Hidden as best as he could manage behind the purple and gold drapes on the window sofa, Snape sat in Dumbledore's office and glared impartially at the garish décor. Why in Merlin's name, he mused, did one of the most powerful wizards of the age confine himself to this role of a slightly dotty headmaster when he could have claimed the recognition and accolades that were his due? Never putting himself forward to take the credit, always the deus ex machina, hidden within plain sight, Snape knew that he himself would never be able to achieve the same social success, however well he had learnt his lessons.
Years of applying the same techniques in a very different environment had produced a camouflage that was so far removed from Dumbledore's it would never have been suspected that they were master and student. Where Dumbledore blended into the light, Snape had lived in the dark. Transplanted into each other's domains they stood out like sore thumbs. However, the least the Headmaster would have risked in the Dark Lord's... Voldemort's circle was torture and death, while all Snape risked in the ministry was imprisonment and hideous embarrassment. Somehow, the thought did not comfort him.
Where was the blasted man! Band enough to be sent away like a child awaiting detention but...
As the door latch snapped open to admit Dumbledore, Snape half-rose from the sofa, his wand pointed instinctively at the sound. Affecting not to notice, the headmaster strode around the desk to drop wearily into his chair before looking up into Snape's eyes. "That is quite unnecessary, Severus. Do sit down. You're not in trouble, or at least, no more than you usually are."
The blue eyes twinkled as Snape twitched, knowing his old teacher had picked up the stray thoughts associating previous detention sessions with his current predicament. However, he refused to allow Dumbledore to read any more into his behaviour than absolutely necessary. He sank back into his previous position and composed himself. "Did you convince Fudge?" he asked in an disinterested tone of voice that he barely recognised as his own.
The twinkle died at the re-introduction of a serious topic. "There were some small wrinkles, not the least of which was my, previous, absolute silence on the existence of a spy, but the ministry has agreed to seal your record and grant you amnesty for the... hmm... actions that were committed due to the necessity of your... position."
The tension in Snape's shoulders hummed a little more tightly. "There were valid reasons for your reluctance to admit to the source of your information, Albus. A powerful Occlumens surrounded by generations of protective wards is a much more ambitious target than a single traitorous Death Eater. As for the latter... Let us call a spade a spade. My potions were used to kill people. We both know the Ministry would not have let that slide so easily, especially with their doubts about my membership in the Order. What are you hiding, Albus?" Snape's voice had dropped with every word until the last question was a hiss that would have done his house's namesake proud. With it, came a spear thrust of mental force determined to win the answer to his question from the mind of his teacher.
Unexpectedly, the Headmaster's mind opened just before Snape breached his shields, allowing the younger man full access to Dumbledore's memories of the last day or so before he was gently but forcibly tossed out on his figurative ear.
"You what!" For the second time in under ten minutes, Snape leapt to his feet. "How could you? Of all the ridiculous things to suggest! When I'm not even...! After all I've done...!"
"Severus, it is because of all you have done." Although Snape loomed over him, the headmaster still managed to retain his stern look. "Although it was done, and done well, in the name of light, the harm you've caused to innocents must be balanced." The twinkle returned. "And what better way to restore your karma than to teach the lessons you've learnt to the children of those you've wounded?"
Deflated, Snape fell back into the sofa as wearily as Dumbledore had dropped into his chair earlier. He bent forward until his hair hid his face and he was murmuring to his knees. "That, and you're the only one the Moody trusts to keep an eye on me. As ever, Albus, I am at your command. After all, where else would I go?"