Summary: A demon, a sword, and a 500 year old grudge comes back to haunt Professor McGonagall. Highlander – Harry Potter crossover. Canon: Harry Potter post-Order of the Phoenix, Highlander post-Archangel. Highlander characters and concepts belong to Panzer/Davis Productions; Harry Potter's world belongs to JK Rowling.
The day began much the same as every other day at Hogwarts. The staff went about their business, the ghosts chattered amongst themselves, the more active miscreants amongst the students lost themselves House points and gained detentions, and the Daily Prophet was filled with meaningless gossip. Still, Snape felt strangely uneasy. His Dark Mark was neither more nor less quiescent than usual; even the Dark Lord seemed to have settled into a steady pattern for the autumn.
There was absolutely nothing going on. Perhaps that was the cause for his disquiet: it was rare now that a day went exactly as expected. This one was no exception, though the Potions Master was forced to abide until dinner to discover what new and interesting information would dictate another change in the course of his life.
The dinner progressed ordinarily enough, until a soft chime sounded at the staff table. A small pop followed, coinciding with the appearance of a long metal object in front of Professor McGonagall. It lay there: solid, unmoving. The staff who noticed the sudden addition to their table – and there were few, occupied as they were with their own conversations and concerns – looked askance at McGonagall, who for her part stared at the thing in surprise. Leaning forward around the oblivious form of this year's Defence professor, Snape identified the object as a sword, heavy in make. It was, if he was not mistaken, an antique Scottish claymore.
Dumbledore raised white eyebrows at his Deputy Headmistress. "Minerva?" he enquired gently. "A delivery you were expecting?"
McGonagall started, and looked up to meet the clear blue gaze. Her stern features seemed to have aged dramatically with the appearance of the object. Her face was ashen. "No, Albus, I was not. It is a private matter, though." She swallowed heavily, and Snape noted the moisture gathering at the corners of her eyes. "If you would excuse me, I have some family business to attend to." So saying, McGonagall rose, grasped the sword by its worn hilt, and left the hall. A small dark stain slashed across the table where it had rested.
The noise level in the hall dimmed momentarily as those who noticed the Transfiguration professor's departure paused in their conversations. It was a small distraction, however, and most of the students returned to their meals. Three of the older students sitting at the red and gold table watched for a moment longer, concern in their expressions for their Head of House, but they too eventually turned to more immediate matters.
Dumbledore looked down the table and met Snape's gaze. The message in the twinkling cerulean irises was clear. Snape nodded slightly and turned back to his meal. Thirty minutes later, his plate cleared, he left the great hall.
He found McGonagall behind the locked door of her office, sitting in her chair, the sword resting across her lap. The light seemed dim, for all that the sun shone brightly through rare gaps in the clouds beyond the leaded windows. Wet trails glistened on her cheeks, tracing a line to the damp high collars of her robes. She glanced up as he entered, and turned her head away. Snape said nothing, standing in a silence that allowed her privacy and offered support. At last, she sighed heavily.
Snape stirred, as if the soft noise was a cue for him to speak. "There is blood on the edge," he said quietly. He was not normally a patient man, nor a sympathetic one, but he recognized deep grief and he acted accordingly.
"It is his," McGonagall replied. Her voice was shaky, lacking the tight control she had displayed in front of the students.
"Meriadoc. My brother." Snape did not speak. She continued, "This sword was also his. It is a family heirloom. Upon the death of the Clan chieftain, it portkeys to the successor."
"Ah." There was little Snape could say to that. He had not remembered that his colleague had had a brother. The news of his death, delivered in such an abrupt manner, had hit her hard. The Order had boasted two McGonagalls once, he remembered now, in the previous war. In that direction lay a question he feared to ask, but did so nonetheless. "The Dark Lord?"
"No." Her response was immediate; she did not acknowledge Snape's momentary relief. "We were not close, Meriadoc and I. He was in the Americas researching Clan history. I had not seen him for years. I don't know the exact details of what he was working on, but he was close to completion. His reports will be in the Clan vault."
Snape's brow furrowed. McGonagall, who normally talked as clearly and straightforwardly as she taught, was now revealing information in tiny snippets that made no sense without the proper context. "What history does the McGonagall Clan claim in the Americas? I was under the impression that the McGonagalls have never left Scotland."
McGonagall canted her head in agreement. "The destiny of this sword." She gripped the claymore lightly. "The search for it has claimed many of us."
It was a strange destiny that led its wielder to death; for all the stories and legends, and the histories written in dense prose mouldering deep within the depths of private libraries, such destinies were rare. The wizarding community of the Americas, so far as Snape knew, was not given to dark lords and the bloody conflicts that occurred within the more hidebound pureblood societies. "Will you be leaving us to chase this destiny?"
Hesitating, McGonagall met his gaze. Her eyes were red-rimmed and dark with sorrow. He could see clearly the thoughts that crossed her expression: fear, worry for the school, grief, the burden of Clan honour that demanded retribution for her slain brother and, at the last, determination. "No," she said. "It is in the Americas. It will not touch us here, and Albus needs us all in these times."
Snape nodded, satisfied.
But she was wrong, or had reason to doubt her assessment, for it was not long before three of her Gryffindors were to be found discussing their Head of House in a secluded corner of the library. It was a neat corner, far away from Madam Pince and wandering students, dusty and filled with obscure and trite books that no sane person, not even a Ravenclaw, would wish to waste time reading. It was of course Hermione Granger who led them to the library, and the two boys who found such a place useless for studying and perfect for hidden conversations. They could talk here without fear of attracting the attention of the formidable Library mistress.
"She's been acting odd lately," the dark haired boy said. "I heard a second year Hufflepuff say she nearly bit his head off for doing a spell wrong."
"She's not eating," the bushy haired girl continued. "She looks like she hasn't been sleeping. And she's always got that sword with her."
"It's scary," the red haired boy spoke in turn. "She jumps at the slightest noise, and she's always touching the thing. I've seen her on the Astronomy tower too, always looking at the Forest. It's odd."
"What were you doing on the tower, Ron?" Harry asked, the spark of a mischievous grin curling his lips.
Ron flushed red. "Never you mind." He hurried on with the original topic before his friends could get sidetracked. "She gets an odd look at dinner too, and she's always watching Harry. D'you reckon she might be polyjuiced?'
The three looked horrified at the thought.
After a moment, though, Harry shook his head. "No. She's not drinking anything, not like Barty Crouch did. It's something else. I reckon it's that sword. Did you see her face when it appeared last month?"
"Like someone had died," Hermione said. Her eyes widened. "Do you think maybe someone did?"
"But then why's she looking at Harry like that? And she carries the sword around with her everywhere. I heard one of the Slytherins say she saw dried blood on it."
Another short contemplative silence followed.
Ron spoke slowly. "Do you think maybe we should do something? Find out what's wrong, or something. We don't want her going after Harry."
"Ron!" Hermione exclaimed. "Professor McGonagall wouldn't do that!"
"No, but . . . if she's not herself . . . And the school year isn't complete until at least one of the professors tries to kill Harry."
Harry just looked tired. He didn't bother trying to refute the comment that had proven itself all too true since the beginning of his schooling. "She is acting odd lately. Maybe we should find out what's going on."
The three students jumped as the low silky voice emanated from the shadows. Professor Snape stepped out of them, looking exactly like the vampire some of the lower years thought he was. Pale-faced, with strands of dark hair hanging in front of black eyes, he was a fearsome sight even for the three most used to him appearing like this.
"Professor Snape!" Hermione said. Her cheeks were red. "We were just–"
"Conspiring against a professor. Your own Head of House, no less," Snape interrupted. There was a dark, dry humour in his voice, but his eyes lacked the malice that would burn in them during class. The three children who had once regarded him as evil incarnate and their greatest tormentor had come to see him in a different light during their close association with the Order of the Phoenix. Older, less prone to seeing everything in terms of absolutes, they had come to a small understanding of the role he played in the war that intruded on their lives and the many risks he took to protect them all, especially the son of his childhood nemesis. He would never be their favourite professor, but they respected him. Their behaviour reflected this maturing perception. Consequently, when not playing a public charade, he treated them with greater tolerance. It was a change in relations that suited them all.
It did not, however, decrease his effectiveness as their professor – and oft times disciplinarian. The three looked abashed.
"We're just worried about Professor McGonagall," Harry explained. A true Gryffindor, he did nothing tentatively, but he was nevertheless somewhat leery of doing anything that might cause the previous rivalry to flare again. He liked not fighting against his professor, who almost always won in any case. "Is she alright, sir?"
"You did not think to ask her yourself, Mr Potter?"
"We thought it wouldn't be polite – and anyway, if she's a polyjuiced Death Eater or something, we didn't want to let her know that we know."
A dark sardonic eyebrow rose. "After seven years you have learnt the meaning of tact and caution. Thank Merlin for small mercies." There was a pause while the dark haired boy flushed again, keeping silent. "Be assured that your Head of House is not using polyjuice. Nor is she under any malicious influence – even mine." The three students winced at that, but did not protest under his knowing gaze. "Miss Granger is correct: a member of Professor McGonagall's family has indeed died. Do continue to demonstrate your newfound talent for discretion and refrain from confronting her with your suspicions."
"Oh," Hermione breathed, dismayed. "I hadn't really – I mean–"
"Are you sure that's all?" Ron interrupted. "She keeps looking at Harry odd."
Black eyes pinned Ron to his chair. He squirmed, but met the considering gaze adamantly. Snape turned his focus on Harry for a moment. He said, "I would imagine that her bother's demise has come as a great shock. Given Mr Potter's propensity for involvement in dangerous situations, she no doubt wishes to ensure that he avoids the same fate."
"It – it isn't anything to do with Voldemort?" persisted Harry. Worried green eyes looked up at Snape beseechingly.
"I am not aware of any such connection," Snape replied, grudging, as if reluctant to provide even that small reassurance when he could not be absolutely certain. "Mr Potter, Mr Weasley, Miss Granger, do concentrate on your studies and do not repeat our discussion where others might hear. Professor McGonagall will not appreciate your interference in her personal affairs." A final glare swept over them all before he pivoted and retreated beyond the bookshelves, black robes billowing behind him.
The three Gryffindors sat in silence for several minutes after his departure. Almost as one, they relaxed postures that had instinctively stiffened in the presence of their demanding professor.
"Greasy git," Ron breathed. It was an automatic response, lacking any real feeling.
Hermione's reproving glare was also automatic, an act repeated so many times it had lost meaning. "What are we going to do?"
"What Snape said," Harry replied. "He's right: McGonagall doesn't need us tripping over her feet. Let's just go easy on her for the moment, okay? She's got enough problems already."
"We don't cause her problems," Ron objected.
"No?" asked Hermione pointedly. "Who was it got detention today for not finishing their Transfigurations assignment?"
"Just do it, already. And Harry, try not to get into a fight with the Defence professor this year, alright?"
"Hey!" Harry objected, mirth dancing in his eyes at her mock-serious tone. "It's not like I ask them to try to kill me."
"Yes, Harry, whatever you say." The condescension in her voice was ruined by the giggle that immediately followed. The serious discussion degenerated into a series of jokes, if of a somewhat dark nature, and the puzzle of McGonagall's behaviour was resolved for the moment. The offending Transfigurations assignment was eventually finished before they left the library.
It was after curfew by this time, not an unusual occurrence for these three. Hermione and Ron were immune to Filch's wanderings, but Harry was neither headgirl nor prefect – much to his private relief. The three had no desire to explain themselves to Madam Pince should she find them, and so determined to use Harry's Map and invisibility cloak to return to their common room.
"Harry." The red haired boy was staring at the old tattered parchment, his brow creased.
"Yeah?" Busy pulling out his invisibility cloak, Harry did not look up.
"What's that?" Ron pointed to a dot on the Marauder's Map. It was stationary, sitting in one of the many offices, but definitely belonged to someone or something – and it wasn't labelled.
"That's odd." Harry frowned, coming to stare at the nameless point. "I've never seen the Map make a mistake before." He tapped the Map with his wand and muttered a few words. Captions swirled across the parchment surface. "What's a nameless person doing in the Muggle Studies professor's office? Who is the Muggle Studies professor, anyway?"
"Adam Green," the voice of the headgirl broke in. Hermione came to stand behind them. "Honestly, Harry, he was introduced at the beginning of the year. What's the matter?"
"There's something in Green's office that isn't labelled," Harry explained, showing her. "It's strange."
"I've never seen that before." Hermione frowned in perplexity. "Do you think the Marauders made a mistake?"
"If they did, it isn't one I've seen before."
"You don't think it's anything to do with You-know-who, do you?" Ron asked. He seemed to be asking that a lot lately; the lack of activity from that source had left him increasingly anxious that something big was building.
"With our luck, yes." Harry laughed suddenly. "But in the Muggle Studies office? That's hardly likely."
"Let's go find out," Hermione said abruptly.
Mock surprise widened Ron's eyes. "Why, 'mione, what did you do to the rule-abiding headgirl?"
"Git." She tossed her bushy hair over her shoulder and turned to the dark haired boy with an air of impatience. "Well, Harry? Come on."
Minutes later, having navigated the dangers of poltergeists and caretakers with the ease of long experience and the aid of the Map, the three stood hidden underneath the invisibility cloak, facing the plain door of the Muggle Studies office. Harry checked the Map; the nameless point was still there. Suddenly it started moving, leaving what the Gryffindors assumed was the desk and heading towards the door. They backed away until they were flat against the wall opposite the door.
It opened, spilling warm yellow light out into the dark corridor. A tall, lean man stood in the doorway, scanning the hallway slowly with piercing green-gold eyes. His dark hair was shockingly short for a grown wizard, similar to what the average muggle-born students wore. The face was young and ordinary, its most striking feature the patrician nose. Black jeans and an oversized sweater completed the image of a wholly muggle man, even to the lack of a wand in his hand. He stood there, surveying the dark corridor, for what seemed to be a long time. The Gryffindors held still beneath the cloak, hardly daring to breathe. At last, seemingly satisfied, he stepped back and closed the door, leaving them blinking in the abrupt departure of light.
By unstated consensus they waited until they had reached the Gryffindor common room before speaking.
"Wild," Ron muttered. "How'd he know we were there?"
"Must've heard us outside." Harry shrugged dismissively. "He didn't see us, anyway. That settles it: he's definitely the Muggle Studies professor. But why doesn't Green's name show up on the Map?"
Hermione looked thoughtful. "Why wouldn't a name show up? Either he knows about the Map and figured out a way to fool it – something even the Marauders didn't manage – or he isn't really there, or . . ."
"He is there. Even ghosts show up on the Map. Or what?"
"Or . . . I don't know. Maybe he doesn't have a name."
Harry shook his head. "That's stupid. Of course he has a name – Adam Green."
"But if that isn't his real name, it wouldn't show up," Ron pointed out. "Polyjuice can't fool it. Maybe a fake name wouldn't either. But why wouldn't he have a name?"
The three students sat in silence before the roaring fireplace.
"The Muggle Studies professor," Harry muttered in disgust. "It makes a change from DADA, at least."
"We don't know that he's a Death Eater," Hermione pointed out.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Of course not. A nameless professor, new this year, at Hogwarts? Of course he's got nothing to do with Harry."
With that, they bade each other good night and left to sleep.