Author: Sterling Dragonfly (aka Snapesgrrl)
Genre: Romance, Angst, Drama, Action/Adventure
Disclaimer: The lovely blond lady owns the characters – I own nothing. I promise to put them back after I'm done playing.
Warnings: implied Harry/Dean Thomas; Sexual Content; Violence; Adult Language
Feedback: Commentary, feedback, and constructive criticism are more than welcome at
Beta: First three chapters beta'd by SilentAuror. Much thanks to her.
Summary: Severus Snape is trying desperately to save Albus Dumbledore's life, and doesn't hesitate when it comes to illegal methods. Harry Potter is working as an undercover Auror who is investigating a series of murders. Their paths cross in an unexpected way.
"How is he tonight, Poppy?" Minerva McGonagall's usually stern voice was soft from concern.
Poppy Pomfrey shook her head sadly. "He's fading – there's not much more I can do for him at this point, other than keep him comfortable." She sniffled into a handkerchief then looked at her two companions. "We must prepare ourselves for the worst, my friends. I doubt he'll last much more than a couple of weeks now."
Minerva bit her lip, tears forming in her eyes. "What about that treatment Severus discovered? Is there any possibility of it working on Albus?"
Poppy looked aghast at her friend's suggestion. "Minerva! Those potions are illegal for a reason – they're Dark Arts of the worst kind, not to mention dangerous for both the patient and the preparer."
"So, you'd rather let him die than take the risk of using a Dark potion?" Severus Snape jumped up from his chair and began pacing. He raked long fingers through his hair in frustration, then swirled to face the two women. "It is foolish not to attempt the treatment – Albus is dying anyway, and the risk to me is inconsequential."
Minerva carefully watched Snape as he prowled about her office, randomly picking up various knickknacks and glaring down at them. She cleared her throat quietly to gain his attention then asked, "Would you explain the procedure to me please, Severus?"
Snape took a breath deep into his lungs, trying to calm himself before he said, "The course of treatment lasts approximately five months. Every two weeks, I would need to brew a new potion, each one slightly different from the previous one. The potion would be administered twice daily until a cure is achieved."
"I notice you don't explain about the ingredients you need for the potions – ingredients that are abhorrent in nature," Poppy exclaimed, an outraged expression on her normally kind face.
Snape coolly raised an eyebrow. "I've done worse things in my past for a cause that meant less to me than Albus' health does now." He pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to stave off the headache that was threatening and quietly continued, "Rest assured, Poppy, I have absolutely no problem with the procurement of such… distasteful items, or with the administration of said potions to Albus. Your job will be to monitor his condition, nothing more." Their eyes locked in a battle of wills, until Poppy's shoulders slumped, her gaze dropping to the floor in defeat.
Minerva stood, shaking out the creases from her robes as she spoke, "Then we are agreed. Severus, please begin the potions as soon as possible. There is little time to spare." She calmly eyed her two companions as she added, "I'm sure I don't need to remind you that this must go no further than this office, lest we all land in Azkaban."
Harry sighed wearily as he entered his small, dark flat and quietly closed the door behind him. He tossed the files he'd brought home from the office onto his desk, then went into his bedroom to prepare for this evening's work. He stripped off his clothing, tossing them haphazardly toward the hamper and walked into the bathroom. Adjusting the shower to the temperature he wanted, he stepped under the hot stream and allowed the warmth to ease his tight shoulder muscles.
He'd slept part of the day, leaving his flat barely in time to walk into that afternoon's briefing as it began. Harry snorted derisively as he thought about the 'discussion' he'd ended up having with his boss, which almost resulted in his being sacked.
Harry had sat quietly through the meeting, drawing small doodles on his notepad as Kingsley Shacklebolt droned on about the different cases their unit was involved with. He'd kept his opinions to himself, until Shacklebolt assigned the case they'd been going over to Donovan O'Malley, a newly trained Auror. Harry had glanced over at the young man, wincing inwardly at the frightened expression on his face, and his temper flared. He stormed to the front of the room, slamming his hands down on the desk in front of Kingsley.
"What the fuck are you thinking of, Kingsley?" Harry'd growled, "Are you trying to get another kid killed?"
Kingsley flinched at the anger on Harry's face, but answered calmly, "Every other Auror has a full caseload; Donovan has to take it."
Harry shook his head vehemently. "Bullshit, Kingsley. Give him a different case, unless you want him to end up like Rogers."
Stephen Rogers had been directly out of Auror training and excited to be assigned his first undercover case. He'd been investigating the murders of several young male prostitutes around Knockturn Alley, and had ended up as one of the victims. They had recovered his body two weeks earlier.
The suspect was randomly picking up hustlers, then gruesomely murdering them and mutilating the bodies. Even more disturbing to Harry was the fact that the six corpses were missing organs. A heart, a lung, the eyes – each body was missing a different part.
Shacklebolt narrowed his dark eyes and quietly stated, "Watch it, Potter. You're bordering on insubordination right now."
Harry straightened up and shrugged nonchalantly. "Fine then. Fire me, if you want. Or," he paused, frowning at his boss, "you could assign me the fucking case and give Donovan one of my less dangerous ones. It's your choice." He crossed his arms and glared at Kingsley.
Waving one hand at Donovan, who was standing nearby listening, Harry replied, "No offense to young Donovan here, but he doesn't have any field experience. The murderer is proving to be ruthless, and it's already cost us Rogers – another unseasoned young Auror. I would prefer not to see our numbers decimated." He looked over at the young man and smiled reassuringly.
Kingsley leaned back in his chair, idly playing with a quill as he thought about Harry's argument. He glanced over at Donovan and asked, "Is that all right with you?"
Donovan nodded, "To be honest, sir, I think it's for the best. Harry has a lot of experience, and he can guide me on his case." He smiled wryly and added, "I did okay in my classes, but I'd really prefer to start small, if you don't mind."
"All right then – Harry, I expect you to go over the details with Donovan after the briefing is over, then you can take the files for your new case home with you to check out. I expect you to begin tonight." Kingsley handed the information on the murder case to Harry, then stood up and addressed the room. "I believe we've covered everything, so you're dismissed. Be careful out there." He picked up his notes and nodded to both Harry and Donovan, then left the room.
The two men retreated to Harry's cubicle, where he handed over the folders to one of his less challenging cases, pointing out various leads that the young man could follow. As Donovan was leaving, he turned back and said, "Thanks for that back there. I was shocked when Shacklebolt assigned me the murder case – I would have mucked it up. It's definitely in better hands now." The two men grinned at each other, then Donovan hurried away.
Harry sighed when he realized the water had cooled. He shut off the spigot, then got out and toweled himself dry. He draped the damp towel over the rack then moved into his bedroom and in front of the closet.
"That's a sight I'll never get tired of looking at, love." A merry voice called out from near the bed, "You certainly have a fine ass – pity you have to hide it under Auror robes on a nightly basis."
Glancing over his shoulder, Harry spotted a grinning Dean Thomas, sitting cross-legged on the bed, brown eyes sparkling with mischief. He smiled tenderly as he said, "Hello to you too, love."
Dean leaned back against the pillows, linking his hands behind his head and grinning broadly, "So, what kind of daring antics are you up to tonight, Harry?"
Harry turned back to the closet, reaching his hand toward the back and pulling out several pieces of clothing as he replied, "I'm tracking a murderer – someone's been offing some hustlers down around Knockturn Alley." He held up a pair of brown suede pants and a gold sleeveless shirt and asked, "So, do you think these will make me look like a prostitute?"
A giggly voice answered, "Do you remember the night I bought those for you, love? We were supposed to go out clubbing, but we got, umm… distracted instead. I don't think we made it out of the flat the entire weekend that time."
"Yeah, you always were a bad influence on me." Harry chuckled and began pulling on the soft pants. They were open along each side, held together by lacings. He did up the front closure and drew the short tee shirt over his head, then turned and faced the figure on the bed. Holding his arms out at his sides, he asked, "So, what do you think?"
Running his eyes up and down Harry's slender body, Dean grinned in appreciation. The tight shirt barely covered Harry's nipples, while the waistband of the pants rode low on his hips, leaving several inches of smooth, tanned skin exposed. The pants clung to his lower body like a second skin, leaving little to the imagination. Harry's taut abdominal muscles rippled as he wiggled his hips, much to the other man's delight. "Too beautiful for mere words, love." Dean's expression saddened as he continued softly, "Harry, you need to let go."
Green eyes met brown as Harry whispered, "I can't, Dean. I miss you too much." He swallowed painfully and said, "Merlin knows I've tried. I just… it doesn't seem to work out."
Dean threw his legs over the edge of the bed, standing up and crossing the room until he was standing close to the other man. He reached out and gently ran his fingertips down Harry's cheek, "It's been six years since I was killed, Harry. I never wanted this for you – you have too much going for you to be alone for so long."
Harry closed his eyes as he felt a cool breeze brush his face, wishing for the millionth time that it was truly Dean's warm touch, "I haven't been alone. There have been other men, you know." He opened his eyes again, tears glistening on his lashes as he blinked.
Snorting in amusement, Dean countered, "Oh yes, I've seen them all. Meaningless shags with blokes you've sent away in the morning. That's not trying, Harry. That's just existing." He leaned over and lightly brushed his lips against Harry's. "I want you to promise me that you'll really look for someone, love. It's killing me, watching you suffer this way."
Harry nodded mutely as Dean crossed the flat to the front door. Dean blew a kiss at him as he left. "Go get 'em, tiger. And try to be careful – I don't want anything happening to you." With a wave, he was gone.
"I still love you, Dean," Harry's words echoed quietly through the empty flat. "I'll always love you."
"Complete dunderheads, the lot of them," Snape growled under his breath as he finished grading the last of the fifth years' parchments. He contemplated returning to his rooms for a headache potion – his head was throbbing from the inane ramblings of his students as well as the incessant chatter of the other teachers gathered in the staffroom. Wincing slightly at the pain behind his eyes, he decided to complete the sixth years' essays on the magical properties and the various uses of black hellebore before retreating to the dungeons and pulled the stack of scrolls closer to him.
He'd managed to work through half of the papers when he heard the door open and Minerva greet the other staff members. Severus ignored the disturbance as he read through yet another example of poor scholarship, muttering, "I don't know why I bother – the idiots don't care about anything other than Quidditch and the latest fads in fashion and music."
"Problems, Severus?" Minerva's amused voice asked as she slipped into the vacant chair beside him. "Surely the work can't be as bad as that?"
"You have no idea, Minerva." Severus rubbed his eyes wearily then glanced over at his friend, "Sometimes I feel as though it's useless, trying to instill some knowledge into their thick skulls. Maybe I should retire and go into private research."
Minerva cocked her head to one side, curiosity written on her face, "Why haven't you? You don't enjoy teaching and you're a brilliant potions developer. I would have thought that after the end of the war, you would have left here to pursue your specialty."
"In a word, Albus. He was the first person to trust me after I turned my back on the Dark Lord – I couldn't let him down." Severus' fingertips ghosted across his left forearm, where the reminder of his past lingered, taunting him daily about decisions made long ago. "I'll remain here as long as he's the Headmaster at Hogwarts."
Minerva's face brightened as she commented, "Speaking of Albus, the improvement in his condition is remarkable. I'm so glad we decided to go with your treatment, Severus."
Severus glanced around the room uneasily, relaxing slightly when he noted the others were involved in their own conversations. "Minerva, this isn't the best place for this discussion. Perhaps we should take this to your office." At Minerva's nod, he gathered up his quill and ink, carefully placing them in a pocket in his robes then picked up the students' papers and followed the Deputy Headmistress out of the room.
They walked to Minerva's office in silence, each lost in his or her thoughts. As they entered the darkened room, a flick of Minerva's wand caused the old-fashioned oil lamps to flare brightly then settle into a steady glow. Another swish of her wand and the fireplace roared to life, the flames licking cheerfully along the logs. Severus seated himself in an armchair near the fire while Minerva Flooed the kitchen and requested tea and biscuits.
A second later, there was a loud pop and Dobby the house elf appeared, laden with a heavy-looking tray. Minerva gestured toward an empty spot on her desk and Dobby carefully set it down. He turned and asked, "Is there anything else Dobby is getting for you, Professor ma'am?"
"No Dobby, this will suit us just fine. Thank you." Minerva smiled kindly at the house elf, who glowed with pleasure.
"Dobby is glad, Professor ma'am. If you is needing anything else, just call on Dobby, and Dobby is getting it for you fast." With a grin and a pop, Dobby disappeared.
Minerva poured two cups of tea, handing one to Severus as she set the plate of biscuits on the small table near him. She picked up her own cup and sat down with a contented sigh. She glanced at her silent companion and grinned, "Nothing more refreshing than a cup of peppermint tea, hmm, Severus?"
Quirking an eyebrow in her direction, Severus drawled, "It will suffice." He took another sip then placed his cup down in the saucer. "I believe we were discussing Albus earlier."
"I want to commend you on the work you're doing, Severus. Albus appears to be gaining strength every day – Poppy is quite pleased with his progress thus far. I truly didn't think when we first spoke about this, three months ago, that we would be able to say that." She turned her head toward Severus and quietly warned, "I think you should know that Poppy still isn't happy about the potions and their ingredients."
Severus shrugged as he stretched his long legs out in front of him, crossing his ankles and picking up a biscuit to nibble. He grimaced at its sweetness and remarked casually, "She knew what I would have to do to obtain the items necessary for the cure. It seems a bit late to be expressing doubts now, don't you think?" He finished his biscuit then brushed the crumbs from the front of his robes. "What's the Muggle saying? Ah yes, the end justifies the means. Trite, but I feel it applies in this case."
"I completely agree – just be cautious, Severus, please. I don't want to save one friend and lose another." She continued seriously, "You're too young to be spending the rest of your life in Azkaban."
"No need to worry about me, Minerva. I'm always careful – how do you think I survived twenty years of spying for the Order?" Severus gracefully stood up and looked over at the woman. "Now, I need to do my rounds then prepare the next potion for Albus. If you'll excuse me." Bowing slightly in Minerva's direction, he exited the room and headed toward the lower portion of the castle.