Complete header information may be found in Part One. You may find all parts of this story by clicking the Getting Severus Married tag.
Having invited the company to retire to the drawing room to enjoy an informal dessert and be entertained by Seraphina, who seemed to take his request that she sing as a sign of her future as the hostess of Snape Manor, Severus removed with Judge Shrewsbury to the library to discuss that wizard's business.
"Well, I really should be discussing this with your Advocate, but you'll do."
"Thank you, your Honour," Severus replied acerbically. "What is this pressing matter about which you wished to consult with Mr Zabini?"
"There are reports of your conducting the Courtship Ritual in an improper manner, disturbing reports, you see. I felt it was my duty to—"
"Tattle's column is enough to cause you to leave the comfort of your office?"
"It's not just that. Of course it isn't!"
"The fact of the matter," Shrewsbury began, looking acutely uncomfortable under Severus' baleful stare but presumably taking refuge in what appeared to be his well worn habit of pomposity, "is that I took it upon myself to consult the Record, and it seems that your Scroll of Eligibles has undergone several bizarre alterations."
All magical documents were recorded in the Record, and no one was ever supposed to access it unless a situation of grave import arose.
"You. Consulted. The. Record."
"I did, indeed. It was my duty to do so, too, I'll have you know."
Don't kill him for his impertinence. Blaise wouldn't approve. "I'm well aware of your function," Severus replied, banishing all thoughts of his fingers curling around Shrewsbury's throat.
"You must understand how concerned we at the Wizengamot's Department of—"
"Spare me the tedious listing of your credentials. Unless this is your first assignment, you should know that a Supplicant's Scroll of Eligibles undergoes many 'alterations' during the course of—"
"But that's just it! Your list keeps dwindling to one, to the same Eligible. Do you truly believe it's a sound idea to be considering Harry James Potter as a spouse? Oh, it was all very well to include him—can't catch a fly without honey, hey?—but he's a—"
"It is not your place to instruct me—"
"Were your Advocate free to see me as we had arranged, I would not have taxed you with this matter, Supplicant Snape. But see here, I believe it's true that you mean to take your Seat. That tells me that you have some conception of your duty."
"Does it?" Severus ground out, from between clenched teeth.
"What sort of Head of House, what manner of Peer, takes another one as his spouse? You know how few of us there are. It's nonsense, sir, nonsense, I say, that you should deprive another established Family its Head. You will do so if you marry Potter, and the Wizengamot—"
"That is quite enough," Severus declared, rising. "Tippy!"
Shrewsbury rose, as well. "You can't dismiss me so easily, Snape. The Wizengamot must approve all magical testing between two potential matrimonial partners. I must approve it. Do you seriously believe that I'll do so for you and—"
"The hero of our age? Why, of course you will, Judge Shrewsbury," Narcissa, who had entered the room unnoticed, interrupted. "You most certainly will, if that is what Severus and dear Harry desire—should they be found compatible, of course."
"Narcissa, don't interfere."
"I see no reason that this should concern you, Mrs Mal—"
"That is Peer Malfoy to you, your 'Honour'," Narcissa replied, glaring at Shrewsbury, "and Harry's union is of great importance to me, for I flatter myself that he'll make use of me as his Familial representative should matters get that far—and one other thing," she continued, holding up a hand. "You were saying something earlier about funding, were you not? Why, I'm sure you're aware that I head the Funding Committee, and I don't know when I've last had occasion to inspect your department's records."
"Are you threatening me, madam?" Shrewsbury asked, shock and fear plain in his tone.
Severus, himself, was surprised that Narcissa would be so reckless as to suggest that she would act for Harry, but he said nothing.
He didn't trust himself to speak.
Narcissa smiled in a manner that made Severus quite glad the two of them had parted with a reasonable level of amity. "I would no more threaten a . . . colleague than you would a Supplicant."
Shrewsbury's eyes narrowed. "I see how it is. Your lot, you stick together!"
"Why Shrewsbury, your familial connections aren't so very low," Severus jibed.
"I was speaking of Death Eaters and their whores!"
"Tut, tut, man," Evessa replied, stepping into the room and closing the door, beside which Tippy was levitating in obvious distress. "What's this? You know something of Death Eaters, do you? That is unwelcome news. I shall have to speak to Callahan at once. He is still your superior, is he not? Better yet," she continued, clapping her hands together, "why, Auror Shacklebolt is just in the next room. I'm certain that he would be more than happy to escort you back to the Ministry for a chat about your astounding admission. Let me just call him," she concluded, making as if to turn.
"Don't! I . . . forgive me, please. It was the wine. I am—"
"Overset?" Narcissa supplied.
Not operating within the scope of your duties after all, Severus thought, making a mental note to write a letter of complaint to Judge Callahan as soon as he was free to do so.
"Yes, exactly. Overset. I should be going, now. Do excuse me, Supplicant Snape, Peer Malfoy. My temper—the wine—overset, yes!" he exclaimed, scurrying towards the door.
Evessa drew herself up to glare down her nose at the much shorter wizard and stopped his progress. "I do believe, sir, that you're forgetting something."
"I apologised. It was the wine! You said so, yourself."
"I believe we are all eagerly awaiting your announcement."
"My . . . what?"
"Considering your . . . intemperance, I would think that a man in your position, a man who so obviously knows his duty, would believe it to be of the greatest importance that he recuse himself from deliberating over the matter of my brother's magical testing."
"Unless you wish to spend the next several days being questioned by Aurors, I suggest that you take this opportunity," Evessa pressed, conjuring a sheaf of parchment and a quill, "to write out your reasons for said recusal now."
"What a splendid and thoughtful idea, Mrs Parkinson," Narcissa said, while Severus looked on the scene with no small amount of irritation. "I'm certain that we can all trust Auror Shacklebolt to file the recusal with the appropriate authorities."
"And when," Narcissa continued, "I come down to your level to visit with Senior Judge Callahan about your funding situation, I shall be happy to inquire as to whether he received the document."
His expression murderous, Shrewsbury seized the parchment and quill, scribbled out a hasty letter, and stormed from the room.
After a tense moment, Severus found his voice.
"What in my history, ladies, has led you to believe that I require rescuing?"
Narcissa and Evessa shared an amused glance before both witches dissolved into laughter.
"Why, Narcissa, I never would have believed it of you. 'Funding', indeed."
"And you, Mrs—Evessa—your throwing that 'knowledge about Death Eaters' in that odious toad's face, now that was inspired."
"You can both imagine how happy I am to find that you're diverted by my situation."
"Oh, come now, Severus. You needn't take on so. We were just having a bit of fun, and that Auror does wish to speak to you. Narcissa? If you'd accompany me back to the drawing room, I believe that there is yet seed cake. Isn't there, Tippy?"
"Yes, seed cake," the house elf squeaked, before disappearing from the room.
Just as Evessa passed over the threshold, Narcissa turned back to a discomfitted Severus and said, "Tonight?"
"Yes," he replied, his voice heavy. "Tonight."
Narcissa sighed and followed Evessa from the room.
Severus heard Evessa excuse herself in the hall, and then she returned.
"Where is Harry? It's odd that he didn't come down to dinner."
It was odd, and that, in addition to Severus' myriad other concerns, made him abrupt.
"Potter doesn't need rescuing, either. Leave him alone."
"Well, there's gratitude for you. Do try to compose yourself before rejoining the company," Evessa retorted, gliding from the room and passing Kingsley Shacklebolt, who was standing at the door.
"Come in, Shacklebolt."
"Snape," he acknowledged, shutting the door and casting a series of charms upon it and the room before turning his attention fully to Severus. "Forgive me," he said, noting Severus' expression of consternation.
It was, after all, impolite to conduct magic in someone else's home without permission.
"I don't wish to be overheard."
They sat down without any further formalities.
"What's brought you here? I don't believe for a second that it was due to some 'journalist'."
"Oh, Skeeter's article is real enough, but you're right. I'm not here about that. I'm here about Neville Longbottom."
"What did he blow up, now?"
Shacklebolt snorted, but he was clearly unamused. "He found Lethifolds under the Ministry while doing some work on the grounds."
"What?" Severus asked, so stunned that he stood. "That's not possible!"
"This concerns Potter. Is he—"
"I don't wish to disturb him. He's had enough excitement in recent days."
"How protective of you."
"I won't, but I think you know that Potter isn't in need of rescuing, either."
"Is everyone aware of my business?"
"Listening at doors, it's—"
"A professional hazard, but tell me about the Lethifolds."
"The Minister wants this handled quietly, of course, but she's had the building evacuated—used the excuse of a gnome infestation to do so—that story will be under the fold in the morning edition. It seems that someone's been using the catacombs as an incubator for the creatures."
"I'm not the only one who has been inattentive to security measures, it appears."
"The catacombs have been blocked and warded for years," Kingsley protested.
"Or so you thought. Is anyone missing?"
"We've accounted for all guests, officials, and employees."
"I see," Severus replied. Could this evening get any worse?
"I don't. That's why I'm here. You and Harry are the closest to experts we have on the subject of Lethifolds. I'm afraid I'm going to have to disturb him."
"You're forgetting Mary Millblossom."
"No. I'm not," Shacklebolt said, frowning.
"What does that mean?"
"It means that we have reason to believe that the witch calling herself Mary Millblossom is either acting under Imperius or not . . . herself."
"That's a serious accusation," Severus replied, hastily reviewing what he knew of the witch. "Who's 'we', and what evidence do you have to support your suspicions?"
"I'd prefer to tell you and Potter about it at the same time. Where is he?"
I'm right here, Severus "heard" in his mind.
He jerked his head up and looked about the room, but he saw no sign of Harry.
"What is it?"
"We're being observed."
"Potter?" Shacklebolt asked suspiciously, grasping his wand.
"I believe so. Show yourself."
Harry materialised between them, scowling. "Kingsley, what's this nonsense about Mary? I just saw her, and—"
"You left the manor?" Severus asked.
"You know better than to exercise—"
"Tell me what you're going on about!"
"Auror Potter, compose and explain yourself," Shacklebolt ordered, rising to glare down at his subordinate.
It irritated Severus to see how readily Harry obeyed. He never listened to me like that.
"I just went to visit her, that's all. No one noticed me leave. Now, what's—"
"My 'suggestion' to you that you do nothing to expose the extent of your powers was, as you very well know, an order. Now tell me what it is that you and Millblossom discussed."
Harry's expression hardened. "And if I don't?"
"No, Severus," Harry replied, staring at Shacklebolt. "I don't understand—"
"It's not your place to question your orders. Tell me what you discussed with Millblossom, or I'll relieve you from duty pending a hearing of your disobedience."
"It was private, sir."
Damn. He's going to be stubborn about this, Severus thought, for he knew how little Harry cared to have anyone interfere in his private life.
"Harry," Shacklebolt said, sighing, "I wouldn't be asking if it weren't important."
"Well, I'm not going to answer you until you tell me why it is. I had enough of the Ministry's prying after the war."
"He isn't the Ministry. He's a fellow Order member," Severus said quietly, hoping that Harry would see sense and Shacklebolt would know better than to press the matter.
Harry's shoulders sagged. "What makes you think Mary's not herself?"
Shacklebolt glanced at Severus and sighed, again. "Answer the question."
Damn, thought Severus.
"Then you leave me no choice but to relieve you of your duties, Mr Potter. Further, as you're interfering in an official investigation, you'll have to accompany me to Headquarters under arrest for official questioning."
Harry's lips twisted into a dangerous-looking smirk. "You think so?"
"What is it that you think you're doing, you imbecile? Tell the man what he wants to know!"
"Why should I?" Harry demanded, spinning to face Severus. "This is ridiculous! Mary's suffered enough. I'm not going to let anyone—"
Suddenly, Harry was limned in the blue light of his protective magic and Shacklebolt was struggling against the bonds created by his own spell, which had rebounded off Harry's body.
"Now you've done it," Severus growled.
"I didn't do anything! He should have known better."
"Snape, get me—"
"Oh, be quiet," muttered Harry, flicking his wand hand carelessly at Shacklebolt and silencing him. "What did he tell you about Mary?" he demanded of Severus.
"Have you run mad? You've refused the order of a superior officer and assaulted him. You'll be drummed out of the DMLE and held on charges! Trust me when I tell you that—"
"Trust you?" Harry asked, a strangled laugh forcing its way out of his throat. "That's rich. Is that what you asked Lucius Malfoy to do before you gave him the Draught of Living Death?"
Severus paled, but he didn't fail to note how Shacklebolt stilled at Harry's words. "Whatever it is you think you know about Lucius, I can explain."
"Right. Sure you can. I don't want to hear it!"
"Would you listen to Albus?" Severus asked, too late realising his mistake as Harry threw his hands up into his hair and pulled at it.
"No! I won't listen to any of you! You're all liars! You've all been manipulating me from the—"
Desperately, Severus lunged at Harry and pressed his mouth to his, forcing his tongue between Harry's lips and kissing him deeply enough to cut off his air flow. I love you, I love you, I love you! he thought fiercely, willing the refrain into Harry's mind as they struggled against each other.
For the barest moment, Harry stilled, allowed the embrace, kissed back—but then he jerked roughly out of Severus' arms, glared at him with hate-filled eyes, and discorporated.
"Harry? Harry!" Severus called, looking wildly around the room.
He stopped his visual search of the room when he felt Shacklebolt kick him.
"Just . . . a moment," Severus said, collecting himself and retrieving Shacklebolt's wand. He's gone. I'm sure he's gone. Where would he go? Back to Millblossom? he thought, before pointing Shacklebolt's wand at him and releasing him from the spell. He helped Shacklebolt up and said, "I'm not certain that I can give you back your speech."
Coughing, Shacklebolt replied, "Wand," gesturing for Severus to hand his to him. "His silencing spell must have ended when he left."
"Ah," said Severus, making as if to hand Shacklebolt his wand. Instead, he brought his own up and cast, "Obliviate!"
"You'll have to forgive me for keeping you waiting, Shacklebolt," Severus said, acknowledging him as he warded the room and took a seat across from him in front of the hearth. "Evessa said that you wished to speak to me?"
"Forgive me for intruding, but there's been an incident at the Ministry . . . ."
Having lied to Shacklebolt that Harry was in bed under the affect of a strong sleeping draught, Severus heard Shacklebolt's account of the Lethifolds and of Albus' suspicions about Mary Millblossom. He learnt that Hermione had been looking into the Spellcraftre's background for Shacklebolt on Albus' behalf. He agreed to see Shacklebolt and Albus on the morrow in the afternoon at Hogwarts, and sent him on his way.
Alone again, Severus poured himself a stiff drink, his mind reeling with the events of the evening.
Fuck, Severus thought, twenty minutes and another drink later, still not certain what he was going to do about Harry. I must see Albus tonight to explain.
It was not a conversation to which he was looking forward.