Chapter 1: Genuine Friends
Author's note: Chapter 1 was betaed by InkandPaper and cardigrl – thank you both! Thanks go also to Esmestrella for her helpful comments on cardigrl's Lifejournal.
Summary of 1981: The last year of the first 'Voldemort war' at Hogwarts – from a staff meeting held in April 1981, to January 1982 with main focus on the newly-employed Professor Snape. No original characters if I could avoid using them, absolutely canon until the end of HBP; DH acknowledged partly.
In essential, 1981 is my try to answer the open questions from books 1-6. DH is not my favourite book, I am afraid, especially because of its lack on answers. Hopefully, 1981 can at least partially remedy for it. (-: DH compatible is Snape's longtime friendship with Lily and him knowing Petunia Dursley as well as some other details. Incompatible is manipulative but still rather kind Albus Dumbledore.
Reviews: Yes, please. I found out that I really appreciate feedback! (-:
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters you are going to encounter here. This applies to all the chapters.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Late June 1992
A strict-looking lady dressed in tartan knocked on the door in front of her. Once – twice – three times.
"Severus Snape, I know you're in there! Open this door!" She hammered on the door again, sounding slightly impatient. It isn't that late, she thought.
The door creaked open, revealing a much younger but equally severe-looking man, clothed all in black. "What do you want, Minerva?" he scowled. "I am in no mood for friendly chatter. Come again tomorrow when the brats are away, or, even better, next week. I may be better company by then."
This said, the man tried to close the door. Minerva didn't let him; ignoring his protests, she pushed her way inside.
"What else does one expect from a Gryffindor?" muttered the man, with a frown.
"I heard that, Professor!" Minerva turned abruptly. Her tone was as strict as her face, but Snape noticed the suppressed amusement.
"Minerva..." he began.
"Oh, forget it. I know why you said it. Strange as it may sound, I'm not at all proud of my students. And I don't agree with Dumbledore's decision either, in case you were wondering." Minerva smiled sadly at him, and was glad when her younger colleague finally waved his hand in the direction of the sofa by the fireplace.
As always, the dungeons seemed cold to Minerva, and she immediately pointed her wand at the fireplace. Surprised, she realised that Severus had ordered drinks; a house elf started to serve them. Snape observed her with a curious look, his bad mood apparently disappearing for the time being.
"I trust congratulationsare in order, Professor McGonagall," he said in his familiar velvety voice, glass raised. Minerva noticed that the voice lacked its usual sarcasm, instead sounding rather disappointed. She suddenly felt worse.
"Severus, not like this, if you will ... Dumbledore meant well, I think, but he is not the one who has to deal with those children on a regular basis. How many times has he spoken to Potter this year? Once? Twice? In the hospital wing earlier this week, after that Quidditch match you refereed, and perhaps once or twice more. While I will have to watch those three – I don't count Longbottom –" she saw Snape smirk at this "– next year. Oh, my ... how does he do it? Why do we two always have to play the Aurors here, while Dumbledore remains his ever-smiling grandfatherly self?"
"Experience, Minerva?" Snape suggested. "He is far older than both of us. And he is simply a very clever old man. A very annoyingclever old man." Snape frowned. "I have profited from this, so perhaps I should not complain. But I am afraid that Dumbledore has again forgotten that this school has four Houses."
"And, clearly, yours is the one in the most danger – yet you can do only so much to convince the children what is right," nodded Minerva. "Severus, I wished nothing else than for Gryffindor to win the House Cup this year. For six years it has been down in these dungeons, but your students earned the honour. Mine should have been given a detention, not a reward." She took a hearty sip from her glass.
Snape raised an eyebrow disbelievingly. "No complaints about me taking too many points to ensure my House's victory this year?"
"I can't blame you for taking points from Longbottom and the Weasley twins, can I? And Harry...well, I know your history with his father, and, while he seems different to me, I can't say he hasn't inherited any of James's recklessness. Fighting a mountain troll after two months of magical education? They're lucky to be alive! And I won't talk about this last adventure, if you don't mind." Minerva sighed, then smiled briefly in Snape's direction. "Judging by Poppy's occasional tirades on your behalf, you teach the most dangerous class at Hogwarts. Do as you see fit, providing you keep the children in line and unharmed. I won't complain – much – so long as your students don't break down in tears during your lessons... "
Snape flushed, fleetingly, but McGonagall, gazing at the amber liquid in her glass, did not notice.
"I don't mollycoddle them either," she said. "We have Dumbledore for that, don't we? 'Sherbet lemon?'" she mimicked. The corners of Snape's mouth twitched in clear amusement. "You know what, Severus?" continued Minerva, suppressing a smile of her own. "I am starting to think we have six very difficult years to come – I don't even like to think about what may await us." She smiled gratefully at him, then. "Thank you for saving Potter's life this year – twice? You sent for Dumbledore last week, didn't you?" Not waiting for his confirmation, she nodded. "Yes – who else would? I didn't even listen to them when they came to me for help." She sounded sad once more; again, she drank from the glass Snape had ordered for her, drowning her mood.
"Well, at least you haven't ended up as the villain of the year," smirked her companion. "As if I haven't had enough of that in my life."
She laughed at Snape's tone. "That's down to experience, Severus. Dumbledore should envy you. You're much better at playing the villain than he is the doting grandfather – when you choose to. And it's entirely your fault. You-Know-Who wouldn't blame you for being nice, not if he thought you were doing it to keep Dumbledore's trust."
"Wouldn't He?" Snape sobered. "Minerva, He would blame me for many other things and this could be the limit. Iam not a Gryffindor to risk it – and your students don't deserve kid-glove treatment from me, anyway." He paused. Then, with a look rather like a child looking forward to Christmas, he asked, "Do you have the chart here? I can't wait to learn how badly Gryffindor would do, without my prejudice against your House." Minerva shook her head at this turn in the conversation, but reached inside her robes nevertheless.
It had always been a tradition of theirs. Ever since Slytherin had won the House Cup for the first time in this rather long string of victories, Minerva had started to interview Snape on his points-taking. He, probably trying desperately to annoy her, had been informing her about all the failures and rudeness that her students had been punished for.
Oh, they had argued about being too harsh to the younger children, but in the end, Minerva had been surprised that Snape had somehow managed to be actually rather fair. The first-years had almost never been robbed of more than several single points and the older students preferably given a detention. And when points hadbeen taken, the deductions had been well deserved. Most of the time, anyway. There had also been bad days, when Snape had tended to be as unpleasant as only he could. But she had had those bad days, as well...
Severus took the chart and studied it for a few seconds. Clearly surprised about something, he lifted that eyebrow again. Then he laughed openly. "Minerva," he shook his head, "you are so damned fair that it hurts me. Have I really only taken 38 points unfairly from your House, over the whole year? The year thewonder of the wizarding world entered Hogwarts? I would think it was more. Much more, actually..."
Minerva blushed. "I refuse to count the points that the Weasley twins and Longbottom lost. I have them in my classes, too. And while you take more points from them than you probably should, I can't usually bring myself to take any... just take it as though half of those points should have been taken by me. The rest was probably well deserved."
Severus stared at her for a moment, a rare genuine smile forming on his face. "Minerva, you certainly know how to improve my mood! While I am thankful to Dumbledore for giving me the job here when I needed it most, I don't think I would have stayed this long if not for you – and Poppy," he added fondly. "Let us celebrate your triumph properly. I can still console myself with the thought that Gryffindor has managed to win only once in seven years, while my House has won six times!And remember – the Cup you have really wanted, the Quidditch one, is still not yours! Remind me to thank Flitwick once again tomorrow for the wonderful charm he taught the Ravenclaw players, that sped up their brooms. " Snape's face lit up in an unmistakably happy grin.
"Severus Snape! Filius wouldn't cheat like that!" Minerva roared. "And you, you just wait till next year!"
"Should I be afraid? Don't be silly," Snape smirked. "The only good luck you've had is that Dumbledore has let the boy play – against the rules, if I may remind you. What would your team do without Potter? You saw them last week, didn't you?"
Minerva shot an angry glare in his direction. "Unlike your students, mine at least play fair!"
"Do they?" Snape stretched his legs comfortably and played with his glass. After a while, he said quietly, "I seem to recall a match I once refereed ... if that was fair play, then I am the Headmaster."
"The white beard would suit you – until someone set it on fire again," she said jokingly.
"Minerva!" Severus stood, pretending to be annoyed.
"Oh, forget it! I just regret not seeing your expression the moment you found out," she replied, her mouth twitching.
He shook his head, stepped to the fireplace and refilled his glass from one of the bottles standing on the mantelpiece. "Minerva, Minerva ... and I am supposed to be the 'baddie' of this school? How the world can be so easily fooled is beyond me. Pure, fair Gryffindors..."
"You are far too cunning to let all your successes be known. We are not," she smiled.
"Maybe. But if I manage to get Potter expelled next year, I certainly won't keep quiet about it," he told her, with a dangerous smile of his own.
"Come, Severus, you know Dumbledore would never let you!"
"Wouldn't he?" countered Severus. "Maybe he would ... you never know with him. Dangerously lenient in some cases, while entirely too severe in others." He paused. "Nevertheless, you are probably right. But if I am lucky, and catch the boy sneaking through the corridors at night again, I may yet find a better punishment for him." He turned away, as if deep in thought. "Yes, yes, that's it! What would you think about a suspension from Quidditch? For a year – or even longer?"
"Professor! I should hope he would behave better than to deserve that!"
Snape paused, tracing his thin lips with a finger. "Well… I can imagine some actions that would be deemed reprehensible enough," he said. "Have you ever thought about just where his dear godfather's flying motorcycle disappeared to?" Minerva eyed Severus angrily. No need to remind me that the criminal Sirius Black was in my House!
"Yes, yes," continued Snape. "A mountain troll, a three-headed dog named Fluffy," – saying this, he sounded more than a little sarcastic – "and the Dark Lord in person, even if only under a turban, in the first school-year of the famous Boy Who Lived. Well, I would say a vampire, a dragon and a flying motorcycle – to escape problems – would be fitting additions our boy wonder's second year ... What do you think, Minerva? I couldn't keep Dumbledore from giving the boy Potter's Invisibility Cloak – let's see how wise he will be concerning the damned motorcycle..."
He is simply terrible, thought Minerva half an hour later, when leaving the dungeons. A flying motorcycle! The boy is far too young to be able to handle it. Driving those Muggle inventions is rumoured to be rather complicated, after all. But Dumbledore may come up with that idea – I will have to speak with him soon about that. Then she smiled inwardly. You are horible, Severus. But it feels good to have you here.
Two months later, Minerva should have been thankful to Snape for forewarning her – and he annoyed that his minor Seer talent had shown once again. As predicted, Harry Potter wasn't expelled, either. But unlike Severus, Minerva, who had never claimed to believe in prophecies (and immensely disliked Sybill Trelawney, the Divination fraud currently in residence), attributed her success to the fact she had known Dumbledore for the greater part of her life.
Snape had fumed about the Gryffindors for a week, but then focused his annoyance on the newest Defence 'expert', instead.
McGonagall smiled, realizing this. There had been a time when she had felt much the same about a certain newly-appointed Potions Professor. But while Trelawney had remained a fraud and the Defence 'experts' had thankfully never lasted longer than a year, the Professor in question had proven himself to be worthy of the trust Dumbledore had given him.
Snarky, sarcastic, harsh – even cruel? Well, yes, you can be an annoying bastard if you want, Severus Snape, but Hogwarts wouldn't be the same without you. It would be much less safe – and a much less enjoyable place! The corners of Minerva's mouth turned up. Hard to believe I was the one who objected against your teaching here the most…