Yes, but... by Aestel [Reviews - 11]
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Dumbledore surveyed his Potions master from across his expansive and trinket-ridden desk. Snape devoutly hoped that he was not about to offer any sweets. Having made many of them himself, he knew all too well the potions slipped into them. Calming draughts in the lemon drops, a confusing concoction in the peppermint humbugs, a forgetfulness potion in chocoballs, and veritaserum in the elderberry bon-bons. Of late, however, it seemed that Dumbledore had begun to patronize Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes—which made the Potions master extremely nervous.
“Was your meeting with Tonks profitable?”
Snape glared. “Indeed. It led me to the realization that we have been going about this war entirely the wrong way. We should forget about Potter and instead invite the Dark Lord to tea with Miss Tonks. He’ll give up his designs on world domination before you can say ‘pass the crumpets’.”
Dumbledore smiled, and Snape was struck by the similarity to a certain metamorphmagus. “That aside...”
Snape rubbed his temples. “Every time I am near that witch I get the impression that scores of decomposing Black family ancestors are rolling around in their graves.”
Dumbledore was still smiling gently at him. “Given your past relationships with members of the Black family, is that necessarily a bad thing? But I believe you had something else to tell me?”
“Yes, Headmaster. Percy Weasley arrived with a bouquet of flowers shortly before I did. I followed him inside and--with the aid of Miss Tonks--drugged his tea. While he was unconscious, I performed legilimency...”
Snape shook his head. “I can’t believe that this ridiculous piece of drivel is actually even being considered, much less that people will vote for it...”
“Severus, you didn’t by chance happen to stop by the great hall for a cup of tea after your meeting?”
“I came directly here, Headmaster.”
“I see. Then may I suggest you take a moment to calm yourself before I am forced to offer you a lemon drop?”
Snape forced himself to take a deep breath, and then released it through his teeth in the hopes that it might annoy the imperturbable man in front of him. “Fine. I'm the picture of serenity, now."
Dumbledore failed to suppress a twinkle of amusement. "What did you see in Percy's mind?"
Snape rubbed his temples at the memory. "You must realize that the images presented by an unconscious mind are completely different than the facts and memories one finds in the conscious mind. I had to sift through his dreams, aspirations, fears... to find that all his current aspirations hinge on a new law the Ministry is proposing, a…” he paused long enough to twist his lips into a sneer and hiss the last two words out between clenched teeth, “…marriage law."
Dumbledore sat back in his chair, although Snape noted that the headmaster did not look entirely surprised. “I have heard rumors of this… I scarcely believed even Cornelius could be capable... what are the details?”
Snape's expression turned more sour at the memory. It was not as if the precise language of the law could be picked from a dreaming mind, and what details he had managed to glean came with mental images that made him long for his pensieve. "They are proposing forced marriages between purebloods and half-bloods or Mudbloods. They claim that it will solve the birthrate problem... as if this place needs more children."
Dumbledore did not rise to the bait. He never did. Just once, Snape would like to turn the table on the headmaster, to provoke him past his infamous serenity. “No doubt that is not the true motivation. I wonder what game Cornelius is playing... how long until the law is ready?”
“Within the week. Weasley believes that they have the votes for it. Mostly through bribery and coercion, I suspect. Apparently Fudge managed to absorb some of Lucius’ devices during the hours he spent licking his boots.”
Dumbledore closed his eyes. “And the terms of the new marriage contracts?”
Snape's frown deepened. Weasley's lurid dreams had centered around certain terms of the marriage contract in such detail that the former Death Eater had felt unclean. When he told Tonks that it was better she remain ignorant of Percy Weasley’s plans, he had not been entirely lying. “Particularly horrible for the Mudbloods and half-bloods. Compulsory consummation, mandatory childbearing within the first five years…”
“And Weasley?” Dumbledore asked as if sensing Snape’s thoughts.
“Weasley intends to petition for Miss Tonks’ hand in marriage. Interestingly enough, he is also considering petitioning for Granger. He has designs on marrying an Order member so that he may use her to his advantage in the Ministry.” Tonks had access to more Order secrets, but Granger was younger—making her easier to break—and had access to Potter. If Snape were in Weasley's position, he would easily have singled Granger out as the best target. But in his fantasies, Weasley dwelt in excruciating detail on a peculiarity that Snape had overlooked: as a metamorphmagus, Tonks could take the shape of any man’s dream.
Dumbledore bowed his head over his steepled fingers. “We cannot allow this to happen.”
Snape abruptly dropped his posturing. “They have the votes, Albus. And enough in the Wizengamot to survive a challenge, with Amelia Bones’ recent accident. We could always attempt to offer amnesty to those he has threatened and threats to those he has bribed... but these things take time, and more subtlety than most Order members possess.”
The eyes that met his were somber. “And what of Voldemort?”
Snape shifted uncomfortably. “I can only guess. I doubt he was behind this--but that said, he can only profit by it. It stands to bring chaos and anti-Ministry resentment. If the pureblooded spouse is unhappy with the muggleborn, then he has garnered another supporter. Worst of all, it binds our greatest supporters to his... and no doubt he has considered the same possibility that Percy Weasley has...” Well, except for the bit about Tonks being a metamorphmagus, Snape thought to himself. Almost instantaneously, he was assaulted with speculations about what the Dark Lord’s dream woman might be, and he regretted ever leaving the door open for that train of thought. Perhaps his dream woman is Nagini? It took almost all of Snape’s considerable willpower to pull himself back from the line of speculation which would’ve certainly led to the nearest loo.
Recovering from his distraction, Snape at last noticed that the headmaster had not spoken, but seemed to be involved in some internal struggle. At last he heard the old man sigh. “So the question remains: how do we protect our Order members from both the Death Eaters and the Ministry?”
Snape’s expression remained carefully bland. “I maintain that we would do better to foist them off on whoever will have them and watch the chaos ensue. Either young woman is quite capable of driving a grown wizard insane…”
Dumbledore raised a hand. “This is not the moment for you to discover you have a sense of humor after all, Severus. The Ministry will undoubtedly employ a binding to keep the muggleborn spouses in line.”
Yes, Weasley’s fantasies dwelled in excruciating detail on his plans to use the binding to its fullest advantage. When this meeting was finished, Snape promised himself an extended visit with a pensieve… preferably one that he could lock away in a forgotten corner of a cupboard and never find again. “Indeed. On the bright side, Headmaster, it appears that the Ministry has begun to loosen its objections to dark magic.”
Snape’s lips quirked. He’d said it just to bait the older man, knowing full well the Ministry’s long and dishonorable tradition of employing dark magic for its own ends. But for some reason he was not finding this role-reversal as gratifying as it should have been. Something was nagging at him to go easy on the old goat—possibly some long-forgotten pangs of conscience. “Then for once we should be grateful for Arthur and Molly’s amazing proclivity. Marry them off to the Weasleys, Albus—although perhaps not Percy.”
Dumbledore’s untwinkling blue eyes were fixed on one of the many gleaming gadgets on his desk. Snape was watching the headmaster with growing alarm. It was not often that one saw Albus Dumbledore knocked off his game. From Snape’s perspective, this marriage law—while certainly one of the Ministry’s more egregious attempts to transform an ineffective bureaucracy into a totalitarian dictatorship—was hardly more than a distraction. “This is war, Albus, and I highly doubt that marriage is actually listed amongst the worst tragedies that can befall a person during wartime.
“You were correct before, old man: we need to focus all our attention on the Muggle world. The Dark Lord will undoubtedly take advantage of our preoccupation with this ridiculous law to strike fast and hard…”
“You’re right, Severus.”
Snape glowed discretely for a moment. This memory would have a place in an entirely different pensieve; one to be viewed and reviewed, and left out on his desk for prying students. Come here, Potter. Stick your bloody nose into this one…
Snape pushed himself out of the too-comfortable chair. “I’ll start immediately, then, Headmaster. Although I shall dearly miss the loss of my partner, I can understand that due to her imminent nuptials she might be otherwise occupied...” Packing herself off to Romania if she chooses Charlie Weasley.
With a feeling that might possibly be glee warming the cockles of his black heart, Snape rose to take his leave of the headmaster. The meeting had gone surprisingly well for him—perhaps he ought to write a thank-you note to Fudge for enacting this ridiculous law.
“You don’t have to lose her, Severus.”
Snape froze, the warm fuzzy feeling abruptly giving way to trepidation. He had learned to fear those deceptively mild tones. And would you believe the bloody twinkle is back? “Oh no—”
“After all, you are a pureblood, my boy.”
“Albus: no. There are plenty of Weasleys...”
“Bill is engaged and Charlie is in Romania.”
“Then let her move to Romania!”
“We need all of our people here. You yourself said marriage is hardly the worst tragedy…”
“Those words were never meant to apply to me!”
“And yet they do so well. Think on it: you wouldn’t have to lose any time with your mission in the Muggle world.”
Snape knew he’d lost the minute Dumbledore suggested he think on it. After all, who, upon further reflection, would dare look the greatest wizard of the age in the eye and shout: I’ve thought it through, and it’s still a harebrained scheme, you meddling, irrational, dewy-eyed sentimentalist!? He had faced Death Eaters and the Dark Lord with less trepidation. So Snape did what he always did when faced with one of the headmaster’s ultimatums: seethed inwardly and resigned himself to the ridicule that would inevitably follow. “Isn’t my penance over yet, old man?”
“Marriage is hardly penance.” There was a certain sad rebuke in Dumbledore’s eyes that never failed to set Snape off further.
“Apparently you have never spent a great deal of time with Miss Tonks,” he said coldly. “If that is all, Headmaster…”
“No, you may not leave.” Dumbledore stood up to face his Potions master. Normally this would have quelled Snape’s tantrum, but the man had slipped too far to even register that the headmaster had moved. “This is only a temporary arrangement until we can have the law repealed.”
Snape did not even pause before rounding on him again. “Have you forgotten the fine print? Required consummation and childbearing? I have no intention of fathering Miss Tonks’ brats!”
Dumbledore’s voice took on a tone he normally reserved for first-years and those who had sustained head wounds. “Need I remind you that you are a Potions master?”
Snape blinked. He had briefly forgotten that fact. So, no brats. But still, he wished he could convey how repugnant the thought of marrying Tonks was to him. He paused for a moment, waiting for his mind to catch up to his rant before launching down his final avenue of possible escape. “What about Granger?”
“I believe Mr. Weasley has that situation covered.”
"You're just giving her to Weasley?"
"Ronald Weasley, Severus. Besides, Miss Granger does not turn eighteen until next September, although I understand there has been some confusion about that recently."
In his ire, Snape momentarily entertained the idea that Arthur and Molly Weasley had so many children just to spite him. Then, abruptly, he sank back into the chair in defeat. All his objections had been exhausted; his only hope was that Miss Tonks’s inevitable protests would be more successful. He glowered at the gently twinkling headmaster. “Fine. Give me a lemon drop already, old man.”
After Snape stormed away in a billow of black robes, muttering something incoherent about a pensieve, Albus Dumbledore covered his face in both hands and began to laugh. The portraits--who had long ago learned it was much more enjoyable to keep silent and surreptitiously observe the explosive exchanges between Dumbledore and his highly-strung Potions master--began to murmur amongst themselves.
“In my day we did not tolerate such impertinence.”
“The poor girl that has to marry that man!”
“Really, I always thought he was rather dashing… and so intense…”
“Those eyes,” another voice chimed in dreamily.
“That hair,” another said, making a rude snort of disgust.
Amongst the many exclamations, Dumbledore picked out a sly voice. “I can see why you enjoy him so much. In his own perverse way, that boy is an absolute delight. One question however, Dumbledore:”
“Are you absolutely certain you shouldn’t have been sorted into Slytherin?”
AN: I told you it was a parody...
Drop a note to tell me what you think--plot bunnies do not feed themselves.
Yes, but... by Aestel [Reviews - 11]