Chapter Seven: Unexpected Ally, Difficult Defense
For a moment, all Severus could do was stare. Then he recovered. "Lupin. What do you want?" He made no effort to decrease the snarl that crackled through his words.
"To talk to you, Severus." Lupin started to step forward, and Severus jerked his wand up.
"I did not give you permission to use my given name."
"Professor Snape then." Lupin held up empty hands. "I swear, I am only here to speak to you. Nothing more." He hesitated, then tilted his head at the door. "I think this conversation would be easier to conduct somewhere other than the corridors."
Part of him wanted to hex Lupin for even hinting that he should be allowed inside. But the werewolf was right. The corridors of a castle that was still full of curious children was no place to hold a conversation.
Besides, if he decided to hex Lupin senseless, he'd rather it be in his own quarters where there would be no witnesses.
He stepped back and jerked his head, his eyes never leaving the other man. "Get inside."
Lupin stepped across his threshold with slow, careful steps, then waited while Severus closed and warded the door. He followed courteously when Severus led him back into the living room.
He was too agitated to sit, so he settled for stalking toward the fire, then spinning around on his heel. "Well? What did you want to say, Lupin?"
"I've been...speaking with a number of people. You probably wouldn't know, but I've been living with Sirius for the last few weeks. He's...rather focused on you." Lupin managed to look chagrined. Then again, he'd always managed that look when the Marauders were acting up, and it had never meant anything. He'd never actually bothered to do something productive, like stop his friends from carrying on with their behavior.
Severus pushed those thoughts aside. "I'm aware of Black's…focus." He sneered the last word derisively.
"Yes, well, I imagine you would be. However, that wasn't what I wanted to say. After listening to Sirius, I went and spoke to Lily, and to the Headmaster. I wanted to hear their opinions on the matter. You see, while I do have trouble believing that Peter could be a traitor, I don't think Sirius is correct either."
"And? This is of import to me, why?"
"Because..." Lupin sighed. "As I said, I spoke to Lily and Dumbledore. They both said that you were responsible for rescuing Lily from Godric's Hollow, at risk to yourself. Dumbledore even told me that you turned up suffering from magical exhaustion and backlash." He sighed again. "Sirius is adamant that it's some sort of trick, however...it doesn't make sense to me. Why would you lead You-Know-Who to James and Lily, then save them? And Peter...if he didn't betray them, how was the Fidelius broken? And why hasn't he reappeared? It's possible he's in hiding for some other reason, but it's odd that he hasn't shown himself, or even let Sirius and I know his whereabouts."
"Yes. Yes. All very mysterious." Severus felt a sneer curl his lip and made no effort to hide it. "But the fate of your friends is more your affair than mine, Lupin."
"I suppose it is." Lupin sighed. "Look, Severus, I wanted to tell you...I intend on testifying at the Wizengamot, at your trial. On your behalf. I didn't want to surprise you with it at the trial."
He didn't think he could have been more surprised than he was now. "You..."
"I can't shake the feeling that Sirius is wrong. I know you and James were...at odds, but I also know you and Lily were friends. I can't imagine that you'd risk her life. Besides, it doesn't make sense. If you fought James, it wouldn't have produced exhaustion or backlash. Particularly not if You-Know-Who was also there and involved. And then who would have destroyed Him? Not Lily. And certainly not Harry." Lupin met his eyes with a clear and steady gaze. "Sirius is my friend, as was James. Even so...Lily is also my friend. And I would be a poor friend indeed if I allowed childhood rivalries to remove a potential safeguard from her side. And..." He sighed. "...I believe James would care more about seeing his wife and son as safe as possible than he would about old grudges." He leaned back. "So..." He spread his hands. "I wanted to let you know."
He blinked. Then he took a moment to steady his breathing. Then he rallied his mind. "Tell me...Lupin...would you change your mind if you knew I was the one to give the Dark Lord the prophecy that set him after the Potters?"
"Lily already informed me." Lupin shook his head. "I can't imagine that you would have, if you'd known what it would lead to. Otherwise...you wouldn't be here now." He tilted his head at Hogwarts.
"If I told you that I know you are a werewolf? That I could reveal you?" The words grated in his throat. He didn't know why he was trying to drive away a defender.
"Albus told me that. Warned me that you might not appreciate my intercession. Apparently, there was an incident I was never informed of in our Sixth Year." Lupin's face went grim. "I do apologize for that, by the way. I have no memory of it, but I remember my own bite, and I'm sure the experience was rather terrifying."
Severus stared at him. He'd never expected an apology from any of the Marauders. He considered. Lupin was by far the quietest of the four. And the only one who'd ever opted out of tormenting him. He despised that he'd never made any effort to stop his friends in school, but then...he hadn't opposed many of the Slytherins who played similar and often nastier jokes. He'd thought it fair, at the time, but…
But Lupin had a point about youthful rivalries. And he'd had time, over the last month, to consider how he would be raising the two children he'd been entrusted to find, should he get the opportunity. Did he want to raise them to be like Potter and Black? Or like him at his worst?
He took a deep breath. "I...accept your apology, Lupin. And...I thank you for your support. You and Albus are correct, that having a childhood enemy testify on my behalf will strengthen my case."
"You're welcome." Lupin smiled. "Perhaps we might discuss it over dinner?"
He wasn't ready for that. He'd had too many shocks. "Tomorrow would be better."
"Of course." Lupin nodded. "Shall we say seven, Professor Snape?"
"Seven is acceptable. And...I suppose..." He swallowed hard. "I suppose, if you are to be my defender, you may call me Severus. On occasion."
"Thank you. I'd be honored if you'd call me Remus." The werewolf and quietest Marauder gave him a calm smile, then vanished before he could say anything else.
Severus made his way over to a cabinet and pulled out a glass, into which he poured a shot of Old Ogdens. He needed it.
A truce with Remus Lupin. He had a truce with one of the Marauders.
He downed the shot, then put the bottle back. He refused to get drunk. That was his father's way of handling problems, and not one he was going to emulate. Instead, he sat in his favorite chair by the fire to think.
Dinner would be easy enough. A request to the House Elves and he would be provided with anything he might want. But how to approach eating a meal with a man who had, until just now, been his enemy?
The prudent course would be to censor himself, stick to neutral topics, avoid mentions of their shared history. But at the same time, he found himself unwilling. There was too much bad blood. Lupin might not have been as aggressive a tormentor as Black and Potter, but he hadn't stopped them either, not even when he'd had the power of his Prefect status. He remembered, vividly, Lupin's presence the day Potter and Black had accosted him after the Defense O.W.L, abused him verbally and physically, then hung him upside down and stripped him. Something Lupin could have prevented. To say nothing of how often he had been assaulted when he was only minding his own business, and how Lupin had never once stood up for him when the Marauders claimed he was the one at fault. Regardless of the bonds of friendship, he could have been honest about that in private, at the least.
No. He could not hold his tongue forever. Nor did he wish to. If Lupin wished a truce, he would go into it willing to fight for himself, if only verbally. And if Lupin decided he wasn't worth the trouble after all, then so be it. He would not bow and scrape and demean himself, as he had with the Slytherins who had been his Year-mates and elders, to gain Lupin's acceptance. That path led to nothing but more anger and pain.
Decision made, he rose to call the House Elves and make his request, then turned back to his notes and his marking of student essays.
The following night, he was a bundle of nerves. He had no intention of going back on the previous night's decision, but he was still concerned. Not only was Lupin Black's friend, but he was also a werewolf. It was nowhere near the full moon, but werewolves were possessed of an unnatural strength at any time. And should Lupin become angry...well, the Wolf was gifted in Defense and spell-casting, even without his physical advantages. It might not be a one-sided contest, but it would be a difficult one.
A knock brought him out of his increasingly worried thoughts. He pulled the door open to find Lupin with a bottle of rather cheap but decent wine. "Here. For dinner, if you've no other arrangements."
"Only Hogwarts fare. Come in." He took the bottle and stepped aside, as was proper etiquette. Lupin hung his cloak by the door without asking, which was a breach of conduct, but no more so than his lack of offer to take it.
He led Lupin to the table by the fire that he'd set up, already set with silverware and glasses, uncorked the wine with a gesture, and poured it into the two waiting glasses. He gave himself a smaller measure, not wanting wine to exacerbate his already wound nerves. He knew quite well he was an unpleasant drunk, and the whole situation was tense enough.
He clapped for service, and the plates sparkled, to reveal slices of roast, potatoes, dinner rolls, a helping of butter, mixed salad greens, a small selection of dressings and seasonings. He and Lupin both applied seasonings and dressings of choice, then dug in.
Dinner itself was a quiet affair. Very little passed between them save Lupin's compliments on his choice of meal and the decor of his quarters, followed by his thanks and offers to refill Lupin's glass when empty. Lupin declined after the second glass, and they both switched to water for the remainder of the meal.
Afterward, Lupin asked for a measure of brandy. Severus supplied it, then obtained warmed butterbeer for himself. He refused to have anything stronger until Lupin left.
Lupin sipped his drink, then sighed. "So..."
"Indeed." He was determined that Lupin make the first move.
Lupin sighed again. "I imagine there is much we should say to each other. However, things being what they are...perhaps we might begin by clearing the air."
Severus tensed. "Lupin..."
"Remus. You might as well call me by my first name for this discussion, even if you refuse to do so otherwise. Even if you'd still prefer that I call you Professor Snape."
He clenched his jaw, then forced himself to return the courtesy as he had the night before. "For the purposes of this conversation, I suppose Severus will do."
"Thank you." Remus nodded. Then he sat forward. "So...clearing the air. I imagine you have plenty to say to me, so why don't you go first."
He swallowed hard and wished for a stronger drink. "I think that would be unwise."
"Nonetheless." Lupin – Remus – gave him a nod.
What could he say? Words pounded through him. Questions, demands. And in the end, the thoughts of the night before would not be silenced. "You did not stop them." His hand clenched on his tankard. "Even when you were a Prefect, when you had the authority...you did not stop them. Never. Never once. I know they were your friends, and I know...what it must have meant….but still..." He clamped his jaws shut.
"Oh, I doubt you truly understand. The lure of friends, as a werewolf...to be accepted, despite my condition, I doubt anyone could imagine it."
Anger flared in his chest. "You think you were the only lonely outcast? You were not." He snarled the words, then set his glass down with a forceful thud before he broke it. "I grew up the only wizard in a Muggle town, with a mother who could not acknowledge what she was and resented it, and a father who despised us for our magic that he did not have and took every opportunity to show it in drunken violence. I grew up poor and alone, in a world that sneered at poverty, and my father's behavior. Then I came here. I did not even get off the train before your friends targeted me. And then, sorted into Slytherin, an impoverished half-blood with a Muggle name and few proofs of my mother's heritage, in a House ruled by aristocratic pure-bloods…no, Lupin, do not think to ask me for pity, to tell me that you alone understand the isolation and the sting of being an outcast."
"It's still different." Remus's eyes glinted.
"Yes. It is." He bit out the words. Then continued. If Remus wanted a clearing of the air, then a clearing of the air he would get. "By all accounts, you had parents who loved you in spite of your affliction, friends who stood beside you even after they discovered your condition, supportive teachers, and a Headmaster who bent and broke the rules for you to achieve your dreams, even unto giving you a safe haven." He swallowed the bile that threatened to choke him. "I would have died...I would have killed...for even one of those things. Even one. I would have endured the curse of a werewolf and a hundred like it for those things."
"You have no idea what you're talking about." Now Remus looked angry.
"Do I not?" He fixed the other man with a sharp look. "I took a branding for the hope of such things." He yanked his sleeve up to reveal the faded Mark on his arm. "I endured taunts, the Cruciatus Curse...all for the hope of acceptance."
"You had a choice. I did not."
"You did. You could have died. You could have done any number of things. Become like Greyback. And choice...what choice? In how I was raised? In my House? In who claimed me as an enemy? In my blood? In my financial state? In what of these things was I given a choice, Remus Lupin?" He snarled out the words.
"More than I had. And if you think the curse of the werewolf is so easy to bear, it is only because you've never tried."
He shoved himself to his feet, stalked around the table, and shoved his still bared left arm into Lupin's face. He was too angry to bother with fear or sense. "Do it then. Bite. Draw blood. I can be little more cursed than I have been thus far, damned by circumstance and my own choices."
Lupin reared back as if he'd been struck. "Don't..."
"Go on. Bite. Claw. Leave the scars. Mark me."
"Don't press me!" Remus snarled the words, shoving to his feet and pushing Severus back so fast he had no time to respond. He stopped when Severus hit the wall, then took a deep breath and let go, moving with careful intensity. "You don't know what you're asking. What you're saying."
"And you do not know what you are scorning, when you claim a curse as a reason to discount what I have endured." He shook his head when Remus made to speak. "No. Claim friendship as your reason for inaction, for permitting what Potter and Black did to me that you might have stopped. But do not hide behind a curse and loneliness. You are not the only one cursed or alone, and if I am not merited forgiveness of my sins on those grounds, neither should you be."
Remus took a deep breath, then another. Then he sat back in his chair and took a large gulp of his brandy. Only then did he relax. "Perhaps."
He resumed his own seat, pulling his sleeve down and taking a deep swallow of his butterbeer. Then he breathed out and spoke of the memory that haunted him the most. "You let Black and Potter...the day of the Defense O.W.L, you let them...do what they did. We were not friends, but you were a Prefect. You had a responsibility, even if I was their enemy and a member of a Rival House." He met Remus's eyes. "Had you stopped my humiliation, even if it was only that one time..."
"Things would have been different?"
"Yes." He might not have lost Lily's friendship. He might not have turned to the Dark Lord. He might not have become a Death Eater. The prophecy might not have been heard. Perhaps Potter would have lived. Perhaps not. The tangles of might-have-been were far too deep. But he would have been different. Circumstances would have changed.
Remus stared at the fire, then heaved out a breath. "You are...correct. I did have a duty. And I should have spoken out. But it was habit by then, to keep silent. And James and Sirius...they rarely listened to me, regardless."
"I would not have cared if they had listened. Only that you tried." From the look Remus gave him, they both knew that was at least partially a lie. He would have cared. He had been angry enough with Lily. But Remus did not call him on it.
Instead, the Marauder shook his head. "I can only apologize. If I could change things, I would. But as I cannot..." He raised his hand in a helpless gesture. "I wish I could offer you some sort of...compensation...but there is nothing I can give you besides the support I have already promised."
"Untrue." Severus took another swallow of his drink. "Answer me three questions, and I shall consider it repayment."
"How did Potter and Black always find me? How were they able to be undetected so often, and move about unseen, so they could attack me from nowhere? And how did they manage to...Potter had a secret that let him approach you as a werewolf without fear. What was it?"
Remus sat back with a huff. "You want me to betray their secrets."
"Only the secrets of our schooldays. The secrets they used to make my life hell."
Remus closed his eyes, considering. "I need an oath that you won't reveal these things to others."
"I give my word. I will not reveal your secrets, save at great need. It is the same oath I gave Dumbledore regarding your condition."
Remus nodded. "Very well." He took a deep breath. "To answer your first...we created a Map, while in school. It showed all the corridors, all those we knew of, and where each person was. It possessed the ability to track magical signatures within the Castle. A difficult bit of Charms work. Took us nearly three years to get it all done. The answer to your second...James was in possession of an Invisibility Cloak. We used it mainly for sneaking out after curfew for snacks, or exploration. But Sirius and James did sometimes use it for pranks, including on you. And your third...the werewolf only attacks humans. Not Animagi. They gained their Animagi forms in their Fifth Year. It rendered them safe from me, and they used their animal forms to help me gain some control over my inner wolf."
A map, an invisibility cloak, and Animagus forms. No wonder he had been outmatched so badly.
Severus closed his eyes and breathed deep, employing the Occlumency he'd learned years ago to center himself. Rage threatened to sweep him away on a dark tide, and he could not let it. Not with Remus Lupin in the room.
"I am sorry." Remus's quiet voice cut through his thoughts. "Thinking of it like that...I suppose we had more than our fair share of advantages."
"Yes. You did." Severus fought the urge to say more. He inhaled, held it, then let it go in a slow, controlled breath. "However, I have said your answers are repayment enough. I will not go back on my word." The cold tide of rage was waiting for him, but it would wait until Remus was gone.
He opened his eyes to find Remus staring at him with a wary gaze. "You seem to be taking this...rather better than I expected."
"I am not. But one does not become a spy, or a Potions Master, without learning some control."
Remus blinked. "Occlumency?"
"Yes." He nodded shortly.
"Impressive. I've studied the disciplines, but never mastered the skill. Have you learned Legilimency as well?"
"Yes. As it happens, I am adept at mind magic."
"Mind Magics, Potions, and Defense. And spell creation. Amazing." He might have snapped, but there was only genuine admiration in Lupin's voice. "I regret, my reading tended towards other subjects in school. Though, if I may be immodest, I do have some small talent in spell creation myself."
"The Map you spoke of."
"Quite." Lupin nodded.
Severus considered. The rage still burned, cold and black and sharp at his core. But Remus was offering him a path to an olive branch. If he was willing to take it.
He breathed deep and forced himself to say the words, though they cut like glass. "I would be...interested...in discussing your innovations and ideas at some point. If my trial does not end with me in Azkaban or dead."
"I think I would enjoy that." Remus nodded. Then he glanced at the clock, drank the rest of his brandy, and stood. "This has been an interesting conversation. However, you are a Professor, and I suspect I should let you rest."
"Yes. I have papers to mark as well." He rose. "Thank you for the wine."
"Of course. Enjoy the rest of it. I'm not much for wine." Remus nodded again. He took his cloak down, then stopped and met Severus's gaze. "I suspect there is still much to discuss, but I hope that perhaps, we might find more common ground between us. I think… I should like us to be friends if it is possible."
Severus held onto his control with both hands. "Ask me...ask me after the trial, Lupin, if I am yet a free man."
"Yes. Of course." Lupin offered him a farewell bow, then disappeared, shutting the door behind him.
The cold black tide rose, broke over him like a wave, cutting and freezing and burning through him. Severus whirled, whipped into his adjoining lab and slammed the door behind him, locking it with a spell only Albus might be able to break. Then he strode over to his racks full of empty vials and decanters, seized one, and flung it at the bare stone of the opposite wall with an incoherent howl of fury.
Glass shattered. He repeated the action, again and again until all of the glass containers were gone, a pile of gleaming fragments on the floor. Until his throat was raw and his voice was hoarse. Then he seized the oldest and most battered of his cauldrons, the one he was on the edge of scrapping anyway because it was so battered and stained, and flung it too. It slammed into the wall hard enough to dent the metal, with a ringing clang that filled the lab like the knell of a bell.
The sharp sound brought him out of his fury at last. He stood, chest heaving, staring at the destruction he had wrought.
Weariness crashed over him in a wave as violent as the previous rage had been. He drew his wand and vanished the broken glass, too drained to bother with a Reparo. He left the cauldron where it lay, undid the locking spell on the door, then stumbled out into the living room and past it to his bed-chamber. The reaction left him shivering as he removed his robes, and he tumbled into the heavy sheets with gratitude.
He was asleep before he could even consider Dreamless Sleep Potion.
The days following Lupin's visit and the violent aftermath were...surreal. Much of his rage and his despair had burned in the destructive spree he had indulged in. What was left behind was not acceptance. What it was, he was uncertain. Only that it lingered within him, waiting.
In many ways, it felt like his entire being had gone into stasis, under a Stunning Spell or the Draught of Living Death, waiting until his trial was over. What would happen then he had no idea and, for once, he was content to wait.
He and Newberry finalized arrangements in preparation for the worst-case scenario, in which he would be unable to return to the school. Newberry took over marking papers, while he brewed potions that were needed for the school.
The day before his trial, the Aurors arrived. Severus was waiting, having been informed by a quiet and faintly apologetic Dumbledore that Black had insisted he be under Ministry supervision for the final night. A foolish precaution, since he would have run long before then if he'd been planning an escape. Still, he made no protest as the Aurors formally accused him, arrested him, and bound him with Magic-Suppression shackles.
He felt the indignity of being bound keenly. But Black was not among the Aurors who came to arrest him. Frank Longbottom, who was in charge of the arresting contingent, consented to perform the arrest in the privacy of Dumbledore's office, rather than a more public forum. He was also remarkably careful when he snapped the shackles around Severus's wrists. More so than Moody, who was also a part of the group, would have been. He was also professional, if not gentle, when he led Severus through the Floo and escorted him to the holding cells.
The cells possessed minimal comforts, but he had inhabited worse in his life. The cot was not full of broken springs like his childhood bed had been. The food was decent, the water clean, and the toilet was clean. The prison garb he was dressed in was uncomfortable only in that it was one thin layer and left him feeling exposed and slightly cold.
Black came to sneer at him for a while. He'd expected it and made a conscious effort to close himself behind his Occlumency shields. Much though he might have wanted to respond to Black's taunts, he knew his position was precarious enough as it was. Giving Black a reason to hex or hurt him would only make it worse. He half-hoped Black would assault him without provocation, but the former Marauder was just intelligent enough to avoid it. Eventually, Black left, and he allowed himself to release his control in favor of sleep. A broken sleep, plagued by ill dreams, but enough that he was reasonably alert the next day when the guards came to collect him.
He was permitted a wash and a change of clothing, and a quick meal before he was led before the Wizengamot. Inside, he was ushered to the chair set aside for the accused. He sat without protest or resistance and tried not to flinch as the chains wound around him and secured him to the chair.
Minister Bagnold was presiding. Seeing him bound, she tapped her gavel sharply to call the court to order. "The trial of Severus Snape will now commence. All other parties on the floor will please introduce themselves."
"Albus Dumbledore, counsel for the Defense." Severus felt a surge of gratitude as his employer came to stand beside him.
"Sirius Black, for the Prosecution." Sirius snarled the words out.
"Minister Bagnold, presiding. And we have Johnathon Diggory, recording." Bagnold tapped her gavel again. "Now that all parties are established, what crimes does Severus Snape stand accused of?"
"He's a ruddy Death Eater, that's what!" Black snapped the words out. "He's a murderer and he's probably used all three Unforgivable Curses, and he killed my friend and fellow Auror, James Potter!"
"Objection." Dumbledore hastened forward. "A part of Auror Black's statement is only supposition. And his remarks are clearly inflammatory."
"Indeed. Auror Black. Stick to a formal and appropriate statement of accusation, if you would."
Black huffed, but then seemed to get himself under control. "Very well. I accuse Severus Snape of being a Death Eater, of using Unforgivable Curses, of falsely accusing Petter Pettigrew of betrayal and attempted murder, and of the murder of James Potter, and attempted murder of Lily and Harry Potter, James' wife and son. And also of attempted falsification of evidence to hide his guilt." Black gave him a sneering glare and stepped back.
"And the Defense? Your response?"
"In the matter of being a Death Eater: Severus Snape pleads guilty, but I myself am willing to testify that he left the service of Voldemort prior to his defeat, and has since worked to redress his mistake. In the matter of using Unforgivable Curses, guilty, but under extreme duress and fear for his life. In the matter of accusing Peter Pettigrew: the accusation was made, but we intend to demonstrate proof that it was not a false accusation. In the murder of James Potter: not guilty. In the attempted murder of Harry and Lily Potter: Not guilty. In the matter of attempting to falsify evidence to avoid conviction: Not guilty. This concludes our plea."
"And the accused consents to use of Veritaserum or Truth Spells to ensure the veracity of his statements?" Bagnold's attention turned to Severus again.
Severus nodded. He and Albus had discussed this. "I do consent to Truth Spells. However, I refuse Veritaserum on the grounds of Potions Mastery, and concerns that the prosecution may dismiss my claims on the grounds of said mastery." He saw Black's furious look and knew he'd been right on that count. Black had expected him to take Veritaserum, and had intended to denounce him, claiming he'd found a way of foiling Veritaserum.
He hadn't. But even the claim of it would damage his case if he'd chosen that route.
"Very well. Aurors, prepare the Defendant to give his oath."
Moody put a wand in his back. He pressed harder than necessary. Severus ignored him, in favor of keeping his eyes on the Wizengamot. Longbottom unlocked the suppressing shackles. Bagnold nodded. "Speak your oath."
Severus nodded. He'd planned this carefully. "I, Severus Snape, do swear on my life and magic to speak only the truth, in so far as I know and recall it, to all inquiries put to me by the authorities of this chamber, to hold silence only if speech will endanger others or go against previously sworn oaths to any individual other than the self-styled Dark Lord Voldemort and his servants, for the duration of my trial and until such time as judgment has been formally rendered upon me. So I swear, and so mote it be."
A flash signaled the acceptance of the oath, and Severus felt the invisible chains of magic winding about his very essence. Chains that didn't disappear, even as the Suppressing Shackles were replaced.
"The Oath has been given. For the Record, state your name."
"Potions Master, adjunct Professor of Potions at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, along with Jacob Newberry."
"The names and status of your family."
"Tobias Snape. Muggle. Deceased. My father." Dead thanks to his own alcoholism. "Eileen Snape, nee Prince. Witch. Deceased. My mother." Deceased thanks to the abuse Tobias had heaped on her. "I have not any association with the parents of my parents, nor any knowledge of them to give. No other relatives that I know of." Eileen had never spoken of the Princes, and Tobias...Tobias had rarely spoken to him save to curse and insult him at any point.
Bagnold frowned, but motioned for Diggory to note it down. "Very well. As you appear in good health, we will now move on to the questions of the trial."
He nodded, feeling Dumbledore's presence and glad of it for once.
"You admit to being a Death Eater?"
Dumbledore moved forward. "Minister and members of the Wizengamot, I would like to interject a statement of my own here."
Bagnold nodded at him. "You may speak."
"It is true that Severus Snape was, and perhaps may technically still be considered a Death Eater. However, I can personally testify that, since August of this past year, he has been working as an undercover agent at my insistence. He has provided information, some of which saved multiple lives and proved instrumental in thwarting Voldemort. And at considerable risk to himself."
"You can provide proof of this?" Bagnold frowned.
"I can. Though I would prefer to do so in a more private setting, as doing otherwise would endanger the life of the defendant."
Bagnold considered, then addressed the rest of the court. "Members of the Wizengamot, how do you vote? Those in favor of viewing proofs in regards to the testimony of Albus Dumbledore, raise your wands."
Nearly every wand was raised and lit. Severus breathed deeply, glad curiosity had won out.
"The court will adjourn for one hour, while we review this matter." Bagnold thumped the gavel down. "The defendant will remain, in case of questions. The rest of you have an hour of freedom." She banged the gavel again.
Dumbledore moved to usher the members of the Wizengamot out of the chamber, into a smaller side chamber. Most of those who were not members of the court moved toward the exits. In the end, Severus was left with only his guards. And an irritated Sirius Black, who had apparently sent another Auror into the viewing room rather than going himself. Severus wondered if that had been a stipulation of Dumbledore's, or if Black simply hated him that much. Then again, Black was an Order member; if he didn't know already about what Severus had done, or didn't care, then a few memories in a Pensieve wouldn't change his mind.
Black moved forward until he was only a few inches away, nearly spitting in derision. "I don't know how you bamboozled Dumbledore, Snape, but you won't get away with it."
Severus considered responding, but the truth spell remained active. Then he remembered the second part of his oath and decided to speak after all. "I did not bamboozle Dumbledore." True enough. He was a gifted Occlumens and Legilimens, but Dumbledore was a formidable power he wasn't sure he could have matched, even on a good day.
"You murdered James."
"I did not." He had been complicit in some of the events leading to Potter's death, but he hadn't actually killed the man. And if one wanted to argue guilt, Black should have known about Pettigrew. They were supposed to be friends, after all.
"Don't lie to me!" Sirius snarled the words out, jamming his wand in Severus's throat. "I know you had a hand in James' death, Snivellus!"
"Hey now." One of the guards stepped forward. "He's on trial Black, but you can't be hasty."
Sirius sneered. "Defending Death Eaters, Robbards?"
"Defending a man on trial. A man who is currently helpless. And he's under Oath. Going after him without his defense present isn't professional Black. So step back. If he's guilty, he's guilty. The Wizengamot will sort it. But you'll do your case no good if they come back and Dumbledore catches on that you've been assaulting him while they were out."
Black snorted. "As if it would matter. It's just Snivellus."
"And there's another thing. You're supposed to be an official member of the Prosecution. You'll undermine your own case if the court catches you calling him names like that. It makes you look petty." Robbards stepped between them. "Stop being a brat straight out of Hogwarts, man, and act like an Auror."
"Got no love for Death Eaters, but he's right Black. Back off. You'll get your chance at him." Moody spoke up from his own position.
Sirius growled, but backed up and reluctantly sheathed his wand. Severus breathed easier, wincing at the now painful spot on his throat.
Longbottom stepped forward with a glass. "Water, Snape?"
"Please." Severus submitted to the indignity of having water tipped into his mouth, grateful enough for the courtesy to ignore the sneers around him. He drank until the glass was empty, then nodded at the Auror. "Thank you."
Frank Longbottom shrugged. "Basic courtesy, nothing more." Then he turned away.
The rest of the wait passed in silence, until the door opened and the Wizengamot filed back in and took their seats. Bagnold waited until all were seated before calling the court to order. "In light of the testimony presented by Chief Warlock Albus Dumbledore, the Wizengamot concedes the claim that Severus Snape has for over a year been serving to undermine the self-proclaimed Dark Lord, at extreme risk to his own safety. However..." Bagnold's eyes fixed on him, and Severus just managed to stifle a flinch. "...the Wizengamot would now like to hear, from the defendant, the reasons for his change in allegiance."
He'd expected that. He took a deep breath. "In the summer of 1980, the Dark Lord received information regarding a potential threat to his power. Acting on that information, he compiled a list of likely candidates, whom he declared his intention to eliminate. Among them were the Potters." He took another deep breath. "Mrs. Potter, formerly Lily Evans by name, was a close childhood friend of mine. I wished to prevent her death on those grounds, in spite of our later estrangement. As such, I approached the Dark Lord and asked that she be spared, citing personal interests of a different sort. I was made to understand that he would indulge me by giving her the option of surrender, however, if she refused or presented any form of obstacle to his plans, that was where his indulgence would end. I knew from our youth that Mrs. Potter was unlikely to comply, and sought other options. When I realized that Albus Dumbledore was the only known wizard for whom the Dark Lord harbored any fear, I went to him. I warned him of the plans in motion and made my request. He agreed on grounds that, as I had asked a favor, I ought to provide one in return. I agreed to give him information from within the Dark Lord's inner circle. Shortly thereafter, I gave him my full loyalty."
It was hardly the full story. But they'd be there for days if he tried to tell them that. Besides, he had no desire to speak to these people, especially Black, of the days of endless and anguished soul-searching he had endured. To say nothing of the tearing and baring of his mind as Dumbledore refined his Occlumency to withstand even Voldemort. Dumbledore had given him little kindness during those days, but he had to admit the old man's ruthless demands for honesty and choices had been warranted. And, perhaps, worth the struggle. Painful as it had been, he had come out of the crucible of Dumbledore's scrutiny with a better understanding of himself than he had ever before possessed.
Another Wizengamot member spoke up. "You say You-know-who received information about potential threats to his power. What information?"
"I cannot say."
A sharp furrow appeared on Bagnold's brow. "Cannot say?"
"I am bound under oath."
Dumbledore stepped forward. "After Severus came to work for me, I bound him not to speak of what he knew, to lessen the chances of it being revealed to others who might misuse it."
"Very well." Bagnold scowled, but didn't pursue it. "On the accusation of using the Unforgivables, you plead..."
"Guilty, with the extenuating circumstances of extreme duress and fear for my life, save for the exception of the Killing Curse."
"Use of the Unforgivable curses was a common method of proving and testing loyalty. Failure to do so, even at the initiation ceremonies, would result in torture and death." He'd seen it happen. Young recruits who balked, who'd never guessed what they were getting into, lured by promises of power and freedom and wealth beyond their dreams. One of the young men in his initiation had suffered such. "It is impossible to become involved with the Death Eaters in any manner without casting at least one of the Unforgivables. And to be among the Death Eaters, voluntarily or not, and to survive, requires the ability to overcome one's scruples. Quickly." he took a deep breath. "When I began working for Dumbledore, I came under even greater scrutiny. To have failed any test put to me would have been my death."
"I see. Yet you claim an exception on the Killing Curse. Are you saying you did not cast it?"
"No. I confess that I have cast it without fear of my life." Severus swallowed. "I contend that I have cast the Killing Curse to end the life of another in a manner less painful and degrading than the aforementioned individual might have otherwise endured."
Sirius Black jumped out of his chair. "The prosecution contends that the defendant is not speaking the truth."
Dumbledore moved as well. "The defense would like to point out that the defendant is still under magical oath, an oath which includes the forfeit of his life for any intentional dishonesty. As he still lives, I would submit that the prosecution's words are incorrect."
Black scowled. "In which case, the prosecution would request that the defendant cite us an example to prove he speaks the truth, rather than vague hearsay."
Bile churned briefly in his throat as he watched the short debate among the Wizengamot. He would rather not remember the times when he'd considered the Killing Curse a mercy. But if it had to be done, he could.
The debate ended. "The court agrees to the prosecution's request. Defendant, can you provide a concrete example of your claim?"
"I can." He looked to Dumbledore, his defense, and got a nod. He swallowed hard, dragging the memory out of the deeper vaults of his mind. "May, 1980. There was a young Muggleborn wizard and his family captured by Death Eaters. His name was Gawain Martin. Other captives that night included his mother, his father, and his sister. They were brought in, tortured. The boy lost his voice from screaming through the Cruciatus within the first hour. The girl was repeatedly sodomized by various Death Eaters, then tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange. The parents were subjected to various curses. The father died, I suspect his heart gave out. The mother was put under the Imperious and forced to do several things, including participating in the torture of her children. After she had tortured them, she was released so she could see what she had done, then put under the Cruciatus. I used the Killing Curse when called upon. At the time I claimed that I had misunderstood, that I thought I had been ordered to kill them to prove I had no loyalty to my Muggle blood, and that I had work that I needed to finish, and thought I was meant to kill them so I might return to it. The truth was that I wished it to be over, and it was the best I could do."
He didn't bother to tell them that Voldemort had been displeased, and sanctioned two hours of torture under Bellatrix Lestrange's wand, and her knives, as the price for his failure. He wouldn't give Black the joy of imagining his screams.
Several of the Wizengamot members looked rather sick. He couldn't bring himself to care. They'd asked.
After a long moment, Dumbledore spoke. "As you can see, Severus remains alive. Therefore, I would ask the Wizengamot to accept his testimony as truth."
Bagnold swallowed heavily. "Indeed. All those in favor of accepting the motion of the defense?" Wands raised. The majority was slim, but it was enough. Severus allowed himself to relax a little. Black scowled.
Bagnold looked down at her parchment. "Next charge: Falsely accusing one Peter Pettigrew of being a Death Eater, and contributing to the death of the Potters. You declared that the accusation was made and that it was true?"
"Explain to the Wizengamot."
"I am more than willing. However, it might go faster if the court will permit me to offer Pensieve evidence. Despite the distortion of the Fidelius Charm, I believe the surrounding circumstances will prove my claim."
"Pensieve evidence is admissible."
Dumbledore drew a labeled vial from his robes. "I have the memory here, Minister."
There was a short delay as a court Pensieve was brought in. The memory was added. Seconds later, it played, projected into the air above the basin. It started with Severus arriving in Godric's Hollow, through his conversation with Pettigrew, up to the moment where the cottage the Potters had lived in appeared. The effect of the Fidelius rendered the words inaudible and Pettigrew's face briefly blurred, but the effect was unmistakable.
Black was out of his seat before the memory finished playing. "That's a lie!"
"The defense would like to point out that memories are difficult to fabricate. Furthermore, if it is a lie, it cannot be an intentional one." Dumbledore indicated Severus, still in his seat.
"But memories can be altered or fabricated. And there are ways to make Mr. Snape believe he is telling the truth when he is not."
"I am aware." Severus gave Dumbledore a quick look before he continued. "I am willing to concede glamours or Polyjuice which may have influenced me into an incorrect identification of the individual involved. However, I contest that the memory is the truth as I know it, and I am willing to permit it to be scrutinized by an unbiased expert in Mind Magics to verify it's authenticity. Furthermore, I submit that, regardless of the individual's identity, that person was the Potter's Secret Keeper, and as such can be charged with aiding in their deaths. If proof is provided through memory analysis or other means to conclusively prove that the individual is not Pettigrew, I shall withdraw my accusation in favor of issuing a new one against the correct person, with my full apologies and recompense to Mr. Pettigrew for the defamation of his character."
He hated the idea, but he also doubted recompense would be necessary. There had been too many mannerisms he remembered from school. Besides, he doubted James would have trusted anyone outside of his little clique of friends with the Fidelius. He was fairly certain it was Pettigrew.
Dumbledore spoke. "As the counsel for the defendant, I agree with the submission of the memory for analysis by experts. However, should the memory prove unaltered and accurate, I would request apologies and recompense from the prosecution, for wrongful accusations and defamation of character."
Black snorted. "Does it count as defamation of character to accuse a Death Eater of being a liar?" Moody elbowed him, but not before Albus rounded on him.
"The circumstances of Mr. Snape's actions are under review, that is true. And it is true that he is on trial. However, you have accused him on grounds of memories freely shared, despite having heard his testimony before and repeated reminders that he is under oath and cannot lie unless he wishes to forfeit his life." he turned back to the Wizengamot. "I understand that Auror Black, being an Auror, has some reason for his dislike of Death Eaters, and perhaps criminals in general. Likewise, I understand that portions of this trial may involve persons with whom Auror Black has a personal connection. However, if he cannot abstain from insulting the defendant without provocation, then I ask he be removed from the courtroom."
Severus swallowed the lump in his throat at Albus's defense. He'd accepted the old man's offer to stand as his counsel because there were few other choices, but he hadn't expected much beyond the professional defense in the courtroom. Certainly, he hadn't expected Albus to challenge one of his former favorites over something as small as petty insults.
"Agreed. Auror Black, you will comport yourself with proper decorum for the courtroom, or be dismissed and have another substituted in your position for the prosecution. In the meantime, Auror Longbottom will take the memory to the experts in the Department of Mysteries, to be analyzed."
Frank Longbottom scooped the memory back into its vial, then left the room with a bow. Bagnold took a sip of the water at her seat and glanced at her parchment. "Moving on. The prosecution accuses Mr. Snape of the murder of James Potter. The defense pleads not guilty."
Black scowled, but Moody elbowed him before he could speak.
Dumbledore stepped forward. "That is correct."
"The defendant will tell the Wizengamot his version of the events of that night."
Severus swallowed, wishing he had some water of his own. His throat was starting to get sore. "Minister Bagnold, given the memories I have already provided, I would like to begin my testimony with the events after the Fidelius was broken."
"Acceptable." There were nods all around the courtroom.
He swallowed again. "Once the Potter's home was revealed to me, I stunned and bound the Secret Keeper, the man I believed to be Pettigrew. I then entered the home through the open front door. Inside, I found evidence of a duel. Near the stairs, I found the body of James Potter. He appeared to be already deceased. I will confess that I did not stop to make certain, but I was fairly sure, from the appearance of his body at that time. I heard noises that sounded to me like raised voices from upstairs and went in that direction. When I arrived at the top of the stairs, I heard the voices of Mrs. Potter and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named coming from a room down the hall, which proved to be the nursery. The child was in his crib, and Mrs. Potter was standing between him and the Dark Lord."
He paused, fighting the onset of a flashback as the memories of the night came back to him. "You-Know-Who attempted to kill the child. Mrs. Potter was unarmed, so perhaps he thought her no threat. I cannot say why he did not target her, but his focus was clearly on the boy. Mrs. Potter stepped between them again. I attempted to intervene, as neither of them had seen me, but I was not in a position to do so. You-Know-Who fired the Killing curse. There was a huge explosion of magic, similar to accidental magic, but on a much larger scale. I cannot say accurately where it came from. The raw magic repelled the Dark Lord's curse, rebounding it back into him. His body exploded. The raw magic back-lashed from the impact with the Killing Curse. I cannot say what happened to Mrs. Potter or her child, but the force of it rendered me unconscious. When I awoke, Mrs. Potter and her son were already awake and Mrs. Potter had regained her wand. I convinced her to bring her son to Dumbledore's office in Hogwarts, for their safety. We came downstairs, and she placed her husband's body in Stasis and Preservation spells. We tried the Floo, and on finding it operational, flooed directly to Hogwarts. From there, I alerted Dumbledore to my location and asked him to return."
Dumbledore stepped forward. "Lords and Ladies of the Wizengamot, I can testify that I did in fact receive notice of an explosion in Godric's Hollow, and the destruction of the wards, followed less than half an hour by a message via Patronus Charm from Mr. Snape, requesting my presence in my office at Hogwarts. When I arrived I found Mr. Snape, Mrs. Potter, and young Harry Potter, all showing signs of having been involved in a near-catastrophic magical event. Mr. Snape, in particular, was suffering from severe magical shock. Mrs. Potter herself told me that Mr. Snape had come upon them at the end of her confrontation with Dark Lord Voldemort, and brought them to me, for their own safety."
It was a delicate balance. Severus could feel the oath stirring with how close he was skirting to the truth. But it was all he could say if he was to avoid revealing that James Potter had not saved his son. Besides, it was true, in a way. He wasn't sure how he'd managed to act upon Rumplestiltskin's advice. He wasn't sure where, or even when, his strange benefactor was from. The magic did have some similarities to accidental magic. And it had back-lashed and rendered him unconscious and suffering from magical shock and drain.
Bagnold was speaking again, and he refocused his attention on her. "You say that there was an explosion of magic. And yet, even being so close, you cannot identify the source?"
Dumbledore spoke before he could muster the mindfulness to answer. "It is thought that perhaps James Potter employed some form of ancient family magic or self-created spell to provide a shield, in the event of his death and mortal danger to his wife and child."
Bagnold leaned back in her chair. "Mr. Snape?"
He took a breath. "I can tell you that it was powerful, wild, and fueled by some form of intense emotion. It appeared, or activated, when Lily Potter and her son were targeted by a Killing Curse from the Dark Lord. More than that, I cannot say." And if that was only because he'd told Dumbledore to let Potter be the hero of the story, well, that was his business.
Looking at it another way, he certainly couldn't say anything else, or Black would kill him for trying to steal James Potter's achievement in protecting his family, even after his death. And no one would believe him anyway, which would call the rest of his testimony into doubt, oath-taking be damned. The Wizengamot looked skeptical enough as it was.
Bagnold appeared ready to ask another question, but was interrupted by the turn of Frank Longbottom, carrying a scroll and the memory vial. He handed both over to the Minister with a bow, then returned to his station guarding the courtroom.
Bagnold broke the seal and read the scroll. "According to our experts, the memory presented as evidence shows no signs of tampering or fabrication, and no influence beyond the obscuring nature of the Fidelius Charm upon both Secret Keeper and Secret. Therefore, the Wizengamot accepts the memory as verified and factual evidence in the case of Severus Snape."
"Beg pardon." Black rose from his seat. "Minister, there are rumors that Snape is a Master Occlumens. The prosecution questions whether this might affect the memory in a manner that experts might not look for?"
Bagnold frowned. Auror Longbottom stepped forward. "Minister, with respect...the Unspeakables themselves are reported to be Master Occlumens and Legilimencers. I believe they would have tested the memory for such influences and included them in their report."
Bagnold re-read the scroll. Then she nodded, and some of the tension and annoyance went out of her shoulders. "You are correct, Auror Longbottom. The memory has been tested for Selective Memory Tampering via Occlumency. The results are negative." Her gaze settled on Black.
Black scowled but dipped his head in acknowledgment. "The prosecution retracts its concerns." He took his seat again, but not before shooting Severus a poisonous glare.
Bagnold set the scroll aside. "We have heard your testimony in regards to the murder of James Potter, and the attempted murder of Lily Potter and their son. Given your oath, we will take this testimony to be true, until such time that evidence presents indications otherwise, in which case the matter may well be revisited. We thereby move on to the final charge, that of fabricating evidence."
"I plead not guilty." Severus swallowed and forced himself to maintain a level and calm gaze. "I have fabricated no evidence, nor asked any other to produce fabricated evidence on my behalf. If there is any testimony on my behalf that is later proven false or incorrect, I will submit here and now that I have no knowledge of its preparation and that I will gladly refute any and all such evidence at its presentation, regardless of its impact upon my personal circumstances, save in any circumstances where I cannot, either by ignorance or previous oath."
"Acceptable. Very well." Bagnold rapped her gavel. "We shall have a 30-minute recess, then proceed to the supporting witnesses for both Prosecution and Defense."
Severus breathed out a sigh and sat back in his chair. In some ways, the worst was over.
In others…he was certain Black would do everything possible to drag his name through the mud. And as much as he'd become inured to it in school, the ache of humiliation still existed. And he had no idea who would be witnessing at the trial, aside from himself, most likely Lily, and Lupin. If Lupin hadn't changed his mind.
He took a deep breath and steadied himself mentally. No matter what happened, the most important thing was to remain calm and civil. To stay focused. He could let himself react later, in private, whether it was his quarters at Hogwarts, somewhere else, or in Azkaban.
Until the trial was over, all he could do was wait, watch, and hope it didn't go too badly for him. And keep his oath to the best of his abilities.
He'd had practice with waiting and watching. And with hoping, painful though it was. He could do it once more.
Author's Note: This was...harder to write than I expected. I'd originally planned to do the whole trial in one chapter, but Lupin and Severus took longer than I expected, and so did the initial defense, so...yeah. More trial next chapter. Sirius gets some nasty surprises...Severus tries to keep his cool.