I know it sounds stupid, but don't read this story.
If you are interested in a novel-lenght, HBP-compliant, MyBook7 Snape/McGonagall fic, then go and read my story "Nothing like the Sun". I promise this is my best work so far, at least if you're into angsty fics.
Really. I mean it.
"Minerva McGonagall and the Half-Blood Prince" here is a much abridged version of "Nothing like the Sun", which means it is the same plot, but shorter, with lots of scenes missing, in a poor translation and shaky writing style. And with lots of typos. The only reason I did not delete it is because a) I have to admit I am vainly proud of the reviews, and b) because some people want to compare "Nothing like the Sun" to this shortened version.
If you do not already know the plot, do not read this, because it will contain spoilers for "Nothing like the Sun".
PS: If you want to compare "Minerva McGonagall and the Half-Blood Prince" and "Nothing like the Sun", here's a list of what chapters of this version correspond with the chapters of the newly published version. It will be updated with every new chapter of "Nothing like the sun" - so you can still avoid spoilers.
1.) "A Snake's Tale" of this version contains the "Sun" chapters "Prologue and A/N", "Bereaved", and "Tale of the Snake".
The castle doors closed behind Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Minerva McGonagall glanced at the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw hourglasses which she had just filled with an immense amount of rubies and sapphires. Harry and his friends clearly deserved some reward after the brave fight at the Ministry.
Inwardly, Minerva grinned. She had just returned to Hogwarts after her stay at St Mungo's hospital, and in the very first five minutes after arriving had won an argument against Severus Snape. This was going to be a good day.
Minerva allowed herself to lean a little more on her walking stick. She knew perfectly well that she was not as good as new – as she had claimed only a moment ago – but she was darned if she was going to admit that now. Straightening up once more she looked into Snape's face and was surprised to find something like a smile there.
"You know, Minerva, it is good to have you back here."
"Well, you didn't seem too happy about it just a minute ago."
"You really don't know how much I appreciate this? Having one person around who will stand up to me?"
"Someone who will best you, you mean. Severus, you are quite arrogant." A rather small ironic smile accompanied those words.
Snape walked over to where she stood.
"I would have offered to carry your luggage, but as you have already used my students for that purpose – may I offer to escort you to your rooms nevertheless?"
He actually held out his arm for her to take. Now, she was certainly not going to be seen led around the castle as if she was his elderly aunt. It was disturbing how the man sometimes used mockingly good manners for his personal revenge.
"The gesture is charming, Severus, though I think it might be misunderstood. I am perfectly capable of walking on my own."
"Of course." He nodded and turned away.
"But if you would care to accompany me to my office, I would appreciate you having tea with me and filling me in on the latest events around here."
"I shall be delighted," he said dryly, but she saw a little smirk in his eyes.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
One year later
It had been such an awful day. Minerva McGonagall was standing at her open bedroom window, staring into the darkness outside. Really, all of these last few days had been horrible, with the attempt to retrieve and destroy the next of Voldemort's Horcruxes resulting only in Dumbledore's death.
They had buried Dumbledore this very morning and sent the students home one hour later. She was glad it was over now. The ceremony, then the farewell at the Hogwarts Express, and later the dinner with some of the funeral guests who would stay until tomorrow – it had been a little too much. Even after the funeral the people had avoided speaking of Snape. Of course everyone knew by now that Snape was the murderer, that Snape had been a double-agent, and that Snape had fled with the other Death Eaters and Draco Malfoy. But on the day of Dumbledore's burial, people still had remained reluctant to discuss the subject. Talking about Snape was accepting the fact that they had been wrong in their judgement, worse still, that Dumbledore had been wrong in his judgement.
To most of them, that was the worst part of it. Dumbledore had been wrong. He, the greatest of them all, had made a mistake that had ultimately cost his life. Unfortunately, accepting this thought unerringly led to the one other thought most important now: "Where else has he been wrong?"
All the plans for the Order of the Phoenix, all their conclusions about Voldemort's plans, all the help and advice for young Harry that they had planned out - were there mistakes in it? Could the Order go on operating without its leader? It felt like heresy even to think of the possibility that they might have to re-asset everything they knew about Lord Voldemort's plans – or rather, everything they thought they knew about those plans.
In a way, Minerva felt guilty for Dumbledore's death. It had been her who had called Snape's attention to Dumbledore. She had directed Snape towards her now dead best friend. But her rational mind forced her now to accept that it was not her fault, that she had had every reason to trust Severus Snape. Dumbledore had trusted him. Whatever the reason was why Dumbledore had believed Snape to be on their side – she had accepted the fact without ever questioning it.
As a matter of fact, she had liked Snape. Truly, he had never been a pleasant person as long as she remembered back. But he was an interesting character. She remembered the excellent student, drawn to the Dark Arts and intrigued by them. Few of her students had impressed her as much as he had done back in those days. She had liked many, and felt motherly protective of most of them – although she had always been careful not to show it. Things had been different with Snape. Even as a schoolboy, he had shown such potential that she had at times almost considered him an equal.
When he had joined the Death Eaters after school, it had broken her heart. She had expected better, more intelligent choices from him. And later, when he had returned to their side… oh, it had taken years before she had forgiven his mistakes, but she had also felt so proud of his decision to come back. It certainly had not been easy for him. And although he was a horrible teacher and most of the time an unpleasant colleague, she had enjoyed having him around. He had never socialised with the other staff members, but after some time as a teacher, he had taken up the habit of accompanying her on her long walks in the Hogwarts grounds. Once in a while they had played chess – quite a challenge, just like their constant arguments. He was different, that was what she had liked. How wrong she had been to consider him an unusual friend.
Minerva shuddered at the open window even though it was a pleasant, warm summer evening. Closing the window and the drapes, she decided to go to bed and slowly started changing her clothes.
This evening was the first time since Dumbledore's death that she could use to calm down and allow her thoughts to wander. First, there had been so much on her mind - calming the students, arranging for their safe return home, arranging for Dumbledore's funeral. She had been so taken up by the events that she had not had a single moment to herself. Only now she found the time to mourn, and to become entirely conscious of that awful, nagging thought: "Severus Snape murdered Dumbledore. Severus Snape, a man I knew to be a Death Eater once. Severus Snape, whom I trusted nevertheless."
And that Malfoy boy had brought Death Eaters into the school. Death Eaters in Hogwarts, in Dumbledore's stronghold, in her stronghold now. She never would have thought is possible. It was nothing but sheer luck that no one else had been killed.
For the first time in her life, Minerva truly felt old. She had never shied away from responsibility, but now she dreaded the things to come.
Of course, she was the new Headmistress of Hogwarts and would do everything in her might to re-open the school after summer. If there was a way to permanently seal the Room of Requirement and double-check every single one of the safety measures, Hogwarts should become a rather safe place again. Also, if neither Dumbledore nor Harry were present in the school (for some reason Minerva was sure Harry was not going to return) there really was no reason why Voldemort should want to come there soon. The students would be safer at school than at home.
Minerva also feared that she would be asked to take Dumbledore's place as Head of the Order of the Phoenix. She felt not ready for it.
Nobody would vote for Mad-Eye, and she felt positive Lupin would not be willing to take the lead. Minerva's choice of a new leader was Arthur Weasley, but she did not believe Molly would let him do it. The others were too young or too inexperienced – Shacklebolt might be a good leader, but he was not prominent enough within the Order. No, it would have to be her, and not because she was ideal for the post, but because she was the only choice they had. It was not an encouraging thought.
The moment she finally curled up in her bed she knew that she would not be able to sleep. With a deep sigh, she got up again. She might as well take to patrolling the school corridors again, at least that gave her something to do.
With her tartan dressing gown wrapped tightly around her, she took her wand and one of the ever-shining candles with her. Constantly plagued by the same thoughts, she was glad to meet Remus Lupin on the second floor.
All was calm. She had expected nothing else. Not today with all the funeral guests still in the castle.
"Shall I cover for you, Remus?" Minerva asked. "I cannot sleep tonight."
"No, Minerva, but thank you for offering. I think you need rest more than I do. Do go back to bed."
There was a moment of silence, but it was a pleasant silence. Just to think that the man ordering her around was a former student of her… but yet, Remus Lupin had become a close friend. He was someone she nowadays never remembered as a student, just like it had been with James and Lily Potter, even with Sirius Black – and especially with Severus Snape.
Snape again. The memory of his face when she had last seen him was going to haut her for the rest of her life.
"You know, Remus…" Minerva hesitated for a moment before she continued in a warm voice, "I just wondered if you didn't want to spend the night in nicer company than that of knight statues and snoring pictures. I meant what I said. Dumbledore would want you to enjoy being loved by a wonderful woman."
"I really appreciated when you said that. It made things easier, somehow. After all, it's not that I haven't been in love with Tonks for a long time... But she is in London tonight. I send her home after the ceremony. She needs to be well-rested when she shows up for work tomorrow."
Minerva nodded. "That reminds me, I think London is no longer safe for us – I mean, Grimmauld Place isn't safe any more. We will need to decide on a new place. I think Poppy wants to keep Bill in the hospital wing for another night, but then he should be free to go. We ought to hold our next meeting as soon as can be arranged."
"I shall be there when you call," Lupin said.
He was already acting as though she was the new Head of the Order. Minerva tensed; she was just not ready for this. Sensing how uncomfortable she was with the situation, Lupin added after a few seconds:
"You know, we will make this as easy for you as we can. We know how close you and Dumbledore were. Having to replace him must be an ordeal for you."
He paused another moment, pondering if he dared to ask what was on his mind. "Minerva, as we were speaking of love a minute ago… might I ask you a personal question?"
"We never were," Minerva whispered in a small voice before Lupin could continue.
"I'm sorry," he said immediately. "That was too private, I shouldn't have asked – especially at a time like this."
"No, it's alright." She straightened up and looked him in the face. "It's alright, really. People have always wondered. Albus and I were friends, closest friends. We never were lovers."
Lupin relaxed. So did Minerva, she found that it did her surprisingly good to be challenged on the subject of her feelings for the deceased. Lupin decided to go on.
"I must admit I am surprised. Everybody always assumed you two had to be closer that it appeared. It was accepted that you would keep this very private, but there had to be some kind of close relationship – so everyone thought."
"There was a time when I wished for Albus to love me."
Again Minerva was whispering. She did not know why she told Lupin all this. The desire to confide in a friend was overpowering in this night of mourning.
"Do you realise that when I came here as a student, he was older than I am now? Oh, I really fancied him when I was Head Girl, but that was just an immature crush. Later, when we met again, I truly wished for him to fall in love with me. But it could never have worked out – the age difference for one thing, then us working together here, all the travelling and working for the Ministry he did. Not to mention the war against You-Know-Who 15 years ago. Also I came to realise Albus was married to this school and by that time I loved teaching just as much as he did. There was a time some years ago when I thought he might have changed his mind, but the more I thought about it the less likely it seemed. Both of us have had short relationships with other people. No, Remus – "she actually smiled, "a teacher and his former student can become trusted friends, just as you and I are. But a teacher and his former student should never become an item, I firmly believe that now."
Lupin had bowed his head a little when she had called him a trusted friend, making her smile again. He could not think of an appropriate answer, so the fell into a friendly silence again.
After a few moments, Lupin took Minerva's hand and squeezed it for a second.
"Do go to bed, Minerva. I think you will be able to sleep now, and you do need the rest."
Feeling strangely relieved, Minerva obeyed. Maybe he was right; she certainly felt very tired all of a sudden.
"Good night, Remus. And… thank you." Before he could reply, she turned and walked away.
Almost in a daze, she walked back to her office and bedroom close to Gryffindor Tower. Under different circumstances, she never would have told the story of her relationship to Albus Dumbledore to anyone else. Yet, she felt not too bad about it. If one had to confide in somebody, Remus Lupin was a good choice. She had obviously needed to talk to someone; this night her defences just were down. Resolving to think about the matter tomorrow, she entered her bedroom and locked the door behind her.
Placing her wand on her bedside table, she just wanted to take off her tartan gown when something caught her eye. There was a tall figure standing in the dark end of the room.
She had grabbed her wand again and disarmed the man in a flash. Strangely enough, the man's wand came flying towards her from her own table. He had not carried it on himself. Before she could say anything else, he slowly stepped out of the darkness and into the faint circle of light formed by her candle. He stood there motionless, making no attempt to attack her or to regain his wand. Severus Snape.
Too surprised to react, she stared at him for a moment before she remembered she ought to stun him at once. As she raised her wand, he spoke up in a surprisingly soft voice.
"Don't. Please. I swear I will not attack you."
He raised his hands a little to demonstrate he meant it, but did not move otherwise.
Minerva hesitated for a fraction of a second. Then she raised her wand once more in another furious attempt to stun him, but he spoke again.
"I have made certain the windows and the door will not unlock for six hours unless I command them to. And I have silenced the premises – no one can hear what is going on in here. If you stun me, forcing the door might take you long enough for me to recover in the meantime."
He gave her an odd, pleading look and continued in a hurried voice, "Of course I am aware that you could just stun me again and again or petrify me or whatever. And I will not defend myself. Please, I beg you to just let me speak to you."
"What, are you going to tell me that you didn't murder Dumbledore?" Minerva snarled. Her wand was still raised but she realised he had won the first round – she had neither attacked him nor tried to raise an alarm. How on earth had he just done that? Well, it seemed he was not about to kill her right on the spot.
"No. I have to confess I did do it."
He looked on the ground, as if too embarrassed to continue. "I was forced to."
Minerva's voice was ice. "Forced to? By whom? Do you think I would forgive you just like that because You-Know-Who forced you to do it? Do you think anyone would forgive you for murdering Dumbledore? If you truly were on our side, you would rather have died than letting anyone force you to kill him."
There was an awkward moment of silence before Snape answered. He still was standing in rather dull light, so she could not see his face clearly. When he raised his face to meet her eyes, she had the impression his eyes were bloodshot and swollen.
"Don't you think I know that?" he said in a strained voice. "I was ready to give up my life and Malfoy's, too, in order to spare Dumbledore. But I had no choice."
"What does Draco Malfoy's life have to do with that? I am afraid I do not believe a single word you say."
"It was too much to hope for."
To her surprise, he sounded defeated. Was he really not going to put up a fight at all? Snape looked at her again.
"Go ahead and stun me, call help, do whatever you will. I promise I will come quietly and not resist my arrest."
This had to be a trap. Minerva tried her Legilimency abilities and found to her surprise that Snape's mind was open as a book. He made no attempt to shield his thoughts – but again, this had to be a trick. After all, if Albus Dumbledore had been fooled by Snape, then how would she find out if he was lying?
What was he really here for?
"Just when did you decide to give up? And why?"
"Right now. And because you do not believe me."
"Because I do not believe you? Of course I don't! You mean if I had believed this cock-and-bull story about you not really wanting to murder Dumbledore, you would have left and continued spying on You-Know-Who for us?"
"You do certainly not make sense. How on earth could you expect me to believe you? Did you think us all that stupid, that we would welcome you home in the Order after what you've done?"
"It's not the Order I care about. I only wanted you to believe me."
"I am afraid you will have to explain that more clearly."
She had said the words before thinking. What was going on here? Was she really just going to have a nice chat with Dumbledore's murderer? Something strange was going on here. Snape was not acting the arrogant bastard he usually was, and it seemed that just because his behaviour was oddly subdued, she was going to hear him out. Merlin, she was growing old and senile.
"Thank you, Minerva." Snape breathed with relief.
Minerva recoiled when he called her by her first name as if they still were colleagues and members of the same Order. He was clearly trying to lull her into a false sense of security. Snape took another deep breath.
"The Headmaster himself told me to end his life. "
"He never would have!" But even as she said it, she thought about it. Would Dumbledore ever have said such a thing? It all depended on the circumstances.
"Last year, Narcissa Malfoy told me the Dark Lord had given her son a certain task she was sure the boy would not be able to perform. To find out more, I pretended to know about it all. Narcissa asked me to help her son, and I promised to do so if possible. Unfortunately, Bellatrix Lestrange was also present. An 'if possible' promise does not do with her. I was forced to make the Unbreakable Vow that I would help Draco complete his task and, should he fail, carry it out myself.
I informed the Headmaster immediately. He told me I had done the right thing. After all, what harm could there be in helping Draco? We assumed he had been made a spy on Potter, or that he possibly had the task of finding out what students could be persuaded to become followers of the Dark Lord. Some minor task that would make Draco feel important and cement his loyalty to the Dark Lord, we thought…"
Minerva nodded, the conclusion certainly made sense.
"It was only when Draco returned to the school that we found out what his task was: to kill Dumbledore. The Headmaster did not worry much. He was sure Draco would never be able to actually harm him, but keep on trying instead. As far as we knew, there was no time limit on Malfoy's task. The Headmaster correctly assumed that Malfoy would refuse my help. As long as Draco kept on trying and I kept offering him my help we both were safe. But there was the possibility of a situation in which Draco would be forced to act by other Death Eaters – and unable to fulfil his task. The Headmaster made me swear not to break my vow then."
"If you had broken your vow, you would have died. Most likely, young Malfoy would have been killed by his fellow Death Eaters, too. But think, Snape, Dumbledore would be alive! I know it sounds cruel saying that, but there was a time when I though you would be willing to die for the man who trusted you so much."
"You would rather see me dead than Dumbledore. That is quite understandable." There was not a trace of emotion in Snape's voice now. "Anyone would choose Albus Dumbledore over a former Death Eater."
"Anyone but Dumbledore himself…"
Minerva heard her own voice before fully realising what she was thinking. It did make sense in a way. Dumbledore would have wanted Snape to survive so he could continue to spy on the Dark Side. What better proof of his "loyalty" to Voldemort was there than Snape killing Dumbledore single-handed? He might even allow young Malfoy to stay alive after this, which Dumbledore would also have wanted.
"Snape – Severus… although I hate admitting it, that story makes some sense. If you just told me the truth, yes, Dumbledore would have wanted to die from your hands. But you still did not have to do it! I know it seems a harsh thing to say, but had I been in your place, I hope would have chosen to sacrifice my life over Dumbledore's."
"I know. I know. Minerva, I would have done the same. I was planning to disobey his order and make sure he would survive. Actually we had quite some arguments about that matter – that great oaf Hagrid might have heard part of one, ask him."
"Well, then why didn't you? Disobey Dumbledore, I mean?"
"Because he was dying already. You remember how weak he was after he destroyed the ring Horcrux? How he said only I could have saved him? That was true. You know some curses can only be reversed when the healer has before performed them himself. That is why I was the only person at Hogwarts able to save him back then.
That night, on the tower, the situation was the same. The moment I entered the roof he opened his mind so I could see what they had been through. He was dying from that cursed water; it was a matter of minutes only. Only I could have saved him. But stupid Malfoy had chosen this very night to let Death Eaters enter the castle."
"So you're saying ..."
"Dumbledore was too weak to defend himself any more. He was surrounded by Death Eaters and he was dying. Had I defended him I would have died instantly, either killed by the others or through my vow. But Dumbledore would have died, too, because I would not have been there any more to save him. Malfoy was not up to his task. Had I waited for one of the other Death Eaters to murder Dumbledore, I would have died, too – not having taken over for Draco.
Minerva, Dumbledore was pleading. He begged me to kill him myself. He knew he had to die; there was simply no way out of it. I did not kill him just because I wanted to save my neck. Killing him was the only way to survive myself, yes, but now it had an advantage. Finally, everyone on the Dark Lord's Side believes me. The Dark Lord himself trusts me now like Dumbledore used to trust me. You still have your spy on the Dark Side – if you want him."
Minerva slowly sank into her armchair. She had to fight back tears as she imagined what it must have been like to see a man like Dumbledore pleading. Snape was still standing in front of her. For a few minutes, neither of them spoke. It was a loud, uncomfortable silence.
Finally, Minerva stood up again and looked Snape straight into the eyes.
"Come into the light", she commanded, "Come here and open your mind for me."
Snape obeyed. They stood right in front of each other, almost touching. For two or three minutes, Minerva again searched Snape's mind, trying to detect any barriers, feeling her way through his darkest and most uncomfortable memories. After a few seconds, Snape started shivering, but remained calm otherwise. When Minerva broke off, they both looked exhausted.
"I can detect no signs of lies in your mind. But we both know that of us two, you are the better Occlumens. There is no prove you are not lying to me."
"I am afraid so."
"So what do you expect me to do now? Even if I believed you, how could I convince the others? Dumbledore never told us why he trusted you. We only believed you to be on our side because we trusted him."
"Even if I believed you – and I am not sure I do! – I do not think anyone else would. You have never been liked within the Order. Many have never really trusted you – young Potter especially, and he's the eye-witness to what you did. I do not have the same influence Dumbledore had. Even if I spoke up for you, I don't think you would be allowed to remain a member of the Order and to continue working as our spy."
"Yes, I had thought so. I have to admit coming to see you now was a spontaneous action. After I had had some time to think about matters, I decided it was best never to contact the Order again. I was planning to work on my own, to sabotage the Dark Lord's plans without any one knowing it."
"Then why did you come to see me? How were you able to break into Hogwarts anyway?"
"I promise I used a way no Death Eater could use. Hogwarts is safe."
He broke off for a moment.
"I came to Hogwarts to re-gain some of my possessions. The Dark Lord allowed me to come back for my things because I own some alchemy instruments useful to any great wizard." Snape pointed to a trunk in the dark corner of the room where he had stood first.
"I decided to see you only after - I overheard your conversation with Lupin."
Minerva gasped in shock. This was too private. She liked Snape – no, she had liked Snape before he had killed her best friend – but she was definitely not ready to share her feelings with him. The whole thing had been an uncontrolled emotional outburst even in front of a good friend like Lupin. Even if the murder had not taken place, she would never have allowed Snape to learn that much about her emotions.
"I see. You were eavesdropping on us, catching me unawares and with all my defences down, and so you figured in that condition I would be most likely to believe your touching story. Very smart thinking, I have to give it to you. And to think that for a few minutes you had fooled me, that you almost had me believing your beautiful version of things!"
Again she reached for her wand, positively shaking with wrath. Unfortunately, this also slowed her movements and with a quick snatch, Snape managed to grab both wands before she did.
Well, here was the result. She was not buying his story so now he was going to kill her. She cursed herself for having listened to him in the first place.
But Snape didn't do anything.
"No," he said slowly, "I wasn't eavesdropping on purpose. I happened to hear what you were saying by pure coincidence. What got me was what you were saying about teachers and former students being friends and…" He paused for a few seconds again; then he continued in a voice that sounded strangely hurt.
"I was about to leave and you would never have known I was at Hogwarts tonight. I know that no one of the Order will ever believe me. Please, Minerva McGonagall, I just could not leave without telling you I did not want to murder him. I am content if you alone know the truth."
He trust her wand back into her hands, at the same time squeezing her hand almost as Lupin had done maybe an hour ago. But while Lupin's touch had been reassuring, Snape was almost crushing her hand. Staring into her face, he went on in that same urgent tone,
"I could not bear the thought that you believe me to be a traitor. I don't care about the others. It is your trust only that matters to me."
He had pulled her so close their faces were almost touching, and continued to look into her eyes as if he was hoping to see an answer there. Then, all of a sudden, he let go of her.
"I apologise." His face was stone again and he turned away towards his trunk.
Minerva still stood in the same place. She hated to admit it, but she simply did not know what to make of this situation.
"Snape… Severus… wait. I don't understand - what do you want from me? What good would it do if I believed you? What do you plan to do now?"
He looked at her. That one was the Snape she knew, sour-faced and never showing an emotion. Completely in control of himself.
"I am going to leave now. I was a fool to believe you could trust me after murdering Dumbledore. But maybe I will try to get away instead of giving myself up. There…"
He waved his wand, unlocking the windows and door. "I understand you will call for backup any second now."
Minerva drew in a deep breath. "Severus, I don't know whether to believe your story. But - but I think it is possible you told me the truth. I will consider it."
There was another odd moment of silence. Snape opened the window and directed his trunk outside, all the while never breaking eye contact with her. He still was a criminal on the run, who most likely had a broomstick hidden somewhere on the roof outside her window.
"Thank you," he said slowly. "That is more than I can ask for."
He climbed out of the window.
"Severus – will you come back?"
"Only if you want me to."
Did she want him to? She didn't know. There suddenly was a tight knot in her throat, preventing her from speaking. She nodded instead.
A moment later, he was gone. Minerva stood dumbfounded for another second or two; then she reacted. Just what had she been thinking? There was a wanted murderer somewhere on the roof. She rushed to alarm Lupin and the others.