Something I wrote between accounting assignments. I'm unsatisfied with it but I figure we need more SS/MM so hell, I'm posting it anyway.


The Other Patronus

They hadn't realized that the idea of signalling themselves through patronuses had come from Dumbledore. Perhaps the Dark Lord wouldn't have jumped on the idea so enthusiastically if he'd known. Or maybe he would've been too busy taking over an entire wizarding community to care. As it was, Voldemort thought it had been such a great idea that Snape had earned even more kudos and riches as a result.

It was also the reason why, standing in front of the Malfoy mansion under a glittering sun whilst the last few silver wisps and red sparks faded, Severus Snape was scrambling for a way to explain himself.

"Well you're definitely Severus Snape. Even polyjuice would've been detected by that spell. But." An ominous ending. Lucius stepped slowly from the mahogany doors and Snape could feel the chill emanating from him - feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand in anticipation.

"That cat," Lucius said slowly. "Caught me behind the Greenhouses with Narcissa in my fifth year. Why the hell is Minerva McGonagall your patronus?"

That but, that moment of pause, was all Snape had needed to compose himself. He looked Lucius in the eye, stoic and all business.

"It was a shock to see her again after what happened in June. She has been... troublesome."

"I knew we shouldn't have kept her around," Lucius interjected. "The Dark Lord should be told immediately. I'll take care of her myself if necessary, it would be my pleas-"

"No," Snape said suddenly. "We've had enough questions after Charity's disappearance and my appointment as Headmaster. The Dark Lord won't stand for it," Snape added, noticing that Lucius was just about to cut him off. At the mention of Voldemort Lucius fell silent, but he continued to gnash his teeth.

"The trouble is minimal. I can keep her quiet. But I suppose all of this has had more of an impact on me than I realized." Snape's voice went soft and this was enough to make the chill fade. But if Lucius felt any compassion for his old school friend it didn't show in his voice, which was pure warning when he spoke.

"As sympathetic as I am, you'd better make sure you resolve this trouble and that your patronus changes by the time of your next visit. I doubt others who greet you here will be as understanding as I am." But the vulnerability in Snape's voice had told him enough, and Lucius knew better than to push the subject. Without another word he let Snape pass through the doors.

XXXX

What he'd said was technically true. That day on the towering ledge, Snape hadn't thought of Minerva McGonagall. He'd only thought of her some time afterwards, when he finally had a chance to rest; only thought of her when Voldemort told him he was to be headmaster; only thought of her when their fates had long been sealed and it was all too late. So finally seeing her again, after a lifetime of pain and regret had passed between them, had been overwhelming.

How long he'd scrutinised that scene, mulling over every excruciating detail. How long that encounter had played out in his head, until he'd wake up drenched in sweat and agony. How long before he would feel the embrace of sleep again, and still the look she'd had in her eyes would burn at him through the darkness...

xxx

"Professor McGonagall." She stopped in her tracks, and on the other side of the Hall he mirrored her. One second to take her in, before the screaming and accusations would start. Lines. White hairs. A face paling before his eyes. No longer wearing emerald.

"I assumed you received my letter regarding the Headmaster's position, or have otherwise been informed through other sources." No response.

"Clearly there are a number of things we need to discuss before the feast next week." Still no response. This was probably a miracle, he thought to himself. Would she have had the same restraint if he had called her Minerva instead?

"Perhaps it would be more appropriate to go up to your office?"

"No," she said abruptly. "It's your office now." Any kind of admission of defeat was the last thing he'd expect from her, and he faltered. One of the few people who could do that to him.

"I – I beg your pardon. My office." Something in his voice or words must have set her off, as suddenly her eyes were blazing and she was walking around the tables towards him.

"Don't think this is some kind of concession," she spat. "That I'm going to yield unrelenting to you." She stopped a few metres away from him, close enough so that he could see her shaking with anger. "The only reason I'm still here is because of the children. That's the only way I'd ever agree to being subordinate to a murderous traitor like you."

In another place, another time, Snape might have been relieved by her change in demeanour – bickering was far more familiar to them. But then, this wasn't bickering. And they were no longer allies – something he had to make sure he'd remember, something he had to convince his new allies of and, most importantly, something he had to make sure she'd realize –

His feet stormed towards her before he had a chance to change his mind.

"Let's get something clear before you fool yourself into thinking you have any kind of power in Hogwarts," he hissed, his face inches from hers. Too close, perhaps. The smell of her hair was tickling his senses…

"You're not agreeing to anything. You're lucky you're still here at all. And I mean that in more ways than one."

"Are you threatening me?" she asked, disgusted.

"No, this is a threat – do anything to undermine my leadership or that of the Dark Lord's and you'll be destroyed beyond all comprehension."

"Ah yes. Destroyed. What else should I have expected from a murderer?" Her face twisted into an awful sneer, so awful that it was like she was imitating him, and he meant his next words. Meant them not just so she'd understand the danger she was in, but to twist at her, to hurt her, to punish her for making this harder for him than it already was –

"I don't mean murdered," he said coldly. "I would hand you straight to the Dark Lord and let him deal with you himself. I can just imagine the kind of fate he'd have in store for you. In fact," He had a smirk to rival hers now. "I quite enjoy imagining it."

And for a single, fleeting moment, her eyes flashed with something other than anger or hurt or hatred; flashed with something he thought he would never see in the head of Gryffindor's eyes. Fear.

And no matter how bad she was feeling, Snape was sure he was feeling a hundred times worse, because never had he hated himself more than he did right now…

xxx

Yes, seeing her again had been overwhelming. Lucius had the sense not to pursue the subject that morning because even he could imagine what it would be like to be a student of someone, to be a colleague of someone, only to stab them in the back – even if that someone was Minerva McGonagall.

But only Severus knew the full story. Knew there was another reason too. Knew there was another reason why his patronus had changed; why that day, those eyes, wouldn't leave him alone. Because they'd never left him alone, had they? How long had he felt this way?

Always, he had told Dumbledore, when he'd asked about Lily. But there'd always been someone else too. Whereas his feelings for Lily were full blown and overpowering, this had been subtle, gentle, unnoticeable – until suddenly he was staring into the face of a woman who now hated him, a woman who now feared him, a woman who now represented everything he'd lost. Only realized when their fates had long been sealed and it was all too late.

Old staff photographs and report cards twisted in his hands now – reminded him of raven-black hair scratched idly by slender figures; the scent of sandalwood on tartan as she leant over to check his work; something distant, devilish in those eyes smirking at him across the staffroom that made him want to denounce Gryffindor forever so she'd never stop –

No. He locked the memories and mementos away and did everything he could do to remember that other Gryffindor. Replaced them with a photo from number 12 Grimmauld place, of a girl with silky auburn hair, green eyes brightened as if she was lying by the lake with her tinkling laughter and fingers threaded through his. Oh yes, he remembered her alright – remembered until it was painful and he didn't think it was possible to remember anything else. Not even blue eyes clouded with fear…

"Expecto patronum!" he bellowed suddenly. A blast of white, and a shudder of relief when he saw the doe. Yes, everything was okay again.

The other patronus would simply have to wait until the war was over.


A/N: I'm looking to improve so any tips or criticism are warmly welcome!