Yes, but...: Prologue/One

by Aestel

Severus Snape looked at the headmaster with barely concealed incredulity. “Absolutely not.”

“Severus, be reasonable,” Dumbledore protested. “Have a lemon drop.”

“Reasonable? Reasonable?” Snape took a moment to calm himself, impatiently waving away the proffered candy. It occurred to him that the headmaster might have finally slipped into his dotage, but the infernal twinkling in Dumbledore’s eyes suggested otherwise. “I fail to see the reason, Headmaster.”

Dumbledore continued to smile benignly at his Potions master. “You have done outstanding work for the Order, Severus. No one would deny that. And, frankly, you are too valuable a spy to waste. Voldemort is concentrating his efforts on the Muggle world, and therefore that is where we need you to be our eyes and ears--with your new partner, of course.”

Snape refused to be mollified by the rather obvious attempts at flattery. “Yes, but...”

“She is exceptionally gifted, Severus,” Dumbledore continued over Snape’s interruption. “She knows the Muggle world far better than you--and although she comes from a line of rather dark wizards, her loyalty to the Order is without question.”

In Snape’s defense, he was well aware that trying to make Albus Dumbledore see reason in instances such as this was nothing more than an exercise in frustration. The diabolical old man would inevitably have his way; nonetheless, Snape felt compelled to lodge a vehement protest. “My memories of her time here as a student are painfully vivid, Headmaster. ‘Exceptionally gifted’ is not precisely how I would describe her.”

The headmaster sighed. “I know this is not easy for you, but we all need to make sacrifices above and beyond what we have already given. It is essential that we keep a close watch on the Muggles--and in order to do that, you need a partner.”

Snape’s hands slipped from his temples to grasp the edge of the desk, his knuckles whitening. “Yes... but Miss Tonks?”



One

“Wotcher Professor?” Tonks peered out from the partially-opened door of Number 12 Grimmauld Place. As she snapped her gum, Snape noticed with a vague feeling of distaste that it was the precise shade of her hair. He did not care to speculate about which order she chose to coordinate them. “Not exactly a nice night, is it?”

“Really, Miss Tonks, I quite enjoy waiting outside in the middle of a sleeting thunderstorm while some dunderheaded former student gets around to granting me entrance,” Snape said from his place on the doorstep. Sleet, he noticed, had somehow managed to circumvent his high-necked collar and had begun to seep down the back of his neck uncomfortably.

Tonks’ mouth formed into a silent O of realization as Snape’s words finally hit her. Unfortunately, it was as if the grating sarcasm just bounced right off of the half-blood witch. Instantly, she was grinning like they shared some private joke. “So should we expect you to be in particularly good humor this evening?”

Snape smiled viciously. “You won’t know unless you let me in, will you?”

“Good call,” Tonks said. Without further ado, she released the chain and flung open the door. “Group’s all in the dining room.”

“And I half-expected them to be gathered in the foyer eagerly awaiting my arrival.”

“Right attitude, wrong location,” Tonks said with her habitual cheery terseness.

Snape paused and raised an eyebrow at her. His appearance was rarely greeted with any form of eagerness, especially since Potter had rather spectacularly blown his cover as a spy to Voldemort. His presence had become more or less... superfluous.

“You’ll just have to wait and see, now won’t you?”

“Miss Tonks...” he said warningly.

“Yes, Professor?”

“I am not going to play some infantile guessing game with you.”

Tonks grinned slightly and rocked forward onto her toes. “That’s your prerogative, sir.” The damned half-blood knew she was irritating him--and was reveling in it.

“Are you determined to make this partnership of ours as painful as possible?”

He continued to regard her with a raised eyebrow while the infuriating little twit ran her fingers through her bubblegum-pink hair. “Dunno. Hadn’t really thought about it.”

“In a gesture of friendship, you might consider telling me what in Merlin’s name is going on, here...”

Her eyes widened in feigned shock before the irrepressible grin returned. “And spoil Dumbledore’s surprise? Even I’m not that much of a dunderhead.”

“That remains to be seen,” Snape muttered, following her into the dining room. As he stepped across the threshold, he could feel the excitement in the room almost as if the air were charged with magic. Considering the occupants, that was not out of the realm of possibility. He saw Dumbledore, Potter, Granger, assorted Weasleys, Longbottom--his lips curled unconsciously in distaste--and a grinning Draco Malfoy. Well, well...

He caught a glimpse of a maddening twinkle through half-moon spectacles before striding across the room to greet his protégé. “Mr. Malfoy.”

Malfoy looked inordinately pleased with himself as he stood up and offered Snape his hand. “I heard you people might be looking for a good spy in the Death Eater ranks.”

Snape took the offered hand, favoring the young man with a piercing stare. He suspected this moment would come--after all, he had been doing his best to bring it about since the boy entered Hogwarts. Yet he couldn’t help but think the boy was being both rash and incredibly stupid. “Malfoy--was your attention elsewhere while they tortured me within an inch of my life?” Or when I suffered the embarrassment of having to be rescued by Potter?

“Severus,” Albus protested.

“I know the risks, Professor.” Malfoy shrugged. “Consider the alternative.”

“Sit down, Severus, Draco.” The headmaster indicated their chairs with a wave of his hand. “Believe it or not, we have other business to attend to. Arthur?”

Arthur Weasley scratched his chin. “Fudge is up to something. He’s called six emergency sessions of the legislature this week--closed door, of course--and members that are not among his cronies have all been conspicuously absent.”

“Who votes for that man--honestly?” Tonks asked.

“Could you find out what they are planning?” Lupin prodded in his hoarse voice.

The balding ginger head shook mournfully. Arthur Weasley had aged a great deal in these last years. He no longer bustled around with the same infuriating energy. “Not a peep. Whatever it is, though, it’s big. And soon. I think it’s imperative we find out what they’re planning.”

“I’ll do it,” Snape found himself volunteering before he had a chance to think twice. Severus Snape did not volunteer. Then again, Severus Snape did not need to be rescued by Potter. Nor did he sit around feeling useless and peripheral. “Who would be the best target?”

“My son,” Weasley said shortly.

Ah, so pompous Percy had his hand in this, too? Yes, he would be a perfect target. But how to bait the trap... Snape narrowed his eyes speculatively.

“I could probably help,” Tonks offered, shrugging.

“Really, Miss Tonks?” A lethal mixture of false sweetness and sarcasm dripped from his words.

The witch had the grace to look uncomfortable. “I don’t know how to put this, Arthur...”

“Percy is a great git,” Ronald Weasley supplied.

“Well, yes. Bloody hell. He’s been sending me flowers.” The redness suffusing her features was most likely involuntary, and the words tumbled out of the metamorphmagus’ mouth in much the same way that books had spilled out of her bag when she was student. And potions had spilled off the shelves every time she entered his classroom... “Honestly, I don’t have a bloody clue what he thinks he’s doing. I’m years older then he is... There’s always the chance he’s trying to subvert me... very badly... “ Her words trailed off as both hands covered her face.

“Excellent, Miss Tonks,” Dumbledore said, preventing the half-blood from further embarrassment. “I’m certain Severus could find some way to take advantage of this?”

“Of course.” Judging by this most recent display, the witch wouldn’t be able to act to save her own skin, but in the case of Percy Weasely, his arrogance would blind him. It would be simplicity itself, even with such a clumsy tool as Miss Tonks.

“Excellent,” Dumbledore repeated, clapping his hands together as if the universe had just aligned itself for him again. “I’ll leave it to you two to work out the details.”

Snape barely managed to avoid rolling his eyes. “Yes, Headmaster.”

Snape kept silent for the remainder of the meeting as he planned his attack on Percy Weasley. He absently watched the other members of the Order. The wizarding world’s last line of defense against Voldemort was a group comprised of children and the dregs of society: Fletcher's criminal record was longer than most of Granger’s essays, Alastor Moody wasn’t nicknamed “Mad-Eye” without reason, and the Weasleys currently occupied the position of lowest-regarded pureblood family. As Granger actually raised her hand for permission to speak, he wondered if it wouldn’t be wiser to give up now. Then again, Voldemort would not likely welcome him back with open arms.

Weasley. Percy Weasley. Gryffindor, Head Boy. Snape recalled the boy with a feeling of distaste not quite on the level he reserved for Longbottom or Tonks--or Potter. Pompous, overly eager to prove himself--most likely due to competition with his brothers and a need to rise above the disdain his family was held in. If he recalled correctly, Weasley also worked for Crouch when he was under the Imperius Curse--which showed a stunning lack of any perceptive ability or intuition. So then, the best way to approach him would be to flatter his ego. Snape’s lips curled into a thin, unpleasant smile. It also gave him the perfect excuse to make this assignment as uncomfortable as possible for Tonks. After all, he had seven years of potions classes to make up for.

As the meeting ended and Order members filed out into the foyer, Snape caught Tonks’ eye.

“You beckoned, Professor?”

“I assume you have some sort of residence?”

He couldn’t quite read the meaning behind her facial tick. “I share a flat with Moody.”

“Does Weasley know this?”

Tonks shrugged. He had taken great pains--and numerous Gryffindor house points--to break her of that habit as a student, but now it seemed to have resurfaced with a vengeance. “It’s not really a secret. Doubt he’s aware of it, though... why?”

“Excellent. I shall meet you there tomorrow afternoon to lay my traps.”

The witch was thoroughly confused, and more than a little alarmed. “Yes, but why my place?”

Snape smirked, readying himself to watch the effect his words would have on her. “Because I highly doubt you would be able to lure him back to my chambers at Hogwarts.”

He was a little disappointed with her reaction. There was a slight widening of the eyes that betrayed shock, but the faint quirking of her lip didn’t express the kind of revulsion he was looking for. Honestly, the woman must be coated with rubber. Almost immediately she was grinning at him again.

“You never really know with Percy...” Tonks shrugged again. “What about a portkey?”

“Ah yes. We could always contrive an elaborate plan involving a highly-traceable illegal portkey--well, two if we intend to return him--numerous obvious memory-altering spells--or did you just plan to Obliviate him entirely? Tell me, is there any sort of aptitude testing for Aurors these days?”

It was little more than his classroom-variety scorn, but Tonks was too ingrained from her years as a pupil to do anything other than flush slightly and keep silent--not that that had ever saved her before. “Answer me, Miss Tonks.”

She cocked her head to the side and folded her arms across her chest. “What’s your plan--sir?”

Snape smiled in spite of himself at the belated and more than a little sardonic “sir.” He recovered instantly, however, and the smile turned malicious. “You will find out tomorrow. Good day, Miss Tonks.”




Tonks massaged her temples, ruefully aware that Snape practically had the gesture trademarked. She really couldn’t help it; Snape had been moderately frightening as a professor, but the intervening years had brought about a change in her natural reaction to him. Most of the time now she vacillated between wanting to laugh in his face and to smack him upside the head. She reminded herself forcefully of his inestimable value to the Order and skill as a dark wizard and Potions master. He had given up a great deal--but not, in Tonks’ estimation, enough to be entitled to behave like such a wanker.

“What’d Snape want?” Harry asked her as she searched the closet for her jacket and hat.

“To set up a meeting. Hatching our dastardly plan to lure Percy to his doom and such.” Tonks shrugged the jacket onto her thin frame. “Oh, and I’m pretty sure he said something about plotting your downfall while we’re at it.”

Harry smiled briefly, though the smile didn’t quite reach his too-somber eyes. “Watch out for him, Tonks.”

Tonks returned the smile as she found her hat--the antique bowler she had appropriated from Moody the previous summer. Her grin widened outrageously as she donned the hat and tipped it to him. “No worries, Harry. Auror, remember? If you like, I’ll provoke him once or twice for you.”

There was the faintest twinkle in Harry’s eyes as he held the door open for her. “Thanks, Tonks.”

“No problem,” she said, stepping out into the sleeting rain. “Remind me to tell you about my experiences in NEWT-level Potions, sometime.”

The memory of Snape coated in an exploded Pepperup potion kept her warm and smiling on the walk to the nearest tube stop and on her journey across town. Now that she thought of it, she couldn’t imagine the Potions master ever setting foot on the tube.

The hairs on the back of her neck pricked in warning that someone was watching her. Under the cover of the oversized bowler, Tonks discreetly surveyed the car. There, across the car, a young Muggle man was not only watching her, but smiling. When he caught her eye, he raised an eyebrow. Tonks quickly looked the other way. She didn’t have time for that now. The way Voldemort was going, she wouldn’t have time for it for years.

Only when she reached her flat and shrugged off her rainsoaked jacket did Tonks let her guard down. She sighed, exhaustion suddenly flooding through her.

“I know you’re behind the sofa.” She called out wearily to Moody. When she first moved into his flat, the old Auror had taking to jumping out from behind various pieces of furniture and hexing her before she could defend herself. Since then, Tonks had learned the exact position of everything in the flat, down to the shadows. The sofa’s shadow currently sported a Mad-Eye Moody shaped protrusion.

“If I were a Death Eater I would have killed you by now,” Moody said sourly as he appeared from behind the sofa.

Probably sometime last March after I demolished your collection of miniature teacups, Tonks thought to herself. Really, she should've humored the old geezer with a hex or two, but at least he had no excuse to start harping on constant vigilance again. “Good thing you’re not, then,” she responded with her usual blithe unconcern, collapsing into the nearest chair with a distinct lack of grace.

Moody just grumbled to himself as he wandered off into the kitchen. Neither of them was particularly tidy when it came to dishes, so there was quite a bit of clanging before he found whatever he was looking for. “Want tea?”

“Merlin, yes.”

“Snape being his usual self?” Moody asked. Tonks heard him setting the kettle on the hob.

Her hands rose to massage her temples, but Tonks checked the gesture at the last minute and settled for scratching her head. “Worse. Oh, he’ll be coming here sometime tomorrow afternoon so we can plan the trap for Percy.”

Moody returned several minutes later with a tea tray. Both of them were rebels as far as the tea ritual went, preferring to drink their tea black. It was one of the first instances where she had met with Moody’s approval.

“Albus wants me to investigate a possible Death Eater stronghold in Glastonbury,” Moody growled between great slurps of tea. “I’ll probably be gone most of the week.”

“Want company?” Tonks volunteered. After all, while she was ostensibly here to learn from Moody, she knew that Dumbledore also wanted her to keep an eye on his old friend.

Moody snorted. “Snape and Weasley not enough for you?”

“We could always trade.”

Both his real eye and the magic one swiveled to regard her with amusement. “I’ll keep the Death Eaters.”

“Sure, take the easy job.” Tonks slumped further into her chair with a show of defeat. As they continued to trade half-sentences, she let her mind wander to back to the situation facing her. She was all too aware that she grated on Snape’s nerves like few others could. That particular ability had amused her, and she wasn’t precisely light-handed with it. But now... Snape had made it quite clear that he would take their partnership as an opportunity to exact retribution. She closed her eyes involuntarily. Bugger me--I’m in deep shite.


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