Her Duty

by Valerie Vancollie

valeriev84 (at) hotmail (dot) com

Note: This ficlet has been a long time in coming. I wrote most of it two years ago and just couldn't get the body of it connected with the last paragraph. I finally managed to do so in about two minutes during the Christmas holidays. But, hey, it has now (coincidentally) come out on Severus' birthday!

Summary: At the start of Voldemort's first rise, Minerva McGonagall must come to terms with the reality of being a Hogwarts professor during war.

Disclaimer: I do not own Minerve McGonagall or any other of the Harry Potter characters, items or situations. I only lay claim to the original aspects of the fic.

Minerva McGonagall, professor and deputy headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, sighed as she looked over her seventh year Ravenclaw and Slytherin class. At the moment they were taking a quiz, an unannounced quiz as she had felt unable to teach them. Luckily she always kept a few spare quizzes laying around for days such as this. Better to be prepared than caught unaware, she always said.

Not that she hadn't been caught off-guard by the article in the Daily Prophet this morning. Yes, she knew that there was a war starting, what with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named so rapidly ascending to power and drawing more and more followers to his side, but just what he and his so-called Death Eaters were willing to do, she hadn't yet managed to wrap her mind around. The viciousness and perversity of the attack yesterday sickened and stunned her. She'd been unable to do anything but stare at this morning's paper in shocked horror upon reading what was surely an edited version of what had actually transpired.

The reactions from the students as they'd received their copies of the paper during breakfast had been heartbreaking. Many of the younger ones were only just starting to understand the implications of what it meant to have a Dark Lord about, while the older ones were being forced to confront the reality that very soon they'd be out there on the battlefield. On one side or the other.

That was what horrified Minerva most of all. That some of the students she was teaching every day would leave Hogwarts to join the Dark Lord's side. To support and serve him... and to do everything that went with it. Her hands clenched, cutting off circulation to her interlaced fingers as she attempted to keep a stern face while surveying her class to ensure that no one cheated. Not that she expected to catch anyone. Those who had made it into her N.E.W.T. class were either too good and dedicated to even contemplate cheating, or they were too competent at it to get caught.

The mere thought that she could have taught the person who had used an advanced level transfiguration spell to turn an innocent little girl's stomach contents into fire was almost enough to make her retch. As it was, she'd been unable to eat during breakfast and had only just managed to pull herself together enough to hand out the quiz to her first class. From the concerned looks on a few of the Ravenclaws' faces, she knew they could sense that there was something wrong with her, but most didn't seem to notice. The Ravenclaws due to their own reactions to the news and the Slytherins... well she really didn't want to think about how they had taken the news.

Had any of them known that the attack was going to occur?

Had they anticipated it?

Were their parents or elder siblings involved in it?

Minerva had to force any further questions from surfacing before she lost her composure. She really hoped that the answer to all of them was a resounding no, but she knew it was highly unlikely. The attacks had to be perpetrated by someone and almost all of the Death Eaters that had been captured were former Slytherins, though not always by much. Preston Parkinson had only been out of Hogwarts for two years and already he was in Azkaban for use of the Dark Arts and the torture and murder of several Muggleborns and their families.

Which was why Minerva had been unable to teach. The thought that what she was teaching now could very well be used on an innocent come graduation... it was simply too much. On some level she knew that she would have to get over the dread and start teaching again, but for now she couldn't. The sudden revelation was still too near. Until this morning, she hadn't truly stopped to consider the fact that she and the other professors were not only training future Aurors but future Death Eaters as well. Perhaps, deep down, she had known, but she'd been able to ignore it as most of the attacks utilized hexes, curses, and the occasional potion, but not transfiguration. Not until now. Now she could no longer avoid the cold, harsh reality of the situation.

Did it make her indirectly responsible?

She knew it was a ridiculous thought and that no one would blame her, but she felt guilty nonetheless. The spell to turn matter into fire was one that regularly appeared on the N.E.W.T.s and one that she taught all her advanced classes as it wasn't considered Dark. And therein lay the crux of the situation. There were many spells, curses, hexes, and potions that weren't considered Dark but which could be twisted to suit such needs.

All of them were taught within this very castle.

There was simply no way around it. If she continued to teach her lessons, she would be training Death Eaters as well as Aurors. There was no preventing it. The only way to avoid doing so would be to sort the students before they were allowed to attend Hogwarts, but that would be impossible. Not only would they not get everyone, but they would also be denying an education to many who had a high likelihood of becoming Death Eaters but who would choose an alternative path. It would be blatantly unfair and she knew exactly who would get the short straw. The Slytherins. As it was, many condemned them from the moment the Hat shouted out that name. Even she had to admit to herself that it affected her, much as she tried to hide and deny it. But it was hard not to when so many of them did follow the Dark Lord.

Minerva frowned and her thoughts took an even darker turn as her eyes landed on one student in particular. She could still remember the arrogant but careless boy he had been seven years ago. Now he was still arrogant, but cautious and confident; possessed of a level of control that was almost unparalleled among the students. Not at all like the spontaneity her own Gryffindors were known for, young Black and Potter in particular. No, he was patient and calculating, cunning as any Slytherin she'd known and trice as ruthless.

On more than one occasion when she'd confronted him, she had sworn she could see him sizing her up and analyzing the situation very carefully. His calculating gaze was hypnotic and she could see why many of the girls were drawn to him. He radiated grace and beauty. And power. It was an issue that had sparked more than one heated discussion in the staff room and during meetings, for there was no doubt in anyone's mind that Lucius Malfoy was one of the more powerful students in his year, and it worried most of them. Yet, despite their best efforts, his opinions and attitude were as firmly grounded in the pureblood and ancient traditions of the Slytherin House as the day he'd first set foot on school grounds. He also came extremely close to being outright disrespectful towards the faculty, more so as he got older.

It was his control, however, that scared Minerva the most. He was smart enough and self-disciplined enough to get away with things he shouldn't without getting caught. There were even times that she was sure he'd set up another student to take the fall, but she never had anything but suspicions. To see this level of control in one so powerful while most of the other students his age were only just starting to grasp the necessity of being able to restrain themselves, was horrifying. Especially since in the past few months she had increasingly seen him with the young Severus Snape. That boy had already shown clear signs of knowing magic far beyond his age and none of it the type of stuff she could approve of.

If Malfoy managed to influence him... there was no telling what would happen to the reclusive boy.

Although nothing had ever been proven, Minerva knew that the Malfoy family was in league with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Having attended Hogwarts with one of them and taught another, she had learned all about their Dark Arts leanings. That they had never been caught was a testimony to their cunning and influence within the Ministry, not to their innocence. But even if they were to miscalculate and be discovered they were only one family. The Dark Lord had dozens who supported him, not to mention members of families that were neutral or Light.

Minerva had been both stunned and horrified at some of those who had been discovered as either Death Eaters or supporters of the Dark Lord. Conversely she'd also been caught off-guard by some of His victims. Certain individuals or families she'd been convinced stood by Him obviously had resisted enough to be targeted and destroyed. There really was no telling which side some people would chose to ally themselves with.

Which meant anyone she now taught could end up using what they learned from her for evil.

Today she'd been able to find an escape, but tomorrow she'd have to start teaching again. There was no way around it; it was her duty.

Please tell me what you think of the story.

January 2008