Hey you guys. I got inspired after watching Order of the Phoenix last night and just sat down and wrote this. It was intended to be more SS/MM, but ended up being just a Snape story.
Disclaimer: Don't own nothing. Duh.
Severus watched coolly as the students filed into his room. To be honest, ever since Umbridge had began her reign on the school, his class had been much easier to teach and control. His students were far more interested in causing disruptions in Umbridges' classes then his, but, then again, that would be the more bold members to the student body. After being sentenced to Umbridge's detentions- of which it was now common knowledge that she practically tortured students- the younger or more weak children were terrified of doing anything to attract attention.
He sighed, shaking his head. Yes, things would seem wonderful for him, but everybody in the school was miserable- well, except for those infernal Weasley twins. They thrived on Umbridge's strict rules, finding more and more ways to make up problems for her and amuse the others, both teachers and students alike. Personally, Severus found their antics simply annoying, but he had to admit, they had style when it came to making people's lives hell. Dumbledore would have appreciated it, but he had been forced to disappear from the public eye, for the time being. Everyone knew it was only a matter of time until he was back.
"They say she'll be all right. But McGonagall's not too young, and they hit her with four spells all at once."
"Four spells, god... if this isn't Umbridge's last nail in the coffin, I don't know what is."
"What were they trying to do, kill her?"
"They got bloody well close as it was, Ron!"
Severus's head snapped up at his students' quiet discussion. There had been some mention about a fight on the grounds last night among the students, but he had never heard anything about it to indicate that it was serious. Certainly not that Minerva had nearly been killed. As accomplished of a witch as she was, the duel must have been brutal. He got to his feet and swept to the front of the room, effectively silencing his class. "Does anybody know what actually happened last night?" He was greeted by absolute stillness. "Anyone?" he asked coldly.
Finally, Hermione said softly, "There was a fight on the grounds last night; Umbridge and several Aurors went to kick Hagrid off school grounds last night. He put up a fight; we were taking our exam in the astronomy tower when we heard. Professor McGonagall must have heard; she came outside and tried to help Hagrid. Umbridge and her people hit her with four stunning spells at once before they drove Hagrid off. He did beat up Umbridge's people pretty good though..."
Severus swallowed, fingering the tip of his wand. Four stunning spells? At once? That was a hell of alot of force, and Minerva wasn't as young as she used to be. He raised his eyes and realized his students were all watching him curiously, probably surprised at his sudden interest in what had happened. Clearing his throat, he forced his eyes back down to the many potions on his desk and start fiddling with one of them as he asked, trying to appear unconcerned, "Ah, I see. Do you know if Minerva is going to be all right?"
Now that aura of surprise was practically palpable; he heard several students gasp in shock and sensed rather than saw all the others look up at him to stare. He raised his cold glare to the class and most of them immediately looked away. Eventually, Hermione had regained her composure enough to say, "Um, I'm not sure. They took her to St. Mungo's- from what I've heard, she'll be okay, but no one has explicitly told me anything. I'm not exactly in the loop on this..."
Severus hesitated, thinking quickly. The Order. Yes, the Order would know if Minerva was all right. He would stand for members of the Order being murdered by The Dark Lord, but right here, at Hogwarts, just because the Ministry didn't want to accept the truth about his return? They needed every witch and wizard in the war against Voldermort that they could get, and losing people because Fudge was a complete moron did not make him happy. He was angry. He wouldn't to take his wand and cause the room to burst into flames. No, cause Umbridge to burst into flames. That would be more enjoyable.
"Everyone is to write an essay on the preparation and uses of Draught of Living Death, to be turned into me first thing Monday morning. Class dismissed." With that, Severus stormed out into the hallway, focusing on how he would get to headquarters without Umbridge knowing. It was no secret that Dumbledore had had difficulty getting to headquarters during the school year with Umbridge watching him like a hawk- it wasn't that he wouldn't have been able to, but remaining discreet was still vital.
Finally, he decided on leaving via broomstick. He still needed a reason, though, to give Umbridge if she interrogated him about it. ...a family emergency would of worked if he had any family. He hesitated, chewing on his lower lip as he mulled over his options, then smirked as he hit gold- Wolfsbane potion. He could say he was delivering some to Lupin. The Ministry knew he was a werewolf, and after all, Wolfsbane potion was so difficult to make it would be very expensive. He could claim he was simply helping a friend out... well, if he had any friends, that would be more plausible, but it wasn't like he had the time to come up with a good excuse. And he could just advise Lupin of what to say in case the Ministry decided to interrogate him about his visit.
Shaking his head, Severus swept out onto the grounds and was headed to the Forbidden Forest, where he could leave without attracting attention and where Umbridge would never go, when his attention was attracted to a dent and rather large crack in the castle wall. He stopped walking for a moment, staring at it, then started practically running to the forest. Those walls were made of thick stone; only an object- aka Minerva- colliding with them at very high speed could of caused them.
Clenching his hand into a fist, Severus headed off into the forest at a quicker pace than before. He waved his wand back at the castle for his broomstick, then shot spells at several trees, breaking them in half with loud snaps while waiting for his broom to show up. Causing things to break and explode had always been an outlet for him, and as he gazed at the smoking remains of his fury, he had to admit, he felt a little more in control than before. At least now he wasn't fighting the urge to go do the same to Umbridge as he had done to these trees anymore.
When his broom arrived, Severus took off immediately, hoping to get to headquarters before Umbridge even realized he was missing.
"This is not good," Sirius observed as he tapped his fingers on the table. "Now every source we have at Hogwarts is gone except for... Snape. And we all know how questionable his loyalties are," he sneered.
"Sirius, come on. Dumbledore trusts him," Molly said as she handed him a cup of tea.
"Yes, and how many times have we been over this? Dumbledore can be wrong. And I'm not the only one who's thought he was wrong about Snape from the beginning. And need I remind you that it was Dumbledore who said that the situation with Umbridge would resolve itself? Well, look how that turned out. One member of the Order is in the hospital and Dumbledore is in hiding. Not to mention-"
"Look, perhaps what happened with Umbridge was part of Dumbledore's plan all along," Arthur said, shaking his head. "You never know, with that man."
Sirius groaned loudly and rolled his eyes. "See, that's what I'm talking about. When someone like Dumbledore makes a mistake, everyone assumes it was part of some brilliant plan of his or something. Well maybe, it was just that- a mistake."
Molly and Arthur just shook their heads, exasperated. They had had discussions on Snape's loyalty many times before, with the Weasley twins usually siding with Siruis and Lupin siding with Molly and Arthur. The other members of the Order were all split so the sides were pretty much even, with those that trusted Dumbledore without fail and those that thought Snape had him wrapped around his little finger.
"Well, regardless on whether or not you trust him, Siruis, we need to talk to Snape. We need someone at Hogwarts, both to give us inside information on what Umbridge is doing and to keep an eye on Harry," Lupin said from his spot in the corner, where he had been watching the entire exchange.
"Oh, yeah, to keep an eye on Harry. I talked to him a couple days ago; he said Snape is giving him hell with the Occlumency lessons and thinks that they're all Snape's idea in the first place, since he's convinced Snape hates him and enjoys making him suffer. Which I say is not far off."
Everybody just sighed at that. Even Sirius had admitted that the Occlumency lessons were necessary, but he wasn't too happy about it. "Look, Sirius," Lupin said. "All I'm saying is that Snape-"
"-doesn't like people discussing him behind his back." Everybody looked up in surprise as Snape swept into the room, dressed in his usual black cloak, pallid and cold as ever.
"Speak of the devil," Sirius muttered under his breath. "Literally."
Snape glared at him, then turned to the others and said, "I just heard what happened at Hogwarts last night. Is Minerva all right?"
Everyone stared at him in surprise before deciding it wasn't concern for the other woman's health, it was just worry over how much more difficult this would make his work for the Order at Hogwarts. Eventually, Molly said, "Yes, she's fine. She'll be at St. Mungo's for a while, but she's a tough cookie."
"Fudge isn't making too much noise about it, considering one his favorites assaulted Dumbledore's right hand," Arthur continued. "Not that he's too big a fan of Dumbledore these days."
Severus nodded, but he wasn't too surprised. In all likelihood, Umbridge had told Fudge a story that glorified herself, the story of her evicting the big, bad half-giant, that the disloyal McGonagall had only been an innocent bystander, that she had just gotten in the way. His suspicions were proven correct when Lupin tossed a copy of The Daily Prophet onto the table. Severus only had to glance at it to see the main story- Ex-teacher or half breed menace? He scanned the page and a bit further down found that, according to the newspaper, Hagrid had gone crazy and nearly killed 'an unnamed Hogwarts teacher' before 'the esteemed High Inquisitor Umbridge' had driven him off the grounds.
Shaking his head, Severus looked up from the paper and said coolly, "I'm not surprised. Umbridge has been tightening her hold on the school ever since Albus left, it was only a matter of time until something like this happened."
Lupin raised an eyebrow, looking at him suspiciously. "You suggesting that Umbridge was trying to take out McGonagall specifically?"
"No. She's most likely aiming for those closely involved with Potter and Dumbledore. It would explain Trelawney's expulsion and that Hagrid was her next target. When she saw Minerva, my best guess is that she decided to take out two birds with one stone."
Everyone nodded grimly at that, knowing that it was likely exactly what had happened. "Which is why I want you to be very careful at Hogwarts now, Severus," said a new voice from the doorway. Everyone turned around to see Dumbledore walking forward, his face drawn and haggard, like he hadn't slept in weeks. "Umbridge most likely knows that you are in my inner circle as well. I wouldn't be surprised if you were her next target."
Severus smirked at the idea of that little pink troll trying to take him on. She had taken Minerva by surprise, plus she had had three Aurors by her side. Severus would have no trouble incapacitating Umbridge with just a flick of his wand, plus the fact that if she tried it anywhere in public and it came to a duel, there was the entire Slytherin House behind him. And unfortunately for Umbridge, both he and Minerva were popular teachers. Well, were there respective houses. Hagrid and Trewlawney wouldn't be missed, but if Umbridge tried to fire him or Minerva, there would be hell to pay.
Dumbledore seemed to know what he was thinking, as he said, "Severus, while we all know that everybody in this room could take Umbridge on in a duel, I don't want things to come to that. Fighting a member of the Ministry as close to Fudge as Umbridge is would create unnecessary problems, ones that would be difficult to resolve. For now, if she tries to fire you, you should just go."
"Albus, we can't afford to lose our source inside Hogwarts- and now, Severus is the only one left to protect Harry, for god's sakes-"
"My dear Molly, Umbridge may be a cruel plot by the Ministry, but she certainly isn't involved with Voldermort. And once Voldermort makes his move for the prophecy, Fudge will find out about his return, and then we can take more drastic measures to keep Harry safe. As he is now, Voldermort will not attack Hogwarts. Surely, within several months, either we will have convinced the Ministry- unlikely- or Voldermort will have struck- very likely. Until then, all we can do is what we've been doing." Everyone nodded solemnly at that, contemplating their choices and trying to figure out what the hell to do to salvage the situation. Dumbledore sighed, then said, "Severus, I want you to continue giving Harry Occlumency lessons. It is vital we keep Voldermort from getting access to Harry's mind."
Severus sighed but nodded, none too happy about the prospect of continuing to teach the worthless Potter boy Occlumency. After several weeks of lessons, he had barely improved. Against the Dark Lord, he would fall apart in a second. "And Severus?" Dumbledore asked, still not done. "Would you mind delivering something to Minerva for me? I wouldn't be surprised if the Ministry is keeping tabs of all owls sent to people they consider to be threats, and she is no doubt one of them."
Severus nodded again, reaching out to take the letter from him. "And if I may add something, Albus," he said on his way to the door, "Umbridge has been taking my stores of Veritaserum to interrogate the students. Fortunately, I ran out before she got to anybody who knows anything about the Order. But when I have made more in a month's time, there is no doubt that she will eventually get to someone who knows information pertinent to the Order. And in the meantime, she has threatened to use the Cruciatus curse against students who refuse to talk. I doubt she has the will behind it to actually pull off the curse, but as I am being forced to tread lightly, I will be unable to stop her if she does torture a student."
The Weasleys looked at each other nervously while Dumbledore frowned and shook his head furiously. "The Cruciatus curse, Severus? You're sure?"
When Severus nodded, both Lupin and Sirius got to their feet as the latter exclaimed, "That's insanity! She can't do that, the woman's crazy!"
"Don't be so quick to make that assessment, Black," Severus said coldly. "Granted, she has seemed more than slightly off ever since I first saw her, but I doubt that means she won't eventually manage to use the Cruciatus curse on someone. And I would bet her first target would be Potter. He does, after all, know the most information."
Dumbledore sighed and looked away, running his finger along the cool edge of the table. "Severus, if she uses it on anybody that knows about the Order, you must stop her. In this case, the ends justify the means."
Rolling his eyes, Severus buttoned up his cloak and turned to leave. "What do you take me for, Albus? I'm been diluting the Veritaserum I give her when she interrogates anybody important so all it does is sting a bit when swallowed."
"What about Ron, Ginny, Fred and George?" Molly broke in anxiously. "That vile witch hasn't used the curse on any of them, has she?"
Severus shook his head with disdain. "No. Just Veritaserum, which I had already rendered useless. You're welcome. Now, is there anything else?" he asked in exasperation, already eager to be on his way.
When they all shook their heads, he turned to leave, bearing the letter to Minerva in one hand and his wand in the other.
"Severus?" Minerva asked in shock from her bed by the window when he entered the room. "What on earth are you doing here?"
"Delivering this," he said simply, holding out the letter. He couldn't say who it was from in case someone was listening, but the letter probably had enough hidden messages in it to alert Minerva to the sender. "I'm also bringing well wishes from your friends. They said, and I quote, 'Tell her we hope she's feeling better.' Since I was apparently elected to be the messenger, they sent me."
"Yes, because we all know what a wonderful bedside manner you have," she said with a smirk. She propped herself up on her elbows with a wince as she tore open the letter and scanned it quickly. Severus hung back, unsure if he was supposed to stay or just follow his instincts and get the hell out of here.
When Minerva stifled a yawn before refolding the letter, he grabbed the opportunity and said quickly, "I should probably just go. You look tired."
"And so do you," she said stiffly, her steady gaze never leaving his own.
"How is that different from always?"
Minerva chuckled softly and rolled her eyes. "It's not... well, you should get back to Hogwarts. The students need someone there loyal to Dumbledore."
He nodded quickly, eager to get out of the awkward situation. "Don't worry, the school won't shrivel up and die in your absence. In fact, I have a suspicion that those ridiculous Weasley twins are planning something horrible for Umbridge during exams. Something to do with turning a floor into a swamp before flying off on their broomsticks. Good riddance."
Minerva chuckled again, shaking her head. "I'm not surprised. Honestly, I'm surprised they haven't already done it... go on, Severus. I can see you want to leave. You shouldn't miss the Weasley's twins latest fiasco."
He scoffed, shaking his head. "I'd rather not be there for that... you know, I could stay, if you want. It's not a big deal."
Minerva raised an eyebrow skeptically, then said, "Everything is a big deal to you, Severus. And thank you for the offer, but you're needed at Hogwarts right now. Go on, get back there."
Finally, Severus nodded and headed towards the door. When he was almost outside, Minerva called, "Oh, and Severus?" He turned around, a questioning look in his eye, and she said, "And, when the time comes, kick Umbridge's ass for me, would you?"
He smirked and nodded again. "Of course."