Summary: The first war against Voldemort is at its height, the Order of the Pheonix has just gained a potenitally valuable spy. But to prepare him for his ordeal Dumbledore needs the help of the last person he sent to spy on a dark lord, even though he has never forgiven himself for all but destroying her.
Disclaimer: Don't own the characters, don't have any money.Repentence - part 1
"You wanted to see me Headmaster?" At the sound of her voice he turned away from the window, from the stark beauty of the moonlit grounds. Just for a moment he saw her not as she was now – capable, stern, perhaps even cold – but as she had been almost half a century before – young, brave and so very frightened.
He flicked the memory away and focussed once more on the woman who stood before him, "I need your help Professor McGonagall."
"Of course," on another day she might have made a dry, acerbic comment about paperwork, or bureaucracy but today there was nothing more than mild curiosity in her tone. He gestured to the chairs in front of the fire and when they were both seated and he had poured tea he said,
"Severus Snape came to me a day ago."
"Snape! What did he want?"
"He wanted my help – he has repented of his decision to become a death eater, he is asking us to help him."
"Poor boy." It was true that Snape was little more than a boy, but he was surprised at her sympathy.
"The lioness shows mercy to the snake, to the death eater?" he remarked softly. The Head of Gryffindor House, his ally, loyal deputy and for many years his close friend raised her head to look steadily across the table at him.
"I show mercy because I can imagine the choice that faces him – have you told him yet Albus? That his only chance to avoid Azkaban is to turn spy?"
"No, I haven't told him yet." But they both knew that he would, "I'd like you there when I do and, if he agrees to return to Tom as our spy I will need your help to prepare him." For a moment her fingers tightened on the cup she held, but she placed it back on the saucer, as careful and precise as ever, and nodded.
"Of course, I'll do whatever I can do to help."
The second memory was more powerful, for all that it was years old. It was 1944, the war against Grindelwald and his muggle ally Hitler had slowly turned in their favour and as Albus Dumbledorewalked briskly through the Ministry of Magic he had felt, for the first time in years, an air of cautious optimism.
He'd been summoned from Hogwarts that morning, a summons that had been both urgent and top secret – and now he was on his way to meet his contact Alastor Moody. At the sound of his name he turned and Moody hurried towards him, his face twisted into a scowl.
"Come with me." He'd followed through long corridors; down, down into the depths of the Ministry, to the places where secrets and other unmentionables were kept locked away.
"Alastor – what's going on?"
"A break – perhaps a way to get him." There was no doubt at all whom he meant, Grindelwald had decimated the magical community and his ally had laid waste to most of Europe. They were all weary and worn down from the years of war – but still they fought. The alternative was unthinkable. "But it could be a trick, a trap, a double-agent. We need to be sure, constant vigilance is the only thing that has kept us alive this long." Since Moody was an extremely successful hunter of dark wizards there was little doubt that 'constant vigilance' was important. Unfortunately it sometimes meant that his explanations were lacking in information.
"Are you saying we have a spy, close to Grindelwald, a double-agent?"
"We've been approached, if it's true – it could be the beginning of the end." They entered a room where two Aurors stood guard. Dumbledore could still remember the first moment of shock when he realised their prisoner was a small tabby cat.
"This is the double agent who is going to end the war?" He said, amused in spite of himself and not even remotely surprised when the cat blinked out of existence with a soft pop to be replaced by – and this he wasn't expecting – a young woman.
Her dark hair was bound in a messy knot, her skin was so pale it was almost translucent and the eyes that flicked over him with an assessing gaze, were as wary and watchful as those of the cat she'd been just moments before.
"This is Minerva McGonagall," Moody said, "she apparated into one of my colleague's homes this morning and offered to spy for us."
Normally the young woman would probably not have been taken seriously, she would probably have been viewed as unstable, perhaps even been sent to St Mungo's. But apparating into an auror's home showed nerve and skill and then there was the name, that name.
"It's been some years Miss McGonagall," Dumbledore said, "I was sorry to lose you from my class – and from my House."
"I was sorry to leave Professor." He couldn't believe he hadn't recognised her – but perhaps it wasn't so surprising. She had barely been in her second year when her father had removed her from Hogwarts, insisting that she complete her education at Beaubaxtons. She had been a tiny, fragile thing then, but with an explosive temper and an inquisitive intelligence that had cried out to be stretched and challenged. The fact that she was an animagi so young was proof that he hadn't been wrong about her potential. He had scarcely given her a thought since her departure all those years before – but he should have done – especially because her father had become one of Grindelwald's strongest supporters.
"I take it you don't share you father's loyalties?"
"I've been living in Scotland," she said quietly, "the war made it impossible for me to complete my studies. But, I've been nursing and working on my, animagus transformation. Two months ago my father summoned me to Germany, he fears his influence is waning, that he is losing his place within the inner circle. He hopes that I will be an inducement to restore my family's favour." She'd tilted her chin up, her words making it completely clear what her return would involve, what they might be sending her back to.
If they were to use her as a spy he would have to help her, prepare her. Before they even got that far he would have to try to discover whether or not she was telling the truth. He'd have to look inside her mind, discover who she really was – friend or foe.
He blinked and the memory faded. In the study his Deputy met his eyes for a single instant and then she looked away. But, it was enough - and he knew instinctively that she had been remembering as well. He fought back the guilt that rose, like bile, in his throat. All those years ago he had helped to destroy the woman she'd been. He wanted to believe that it would be different with Severus Snape. But they were at war again, he knew he could make no such promises and worse, he knew she would not ask them of him.