|THE BREWER, in 9
||[Mar. 2nd, 2006|03:01 pm]
THE BREWERTitle: |
Date: Throughout the month of February, 2006.
Pairing: SS with some CW, and a cast of OCs
Rating: Gen. Hey, I’m not getting any, so he’s not either. So there!
Disclaimer: Rowling gets paid, I’m just a volunteer.
Beta: the ever wonderful sylvadin. Mille mercis.
Stamp of approval: kaiz and bethbethbeth
AN 1: I once wrote a story called After the Fact. I think you might be able to consider this one as its follow-up. Not really a sequel, just an off-shoot.
AN 2: Don’t bother commenting that I have too many dragon reserves according to Lexicon. I don’t care. It’s my story.
AN3: I wish to thank painless_j for her help with the names. ETA: I had used a certain poet’s name for the Baron. Seems the character of the story did not suit that name, so it has been changed – slightly – from the original. Poets have enough trouble as is; they don’t need to be seen as villains.
AN4: Persons to blame for this one: bethbethbeth, who sent me a card with a dragon and a winter-robed wizard on it for Christmas (2004). It’s been staring me in the face for the past year. And flyingcarpet, who wrote me an SS/CW story for the merry_smutmas 2005 fest, that provided me with the setting and the nub of an idea.
DEDICATION: to the month of February. Why is it that the shortest month of the year seems the longest?
ETA: SECOND DEDICATION: When I began posting this story in bits throughout February at josanpq, I had no idea just what a bitch the month was going to be. I just want to acknowledge those who commented on the story as it was posted: you guys helped like you have no idea. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
They Portkeyed with him to Calais, the two Aurors assigned by the Wizengamot. Just to make the point that, though they had accepted his story, feeling was that there still had to be punishment for the deeds he had committed during his time with Voldemort.
He was being allowed to live. He was not going to be incarcerated till the end of his days in Azkaban. No Dementors, who had supposedly seen the ‘errors’ of their ways and had ‘promised’ to remain ‘faithful’ to the authority in power.
They hadn’t even broken his wand.
They had just informed him that, for his own safety, he was being sent off the island with the understanding that, should he ever return, they would do nothing to prevent any of those who had suffered because of his deeds from dealing with him as they saw fit. Basically a death sentence.
It was evening in Calais. The late summer sun was setting beautifully, the first sky he had seen in over two years. It had taken the Wizengamot a lot of time to get around to him and, then, even longer to accept his version of what had been arranged between Dumbledore and himself. Thankfully – or unfortunately, depending on one’s point of view – Dumbledore had left a well documented Pensieve behind that Headmistress Minerva McGonagall had finally located in a secret hiding place that Dumbledore had been a little too confident she would easily find.
The Aurors stood to either side of him, each gripping an arm in a manner that would leave deep bruising. They released him as soon as they could and stepped back, as though fearing contagion.
“Here,” said one, holding out a scroll. “The sentence of the Wizengamot. Spelt out clearly. Just in case you forget.”
Snape, blinking against the brightness of the sunset, held out a hand and had the scroll slapped into it. He said nothing, not even bothering to look at it, nor at the Auror.
“Fucking Death Eater,” growled the other and spat in his face.
Snape blinked but remained still. He had learnt quickly under the care of Aurors never to react to any kind of gesture on their part.
The dry voice startled the Aurors, who obviously had not been expecting anyone to be around. Snape took advantage of their distraction to wipe the spittle off his cheek with the frayed edge of his sleeve.
A man, dressed in the elaborate formal robes of the French Ministry, walked out from the near-by shadows and glared disapprovingly at the small group. “You have done as you have been ordered to do by your government. It is time to leave.”
The two Aurors bowed to the representative, who condescended to bow in return. With a last look of disgust at Snape, the two Portkeyed away.
The Frenchman said nothing at first, allowing Snape to become accustomed to the light and the fact that he was here, before stepping up and offering him a hand which contained a scroll.
“Our government agreed to allow you to be brought here, but we have decided that it would be best if you did not linger here.”
Snape looked down at the scroll in his hand from the Wizengamot, shrugged and slipped it into a pocket of his worn robe before accepting the second one.
“How...” He cleared his throat carefully. He hadn’t used his voice in many days and his throat was still tender from some of his ‘interrogations’. “How long do I have?”
The man shrugged elegantly. “Shall we say ten minutes? There are many other borders relatively close. Choose one and I have been authorised to give you the Apparation co-ordinates.”
Snape’s scoff was rough. “Where I shall, no doubt, be met by a representative of that government?”
The Frenchman’s smile was cold. “No doubt. But that is not our problem.”
Snape closed his eyes. Had the Wizengamot known? Of course, they had. He wondered if the Dementors would not have been kinder.
He took a deep breath and tried to think of a country that might allow him at least a night in which to recover from...
“Severus! Thank Merlin you’re still here. The idiots gave me the wrong time. Good thing I’m usually early, heh? Hope you haven’t been waiting long?”
Both men turned to see a stocky, red-haired man run up the lane way and to them. The Frenchman had no idea who the man was but, with one glance, costed up the dragonhide jacket, the dragonhide trousers tucked into thigh-high dragonhide boots. Either a very rich man or a Dragon Rider. Either way, someone deserving of a formal bow of recognition.
Snape only stood there, watching Charlie Weasley come smiling up to him, taking into his hand the arm Snape had already held out for his second scroll of banishment. With a wicked grin that had Snape wondering just what the hell Weasley was up to, Charlie pulled him into a hug.
“God, man! You’re skinnier than you’ve ever been. Well, no problem about that. Marise is always certain that we’re not eating enough. She’ll be in seventh heaven having someone to fuss over, and, frankly, the rest of us will enjoy the fact that she does.”
Charlie turned to present a formal bow to the government official. “There seems to have been a mix up in messages. I’m here to escort Professor Snape to his new country of residence and employment.”
The Frenchman only raised an eyebrow and spared a glance for the man who seemed not to have expected this escort of his. Then he shrugged. Not his problem. So long as the former Mangemort was off French territory as quickly as possible. “And this escort is taking place when?”
Charlie countered the Frenchman’s obvious scepticism with an unconcerned, “Why, right now. As soon as the Professor has caught his breath.” He turned to Snape. “Shall we? Marise will have held supper back until we get there.”
Snape slipped the second scroll into another pocket and nodded. “Then we mustn’t delay any longer. I’m certain Monsieur...is also anxious to get to his supper.”
The Frenchman said nothing but waited until Snape had placed his hand on the dragonhide glove that Weasley held out. Then he Apparated back to his office to write out his report that the ‘problem’ had been dealt with, but not the manner. It was obvious that the British had not known of this so-called arrangement and it was not up to him to inform them of it. That would teach them to dump their little problems onto French soil.
Snape looked around, trying to make sense of the dark.
“We’re two hours ahead of London here,” Charlie explained, watching him with concern.
Of course, it could all be a trick.
“So,” Snape ventured, “there is no supper.”
“Not held up.” He slipped an arm under one of Snape’s and steered him towards a low, long building that reflected golden light from a line of windows. “Dragon Keepers aren’t keen on waiting for a meal. But she’ll have kept some back. Marise knows that we were going to arrive late.”
Snape said nothing, allowing the hand to remain on his arm. He wanted nothing to upset Weasley until the promise of a meal had been proven true.
The door opened onto what at first glance appeared to be a restaurant.
“The Dining Hall,” Charlie said. “Many of us have our own residences in the compound, but since many others of us are single... Besides, cooking is not one of our favourite activities, not to mention the fact that we’re dog tired by the end of a working day...” Even Charlie was aware that he was rambling on. He slowed down and indicated a small table near the swinging doors from which a spicy, warm scent emanated.
The doors swung open. “Do not shout, Gorynych’s Charlie. You are not in a dragon pen! I heard the door open.”
The woman, who entered from what Snape assumed was the kitchen, did not particularly look like a cook. Or rather Snape’s idea of a non-house-elf cook. She was tall and, while not slim, was not heavy. Her blond hair was braided in a crown about her head. Her welcoming smile was reflected in the bright blue of her eyes. She radiated as much good humour as the tray she carried dispersed an aroma that almost made Snape moan aloud.
Food. Warm food. It had been so long...
“Sit. Sit. Is this the brewer who is coming to save us? Sit, Brewer. Eat. Heavens, you are not a heavy man, are you? The wind will blow you away. Here, eat.”
Snape didn’t care what she thought of him, the scent of the soup she was placing in front of him was the stuff of dreams. He picked up the spoon and took a mouthful, almost afraid this might indeed prove to be a dream and he would wake to his cell with its thin, watery liquid that was passed off as a meal.
No, this one was thick with vegetables and pieces of real meat. It was spiced and filled his mouth with flavours he thought he had long ago forgotten. Then a roll of soft bread was placed by the bowl, on a plate with a large pat of butter, and Snape wondered if maybe he hadn’t just plain died. Except that he expected Hell and not Heaven would be his final reward.
“Slow down, Severus. There’s plenty more from where that came from.”
The anxiety in Weasley’s voice got through to him and Snape looked up from his half-empty bowl.
Marise shook her head at him. “You must not make yourself ill. I think that small meals and many of them will be best. I will send Martin over with another bowl of soup and some bread in a couple of hours. Your stomach will need time to adjust to its being filled.”
And she moved away.
It was only then that Snape realised that Weasley had not been served. “You’re not eating?” Maybe the food was poisoned? Maybe they had slipped something into it that would make him ill?
“My supper’s waiting at my house. My wife knows that I’m taking you around to your quarters after you’ve eaten. Martin will know to find you there with your next meal.”
Next meal. Snape looked down at the soup and thought that, after all, this might, indeed, be real. If not, then it was the nicest dream he had had since...since the whole Albus fiasco. He slowed the rate of his eating, savouring each mouthful now that the edge had been taken off his hunger and he knew the bowl was not going to disappear.
Charlie had been horrified to feel nothing but bone when he’d hugged the man, but to see him scarfing down food as though he hadn’t eaten in days, “When was the last time they fed you?”
Snape shrugged. “Define ‘fed’.”
Charlie said nothing more, allowing him to wipe the bowl with the last piece of bread and sighing with a sort of satisfaction.
Snape sat back and used the napkin that had been with the place setting to wipe his lips. He took the occasion of drinking some of the water the woman had brought with the soup to look around the hall and count places for about fifty. Some of the tables were set for six, others four. There were a couple of larger round tables in the centre, not set. And there were several small tables like the one they were sitting at scattered about.
“Perhaps,” Snape ventured cautiously as he set the now empty glass down, “there might be time for you to explain to me just what I am doing here?”
Charlie sat back and stretched his legs out. He grimaced a little then decided to plunge right in. “We’ve been without a potion brewer for some years. The last one up and left after some trouble and hasn’t been replaced. I heard that you were being released and the conditions under which the Wizengamot had placed you. So I went to the Directress and discussed the situation with her and she decided that it might serve us both well if I brought you here.”
Snape actually found the energy to scoff, the effect of a full belly he supposed. “How is having me around going to serve you well? The moment the Romanian Ministry discovers I am here...”
Charlie brushed that off with a wave of his hand. “Doesn’t matter. The Dragon Reserve is not under the Romanian Ministry. It is an independent facility under International Law. All dragon reserves are maintained under the auspices of the International Federation of Warlocks. The Ministry can howl for your blood all it wants, but if the Directress says you stay here, then you stay here.” He grinned a familiar Weasley grin. “And she’s desperate enough for a good, sensible potions brewer that...”
Snape shook his head. “I haven’t brewed a potion in over two years. I have no idea whether I still have that ability.”
Charlie allowed for a rather impolite sound.
Snape ignored him. “Moreover, I doubt that any director of a dragon reserve could be desperate enough to take on an exiled former Death Eater.”
“You spied for us, Severus.”
“I killed Albus Dumbledore in cold blood.”
“Yes, you did.”
Charlie’s agreeing with him didn’t come as a surprise. Snape must have heard it enough in the past two years.
“But I challenge the ‘in cold blood’. You killed him because he’d ordered you to do so, Severus. In order to protect Draco Malfoy from becoming a killer and to give you the credentials to gain entry into the innermost circle of Voldemort’s people. I have read the transcripts of your trial, you know.”
Snape shook his head. “So based solely on that, you convinced your Directress to...”
“Something I need to clear up right away, Severus. My approaching the Directress was not based solely on the transcripts. They helped me place my proposal to her, but what made me decide to do so was Percy.”
Snape looked confused. “Percy? What does Percy have to do with all this?”
“I know that he was your contact.”
Snape grew very still. “That fact was never brought up at the trial.”
“No, it wasn’t. Because if it had been, then his death and the reason for it would have had to be brought up as well.”
Snape looked down at the empty bowl. He’d have loved more but his stomach was uneasy, as if trying to decide if it wanted to deal with its contents. Maybe he shouldn’t have eaten so quickly. “I knew something must have happened when he didn’t show up for that last meeting. I assumed he had died. It was confirmed in the holding cells.”
“You never mentioned his name during the trial.”
Snape looked up. “He was dead. He couldn’t help me. And I made certain that my visits to him or our meetings left no trails. The only other person who knew...” he looked straight into Charlie’s eyes, “was Shacklebolt. But he’s dead too, I understand.”
Charlie wriggled in his chair, crossing one ankle over another. “Well, Percy told me. Not that, by the time I knew about the trial, my testimony could have helped you. They’d discovered Dumbledore’s Pensieve by then and I thought that you would be vindicated.”
Snape snorted. “Even I didn’t expect that. I was just hoping for a quick death.” Then, “When did he tell you?”
“About a year after Dumbledore’s funeral. I was supposedly visiting the family but, in fact, I was reporting to the Order about the situation out here and the support they could probably get. Which wasn’t much.”
Voldemort had been seen by many a country as a British problem, for the British Wizengamot to solve.
“Mum was very upset and she wanted someone in the family to try again with Percy. To get him to see that the Order was right and that Fudge and his replacement Scrimgeour were wrong. He heard me out and then made me promise not to repeat what he was going to tell me. That’s when he told me. He said he couldn’t prove it and he didn’t expect me to believe him, but that he was acting as a conduit for information between a spy deep within Voldemort’s camp and his contact in the Order. And that’s all I could get out of him. It was only after the Pensieve that I realised he meant you.”
“He made an excellent conduit,” said Severus, drawing designs with the tip of his spoon in the bottom of the bowl. “He was terrified all the while, but he was Gryffindor enough to find the courage to overcome his fears.” He looked up. “Your family must be proud of him now.”
Charlie sighed. “They don’t know about that.”
Snape lost interest in the bowl. “Why not?”
“Because then the reason for Percy’s death would come out and it would kill my parents.”
Now Snape was thoroughly confused. “I was under the impression that Scrimgeour himself killed Percy.”
“He did. He’d heard that there was a spy in his office and he finally worked out who it was. Besides passing on the information you were getting to him, Percy was also reporting on Scrimgeour to Shacklebolt, the Minister’s movements, his meetings, the bribes.”
“How did he hear?”
Charlie rubbed his face with his hands. “There was a confrontation between Scrimgeour and the twins in one of their stores. They knew that the Order was getting information from inside Scrimgeour’s office. They’d overheard a conversation between McGonagall and Shacklebolt. Not all of one, but enough to know that there was a leak. The idiots taunted him with that information and Percy died.”
“Do they know that they are responsible?”
Charlie nodded. “They didn’t believe me at first, about Percy spying. And about their role in his death. I had to pound the shit out of Fred to get them to take me seriously.”
Charlie stared at the backs of his hands. He had refused to allow anyone to heal the bruising and cuts until he’d got home, as a reminder to the twins that he’d taken both of them on once – George had, of course, come to Fred’s rescue – and that he could do it again.
He looked up to meet Snape’s eyes. “Look, I know Percy was a prat, especially in their eyes, but he was my little brother and he was my responsibility when the twins were born. I cared for him and I loved him. And if I had been home more often, or more interested in what was going on in Britain...but I wasn’t and Percy was what he was. If my parents knew that the twins had caused Percy’s death with their big mouths... Mum still hasn’t really recovered from Ginny’s and the news may be too much for both Mum and Dad.
“By the way, Bill does know. Right now, he’s using the information to keep the twins under control. They tend to be a little wary of his skill with curses. Though, frankly, I have no idea how long their good behaviour will last once Bill returns to his responsibilities in Egypt come the new year.”
Snape looked down at the napkin he had wrung while listening. “I’m sorry he died that way. Percy should have been allowed his moment in the sun.”
Charlie nodded. “Well, to get back to this situation, once I heard from Dad what the Ministry had officially planned for you, the Directress and I had a few conversations about the idea and she felt it was well worth investigating.”
Charlie stood up. “It’s late and I need to show you where you’re staying. Especially when Marise sends Martin with another meal for you. It’s too dark to visit the compound, so I’ll show you straight to your quarters. They’re in the Visitors’ Hall, just to reassure you that there’s no pressure on you to accept the position.”
Snape’s bark of laughter was chilling. “And what happens to me should I refuse?”
Charlie shook his head. “Nothing. You can stay here until you find a place you’d rather live. We understand the circumstances, Severus. It’s just an offer. Not blackmail. Not a threat. You’ll find Dragon Keepers here, not Aurors.”
on to the next part