth? "Right.  In we go."

            The room, a vacant classroom now used as a study area, was empty but for a table and a few armchairs.  In one of those chairs, by the window, a pale, dark clad figure was slumped, eyes closed.  Minerva surveyed the still, peaceful features with a wave of relief.  He was only asleep.  Then she saw the shattered window, shards of bloody glass still clinging to the frame, saw the empty glass vial on the floor beneath the armchair, lying where it had fallen from the now lax fingers, took in the white face, the blue lips, the fact that he didn't appear to be breathing…

            "Oh my God!  Albus!!  Get in here!"

            Dumbledore appeared behind her in the doorway, taking in the situation at a glance.  "Minerva, go get Poppy.  Tell her to bring all the antidotes she's got.  Tell her to come by floo powder.  Run!"

            Moments later, a small tabby cat was streaking up the hallway towards the infirmary, moving faster than any human could hope to.

            "Poppy," Minerva gasped out as she burst through the infirmary door.  "One of the students took poison.  In the old charms classroom.  We don't know what he took, but it looks pretty fast.  The Headmaster said to come down at once, by floo powder."

            Poppy Pomfrey gasped sharply, then swung instantly into action with the instincts of years of training.  "Who is it?" she asked as she snatched bottles and instruments off shelves and out of drawers.

            "Severus Snape."

            "Oh God, it would be him.  He probably made it himself, Minerva.  There may not be an antidote."  Nevertheless, Poppy Pomfrey was not one to let a patient go without a fight, even a patient she was not particularly fond of.  Snatching a last vial of medicine off a small table, she strode purposefully toward the infirmary fireplace, pulling Minerva in her wake, and lit a blazing fire on the cold hearth with a single flick of her wand.  A handful of sparkling powder was thrown on the flames.  "The old charms classroom."

            When Minerva stepped out of the fireplace into the old classroom, she saw that Dumbledore had shifted Severus's limp form from the armchair to the floor, where he was now bent over him, trying to charm air into the increasingly unresponsive lungs.  Caius huddled on the floor next to him, a small, dispirited bundle of black feathers.

            "Out of the way," Poppy said briskly, pushing the old wizard aside firmly and bending over the motionless body on the floor, pulling back eyelids, placing her fingers on his throat, and otherwise examining him.  "What did he drink from?" she asked as she set to work.  "Do you have it here?"  Wordlessly, Dumbledore handed her the empty vial. 

            Poppy lifted it to eye level, peering at the few drops of liquid remaining within it.  Then she held it beneath her nose and sniffed it.  "Bitter almonds.  That and the blue lips say cyanide.  I think there's hemlock and basilisk venom in this too, judging by the color. An injection of sodium nitrate followed by one of sodium thiosulfate would take care of the cyanide[2], but hemlock and basilisk venom…  Damnit, why did the child have to be so inventive!"

            Severus's shallow, gasping breaths were growing fainter, his skin going from cold to icy.  His fingernails were now blue as well as his lips.  Poppy summoned the two sodium compounds and prepared injections, sliding the needle into his arm, and followed up with a broad-spectrum antidote potion "bezoar and mandrake root," but Minerva and Dumbledore could see from her face that it was merely a gesture.

            "No response," Poppy sighed.  "I didn't think so."

"Isn't there anything you can do?"

"There's one thing I can try, but I don't know if it will work.  Bloody school governors wouldn't fill my requisition for distilled phoenix tears because they were 'too expensive,'" she muttered.  "All I've got is a few drops, and I doubt it will be enough.  Bastards, I'll give them expensive."

She tipped Severus's head back, pinched his nose shut, and poured the contents of a pitifully small vial of pearly liquid down his throat.

            Minerva watched with bated breath, eyes fixed on the nearly imperceptible rise and fall of the teenager's chest.  It had to work, it had to.  It would be wrong for the child to die now, so young.  What on earth had possessed him to do this to himself in the first place?

            As the three adults and the bedraggled raven watched and waited, a minor miracle took place.  Slowly, infinitely slowly, the blue tinge in Severus's lips and fingernails began to recede, the faints, slowing breaths began to strengthen.

            "I believe it's working," Dumbledore said.  "Poppy, you would make Hippocrates proud."

            "His heart rate is stabilizing again," Poppy announced, ignoring the praise.  "I think we may be out of the woods."  She sounded surprised at her own success.  "Could one of you help me levitate him to the infirmary?  I want to get him in a bed and set up some monitoring spells."

            "Certainly."  Dumbledore waved his wand briskly in Severus's direction.  "Mobilius corpus."

            Caius let out a startled squawk as the boy's limp body began to rise several feet off the floor, Dumbledore's spell holding him as carefully horizontal as any stretcher.


            The small group made it to the infirmary without encountering anyone in the corridors.  Once there, Dumbledore lowered Severus carefully onto a bed as Poppy bustled around, setting up a circle of spells around the student to monitor his heart rate and breathing.  Caius hopped nervously around her before finally settling on the headboard of the bed, staring at her with suspicious obsidian eyes.

            "This bird cannot stay in here," she announced, giving the raven a disapproving look.  "He's getting in my way and molting all over everything.  He's unhygienic."

            "Let him stay," Minerva found herself speaking up in Caius's defense.  "He's Severus's familiar; he'll be horribly worried if you send him out.  Plus, I think he may bite you if you try to evict him."

            "Fine, the crow stays.  But Aesclepius help him if he damages anything in my infirmary."

            "Minerva," Dumbledore said gently.  "I think Poppy and I can handle things from here.  Your morning transfiguration class begins in just a few minutes. The DaDA classroom is on your way isn't it? Would you please stop in when you go by and tell Azrael Bale that one of his Slytherins has taken ill? Ask him to come see me."


            Minerva reached her classroom to find the sixth year Gryffindors already in their seats—or, in Sirius Black and Lily Evans' case, out of them.  A buzz of conversation drifted out into the hallway.

"You shouldn't have let him see it, Remus. He looked absolutely awful when he left."

"Come on, Petey, he couldn't help it. The stupid git snatched the paper right out of 'is hand."

"Oh, my goodness, Moira, did you see the pictures in the paper? Weren't they just the grossest thing you've ever seen?"

"So, anyway, I heard Narcissa Warrington, you know, that seventh-year Slytherin girl, was dating Lucius Malfoy. Can you imagine?  I don't care how much money his family's got, no amount of galleons is worth that."

"And he's, what? Three years older than her? Is that legal?"

"Hey, James, great game last week. Nice save there at the end. When Slytherin got all those penalty shots I thought for sure we were going to lose."

"That's what happens when you have a violent homicidal maniac for a beater."

"Aw, c'mon, Prongs, I'm not that bad. Don't listen to Prongs, Jack, I'm not homicidal."

Gradually, as the students became aware of Minerva standing, arms folded, in the doorway, the conversation died away.

"Black, sit down, please.  Evans, please remove yourself from Potter's lap and return to your own desk."
Lily did so, her face flushing crimson. Sirius also obeyed, but with less alacrity.

The sixth-year Gryffindors were usually Minerva's favorite class, but today she had difficulty keeping her mind on the lesson. She kept flashing back to the image of that still, white form in the hospital wing, his familiar perched at the head of the bed like Poe's
raven. In her three years at Hogwarts, the school had never lost a student, despite the growing threat of Voldemort outside its walls. But they had almost lost one today. Why, why had the child tried to kill himself?

Her train of thought was broken by a familiar rustling sound.
 "White, please bring the Witch Weekly up to my desk."
 "But, Professor McGonagall…"
"My desk, Miss White. Now. You may have your magazine back after class."
Fuschia White's face took on a martyred expression. "But it's not a Witch


"I don't care what it is. Unless it is your textbook, please bring it up to my desk."

Feet dragging and face petulant, Fuschia pulled a newspaper out from under her

desk and brought it to the front of the classroom to hand it over.

"Good God." Minerva stared at the paper's front page in shocked horror. "That is the most repugnant thing I've ever seen."

"Isn't it icky? Sirius was reading it to everybody at breakfast."

"Ah, right. Well, icky or not, sensationalized blood and gore has nothing to do with turning toads into butterflies. Let's get back to work, shall we? No, Mr. Pettigrew, I'm afraid a Luna moth doesn't count. Black, don't help him, and while I have your attention, may I remind you that Monarch butterflies do not usually have four letter words written on their wings."

Minerva finished the lesson on autopilot, her mind whirling furiously. How dare the Ministry do such a thing! Information regarding deaths was not supposed to be released to the press until the witch or wizard's next of kin had been notified. And, as no student could receive a Ministry owl without the Hogwarts faculty being informed, such notification had obviously not arrived. No wonder Severus had been upset. The Headmaster was going to hear about this. If the Ministry and the Prophet didn't find themselves getting an earful from an irate Dumledore by the end of the day, she would be very much surprised.


            His hands and feet were freezing, and everything around him had an oddly dreamlike quality, distant and slightly muffled, as if everything was being filtered through cotton wool.  And his head hurt.  It hurt quite a lot, actually, and grew even more painful when he tried to move it, which was a great deal more difficult than it should have been.  His eyelids seemed to be weighted with lead.  Slowly, he blinked them open, staring up at the white ceiling above him.  Where…

            "Ah, you're awake.  That's good, very good.  I was beginning to be worried."  Madame Pomfrey's face moved into his field of vision, her expression one of professional concern.  "Snape, do you know where you are?"

            "Infirmary…" he mumbled quietly.  Speaking required an abnormally large amount of energy.  "How…"

            "Headmaster Dumbledore brought you here," Madame Pomfrey informed him, picking up his wrist and taking his pulse with a cool, impersonal hand.  "Yesterday morning."  She moved to a nearby table and picked up a small cup of liquid.  "Snape, I 'd like you to try and sit up for  a moment.  I want you to drink this."  Seeing his suspicious look, she added "It's a restorative potion."

            "You are a very talented and skillful young man.  You are also a very stupid one.  Do you have any idea how lucky you are?  If I hadn't known the proper treatment for cyanide poisoning, you would be dead now."

            "There is no treatment.  No antidote, not even phoenix tears.  I checked; I read every potions book in the library."

            "It's wouldn't be in the potions books; it's in the medical texts in the muggle studies section."  Poppy sniffed.  "Many ailments that have no magical remedy can be cured by muggle means, and vice-versa.  Thank Aesclepius I got my MD at Queens College, or I might not have been able to save you."

            Empty black eyes stared at her unblinkingly.  "Why did you?"

            Poppy looked offended.  "I'm a mediwizard.  It's my job!"

            Of course, because it was her job. Foolish to imagine that any caring or concern had gone into it, though, come to think of it, both Madame Pomfrey and the school as a whole would really have looked bad if they'd just let him die.

"I'm going to bring you something to eat," Madame Pomfrey said. "You've been asleep for nearly twenty-four hours; you must be starving."
As she turned and left the room, a croaking voice spoke up
from the direction of the headboard.

             "Crow. Un-hi-gen-ik." Caius made what was unmistakably intended to be a rude noise.

"Caius. What are you doing here?" At the sound of his name, Caius gave a little squawk and hopped down onto the bedspread, cocking his head to stare up at Severus with his glittery black eyes.

"Sev-a-rus. Potion. Sev-a-rus." He sounded distinctly accusatory.

"I'm sorry, Caius." Severus stroked one finger lightly over the top of the raven's

head, wishing he had a bit of food to give him. "I didn't mean to scare you. The next thing I mix up, I'll test on Potter, okay?"

"Pot-ter." Was that approval, or merely repetition?

Caius cocked his head in the other direction, considered a moment, then said "Owl. Letter." He hopped up onto a table by the bed with a little flutter of wings. "Sev-a-rus. Owl. BIG Owl!"

On the table, next to Caius's feet, lay a small collection of miscellaneous objects—two quills, a chocolate frog, an assorted collection of potions ingredients, a crumpled piece of paper covered with Herbology notes—the contents of Severus's pockets. On top of the pile were two new items: a pair of letters, one of creamy, expensive paper, with an ornate green wax seal, the other an official looking scroll, bound and sealed in black. A Ministry scroll.

A leaden feeling in his stomach, Severus picked up the Ministry's letter and cracked the seal open.

"We regret to inform you that your father, Caligula Snape, died today
in the course of a Ministry police action. We have reason to believe
that Caligula was acting in the support of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,
and in accordance with section seven, paragraph ten of the Wizarding
Judicial Code, his possessions will be confiscated and searched for
Dark objects. In addition, in accordance with section four paragraph
six of the penal code, his estate will become Ministry property, for
use in the continued struggle against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. We
regret any inconvenience this may cause you."

Lovely. "We killed your father and we're going to take away everything you own, sorry for the inconvenience." Inconvenience? Was that the strongest term those idiots could use?

"Evidence indicates that at the time of his death, your father was

involved in several highly illegal activities. An investigation into
these matters has been launched, and it would be appreciated if you
would report to Ministry headquarters for questioning. Please
contact us by owl as soon as possible."

Severus balled the paper up and threw it violently across the room, feeling a moment of satisfaction as he watched in bounce of the infirmary wall. The Ministry could go hang itself; they weren't getting an iota of help from him, and if they thought they were getting so much as a word out of him without an official suppina, they were very much mistaken.

He reached over to the bedside table and picked up the next letter, inspecting the ornate crest imprinted on the green seal. Lucius Malfoy. He might have guessed. Caius was terrified of Lucius's giant eagle owl and was probably stewing in indignation that the larger bird had dared to enter the room, hence his complaints about letters and "BIG owls."

Lucius's letter, in contrast with the Ministry's dictaquilled missive, was hand written on expensive paper.

"Dear Severus," it began, "I was horrified to learn of your father's

tragic murder at the hands of the Ministry's aurors. Caligula was like an uncle to me,

and the news of his death was a terrible blow, though not nearly so terrible for me as it

must have been for you. You have my deepest and most heartfelt sympathy.

"Severus, perhaps this is not the best time to bring this up, but prior to his death,

your father and several of his business associates had broached the topic of your future.

As I recall from my days with you at Hogwarts, you are exceptionally talented both as a

dueler and as a mixer of potions, two skills very much in demand among certain wizards

of my acquaintance. Those Gryffidors and Hufflepuffs at Hogwarts and in the Ministry

may be blind to your potential, but I can assure you, we are not.

"I know that this is a very difficult time for you, and I urge you to consider things

carefully before contacting us. However, I would like to add to this official invitation my

own personal request for your help and support. I have always felt that you and I were

cousins of a sort (we may actually be cousins if one traces the genealogies back far enough)

and the lack of respect that you and your family has always been subjected to has inspired

in me a profound indignation on your behalf. I should very much like, and I expect you share

this desire, to see the situation corrected.

"Caligula's murder, as I'm sure the Prophet has announced, was carried out by seven

aurors. Three of them met the fate they deserved at his hands, but four escaped

without being punished for their crime. Their names have not been released, but if I

had reason, and could be certain that you would take the appropriate actions (as I am

almost sure you will), I can almost certainly discover their identities[3].

"My deepest condolences,

Lucius Mephistopheles Malfoy"

Severus stared at the letter meditatively, Caius's croaking fading into the background. Keeping one ear out for Madame Pomfrey's returning footsteps, he picked up a quill from the bedside table and began to write back.


This is for Draqonelle, who helped me brainstorm, and Kit Cloudkicker, who picked up on the clues to this incident in "Scars."

[1] Augury--the fine art of slicing open small animals and using
their entrails to tell the future. And just think, she was the
positive parental influence.

[2] This is the real medical treatment for cyanide. I looked it up.

[3] Don't worry, all four auror died of natural causes--within the
next six months (the coroners were baffled).