After what seemed like hours (and probably was, Molly had an eternal fountain of gossip and seemed to think that everyone wanted to hear it, and Luna had enough invisible creatures that her entire invisible menagerie necessitated a detailed report on each and every single one.), Severus Snape stood to speak.
"The Dark Lord moves, but quietly, slowly. You may think of him as greedy and grasping, but here his moves are subtle. They are no less sure, but I cannot tell you what I have not yet learned."
"Are you sayin' he dinna trust you anymore?" Professor McGonagall asked, and Harry was glad, because that was a question that was far better coming from someone sympathetic. Slytherins knew how to twist words, but Moody could have put that in his usual paranoid light, and that would have shed much more heat than light.
"No. I am aware of what moves he makes against Hogwarts, as I must be to not compromise his dealings or my cover." Snape sneered at this, "But I do not spend much time in the Ministry, and his moves there are on a restricted basis."
"Do you think your friends might tell you about what they know?" Vance put this to Snape, She had seemed neutral in the War of The Snape, but Harry was beginning to wonder.
"Of course they might," Snape said, "Given the proper motivation."
"And what would that be? What would you sell for information?" Shacklebolt put out, and everyone could hear the hostility.
"My ears, and my respect will be enough, in this case. My self-respect is long gone, of course." Snape added the second line in a doleful manner that had Prof. McGonagall stifling a shocked laugh.
Dumbledore spoke, "That sounds like a price easy enough to pay. Can you make it so?"
"I can," Snape said, his brief moment of black levity gone as if it had never been. "But it will take time. I will start preparations immediately. My allies will need to savor the soup before I can dine."*
"Alright, you soddin' bastard, Time for you to skulk back to your hole." Moody snapped.
"Language!" Hermione and Molly said at the same time, and then blinked owlishly at each other.
"Not quite," Snape said, looking smug as usual, "I do have news that you will find essential."
"And why haven't you mentioned it before now?" Moody asked, sounding every bit the cranky old man.
"Because you didn't ask." Snape said, looking smug. He addressed his next comment to Albus, "Turning to matters under your nose..."
Albus did his best to look genial and not affronted. It nearly worked, even. Snape had a way of getting under most people's skins, though it didn't bode well that he was needling Dumbledore of all people.
In a voice dry as the Antarctic driving wind that peels skin off faces, Snape said, "I am delighted to announce that Harry Potter is cleared for battle."
Wait, what?! Harry thought, flummoxed but very, very rapidly turning into a towering thunderstorm. He'd done all that work, and still wouldn't have been able to fight? What was the fucking point of training if he couldn't FIGHT?!
A few people murmurred cautious congratulations to Harry - but they weren't his friends, who took one look at his gradually purpling face, and decided to wait a good while before saying a word. One didn't kick the nitroglycerine, after all.
"Importantly," Snape said, his voice firm and smooth, "This does not clear Potter for learning or helping with plans. I merely warrant that he'll not betray us through sheer negligence in battle itself."
Harry felt as if he'd been slapped. He hadn't forgotten, but... it had been easy enough to push aside - the thought that Voldemort could learn anything he knew, at any time. He wasn't sure if he should feel cheered that he could block him in battle or not. After all, there was always Everytime Else in the World.
Remus spoke, his tone mild, concealing the underlying hostility. Harry wasn't sure if Remus blamed Snape for Sirius' death, but they'd never gotten along in the first place. "Have you resumed teaching Harry Occulumency? I thought that subject was closed."
"It remains so." Snape said, "However, Potter doesn't need to feign ignorance in battle. He merely needs to exist, in the moment, firmly and puissantly enough that he cannot be moved."
Harry blinked. He hadn't realized - when had Snape realized? Had Snape been doing wordless, wandless Legimency? Was that even possible?
Dumbledore spoke up, before Harry (or, more likely, one of the other Order Members) could question how Snape knew about this, "That will be enough, Severus. You may leave now."
Harry, who had started (mostly) to quench his anger (okay, really to bank it for later), felt the river of rage jump its banks. It spilled around his mind, wreathed his heart in bloodlust. His hands shaking, Harry gripped his chair with enough force that he might break it. This wasn't just unjust, it was actively stupid. It needed to be stopped. Directly after this meeting, He'd see Dumbledore and make him see sense.
*he means flavor the soup, actually.
[a/n: hehe. Snape's ambushes early in the day were good for something.
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