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A Good Man Goes to War

By Leah Thomas


Chapter 1

"Albus? Has there been any word?"

"None." Dumbledore sits at his desk, almost precisely as he'd been the last time Professor McGonagall had come to check on him. He's barely stirred to do more than make himself a cup of tea and even that had been provoked more by force of habit than anything else. 

That, it seems, was quite some time ago.

Dumbledore glances at the open pocket watch cradled in his hand and he is unsurprised to learn that, since being mired in his own thoughts, two hours have passed without either his notice or his consent. However much he tries not to be consumed by them, to set them aside until such a time as he can do something about them, they seem to drag at his attention just the same, monopolizing them.

The forgotten teacup near his elbow has since turned cold and stale. Drawing his wand from within the sleeve of his robes, he waves it away with barely a glance. "Not as yet."

"It's been hours." Minerva steps more fully into the room, shutting the door firmly behind her as she comes to stand rigidly in front of his desk. Dumbledore regards her calmly over the top of his half-moon spectacles, displeased to note that she looks as pale and as grave as she had the first time she'd come to check on the evening's progress, still very much in shock. He isn't surprised that Diggory's death – such a hideous waste of a young life – has deeply affected her. "Surely he's not still there?"

"I'm sure they have much to discuss after such a long absence," he says grimly, setting his watch aside to fold his hands neatly on the desk instead. If not for the bleakness of his eyes or the somber set to his jaw, McGonagall could even accuse him of being positively indifferent about the situation. 

She, of course, knows him better than that. "Even now, Severus is likely offering Voldemort further information about the Order. He'll know that, already, we're rallying our numbers and preparing to move against him."

Thoughts of Severus and where he is and what he is enduring have plagued him relentlessly for the last few hours, worry amassing somewhere in his stomach, like something cold and hard has settled in the pit of it. He's not certain how much longer he can stand to sit idle. "How is Harry?"

"Poppy's seen to him." Minerva's purses her lips at the mention of him, her mouth drawing thinly with concern. It seems that none of them quite trust that he, a young boy of fourteen, has somehow managed to escape Voldemort relatively unscathed. That he is, however improbably, alive. In fact, having Harry back at Hogwarts and under their protection is their only consolation. "He was still asleep the last time I checked. Dreamless, are per your suggestion."

"Yes, good. After tonight's events, the poor boy deserves at least some measure of peace, however temporarily." He glances at Minerva then, offering her a thin smile, the warmth of it never quite reaching his eyes. "Go to bed, Minerva. There's little sense in the both of us being exhausted come morning."

"It's morning now, Albus," she replies pointedly and, for a moment, he thinks that she might argue with him and insist on keeping him company. 

She doesn't. With great reluctance, she nods her head and, wordlessly, moves back towards the door, no doubt intending another trip to the hospital wing. Albus suspects that she'll be back within the hour to press an ear against his door again, restless and unable to set her mind at ease.

For once, she doesn't bid him a goodnight. A night like this one is anything but.

Another hour passes and Albus has neither seen nor heard from anyone and has since moved to stand beside the bay window that looks out onto the grounds of Hogwarts. If he very nearly presses his crooked nose to the glass, he can just see the bank of the Greak Lake as it emerges from behind a crop of trees. Beyond it, the sky is already starting to turn a hazy purple, an exceptionally different day threatening to break over the horizon.

Albus doesn't turn to look when, without so much as a knock to announce their presence, someone stumbles into the office. He doesn't need to. There is only one person who would dare to intrude on his privacy so bluntly and if he has managed to drag himself this far then he can't have been too badly harmed.

"You know," Albus beings offhandedly without turning around, "I'm not sure why the founders decided to make this the office of their Headmasters. There's a much better view from Gryffindor Tower."

Long robes whisper across carpet and something boneless and heavy collapses onto the plush sofa tucked against the opposite wall, as far away from Dumbledore as possible. And still, he doesn't turn to look. "How was it?"

He receives only an oppressive silence in reply and, for just a moment, Dumbledore is tempted to turn and look towards his Potions Master.  There's a pause. "Severus?"

"… Familiar," is the eventual answer, spoken as though the word itself were onerous and difficult to say. "Too familiar."

Albus only nods his head in understanding, his hands clasped tightly behind his back as he continues to stare out over the grounds. "I'd hoped we were past all of this."

"We both knew this day was coming. It was only a matter of time," Albus says gravely, his shoulders slumping beneath the weight of the admission. On a morning like this - few though they may be - he feels every one of his many years. War. It's strange how instantly it changes everything. "He was angry."

It isn't a question.


And, finally, Dumbledore turns slowly towards his reappointed spy.

"Oh, my boy."

Severus has sunk deep into the cushions of Dumbledore's red, overstuffed sofa, his eyes tightly closed and fingers worrying incessantly at his temple. Even from this distance, Dumbledore can see the way they tremble and how hard Severus is trying to suppress it. He steps forward, intent upon saying more but before he has the chance Severus opens his eyes and shoots a scathing look his way.

"Don't you dare." And, for the first time since Harry returned from within the maze, Albus' smile, small though it may be, is genuine. He knows how much Severus loathes pity, in all of its many guises.

"Of course not, Severus. I wouldn't dream of it." Of course, that doesn't stop him bridging the gap between them and settling on the sofa at his side. "Now, tell me everything."

"Crouch was never important," Severus begins slowly. "Not really. He was a means to an end, nothing more. Fundamental in helping the Dark Lord regain his strength, yes, but expendable." As so many of Voldemort's Death Eaters have always been, save a very select few. Followers have never been particularly difficult to come by. 

"His focus is on Potter. He wants the boy dead more than he wants to defeat you, Albus. Especially now, after yet another miraculous escape." Severus' voice is low as he relates the information, his dark eyes downcast, barely open as he continues to massage his temple. "He isn't safe. Not even here."

That much is abundantly clear, a fact that has weighed heavily on Albus ever since the boy returned with Cedric Diggory's body clutched fiercely in his grasp. They cannot protect him, not even at Hogwarts, as difficult as that is to believe.

Voldemort has returned, there can be no denying it, and they are all vulnerable. 

Severus continues to fidget and Dumbledore moves to take his hand, gripping it tightly in his to stop his restless movements. His blue eyes, piercing in their austerity, search Snape as though trying to glean further information from him. Albus supposes that he is, in his way.

"And what of your position?" He presses.

Severus' hand briefly tightens around his, tense at the prospect.

"Secure. For the time being. He was pleased with the information I was able to provide." Severus finally opens his eyes to look at Albus properly, the skin beneath them seemingly bruised against the whiteness of his skin and the pale light of dawn slowly creeping into the office. "I suspect it was the only thing that calmed his rage."

"I'm sure. Tom always did have something of an insufferable temper." To put it mildly, Albus thinks, running surprisingly firm fingers across the back of Severus' hand, as though the simple movement alone could soothe the fine tremor running through them. He isn't surprised that Severus doesn't wrench his arm away from even that small gesture of comfort, though many wouldn't believe it. He's had as much of a shock as the rest of them tonight.

They sit silently together, finding solace in each other's company, lost in thought and, however reluctantly, bracing themselves for a new day and, with it, a new battle. It isn't until Dumbledore looks up from his lap to glance at Severus' face from behind the twin curtains of his black hair does he realize that Severus' eyes are closed and that, improbably, he seems to be dozing.

He gives his hand a firm squeeze. "Severus? Time for bed, my boy. Unless you'd prefer to sleep here. I'm certain Fawkes won't mind the company."

The phoenix in question, as though sensing the collective mood of the castle, has, like his master, barely stirred. He does so only at the mention of his name, lifting his head from his plumage to blink serenely at them, his eyes shining and wet as though from weeping. Perhaps he thought they might need his tears tonight. 

Blinking his eyes open, Severus pays the creature little mind - Fawkes has always, it seems, been a source of great discomfiture for him - and, disentangling his hand from Dumbledore's, pushes his hair back from his face. Abruptly, he straightens to a stand. With the way he looks at Albus, it's as though he's suddenly remembered that he's supposed to be uncomfortable. Albus, of course, pretends to ignore it and offers a reassuring smile.

"No, thank you, I must –"

"Voldemort -" Dumbledore steadfastly ignores Severus' violent flinch, "- isn't marching on the gates of Hogwarts this very moment. There'll be plenty of time to worry later, I promise you."

Albus moves to stand in front of him, briefly clasping his shoulders, giving them a gentle squeeze. "Thank you, my boy. For being so terribly brave."

And he is. Few would have been so willing, so wordless in their loyalty to him that, without argument or complaint, they would surrender themselves to the will and mercy of a madman.

Severus, usually so eloquent, seems not to know how to respond for a moment and settles on simply nodding his head, neither accepting or rejecting the praise. Even as a boy, Dumbledore remembers how uncomfortable he'd been whenever compliments or applause were gracious enough to brush him by. He always shied away or dismissed them, no matter how much he might have done to deserve them in the first place. At least in some things he hasn't changed, though Albus can't say whether or not it's for the better.

Finally, Albus steps away from him. "Go and rest. We'll talk more later, I promise you."

They will talk for hours, no doubt. For as long as either of them can stand. 

They are all agents of war now, each fighting for what they believe to be right, to protect their friends and their families. They will have plenty to discuss over the next few days and Albus suspects that they will both spend more time confined to this room, huddled in quiet but crucial conversation, for longer than either of them could possibly predict. 

It's better that they both rest while they still can.

Tomorrow, they have a war to fight.
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