Author's Note: For disclaimer, please see previous chapters. No promises when further chapters are coming, but this is not an abandoned story.

For the Greater Good

Chapter 4

Sirius Black, disowned son of Walburga and Orion Black, Marauder, best friend of James Potter, godfather of Harry Potter, the only person to ever escape from Azkaban Island, stared disconsolately out the grimy window at the people walking by the house they could not see. He couldn't help but feel that he had traded one prison for another. Since his return from his tropical hideaway during the previous Fall, Dumbledore had kept him "safe" by locking Sirius into a house that he had hoped to never see again; the memories brought forth by these rooms were less than pleasant. It didn't help that he spent much of his time alone, locked in this house with his mother's half crazed elf, Kreacher. Or he had until this summer when Dumbledore had moved the entire Weasley family plus Hermione and the occasional order member in. Without even the courtesy of asking Sirius' permission. Granted he would have said yes, but it would have been nice to have been asked.

The sound of a loud shriek followed by a thundering sound of teenager's footsteps echoed up the stairs. Sirius grinned slightly, wondering what the children had done now to set Molly off. Merlin knew it didn't take much to set the harpy off. The brief moment of levity faded as Sirius remembered the way that Molly moved into the house and immediately took it over as her own. He'd taken to hiding in his room in the hopes of escaping from her.

A quiet knock on the door had him turning from the window. "Come."

Remus' grizzled head poked through the door he'd cracked open. "Have you been in this room all day?"

"No," Sirius replied morosely as he sat on the shabby bed in the corner of the room. "I fed Buckbeak, ate a quick lunch, and avoided Molly Wobbles. All in all a normal, invigorating day at Grimmauld Place."

"Mm," Remus commented as he let himself into the room and carefully looked his friend over. While his hair was neatly arranged and his clothes were tidy, Sirius had lost most of the weight that he'd gained while away from Britain and there were dark bags under his eyes. "Did you sleep at all last night?"

Sirius snorted quietly. "I haven't had a full night's sleep since Dumbledore tossed me into this old dungeon," he said as he looked pointedly around the room.

Nodding slowly as he sat on the bed next to the other man, Remus carefully considered his next comment before opening his mouth. "I never thought I'd say this, but have you considered leaving here?"

"What do you mean?"

Remus paused thoughtfully before saying "Have you noticed something off about the Order?"

"Off?" Sirius leaned his arms on his knees trying to marshal his scattered thoughts together enough to think through what his friend was saying. "No, I haven't noticed anything off." He raised his head and looked at his friend. "I admit that I've been pretty fixated on being back in the family manse. And you know I can't leave Harry, so don't, just don't."

"That's what I expected you'd say. About Harry I mean. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something in the air. Keep your eyes and ears open. Oh, and Dumbledore's called a meeting for 7:00."

"Fine. Maybe I'll be able to convince them to let Harry come a little early."

"True, and someday acromantulas will fly and Severus Snape will wear daisies in his hair and trip lightly through fields of wildflowers."

Sirius collapsed back on the bed laughing helplessly as his friend left the room. Moony always did have a happy felicity of phrase!

Severus opened the front door of number twelve Grimmauld Place and swept into the entry way with his usual air of 'I'm a dangerous man on a dangerous mission, get in my way at your own peril.' Lucius had described it during one of his more whimsical moments as 'Severus' dramatic teenage angstyness'. He snorted quietly as he edged past the troll leg umbrella stand. Thus spake the male clothes horse of Slytherin House, class of 1972. He passed the curtained enclosure that contained Walburga Black's portrait, pausing as he noted a slender flesh colored string hanging unobtrusively against the wall. Apparently the twins from hell were at it again. If they put as much effort into their school work as they did their inventions, well, their grades would certainly be much better. He continued down the stairs to the kitchen and through the door without pause, to find that the majority of the order had already assembled.

Hmmm. There were three seats available. A squashy chair next to Albus was out. That left two possibilities, a chair in the middle of the table next to Mundungus Fletcher and his obnoxious pipe, or a chair in the corner next to Arthur Weasley. The chair next to Arthur was across the room and would allow him to pass the open tea urn without remark. Arthur it was. Severus walked gracefully around the table to his chosen seat, reaching into his pocket to retrieve the vial of potion, uncorking it, pouring it into the urn, and replacing the empty vial in his pocket without pause. A swift glance around the assembled Order as he sat down assured him that none of them had noticed his actions.

"Good evening Severus," Arthur said quietly as he leaned toward the saturnine featured man next to him.

"Arthur," he said, nodding his head at the man. Whatever else you had to say about the man, he had the guts to take Molly Prewett on as a wife, and the intelligence to raise Bill Weasley.

As the last two members straggled in and took their seats, Molly rose from her, went to the tea urn and began serving tea to each member and passing platters of cookies. Those around the table chatted desultorily as they waited for their refreshment. Severus surreptitiously watched Black as he waived his teacup about before taking a long drought of it. Part one complete, he thought with a sneer as Dumbledore called the meeting to order.

"That was bloody useless," Sirius commented as he threw himself onto his bed after the interminable meeting that had just ended. "I think I see what you mean about the Order, Remus," he said to the man who was settling into the chair by the fireplace. "Has it been this useless this all along and I just didn't notice?"

Remus shrugged a bit and leaned back in the wearily. "I didn't notice it at first, but there is something…..off. I don't know how to describe it, and I can't quite put my finger on it, but something isn't right."

Sirius nodded as he thought. "You'll figure it out, Remus."

"Perhaps. I'm for bed, and you look like you should be headed there as well, my friend."

"Why bother, it just invites nightmares," Sirius said with a shrug.

"Drink some warm milk, it might help."

"Only if it has fire whiskey in it too!" his friend said with a smirk.

Remus shook his head in bemusement as he closed the door behind him and went back to his room. His friend seemed to be stuck in a loop of depression that he couldn't get out of. There had to be some way to get him out this place.

Sirius stood up as Remus left the room, moved to the ensuite and changed into his nightwear. As usual, a glass of water stood on the bedside table, and as usual he took a deep sniff of it before drinking some down. He wouldn't put it past Kreacher to try to poison him. Too early for bed yet, he thought as he glanced at the clock on the mantle. He settled into his armchair and reached for the book he'd been reading earlier in the day, yawing as he opened it. Sirius didn't notice when his eyes drifted closed a few minutes later, nor did he notice when the book dropped to the floor with a quiet thump.

The door slowly opened and a quiet voice murmured an incantation. Two minutes later the door closed and the room was left empty, the book sitting where it fell on the floor.

Lucius paced the floor of the formal salon, pausing every few circuits to stare at the clock. "This is intolerable," he said to Narcissa, who was seated on a damask chair working on some needlework frippery.

"You've mentioned that already, dear. Severus did warn you that it might be a long meeting," she said serenely as she tied off the silk she was working with.

"How can you be so calm?"

Narcissa looked up at him with a closed off expression on her face and said "I had a lot of practice waiting for you to come home from meetings."

Lucius averted his eyes from hers and sat in the chair across from hers. "I am sorry, love."

Narcissa smiled sadly as she picked through colors. "I know."

They both looked up as the floo flared green and Severus stepped through, a large book in his hand.

"Where do you want him?" he asked as he held the book out.

"This way," Narcissa said as she stood and led both men out of the room. "I've put him in the Gold Room, I thought the colors might make him more comfortable. You may put him on the bed, Severus, and reverse the transfiguration.

"Wait," Lucius said as his friend put the book on the bed. "Did you check for tracking charms?"

Severus looked at him in disbelief. "Of course I did you dolt, what kind of Slytherin do you think I am? He had three different trackers on him, I transferred them all to things in his room."

"Did you look for anything else," Narcissa asked.

"No time," he said as he raised his wand and prepared to transform the book into one of his least favorite people on the planet. A few swishes of the wand, a muted pop, and there was one Sirius Black lying on the bed in front of them.

Narcissa frowned as she looked down at her cousin. "Has he had any treatment since he escaped Azkaban? He shouldn't be this thin. Didn't you say he'd been staying at Grimmauld Place?"

"Yes, why?" Snape asked, not particularly interested in the man's condition. He'd refrained from dropping, kicking, or otherwise mutilating the man on the way to the Malfoy's, what more could they ask of him?

Lucius looked down at their guest, brow puckered as he thought. "What are you getting at love? Azkaban is dreadful, as you well know, I am sure it would take time to recover from the years he was there."

"Think, Lucius, it's been close to two years since he escaped. My guess is that he went to one of the Black properties that is unplotable, and then came back. How long has he been at Grimmauld, Severus?"

"Since Dumbledore put him there, sometime in the Fall, I believe."

"That's over six months. Something else is going on. You two stay here and watch him," Narcissa said as she left the room and headed for the library.

Lucius raised an eyebrow and looked at his friend.

"Don't ask me, she's your wife," Severus said with a huff as he crossed his arms over his chest.

The minutes passed by, marked by the ticking of the clock on the wall as they waited for Narcissa to return. Soft footsteps in the hallway soon indicated that she was returning, and both men turned toward the door in anticipation of her entrance.

"We need a curse breaker," she announced as she opened the door and walked in holding a small book. "I thought I remembered seeing a mention of wasting curses in this book. Unfortunately, all of them require the expertise of a curse breaker to dispel them."

"Do you have any idea how expensive it is to hire a curse breaker from the goblins? I certainly wouldn't trust any of the free lance curse breakers around to keep quiet," Lucius stated as he stared at his wife.

Severus rolled his eyes and headed toward the door. "You'll need to be by the floo to let me in with someone you probably don't want in your house. Unfortunately, he's the only curse breaker I know that will be utterly trustworthy outside of Gringotts."

"Who?" Lucius asked as he followed his friend toward down the stairs and into the room with the floo.

"I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise," Severus said as he grabbed some floo powder and tossed it into the fireplace. "Spinner's End."

Severus exited the fireplace in his living room, spelled the soot off himself, and cast several spells to check on his security wards. No changes. He turned around to face the fireplace, pulled over the kneeling bench set to the side of it for this purpose, and threw in a pinch of floo powder and called "Apareceum Medicus Fidelus." He waited for the fire to settle and considered the difference between this call and the last time he'd used this floo address. The fire settled into the solid green that meant that he could continue with his call, and as before, called out "Healer Malfoy."

"One moment, Sir," a young female voice said. This time the feet that came toward him were shod in sensible shoes.

"Severus?" she said as she knelt and answered the call. "Has Lucius had a relapse?"

"No, and I am sorry to have bothered you for so minor a reason, but we need William Weasley's address, and I don't have it. Could you give it to me please?"

Lyrae looked at him consideringly. "William Weasley's address. Why do you need a curse breaker?"

"I can't tell you that."

"What is Lucius up to now? Never mind, I don't want to know." She paused a moment and looked at him intently. "This had better not go any further than you, everyone deserves their privacy. His address is Isis Aerie." She paused another moment before adding "I think I'll go check on Lucius. I am through here." She backed away and closed the floo.

Severus backed out, stretching his back. As a general rule he found that there were few things that muggles did better than wizards, but modes of communication was one of them. Right. He knelt back down and threw in anther pinch of powder, wondering if he had finally gone insane. Lucius was going to owe him big for this one. "Isis Aerie." The flames turned green again as he said "William Weasley." There was no answer, but he thought he could hear a faint snore. An unpleasant smirk crossed his face as he cast a sonorous on himself. "WEASLEY!" he projected in his best professor voice.

"I'm sorry sir, I didn't do it!" he heard from a distance along with a rather loud thump.

"William Weasley, I want a word!" he said after removing the projection spell.

The sound of footsteps approaching indicated that he had been heard.

"Professor?" Bill said as he got to the floo. "Is my family…"

"Nothing to do with your family. But I have a need for you, and it is Order related. Can you come through?"

Bill thought for a second before nodding. "Give me a minute or two to pull on some clothes. Will I need any equipment?"

"I am unsure," Severus paused as he thought of what to say to give the man an idea of what would be required of him.

Bill eyed him with a disconcertingly knowing look. "Does this concern a situation similar to what we saw in the ritual room a few weeks ago?"

Ah. Very perceptive of the young man. "Indeed, but not quite the same."

"That gives me something to go on. I'll be right back," he said as he jumped up and hurried off.

Severus waited more or less patiently and was pleasantly surprised that it took less than five minutes before Bill returned to him, large case in hand.

"What's the address?"

"Spinner's End. Stop as you come through, I will have to configure the wards to accept you,"

Severus said as he pulled his head out of the fireplace.

A few waves of his wand allowed Bill initial entrance, just in time as the young man stepped into the room and froze. A few more waves of his wand and he waved the young man into the room.

"Come with me." Severus led the way through the book strewn little room to the small kitchen. "Coffee?" he asked as he went to the sink to fill the carafe with water.

"I would literally kill for an honest to God cup of coffee," Bill replied as he settled himself at the table. "I haven't been able to find a decent café since I got back to England.

Severus nodded as he put the percolator on and waited for it to do its job. "Have you had it the muggle way?"

"That's all we had in Egypt, and frankly, it's much better than the wizard made in England! What is this about sir?"

"I will need an oath that this will go no further."

Bill leaned back in his chair and considered the complex man in front of him. He'd been Bill's least favorite teacher when he was in school, however, when he entered training with Gringotts, it hadn't taken him long to realize that although the man had a miserable temperament, he had given his students a more than adequate education. Unlike many of the other interns, the two from Hogwarts had not been required to take remedial potions, they'd passed the placement exam with no difficulty. "I will need assurances that this doesn't involve something illegal, or black market."

Severus paused as he reached into the cabinet for the sugar. The young man had learned some discretion and caution, how refreshing! "I give you my word."

Bill thought for a moment as he watched his former professor bring cups, sugar, and the percolator to the table. He nodded slowly and said, "That's good enough for me." He pulled out his wand and held it in front of himself saying "I, William Weasley, will not reveal any information regarding the actions of tonight until given leave by Severus Snape." A soft white light surrounded Bill and then went out. "So, what can you tell me?" he asked as he held out his cup for some coffee.

Severus poured both of them a cup of coffee as he thought of the best way to start his story. "Sugar or milk? No?" He watched Bill take a sip of the hot liquid and hum appreciatively before saying "I kidnapped Sirius Black after the meeting tonight and he is currently at Malfoy Manor." He smirked quietly as Bill's eyes got wide and he started choking.

"What!?" he spluttered, still coughing. "What the hell?"

"You are aware that Lady Malfoy is Black's cousin, are you not?"

"Well, yes, but I didn't think that they were close at all."

"They are not, and I am not going into the intricacies of Black family dynamics, but when Lady Malfoy saw his condition, she became concerned that there were additional…..issues." Severus finished with distaste.

"Issues." Bill looked back at Severus. "I need to know what sort of issues you are referring to before I can give you an idea if I can help you."

"Are you familiar with wasting curses?"

Bill nodded thoughtfully. "Very. Everyone in the field in Egypt is educated about wasting curses, they were the protection of choice with quite a few pharaohs. I hadn't really noticed, but Sirius' physical condition is almost a text book description of what a case of wasting illness looks like."

"Are you capable of helping us?"

"I won't know until I see him and run some tests."

"Is it likely to be imminently fatal?" Severus asked as he curled his hands around his coffee.

Bill cradled his coffee cup gently. "Not at all. It can certainly wait until we've finished our coffee. You can consider it my payment for services about to be rendered if you like," he said, raising his eyebrow at his former professor.

Severus raised his in return. This Weasley might be worth cultivating.