So… that was a long wait. I am very aware. I would apologize, but I can't promise that it won't happen again, so… Anyways, I just finished the second draft of my novel, so I've got a little bit of free time where I'm hoping to make some headway on my FanFic stories. My tentative goal is to try to have them all written by the end of the year, but we'll see how that goes.

After I post this chapter, I'm going to try to get a bunch done on all my stories—maybe finish them—so then I can post on some kind of regular schedule until the end, but we'll see if I have the self-control to not post them immediately after writing. I usually don't…

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know what you think at the end. Your reviews feed my writing brain and make me really really happy. :)

Disclaimer: Neither of these fandoms are mine, just, ya know, in case you were confused.


Severus just suppressed his smile and stalked from the room. It was time to sit down and have a long—and hopefully not too exhausting—talk with Alex.

Severus walked into the room, immediately meeting Alex's startled eyes as the teenager shot to his feet. He seemed to relax once he realized it was only Severus who had entered. "We need to talk, Alex."

A tremor went through Alex's shoulders, and a thrum of panic raced through his eyes. "If this is about you being a Death Eater spy, I already knew, and I'm not going to tell anyone. I promise."

Severus narrowed his eyes as he tried to decipher what had the teen so worked up, but eventually, the reasoning dawned on him. "It's fine, Alex. I know you won't. We just need to talk about it." Alex was afraid of being made to leave. A strange emotion beat in Severus's heart, but he pushed it away.

"Oh. Right. Got it."

Severus sat down in the dark green armchair across from Alex. He took a deep breath as he considered how best to begin this conversation. "Have you heard of the Order of the Phoenix?"

"Yeah," Alex said, lowering himself into the chair. "I know a bit about it."

Something in the way the teen said the words told him that Alex knew more than "a bit" about it, but Severus let that go. "I've been their spy since the first war, and as I suppose you might have guessed, Albus Dumbledore is the head of the Order." Alex nodded in a way that said he had guessed as much. "Now, as a spy, I do have contact with some other Death Eaters."

Alex nodded again.

"Have you heard of Lucius Malfoy?"

Alex's lip curled. "I've met him."

"When did you meet Lucius?" Severus gave Alex an appraising look. As far as he knew, Alex was not associated with the Wizarding World often. How would he have met Lucius? And what could that encounter possibly have entailed?

"I've just run into him a couple times." Alex shrugged. "In Diagon Alley."

Severus met Alex's eyes, but he resisted the urge to use Legilimency on him. "Right. His son Draco is my godson."

Alex's eyes widened in brief surprise.

"Of course, that is not common knowledge, but every year he comes and stays with me for a few days. It is important that Lucius does not see you here when he comes to drop Draco off with me."

Alex nodded. "I can hide while he is here. I can even avoid your quarters while Draco is visiting if you'd like."

Severus winced at how readily the offer had come. Most teenagers didn't offer to hide for three days in such a steady voice. "That won't be necessary. The headmaster and I have agreed that it would be best if you go stay at the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix for the day of Draco's arrival, and once I have time to explain to Draco who you are, you shall return here. Is that acceptable?"

Alex blinked. "Of course, that sounds fine. How can you…" Alex licked his lips. "How can you be sure that Draco won't tell his father about me?"

The lack of faith in his godson would have bothered Severus if it weren't for the nervousness in Alex's mannerisms, and the general lack of trust the teenager had in general. "Draco and his mother are aware that I am a spy, but I shall have him swear an unbreakable vow before I tell him about you."

Some of the tension drained out of Alex's shoulders. "Alright. That makes sense."

"Good. Draco is set to arrive tomorrow evening, so if there is anything you would like to bring with you, have it ready by the morning. We will travel through the floo."

Alex nodded. "Alright." He stood up and hesitated. "Severus, that potion, do you think it can actually be improved?"

Severus studied him. Even with the vague phrasing, Severus had no doubts as to which potion Alex was referencing. With everything else going on, he hadn't fully processed the fact that Alex had given him a potion in loose stages of development unknown to any but himself and the headmaster. His eyes flickered to the bookshelf. As he took note of the potions journal which sat at the slightest angle of difference from before, he had his answer. Severus supposed that he shouldn't have been surprised. Alex was resourceful. And Severus hadn't forbidden him from reading his journals though he hadn't considered that it might be smart to put away the books with more violent potions.

But the main reason that the question worried Severus was the delivery. Alex's voice had curled upward at the end of his question, and Severus found that he didn't want to consider why Alex might be looking forward to a potion to negate the effects of the cruciatus.

"That is the intent."

Alex nodded. "Right. Good. That's good." He turned and started to walk toward his room.

Severus narrowed his eyes. "Alex."

Alex turned.

"Why do you ask?"

"No reason." Alex smiled. "I just think that it could help a lot of people."

Severus let Alex walk away, but his mind was turning over the details of the conversation. While Severus had never doubted the possibility of Alex being a spy, he hadn't fully considered just what that would entail. Severus had seen the teenager's nervous energy. The flinching. The tension. But those things alone proved nothing. Anxiety? Stress? Grief? It could have been any number of things. This? This was something different.

It wasn't disbelief of Alex's explanation, but Severus could read what Alex wasn't saying. Would the potion be able to help a lot of people? Of course. But Severus didn't doubt that Alex was thinking about how the potion would be able to help him. And that meant that someone somewhere had used the curse on Alex.

Severus took a deep breath, strengthening his occlumency shields. He had no control to change the past, but Alex was his responsibility now. Whatever had happened in the past, Severus was going to ensure that it never happened again.

Alex stepped through the floo after Severus, mind still fixed on the address that the headmaster had given him. A fidelius charm. He should have guessed.

An extravagant room stood on the other side of the fireplace, but it was the feeling of dark magic that had Alex wanting to step closer to Severus.

He stepped away, putting distance between them as he brushed his hands on his pants, brushing off the ash residue, and trying to rid himself of the unease. A man with shaggy black hair was standing in the doorway of the room beside a gold-plated table, his stormy grey eyes fixed on Severus.

That was Sirius Black, of course.

Alex had been on a mission for MI6 when he had first escaped, but MI7 had been eager to catch him up to speed once he'd gotten back. And just as eager to provide polyjuice for him to keep a watch out in Hogwarts. Of course, they had pulled him back without explanation only a few weeks into what had been intended as a several month assignment. Alex still didn't know why that was.

Looking at the man now, he looked a lot different. Alex supposed that Azkaban hadn't been good for his health, but he appeared much healthier than he had on his wanted poster. The headmaster had explained to Alex—though not in great detail—that Black was innocent of the crimes he had been accused of. Alex couldn't decide how to feel about this. On one hand, he knew how backward governments could be, but on the other, surely someone would have proven it in the twelve years he was locked in Azkaban.

Black looked about two seconds from whipping out his wand. "What is it, Snivellus?" he snapped, barely sparing Alex more than a cursory glance.

Alex heard Severus scoff beside him. "I'm sure that you haven't forgotten that the headmaster informed you that Mr. Rider would be coming to stay with you. I know you're slow, mutt, but this is a tad excessive don't you think?"

Black's wand was halfway from his pocket when a hand closed around his wrist. "Really, you two. Do we have to do this every time?"

Remus Lupin stepped into the room, smiling at Severus and Alex in turn. Severus only glared, but Alex gave him a small smile and a short wave. Black's wand dropped back into his pocket. He was still scowling, but some of the harshness of the action had disappeared as he smiled at Lupin.

Lupin dropped Black's hand stepping toward Alex. "Alex Rider right? I'm Remus Lupin." He held out his hand. "You'll have to excuse Sirius. He hasn't the best manners."

Alex shook Lupin's hand, his lips twitching into a near-smile. "It's quite alright, sir. Most of the escaped convicts I meet are ill-mannered. I think it might be a pattern."

Black spluttered, and Lupin laughed, clearly assuming that Alex had been joking.

He hadn't, but they didn't need to know that.

"I think," said Severus's dry voice from behind Alex, the slightest hint of amusement coating the words, "that it is my cue to leave."

Alex turned around.

"Good-bye, Mr. Rider. The headmaster shall be back to collect you sometime tomorrow evening."

Alex waved as Severus stepped through the fireplace. "Good-bye, Professor Snape."

As Severus's echoing call of "Headmaster's Office" faded from the room, Alex shifted between his feet. He wasn't sure why he was nervous. He'd spent the last four years lying and faking his way into and out of every situation imaginable. Only, he supposed that now he wasn't really faking. Now, he needed to find a balance somewhere between himself and normal teenager. This is why he hadn't wanted to go back to school.

How long had it been since he'd had only himself to be? There was always an alias. Always a cover.

With Severus, it hadn't seemed like an issue. He rarely asked questions and when he did, he accepted Alex's explanations. Sometimes with that dubious expression of his, but he accepted it nonetheless. As far as Alex understood, there were quite a few people living in this house. And more people meant more acting. And more chances to slip up.

"So," Black said, looking uncomfortable. "Living with Snivellus must really bite, huh?"

Alex turned his head sideways. Were Severus and Black some kind of childhood rivals?

Lupin smacked Black in the back of the head. "Honestly, Sirius. Grow up. You're both adults. I think it's high time you moved on." Black rolled his eyes as Lupin continued, turning to Alex, "We're glad you're here, Alex. Are you hungry? Everyone who's awake is in the kitchen right now if you'd like to meet them?"

Alex would've liked nothing less than to meet a large group of people at seven o'clock in the morning, so naturally, he nodded his agreement. "That would be nice, sir." At least it wouldn't be everyone at once.

"Remus, please. Sir makes me feel old."

Alex gave him a tight smile as Lupin led him from the room. With a deep, steadying breath, he prepared himself for the introductions.

He paused when they walked through the door. It wasn't that there were too many people there. In fact, there were only six people sitting at the table. What surprised Alex was that he didn't recognize all of them. The only one he truly expected was the scarred ex-Auror whose spinning eye was currently fixed in Alex's direction. He vaguely recognized the red-headed twins and the girl with the frizzy brown hair, but Alex didn't know any of their names.

He supposed that he must have seen them while he was at Hogwarts, or perhaps they had been in the news at some point. Alex didn't always read the newspapers, but sometimes he liked to anticipate when MI7 would call him in.

The red-headed woman and young man, Alex didn't recognize at all. But based on the resemblance between them and the twins, Alex figured that they must have all been related. The Weasley's are known for their red hair. Isn't that what he had heard? And they were all friends of Harry Potter's.

Standing up from the table, the red-haired woman walked over to Alex and wrapped him in a tight hug. "Alex, dear. We're so happy to have you here. We've been excited to meet you."

Alex's breath caught in his throat. His fingers tightened on the edge of his shirt as he fought to keep from lashing out. Whether it was with his fists or his magic, he was sure that neither would be well-received.

"Mum, you're..." a voice started.

"...smothering," a second finished. "I think Alex…"

"...would like to breathe now."

Alex was grateful when she pulled her hands back. Though it was disguised by the shirt, he could feel his hands trembling against the skin on his torso. Spontaneous hugs had not made the list of things he needed to worry about. It was definitely getting added. He shook his hands loose from his shirt when he noticed that Mad-Eye Moody's eye was fixed on them.

"My name is Molly Weasley, dear, but you can feel free to call me Molly." She gestured to the room's other occupants. "These are three of my sons, Bill and Fred and George."

The boys in question waved at Alex, and he noted that Molly had only gestured in the twin's direction as she said their names. They really did look identical.

Molly continued, "And this is Alastor Moody and Hermione Granger."

Moody merely grunted in response turning back to the coffee in front of him, but Hermione smiled up from her book and waved at Alex.

Alex, eyes slightly wide, pulled his lips into a smile and he returned the wave.

Mrs. Weasley grabbed him by the shoulders and maneuvered him until he was sitting at the table across from Hermione and beside one of the twins, seemingly unaware of how tense Alex was. She put a plate full of various breakfast items in front of him and moved back toward her seat.

Alex couldn't move for a moment. This was weird. He had been expecting… well, he didn't know what exactly. But he hadn't been expecting this. Elaborate meals and overly affectionate mothers in the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix? Alex tried to imagine a scene like this playing out in MI7's lobby, and he had to purse his lips to keep from snickering.

Hermione set her silverware onto the table, folding her book closed. "Headmaster Dumbledore told us that you're going to be a fifth year at Hogwarts this year."

"That's right." Alex clenched his hands together beneath the table, wondering what else the headmaster had told them about him. He was already quite sure that Dumbledore had mentioned some kind of suspicion to Severus about the spying. Severus had trekked much too close to the topic on more than one occasion.

Alex had intended to leave his response at that, but it occurred to him that he should probably engage back in some way. "What year are you?"

"I'm a fifth year student as well, and so are Harry and Ron. The two of them and Ginny are still asleep, but Ginny is going to be a fourth year. So have you been homeschooled before now? What's that like?" She took a breath.

Alex blinked, unaccustomed to the level of enthusiasm Hermione was showing. He hadn't heard someone talk so fast since—

No. Not going there.

Alex took a breath, forcing the unpleasant memories out of his mind. "It was nice to be able to learn at my own pace." If only the Ministry could function enough to realize that some archaic rules were actually better left in the past.

"Well, you are just going to love Hogwarts," said Hermione, either not noticing or not commenting on Alex's underlying bitterness "The grounds are absolutely stunning, which I suppose you would know since you have been staying there, but there are so many interesting activities. I suppose the boys will probably be hoping that you play Quidditch, though I prefer my feet firmly on the ground, thank you very much. I love the classes. There are so many fascinating classes, and the teachers are some of the best in the country, or so I've been told…"

Alex nibbled on his toast as Hermione talked, nodding along, and providing short, almost noncommittal phrases when necessary. He was already missing the peaceful quiet of Severus's quarters. This was going to be a long twenty-four hours.

I hope you enjoyed the latest installment of MI7.

I'm not going to lie, I had a serious struggle not switching into first person on part of Alex's POV so if there are any random "I"s I missed or any other glaring grammatical mistakes, feel free to call me out.

Please shoot me a review if you're feeling it! And if anyone wants to follow my writing Instagram account that I started a couple months ago it is shel_b_laine (which will hopefully one day be my pen name).

Dobby: out :)