United We Stand
Characters: Severus, Remus, Serenus, Tybalt, Regulus, Gaius Summary: A family meeting where Things of Import are decided about Tobias
All the adults of the Snape family were gathered in the sunroom of Azoth House, and Remus looked around at the grim faces with a sense of dread. He knew something was wrong, even though he wasn't certain what it was, but there was no way it could be good. Severus was almost vibrating with tension, like a string pulled too tight, a state Remus couldn't remember him being in since before they'd gotten together. It seemed that something had happened that everyone save he andSerenus were privy to, and whatever it was none of the others would discuss it until the children had been sent to Snape Manor for a sleepover under the care of the nannies.
Exchanging a look with Serenus, he gripped Severus' hand tightly, offering what support he could without knowing the source of the problem. "All right," he said, glancing at each of the others in turn. Tybalt sat with Serenus, his arm around Serenus' shoulders, and his pose practically screamed 'Protective Auror on Duty - Trespassers will be ripped to shreds'. Gaius seemed to be glued to Regulus, curled up on his lap - not an uncommon pose for the two of them, but it was obvious that Gaius was looking for comfort rather than being brazenly salacious as he normally was, and he looked smaller and somehow younger. Remus drew in a deep breath, and decided to bell the cat. "The kids are in bed, we've got tea that no one seems to be drinking, and if the atmosphere in here were any heavier we'd all be crushed to death. Who wants to tell Serenus and me what's going on?"
Tybalt and Gaius immediately looked at Severus, and so Remus turned his gaze to his mate. "What's wrong?" he asked softly, stroking the back of Severus' hand comfortingly. "Did someone do something to you? I swear I'll kill anyone who has caused you any pain!"
Severus twined his fingers with Remus' and squeezed hard, drawing comfort from the contact. "On three separate occasions, a strange man has been spotted in various places connected to our family.Gaius and Regulus saw him in Dreams of Egypt, Gaius saw him in Greece, and Tybalt saw him in Hogsmeade today," he began without preamble, seeing no need to prolong the tale. "Tybalt suggested I view their memories to determine whether they had all seen the same man. Unfortunately, I was able to do more than that. I identified him as TobiasSnape."
"What?" Serenus stared at him, wide-eyed, and then glanced worriedly at Gaius and Tybalt. "What does he want?"
"We don't know," Severus said. "All we do know is that he appears to be following us."
A growl rose in Remus' throat, the wolf flashing in his eyes as it rose up, wanting to protect Severus and the rest of its pack. "We'll stop him," he said flatly, sliding an arm around Severus and holding him close. "No matter what it takes, I'll make sure that bastard never hurts you again."
"Yes, we'll stop him," Tybalt agreed with a nod. "But we can't step beyond the bounds of the law or we'll risk ending up in prison as well." He looked between Severus and Regulus, and one side of his mouth quirked up in a grim smile. "Or rather we can't step beyond the bounds of the law and get caught."
"I thought he would stop with the letters," Gaius said, shaking his head. "Whatever he wants, it can't be what he said. Not after all this time."
"No, I don't believe him either," Serenus said quietly, tucking himself more securely under Tybalt's arm and leaning against Tybalt's side. "I'm sorry if it sounds harsh, but I have no interest in forgiving and forgetting what he did to all of us, even on the off chance he has truly changed."
"Trust me, the chances of that are slim to none," Severus said grimly, squeezing Remus' hand hard enough to risk leaving bruises. "Whatever his motives are, I can guarantee they are not altruistic."
Regulus wound his arms tighter around Gaius and stroked Gaius' back soothingly, as he might have stroked Anubis or Sekhmet. "Then we won't bother finding out what he really wants," he said matter-of-factly. "We will simply rid ourselves of the problem by whatever means necessary."
"Be careful," Gaius said, turning to gaze into Regulus' eyes, worried for his husband's safety. "You're smart, love, and you've been through a lot, but I couldn't bear it if something happened and you were hurt! Especially not because of him." He clung to Regulus, pressing his face into the side of Regulus' neck. "I just want him to go away and leave us all alone."
Tybalt, meanwhile, held Serenus close, moving one hand to rest it protectively on the curve of Serenus' stomach, stroking lightly. "I'm with Regulus," he said firmly. "It might be against my oath as an Auror, but I'm not going to place something like that up against the well being of our family. I'd quit my job in a heartbeat rather than risk any of us being hurt."
Placing his mouth against Severus' ear, Remus growled again, very softly, hoping to help soothe Severus' worry. He didn't remove his hand from Severus', letting Severus squeeze as hard as he liked - it was nothing, if it helped give Severus some comfort. "I'm in, too. It's more than just us - there are the children to consider, and I'd rather go toAzkaban myself than see Tobias Snape get within a mile of them."
Severus pressed closer against Remus, finding the familiar sound of Remus' growl comforting. "None of us will go to Azkaban," he said. "If worse comes to worse, we are collectively cunning enough to cover our tracks should the situation call for it." He knew it sounded ruthless, but he would do whatever was necessary to protect his family from Tobias, even if it meant committing patricide.
"It isn't as if you need to work anyway," Serenus said, trying to lighten the mood a little. "Merlin knows the shop is doing well enough that you could stay home and be my personal boy toy full time." Releasing a quiet sigh, he rested his hand atop Tybalt's, his expression growing somber. "But I agree. We must do whatever it takes. Perhaps his motives are benign, but I'd rather not take any chances, not with any of you and especially not with the children."
Lifting his head, Remus looked at the others and nodded. "Sounds like we're all in agreement, then," he said. "So... what do we do? Of course we can increase the defenses on the houses, and never let the children go out without at least two adults - and we'll have to warn the nannies and Lurch. Beyond that... do we want to set a trap and lie in wait? Or would you prefer to carry the fight to him?"
Tybalt had smiled at Serenus' boy toy comment, his gaze promising Serenus any play time he'd like later, but he sobered at Remus' words, his expression thoughtful. "What are the chances we could scare him off permanently?" he asked, looking at Severus. "Is there anything that intimidates him, any weakness he has? Our vulnerabilities are obvious - the children, our homes, our partners. What are his?"
"I've no idea," Severus replied. "I haven't seen or spoken to him since I was an adolescent. I doubt he has a partner, other children, or any family, and if he did, they would not be his weakness. I cannot even hazard a guess as to what his vulnerabilities might be."
"I would suggest bribing him to stay away, but that would only open the door for him to return for more," Regulus mused, still strokingGaius gently. "We have only two options when it comes down to it: wait to see what he does or confront him."
"Does anyone think he might go away eventually if we ignore him?" Serenus asked hopefully.
"Ignoring his letters didn't work," Tybalt replied with a scowl. "If he were truly seeking not to push, he'd have let it drop at that. Or perhaps suggested a meeting and let you all make a decision. No, coming to Regulus' shop, then following you to Greece doesn't seem like the actions of a man who is going to give up easily. It's like he's sending a message - I know where you work, I know where you live, I know where you going when you're away. It's a subtle threat. I've seen this in people before - it's a way of trying to prove he has some level of control over us, a way to try to intimidate us. Sorry, love... I'm afraid this is going to require something beyond just waiting him out."
"Could money be the motive?" Gaius asked, finally relaxing a bit under the soothing caress of Regulus' hand. "Perhaps he heard about the shops, or even about Remus' success as an author. Not that I believe we should bribe him; as Regulus said, once you payDanegeld you never get rid of the Dane."
Remus frowned. "It could be money, I suppose, or at least money as a way to support some unsavory habit," he said slowly. Then he smiled, but it wasn't a nice expression. "But having money does mean we might can buy information. I propose a third option; rather than confronting him or waiting to see what he does, what if we hire our own spies to find out what he's up to? If we can figure out whatever his hidden motives are, rather than the utter crap he's spouted about wanting his family, that will give us the leverage we need to know how to deal with him."
"That would be a start," Severus said, lessening his death-grip on Remus' hand as he finally began to relax a little. "If nothing else, it would take the initiative and power in this situation away from him. I prefer to take action rather than waiting anyway. Depending on what we learn, Remus, Regulus, Tybalt and I can address the situation directly." He glanced atSerenus. "You need to stay out of any direct confrontations for obvious reasons."
"I agree," Serenus replied, rubbing his abdomen in small, slow circles. "I'm not going to take any unnecessary risks while I'm carrying precious cargo."
Severus nodded, relieved that Serenus had agreed so readily instead of feeling slighted or left out, and then he looked at Gaius. "And you don't have the experience we do," he said by way of explanation.
"For which I am profoundly grateful," Gaius replied easily, but he tilted his chin up, not wanting Severus or Regulus to think that he wasn't just as willing to fight for them as they were to fight for him, even if fighting wasn't something he did very well. "Although I will do whatever I must to protect all of you. And don't forget it's possible he doesn't know I'm anAnimagi. That might be useful."
"That it might," Remus said, giving Gaius a nod and a slight smile, although he couldn't get the picture out of his mind of a ball of black fluff trying to intimidate TobiasSnape. Still, stranger things had happened, and they all had a right to defend the family.
"Thank you," Tybalt said to Serenus, then moved his head, capturing Serenus' lips in a brief but intense kiss. "I know you're strong and smart and tough, but you're definitely doing something far more important right now than dealing with this situation."
Serenus smiled up at Tybalt affectionately and squeezed his knee. "Yes, I am. If I wasn't pregnant, it would be different. I'd be right there with you, but not now."
"We'll use every advantage we have, if we need to," Regulus said, petting Gaius, although he couldn't imagine Gaius fighting. With any luck, it wouldn't be necessary.
"There's still one thing to settle," Remus said, his expression pensive. "What do we tell the children? I guarantee you Cymbeline is smart enough and Slytherin enough to figure out something is going on, and I'm loathe to risk having her jump to wrong conclusions and get into trouble without understanding the danger. Lysander is also old enough to understand, I think, and he's far more even tempered. But Gaia and the twins? What do we do about them?"
Tybalt looked at Serenus. "I'm afraid that whatever Cymbeline is into, Etienne will be right on her heels. What do you think?"
Serenus rubbed his chin absently as he considered the question. "I think we ought to tell them a simple version of the truth, namely that there is a man bent on causing trouble, so we're all going to take certain precautions. If we explain what's going on and why, I think they'll understand why they need to obey the new rules. The younger ones might forget or get distracted, but we'll simply have to keep a closer eye on them than usual."
"You might consider giving Cymbeline some small bit of responsibility," Regulus suggested. "Something innocuous that sounds important. It will make her feel important, and she'll likely be more inclined to help corral the little ones and make sure they're careful."
Remus' eyes widened, and he gave Regulus a look of respect. "That's an excellent suggestion," he said, then turned to Severus. "What do you think? Could we come up with something that she would feel was important, rather than just drudgery? Or should we go all out and teach her some defensive spells? She has your talent for magic and potions, and as I recall you knew a fair number of spells before you even got to Hogwarts yourself."
Severus preened a little and drew himself up proudly. "I did indeed," he said. "She's been doing quite well with potions. As quick to learn and innately talented as she is, I believe she could handle a few simple spells, even without a proper wand."
"We could come up with some options, I'm sure," Regulus said. "We all have our areas of expertise. We could all think about defensive spells and charms we know that she could master and make a list."
"You could even let her choose which ones she's most interested in," Serenus suggested. "She does like being involved in making decisions."
"I can't imagine where she got that from," Severus said dryly.
Remus chuckled, holding Severus close and pressing a kiss to his temple. "Heaven only knows," he agreed playfully. It seemed they were all feeling better, which wasn't really a surprise; they had a plan of action, and simply knowing you had options rather than just sitting around waiting for the roof to cave in was often a huge relief. "So, was there anything else? Or have can we say we've got a plan of attack."
"I can't think of anything off the top of my head," Tybalt replied, shaking his head.
"Neither can I," Gaius chimed in. "I suppose we'll have to wait until tomorrow to get started, yes?" He turned his gaze to Regulus. "I suppose that means we have the rest of the night off."
Regulus gave him an amused look, knowing what Gaius had in mind. "I suppose we do," he said.
Serenus looked up at Tybalt, smiling. "And so do we. Shall we take advantage of it?"
"I think we all should," Remus agreed. He looked at Severus, glad that the strain had lessened but certain that he could do more to take Severus' mind off his immediate worries and give him at least a brief bit of peace. "I think the best remedy of all this anger and worry is to drown it out with something far more pleasant."
"So do I!" Gaius agreed, his eyes sparkling at Regulus. Then he shifted, becoming Anubis - far more convenient for Regulus to carry him up to bed.
"Far be it from me to waste an opportunity," Tybalt replied, rising to his feet and holding out both hands to help Serenus up. "Good night, everyone - I suppose I don't have to wish everyone a pleasant rest of the evening, since it looks like that's exactly what we all intend to have."
Serenus clasped Tybalt's hands tightly and hauled himself to his feet. "I'd say we need it after that news," he said as he let Tybalt lead him away, pausing just long enough to wave and say good-night to the others.
Regulus bade them all a good-night as well as he gathered Anubis in his arms and headed upstairs to their quarters, cradling Anubis carefully against his chest.
"I suppose we should return to our half of the abode," Severus said, squeezing Remus' hand again. "I'm in favor of any sort of remedy that might help me forget him, if only for a while."
"I'll happily be that remedy," Remus replied, kissing Severus lightly, his eyes gleaming with promise. "Just call me doctor Lupin - Doctor of love!"
Severus snorted loudly at that. "Doctor of foolishness is more like it," he replied tartly, but he stood and tugged Remus' hand, urging him to his feet as well. "Come along, then, my wolf. If you think you have a cure, I will allow you to examine me."
Sliding an arm around Severus' waist, Remus grinned. "It will be a very thorough exam, I assure you," he promised with a throaty growl. "I'll leave no part of you untouched... orunpleasured."