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dh2_sockpuppet in dh2_challenge

Untitled

Title: Untitled
Characters: Professor McGonagall and her memories.
Word count: ~2260
Rating: G
Warnings: *Grieving*
Prompt: Professor McGonagall's thoughts after the battle.



Minerva McGonagall sat in her rocker by the open window of her little cottage on the tiny island of Scarp in the Outer Hebrides. While Muggles thought the island uninhabited, there were actually a number of old Wizard families still living on it. The cottage had belonged to a maiden aunt who had left it to her. She didn't get to the island often, but its isolation brought her peace and strengthened her in trying times.

Hopefully, with the demise of Voldemort, the most trying of times were over, but peace, personal peace, remained elusive.

She sipped her tea and watched the gulls wheeling over the rocky shore, their cries seeming to echo in the emptiness of her heart. Her hand trembled as she set the cup aside and picked up her handkerchief to dab at her eyes. They always seemed to be leaking these days, as though her pain was overflowing in a constant physical stream. She had hardly raised the square of cloth when her eyes suddenly poured tears, and, covering her face, she bent forward in her chair and sobbed, great racking sobs that went on and on, tearing at her soul as though trying to expel the grief that overwhelmed her.

When the sobs finally quieted, finally left her with gasping breath and a pounding head, she felt blessedly free of emotion; a weak, hiccoughing husk with an emptiness inside far greater than anyone should be able to contain. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Her ribs hurt, and she felt as though she might throw up, but for a moment at any rate, she didn't grieve.

When she thought she could move without her head splitting open, she shuffled to the bathroom, splashed water on her face, and then took a headache potion. Finally back in her rocker, fresh, hot cup of tea in her hand, she let her thoughts wander.

"Severus." She whispered the name. Once more, hot tears coursed down her cheeks, but this time there were no sobs. She didn't bother wiping them away, but let them flow as her mind drifted back over the years.

She had thought of Severus as a friend; had thought she was as close to him as anyone except perhaps Albus could be to the quiet, contained man. He was reserved, but not unfriendly with most of the staff, and she had developed what she thought was a closer relationship with him. She had liked him.

Severus Snape had first caught her attention in class. Small, thin, socially awkward, he was not only fiercely bright, he soaked up knowledge like a sponge. As the years progressed, it became clear that he would someday be a very powerful wizard. She was troubled, however, by his obvious fascination with the Dark Arts, his bad temper, and his thirst for revenge. True, Black and Potter had tormented him beyond reason; they were such idiots! When Albus – in spite of her protests – had waved off the so-called "prank", well…. Understandably, that had only cemented Severus' determination to best the two, and he was, Minerva was convinced, by far the better wizard.

She was saddened beyond measure to hear that Severus had joined the Death Eaters, and then astonished when he had shown up at Hogwarts as a teacher. Even though she was Deputy Headmistress, Albus had refused to share the details of why he trusted Severus implicitly, only that he did. And Minerva trusted Albus, though she had watched Severus like a hawk at first.

He had seemed such an unlikely candidate for a teaching position; she couldn't imagine why he would want to be a teacher, let alone why Albus would accept him as one, but Severus had applied himself to the task with the same fierce determination to succeed with which he had approached everything. And he had succeeded, although his technique – an unrelenting reign of terror – had disturbed her on more than one occasion. When his first crop of students sat their O. W. L.'s she was one of many who was surprised by the results. Every student passed, even the ones who had received abysmal grades while in his classes. She had seen the look of fierce pride that flashed across his face, and had known then what drove him to be so hard on his students. He would not allow them to fail.

It was during Severus' second year as Head of House that they had become friends. (Head of House: that was another decision of Albus' that had Minerva shaking her head. Severus didn't like children, for Merlin's sake!) It was after dinner, the fourth week of term when Severus had approached her and asked for a few moments of her time. She had invited him back to her rooms, and over glasses of old Scotch she had finally started to know the man she thought of as the real Severus Snape.

He was worried about one of his first years. Homesickness was ordinary enough, and usually resolved itself without too much fuss. The Head Boy and Head Girl, along with the Prefects usually had things settled after a week or so, but this was different. A little girl was having night terrors. Nothing seemed to be working, and he was at his wits' end.

His obvious distress for the child, and the fact that his desire to help her was enough to overcome his reluctance to ask anyone for help, endeared Severus to her. They discussed various strategies, met every evening, and by the end of the week, the child seemed to be adjusting, and she and Severus seemed to be on their way to becoming friends.

She found that, contrary to belief, he did have a sense of humor: dry as dust, cutting as the sharpest potions knife, and coupled with his keen insight and observational skills…. Well, sometimes she was ashamed of herself for laughing at her fellow professors, but really, there was no malice in him.

Severus was almost frightening in his protection of his Slytherins. He favored them, yes, but a lot of the Heads favored their own Houses at least a little. He would tolerate no bullying of his charges, even within his own House. (That he, himself, bullied them, he didn't seem to see, and Minerva didn't bother to point it out.) He also came down hard on any Slytherin who brought dishonor to their House. His idea of honor, she noted, might be different from hers, but it was just as strict.

All in all, Minerva found that she liked Severus, and thought she saw why Albus would trust him. That feeling had only grown over the years as their weekly meetings continued. He was still reticent about himself, and she didn't pry. Their understanding was based as much on what they didn't talk about as what they did.

She had been devastated when Severus had killed Albus. Denial warred with betrayal as she sought to make sense of a seemingly senseless act. She hoped that somehow, some way, Severus' murder of Albus was part of some Great Plan, but her trust was broken, and she was sick at heart.

When Severus had come back as Headmaster, he was a different man. She had watched him closely, looking for any small sign, any indication, anything that she could hold onto in hope that the world was wrong about him. When she faced him, when he did meet her eyes, there was such a solid wall of Occlumency in place that she might have been looking at a stranger. He remained secluded in his office most of the time, allowing the Carrows – vile creatures – to administer discipline. On occasion, Severus seemed to rein them in a bit under the pretense of not alienating too many parents of magical blood, and she would hope. Then, too, he would occasionally send Longbottom and the other students who unwisely insisted on rebelling to serve detention with Filch, or with Hagrid in the Forbidden Forest, instead of with the Carrows. Filch, though he could be mean and spiteful, didn't possess the innate cruelty of the Carrows, and Hagrid, well, students were safe with Hagrid.

She wanted to trust Severus, desperately wanted him to be the man she had believed him to be, but when he had pulled his wand on Harry in the Great Hall, she couldn't bear it. Not murder, not again, not a student. Not Harry. So she had stepped between them and flung the first curse. But he had not returned her attack. He parried her, deflecting all her curses with astounding proficiency, but he had not fired back. At the time, this had simply enraged her; she wanted to fight, to take out her anger and frustration on someone. But instead he fled, and she had flung the last words she had ever spoken to him after his retreating figure.

Coward.

Minerva bent forward again as a single sob tore from deep inside her, rending her heart.

She had called him coward.

~~


A week later, Minerva Floo'd back to her rooms at Hogwarts. The living quarters and kitchens had been the first areas to be restored. She marveled, in fact, at how much work had already been done, and all while she was sitting in the cottage feeling sorry for herself, she admonished herself sharply. Crews were working day and night at cleaning and repairing, and the results, she smiled to herself, were like magic. The castle itself had some ability to heal, and together with a virtual army of witches and wizards, the work was almost complete. Most of Wizarding Britain had attended Hogwarts, and a large number of them viewed the school as a symbol of their world. They flocked to help, and their combined magic was greater than the sum of each individual.

She met first with her staff, and then with the head of the restoration workers. This, to her surprise, turned out to be Percy Weasley. Frighteningly organized and with an irritating but necessary attention to detail, he had things going smoothly.

She put off going to the Headmaster's office as long as she could, but finally, it had to be faced.

Snape's portrait was small and hanging in a corner. He was standing, arms folded, leaning against the frame as though waiting, and he straightened as she approached.

"Severus."

"Minerva."

The sound of that familiar, deep voice brought tears to her eyes, but she blinked them back determinedly.

"You're not going to cry, are you? Or apologize?" He looked peeved. "I'm not sure I can bear one more person sniveling about how they misjudged me, when they judged me exactly as I intended them to."

"I don't snivel." She couldn't help a watery smile.

His look softened. "No."

Minerva lifted her chin. "The world has a lot of amends to make to you."

"Hogwash. I did what I needed to do for my own selfish reasons." His tone became flippant. "That I saved the entire Wizarding World in the process was purely a side effect."

Her laugh was genuine. "Oh, gods, Severus. I'm going to miss you so."

"I'm not going anywhere, are you?"

"No, not for a good long while at any rate." She brushed a tear off her cheek, and they looked at each other in silence before Minerva smiled sadly. "I'm sorry."

He shrugged and looked uncomfortable. "As am I, Minerva."

She reached up and trailed a finger along the plain, wood frame. "Thank you."

"Oh, please, not you, too!"

"I was thanking you for being my friend."

"Oh." He looked down for a moment. "Was I? I didn't have a lot of practice at that, you know." His face shuttered itself. "It was never a priority in my adult life."

She smiled. "I thought of you as my friend. A prickly, frequently grumpy, ungrateful, argumentative git who tried to cheat at chess, but yes, a friend."

The portrait threw its head back and laughed. It was a rich and wonderful sound, one that she had never heard before.

"I never cheated; I didn't have to!"

"Oh, really? Don't think you ever put anything over on me Severus Snape, I know you."

His smile was sad. "Do you?"

Her breath caught in a sob, but she stifled it at once. They stood looking at one another for a long moment, then Minerva smiled softly. "I'm going to have a painting of you done for my quarters, then we can have our weekly chats again over a glass of whiskey."

"You'll have to drink for me."

"I can handle that."

"I know you can." His smirk held no malice. "I'd like that, Minerva."

Severus glanced around the walls, clearly troubled. "Have you decided who will be Head of Slytherin House yet?"

"No, why?"

He looked her sternly in the eye. "There are those who are going to very hard on the Slytherins; those who will condemn the entire House for the actions of a few. I want them protected, Minerva. I want someone who will stand up for them. I mean that; I'll make your life hell if you don't find the right person."

She felt her heart twist. "I'll see to it, Severus, you have my word."

There was a loud thud from below that shook the castle.

"Oh, dear, I'd better go check on that." Minerva turned and left, hurrying down the revolving staircase.

The portrait of Snape looked across at the portrait of Dumbledore, who raised a healthy, whole hand in salute.

"Welcome home, Severus."

~~end~~

Comments

Thank you for this lovely story! It makes me very happy to think of the two of them reconciling, even if it had to take place via portrait.

Edited at 2011-08-03 02:19 pm (UTC)
I see the two of them as quite similar in a number of ways, and always thought they'd be good friends. I would think her grief over the loss of their friendship might be nearly as strong as her grief at the loss of his life.
I really liked the reconciliation.

His tone became flippant. "That I saved the entire Wizarding World in the process was purely a side effect." I can see this new, careless side to Severus, now that he doesn't have to worry about anything any more.

A prickly, frequently grumpy, ungrateful, argumentative git who tried to cheat at chess, but yes, a friend Great summing-up.

Percy Weasley. Frighteningly organized and with an irritating but necessary attention to detail, he had things going smoothly. And that was a perfect cameo.
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
Lovely.

I like the way this started--so bleak and painful--and ended with a really touching and very IC reconciliation. Catharsis indeed!

"Hogwash. I did what I needed to do for my own selfish reasons." His tone became flippant. "That I saved the entire Wizarding World in the process was purely a side effect." So perfectly Severus.

I also liked this: Well, sometimes she was ashamed of herself for laughing at her fellow professors, but really, there was no malice in him. It's an unusual take on fanon Severus, but very right here, I think.

Putting this on my recs list.
I'm glad you like it, and thanks for the rec!
The whole thing is awesome. The friendship between these two is such a joy to read, especially since they started out as teacher and student.

The ending made me teary-eyed.
Thank you. I've always thought they'd be friends.
Thank you!
Fantastic portrayal of both Minerva and Severus in this. *applauds* Loved the details - that Severus cheated at chess, that Minerva can drink him under the table - and the depth of emotion.
It's the little things that make a friendship as much as the big, I've always thought.

Thanks for commenting.
This was wonderful. Both IC, even the portrait. I like to think that if Severus had actually died, this would be the way he was redeemed.
if Severus had actually died

Lol! Yes!
This is beautiful. Powerful and sad, with a wonderful sense of reconciliation and closure at the end. You manage to pack so much character and emotion into quite a short piece. I love all the details about their friendships, as well as the description of the depth of Minerva's grief at the beginning, crying until she is empty. Wonderful.
Thank you for such kind words!
I enjoyed so many things about this fic -- the perfect Percy cameo, the backstory for how the friendship developed, and most of all, that excellent portrait scene. Lines I particularly liked:

"You're not going to cry, are you? Or apologize?"

"I don't snivel."

A satifying read.
Thank you, this is so perfect. I especially loved the thoughts on the duel-scene and the whole time of him as the headmaster!
Thank you so much!
I totally agree about the choice of his not fighting back! I think it's more in character for him, actually.

I can't help wonder if this was one of the scenes where Alan Rickman told the director, 'No. Snape wouldn't do that."

Thanks for commenting!
Oh yes.
THIS is the relationship I imagined between these two.
ANd, as others have mentioned, I love the little details.
That Minerva mourned him, then reconciled, was perfect.

Well done!
Thank you! I've always seen them as friends, too.

August 2011

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