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A weak man has doubts before a decision,
a strong man has them afterward.
~ Karl Kraus

Friday, May 25th ~ Morning

Almost a week had gone by since Remus had informed Harry of Neville Longbottom's fate and who was the prime suspect in Remus' own problem. He'd spent the days remembering his old classmate and how brave Neville had been in spite of - or maybe because of - his own fears. He wondered briefly if Neville's parents were still alive, but knew he'd never check as he would have so many years ago.

Even if I did check, they wouldn't know or care who I was, he reasoned with the tiny bit of conscience that refused to stay quiet. It fell silent at last and he rose from the desk in his office to glance at the time. A few pieces of parchment were in one hand as he went downstairs to stop by Doris' office.

"Doris," he said as he laid them in her tray. "I'm leaving now and I won't be back until Monday."
Snatching the parchments up, she frowned before skimming them quickly.

"These aren't the Friday forms," Doris stated with a raised brow. "You can't leave - "

But her words broke off as she realized he'd already started walking toward the door. Rising to her feet she followed him out into the hall.

"Harry! What kind of example are you setting for the other teachers if you don't fill out the proper forms."
Turning to look at Doris, he smiled briefly.

"One that isn't going to be doing any more Friday forms - ever. Nor any Wednesday forms - and possibly no Monday forms."
Doris stood there for a moment while her mouth opened and closed a few times.

"You're not serious! How am I supposed to be able to track all the data I need?"
Patting her on the shoulder, Harry tilted his head before deciding to be honest with his administrative secretary.

"That's not my problem, Doris. I started this school to teach DADA and that's what I going to do. I hired you to handle the things I don't want to - which includes filling out any forms the Ministry needs. Why don't you let me do my job while you do yours? Half of the time I spend here is on those forms you say you need. I'm going to be a father fairly soon and I don't plan on spending time on paper work here when I'm going to have a family waiting at home for me."

Removing his hand, he raised an eyebrow.

"I would be sorry to see you go if you feel you can't handle it."
Doris had been shocked into silence and her mouth hung open.

He's threatening to fire me. Me!

If he thinks he can get rid of me that easily - he's wrong!

Probably wants to bring some young, flirty thing in here as eye-candy.

Hands flew to hips as her spine straightened.

"I can do my job very well, thank you very much!" she snapped as her eyes sent him a warning.
Anxious to leave and snare Snape before too much more of the morning had passed, Harry leveled a glare in her direction.

"Then fucking well do it and let the rest of us do ours!"

And I bet I'll be back to Mr. Potter on Monday.

I can live with that.

"I'll see you Monday and by the way - Snape may be late for his first class - in fact he might not be here at all this afternoon so be prepared to reschedule all of them if need be."

Harry left her sputtering in the hall and opened the front door to The Phoenix with a slight smile on his face. He felt like he'd just told one of his old professors he wasn't going to do any more homework and the feeling - was marvelous. It carried him all the way across Hogsmeade until he came to the door of the apothecary. The reason he was there sobered him quickly enough as he stepped inside.

"May I help y - It's you." Severus had been about to offer the standard sales associate greeting, hoping to hurry who ever it was along so that he could finish his work at the Apothecary sometime before he was due at the Phoenix.

"If you've come to tell me you're expecting twins, I don't want to hear it."
Having twins had never occurred to Harry. He blinked once while closing the door of the shoppe behind him, trying to think if Daphne had ever mentioned her family having a history of multiple births. He had no idea on either side of his own heritage and he felt a moment of panic. It temporally derailed his purpose for being there.

Sticking his tongue out at the other man, Harry strolled closer and said, "Did anyone ever tell you you're a sadistic bastard?"
He went back to straightening the shelving with a smirk. "Several times, but less often then you might think, actually."

Severus held a clear jar filled with murky brown liquid up and peered at it. "If you're not here to torment me with news about your personal life, what are you here for?"
Harry glanced around to see if they were alone and while he didn't see anyone, he also couldn't see into the back areas. What he had to say was for Snape's ears only.

"How soon do you normally get relieved to head over to The Phoenix? I took the liberty of warning Doris you might not make it today."
Irritation at being informed that his plans would be changing by Potter was bitten back as Severus considered what could have inspired the altered schedule. Potter had never interfered in his classes before, irregardless of his opinion of Severus' teaching methods.

"My clerk will arrive within the hour. Do I need to close the shop in the mean time?"
Harry grinned and leaned against the counter. Any opportunity to torment and tease Snape was not lightly passed by. Even though he figured what the response would be - he had to try.

"Not at all. We can hang around making small talk until your clerk gets here."
"Oh, let's do. You know how I enjoy a social visit." He set the jar he'd been holding down on the shelf with a thump, and stalked to the door to flip the sign to "closed."

"Back room, then."
Glancing around the back room of Snape's shoppe, Harry noted the work station and a couple of chairs near the fireplace that flanked a small table. Since Harry wasn't stupid and wanted Snape's assistance he didn't sit down right away since he couldn't tell by looking which one was favored by the other man.

It was difficult to know exactly where to begin. Neville Longbottom had never been one of Snape's favorite people and as far as Harry knew he might want to send flowers to Lestrange for killing him. Remus' problem had been delt with after much research and work by Snape, but again - other than some strange friendship with Izabel, Harry didn't count on that being enough to make Snape agree to help him instead of letting the Aurors take care of the witch.

Studying the other man for a moment, he asked, "How far are you willing to go to help me protect Daphne?"
He wasn't sure what he had been expecting Potter to say, but that wasn't it.

Without thought, Severus flicked his wand at the kettle hovering over the fire. The kettle drifted toward the table and settled on a hot pad while he fished two cups out of a cupboard.

"That would depend, wouldn't it?" He would do a lot to keep Miss Greengrass safe, but he would not die for her, not like he would Ginevra or even Narcissa and Draco.

"Is she in danger?"
"If you consider Azkaban dangerous - yes," Harry said while tilting his head. Briefly, he explained the conversation he, Remus and Daphne had had the previous Sunday.

"If the Aurors get ahold of Lestrange - I have no doubt they'd find out about Croaker - and exactly how he was delivered. I can't let that happen."
Once more, Severus was thankful for Ginevra. Sure, she was a Weasley, but she didn't associate with known psychopaths and she'd never been responsible for the death of anyone. At least no one of note.

"The obvious solution is that the authorities can not be allowed to question Lestrange." He assumed Potter had already come to that conclusion on his own, which was probably why he was here.

"That's going to be difficult."
Rubbing his chin, Harry met the other man's eyes.

"Not if there's a witness who swears it was self-defense."
"Knowing Bellatrix, it very well could be self-defense."

He poured and handed Potter a cup, pointing to one of the chairs. "No offense, but I doubt whether the Ministry would consider you or I to be sufficiently dependable or trustworthy witnesses in a matter such as this."

Severus settled into his chair and sipped his tea. "Will you wish Draco to know?"

He didn't even want to contemplate what Narcissa would do to him if she found out what they were planning for her sister.
Taking the cup and a sip, Harry sat down in the other chair before putting it down on the small table. He chuckled lightly before leaning back.

"You over-estimate our Minister of Magic, Snape. As long as the ministry comes out smelling like a rose - him in particular - he'd take the giant squid's testimony as gospel. If he proves difficult..."

Harry's voice trailed off for a moment while he thought and then a small smile pulled at the corner of his mouth.

"If Scrimgeour thinks the-boy-who-lived will endorse someone other than him for re-election - which is something I've made a point of withholding from him - he'll roll over and play nice. Kingsley and the others have to follow his lead - even if they don't like it."

Harry's eyes narrowed slightly and he nodded.

"Draco should be informed - so he can be elsewhere if he wants. She is his aunt and I'm sure his mother would cross examine him about what happened. If he's not there - there'll be nothing for him to try and hide from her."
"Have you considered that he may not want his aunt to disappear?"

Narcissa was at a very delicate stage of her life, she depended on her sister for support, and they were very calmly discussing ripping that support away.

A necessary sacrifice, although Narcissa may not see it that way.
Harry sent Snape an incredulous look and then peered into his cup that supposedly contained tea.

"Whatever you spiked yours with - I'm hoping you didn't put in mine. This is Draco we're talking about - and Bellatrix Lestrange - the one he calls Aunty Crazy when she can't hear it. The one he was hoping to never see again - let alone have to kiss her cheek in case she put poison in her face make-up."
"Be that as it may, she is blood. Sometimes bonds can run deep."

He deliberately took a long drink of his tea.

"Since Lupin isn't pressing for your wife to go to the authorities just yet, we have some much needed time. The flat where she's living now has been heavily warded, I wouldn't advise confronting her there. She won't go meekly. As unpredictable as she can be, we may have little or no notice before the perfect opportunity presents itself, we'll need to be prepared for anything at any time."