If war is hell, Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall are in the Ninth Circle. During Snape’s awful year as Headmaster, he and Professor McGonagall draw closer as they are forced into a desperate arrangement.
Minerva flew down the passageway, unmindful of the few students who watched her in shocked amazement as she passed. Professor McGonagall almost never ran anywhere.
The oaken doors to the castle flew open ahead of her, and she burst out into the chilly spring air. She ran down the path towards the lake, her robes billowing behind her like a long, green wake. By the time she reached the promontory, she was breathing hard and had to bend over, palms on her thighs, to catch her breath.
When she straightened up, her eyes adjusting to the late-evening gloom, what she saw filled her with incandescent rage. The white marble sarcophagus had been split—not just split, rent—and the body within laid askew as if it had been tossed haphazardly back into the tomb, which was, of course, exactly what had happened.
She was sullenly grateful that the shroud remained intact around the head, so she did not have to look at the face of the dead man within. Minerva was an observant woman and noticed the missing wand but assigned little importance to that detail. The why did not, at this moment, concern her; the what was enough to consume her.
She allowed herself only one moment of swirling fury before she raised her wand to correct the outrage. The air around her crackled as she used her wand to move the body back into position in the sarcophagus and reseal the white marble of the tomb. It was not a perfect repair; a large crack still marred the otherwise smooth surface, but it would do until a new monument could be made.
She turned and ran back to the castle. When she reached the Headmaster’s office, she stood glaring at the stone gargoyle guarding the doors.
“Password?” the gargoyle enquired as expected.
“Omnes relinquite spes.”
The doors began to move, and she didn’t wait for them to open fully before slipping in and racing up the spiral staircase. She pounded on the inner door with the brass knocker, knowing that, if he were inside, Snape couldn’t fail to hear it.
The door swung open, and she strode into the office. Severus wasn’t there, but the bookcase-door to the Headmaster’s private quarters stood open, and she went through it.
She didn’t take time to notice the changes wrought in the room since she had last been in it. Her eye homed in on the man who was perched on a settee near the fireplace, a glass of Firewhisky in his hand. She approached and stood towering in front of him, hands on her hips. Any other acquaintance of Minerva McGonagall’s—except Dumbledore—might have run for his life or thrown himself at her feet begging for mercy when he saw the look on her face. Snape merely looked up at her, saying calmly, “Minerva, what a pleasant surprise. Oh, dear . . . I haven’t forgotten an important meeting, have I?” He sounded a little drunk.
“Did you know?” she demanded, her eyes narrowed to slits.
“Of course. I know everything, after all. It is my role to know things for people,” he answered, his words thick with resentment.
“What did he want that he didn’t already have?”
“What makes you think he wanted something?”
“Stop it,” she spat. “You know as well as I do that the Dark Lord didn’t come here just for the pleasure of desecrating Albus Dumbledore’s tomb.”
“No. Not when he has already had the pleasure of desecrating the man’s wife.”
“After a fashion, of course . . .” Severus added.
The glass in his hand exploded, spraying his face and shirt with sticky Firewhisky and cutting his index finger and thumb. A sliver of glass embedded itself in the skin just below his lower lip. His eyes finally focussed on his visitor. Her wand was still in her pocket.
“If you’re ready to leave off this pathetic display of self-pity, perhaps we can begin this conversation again,” she said.
She gave him a minute to recover his equilibrium, then she asked again: “What did he want?”
He regarded her warily. “The wand.”
She frowned. “Albus’s wand?”
“He believes it to be one of the Deathly Hallows.”
She went cold. “The Deathstick?”
“Is it true?”
“That, Minerva, is one thing I do not know.” A small smile crept across his lips.
She thought for a few moments. “When Albus came back from Germany, he had a new wand. His original one had been destroyed in the duel with Grindelwald, he said.”
“Did he tell you where he had got it?”
“You know, I don’t recall. By the time we were on speaking terms again, I suppose it didn’t seem important.”
“You and Dumbledore had a falling out? When?”
“Before he went to Germany.”
His brows drew together. “I didn’t realise you were friendly that far back.” He peered at her intently.
“Mmm,” she said, wondering how much she was going to tell him about her history with Albus Dumbledore. Secrecy had become such second nature that she sometimes forgot who knew what about the subject.
“You must have been a student,” he said.
“Just finished, actually.”
“But you knew him at Hogwarts?” There was no special inflexion on “knew”, but she understood what he was asking.
“He was my teacher.” She had insisted on honesty between them, but she discovered she was not willing to travel too far down this path with Severus.
“Of course, your teacher . . .” he repeated coldly.
“Severus . . .” she warned.
“Yes, Minerva? What did you want to say to me?” He was angry, and she didn’t quite understand why.
“We’d better take care of your lip.”
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