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Swung by Serafim

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Severus Snape has been waiting for this opportunity since the term began. It’s made him almost happy to have such a simple, delightful plan lurking in the back of his thoughts.

Lupin is “ill,” and Snape has Lupin’s Defence Against the Dark Arts students all perched warily in front of him. He’s had time to plot; he knows exactly how to proceed.

Words have always been his favorite weapons.

 “Now. Which one of you can tell me the difference between an Animagus and a werewolf?” Snape asks, while pretending to study the projected image in front of him. He doesn’t expect an answer, not from a class that has yet to study either subject.

Well. Unless it’s Granger.

“An Animagus learns it. A werewolf is bitten.”

It isn’t Granger.

Snape turns back around to regard Harry Potter, who still has his nose in his third year textbook. Granger is beaming at Potter, who doesn’t seem to notice.

Snape wants it to gall him. He wants to accuse Potter of cheating, or Granger of whispering the answer he knows he didn’t hear.

Instead, Snape asks, “And how do you know that, Mister Potter?”

“I read everything.” Potter still hasn’t looked up. “This textbook is complete rubbish, by the way.”

Weasley gasps and turns a shade redder than his usual. “Harry!” he hisses in warning.

 “You would be correct,” Snape says in response to both statements, watching with amusement as Weasley promptly turns white. All of that blood rushing back and forth cannot possibly be healthy.

“I don’t see why we’re bothering with this, anyway,” Potter continues. Weasley begins to look faint. “We already know that Professor Lupin’s a werewolf.”

Snape twitches. He simply cannot help it. “What?” It’s his least brilliant retort in twelve years.

Potter looks up. “Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” He still has that same unconcerned, emotionless look on his face. “Besides, who cares? He’s made a point of not eating any of us.”

This is a mixed class of all Houses, which means Snape can gain insight from four different perspectives. For the most part, the Gryffindors are nodding. The Ravenclaws look sanguine. The Hufflepuffs don’t seem to have an opinion one way or the other. His Slytherins appear to be unconcerned, which tells Snape that even they must have had some advance notice.

There are a few white faces (strangely, not Weasley now) and nervous, darting eyes, but otherwise, the uproar is nonexistent.

They knew already. They all knew.

Harry Potter has just sabotaged Snape’s revenge so perfectly that it couldn’t have gone better if Snape had planned it himself.

Gilderoy Lockhart, Snape seethes, if you weren’t already dead, I’d kill you myself.

He relates the class incident to Albus later, over tea. He threatens to shove lemon drops into orifices in which they don’t belong when they are offered.

Albus thinks that Potter’s unexpected participation in class is an encouraging sign.

Snape has to agree, though he loathes Potter’s timing. “It is the first time he’s taken an interest in speaking during class activities since Miss Weasley’s unfortunate death,” he admits. “But still. Lupin.

“It is a fine solution to the problem Remus’s situation could have caused,” Albus says in a thoughtful voice. “Outed by the Boy Who Lived. Lucius Malfoy might have complaints, but I think he may be the only one who dares, the current political climate being what it is.”

Snape gives him a disbelieving look. “No students complained? Not one?”

“Two Slytherins,” Albus says, and then adds, “Not Mister Malfoy,” which is a surprise. “Offended Pure-blood sensibilities, in Mister Zabini’s case. Miss Bulstrode asked me if I thought it a good idea to allow a potentially dangerous creature loose in the school.” Albus smiles. “I asked her if she thought I would intentionally bring harm to the student body.”

“What did she say?” Snape asks. Millicent Bulstrode is a very pragmatic girl.

“She pointed out that I hired Professor Quirrell. And Professor Lockhart, for that matter.” Albus looks grieved. “I awarded her points.”

Snape raises an eyebrow while making a note that he needs to pay more attention to Miss Bulstrode. “Thank you.”

Albus nods. “It was true, however painful the truth was to hear. However, I reassured Miss Bulstrode that her own Head of House supplied the potion to make our werewolf professor docile and harmless during the full moon.”

Snape glares at him.

“You may feel free to say, of course, that I ordered you to do so,” Albus says with a faint smile.

He resists the urge to grind his teeth. “You did order me to do so.”

“Did I?” Albus affects surprise. “What a wonderful coincidence. Now you can tell them nothing more than the truth.”

“Are you certain you weren’t a Slytherin?” Snape asks, amused in spite of himself.

“Of course not.” Albus pops a lemon drop into his mouth. “I do not allow myself such a limited point of view.”

Snape flicks his fingers in Albus’s direction, dismissive. “That was a blow beneath you, Headmaster.”

“Mm,” Albus agrees. “You and Minerva are the definitive results of your own Houses—which is as it should be, for a Head of House. I only wish that you both would stop viewing the other Houses as the enemy.”

“They are the enemy,” Snape says. He wants the House Cup back where it belongs, thank you very much. He gets to his feet. “Good evening, Albus.”

That is not the end of his day. Potter, of all beings, is waiting outside Snape’s office. Snape opens his mouth to shout, and Potter interrupts him with a quiet, viscerally polite, “Good evening, Professor. Might I have a word?”

The shout dies on his lips. Snape scowls and motions Potter to a seat. He shuts the door, wondering what the Brat Who Lived has in store for him this evening.

That isn’t quite fair. The Brat Who Lived hasn’t been the Brat for many months.

“What can I do for you, Mister Potter?” he asks after sitting down behind his desk.

Potter rests his clasped hands across his stomach, the gesture almost, but not quite, natural. He’s been learning manners—or perhaps just observing them. “I’d like to know why you hate Sirius Black.”

Snape’s stomach tries to turn itself into a stressed knot. He lets his eyes flicker over to linger on Potter’s face. No, there is no hint of defiance in those jewel-green eyes. He looks further with a quick Legilimens and finds only honest confusion.

“I do not hate Sirius Black,” Snape answers. “I despise him.”

“Oh,” Potter says, as if there is an actual difference. “Why?”

Snape does not want to explain his history to this child. Still, he can, perhaps, exert some influence. It is an idea that he can sell to Lucius, or to Voldemort, if it becomes necessary. He worries about Voldemort more often now. It’s only a matter of time before the Dark Lord discovers a way to regain a physical form, now that the truth of his continued existence has been revealed.

He thinks about all of that, and then says, “We were the same year in school, but not the same House, obviously. Black was a bully and a lout. I was his primary target.” Not the only one, no, but Black restrained himself to general mischief unless it was Severus Snape.

“Ah. He does seem to be a bit…” Potter’s head sways gently back and forth, as he considers. “Brash.”

Perhaps there is not as much influence to exert as Snape might have wished. Potter seems to be capable of noticing Black’s foibles on his own.

“I thought it might have been Azkaban,” Potter says.

“No.” Snape resists the urge, and then asks anyway. “And how is life with your Dogfather?”

Potter doesn’t blink at the term. He only considers the question, and gives an answer. “Dog-like.”

Snape smiles; he can’t help it. The tragedy here is that Potter is unaware of his own joke.

“It’s interesting, at least,” Potter says. “I’m allowed to study magic all that I like.”

Something about that statement gains Snape’s full attention. It’s almost as if… “Were you not allowed to, before?”

Potter shakes his head. “Doesn’t look like it, no. We went to visit them. My Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, Cousin Dudley,” Potter explains.

Snape relaxes. Potter is telling him of a new discovery, not an old memory. “A fruitful visit, I’m sure.”

“Sirius insisted, since she is my mother’s sister, that it would be a kindness if I told them I was going to remain in the wizarding world instead of returning home to Surrey.”

“What happened?” Snape wonders if Albus knows about the boy’s trip to Number 4 Privet Drive.

Potter frowns, a spark of real emotion flashing in his eyes. It’s too faint to be anger, but it is, at least, discontent. “They didn’t want to see us. I could tell right off that they couldn’t stand the sight of me.  I thought that was an odd reaction from family, but…I’m just guessing,” he says, glancing away.

I read everything, Snape hears in his mind. “Go on.”

“Sirius tried to argue with my Aunt Petunia that I was her nephew, and deserved consideration, but all she did was shriek.” Potter seems nonplussed. “Sirius got angry and told her that we’d just be getting my things and leaving, then. The fat man—I mean, my Uncle Vernon—he showed us a bedroom with ten different exterior locks on the door.”

Snape stops breathing. “Ten?” he says diffidently, to cover up the lapse in control.

Potter thinks. “It might have been twelve.”

Dear God and Great Merlin. “And?”

“The bedroom wasn’t mine,” Potter says. “I mean, it had a bed, and a dresser with two drawers missing. I could smell leftover owl, like Hedwig had been shut up in there too long. But it looked like no one actually lived there, not like the bedrooms at Grimmauld Place, or even the dorm rooms here.”

“Where, pray tell, was your bedroom, then?” Snape asks. He drawls the question in one of his more dangerous tones. It’s a lost effort in Potter’s case, but he sees no reason to disregard the habit.

“It wasn’t a bedroom. I did a locating spell for my essence,” Potter says, with no awareness whatsoever that he’s talking about using seventh-year magic. “I lived in a cupboard under the stairs. It looked like I was there until I came to Hogwarts. The upstairs bedroom must have been some sort of…” His eyebrows draw together. “Concession, I think. Or maybe it was staged.”

Snape doubts that Petunia Dursley is capable of that much foresight. “Oh? Did they think you were a Muggle broom, then?”

“I suppose. Sirius—” Potter makes wand-waving motions, “—he asked my Uncle Vernon what that meant. Apparently, I was their house-elf. Though I have to say, I don’t think anyone is stupid enough to hit an actual house-elf with a frying pan.”

“No, that is not generally considered a wise course of action,” Snape agrees, keeping his tone mild while his fingernails dig into his palms. He has to distract himself. Otherwise, he is going to lose his bloody temper, walk out of Hogwarts, Apparate to Little Whinging, and blow up a house full of stupid, idiot Muggles. “And your Dogfather has not managed to get himself thrown back in Azkaban, so your unpleasant family must still be intact.”

“They are. Sirius wanted to…do something, I think,” Pottery says. “I told him not to. I mean, there was no point. I don’t remember any of it, so I don’t care.”

“And if you did suddenly remember?” Snape asks, staring at Potter. He wants to think that the old Potter would have huffed and shouted and cried for attention for not being pampered as his due…but he never had. Potter had told no one that his relatives were likely starving him and treating him as their personal slave. Snape had suspected the Dursleys were not properly feeding their nephew from that very first Start-of-Term Feast, but it is hard to tell with boys Potter’s age. They grow so fast that they often look rangy and underfed.

Potter looks unconcerned. “It wouldn’t change anything.”

“How very noble of you,” he sneers, but his heart isn’t really in it.

“Sirius hates you, too, by the way,” Potter says, in a sudden shift back to their original topic. “I keep asking him why, but he can’t give me a satisfactory reason.”

The sneer is more genuine, this time. “Oh? And what does he say?”

 “He says that you’re a ponce, a git, and a greasy bat,” Potter says. “But those aren’t reasons.”

Snape huffs a breath that is almost a laugh. Sirius must have been watching his language, if that’s the worst of it. “What are acceptable reasons, then?”

“Deciding to kill off a young married couple because you don’t like the fact that their baby might give you competition in twenty years,” Potter says with a frown.

Snape reels back in his chair, stunned. “What?”

“I don’t mean you.” Potter gives him a curious look. “Unless you have magically become Voldemort in the last five minutes.”

Snape sighs. “No, I have not ‘magically become Voldemort.’” It’s a disturbing thought, especially after Quirrell.

“Well, that’s good, then.” Potter smiles. Snape is shocked by it; he had no idea that Potter had re-mastered any emotion other than blank, creepy stare.  “So, why do you hate Professor Lupin?”

He is jolted into surprised honesty. “Because he’s a bloody werewolf!”

Potter tilts his head. “Species prejudice, Professor? I would expect that from Trelawney.”

It doesn’t escape him that he has been granted the honor of his title, and Trelawney has not. “Some prejudices are…hard to dismiss.” Snape is not going to explain the nightmares he still has of being in that dark tunnel. It makes him want to hex James Potter and Sirius Black into oblivion all over again, every time after.

The boy in front of him no longer makes Snape want to hex him. There isn’t enough animation in the boy’s face to remind Snape of James, who was always boisterous and bright-eyed and grinning. In fact, he hasn’t wanted to hex Harry Potter yet, not since the term began. Life is not fair.

Snape pinches the bridge of his nose. “Just get out, Potter.”

“Okay,” Potter agrees, not offended in the slightest. “Good night, Professor.” He hesitates at the door. “Well, just one more thing.”

Snape glowers in Potter’s direction. “Yes?”

“Did we ever talk like this? Before…before my accident?” Potter asks.

“No,” Snape replies. “We hated each other.” Granted, Snape had instigated their mutual animosity. On purpose.

“You don’t hate me now,” Potter says, after a quick glance at Snape. “I have no reason to hate you, either.”

Snape inclines his head. “No, I do not hate you, Mister Potter. However, it would be politic for others to continue to believe that I do.”

Potter frowns again. Snape waits in silence as the boy discerns the meaning of his words. Without the anger and the combative temperament he previously bore (a gift of the Dursleys, Snape now realizes) Potter seems to be a very intelligent boy.

It’s nice to see that part of his mother shine forth.

“I understand, sir,” Potter says, and slips out of Snape’s office.

Snape waits until Potter is well on his way. Then he goes to the fireplace, tosses in Floo Powder, shouts, “Headmaster’s Office!” and shoves his head in just as the flames turn green. “Albus! I don’t care what instructions I gave you at the end of last term. Give me the damned bottle.

Albus laughs at him. Snape threatens him within an inch of his life, but he does get his bottle of good Firewhiskey back. He isn’t foolish enough to drink himself into a stupor, but this day requires a stiff indulgence.

Snape has had to consider the possibility for months, but tonight confirms it. Every single plan laid out for the next five years has just become useless. He doesn’t know how to replace them, and he has to.

Potter’s life is not the only one at stake if he does not.

 

*          *          *          *

 

It’s nearly Christmas break, and the entire term has been quiet. No Voldemort, no threats, no Ministry baboons spoiling his days. The worst of it has been making the obligatory Wolfsbane potion every month. Snape has even given some thought to improving it, something that every other Potions Master in the Western World has said to be impossible.

Unimaginative imbeciles.

In class, Snape has been not quite as vicious to Potter as he was the first two years of their acquaintance. It is gruff deference to the fact that Potter is, technically, a spell-wounded child, and even Snape would risk his job to act otherwise. This does not mean he is kind—far from it.

Potter ignores Snape’s diatribes and turns in potions that are always consummately correct. There is no experimentation, not yet, but Snape is starting to wonder if it will happen soon. This makes Snape want to tear out his hair, because where was this skill two years ago?

Granger and Weasley—especially Weasley—make quiet comments about Snape’s cruelty to their friend when they think Snape isn’t listening. Potter lets them talk, but doesn’t disagree, or make them stop. It looks as though Potter understands the meaning of politic very well. Snape wonders if Potter learned it from a book, or if he learned it from living with Sirius Black.

Draco Malfoy tries only once to resume his juvenile rivalry with Potter. Professor Flitwick, close enough to observe the altercation, tells the rest of the faculty that Potter didn’t respond to the taunts at all, which incited Malfoy to draw his wand.

Potter leaves Malfoy tied up like a baked pretzel treat in the hallway. Flitwick takes points from Slytherin and then spends three weeks squeaking excitedly about Lily Evans’s talent with Charms, and the passage of prodigious skills from mother to son, until even Minerva McGonagall is sick of hearing about it.

Snape is suspicious of the lack of drama in his life. The universe has a way of making him suffer if he is complacent.

When he goes to Albus’s office with his list of Slytherin students who will be remaining behind for the holiday, he finds Arthur Weasley standing in front of Albus’s desk. Snape knows at once that this is not a casual visit. Arthur’s face is too grim, too annoyed, which always means Ministry business.

“Arthur,” Snape says in greeting. “Albus, I have my list of students for you. It’s a bit longer than usual this year.”

“Thank you, Severus,” Albus says with a smile. “Lemon drop?”

Snape stares at him.

Albus shrugs, his smile fading. “Civility is not yet overrated, dear boy. Also, I’m afraid there is news. Arthur?”

Arthur Weasley nods. “They’ve scheduled the final part of Peter Pettigrew’s trial for the first day of the winter holiday.”

“Oh, for—” Snape bites back a scathing flood. “Has anyone told Potter?”

The senior Weasley looks surprised. “Not yet. I’ve just been to inform Sirius, so he’ll be telling Harry when they go back to London the night before.”

“Convenient timing.” Albus exchanges a quick glance with Snape. “Many families will be abroad during the holidays.”

“Yes, I know.” Arthur sighs. The man is still upset that there was a literal traitorous rat living in his household. “There is no doubt that the slimy bastard is going to be found guilty, but they’re still smarting from being forced to exonerate Sirius at the beginning of summer, when we presented them with a still-living Pettigrew. Maybe they think people will pay less attention.”

Snape almost smiles. The manner in which Pettigrew was discovered still provides vast amusement. Black had quite literally smelled a rat the first time he had been in the company of Potter’s friends. There had been a mad scramble of black barking dog, squeaking, terrified rat, and red-faced, shouting Weasleys before Albus managed to get a clear shot with his wand to deliver a well-cast Revertere Vera Forma.

“There is more,” Albus says, a warning for Snape that he isn’t going to like what he will next hear.

“The Wizengamot has declared—no, sorry,” Arthur shakes his head. “To be accurate, Fudge has declared that the testimony of Albus Dumbledore is not acceptable due to his standing as a member of the Wizengamot. They want yours, Severus. They want to view your memory of that night.”

“And they’ll trust my Pensieved testimony?” Snape is pleased when the question emerges like warning smoke.

He has no love for the Wizengamot. None at all.

“They’re not as afraid of you as they are of Albus Dumbledore,” Arthur says with a smile. “It doesn’t seem to occur to them at all that you probably have a potion for every contingency. I imagine you’ve always got an antidote for Veritaserum on your person.”

“Of course,” Snape says in a curt voice, except now he is itching to actually have one. It’s a shameful oversight, considering what he does always carry. For a Weasley, Arthur is adept at plotting for potential fallout. “Please excuse me; I must go be appalled and shocked that Minister Fudge has decided that our initial spoken testimony, not to mention Pettigrew not being deceased, is no longer enough to send a rat to the Dementors.”

It’s a valid excuse, but he has other plans. Black has the tact of a brick. Snape goes to find Minerva instead.

Minerva fetches Potter on the grounds that she gets to stay in the room when they speak. Snape agrees. He doesn’t care if Minerva thinks he’s soft-hearted or not, because unlike Flitwick, Minerva McGonagall knows how to keep her silence.

“Yes, Professors?” Potter looks like he threw his school robes on in a hurry. “I’m sorry it took so long.”

“That’s all right, Harry,” Minerva says, and motions for Potter to take a seat. “Professor Snape has something he would like to tell you.”

Potter gives them both a wary look. Snape suspects it’s because Minerva used his first name, a school trigger for bad news if there ever was one. “What is it?” he asks, the moment he is settled onto a chair.

“The news has just reached your godfather, and the school, that the last segment of Peter Pettigrew’s trial is to be the first day of winter holiday,” Snape tells him.

“Ah,” Potter says, and uses his hand to adjust the position of his glasses. Snape may as well have declared the Earth about to be obliterated, for all the shock Potter displays. “Will you be there, then, Professor Snape?”

Minerva gives Snape a glare that could fry an egg. “I have no choice in the matter,” Snape answers, doing his best to ignore her. “There will be Pensieved testimony on display before the court. It is my opinion that some warning is in order.”

“And you think my godfather will be too busy seething about Pettigrew to remember to give it.” Potter looks thoughtful. “Yes, that’s probably a very good idea. Thank you.”

“Are you all right, my boy?” Minerva asks, giving him a motherly, concerned look.

Potter blinks at her, puzzled by the question. “I’m not the one they’re going to hand over to the Dementors.”

 

*          *          *          *

 

The day of the trial, Snape Apparates to London with Albus and Minerva. She dithered for a bit before finally deciding to go, both as a show of support for a student of her House, and to pay her final respects to a traitorous rat that used to be.

The pathway into the Ministry is still displeasing. For the love of God and Merlin: commodes, of all things! Not subtle, or hygienic.

Sirius Black is waiting in the atrium when they arrive, looking angry, anxious, and perhaps wanting to bite something. Snape should have brought him a bone to gnaw.

Harry Potter, by contrast, looks as collected as if they are going to be discussing beneficial weather patterns. “Good day, Professors,” he says. He seems more animated today, or at least not as emotionally blank as usual.

“Yes, hello,” Black says, and then shoves a hand through his hair. “I don’t suppose any of you brought a Calming Draught? I feel like I’m about to come unglued.”

Snape sighs, reaches into his pocket, and hands one over. “You’re utterly hopeless.”

It’s a point of evidence for the state of Black’s anxiety that he only smiles and drinks the potion. Not an insult exchanged at all, no accusations of poisoning. It’s disappointing.

“We go down as soon as Remus arrives,” Black says after the tense set of his shoulders begins to relax. “I thought he’d be traveling with you.”

“I’m afraid Remus cannot join us through the primary public route,” Albus says in a neutral tone.

A moment later, Black gets it. “Hypocritical fucking bastards,” he hisses.

“Language, Sirius,” Minerva says in a sharp voice. She glances at Potter, who is too busy staring at the fountain sculpture’s supreme ugliness to pay his dogfather’s language any mind.

“I’m here,” Lupin says a few minutes later, jogging up to them and looking disheveled. “My apologies for being late. I had to…” He glances at Potter, who still seems to be ignoring them. “I had to strip naked and get a fistful of aconite shoved in my face,” he confesses in a quiet voice. “Any halfwit with a working brain can look at a calendar and see that it’s weeks before the next moon.”

“If they had brains, they would not be manning the doors,” Black says, and claps him on the shoulder. “Are you ready?”

Lupin nods. “Yes. I think so. As much as I wish we weren’t bearing witness to this at all.”

“Harry, are you ready to go?” Black asks.

Potter nods and rejoins the group of adults. “With that, let us be off,” Albus says, and leads the way to the elevators. When they disembark several floors down, he leaves them, tapping his robes as he walks until he is wearing the proper, gaudy garb of the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot.

“This way,” Black says, putting his hand on Potter’s shoulder to guide him to the courtroom. Number Nineteen is cavernous, and despite the holiday, public seating is crammed full of wizards and witches. Cameras flash as their small group enters the court room, doing their best to blind them all.

“Bloody reporters,” Black grumbles, and follows the court adjunct to their appointed seats. The adjunct conjures an extra chair for McGonagall, and then takes up a position behind their row of chairs.

“All right there, Harry?” Lupin asks.

Snape thinks the two men are acting like hovering, ridiculous matrons, but Potter doesn’t seem to notice. “Yes, Professor,” he says, his eyes studying the assembled Wizengamot with keen interest.

“I’m not your Professor right now, Harry,” Lupin says, which catches Potter’s attention.

After a moment, Potter nods. His eyes are tracking Albus as he takes his place up in the stands next to Cornelius Fudge. “Oh. Right. Sorry, Remus.”

Lupin smiles. “Quite all right.”

The court is called to order. Snape finds it interesting that Fudge is officiating, not Dumbledore.

The moment the prisoner is brought in, the public gallery loses its collective mind. Fudge shouts for control and then mutes the entire lot of them with a charm.

Pettigrew does not look well at all. Snape had wondered if the long-term effects of remaining in his Animagus form for so long would wear off as time passed, but that does not seem to be the case. Pettigrew’s teeth are still too long and rat-like, and his beard has grown in with a decided whiskery quality. His eyes dart nervously back and forth; his fingernails are more like claws.

When Pettigrew spies Black, Lupin, Snape, McGonagall, and Potter, he quails and tries to run backwards. The guards pick him up and escort him to the chair in the center of the courtroom, and chain him in place over what sounds like faint, frantic squeaking.

“The prisoner will state his name for the court,” Fudge intones, trying his best to look grim and proper.

“P-Peter P-P-Pettigrew,” the prisoner stutters. “P-please, I’m innocent, you have t-to—”

“Be silent,” Fudge orders, and Pettigrew’s mouth snaps closed. “On second June, 1993, this court viewed the Pensieve testimony of Sirius Black, Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black. Peter Pettigrew, you have already been found guilty of the murder of twelve Muggles on first November, 1981, as well as the crime of framing Sirius Black for that despicable act. Today we will view the Pensieve testimony of Severus Snape, Professor of Potions at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The purpose of the viewed testimony is to clarify your guilt—or innocence—in the deaths of James and Lily Potter on thirty-first October, 1981.”

Pettigrew shrinks back in his chair. “Well, they got right to the point, didn’t they?” Black murmurs under his breath.

“Professor Snape, please stand,” Fudge instructs. Snape delays three seconds and then stands, just when Fudge is starting to swell and turn red. “Are you ready to retrieve the memories of the eve of twenty-ninth May, 1993?”

“I am,” Snape says.

“Mister Potter,” Fudge turns his attention to the boy, seated between Lupin and Black. “Are you prepared to view such testimony in its entirety?”

Potter stands up without needing to be prompted. “I am.”

Another member of the Wizengamot, a woman with a haughty face and cold eyes, speaks up. “Are you prepared to offer your own Pensieve testimony, if Mister Snape’s should prove inadmissible in this court?”

Potter nods. “I am, but it might not do you any good.”

“Oh? And why is that, lad?” Fudge asks, in his best ingratiating voice.

“Well, sir, I had just been Obliviated,” Potter says. “There isn’t all that much to see. I only have off-and-on recollections of the first couple of hours after…after Professor Lockhart’s spell.”

There is a low murmur of anger at that. Fudge frowns. “I see, Mister Potter. You may sit down. Professor Snape?”

An adjunct comes forward, bearing the court’s Pensieve, while another waves her wand to lower the large projection screen. They work as a team to connect Pensieve to display in a matter of minutes. Snape steps close to the shallow bowl. After a moment’s contemplation, he puts the tip of his wand to his temple.

He draws out a strong line of memory, cloudy and silver, and delivers it to the Pensieve. “The trigger is still the same, yes?” he asks. He has done this before, but Snape does not think about the final months of 1981 unless he has no choice.

“The very same, Severus,” Albus answers the question before Fudge has the chance. “Three taps of your wand to the side of the bowl, and then give it a good stir.”

Snape taps the side of the bowl with perhaps a bit more vehemence than necessary. His wand is dipped into the bowl’s misty contents; he does, indeed, give it a good stir. The Pensieve swirls into action, and the memory begins to play. Snape steps back to watch, aware that every eye in the courtroom is riveted to the screen.

Snape halts his steps in the girls’ lavatory, his expression furrowing into one of extreme annoyance. There is a gaping chasm in the wall where a sink used to be.

He whirls from the room and finds the closest office with a fireplace, firecalling Albus. He tells Albus quickly about the state of the girls’ lavatory. Albus looks grim, and says that he will be there as quickly as possible.

Albus joins him shortly, as does Hagrid and Minerva. Snape leads them back to the lavatory, where the entrance awaits them.

“There is a slide that goes down into the dark,” Albus says after a brief investigation. “Minerva, if you would wait here to keep the curious at bay, then myself, Severus, and Hagrid will see to discovering just what is going on.”

“Of course, Albus,” Minerva says, her wand clenched in her hand. With the infirmary still full of petrified students (and one cat) they are all tense, on high alert. “Have you sent word to Poppy?”

“I have,” Albus says, and then sits down on the edge of the hole and drops out of sight. Snape goes next; the ride is swift and unpleasant. He is at the start of a dark tunnel, with Albus holding up his wand for illumination.

“Beggin’ yer pardon, Professors,” Hagrid calls down from above. “But am I going to fit down there?”

Albus looks around and then shakes his head. “Best to wait up there, Rubeus. In fact, if you could fashion us a way to escape from this tunnel when our exploration is done, that would be a kindness.”

“We don’t need a way fashioned,” Snape says in an undertone. “Unless we find someone in need of assistance.”

Albus’s eyes flick off in the direction of the tunnel. Snape nods.

At the end of the tunnel, there is a door. Two snakes are entwined over it, facing each other. Their tongues move, their tails flicker.

Sitting in front of the door, facing them and blinking like blinded owls from the light of Albus’s wand, are Ronald Weasley and Harry Potter.

Snape scowls. Of course.

Albus frowns. “What do you two boys think you’re doing down here?”

“I dunno,” Weasley says with a cheerful smile. “I don’t actually know where I am right now. Do you know how I got down here, Professor Dumbledore?”

“Through a tunnel in the girls’ lavatory, and goodness knows what you were doing in there in the first place,” Albus says to Weasley, still frowning.

Weasley nods, and then turns to his companion. “Hey, Harry? Do you remember a tunnel in the bathroom?”

Potter turns his head and looks at Weasley, an expression of perfect emptiness on his face. “Who are you?” he asks.

“Er. Harry,” Weasley looks worried. “I’m Ron. Your friend. You remember me, right?”

“No,” Potter says, with no emotion at all.

“He’s been Obliviated, Mister Weasley,” Dumbledore says in quiet explanation. “You both have.”

“It seems to have had a profound effect on Mister Potter,” Snape says. “Perhaps it will be an improvement.”

In the courtroom, Black scowls at him. Snape ignores him. How could he have known how extensive the damage was? At the time, it was nothing more than an annoyance.

From behind the sealed door, there is a horrible, blood-curdling scream. Weasley turns white and shivers. Potter looks to be listening, but otherwise does not react. Albus heads for the door. “Let me in,” he says.

The snakes hiss at him and refuse to budge.

“I am the Headmaster of this school, and as such, everything in its domain must obey my word,” Albus tells the door. “I command you to open.”

The snakes hiss again. Even Snape can tell that they’re laughing, and the door stays shut.

“Blast it all. Harry,” Albus turns to Potter. “What are they saying?”

Potter looks up. “Saying? I only hear hissing.”

The memory speeds up, showing the court a quick scramble of removing the two Obliviated boys from the tunnel. It is quickly determined that Gilderoy Lockhart is missing, as is Ginny Weasley.

“Oh, that poor girl,” Minerva says, her hands clasped to her chest. “Albus, I’m going to send for her parents.”

“Go,” Albus says, waving her on. “It cannot hurt, and they will need to know.”

Weasley seems fine, and is munching on biscuits in his older brother Percy’s company. Snape kneels in front of Potter, who is sitting in quiet stillness on one of Albus’s office chairs. “Potter,” he says.

Potter focuses on him. “Hello.”

“Potter, I would like for you to tell me the last thing you remember.”

The boy nods. “Mummy and Daddy are worried.”

Snape leans away from Potter, a shocked look on his face. “Albus!” he calls in a strangled voice.

“Severus, what is it?” Albus asks, waving off the other gathered faculty, who leave with new instructions to search the school for anyone else who might be missing, and to attempt to find another way through the Parseltongue-sealed tunnel.

“Potter, I apologize for the repetition. Will you please tell Professor Dumbledore what you last remember?” Snape asks, his face a grim mask.

“Sure,” Potter says, and then looks up at Albus. “I remember you. Beard-Wizard. Dummle-ore. I hid a toy duck in your beard.”

Albus’s eyes grow wide. “Indeed you did. I found it after I returned home from my last visit with your parents.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Snape sees Fudge give Albus a questioning look, followed by words too quiet to be heard. Albus shakes his head in response.

Albus crouches down in front of the boy, peering at him with a kind smile. “What do you remember last happening, young Mister Potter?”

Potter glances at Snape, who nods, and then looks at Albus. “Mummy and Daddy are frightened. They keep saying that the wards on the house are failing. They said…” and Potter begins to look sad. “They said that Uncle Peter must have told someone.”

Snape and Albus exchange incredulous glances. “Uncle Peter? Peter Pettigrew, you mean?” Albus asks.

Potter nods. “Yep. Peter Pet—tigrew,” the boy stutters through the name, just as a young child might.

“Not Sirius Black?” Snape asks in a near-growl.

“No!” Potter looks scandalized. “Uncle Sirius is doing secret things for the Phee-nix,” he says, confiding in a serious whisper. “Uncle Peter’s job is to not tell people.”

“Great Merlin,” Albus says in a soft voice. “Are you frightened, Harry?”

Potter shakes his head. “Mummy and Daddy will take care of me,” he says with absolute trust. “But Daddy’s going to thrash Uncle Peter. He’s very angry with him right now.”

The memory ends there; Snape has no wish to subject Potter, again, to the horrified realization that his parents are dead, and have been for over eleven years. The public gallery’s crowd is on its collective feet in mute outrage. If not for the court wards, Peter Pettigrew would be at risk of being torn to shreds.

Fudge is pale. “Thank you, Professor Snape. That will be all,” he says. Snape inclines his head, retrieves the memory, and resumes his seat.

“I have questions,” an older wizard says, his beard almost as impressive as Albus Dumbledore’s. “For my own clarification. Mister Potter, do you mind?”

“No, sir,” Potter says, and stands again.

“When you were Obliviated by Professor Lockhart, how many years did you lose?”

“I lost everything after Hallowe’en Night, 1981, sir,” Potter replies. “I don’t remember seeing Voldemort—”

Half of the imbeciles in the courtroom shiver and quail at mention of Voldemort’s name.

“I don’t remember his arrival at our house. I can remember my parents discussing the failing Fidelius Charm, as you saw. I can remember a few months before that, but then it starts to get fuzzy.”

“Any particulars, beyond your parents?” Fudge asks. The entire Wizengamot practically radiates curiosity.

“I can remember Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and…a baby, that I think might be Neville Longbottom, visiting with his grandmother. There’s also a girl, who is probably Nymphadora Tonks.”

“Probably?” the bearded wizard repeats, amused.

Potter has a faint smile on his face. “Her hair color changed every few seconds. I haven’t met anyone else who can do that.”

Fudge nods. “Thank you, Mister Potter. You may sit down. Now then: Mister Pettigrew.”

Pettigrew squeaks and tries to escape the chained confines of his chair.

“Now you will bear witness to the decision of the Wizengamot, which is legal and binding, this twenty-first December, 1993. All those who agree that Peter Pettigrew is guilty of the betrayal of James and Lily Potter, an act that led directly to their murder by He Who Shall Not Be Named?”

Most of the Wizengamot raises arms and fans and signal boards. Some hands rise more slowly than others. The witch who attempted to impugn the quality of Snape’s testimony doesn’t raise her hand at all until she realizes that she is the only one who has not done so. Then her hand sails into the air, and she gives her neighbors a haughty look.

“Very well,” Fudge says with an air of accomplishment. “Peter Pettigrew, you are hereby guilty of the murder of James and Lily Potter—”

“No!” Pettigrew screams, but Fudge speaks over him.

“And you will be remanded to Azkaban, where you will be granted a week’s reprieve to consider your crimes before you are given into the hands of the Dementors.” Fudge nods at the guards.

In the chair next to Snape, Black slumps forward and sighs. “Fuck, am I glad that’s over and done with.”

“They’re giving him to the Dementors,” Minerva says. “I almost can’t believe it.”

“Well, they do regret not doing the same to me,” Black points out with a twisted smile. “If Peter’s dead, no one can come along and make Fudge look incompetent.”

“That is the height of cynicism,” Lupin mutters, but Snape does notice that he hasn’t disagreed. Besides, Fudge doesn’t need assistance to look incompetent. He’s managed just fine on his own already.

They get assailed by the reporters in the corridor just outside the courtroom. “Oh, Mister Potter!” Snape hears, and recognizes the doubtfully dulcet tones of Rita Skeeter. “A word, if you please!”

Potter makes the mistake of glancing in her direction, which is all the opportunity Skeeter needs. “How is it that you have lost so much of your memory, yet are doing so well in your studies at Hogwarts?” she simpers.

“I read,” Potter says, granting her an extra-blank look. “I read everything I could over summer break, in order to be prepared for my third year and not fall behind in school. That included The Daily Prophet.” Potter pauses. “Your articles, Miss Skeeter, are enlightening.”

Skeeter blinks, startled by the response. Black shoves his godson through the crowd before she can recover.

Snape has never been so damned proud of a Potter in his entire life.

In the Prophet a week later, there is a final front-page article that proclaims Peter Pettigrew’s execution by Dementors. Snape keeps that front page clipping mounted on the wall in his private quarters, a reminder not to be fooled by cowardly appearances.