Sirius came bounding into the sitting room nearly a week later. "Well? How do I look?" Before he got an answer, he was distracted by Severus's appearance. "Well don't you look dashing! You ought to wear something other than black a little more often."
Severus grunted and straightened the navy blue cloak that adorned his shoulders.
"Is that the cloak I got you?" Harry asked. It was a silly question really; it was the only colorful thing in Snape's wardrobe.
"It is," Severus confirmed.
"Looks good," Harry complimented him. He stood and smoothed down his own dress robes. "Are we Flooing?"
"Not in these shoes," Sirius said with a put-on stuck up air. Harry grinned.
"We are apparating," Severus said. "Which we can do now that Black has a wand."
"You got a wand?" Harry asked. "When?"
"Last night on my way home," he said. With a sly grin, he added, "You should have seen the children I scared in Ollivander's."
"I can imagine," Harry said. He patted his own wand pocket and felt the reassuring bulge. "Well? Ready?"
"I am not sure I will ever be," Severus commented dryly.
"You're getting an award," Harry said. "At least try and look like you appreciate it.""Order of Merlin First Class," Sirius said thoughtfully, testing the words on his tongue. "Didn't you say they were going to give it to you for catching me?"
"Yes," Severus replied. "Though once they realized Pettigrew was the guilty one, he became the stated reason."
Sirius cracked a smile. "I like to think I'm important enough to cause someone to get a medal."
Severus rolled his eyes. "Let's get this over with."
"Who am I apparating with?" Harry asked, looking between the two.
"Whomever you like," Sirius said.
Harry shrugged and stepped over to take Severus's arm. He looked down at him before they both disappeared and were relocated to the apparation point within the Ministry. After registering their wands, they proceeded to locate a small conference room in which the "ceremony" was to be held. Severus was assured that it would be a very small affair, only a few of the teachers and the minister present.
"Why can't they send the medal by owl?" Severus grumbled.
Sirius clapped him on the shoulder. "It's an honor to know someone of your status," he said jokingly.
Severus looked down at Sirius's hand on his shoulder with disdain. Sirius removed it.
"Why did I agree to let you come?" he asked himself rhetorically.
They stepped into the conference room where Dumbledore, McGonagall, Flitwick and Sprout had already been gathered. They clapped as he entered. Severus's dark look told them to stop immediately. Harry had to swallow a grin.
"I believe congratulations are in order, my boy," Dumbledore said with a smile. "The Minister should be here in a few minutes."
Severus nodded. Dumbledore turned to Sirius. "Congratulations to you as well."
"Thank you," Sirius said gratefully. "It wouldn't have happened without you."
"Glad to help," Dumbledore said, smiling.
After McGonagall echoed Dumbledore's congratulations, they stood around awkwardly, waiting for the arrival of Fudge. McGonagall wandered over to Harry.
"Good summer, Harry?" she asked conversationally.
"Very good, ma'm," Harry replied politely.
She waved her hand. "Dispense with the formalities, Harry," she said. "I have."
"Yes, Professor," he said.
She gave him a soft look accompanied by a slight shake of the head. Harry blinked at her when the door opened across the room. A formally dressed Minister of Magic and his entourage entered. Everyone stood. Fudge shuffled forward.
"Shall we start then?" he asked. Those gathered nodded. He cleared his throat and stood looking important. Harry noticed that one of the people who had come in with him was a reporter with an oversized camera. He tried not to grin imagining a picture of Snape on the front page of the newspaper looking as grumpy as he did at the moment.
"You all know that we are here to honor one Severus Snape for his services in catching the criminal Peter Pettigrew," Fudge said breathily, glancing briefly, nervously at Sirius. Egging him on, Sirius adopted a haughty and challenging look. Fudge looked away. "Therefore, we would like to award him with Order of Merlin, First Class." He looked at Snape expectantly. He stepped forward.
"It would be an honor, sir," Severus said politely. Harry looked at Severus as if he had morphed into a hippogriff. He had never heard his guardian speak with that amount of deference to anyone.
Fudge nodded and gestured for one of the assistants hovering behind him to come forward. She presented a gold trimmed rectangular box of blue velvet. Opening it ceremoniously, she revealed a glittering badge of sorts. Severus was looking at it with a form of mild disgust. It was well veiled to the common onlooker, however.
"Who would you like to do the honors?" Fudge asked graciously.
Severus turned. "Harry?"
Blushing, Harry came forward, picking the delicate gold pin off of the cushion of velvet on which it sat. He fumbled with the backing until it released. Harry stepped closer to pin it on Severus's cloak, for he did not know where else it would go. For the briefest of moments, their eyes locked. Harry curled his lip with the hint of a smile and Severus's gaze softened ever so slightly. A light flashed beside them. Blinking through the spots that suddenly filled his vision, Harry struggled to close the pin. At last it caught and he stepped away. The photographer's camera was still aimed at them as Harry stepped away and Fudge shook Severus's hand. Harry noted that Severus's grip seemed extra firm for the minister. He showed no indication other than a flicker of worry or suspicion that was quickly dispensed with beneath his politician's façade.
As they broke off the handshake, the photographer stepped away.
"I apologize for having to run-" Fudge began informally.
Severus cut him off. "It is just fine. Thank you for coming, Minister. It has been a pleasure."
Fudge scrutinized him for a moment. "Yes, well, have a good day, all of you." With a nod to the rest and a wave at those hovering behind him, Fudge swept out of the door.
Dumbledore clapped his hands together. "Well, welcome to the Order, Severus!"
"Thank you, Albus," he replied dryly. Addressing the rest, he said, "You can all go now, if you wish. I appreciate your coming."
After a round of congratulations and goodbyes, only Severus, Harry, Sirius and Dumbledore were left in the room. Severus ran his hand through his hair.
"None of that was necessary," he complained.
"It goes a long way towards furthering your image," Dumbledore pointed out.
Severus raised a brow. "I was happy with it before."
"Of course," he said dismissively. "If you will excuse me, I would have a word with Mr. Black."
Sirius looked surprised. "Certainly."
They stepped out into the corridor, leaving Harry and Severus alone in the room.
"As you are assuredly aware," Dumbledore began, "Mr. Lupin is no longer at the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor."
Sirius nodded. "He had said as much."
"Naturally, we are in need of someone to fill that position," the old man said, eyes twinkling. He waited expectantly.
Sirius's brow furrowed. "Are you asking me?"
"Yes, my dear boy," Dumbledore replied. "If you are amenable."
Sirius blinked. "And- but you don't think that me teaching kids is going to be an issue with the parents? That's almost as bad as a werewolf."
"You are forgetting that you have been cleared," Dumbledore reminded him. "They can say nothing other than to dispute the court's decision."
Sirius frowned. "Oh."
Dumbledore patted him on the arm. "You can certainly have a few days to think over such an offer. There will be a teacher's meeting next Thursday. If you decide you would like to join the staff, I believe Severus would not mind you tagging along with him."
"Sure," Sirius said distractedly. That gave him a little less than a week to consider it.
Dumbledore smiled once more then dismissed himself. He hummed a cheery tune as he strolled leisurely down the hall, away from Sirius. Sirius could do naught but blink at him and shake his head.
Severus gave Sirius a flat stare when he finished his announcement.
"Well are you going to do it?" Harry asked eagerly.
Sirius shrugged. "What do you think?"
"I think you should," Harry said forcefully. "I can come down and visit all the time."
Sirius looked at Severus expectantly. Severus deliberately took a slow sip of his coffee.
"I think you should," he said, surprising the other two. "After all, none of the recent teachers have lasted more than a year, who is to say you shall be different?"
"Who's to say I won't?" Sirius shot back.
Severus looked at him appraisingly. "You will not."
Sirius looked contemplative. "I think I'll do it. What else would I do with myself?"
"Good question," Severus muttered.
"That's great," Harry said. "You'll be a fun teacher."
Sirius put on a stern face. "Fun does not help you learn, Harry."
For a moment, Harry thought he was being serious until his face broke into a wide grin. Severus rolled his eyes.
"And here I was looking forward to the start of term," he grumbled.
Sirius punched him lightly on the arm. "Yeah, now we'll get to see more of each other."
"Fantastic," Snape replied sarcastically. "You do realize that you are going to actually have to work at this job, right?"
"Hey, if you can do it, so can I."
Severus gave him a look.
"And that's my cue to go," Sirius said, standing. "I'll see you soon, Harry. And you're supposed to take me to the meeting on Thursday, Severus."
"Am I to be your babysitter as well?" Severus asked snidely.
"Don't be silly," Sirius said dismissively. "You'd be a horrible babysitter."
Severus glared at Sirius.
"See you," he said and disapparated.
Severus shook his head and picked up his coffee once more, enjoying the silence.
Harry writhed in his bed, sheets twisting around his legs. He was covered in a cold sweat and a look of pain graced his face.
"Harry?" a voice said. A cold hand touched his cheek. "Harry?"
Harry's eyes fluttered open, hand flying to his scar. It burned fiercely. He drew in a shaky breath and was startled to find himself face to face with Severus.
"Harry?" he asked once more. "Are you okay?"
Harry blinked. He sat up and reached for his glasses. Severus turned up the lamp at his bedside.
"I think so," he said, wrapping his arms around his middle. "Nightmare."
Severus frowned, sitting next to him on the bed. "Want to talk about it?"
Harry gulped. "I think he's back."
Severus paled slightly, not noticeable in the dark. He placed his hand on Harry's. "Are you sure?"
Harry shook his head. "And if he is...he isn't quite right. It was really odd. I didn't see him exactly...but the other man called him 'my lord'."
"Tell me everything, if you can," Severus encouraged.
"All I saw was the back of his chair in front of the fireplace. There was a snake too. Whatever was in the chair was small; I didn't see a shadow on the arm. But the voice...Then someone came in. His hood was up but he sounded familiar but I can't... I can't place him," Harry said in frustration. "Then I think the person in the chair told the snake to attack someone but I couldn't tell who. It wasn't the man in the cloak. It went away and they were talking but I couldn't hear what they said. Something about a plan. That's not very helpful."
Severus was silent during Harry's speech. He looked contemplatively at Harry.
"It seems the prophecy has fulfilled itself," he said simply.
Harry frowned. "If only I could remember," he said, frustrated again.
"Remember what, exactly?" Severus asked.
"Anything. What they said, who the man was...anything helpful," he muttered.
Severus squeezed Harry's hand. "You have been helpful. We now know that we must be on our guard. You should go back to sleep."
Harry looked at him. "After that?" he asked incredulously. "What if I have another nightmare?"
"Would you like some potion?" Severus asked.
Harry shook his head. "I don't like the thought of not being able to wake up if..."
"Try to sleep then," Severus said, pushing Harry gently against the pillows. "If you need anything at all, I am only one room over."
Harry nodded. "Thank you, Severus."
"Of course," Severus replied.
Harry pulled the covers up and closed his eyes. He felt the bed tilt as Severus stood. Had his eyes been open, Harry might have seen the soft, yet worried look that Severus gave him. As it was, he did not see Severus rub his forearm and leave the room with a deep furrow to his brow. It seemed as if he might have to break his promise to Sirius.