Thoughts of Pudding 2012

Chapter 24: The Potions Master

Thoughts of Pudding by Brian64.

Chapter 24: The Potions Master.

Friday 28th June, 1996.

Severus Snape looked at the results of his taunting and provocation, and was surprised to find he gained no satisfaction from it. Potter looked totally shattered, slumped to his knees and staring at the girl as she bled out. As for the girl, the only thing he really felt regarding her was acceptance, that she was where he had intended her to be – a non-threat.

Minerva though…

He looked at his colleague and found himself oddly moved by her. He couldn't recall ever seeing her as distraught as she was now; pleading for help from Albus and trying desperately to heal her charge.

He looked down at the phoenix chick on the floor near his feet. "I'm sure this is somehow your fault," he muttered to the bird as he walked towards Minerva. Kneeling next to her, he ripped the girl's blood-soaked shirt open so that he could see the wounds, and began to cast, drawing his wand along the slashes his earlier spell had caused.

"Vulnera Sanentur. Vulnera Sanentur. Vulnera Sanentur…" Snape repeatedly cast the spell until all of the slashes had been healed. Almost absently he used Tergeo to clean off the blood from her body and shirt, and then repaired her shirt.

He turned to Minerva who was looking at him sternly, though her relief was also evident. "She will need to use dittany immediately to prevent any scarring, though in her case I suppose her morphing ability could take care of that. However her most pressing need is for Blood-Replenishing potions. I suggest you floo with her to the hospital wing and give them to her."

Minerva nodded, and stood up. Using mobilicorpus, she levitated Tonks and moved towards the headmaster's floo as suggested. She stopped and looked toward Harry who was still on the floor, staring now at the blood where Tonks had been laying moments earlier.

Her confusion was clear to Snape. "I will see that he follows you to the hospital momentarily. Your patient needs you now, Minerva. Make haste."

Snape watched as Minerva flooed away with Tonks, and turned to Potter. He readied his wand, but didn't expect to need it, unless the boy was incapable of standing and walking.

"Potter. Potter, get up. POTTER!"

There was no response, and Snape was hardly surprised. Walking over to Fawkes, he picked up the chick from its pile of ash, and walked back to the boy. He retrieved the wand from where the boy had dropped it, and tucked it into his own robes.

"Was it worth it, Severus? Does this outcome please you?" the headmaster asked him, and for the first time in over a decade, he could hear contempt in the man's tone.

"An interesting question, Headmaster. Perhaps I shall ask it of you as well? After all, you set this situation up. You chose not to advise me of the scene I would encounter, and obviously you also chose not to inform your guests to expect me either. I'm forced to wonder whether I played my part as you hoped I would. Was I intended to punish them for not consulting the great Albus Dumbledore? For not including him in their plans? For… ignoring him?"

"You go too far, Severus!"

"I think not. Am I expected to believe that you never once considered disarming the girl while she was casting at me? I gave you plenty of opportunities to do so by not casting back at her. Were you hoping that she would die by my hand, leaving Potter alone again?"

Severus used his wand to levitate Potter and headed towards the floo.

"This discussion is not over," the headmaster called after him.

"For now it is," Severus replied as he flooed away to the hospital wing with the boy.

Once there he floated the boy onto the bed next to where Minerva was working on Tonks, and then conjured a bowl on the bedside table next to him. Noticing the bird's shivering, he cast a warming charm on the chick before placing him in the bowl, and then turned to Minerva.

"Do you need anything, Minerva?"

She shook her head. "I've given her the Blood-Replenishers and the dittany. I also gave her a sleeping draught to keep her asleep and give her system a chance to recover."

She turned to Severus and now looked angry again. "What was that spell you used, Severus, and why would you cast it at her?"

"The spell is one of my own design, and as for why I used it, that should be obvious. While I may find my life tedious, I still have no intention of allowing it to be taken freely by an angry child. Actions have consequences, Minerva, as I'm sure you're aware."

"But why use such a vicious spell?"

"Would you rather I'd used the killing curse? Or perhaps a reductor like the one she cast at me?" He paused, waiting for Minerva to acknowledge his point with an unhappy look, and then continued. "Tell me, Minerva, now that you've given her the dittany and Blood-Replenishers, how long will her recovery take do you think?"

"She should be fine by morning," Minerva admitted, "and I don't think we even need to bring Poppy back from leave to check her."

"Precisely."

"Very well, I accept your use of that spell in the circumstances, but you still didn't need to provoke her as you did."

"And are you in the habit of allowing a student to order you from the headmaster's office when the headmaster himself has summoned you there?"

"She is not a student, Severus!"

"And she is not the headmaster either. She had no cause to be ordering me around at all. She had neither the authority, nor the skill to back up her demands. Have you ever known me to suffer fools, Minerva? And no, you don't need to answer, as it was a rhetorical question.

"The question that you should really be asking yourself is; why did Dumbledore initiate that conflict?"

He almost imperceptibly tilted his head to the side, and continued to look at Minerva as he asked his next question. "Well, what is your opinion, Mister Potter?"

"I don't know."

~o~

Harry had been listening to what had been going on around him, but without really paying attention to what he heard. But then he heard Minerva say that Tonks was going to be fine in the morning, and if anything his self-loathing grew. The man he had tried to kill had been the one to save her, and she hadn't even been in as much danger as he had thought.

In fact, deny it as much as he could, it seemed Snape had specifically chosen a spell to disable Tonks that he was capable of healing completely. And his own response was to try to kill the man. Was it because he wanted to?

He doubted there were many students outside of Slytherin that didn't dream of ending the horrid professor at one time or another, but to actually attempt it? And with the killing curse? Was it really Tonks he was avenging, or his own desire to kill the man for all those insults and injustices?

As he was wondering whether things could get any worse, he belatedly recalled the fake Moody's lesson. How could he have forgotten that the penalty for casting an unforgiveable was a one way ticket to Azkaban?

Now Snape was suggesting that Dumbledore had initiated the conflict deliberately. It was too much, and he had no answer to Snape's question.

Severus turned now to face him and took in the boy's body language. He understood all too well the issues the boy was trying to come to terms with. They were no different to the ones he'd had to deal with himself when he was not much older, and there were no phoenixes around during the encounter with Voldemort where he accepted his dark mark. What a mistake that had been.

"Minerva, I think Potter and I need to have a private conversation."

"Absolutely not! He's been through quite enough without you–"

"Retract your claws, Minerva. I have no intention of damaging your Gryffindor. He and I need to have a conversation – or rather, he needs to have this conversation with me, as there is no one else he could have it with."

Minerva stared at the man intently, as though trying to weigh up the man's intentions, while he simply stared impassively back at her. It was Harry that broke the deadlock.

"It's alright, Professor. There isn't anything he could say or do to me now that would make things any worse for me."

"Harry, I don't think–"

"Leave us, Minerva. I will seek you in your office when we're done," Snape said impatiently.

Her eyes were cold and her expression gave evidence of her complete lack of tolerance as she turned to face Severus. "Very well, but mark my words, Severus. I will end you if you harm him further."

The man merely inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement.

After she left, Harry watched as Snape cast a spell at each of the portraits in the hospital wing, and then cast another spell around them. "This will prevent any eavesdropping," Snape said, anticipating his unspoken question.

He watched as the man summoned a chair to him and sat down, and then stared at him as though considering where to begin. While he did this, Harry sat up on the bed and got a better look at Tonks. She appeared to be sleeping peacefully. He looked at Fawkes, and took the chick from the bowl and held him in his hands. He didn't seem hot enough in Harry's opinion.

He reached for his wand, before realising he didn't have it, only to find Snape extending it towards him. Taking it, he looked around for something he could transfigure, but there were no rocks in the hospital wing.

"What is it you need, Potter?"

"Fawkes needs heat. I'd like to place him in a stone bowl with heated rocks around the edge, but while I can change their shape, I don't know how to transfigure things into real rocks."

"Place him back in the bowl, Potter, and tell me when you think it's hot enough."

Harry did so, and watched as Snape touched his wand to the bowl he'd created. The bowl appeared to change material, and when Snape kept his wand on it, Harry placed a hand near it to check the temperature. After a while he nodded, and Snape withdrew his wand and sat back in the chair."

"What I am about to tell you, Potter, is for your ears alone. You will not repeat it to anyone else, you will not write it down, and nobody will learn it from you. Are we agreed?"

"Yes, Sir."

Snape examined him, as though judging his sincerity before beginning. "Your wand, Potter," the main said, extending his hand. Reluctantly, Harry gave it to him.

"You may have it back soon, and while I doubt you would attempt to try killing me again, prudence dictates I avoid the possibility. At least until Fawkes has grown sufficiently."

If Harry's state of mind were different, he might have wondered whether this was Snape's version of humour, but instead he merely listened without comment.

"I am not in the habit of discussing my life with anyone. However, there are some things you need to know before we can move on to the current situation. I will be brief, as the details are irrelevant, but you need to know why I've hated you.

"My childhood was unpleasant, and in some ways even worse than yours. I did have a good friend though; your mother, Lily Evans. Things began to change after our sorting, but it was an event after our OWLs that saw our friendship end. You are aware of the reason, I believe, from delving into my memories uninvited."

While Harry was too drained to feel any true embarrassment, he did give a small nod in acknowledgement of Snape's rebuke.

"I was not able to restore our friendship after that incident. I do not blame your mother for that, as I think she was influenced by years of listening to the Gryffindors in her house. In any event, sometime later she started dating my rival, and that was more than I could take. I had no other friends and I found myself becoming closer to some acquaintances within my own house. I later joined their group and became a Death Eater. I'll say it again to be clear; I do not blame Lily for my own actions, and neither should you.

"Eventually there came a time when I overheard the first couple of lines of a prophecy, and I reported it to the Dark Lord. I don't think you can fully appreciate my horror and remorse when I learned that the prophecy referred to you, and that I had just sentenced Lily to death."

Snape had been expecting the boy's reaction, and quickly cast a Petrificus as the boy was about to launch himself in attack.

"Then, years later, you came to Hogwarts. With Lily's eyes, you were a constant reminder of what I might have hoped for if I hadn't ruined my friendship with her, but looking like my rival as you did, you were also a constant reminder of why my hopes never became reality. I blamed James Potter for the incident that caused my outburst at Lily. I blamed him for taking her from me, and I blamed him for denying me the possibility of her ever returning the love I felt for her.

"I hated you, and despised your very existence! You were living proof that the only woman I'd ever wanted had loved another man instead, and bore his child." Snape realised that he'd stood up and started pacing as he'd begun ranting in the telling of his story, and resumed his seat and composure before continuing.

"The reason I have told you this, is so that when I tell you that I despise the Dark Lord and wish him defeated, you can believe me without hesitation. He killed Lily, and I. Will. Not. Rest until he is destroyed. I had joined Dumbledore in the hope that he could save her, but he didn't, and now that the Dark Lord has returned I've yet to see him do anything useful.

"To my mind, there has been no hope. You are prophesied to be the one that will vanquish the Dark Lord, but how could you, when you can barely even focus on your classes? No, I've expected nothing less than that the Dark Lord would win," Snape said, pausing for emphasis before continuing. "Until tonight."

Snape cancelled the petrification spell he'd cast and threw the boy's wand back to him. "Start casting spells until I tell you to stop. Lumos, Wingardium Leviosa, Scourgify, and similar spells. Be certain not to cast any in my direction."

Harry's wand seemed to glow as he held it, but only a Lumos was cast.

"Tonight, Potter, you showed me that you are at least prepared to kill when you think it is necessary. If you can do that to avenge your friends, then you can do that to protect them as well."

Harry's eyes dropped. "I don't think I can. I'll never use that spell again. I… I didn't even think about it when I cast it, I just– I…"

"Calm yourself. And keep casting," Snape instructed him. "I know all too well the effects of casting that spell. You will feel unsettled for a while. For me, it took almost a week to get over, but unlike you, I didn't cast it in the heat of the moment. What I did, was dark. What you did was a crime of passion and a result of 'temporary insanity' as the Muggles refer to it."

"But it's still a dark curse, and…"

"Cease your whining. It is one of the three unforgiveables, and indeed, the Ministry of Magic classed it as a 'dark' curse a couple of centuries ago. But, despite that, it is not dark. You have to intend for the other person to die for it to work, but that is all. Aurors have been authorised to use it in the past, and they were not considered dark for either being able to cast it, or for actually doing so.

"Now, I want you to think about this next question very carefully. Did you enjoy casting that spell?"

As Harry considered the question, Snape watched and then conjured a bucket as the boy began vomiting. About half of the Death Eaters had the same reaction when they first cast the spell, but nobody had conjured a bucket for them. Snape himself had used his Occlumency to hold his own reaction in until he was alone.

"I rest my case, but you do not need to take my word for it. You will recall that your phoenix allowed you to hold him without complaint earlier? He would not have done so had you actually been dark, so put an end to that foolishness. I have no patience for it."

Harry looked up from his bucket, his face still a little green. "But I'll still end up in Azkaban. That's the law, isn't it?"

"Unless you feel the need to walk in there yourself, I suspect you will continue to remain free. Besides yourself, there were only three people conscious when you cast. Minerva has already indicated her position in defence of you. It should be obvious by now that I want the Dark Lord defeated more than anything else, and as for the headmaster…"

Snape paused and considered his response. "The headmaster knows the prophecy, and therefore knows he cannot afford for you to be in Azkaban. So, once your wand has been cleared of any evidence of casting the killing curse, there will be no need to fear that anyone else will learn of it from checking your wand. Get back to casting."

Harry did as he was told, and resumed casting various spells. He looked at Snape from time to time, but the man said nothing more, and Harry felt too drained to ask him anything. He desperately wished for a time turner to redo this evening.

"That should be enough," Snape advised him a short time later. "I had best go and see Minerva before she loses her patience and feels she needs to come and rescue you. There is nothing else you can do this evening, so I suggest you sleep. Once Minerva has checked her patient in the morning, I suggest you all leave, promptly."

Without waiting for a response, Snape left.

Harry looked briefly at the sleeping phoenix chick, and then got up and moved the chair Snape had used next to the bed Tonks was sleeping in. He watched her sleeping, for what may have been only a minute, or maybe half an hour, as he thought over what Snape had said. Could he kill to protect his family and friends?

He thought again about how close he had come to losing his cousin this evening, and impulsively leaned forward to give Tonks a kiss on her forehead.

Could he kill to protect her? He hoped he could, but at the moment he wasn't sure that was possible. He'd never be able to use the; 'I didn't really mean to…' excuse again, even to himself. Could he deliberately try to take a life? Even a Death Eater's, or Riddle's?

Sitting back in the chair again, he held her hand as he leaned against her bed and closed his eyes.

He hoped he could.

~o~

After advising Minerva of the relevant portions of his conversation with Potter, Snape was heading to his office when he encountered the headmaster again.

"I believe we should continue our discussion now, Severus."

"To what purpose, Headmaster?"

"This animosity between us, all of us, must end if we are to have any hope of defeating Tom," Dumbledore replied.

"Has it still not occurred to you that you are the cause of most of it?"

Dumbledore shook his head in concern rather than denial. "This conflict has to stop. I am not the enemy that you think I am, Severus. We must focus on our true enemy, and not on petty issues that distract us from our task. I've given you many opportunities, and you've squandered them time and time again in order to pursue a vendetta against a dead man. You must focus now on our true enemy – your true enemy, and end this infighting and bickering."

Snape studied the man he had once respected, and considered whether there was any point in speaking with him. "As usual, Headmaster, you continue to ignore those things you do not wish to hear. Your errors in judgement are significant and long-reaching. Perhaps you should focus less on my flaws, and more on your own. It is your actions and decisions that are affecting everyone else, not mine."

Dumbledore appeared as though he were sighing. "I have tried to reach you, Severus, and I am sorry I've not been able to. You are welcome to speak with me if you need to. Please remember that I will not protect you from Minerva if she calls for your termination."

"I have just spoken with Minerva, and we understand each other."

"And what of your treatment of Harry next year? Will I need to arrange for Auror guards so that you will not try to kill each other?"

"He and I have also had a discussion, and I believe that we have achieved a working relationship now. Aurors will not be required."

Dumbledore smiled for the first time. "I see. Then it appears as though my intentions for this evening's meeting were achieved after all! Excellent! Good evening, Severus."

Snape watched as the old man walked off happily, and the Potions Master wondered whether he would be able to get away with cursing the infuriating old man.

~o~

"Don't do it, Moody! There are too many Muggles living around the area," Remus advised the extremely annoyed old ex-Auror.

Moody looked again at the tree he planned to turn into toothpicks and weighed up the advantages and disadvantages of blowing it up anyway. With a growl of frustration, he put his wand away and resumed his pacing, unable to vent his anger.

Remus shook his head, only slightly relieved to have averted the latest crisis. The others should have been back an hour ago, or at least a message should have been sent by then. He didn't think joining Moody in his angry mutterings and storming around the camp would do anyone any good. The girls seemed to be quite worried enough as it was, and didn't need any more adults losing control around them.

He walked back over to the small campfire and retook his seat. This was the group's usual location each evening after dinner, and he found it gave him a sense of community to be part of this group. He realised that the downside to that was when part of the group was missing, you felt their loss more.

"I know, let's tell ghost stories!" Luna suggested, breaking one uncomfortable silence and forming another one.

"Well, it's not really dark enough for that, Luna," Hermione eventually said. "You should only tell ghost stories around a campfire when it's really dark, and it won't get that dark here for months."

"Oh, that's a shame. I just thought it would give us something to think about instead of worrying about our friends, and we could also pretend to be scared of the stories instead of for what might have happened to them to keep them away from us."

Remus wished he could laugh at Luna's comment. Trust her to take the elephant in the room by the horns, or the trunk, or whatever that saying was.

"Hmm, I think I've got a good idea for something we can do," Dan said, thinking that a distraction sounded like a good idea.

Emma, sitting alongside him, gave him a suspicious look. "No, I don't think you do if your so-called good idea is what I think it is."

"But–"

"No! You'll drive the rest of us crazy. Save it for another time, preferably when I'm not around."

"You're no fun at all, you know that?" Dan groused.

"That's not what you said yesterday, or the day before," Emma retorted.

"Well, that was yesterday… I'm talking about now."

"Oh, please tell me you did not just say that out loud!" Hermione said, with a look of horror on her face.

"Say what, dear?" her mother asked innocently.

"That… that…" Hermione trailed off as she looked around, noticing that the entire group was looking at her. "You know, I think I'm going to put the kettle on. Does anyone want some tea? I think we could all do with a cup, but not chamomile tea, right, Mister Lovegood? I'll be back in a minute."

As she got up from her seat, face flaming, she grabbed Luna's hand and pulled her out of her seat."

"I think I'll help her," Luna called over her shoulder as she was dragged into one of the tents.

"You would have made a wonderful marauder, Emma," Remus said, smiling in appreciation of her prank.

"I doubt it will keep her occupied for long though," Emma remarked, "but really, it's high time she grew up a little over that topic. Honestly, she and Harry are a right pair that way. Give them a life or death situation and they're all over it like a rash, but a little innuendo and they lose their composure completely. Perhaps I should have another talk with Hermione. I can't believe she hasn't read every book there is on the subject though, just like everything else."

Something occurred to Emma, and she turned to Xeno. "Not to be indelicate or anything, Xeno, but has Luna had the talk? I can take care of it if you like."

"Err, well, that is to say, umm, yes, yes."

Emma was confused. "Do you mean 'yes' she's had it, or 'yes' you'd like me to take care of it?"

"Yes."

"Yes to which?"

"Err, yes to both. I, err… did try to explain things to her myself, because… well, err… you know, with her mother not being– and, uh, she needed to know of course… but there would be things I don't know, probably lots… and I never remembered to ask Molly. But she's really taken to you! Do you see? I can! I can see it, so clearly. Emma, would you please help my little girl?"

Emma was feeling a little choked up, so just nodded and reached a hand out to rub the man's shoulder to try and say what she couldn't at the moment.

~o~

Saturday 29th June, 1996.

Harry wasn't sure what woke him, but he sensed a presence standing on the other side of the bed Tonks was sleeping on, and he started to cast before thinking about it. "Stup–"

"Harry, it is only I. There is no danger."

Harry was able to break off his spell in time as soon as he heard the voice speak, but he didn't think he would have been able to stun the headmaster even if he had finished casting.

"You startled me, Sir," Harry said, his tone implying it was Dumbledore's fault.

"Yes, I suspect I did, but I didn't want to risk disturbing either of you by raising the lights too much. I was worried, and even though Minerva told me she'd be fine, I found I couldn't sleep until I had checked for myself. She was right of course, as I knew she would be, but still…"

The headmaster conjured a chair and sat down in it. "And you, Harry. How are you feeling?"

Harry shrugged. "I'll be fine. Professor Snape helped a bit actually. I know he hates me, so it made it easier to believe what he was saying… I don't even know if that makes any sense."

"It does, Harry, I assure you that it does. A friend may tell you something, but you might not believe them because you think they are only saying it to try to make you feel better. Someone who hates you would lack the motive to make you feel better, so you have less reason to doubt them. Unless you think they are trying to hurt you of course."

"Of course," Harry agreed.

"So, Professor Snape explained his story to you? Do you understand now why I trust him as much as I do?"

"Yes, I understand why you can trust him to fight Voldemort. But perhaps you can tell me why you trust him to teach potions properly and fairly to all students?"

"That is a story for another time, Harry."

"I'm sure it is. And that time would be never if you had your way, am I right?"

Dumbledore didn't respond for a while, and when he did, his tone wasn't as friendly as before.

"You're right, Harry. The time when I believe I should discuss my hiring decisions with a student is never. Should you someday ascend to a position of authority over me, you may attempt to ask that question again. Until then, do not. I will not discuss the matter any further."

Harry fumed for a moment, but he was also intimidated by the headmaster, so tried to control his anger. Snape's suggestion that Dumbledore had deliberately set up the conflict tonight had played in his head.

"Was there something else you wished to ask, Harry?"

Harry didn't think he'd get an answer, but he had to ask anyway. "Why did you set up the confrontation tonight when you knew Tonks didn't want to see Sna– Professor Snape?" Harry asked, correcting himself before giving Dumbledore an excuse to.

"If I had told Severus who would be joining me for dinner, then it is very unlikely that he would have responded to my call. Likewise, I had every reason to expect you and Nymphadora would have responded similarly. Severus plays an important role in the fight against Tom, as will you thanks to that prophecy. The wizarding world cannot afford for you to be at odds with each other, or for us to be fighting amongst ourselves."

"But Tonks nearly died because of it!"

"And I am sorrier than you can know that she was hurt. But, as I've said all along; I trust Severus. Now that you've heard his story, can you trust him now?"

"Only to fight Voldemort. I didn't get the impression that I could trust him for anything else. He admitted he truly despises me."

"No, Harry, I don't believe that he does, despite his protests. I think he actually likes you. What he hates is what you represent to him, not you, yourself. Didn't he tell you this? It may seem a small difference, but it isn't actually 'Harry' that he hates, it's your Potter heritage.

"Anyway, it's very late. Perhaps you should get some proper sleep in that bed over there. Sleeping in a chair will not give you much rest. Goodnight, Harry."

"Goodnight," Harry replied as the headmaster left.

~o~

Luna and Hermione weren't having very much success in finding ways to occupy their time, as they were filled with worry for their friends.

"I'm sorry, Hermione," Luna began, "I know he's your boyfriend at the moment, but I don't think I'll be able to stop myself from giving Harry a big hug and kiss when he comes back."

"Wouldn't you want to find out why he's made us worry so much first, to see if he deserves that sort of welcome?" Hermione asked.

The blonde girl shook her head. "No. I would just be so happy to see him again after being worried, and I'd want to let him know that."

"But what if it was his fault that they're late?"

"Does it matter? Won't you be relieved and happy to see him walk back into camp?"

"Yes, but–"

"There are those but's again, Hermione. You must do what you feel is right, of course, but if you don't mind me saying so, I think you have too many rules and conditions around your feelings."

"What do you mean, Luna?"

"If you're happy to see him back and safe, I think you should show him. If you find out later that it was entirely his fault that you were worried, you can always tell him off then."

"But–"

Luna gave her friend a disappointed look. "Hermione, are you only going to care about Harry as long as he doesn't do anything stupid?"

"Of course not!"

"Then why would you hesitate to show him how much you care when he comes back, no matter how stupid he may have been?"

Hermione stared at Luna for a minute or two, and then finally gave her a warm smile. "If you want to hug Harry first when he comes back, then you're going to have to run faster than me!"

Luna gave her a big smile in return. "Don't worry, I will!"

Hermione hugged her friend. "Thank you, Luna. I don't know why you're trying so hard to help me, but I am very grateful that you are."

"You're my friend," Luna replied, hugging her back.

~o~

"Alastor, would you please settle down for Merlin's sake? There isn't anything we can do at the moment, and raging about the situation doesn't help."

"I should never have let you talk me out of going in the first place! I knew that was a mistake!"

"How many times must we go over this? Having you going as well as Minerva, Tonks and Harry would have backed Dumbledore into a corner. He'd have had to bring others into the meeting to help even the playing field, and that would probably have meant Snape would be there. You know this, which is why you agreed to stay behind."

"I should never have trusted that bloody phoenix. I must be getting old. Bugger it! I'm going down there to bring 'em back!"

"No, you're not! You're going to stay here and help look after the group. It's too close to the full moon for me to be at my best. Besides, if you leave, how do you expect to keep those girls here? They're very resourceful, so they'll find a way to follow you. We need to stick together and plan–"

"Accio wands!"

Without warning, both men felt their wands being summoned away from them. They turned and watched them fly off along with three others into the waiting hand of Albus Dumbledore.

Pocketing them in his robe, he conjured a seat and sat down.

"Good evening, everyone."

~o~

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