The Sugar Quill
Author: Miss E Bennett  Story: Before the Veil  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Severus Snape was

Before the Veil

 

I want to thank my fabulous beta, Arabella.  I was all scared when I got the beta-read story back, but there was nothing to be afraid of!  Anyway…

 

Disclaimer: Of course, Snape, Sirius, and the rest of the cast are the property of The Mighty Author, J.K.Rowling (trumpets sound), except for Agatha Newton.  The set also belongs to her.  I wish they were all mine.  Any butchered Latin is of my own phrasing.

 

Severus Snape was at work, as usual, when Draco Malfoy barrelled into his office.  Draco’s pale face was flushed, and his silvery hair was mussed over his forehead.

“Professor!” he gasped, straining for breath.  “The—the Headmistress wants to see you.  In her office.”  He watched as Snape looked at him, then went back to mincing some doxy liver.  In an effort to make him hurry, Draco added, “It’s—it’s about Potter.”

At this Snape looked up again and sighed heavily.  Scooping the chopped liver into a small glass jar, he stood up and brushed at his immaculate black robes.  “Very well, Draco,” he said at last.  “Did the headmistress”—Draco noticed that he pronounced the word Headmistress with an audible lower-case H—“have a message for me?”

“No, sir.  She only told me to fetch you.”

“I see.”  This seemed to annoy Snape; his lip curled in his characteristic gesture of disapproval.  “Let us go, then.”

As they moved through the halls, Snape with his usual predatory stalk, Draco half-jogged in an attempt to speed Snape.  This worked as well as the last try: Snape stalked only a hair quicker.  What is the matter with him? Draco wondered.  It’s Potter!  He might even be expelled; isn’t that what Snape wants“Professor, the Headmistress thinks that Potter and his friends—”

“Yes, yes.  Of course,” Snape snapped.  “There is no need to run.  If the matter were truly important, the headmistress would have said what she needed.”  After an agonising five minutes, they reached the office.  Draco opened the door gratefully and entered.  He could hear Snape’s footsteps behind him, moving even slower.

“You wanted to see me, Headmistress?”  Snape looked as though he really didn’t care, one way or the other, whether Potter and his gang were expelled.

“Ah, Professor Snape.  Yes I would like another bottle of Veritaserum, as quick as you can, please.”  Umbridge smiled at Snape as a compatriot in her war against the students.

“You took my last bottle to interrogate Potter,” Snape replied.  “Surely you did not use it all?  I told you that three drops would be sufficient.”  He fixed her with a disdainful stare.

As Umbridge reddened, she asked, “You can make some more, can’t you?”  Her voice became more falsely sweet.

“Certainly.  It takes a full moon cycle to mature, so I should have some ready for you in around a month.”  He sneered at Umbridge as though she were further beneath him than a Gryffindor.

“A month?  A month?  But I need it this evening, Snape!  I have just found Potter using my fire to communicate with a person or persons unknown!”

“Really?”  Snape finally responded to Umbridge in the way Draco had wanted to him to respond to his own hints.  “Well, it doesn’t surprise me.  Potter has never shown much inclination to follow school rules.”  Snape looked at Potter with even more disdain than he had for Umbridge.

“I wish to interrogate him!” Umbridge exclaimed.  “I wish you to provide me with a potion that will force him to tell me the truth!”  Snape turned his black stare on Umbridge again.

“I have already told you that I have no further stocks of Veritaserum.  Unless you wish to poison Potter—and I assure you I would have the greatest sympathy with you if you did—I cannot help you.  The only trouble is that most venoms act too fast to give the victim much time for truth-telling.”  He looked again at Potter, who was staring back at Snape wildly.  What is wrong with Snape? thought Draco again.  He could have Potter spilling his secrets right now and he wastes time!

“You are on probation!  You are being deliberately unhelpful!” shrieked Umbridge, echoing Draco’s thoughts.  “I expected better, Lucius Malfoy always speaks most highly of you!  Now get out of my office!”  Snape did nothing more than raise his eyebrows and bow sardonically before Potter shouted.

“He’s got Padfoot!  He’s got Padfoot at the place where it’s hidden!”  Snape stopped; however, Draco had no idea what Potter meant.

“Padfoot?” cried Professor Umbridge.  Her bulging eyes looked from Potter to Snape, and the Lovegood girl looked mildly interested.  “What is Padfoot?  Where what is hidden?  What does he mean, Snape?”

Snape looked at Potter coldly.  “ I have no idea.  Potter, when I want nonsense shouted at me I shall give you a Babbling Beverage.  And Crabbe, loosen your hold a little, if Longbottom suffocates it will mean a lot of tedious paperwork, and I am afraid I shall have to mention it on your reference if ever you apply for a job.”  He left, leaving Potter looking even wilder.

~*~

In the privacy of his own office, Snape allowed himself to scowl heavily.  The idiotic boy.  Why must he involve himself in everything?  While knowing with great certainty that Black was still at his house—the very thought of Black made his scowl deepen—he thought of what Dumbledore would say if something should occur and he, Snape, had to explain why he did not check up on him.

He opened a drawer and removed a few sheets of parchment, an inkpot, and a black quill with a white tip.  He tapped the quill with his wand and muttered, “Inopia loqui.”  At once the pen jumped into the ink and stood over the paper, quivering.

“Black?” he inquired.

The pen danced over the paper, leaving the question.  Almost at once, the quill moved down a line and wrote, “Severus?

“Ah,” he said.  “Lupin.”  The pen continued to move.

Yes.  Kingsley and Tonks are here as well.  Is something amiss?

“Potter is convinced that his irresponsible godfather is, for some reason, at the Department of Mysteries.”  He sneered.  “I suppose he is with you?  Drinking himself into a stupor, no doubt?”

“I’m here, Snape.”  These words were bolder than Lupin’s.  “What about Harry?”

“He seems to be under the misapprehension that you were captured by the Dark Lord.  Though we both know that you are sitting, safe and snug, inside your dear little house.”

Before Black could answer with curses and futile hexes, Lupin re-entered the conversation.  “Sirius is here.  Is there anything else?

“No.  I will inform Potter of his mistake.”

“I’m sure you will.  But if you  He was cut off by Lupin.

Thank you, Severus.”  Before anyone could say anything else, Snape tapped the quill with his wand.  “Finite.

 

Snape opened the door to Umbridge’s office and bit back a smirk.  Umbridge and the captives had vanished, leaving the Inquisitorial Squad behind in varying states of discomfort.  Bulstrode lay in the corner, as stiff as a board; Crabbe and Goyle were stunned; Agatha Newton, the oldest of the bunch, was hopping on the spot and flapping her arms—probably an Avian Hex; Warrington was floating around the ceiling; and Malfoy’s face was covered with some disgusting flapping things.

~*~

Finite incantatem,” said Snape quietly.  As Warrington rubbed the part of his anatomy that had come into contact with the floor and Newton looked embarrassed, he performed the counter-curses on the others.  “Well.”

“Professor, I—” Draco began, but was silenced with a curt wave.

“How very sickening.  I believe you were chosen to be part of the Inquisitorial Squad on the basis of your Defence prowess?  And six Gryffindors managed to take you all out?  And Professor Umbridge, I see.”  Snape’s voice became silky and soft.  “Where, pray tell, is the Headmistress?”

“She took Potter and Granger out to the Forest to go after Dumbledore’s weapon, Professor Snape,” answered Newton, still embarrassed at being seen acting like a bird by several younger students—although, thought Draco, it’s not as though she had bogeys flying around her face.

“I see,” said Snape.  “So, four Gryffindors took you out.”

“Actually, sir,” she continued, blushing furiously, “one was a Ravenclaw.”

“Oh.  Of course.  One was a Ravenclaw.”  The Slytherins prepared to cower in the face of their Head of House’s wrath, with the exception of Crabbe and Goyle, who apparently had not picked up on the sarcasm; however, Snape did not even begin to chastise them.  “Very well,” he ordered shortly, “go back to the Common Room.  Or, better yet, get to bed.  Rest from your harrowing experiences.”  He turned to the window.

Something really must be the matter with him, thought Draco for the umpteenth time that night, as he followed the still-blushing Newton out the door.

~*~

After waiting a full hour for either Umbridge or the students to return, Snape headed back down to his dungeon office.  Of course, can’t just wait a moment to get help, have to do everything themselves, stupid, bloody Gryffindors.  He threw open the desk drawer and tossed parchment, ink, and a quill onto the desk.  Cursing, he hunted for the correct quill, dropped the other one on the floor, and performed the spell.

Inopia loqui.  Lupin, Black, is anyone there?”

“Severus?  Severus, what is it?”

“Potter’s gone, he and his—gang—have gone.  Umbridge has disappeared as well.  The students are probably at the Ministry.  I have no idea how they got there.  We need Dumbledore—”

“Well, well, Snivellus.  I hadn’t thought that you could worry.”

“I don’t know how far they’ve got in, but there’s definitely going to be Death Eaters there.”

“All right.  We’re going.”

“I’m coming with you.”

“No, Sirius, you have to stay here.  Someone has to tell Dumbledore—”

“He’s my godson—”

“Finite.”  Lupin ended the conversation.  There wasn’t much else to do except send Fawkes to Dumbledore, telling him to go to Headquarters.  After doing that, Snape waited anxiously in his office in case they wrote back with news.

He hadn’t thought that he could worry either.

~*~

“And then, when James was distracting McGonagall, I nipped around and put it in her desk!”  A shout of laughter went around the room, and Tonks pounded her butterbeer on the table.

“You didn’t!”

“We did.”  Remus smiled reminiscently.  “Do you think that they still talk about us at Hogwarts?”

“Of course they do!  The twins, they gave Harry the Map, so even if they don’t know who we are,” Sirius gestured grandly with his butterbeer and almost slopped some on Tonks, who shrieked and laughed, “the spirit of the Marauders lives on!”  While they laughed, a shrill whistling began. 

Remus heard it first.  “Did Kreacher leave some water on the stove?  Ah, no, the pen!”  He dived to a quill standing up on a sheet of parchment and emitting a sound like a teapot.  “Inopia audi!”  Immediately, the pen dived in a nearby inkwell and wrote, “Black?” on the parchment.

“Severus?”

“Ah.  Lupin.”

“Yes.  Kingsley and Tonks are here as well.  Is something amiss?”

“Potter is convinced that his irresponsible godfather is, for some reason, at the Department of Mysteries.  I suppose he is with you?  Drinking himself into a stupor, no doubt?”

Sirius jumped up, glaring at the quivering quill as though it were his long-time enemy.  “I’m here, Snape.  What about Harry?”

“He seems to be under the misapprehension that you were captured by the Dark Lord.  Though we both know that you are sitting, safe and snug, inside your dear little house.”

As Sirius sputtered and began to answer Snape with phrases that would be no help to anyone, Remus stepped in and nudged Sirius gently in the side.  “Sirius is here.  Is there anything else?”

“No.  I will inform Potter of his mistake.”

Sirius spoke up again, his voice almost shaking with anger.  “I’m sure you will.  But if you—”  Remus nudged him again, harder, and cut in.

“Thank you, Severus.”  Before any more talk could go on, the conversation was ended on the other end.

The table was quiet now, all brightness and gaiety gone.  Remus broke the silence after a few minutes of staring into his drink.  “I should send an owl to Alastor.  He ought to be here too, just in case. . .”  He let the sentence trail off as he rose and grabbed a sheet of parchment.  Before he touched his quill to the page, he stole a glance at Sirius.

Sirius’ dark, unkempt hair hung in is face as he hunched over the table, his face drawn.  Tonks and Kingsley shot glances at each other, then bent closer to Sirius to comfort him.  They were speaking mostly in low murmurs, which didn’t seem to have much of an effect on Sirius.  Remus heard, “. . .good in Defence. . .”, “. . .probably nothing. . .”, and “Don’t worry. . .”  He turned back to his parchment, and wrote out that there might be trouble with Death Eaters at the Ministry, that Harry and other students might be in danger, and that he should come as soon as possible.  He signed it and called to the owl Dumbledore had sent with his last letter.  Remus sent the letter off and turned back to the table.

Everyone was silent now; once in a while someone would take a sip of their drink or send a troubled, worried glance at Sirius.  Every minute that went by made Remus surer that Sirius would soon jump up and run out of the house to save Harry, throwing caution to the winds.  After what seemed like hours but must have been only fifteen minutes, Alastor Moody stumped in, his growling voice raised in a question.

“Any news?”

They all shook their heads silently.  Kingsley offered him a butterbeer too, which was declined in favor of the hip flask.  They sat for a breathless hour, barely moving, not speaking, only looking at each other for a few seconds.  Finally, the quill jumped up and whistled again.  Remus jumped up as well and grabbed for his wand.  He muttered the charm and the pen began to write.

“Lupin, Black, is anyone there?”

“Severus?  Severus, what is it?”  Remus’ breath was coming shorter in his relief and mounting fear.

“Potter’s gone, he and his—gang—have gone.  Umbridge’s disappeared as well.  The students are probably at the Ministry.  I have no idea how they got there.  We need Dumbledore—”

Sirius was next to Remus again, his face twisted in anger.  “Well, well, Snivellus.  I hadn’t thought that you could worry.”  Remus turned to quiet him, but stopped when he saw Sirius’ expression.

“I don’t know how far they’ve got in, but there’s definitely going to be Death Eaters there.”

“All right,” said Remus.  “We’re going.”  Finally, we can do something, he thought.  Then Sirius spoke.

“I’m coming with you.”

“No, Black, you have to stay there.  Someone has to tell Dumbledore—”

“He’s my godson—”

Finite,” said Remus.  He put his wand in his belt, and grabbed Sirius’ arm.  “Sirius, you stay here and tell Dumbledore where we’ve gone when he gets here.  You can’t go out, it’s too dangerous—”

“No.  I’m coming with you.”

“Sirius,” Tonks broke in, “listen to Remus.  We’ll be back in a bit, and Harry’ll be all right.”

“Besides,” said Kingsley, “what do you think Dumbledore will do if he gets here and finds no-one here to tell him what’s going on?  And especially if he doesn’t find you here?  We’re trained Aurors, we can handle it—”

Sirius jumped up.  “That doesn’t matter!” he shouted.  “Harry matters, and his friends matter!  Look, Kreacher can tell Dumbledore what’s happening!”

“Kreacher?” asked Remus.  “Kreacher?  Sirius, Kreacher doesn’t care—”

“KREACHER!” Sirius yelled.  “KREACHER, GET IN HERE!”

The house-elf crept into the room.  He had obviously been just outside the door.  “The Young Master calls?”

“Kreacher, tell Dumbledore what’s happening when he gets here.  Tell him we’ve gone to the Ministry to save Harry. Stay here!”  No-one said anything after this, until Sirius, looking at the floor, added quietly, “Let’s go.”  They went out the door, leaving only their drinks and a house-elf behind them, who vanished into the gloom of the old house, chuckling.

//
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