Thankfully, by the time they'd received the owl, everyone had gone back to their dorms. The lazy Saturday practically begged to be filled with naps and lounging as there was no way any of the Quidditch teams were going to practice in the deluge. So, for the couple walking at a slow and steady pace down the long corridors and up the tiring stairs of Hogwarts, there were no interruptions. The pounding rain echoed off of the walls, giving the walk an eerie feel to it. Shadows and flame flickered about the stone, and Lily shifted closer as they made their way towards their destination. Severus noticed that Lily's breathing had been a bit more labored as they finally reached the stairs to the Headmaster's quarters. She smiled reassuringly up at him as he turned and waited, taking her small hand in his as he began to help her up the stairs.
"So… many… bloody… stairs…" She panted. Her palm rested protectively over her slight baby bump. Severus nodded sympathetically, his hand moving to the small of her back in order to help support her.
"Sorry, Lils. Feet hurt?"
She nodded and looked up at him with a grimace. "Apparently, my mother had the most overactive pregnancy symptoms that ever were. I feel sorry for you when the mood swings set in."
He grimaced as if he was scared and she giggled at his expression. "I think if I've put up with you for this long, I can handle anything." She tried to look appalled, her eyes wide and mouth gaping, but ended up laughing instead, the action causing her to gasp for breath. Severus stopped their ascent to allow her to catch her breath and she leaned against him slightly. He rubbed her back gently and smiled at her as he whispered, "I'll give you a nice foot rub when we get back to my room. Sounds good, yeah?" He leaned over and kissed her cheek and he felt her smile.
"Yeah… That sounds perfect."
"Mmm…" he mumbled against her head. "Ready to see why climbing all these bloody stairs is so necessary?" She nodded and he coaxed her to resume walking again, albeit at a slower pace than before. He didn't want to tire her further. As they reached the Headmaster's office, Severus was surprised to see the door open and Dumbledore seated at his desk as if waiting for them. His old wrinkled hands were folded on the desk and he smiled the sort of smile that made Severus sick with worry. He could sense immediately that the Headmaster wanted something desperately.
"Lily. Severus." The frightening smile grew. "Thank you for coming."
"What's this about?" Severus demanded and he felt Lily elbow him in the ribs. He didn't care if he was being rude. Something about this just didn't seem right. But Dumbledore simply chuckled and raised an eyebrow.
"What makes you think something's wrong?" Severus' hold on Lily tightened but he didn't answer. Dumbledore didn't seem the slightest worried about hurrying the process along, however and he leaned backwards in his chair, gesturing towards the large leather seats.
"Have a seat. I'm sure Ms. Evans would like a rest after that considerable climb." He turned to Lily and she smiled back at him kindly. "I do apologize."
"No, that's quite alright, Sir." She replied in her polite tone, her arms wrapped protectively around her belly as she sat with little difficulty. Severus chose the black leather seat beside her and stared hard at Dumbledore.
What's he after…?
For a long uncomfortable time, Dumbledore did not speak. He shifted papers around as his scraggly Phoenix squawked weakly at them. Severus wondered if maybe the old man had finally gone mad. He reached across the small space between his chair and Lily's and took her hand gently. Finally, Dumbledore looked up.
"Severus, I understand you recently have stopped allowing yourself into the company of your old Slytherin dorm mates. Why?"
Severus looked stunned. This was not what he had been expecting at all. Of course, he didn't know what quite he did expect. Certainly not questions of his social life. Lily threw him a nervous glance, but he hardly noticed.
"I-… I've been caring for Lily. Why?" It wasn't a complete lie…
Dumbledore took in a large breath and let it out very slowly, his gaze focused steadily on Severus. He leaned a little closer across his desk and seemed a bit hesitant to go on.
"I know of their reputation, Severus. I know of their training." Severus' eyes widened and he dropped Lily's hand a moment. He didn't want her to feel him tremble.
"Sir, I do not wish to endanger my baby nor Lily by being near them or participating in their… activities…" He answered quite softly, wringing his hands.
"Sev…" he heard Lily whisper in concern and he looked up. She gave him a gentle look and smiled softly, and he turned back to Dumbledore.
"Severus, I need a favor." The Headmaster spoke very quietly, almost as if he felt shame for what he was about to ask. Severus' stomach clenched. There was no way this was going to be good.
"Severus, I need a very special person. This person could change the war, could end it. This person could keep thousands of needless murders from happening." Severus said nothing, and Dumbledore continued, "I need a spy, Severus."
Severus swallowed, whispering. "So?"
"I want you to be my spy."
Lily flinched. Severus couldn't move, he couldn't speak. He could feel his body slowly filling with a blind fury. How could Dumbledore ask for something so large?! How could he ask for Severus to put Lily and his child into such mortal danger!? All for a stupid war?! Quite frankly, Severus didn't give a rat's arse for the war as long as Lily and the baby was safe!
"No, absolutely not!" He said firmly, standing and glaring over his nose at Dumbledore. "My family would be in considerable danger! I would be in danger!"
"I know the risks are great, but-…"
"But nothing! My answer is no!" Lily stood as well and took his hand, squeezing it gently. He looked over at her, his eyes and muscles relaxing a little. Dumbledore raised an eyebrow.
"I can offer my personal protection over Lily and the child as well as a wage for your services. It will be more than enough to care for your family." Severus tensed and stared at Dumbledore. He didn't know what to say. That was all he wanted. This would be a way to care for Lily, to protect her. He swallowed thickly and looked at Lily. He was surprised to see the tears in her eyes and she shook her head very slightly.
Of course Lily didn't want him to do it. He didn't want to do it. But the prospect of being able to both physically and financially care for Lily and the baby was beyond tempting. He knew it would be dangerous. He'd have to restart his attendance to those horrible meetings. He'd have to be Marked, and Crucio'd. He may have to rape, to torture, to kill. He hated those things. What would Lily think of him when he came home at night and told her of all the things they made him do? He had horrible secrets already and he wasn't even a member! But, still... Providing for her and protecting them both is a valuable wage. He didn't know. He couldn't make a decision right now. He needed to talk to Lily first.
"You can ensure their complete safety?" Severus whispered quietly, his head bowed so that he didn't have to look Lily in the eyes. He knew this was upsetting her.
"Yes." Dumbledore replied firmly, smiling slightly as if he was already expecting an agreement.
Severus looked over at Lily. He saw the tears in her eyes and he watched her bottom lip tremble. He could see how protectively she held her belly, their little ball of life twitching about somewhere safe and warm inside her. He squeezed her small cool hand and drew her closer. As she wrapped her arms around him and buried her face into his chest he kissed the top of her head and looked up at Dumbledore.
"I'll think about it." Lily shivered and tightened her grip on him. Dumbledore looked happy and nodded.
"That's all I ask."
OOH... Will he do it?
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