Since Hermione had a longer lunch period, she normally brought the food for their meetings. Ron and Harry met her in Hyde Park. She’d taken or conjured a picnic table, and cast spells around it so that it was entirely private as well as covered in shade. Harry suspected that she’d put a charm against rain in as well, even though not a cloud dotted the sky. He tore into his sandwich as Ron summarized the plan. Ron and Hermione shared nearly everything. If Harry told one of them something, he didn’t bother telling the other. Hermione listened to the plan, but rather than ask a million questions, as soon as Ron had finished, she looked at Harry and said, “So tell me about Dimitri.”
Inwardly, Harry groaned. Outwardly, he plastered on a smile. “As I’m sure Ron has told you, I met him in Kavala when he warned me about the Death Eaters there. He’s . . . the equivalent of a wizard Private Investigator. I guess. He’s wealthy, so he doesn’t need to work. I think he mostly got involved because he wanted them kicked out of his country, but he cared enough to come here when I told him that Nik had been seen.”
“I know that,” she said with a flicker of annoyance, her sandwich untouched. “I was referring to what was printed in the paper this morning. I saw a picture of him, he’s very handsome.”
The Daily Prophet had printed a picture of Harry and Snape dancing on the front page of the society section. Snape had been whispering in Harry’s ear, but from the angle, it looked as though he’d kissed him on the cheek. “He is handsome.” Although he looked better before his plastic surgery. “But he’s . . . complicated.”
“He seems to care about you,” said Hermione a little too casually.
Gobsmacked, Harry stared at her. “You saw him dancing with me for one night.”
“I spoke to him,” she said.
“He didn’t tell me that.” He should’ve expected lies of omission from Snape, but it still disappointed him.
“I should imagine not,” Hermione answered primly. “He wasn’t pretending to be you at that point. He said that you’d told him I knew, and we spoke in private.”
What the hell was Snape talking to Hermione about? “What did he say?”
She glanced at Ron for support, but Ron was inhaling his sandwich. “He expressed concern. He said that he suspected that the Death Eater presence here is more than the Ministry anticipates.”
“So he doesn’t think I can handle it myself.” He’d already known that.
“No,” said Hermione in exasperation. “He doesn’t trust the Ministry not to be compromised. I suppose seeing what happened in Kavala made him nervous, and he worries that an Auror here as been turned as well. He has a lot of respect for you, Harry.”
Snape respected him? “I’ll believe that when I see it,” muttered Harry.
“Just ask him out,” said Ron.
Harry stared at him. If Ron knew he was talking about Snape...
“I saw you glaring when he danced with the blond bloke,” said Ron. He stole a few uneaten crisps off of Harry’s plate. “I know you hate dating wizards, but you haven’t given any a chance, have you?”
“He’s . . . He’s. . .” Snape. How to explain this? “He reminds me of Snape.”
Hermione looked at him sharply. “In a good way or a bad way?”
“Do you think he’d hurt you?” Hermione asked. Ron looked alarmed.
“No! No. He’s just...” Harry stared at the sky as he searched for the words. “full of secrets. And he admitted killing some Death Eaters in Kavala.”
“Did they attack him first?” asked Ron. "Or did he just curse them in the back?"
“I didn’t ask the details.”
“You killed Death Eaters,” Hermione gently reminded him. “I think you should give him a chance. At least hear him out. He seemed very sweet.”
Harry gaped at her. “Imagine you just called Snape ‘sweet’.”
“He bullied me too,” she reminded him. “The only aspects of Dimitri’s personality that remind me of Snape are his quick corrections and wide breadth of knowledge.”
“So what if he’s like Snape?” broke in Ron. “These past five years you’ve gone on and on about what a great bloke he really was and how we’ve all misjudged him. I think you’re looking for excuses.”
Harry knew he was in trouble when Ron and Hermione ganged up against him. They didn’t agree on everything, but they were normally right when they did. Either way, he didn’t have the time for this. Not with what he had planned for that evening. “If he’s right and the Ministry’s compromised, then Nik knows that I was in Kavala and that I’m planning to gather information from him. If something happens, Ron will have to send an alert to the Ministry and someone outside of it that we can trust.”
“Many of us from Dumbledore’s Army still have our coins,” said Hermione. “I can put out a message warning people to be on alert.”
Harry nodded. “I think that should be enough.” He stood. “I ought to go back now if I’m going to leave early to catch up with Dimitri.” He turned to Ron. “I’ll send a message through the mirror when I’m ready to go.”
Ron nodded and patted his pocket.
Standing as well, Hermione walked around the table and caught Harry in a big bear hug. “Be careful.”
“I always am,” Harry assured her. “By the way, have you ever heard of the Sacred Bond of Thebes?”
Hermione frowned. “Do you mean the Sacred Band of Thebes?”
“I’m pretty sure he said Bond. It’s a spell, but I can’t find it in any spellbook.”
“I’ll look it up,” she promised.
“Thanks.” Harry said his goodbyes, then headed back to his office. He’d closed most of his open cases, and the Auror department had pretty flexible schedules, so he headed straight home as soon as he could.
Snape had covered the kitchen table in files, photos, and notes. A counter nearby contained partially-eaten food from a local Greek restaurant, and a map of London had been plastered over the wall above the table. Notes and marks covered everything but the food. On a list of Death Eaters the Ministry had compiled, Severus had made corrections. About a third of the ones labeled ‘deceased’ had been changed to ‘unknown’, and a few of the unknowns had been crossed out. As Snape was nowhere in sight, Harry tried to familiarize himself with Snape’s notes, even if he found some of them hard to believe. How could the estimated Death Eaters be three times what the Ministry predicted? Was it just Snape’s paranoia or did he have some information that the Ministry did not?
After changing out of his Auror robes, Harry sat down to read. He’d finished most of the notes and half a plate of gyros when Snape strode into the room, buttoning up a pale blue shirt that brought out his olive skin and matched perfectly with his black slacks. Although Harry didn’t approve of most of Snape’s changes, he had to admit that the darker skin tone looked healthier. He couldn’t rip his eyes away from Snape’s bare forearms as Snape joined him at the table. Had he ever seen so much naked flesh on Snape while lucid outside of sex? Forearms shouldn’t be considered naughty.
“I’d just finished my preliminary notes,” said Snape, oblivious to Harry’s stare as he pushed apart scrolls, looking for one in particular. Although his hair was dry, his skin shone and he smelled fresh, as if he’d just stepped from the shower. A bit of his fringe fell in his eyes, and he brushed it back with one absent hand. The thin silver bracelet on his wrist fell further down his arm. Snape hadn’t worn jewelry. Dimitri did. “Did you have a chance to look over them?”
It took Harry a bit to remember what ‘them’ meant. “Do you really think so many Death Eaters are still alive?”
“I lived, didn’t I?” asked Snape absently, his attention on his scrolls.
Harry raised a doubting eyebrow at him. “So you all had clones?”
Snape glanced at him. “No, but you can’t expect the bodies to be properly identified, and there was a lot of confusion after the war. If I escaped, there’s a chance some of the others did as well, even if they used other means.”
Not many of them had been nearly as clever as Snape had. “And they’re connected to Nik?”
“Not necessarily,” Snape turned his attention back to the files. “but we shouldn’t underestimate our enemies.” He unrolled a scroll and opened a Ministry file, placing them side by side. “This is Leopold Dolohov, second cousin to Antonin. Of the Death Eaters, he’s the one most likely to be leading any form of rebellion here. He also uses the name Gregory Scalia. He’s handy with potions, has extensive Dark Arts collections, and was officially cleared of any connections outside of family.”
“Why do you think he’s rotten?” The Ministry’s file was sparse, mostly noting Leopold’s relatives who’d been active Death Eaters.
“I know his family and I know his type.” He glanced over Harry. “Is that what you’re wearing?”
Harry nodded. He’d changed into a tight, red shirt and jeans. He preferred his robes, but he couldn’t exactly wear them through the Muggle parts of London.
“Your original wand?”
Harry tapped his thigh where he had a hidden compartment in his jeans. Most wizards didn’t know how to search for secret Muggle places, and he kept his newer wand nearby to excuse any magical traces left in the cloth.
“Roll up your sleeve, I’m going to plant a tracking spell on you.”
“Those are easy to dismantle,” Harry told him, although he pushed up his sleeve.
“Hopefully not this one.” Snape’s elegant fingers closed around Harry’s bicep, and a warm, electrical tingle flowed through Harry’s skin. Without pause, he released Harry’s arm, then pressed two fingers into Harry’s collarbone, underneath his shirt. “A backup,” he said as he cast another tracking spell. When the spell was cast, he removed his fingers and fetched the bracelet from his arm. “They shouldn’t find all three.” He slipped the bracelet onto Harry’s wrist.
“What about you?” asked Harry. “If you’re me, you’re a target.”
Snape reached down his shirt and produced a silver necklace. The charm on the end was a stag. Harry raised an eyebrow at him in surprise.
“I’m you, remember,” said Snape as he tucked the necklace back into his shirt. “Granger will be tracking me.”
When was that arranged and when had Snape become best friends with Hermione? “I’d like to track you too.”
“Then place one on me.” Snape pushed up his sleeves, offering his bicep.
Harry was rubbish at tracking spells. He did his best anyway, pressing two fingers into Snape’s surprisingly warm and soft skin, and casting the best spell he knew. “I can’t help but feel we’re overprepared.” He hadn’t been this prepped for most of his official raids, but then he’d normally had backup.
“Better than the alternative,” said Snape briskly. “Have you inserted your Polyjuice?”
Harry nodded. “Fresh samples too. Let’s review.”
They went over everything twice, including all the likely spots Nik would try to take him. Harry wrapped up the review by reminding Snape, “The safe word is “Snitch” and I’ll fiddle with my watch if everything is going fine. If I start rubbing my scar, I need help.”
Snape nodded and prepared their Polyjuice.
“Cheers,” said Harry, picking up his goblet and knocking it against Snape’s. He’d never got used to the taste, but he forced the thick concoction down his throat. For some reason, if he started a session by drinking, then using the pills, it seemed to work better than just trying to use the pills alone. In a few short minutes, he was staring at himself in the kitchen.
Snape reached forward, plucking Harry’s glasses from his nose, and slipping them on to his own face. He’d shrunk his outfit to match his frame, but he still conjured a mirror and examined himself to make sure his clothes fit his body perfectly.
Although Harry doubted he would ever get used to Dimitri’s form, he was disappointed to see it transform into himself. No matter how much Snape talked and acted like himself in Harry’s body, he lost all of his poise and elegance the minute he changed.
Snape mussed his hair and straightened his glasses before he turned back to Harry. “If something happens, send me a Patronus.”
“How will I know where you are?”
“It will find me,” promised Snape. “Don’t hesitate. If even a small-”
“Don’t worry,” said Harry. “Everything will be fine.”
Of course, it wasn’t.