The following was originally intended to be a "Book Seven" in the series A Difference in the Family: The Snape Chronicles. It was written in June and July of 2006, while JKR was still writing Deathly Hallows, and it is now an Alternate Universe story. As none of the information in Deathly Hallows was yet available, there is a large amount of information from that book that the reader will have to discard.
While it is recommended that the story A Difference in the Family: The Snape Chronicles be read first in order to understand all the references, that is not essential. Background on the relationship of Snape and Yaxley is available in chapters 55-58 (Too Much for Granted) of that story. This story picks up right at the end of chapter 58 as Snape, fleeing Hogwarts after casting the Killing Curse on Dumbledore, is dueling Harry Potter. He is trying to get Draco to a safe house in Oxford, where he can remove the boy's dark mark, and then to spirit Draco and his mother out of England.
In the original, pre-DH versions of A Difference in the Family and Too Much for Granted, Regulus Black was apprehended and killed by Voldemort for his theft of the locket horcrux, Voldemort was aware of Dumbledore's destruction of the ring horcrux and planned a trap for him, Dumbledore was exploring occult symbolism for a clue to the remaining horcruxes, none of which were Nagini… quite a large number of details were different. The reader is asked to accept these differences and let the story flow without any nods at all to the canon of Deathly Hallows. My original readers will recall that it was never meant to conform to canon in the first place. Have fun.
Bottle Fame and Brew Glory: The Prisoner
"Kill me, then. Kill me like you killed him, you coward..."
His once safe world shattered, his only refuge destroyed, torment and death waiting beyond the gate, Snape cracked. "Don't call me coward!" he screamed, and lashed out at Potter in fury.
What might have happened then he would never know, for Hagrid's hippogriff swooped down in Potter's defense, slashing at Snape's face and arm. Breaking away, Snape ran for the gate, grabbed Draco, and disapparated, heading for Oxford.
They apparated into the shielded apartment, where Malfoy immediately wrenched himself free from Snape's grasp. "Let go of me!" he shouted at Snape. "Get your hands off me! You killed him! He was going to help me! You murdered him!"
Snape glanced around the room, wondering where Yaxley was, then faced Malfoy. "Don't be silly. There were four Death Eaters…"
"Five! And the fifth one killed him!"
"Draco, calm yourself. I thought you wanted him dead."
"He was going to help me… help my mother… help us get out!"
"He couldn't help anyone. Not there. You'd have died, too."
Malfoy made a sudden move to the door, but Snape blocked him. Here was a whole new problem, for Snape hadn't thought that Malfoy might want to escape. The boy was thin, but at least as tall as he was. With a silent command, Snape took Malfoy's wand away.
"Give me my wand! You can't keep me here. I've got to go to the Dark Lord and tell him…"
"He wants you dead. You know that. You and your whole family. You go back and he'll kill you."
"That's a lie!"
"He wanted you to die killing Dumbledore. Two at a blow. He told me."
"He'll kill my mother!"
"Not if we move fast. I have to take that mark off your arm. Otherwise he'll strike you through it."
"Traitor! You betrayed Dumbledore! You betray the Dark Lord! You'll betray me! Is there anyone you won't betray?" Malfoy stared suddenly at his left arm, then looked up at Snape in horror. "He's calling. Let me go!"
Snape felt the burning, too, but ignored it. "You can't go, Draco. He'll kill you. Let me take…"
Malfoy lunged at him, shoving Snape against the table and diving for the door. The shield was calibrated to Malfoy's DNA and wouldn't hold him. Snape whipped out his wand and stunned the boy, catching him as he fell and easing him to the floor. The burning in his arm was intensifying, and he had no time to lose. Where was Yaxley?
Quickly Snape moved Malfoy into the next room and onto a bed. There he pushed the sleeve of his robes away from the forearm and paused at what he saw. Malfoy bore no dark mark. The brand on his arm was tiny and round, less than an inch in diameter. Death Eater junior grade. Maybe the Dark Lord felt you unworthy of the full mark. It makes my job easier.
Sweat beaded Snape's brow, and he was having trouble focusing. Seizing a bottle of alcohol and the small knife kit, he extracted a scalpel and knelt close to Malfoy's arm, swabbing both it and the knife with the alcohol to disinfect them. Then, his own hands beginning to shake, he cut a circle around the Dark Lord's mark and smoothly sliced the skin away from the flesh. It came off clean. The mark was on the surface only; it didn't extend into the arm. A quick healing spell staunched the flow of blood, and it was done. Malfoy was safe.
Snape was not safe. The fire in his arm spiked and flared with stunning intensity, and all Snape could think was He knows. The Dark Lord knows I just removed Malfoy's mark. He struggled to his feet and staggered back into the first room, clutching the knife kit, trying desperately to concentrate. Open the window. Light the charcoal. Put the iron in the fire… Spells accomplished each step, but it was already too late.
Flame shot through Snape's left shoulder and across his chest, spreading into his whole body, and he dropped the kit, sending scalpels scattering across the floor. The pain was blinding, all-encompassing. Dropping to his knees, Snape groped for the scalpels, found one, and began madly slashing at the dark mark through the sleeve of his robe. Blood welled through the fabric, but vision blurred, and Snape could no longer see what he was doing.
He was on fire, twisting and writhing on the floor in agony, consumed by the fury of the Dark Lord's wrath, locked into his punishment until the Dark Lord should tire of the sport and allow him to die.
Into his torment there intruded the soft presence of gray mist. Soothing dewdrops coalesced in a corner of Snape's mind and nudged him with cooling persistence. Like sea fog it damped the fire that ate at Snape's brain, and he was able to open his eyes and look at it – a shimmering silver shadow that nudged him again and spoke inside his mind.
"If you need me, boyo, tell me where you are, and I'll come get you."
The gruff voice cleared Snape's thoughts for a second, just a second, and in that second he launched a tiny, feeble, gray fox southeast toward London, then fell back into the fire and was lost.
He drifted in clouds of fire and smoke, time and place unknown, for as long as eternity lasted. Pain and thirst fringed all the world, and he would have struggled to escape from it if he'd had any strength at all. Having none, he existed, and the pain worked its will on him in the timeless infinity of fire…
Once, and once only, he surfaced into cool air, where Yaxley beamed down on him and chided him with laziness – "Are you going to sleep forever" – before he sank again into the lake of fire and let it carry him where it willed…
Then pain was gone, and he floated in gossamer, wrapped in cotton batting, without sight, or hearing, or touch…
He opened his eyes to a blurred and unknowable world, shapes in light and darkness flitting around him as he rocked his head from side to side. A voice he knew, a woman's voice, asked "Have you come back to us?" then drifted away to say again from a great distance through a funnel, "Alastor, I think…" but the cotton wrapped him and carried him away from the light and the sound…
Severus woke to an unfamiliar room bathed in the clear light of morning. He tried to move, only to find that his left arm weighted him down like a dead thing pulling at his side, and he moaned with the pain that movement cost him.
A figure intruded on the edge of vision, and Severus turned his head to the right to look at it. It was Remus. Severus blinked a few times, trying to remember why Remus would be sitting next to him, then gave it up as costing too much effort.
"How are you feeling?"
Not sure the question was addressed to him, and not feeling anything anyway except for the weight on his arm, Severus didn't answer. He was tired, so tired… And thirsty.
Remus seemed to understand, for he slipped an arm under Severus's shoulders and helped him to a semi-seated position, then held a cup to his mouth. Severus drank the water gratefully until the cup was taken away with the admonition, "We don't want to make you sick."
Then Remus left, to speak from the doorway a hundred miles away, "Alastor, I think he's awake now."
A great bulk positioned itself at Severus's side, and a gruff voice, like cool water in the desert, asked, "What's your name? Do you remember your name?"
Severus stared up into the great blue eye. "Russ," he answered.
"That doesn't sound good. Look at me now. Do you know who I am?"
Trying to focus, Severus responded, "You… selling vacations… to Azkaban."
"Ha! excellent. Now, what's your name?"
"Russ. Russ Snape."
"Interesting. Is Russ short for anything?"
"Yes… Severus. Severus…"
"Did you know?"
"No," answered Remus. "I had no idea."
Severus was drifting now, falling back through the cotton batting into the sightless, soundless world.
"Let him sleep," Moody said as Severus drifted off. "He's had a bad few weeks. At least he looks like he's really sleeping – not the coma he was in."
"I'll call you if there's a change," Remus replied, and then Severus heard no more of the conversation.
Over the next few days, Severus's periods of wakefulness lengthened, and they began to feed him broth, juice, and then purees and soft soups to get his stomach used to food again. Moody and Remus were there all the time, it seemed, and sometimes Tonks. There were others who stayed outside the room, though Moody assured Severus that they'd meet as soon as he was strong enough.
No one questioned him, which was lucky because at first Severus had trouble remembering. The past was like a great, dark ocean. Certain small, light things flitted through the surface waters where the sun glinted, but down in the depths there lurked a dreaded monster.
When the first questions came, they were Severus's questions. "What happened to my arm?"
"You came close to cutting it off. There was so much blood I thought at first you severed an artery and we were too late. It's one of the reasons you've been 'out of touch' for a while, but it gave us the clue what to do to save you. You'd been trying to get rid of the mark. We finished the job and broke the connection. Watch." Moody paused for effect, then pronounced with a theatrical flourish the name 'Voldemort.'
Severus stared up at him, uncomprehending, then realization dawned. "It didn't hurt."
"See, he's gone. At least from you."
Memory returned of the apartment in Oxford and what had happened there. "Where's Draco? Is he all right?"
"He's fine. You did a neat job on his arm, especially seeing as you were probably under attack by that time yourself."
"I think he… Vol… you know… felt it when I cut off Draco's mark. That's when it got really bad. What about Nar… Draco's mother."
"Safe, too. We got a team into Wiltshire right away. Got her out before Voldemort thought of it. It wasn't easy. Seems the lady didn't want to go. Bit of a wildcat when she's upset. She calmed down when she saw Draco and knew he was safe."
Other questions began to surface. "How did you get in? The rooms were shielded."
Moody grinned. "Got a surprise for you." He stood and went to the door of the bedroom. "Nigel, I think he's ready to see you now."
Moody stood aside, and Yaxley walked into the room.
Comprehension again took a moment. "What are you doing here?"
Yaxley tilted his head toward Moody. "I work for him. Why do you think Cardiff never did anything important?"
"I didn't know."
"Neither did I. About you, I mean. I knew there was something special about you, and that I was supposed to help you with things like the shields, but Alastor never told me everything. What you don't know, you can't tell."
Severus looked at Yaxley's arm and then at the massive bandages that swathed his own. "Do you…?"
"Still have mine? Yeah, I do. Officially I'm a prisoner. That's what the Dark Lord thinks." He nodded at Moody. "If they need me to go back, I can 'escape.'"
"Then you… didn't…"
In the sunless depths of memory, the monster stirred. A nameless fear woke in Severus's chest, and he looked around the room in panic. Moody glanced over at Remus, who took something off a side table.
"You were… there… fighting… the stairs… there was a shield…" Severus tried to sit up, to get out of the bed, and Moody moved quickly to restrain him, nodding to Remus as he did so. Then Severus was on a dark spiral staircase, struggling to climb as unseen hands held him back. He didn't know what was at the top of the stairs, just that someone was calling him. He fought against the hands that blocked his movement. "Help him… I have to help him! I have to get to him! He's up there! He needs me!"
The needle slid painlessly into his right arm, and then the staircase faded as Severus once again slipped into the cotton batting and slept peacefully.
Two days later, Moody, Yaxley, and Remus gathered in the bedroom. Severus was sitting up at last and feeling quite a bit stronger. It did not help, however, to see that Remus was carrying a hypodermic needle.
"What's that?" Severus asked Remus.
"We can't take you to St. Mungo's or bring Pomfrey here, so we've had to resort to a little muggle technology. It's a needle."
"I know that. What's in it."
"Tranquilizer," said Moody. "You get kind of funny when certain topics come up, and we need to talk about them."
"I don't want you sticking drugs in me."
"We've tried talking, and you keep getting hysterical. What's the matter? Don't you trust me? Relax now, boyo, I don't want to have to tie you down."
With the choice put to him like that, Severus had little option but to agree. It was obvious from the way Remus handled the needle that he'd already done this several times. After a few minutes, Severus began to feel very calm and relaxed.
Moody looked over at Yaxley and nodded.
"I'm going to talk about the Astronomy Tower," Yaxley said. "Not a lot, but about what concerns you. We were up there with Dumbledore when you came bursting up the stairs – it's okay, they already know most of the story; we don't have to go into a lot of detail. Anyway, you pushed Draco aside so you could look at Dumbledore. I figured the two of you were communicating something. It lasted for several seconds, then Dumbledore looked straight at me and said, 'Severus, please.' I figured he was trying to let me know that he asked you to do something."
Moody was watching Severus closely. "We'd like you to tell us what that something was."
Severus had to think for a moment. The memory seemed dim and long ago, but the monster was sleeping, and the effort brought no panic. "He wanted me to throw him off the tower. He said he'd do the rest, just get him off the tower."
"You didn't use a killing curse?"
"I said the words, but they were just empty words. It was really a Levicorpus."
"That explains it!" Moody slapped his leg and laughed. "We were wondering why he went up in the air. A killing curse doesn't do that. So he wanted to go off the tower."
"Yes, he didn't want them to be able to check his body. He said if the Death Eaters thought I was with them, I could get them to leave the school before anyone else was hurt."
"And you did. You did just that. Did he tell you anything else?"
"He said it was a trap, and he gave me a memory to analyze."
The room was very still. "What was a trap?" Moody prompted.
"Where he went with Potter that evening. The Dark Lord set a trap. Potter knows – you can ask him."
"Harry isn't talking to anyone about what happened that evening. He won't say anything about what they were doing, and he refuses to give or accept any help. He's cut us off completely. Looks like we may not need him as much as we thought, though. What was in that memory?"
"I don't know. I haven't looked at it. Dumbledore can tell you."
Stillness filled the room again. In the embarrassed silence the other three glanced at each other.
"Well about that," Remus said finally. "We're not sure what happened to Dumbledore. His body was found at the foot of the tower, and Hagrid took charge of it. There was a funeral, and we thought the body was enclosed in a tomb, but no one actually saw the body at the funeral. Hagrid was crying and wailing, and refusing to talk to anyone but his brother. Now the two of them have disappeared, and we've been wondering if maybe Hagrid was acting…"
"His body was found?"
"Yes, but it didn't look like he fell from the tower. They say he looked more asleep. No one got close to the body after that because Hagrid was too… possessive."
Now Moody took up the response. "Vanished. With his brother. We don't know where."
It was all very puzzling to Severus because he was drowsy and couldn't make all the pieces of information fit together. "Dumbledore knows. He said he'd take care of it. Is Hagrid really gone?"
Moody patted his good arm. "You just go to sleep now, boyo. We're going to discuss this among ourselves, and when you wake up maybe we'll have some answers for you."
Remus helped Severus lie down again, and he was soon sleeping quietly.
The next day at noon they came to help Severus get dressed. "Meeting," was all Moody said, which made Severus think of it more as an interrogation. They considered it inappropriate for him to wear Hogwarts robes, so instead he dressed in the Victorian style that suited him well, his increased thinness from being ill accentuated by the cut of frock coat and trousers. The one problem was getting the sleeves of shirt and coat over the bandages on his left arm, but a little magic took care of that. In addition, he wore a sling that held the arm close to his body.
After he was dressed, they let him rest awhile in a chair. Then, around one o'clock, Remus came to tell Severus it was time to attend the meeting. "Don't worry. Most of them are people you know."
Severus did indeed know Remus, Moody, Arthur and Molly Weasley, Shacklebolt, Doge, Yaxley, and Tonks. He was introduced to Diggle, Podmore, and Jones, and to Vance, his eyes widening as she nodded to him rather coldly from across the room. None of them seemed particularly friendly. Twelve. As he sat in one of the armchairs, Severus felt even more that this would be some kind of interrogation.
"How come he's wearing that thing?" snapped Doge, with the preemptiveness permitted to old age. "What's wrong with his arm?"
"That," answered Moody, "is not a bad place to begin. Professor Snape's arm is bandaged and in a sling because we removed the dark mark."
"It was being used to punish and eventually kill him. When we got to him a few minutes after it started, his body temperature was near one hundred five degrees Fahrenheit, and his skin was covered with boils and blisters. He himself had already attempted to cut the mark away, and he'd lost a lot of blood. We finished what he started. As soon as the mark was gone, the symptoms became treatable. Would you like to see it?"
Remus and Tonks rose together and came to stand by Severus. "He hasn't seen it yet." Remus said. "This is going to be a shock," while Tonks crouched by the chair arm and murmured, "You don't have to look."
Severus turned his head away as they unwrapped the bandages, but Molly Weasley's cry and Jones's gasp drew his eyes like a magnet, and though he averted his gaze a second later, he was left with the image of a skeletal arm, stripped of much of its flesh and crusted over with a huge bubbly scab. Moody quickly replaced the bandages, and Tonks helped Severus to a drink of water.
After a few minutes, Diggle asked, "Why did You-Know-Who want to kill you."
Moody nodded to Severus, and after a moment he replied, "The Dark Lord had given a task to Draco Malfoy. It was intended that Draco would die during the completion of this task, which would be a punishment for transgressions committed by his father. I defied the Dark Lord's will by accomplishing the task myself and thwarting his punishment."
"What was the task?"
"Killing Professor Dumbledore."
"Then you admit to killing Dumbledore?"
"I don't know. I admit to pretending to kill Dumbledore and to throwing him off the Astronomy Tower, but I'm not sure if that killed him."
Doge snorted in disgust. "I'd be willing to bet if we threw you off a three-hundred-foot tower it would kill you."
"Calm down, Elphias," said Moody soothingly. "That isn't really the point. The point is, why did he do it if he knew it would turn everyone against him. I mean, if it would gain him favor with Voldemort, I could see it. But it made Voldemort want to kill him, so why do it?"
The logic made some sense. "Did you know You-Know-Who would be angry?" Doge asked.
"Yes. He'd told me so some weeks earlier."
"Then why did you do it."
"I was following orders."
Severus sighed. "Dumbledore's," he answered.
Questions sprang at Snape from different points of the room, at which Tonks rose up in anger. "This is only the first time he's been out of bed since we brought him here! Back off!" Amazingly, they did.
"We are in a position to answer these questions," Moody said. "We have here two witnesses. One of these is Nigel Yaxley, who's been working for me inside Voldemort's organization – sorry about that Nigel; I'll have to remember to be careful – and who was on top of the tower that night. The other, if he'll agree, is Professor Snape." At that point, Moody walked over to a small side table and took an object out of a box. It was a pensieve.
Yaxley spoke first. "Snape and I started working together in the… organization because we were united against Bellatrix Lestrange. When I told Alastor about it, he said I should support Snape because there were reasons. He didn't tell me what they were. A couple of months ago, Snape started planning something strange. He wanted a safe house that no one else in the organization knew about, shielded against everyone except us and Draco Malfoy, and he stocked it with some strange equipment. Now I realize it was knives and things to cut or burn out the dark mark, but at the time it was a mystery. Moody said go along.
"Then Draco fixed that cabinet thing, and came through to Knockturn Alley looking for backup. They contacted our headquarters. Snape wasn't there, so I went along to cover his back. It got nasty when we showed up at Hogwarts because there was fighting. Gibbon – he's dead now – put a dark mark over the Astronomy Tower, and Draco cut up there to meet Dumbledore. After a bit, Greyback and the Carrows joined him. I followed and blocked the stairs so only Snape could follow us. Didn't want to be too outnumbered.
"Dumbledore was there, and he was sick. I figured right away he knew who I was because he tried not to look at me. Greyback and the Carrows started arguing about killing him, so I told them to wait and let Draco do it. I was hoping Snape would get there, and he did.
"Then the weird thing happened. Snape showed up and right away he got into eye contact with Dumbledore. It lasted just a few seconds, but then all of a sudden Dumbledore's looking right at me, and he's saying out loud, 'Severus… please.' I didn't know why he'd tell me that except to warn me that he'd told Snape to do something. Which is what happened. Snape says the killing curse, but instead of just killing Dumbledore, it lifts him up and drops him over the wall.
"Then Snape's telling us all to get off the tower and out of the castle. Greyback didn't want to leave because he was looking forward to getting at all those children, but Snape made him go. I was following them when I got hit by a Body Bind spell from behind. It's the first time I realized the Potter kid was on the tower, too. Lucky for me Tonks found me first, or I'd 've been in Azkaban by now."
When Yaxley finished there was silence. Moody looked around at Severus, who was feeling suddenly disoriented and looked it, then started barking orders. "I'm calling a recess! Lupin, Tonks, get him back into bed! The rest of you can talk about this among yourselves, but he's going to rest for at least an hour. Back off, Doge. I'm not losing my prize witness because you don't want to wait a little bit!"
Remus and Tonks got Severus back into the other room and lying down. The door closed, and for a blessed hour and a half there was quiet and repose. Severus began to feel stronger again, at which point Moody reconvened the meeting.
"Do you consent," Moody asked formally, "to having your memories exhibited to this tribunal as evidence that may be used against you?"
Severus forced himself to think of Dumbledore on the Astronomy Tower, and a wand was placed next to his temple to extract the memory, which was placed in the pensieve. In externals, it matched Yaxley's testimony exactly. Then there was the matter of the mental communication, which manifested itself in a gravely voice-over that was difficult to follow.
Do not speak. Listen. It was a trap. Take this memory. Analyze it later. Now get them out of the school. They will follow if they think you are with them. Appear to kill me. Throw me from the tower so they cannot examine my body. I shall do the rest.
No! That will kill you!
You swore. Obey me. Fenrir intends to attack the students. I want no more deaths. Throw me from the tower and get them out now! Protect Draco.
Do not worry. I shall do the rest.
At that point, Snape backed away, pointed his wand, and said, "Avada Kedavra." The pensieve memory also clearly preserved the unspoken but now vaguely audible spell Levicorpus.
When it was over, the room was silent.
"What's that thing?" Molly Weasley asked suddenly, pointing at Remus.
Arrested in mid action, Remus deliberately finished what he'd been doing, straightened up and showed her the hypodermic needle. "It's a medicine we got from Madam Pomfrey – to keep him calm."
Tonks chimed in. "He gets a little 'excited' when the tower comes up."
"And he should," said Doge emphatically. "He has a lot to answer for."
"The rest of you need to remember something," said Moody. "We've all been living with this for four weeks. Professor Snape's been in a coma part of the time and delirious the rest of the time for almost all of last month. This is still new for him. We talked about it with him for the first time on Saturday, and he had to be sedated. Yesterday we discussed it again with the tranquilizer, and it went rather well. All things considered, I'm very pleased with the progress we're making. Arthur, put that down."
Weasley was intently examining the needle, but set it back on the table as requested. "I'm interested in the other memory," he said calmly.
"What are you talking about?" piped up Diggle.
"The memory Albus gave him. Isn't that what he said? 'Take this memory. Analyze it later.' I'd like to know what was so important that it had to be passed on at a moment like that."
"Good for you, Arthur," Moody said. "We have to remember this isn't a trial. We're here for information. Professor Snape mentioned a memory yesterday. Said Dumbledore walked into a trap that night, before he returned to Hogwarts. Harry won't tell us anything, but here's a brand new source of information. I say we use it."
There was general agreement, so Moody pulled a chair in front of Severus and sat facing him. The tranquilizer had taken full effect by now, and Severus was quite relaxed and finding it hard to concentrate. "What day is it?" he asked, curious about the whole talk of days and months.
"Tuesday, July first. Now, we want you to tell us about that memory Albus gave you."
"Don't know," Severus replied with a lazy wave of his hand.
"Haven't looked at it. I'm not sure where it is." He felt like he was a bit tipsy.
"Would you let me look for it?"
Severus thought about this for a moment. "Walk around in my brain?"
"Something like that. It isn't your memory anyway. You might be better off if we got it out of there."
Severus thought some more, but the logic seemed sound. "Okay," he said cheerfully. "Don't mess around in there too much."
The process was easy. With most of his inhibitions suppressed by the drug, Severus allowed Moody to make eye contact, then talk up the memory of the tower and the vision Dumbledore had planted in his mind. Then Moody announced, "Got it," and Remus touched Severus's temple with his wand and extracted the silver tendril of thought.
"I'm going to have to see Pomfrey about getting a lot more of that stuff," said Moody when they were through.
The group gathered around the pensieve and watched, first in fascination as the tiny boat sailed to the island in the middle of a lake of Inferi, then in horror as Dumbledore drank the glowing green potion in the basin and cried out in pain and fear. Fire drove away attacking Inferi, and a locket at the bottom of the basin was retrieved. When the memory had wound its way to the end, the room was wrapped in silence once more. Everyone was staring at the pensieve.
Everyone but Moody. Moody was watching Severus and Yaxley, for as Dumbledore cried out and pleaded, "Make it stop, I know I did wrong," both had sat up and leaned forward with identical looks of horrified recognition.
"Remus," Moody ordered, "take Professor Snape into the other room and make him comfortable. We're going to come in and speak to him in a few minutes, but I want to talk to Yaxley first. It would be better if neither influences what the other has to say before we have a chance to listen to both."
So Severus was led back into the bedroom to lie down while Moody began to unravel the mystery of why the two Death Eaters in the room were the only ones to grasp the full import of the images they'd just seen.
About half an hour later, Moody came into the bedroom with Shacklebolt and Arthur Weasley. Remus was already there, as was Tonks. Severus had lain down and was drifting on the edge of sleep, but they made him get up and sit in the chair and themselves brought other chairs from the front room. Weasley also brought a cup of coffee for Severus.
"Just a few questions, Professor," Moody started, then asked, "May I call you Severus?"
"I don't have to call you Alastor, do I?" Severus's eyelids were heavy, and he wanted to lie down again.
"No, you don't." Moody glanced toward Remus. "How much of that medicine did you give him? He seems a lot foggier than yesterday."
"I did increase it. I was afraid with all the talk about the tower…"
"We'd better remember not to tamper with the dose. Severus… Professor… Do you remember what we were talking about in the other room?"
"The Astronomy Tower. And things in the pensieve."
"Good. And then we watched Professor Dumbledore drink that green liquid, and then he started talking."
"He didn't want to… He asked them to stop…" Suddenly Severus's eyes opened wide, and he looked around him in fear, his system fighting the tranquilizer in the face of remembered peril.
"What was it? What did you see?" Moody pressed him.
"Not see. I didn't see anything. Heard. I heard it before."
"What did you hear?"
"What he was saying. I heard it before. We all heard it. We all had to watch."
"Who made you watch?"
"The Dark Lord."
"What did you watch?" Moody and the others were leaning forward, hoping to hear from Severus what they'd already heard from Yaxley. Only Remus and Tonks were listening for the first time.
"Regulus. He was executed that day. Punished and executed, and we were all called in to watch. He was talking. That was Regulus."
"It was Dumbledore. We watched it in the pensieve."
Severus began to shake his head, quickly and emphatically. "No. No. It was Regulus. I heard it before – I remember. It was his fault, he did wrong – he didn't want the Dark Lord to hurt his friends or family…"
"It's all right, Severus. It was a long time ago, and it's over. No more questions." Moody leaned back and looked at the others as Remus and Tonks helped Severus back onto the bed. "That's it. The same reaction, the same memory from both of them. This has something to do with Regulus Black."
"But what?" Shacklebolt asked. "Black's been dead for over sixteen years."
"Dumbledore thought Snape might know. He told him to analyze it. We need him to get his strength back as fast as possible. Should we risk bringing Pomfrey in on this?"
Remus looked over at Moody. "You may find she knows a lot more than you think she does."
The voices were fading now as Severus drifted off into sleep. The last thing he heard was Moody saying, "Nobody mention any of this to anyone. Not friends, not family. Until we learn more about what's going on, this is top secret."
Snape woke up again around midnight, alert and clear-headed. The room was familiar, and he knew he'd been sick for some time. He looked to his right, where neither Lupin nor Tonks was now sitting, but Madam Pomfrey.
"Good to see you, Professor," she said briskly. "How are you feeling?"
"Weak, but better. Where are we now? Where have you been?"
"Hogwarts. There's been a bit of an uproar, a lot of which is apparently your fault. Alastor Moody has been keeping you – I believe the phrase is 'on ice.' Given the condition you were in when he found you, I suppose he's done a reasonably competent job, but I wish I'd been called in earlier."
"I need to get out of here."
"No, you don't. Not only is this right now probably the safest place for you, you'll find that the shielding won't let you out. I don't completely understand it, but Moody said you would. Something to do with DNA."
"So this is a jail," Snape said sarcastically.
Pomfrey was not intimidated. "I suppose it is. And you can consider yourself a prisoner."
Snape started to get up anyway, but Pomfrey was insistent. "You lie in that bed until I tell you you can get up, or I'll call Moody and Lupin in and have them strap you down." After that, Snape was quieter, though by no means happy.
"Now," continued Pomfrey, "since we are both awake, I'd like to look at that arm again." She started to unwrap the bandages with her wand, but paused as she neared the end. "Have you seen this before? It isn't pretty."
"I had a glimpse of it."
"Brace yourself. I had enough trouble getting that sedative out of your system. I don't want to have to put more back in."
Snape braced himself, but still had to look away at the sight of the disfigured arm with its massive scab. Pomfrey didn't say anything as she examined the remains of flesh and skin, massaged a salve into the scarring, and redressed the wound. Then she spoke.
"It was a flesh-intrusive brand, which was lucky. If it had extended into the bone, you'd have lost the arm. Now let's check the neural response. Can you move your fingers?"
Movement was small, but there. Pomfrey began a meticulous examination as she used a small probe to test each area of skin. "Do you feel that? How about there? Don't look – which finger am I touching? Which part of the finger?"
In the end the prognosis was not bad. "There's some neural damage, but less than I feared. You'll probably get most of the use of the arm back, though never its full strength. It might have been worse. Are you certain all connection with You-Know-Who is broken?"
"Gone completely, as near as I can tell."
"Good. I'm going to get you some food. You stay in bed. I see the slightest sign that you've tried to get up, and I will have you strapped down. You'll be getting up, but only when there's someone with you, at least for a couple of days. You're not as strong as you think you are, and I don't want you falling. Now stay."
There was no defying Pomfrey, so Snape did as he was told. She returned in a few minutes with a little chicken soup, bread, and tea. Snape ate with considerable appetite, which seemed to please Pomfrey. "Any more?" he asked when the bowl was empty.
"Not yet. Too much at once isn't good for you. At least Moody and Lupin got that right. In about an hour, if you're feeling like it, you can have some more. Now, tell me what's been happening. I understand there was more going on at the top of the Astronomy Tower than they told us."
At first Snape was reluctant to speak of it, but it was true that Madam Pomfrey probably knew more about him than any other living person except Hagrid and Dumbledore, having cared for him under stressful circumstances on more than one occasion. Quickly, without too much detail, he told her of Dumbledore's departure, Flitwick's warning, Dumbledore's orders on the tower, and his own flight and near death in Oxford.
"Then I woke up here."
"Have they treated you well?"
"Yes. Maybe better than I would have expected, considering. What was that medicine you sent them? It made me feel disconnected from my own body."
"You should have recognized it. You had it once before, that time you decided to walk off the Astronomy Tower yourself. I would have been more careful about the dose, but it was needed. You were suffering flashbacks and other signs of severe trauma. It's something to watch out for in the future. That kind of stress can recur, sometimes years afterwards."
Summer dawn was lighting the window, and Moody poked his head into the room. "Awake, I see. How is the patient doing, doctor?"
"The patient," Snape said acidly, "is perfectly capable of answering for himself."
"I'm fine. Much better than I was yesterday under your care."
"I save your life and that's the thanks I get."
The memory of those last minutes in Oxford flashed through Snape's mind, and he gasped and pressed his eyes shut. Then he realized he was holding his breath. He opened his eyes and looked up at Moody. "I'm sorry. Thank you."
"That's okay, boyo. How much do you remember of yesterday?"
"Most of it, I think. It had something to do with Regulus Black."
"Ah, good. Because I'd like to get started on that as quickly as possible. Maybe this morning?" and Moody looked hopefully at Madam Pomfrey.
"By the way," Snape said. "I understand I'm a prisoner here."
"Well, about that. We think it would be best if you didn't go wandering about."
Wednesday, July 2, 1997 (the day before the new moon)
Instead of soup in bed, Snape got breakfast in the front room – a three-minute egg over toast and some tea. "No kipper?" he complained.
"I should feed you a kipper and watch, gloating, as you try to deal with your stomach," responded Pomfrey. "Eat your egg and be grateful!"
Breakfast over, Snape was feeling antsy, a problem Pomfrey solved by having Lupin walk up and down the room with him a few times. There was no better way to make Snape realize how weak he really was, and he was soon sitting again. Then Pomfrey relented and allowed him to have coffee.
Shacklebolt arrived around eight o'clock. He'd managed to finagle a field assignment that day, and could get cover from some of the others so that he could spend the better part of the day with Moody's group. After Shacklebolt's arrival, they brought out the pensieve.
The memory was hard to watch for all seven of them, though more so for Snape, who was still at the beginning stages of coping with Dumbledore's death, not to mention the guilt that went with it. He dealt with it by locking down large parts of his mind, a technique Moody recognized, but which left Tonks especially a bit irritated with him.
"You could show some feeling!" she yelled at him after watching Potter feed the green liquid to Dumbledore for the third time.
"What would be the point?" he answered, sending her into the other room in a huff that lasted twenty minutes and causing the other five to show signs of an incipient hostility. Yaxley and Snape continued to agree, however, that the scene they were witnessing was word for word from the punishment and execution of Regulus Black.
"He's drinking a memory," Snape stated at last. "That specific memory was brewed into that potion for the express purpose of making whoever drank it relive Regulus's last moments. Gad, I'd love to be able to analyze it!"
"Why Regulus Black?" Shacklebolt asked. "Why that memory and not some other?"
"Regulus was executed publicly for defying the Dark Lord. It wasn't just public, it was mandatory. I don't think there's ever a time, before or since, when I saw the Dark Lord so angry. Regulus didn't just try to run away. Whatever he did, it was big."
Yaxley concurred. "We never found out, though. It went through the rumor mill for months, but no one ever found out."
"Let's try it from the other direction," suggested Moody. "What's the thing in the basin that the liquid was covering."
"My guess is that it's a horcrux," Snape replied quite matter-of-factly, only to register a moment later that the others were all looking at him, Moody and Shacklebolt in surprise, the others in questioning ignorance. "Well, Dumbledore was looking for them. He had me researching artifacts that could be made into horcruxes."
"Horcruxes?" said Moody. "Plural?"
"That was my understanding at the end, that Dumbledore suspected the Dark Lord of making more than one as a kind of safeguard. Two of them were already destroyed."
"So this could have been the third one."
"He wanted artifacts. More than one. So I think he suspected there were more than three total."
"What's a horcrux?" Tonks and Yaxley said together, and they paused while Moody explained.
"How many did he think there were?" Shacklebolt asked.
"I have no idea." Snape answered. "However, he was meeting with Potter sporadically during the school year, and Potter went with him to this lake and basin, so I would hazard a guess that Potter knows."
"All right," said Shacklebolt, "we have a potential horcrux in a basin on an island surrounded by a lake full of Inferi, and it's guarded additionally by a liquid that contains the memory of Regulus Black's execution. Now we have to find a connection."
"If there is one," said Lupin.
"Oh, there is one," Yaxley said. "With the Dark Lord, there was always a connection."
They tossed ideas around for a while, few of which made great sense, but eventually Snape was quiet, staring morosely at the pensieve.
"Penny for your thoughts?" said Moody. "And if you don't have any, we can break for lunch."
"I'm just trying to figure out why?"
"Why," said Snape, "go to all the trouble to defend a horcrux you expect to be stolen."
That got everyone's attention. "Go ahead," Moody told Snape, "we're listening."
"Look at the setup. The number of wizards the Dark Lord could expect to reach the basin on the island, even accompanied by a teenage apprentice, can be counted on the fingers of one finger. I can't imagine anyone but Dumbledore getting that far. I couldn't do it.
"So Dumbledore gets that far, then drinks the potion. But it doesn't kill him. It is so far from killing him that some time later he's still perfectly lucid and in control on top of the Astronomy Tower. Granted, the Dark Lord might not suspect that he'd have someone with him… but he might have brought a bezoar or some other universal antidote that would at least have given him time to take the horcrux and get away.
"The Dark Lord told me he'd prepared traps for Dumbledore, and I passed that information on. But why set a trap that allows the victim to get such a precious item? Preserving the horcrux should come first. Killing Dumbledore second. Letting Dumbledore know he'd been fooled third. Come to think of it, using Regulus's execution could be proof the Dark Lord intended Dumbledore to get away. Otherwise, how would he ever know what the memory was?"
Moody was nodding. He thought for a few moments. "What if it wasn't the real horcrux? What if it was a fake?"
Yaxley pondered this. "You mean the Dark Lord set this up with a fake in the middle? It doesn't sound like him. Something this detailed and elaborate must originally have held something truly important. He doesn't tend to mix the false with the meaningful."
"What if it originally held the real horcrux, then Volde-, sorry Yaxley, You-Know-Who switched it to trap Dumbledore?"
"Or what," said Snape musingly, "if that was Regulus's crime? Stealing the original horcrux? Then the Dark Lord wouldn't care if Dumbledore got the thing in the basin or not. And the potion would be a warning of what happens to people who go after the Dark Lord's horcruxes."
"Then where's the real horcrux?" It was a rhetorical question. Moody was watching Snape closely.
"He might have taken it from Regulus and put it somewhere else…" Snape closed his eyes and thought for a moment. "The problem with that is that when Regulus died, the Dark Lord was winning. Why not put the horcrux back into its original safeguarding? The diary and the ring were still there…" Snape didn't notice that the others were intrigued by what he said. "This one wasn't unique… On the other hand, if he wanted to move the horcrux to a new location, why maintain the old one? Dumbledore wasn't looking for horcruxes sixteen years ago…"
There was in the room a sense of portent, as if a spirit of destiny hovered over them. No member of the Order of the Phoenix could have the insight into Voldemort's mind that a Death Eater could, and the others waited as if for a revelation.
"But if he didn't get the horcrux back from Regulus, he might have anticipated finding it in a short time, in which case why not preserve the protections – to be able to use them as soon as that happened? He didn't know he was going to be destroyed by a baby! When that happened, this all froze, and was available to set a trap for Dumbledore after the Dark Lord returned…"
Snape turned to Moody. "Where would Regulus Black hide a stolen horcrux? It may still be there."
"I don't want to sound obvious," said Shacklebolt, "but could he have hidden it in his parents' house?"
Yaxley laughed. "I'd think the Dark Lord would search there first."
"Maybe," said Moody, "maybe not. You may not know, but they had a house-elf. If the house-elf was guarding the horcrux, no wizard could have found it."
Snape laughed, a short sharp laugh. "Then the house-elf may still be guarding the horcrux."
"No," Lupin said. "The house-elf is working in the kitchens at Hogwarts. Harry inherited the house and sent him there nearly a year ago."
The seven of them stared at each other around the table. Finally Moody spoke. "The one still alive who knows the house most intimately is Molly Weasley. Sirius gave her the right to clean the place from top to bottom two years ago. If the horcrux was there, Molly saw it. We need to talk to her."
"What are we asking about?" Shacklebolt inquired.
"A necklace. Something like a locket on a chain. That's what Dumbledore was expecting to find because that's what Dumbledore took from the basin and put into his robes."
Shacklebolt went to fetch Molly Weasley. A few minutes after they returned, Arthur apparated in from the Ministry. Both were quickly filled in, but that happened over lunch since Madam Pomfrey insisted that Snape had to eat something.
"So," concluded Moody. "Did you find anything like a locket on a chain?"
"Of course," said Molly. "We took a lot of jewelry out of the cabinets, and I know at least one item was a heavy gold locket. There may have been others, but one for sure."
"Why do you remember that one?"
"It was heavy, clearly valuable, and we tried forever to open it, but it wouldn't open. It had an ornate decoration on the front, like a serpentine S."
"Do you think it's still there?"
"Who would take it? Sirius said his father'd locked the place up with the tightest security spells he could find. Made the place unplottable. With that, and with Kreacher, and with the additional spells Dumbledore put on it, that house is safer than Gringotts."
The team that went to twelve Grimmauld Place could not find the locket described by Molly Weasley. They couldn't find any locket. They couldn't find any jewelry at all.
Eight disappointed members of the Order plus spies and medical personnel sat dejectedly around the table in Snape's prison that evening. Shacklebolt wasn't there since he'd returned to the Ministry at the end of the official workday.
"I do have to go back to Hogwarts." Pomfrey informed them. "It's been thrilling being with you all for this exciting day, but I may be needed there as well. You take care of my patient, or I'll be back with brimstone to afflict you all with boils." The rest bid her farewell, and she left the safe house to apparate back to the school.
Molly Weasley was disconsolate. "I can't understand why that locket isn't there. There were things we threw out, of course, but nothing that seemed to be of real value. Sirius didn't care about it, but we wanted to keep what was good. It was all there, and it should still be there. The place was unplottable and unknowable. It wasn't like a thief could get in and steal everything."
"No!" Snape cried, and they all turned to stare at him. "I've known it for months, but I never knew it was important. Bella said all those things belonged to her, but of course he took them from number twelve. What an idiot I am that I didn't realize it before!"
"What are you talking about, Severus?" Molly snapped.
"Mundungus Fletcher. He's been selling things he pinched from the Black house, probably after Kreacher left. He's got the locket! Either that or he's already sold it!"
"Tell us what you know," Moody said quietly.
"Last year one of our people came to headquarters with…" Snape had gotten to his feet to pace as he talked, but stopped at the expression on their faces. Yaxley was just looking at the floor. "What?"
"You've been doing this for two days now," said Arthur Weasley. "First it was 'Dark Lord,' and now it's 'our people.' Are you sure whose side you're on?"
Snape opened his mouth to reply, closed it again, and turned to the dingy window to look out at the limited view of the wall of the building next door. Then he went back to the table and eased himself into his chair with his good arm. "Habit," was all he said.
"Enough," Moody snapped. "Just keep talking."
Snape stared at the table top as he talked, a note of bitterness now in his voice. "One of them… came to their headquarters… with a little box he said he bought from a peddler. Bella apparently had a fit. What was on the box, Yaxley?"
"Greyhound. She said it was hers, that the picture showed the box belonged to the Black family."
"I told Dumbledore about that, and he said he'd take care of it. That was in… October? Then in March all of a sudden the… he… started showing interest in number twelve. He wanted to know if I could get inside to look for things. I told him I could only go there if someone else was there to let me in. He wanted to know who among the Order might be a thief. That was when he hinted that he was setting traps for Dumbledore. I told Dumbledore, and that weekend Fletcher was arrested and sent to Azkaban. I got the impression Dumbledore arranged it for Fletcher's own good."
"Okay," said Moody. "Harry sent Kreacher to Hogwarts last July. From then through part of October Mundungus had the opportunity to take objects out of the house. Up until mid March he could have been selling them. Gad, half wizarding Britain could be in possession of that locket by now."
"And," Lupin spoke for the first time, "it sounds like You-Know-Who's been looking for it since March. Who knows? He may have found it."
Moody looked over at Snape. "You said two 'd already been destroyed. What were they?"
"There was a diary the… You-Know-Who had when he was a student. You remember, Arthur – Molly, the one Lucius Malfoy slipped to your daughter at the beginning of her first year and that Potter destroyed. Poor Lucius… he had no idea the trouble he was getting into. The second was a ring. That one was booby-trapped with dark fire, but it was a real horcrux."
"Is that why Dumbledore's hand was burned like that?"
"And we don't know how many Dumbledore thought there were?"
"No. Potter might know."
"Harry refuses to talk to anyone about Dumbledore or his plans."
"I'll bet that's not true." Snape looked over at the Weasleys. "I'll bet he talks to your son and daughter. And to Granger. They may have exactly the information you need."
Arthur was on his feet before Snape finished, Molly right behind him. "You leave my children out of this! They're not involved!"
Snape was on his feet, too. "If they're friends of Potter's, they're already involved. Do you think the Dark Lord doesn't know who Potter's friends are? He doesn't even have to ask the children of his Death Eaters. He was teaching them from the back of Quirrell's head for a year! And Peter Pettigrew was living in your son's pocket for three! Had you heard – the Dark Lord's gotten very good at kidnapping people?"
In the silence that followed, Snape stared into Arthur and Molly's ashen faces. He was suddenly very tired – his left arm throbbed and he felt dizzy. He slowly sat down again and laid his head on the table, cushioned on his good arm, while Tonks crossed the room to comfort Molly, and Arthur turned to Moody in anguish.
"What are we going to do?" Arthur said.
"Remus and I can come spend some time with you before the wedding," said Tonks. "We'll keep an eye on Ginny and Ron. Is Hermione coming to stay with you then?"
"She'll come for the wedding, then stay for a while afterwards," said Molly.
"We may want to have someone watching her parents' house, too, then. At least until she goes to the Burrow." Moody was thinking out loud. "The wedding will be a target, I'd imagine. We should plan to have extra security there, and continue it through the summer for the children's protection." He looked over at Snape, who had sat up again and was watching them, and laughed. "I'm afraid you're not going to be able to make it to the wedding, boyo. You're staying here."
There was an awkward silence, and Molly blushed crimson
"Sorry," said Moody. "It was a bad joke. Of course since last month there've been a few alterations in the guest list…"
"Not as many as you think, it would seem," said Snape.
"But you're on Hogwarts's staff and a member of…"
"Stick your foot any further into your mouth and you'll need a podiatrist instead of a dentist." Snape looked down at the fingernails of his right hand. "By the way, Mrs. Weasley, just in case it comes up in casual conversation again…"
"Bill and that Beauxbatons champion, Fleur Delacour."
"Thank you. " Snape turned his attention back to Moody. "Now that the security aspects have been arranged to the satisfaction of everyone who matters, what about Fletcher?"
"I'll talk to Kingsley," said Tonks quickly. "Maybe we could arrange for some of us aurors to go up to Azkaban to question him. He should remember if he sold the locket, and to whom."
"Good," Moody said, glad to be on another topic. "I think we've covered what we need for today. I'll notify the others and arrange for further meetings as we make progress."
The Weasleys seemed relieved to be able to go, and Lupin and Tonks promised to follow later in the evening.
"Are you leaving as well," Snape asked Moody after Arthur and Molly had gone.
"No, I'll stay the night. Wouldn't want you to be lonely."
Snape glanced over at Yaxley, who looked embarrassed. "You mean he can leave, too? I thought he was officially a prisoner."
"That's the story, but not the reality. I've got some jobs for him to do."
"So the only one who can't leave is me. That must have been quite a feat, calibrating the shields for a dozen people."
It was Moody's turn to look embarrassed. "We… didn't calibrate them for a dozen. Just for one."
"You mean I'm the only one the shields will block?"
"That's about it."
"You're telling me that the Dark Lord could walk in here after me, and I couldn't get out?"
"You know that's not going to happen."
"But it could! This is a cage! You've got me locked in a cage! What if there's a fire?"
"There isn't going to be a fire."
"Where's my wand?"
"I can't let you have a wand. You've got to stay here until…"
"I die of old age? Or I just go quietly crazy? Moody, you rat, you get me out of here!"
"Can't do that, boyo. The reason only half of wizarding Britain wants you dead is the other half thinks you already are. This is for your own protection."
"I warn you, if you don't let me out… I'll find a way myself."
"You go ahead and try, boyo. I think we've got even you stumped."
"Is that a challenge?"
"Come on, Snape. Settle down and let's have some supper."
"Get stuffed! I'd rather starve than eat with you!" And Snape stomped into the bedroom, slamming the door behind him, and threw himself onto the bed, to lie staring at the ceiling as the summer dusk lengthened in the room.
After a while there was a gentle tap at the door. Snape didn't answer. A moment later the door opened and Lupin came in.
"Can you install a lock on that thing?" Snape asked.
"You could be nicer to people. He did save your life."
"I'm beginning to think that wasn't a favor. Maybe I'd rather he hadn't."
"There are lots worse things than being here."
"I'm also beginning to think that being dead isn't one of them."
"Tell me what I can get you."
"So am I." Lupin put his hand on the doorknob again. "No, wait," Snape said. "I'm sorry. It's just… Do you remember how it felt to be shut in the Shrieking Shack?"
"But you knew that in three days you could come out again."
"I also knew I wasn't responsible for my problem."
Snape abruptly turned on his left side so he was facing the wall, his injured arm held against his body and away from the bed by the sling. "I changed my mind. There's nothing I want more than to be alone. Go away."
"We have to accept the consequences of our choices, Severus."
"You could have said no."
"You saw the pensieve memory. I was given an order."
"You still could have refused."
"You'd like that, wouldn't you. Lots of new young werewolves running around to keep you company."
"It wasn't a full moon."
"Dead children, then." Snape paused. "Why don't you lock Potter up, too?"
Lupin's voice reflected his confusion. "Why would we do that?"
"He forced Dumbledore to drink poison. The reason Dumbledore couldn't fight back was he was weakened and dying from the poison Potter forced him to drink."
"Don't be silly, Severus. Harry was following Dumbledore's orders."
Snape neither moved nor spoke. He closed his eyes and lay very still facing the wall until he heard the sound of the door open and then close again on the departing Lupin. After a while he slept.
When Snape woke it was night, but the room was bathed in the dim light of a small lamp. He turned on the bed to look around the room. Moody was sitting in the chair by the little table reading The Daily Prophet.
"Are you hungry?" Moody asked.
"Not for your food." Snape turned away again.
"Mine's no different from anyone else's. Besides, it's the only food around."
"You should've left me to die."
"No, I shouldn't have." They were silent for a moment, then Moody continued. "Would you like to hit me? Sock me right in the mouth and knock out a couple of teeth?"
"Don't be patronizing."
"Stop moping." Moody set the paper down. "The world's not going back to the way it was. Nothing you can do is going to change that. You had a split second to make a decision, and you followed the orders of a man you trusted. Now you're in a jail and everyone treats you like a criminal. It isn't fair, and nothing's going to make it fair. But you're blaming the wrong people. Dumbledore didn't create the situation any more than you did. Neither did I. Now I can't promise you a future. You may be locked in a cage and treated like a criminal for the rest of your life. But I can help you get the one who created the situation. If that's worth something to you, let me know. I'll be in the other room."
It was a full twenty minutes before the bedroom door opened. Snape leaned against the jamb, still weak and unsteady. "You're right," he said, "I am hungry."
Moody helped him to a chair and brought soup and toast, and a pot of tea. When Snape asked for more, Moody got it without a murmur. Then they began to talk.
Thursday, July 3, 1997 (the new moon)
Lupin arrived by midmorning to find Snape and Moody reviewing Dumbledore's memory over and over in minute detail.
"Freeze it right there!" Moody was saying to Snape. "There, just to the right of the ring for the chain. Look at the slit where the two halves close together… Oh, good morning Remus, sleep well? …Just the edge – a hair's thickness… See!"
"I do not see it. I'd borrow your eye, but I'd have to cut out my own to be able to use it."
"I swear, it's the edge of a piece of paper, parchment, something inside the locket."
"So you think there's a portrait in there?" Snape studied the image, trying to see what Moody saw.
"That, or some kind of message for the finders. Maybe gloating that they went through all that trouble for nothing."
Turning to Moody, Snape asked, "Where's the locket now?"
"I don't know. Remus, do you know if Hagrid found a locket in Dumbledore's pocket?"
"I never heard of one."
Moody hit the table with a fist. "I'll bet anything Harry has it!"
"Why?" asked Snape. "He wasn't searching Dumbledore's body – he was trying to kill me. And doing an incredibly poor job at it."
"We can find out exactly what happened at the wedding. We can engage Harry in conversation…"
"What you mean we, white man? I'm not going to that wedding. Aside from the fact that I was never invited, my presence might put a damper on the festivities."
Lupin frowned. "I don't think it's a good idea to pump Harry for information at the wedding."
Snape more than concurred. "I don't think it's a good idea to talk to him at all. He's given to lying if he thinks he's in a spot."
This statement caused Lupin to bristle. "A lot of people back off if they think they're being pressured…"
"Right," said Snape. "Especially when they've just experimented with an unknown spell, nearly killed a classmate, and there's blood all over the place."
"That doesn't sound like Harry."
"Do you want to see the memory? We have a pensieve right here. The cute thing is that he didn't try to hide the near manslaughter. He tried to hide where he got the spell."
"I don't believe that."
"Do you want to see the memory? I'll show it to you right now."
"Afraid to see Precious Potter in a bad light?"
"No… It's just that you're enjoying this too much. He's just a boy."
"He'll be seventeen on the thirty-first. Legally an adult. I, frankly am all for changing the of-age rule to twenty-one since I think the collective lot of them are still wet behind the ears, but if he's an adult…"
"Break it up, you two," snapped Moody. "I swear, Severus, if you square off against every person who walks through that door…"
"Then let me out. Let me breathe."
"You wait 'til we're ready. Meanwhile, you said don't ask Harry. Who do we ask?"
"That boy can't live without talking. He talks to his friends: Weasley, Granger, sometimes Longbottom, more recently the Weasley girl, Lovegood from Ravenclaw… I'd go for Granger."
"She's smarter than the others, more logical. She'd be more likely to give you a balanced account."
Moody and Lupin went out shortly before noon, refusing to tell Snape where they were going, and Snape was alone in the tiny apartment for the first time. He immediately opened a window and tried to stick his hand out, but the shield repulsed him and gave him a nasty shock at the same time. This happened at every other window and at the door.
After that Snape prowled through the entire place looking for cracks and crevices, even moving aside a loose floorboard in the bedroom and trying to push his hand into the space. This is my punishment for teaching Yaxley how to shield the laboratory. We'll see if I ever take anyone into my confidence again!
Then he thought of the ceiling. Once again Snape went through the apartment looking for a place that was already cracked so that he could widen it enough to get a finger inside and test for a shield. The tiny bathroom provided just such a spot, and Snape dragged a chair in so he could stand on it and just barely reach the ceiling. He was so intent on his work that he didn't hear the soft sound of the front door opening.
"I'm just going to have to tie you up every time I walk out of here, aren't I," Moody said calmly, causing Snape to jump and nearly fall off the chair. "It won't work, though, Russ. We thought about that already. Or Yaxley did. You did a pretty thorough job with him."
Snape let Moody help him from the chair, as the exertion from the last couple of hours had made him dizzy again. "How did you know my parents called me Russ?"
"You told me. First time you woke up, I asked you your name. I thought you were still in La-La Land until I realized it was short for Severus. Now here I was figuring a way for you to be paroled, and you're planning a breakout."