Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling, her publishers, and Warner Brothers own Harry Potter.
Yonder see the morning blink:
The sun is up, and up must I,
To wash and dress and eat and drink
And look at things and talk and think
And work, and God knows why.
Oh often have I washed and dressed
And what's to show for all my pain?
Let me lie abed and rest:
Ten thousand times I've done my best
And all's to do again.
- A.E. Housman
"Ah, Severus, won't you have a seat?" Albus Dumbledore's blue eyes twinkled as he surveyed his potions master, who stood stiffly in front of his desk, holding a parchment tightly in one hand.
"Thank you, no. I have come to tender my resignation." At this, Snape handed Dumbledore the parchment.
Dumbledore sighed, although his eyes continued to sparkle in suppressed amusement. "My boy, you do this every year. I suspect that you are simply going through the motions at this point." Snape snorted. "And," he continued, "I'm afraid that it would be quite impossible to replace you, especially given Lord Voldemort's return. You were assigned to spy on me, after all. He would be most displeased to see you abandon your post."
"That is easily remedied, as you well know! I could remain as the school brewer, while spending my extra time researching Cruciatus relief, or a cure for lycanthropy, or any of a dozen other things. I'm the first in almost two centuries who's had to teach and stock the hospital wing, and the last person to do so only had to do so for a year!"
"If you feeling overwhelmed, my boy, then by all means, you can give your brewing duties to someone else."
"I am fully capable of brewing. I object to teaching useless dunderheads! You are wasting –"
Dumbledore raised a hand, no longer amused. "Enough. I refuse to accept your resignation. I will expect you to send Minerva next year's syllabus in two weeks so that she can prepare the book list."
He handed Snape's resignation back to him. Snape snarled, and then strode angrily to the office door. As he threw it open, he glanced back at Dumbledore and said, voice soft but tight with anger, "Your mismanagement of resources nearly cost you the first war, old man. You should have learnt from your mistakes."
Minerva McGonagall was already having a bad day when she ran – almost literally – into Sybill Trelawney. The students had left for the summer holidays, but she had a number of housekeeping tasks on her plate to ensure that Hogwarts continued to run smoothly. For the first time in almost 15 years (Since the war, she thought sadly), Dumbledore was too busy to handle many of his end-of-term duties and had instead delegated them to her. After several hours, she had finally finished updating the wards protecting the merfolk from the Giant Squid, and she was on her way to her kitchens to beg a well-earned cup of tea from the house elves.
I deserve something after all that swimming, she thought.Cats – even animagus cats – do not appreciate immersion.
Just as she was reaching out to tickle the pear in the portrait leading to the kitchens, it swung open. Trelawney nearly tumbled into Minerva before righting herself.
"Ah, Minerva, I was warned that my solitude in the kitchens would soon be interrupted," she said in her normal ethereal tones.
Minerva pursed her lips. "And yet you still neatly toppled over upon my arrival. Remarkable."
"Alas, the stresses of the inner eye can affect even the most well-coordinated of us when a vision strikes."
"You don't say."
"And it can be a terrible burden. To know the future, yet be helpless to change your fate. I simply hope that my warning let that that poor, poor Diggory boy prepare himself for the inevitable."
Minerva's rage and grief exploded. "How dare you! Leave Mr. Diggory out of your – your – pretenses!"
Trelawney glared at Minerva and snapped, her voice losing some of its etherealness, "Just because you fail –" Her voice suddenly changed midsentence, becoming deep and harsh, as though it came from someone else.
The choice of the half-blood prince will determine the course of the war. Desired by the Dark Lord, ignored by the greater good, their trust will be paid in kind.The choice of the half-blood prince will determine the course of the war.
"– to rise above the mundane, does not mean that we all do!" Trelawney finished, restored to her normal voice.
Minerva was shocked. Was that a true prophecy? She'd normally reject the idea out of hand, but...According to Albus, You-Know-Who believed in them, and Albus didtell the Order to increase security at the Department of Mysteries...
"What did you say, Sybill?" she asked, her voice shaking slightly.
Trelawney looked slightly smug that Minerva had taken her admonition to heart "I said that, despite your lamentable grounding in the mundane, some of us are able to ascend to the spiritual plane and are able to see –"
"Yes, that's what I thought," said Minerva, turning back from the entrance to the kitchens and walking briskly to the headmaster's office, while thinking, She doesn't remember. Her lies are never thatconvincing. I need to see Albus.
"Sugar quills," she told the gargoyle. It leapt aside, and she quickly ascended the spiral staircase. Before she reached to the griffin knocker, the door swung open. Twice in only a few minutes, she thought.
Severus Snape stood before the now open door, his expression murderous as he glanced back at Dumbledore. Not that the expression was at all unusual for him.
"Your mismanagement of resources nearly cost you the first war, old man. You should have learnt from your mistakes," he said, voice low. His fist curled around a parchment in his hand. For a moment, Minerva thought that he would throw it to the floor. Instead, he visibly calmed himself and stood aside to let her through. Nodding once in her direction, he swooped out of the room like the overgrown bat students so often accused him of being. The door slammed shut behind him.
"Should I even ask what that was about?" Minerva said.
"Just his annual request about his teaching post. I'm certain he'll be back to his usual good humor soon."
Minerva snorted softly. "Denied him the Defense position again?"
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "He is an exceptional Potions professor. It would be such a shame to lose him. But surely you didn't come here for that?"
"Indeed not. I ran into Sybill earlier and I am concerned by what she said. I think . . . I think she may have made a true prophecy."
Dumbledore's demeanor became instantly grave. "From you, that is a very serious statement. Can you show me?" He gestured to his pensieve.
Minerva nodded, and used her wand to extract a shining silver strand and deposit it in the waiting pensieve. Dumbledore entered it, and then returned a few moments later, looking contemplative. From his perch, Fawkes seemed to sense his master's concern. He trilled softly.
Dumbledore went over and absently patted Fawkes's head. A few feathers fell out; the normally vibrant phoenix was nearing his burning day. "I agree with your assessment. That was almost certainly a true prophecy. Her third, unless I am much mistaken. You were absolutely correct to bring this to me."
Her suspicions confirmed, Minerva's knees trembled.
"Albus, do you know to whom the prophecy refers?"
"Alas, Minerva, I do not."
To Minerva, hearing Albus Dumbledore admit ignorance was normally a comforting reminder that even the most powerful of wizards are still human. Today, though, it only underscored her own anxiety.
"Given his prejudices, there are very few half-bloods that Voldemort would seek to actively recruit, especially ones whom Grindlewald apparently ignored."
"Grindlewald?" Minerva asked, skeptical. It was true that "the greater good" had been the former dark lord's motto, but she had rather thought that phrase in the prophecy referred to Albus himself.
"'The Greater Good' was his motto, if you recall."
"I take it you disagree?"
"I've known someone else to use that phrase fairly often."
"Ah. Well, perhaps you are right. If so, then I am truly at a loss. Do you know a half-blood prince I've been ignoring lately?" Dumbledore's eyes sparkled.
Minerva did not.
"Very well. I shall have to ask Severus to let me know if Voldemort seems eager to recruit a particular half-blood." With a wave of his wand, Dumbledore summoned his silvery patronus. It looked at him briefly before rushing out of the office. "I would ask you to please refrain from mentioning the particulars of Sybill's prophecy to anyone else, including him. It could be dangerous if any hint of this reaches Voldemort."
Minerva nodded. "Of course."
"In the meantime, can I offer you a cup of tea?"
When Snape knocked on the door of the office several minutes later, Minerva was nursing her much needed cup of tea.
"Ah, Severus, thank you for coming. Sherbet lemon?" Dumbledore offered.
Snape glared. "Skip the pleasantries. What do you want that you couldn't say twenty minutes ago? Or have you finally changed your mind?"
"No, I still believe you are best suited teaching potions. Rather, some new information has come to the Order's attention, and I have a few questions that you might be able to help with. Please, take a seat."
Glancing briefly at Minerva, Snape scowled and sat in the chair to her left.
"Has Voldemort mentioned anyone who might be termed a 'half-blood prince?'?"
There was silence for a long minute. When Snape finally spoke, his voice was quiet, subdued. "Why do you ask?"
"I'm afraid I cannot reveal the particulars, but I have it on excellent authority that this person will be crucial to enlist in the war effort. Or, at the very least, to prevent from falling into Voldemort's camp," Dumbledore replied.
Snape's expression flickered briefly in anger before falling into an emotionless mask.
"And who might this 'excellent authority' be?" Snape's eyes flicked from Dumbledore to Minerva as he spoke.
"Alas, I fear I must keep their identity under the strictest confidence. But I assure you, my boy, that the information can be trusted."
Snape fell silent again. When he finally spoke, it was in slow, measured thoughts. "The Dark Lord rarely takes an interest in half-bloods, although there are, obviously, exceptions to that rule. Those who, like Potter," he almost spat the name, "oppose him and yet live. Given the brat's status in our world, and his presumed wealth, he could be deemed a 'prince.'"
Dumbledore considered this only briefly. "No, I do not believe that Harry is the one meant. Are there any others you can think of?"
"While knowing nothing of the context?" Snape's tone was bitter. "No, headmaster, there are no others. Perhaps, should you ever see fit to trust me, I can be of more use." He stood. "If there is nothing else?"
Dumbledore stared at Snape for several long minutes. As the silence stretched, Minerva felt horribly awkward. The two men seemed to have forgotten she was in the room. The headmaster was clearly using legilimancy on his spy, and she did not want to sit here, watching as he violated Snape's mind. She acknowledged it as a necessity in the beginning, during the first war, before the man's loyalties had been proven. But now? Did Dumbledore no longer trust his spy?
Minerva reminded herself that this was not Severus her temperamental colleague. No, this was Snape the spy, the master occlumens who could lie to You-Know-Who himself.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, Dumbledore broke the contact.
"Satisfied? Or would you care to try again? I am certain that there are some depths of my soul that you have not yet plumbed." Snape practically hissed the words.
Dumbledore raised a placating hand. "I am truly sorry, my boy, but I had to be certain. I trust you will keep me informed if you do learn anything?"
Snape sneered, and then stormed out of the office. Once he had left, Minerva raised an eyebrow and asked Dumbledore, condemnation leaking into her voice, "Was that truly necessary?"
The headmaster sighed. "Perhaps not. Severus was telling the truth. He has no more idea about our mysterious prince than we do."