Disclaimer: All characters are property of J.K. Rowling and others. Not mine. No money is being made with this but is purely for my pleasure, and probably the pleasure of my readers.

A/N: This is my first Harry Potter fic, so please be gentle and review in abundance! I know that there are about a billion HG/SS fics out there and I never intended plagiarism. Please let me know if you feel that you're ideas are used in my story - it's certainly not done on purpose.

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A small owl pecked nervously on one of the windows of Headmistress McGonagall. She knew that owl and she opened the window rapidly to let it in. It flew immediately to her desk and lifted its leg. Untying the scroll, she searched for an owl treat in one of the drawers of her desk and gave it to the owl, earning and affectionate hoot. She stroked its head with her fingertip and took a look at the parchment. The familiar, spidery scrawl made her smile.

McGonagall.

Safe and sound.

SS

Even the brevity, the tangible rudeness of the note was so like him. But at least, she knew he was safe. Somewhere. She understood that he didn't want to be found, but at least she had a way to contact him, should the need arise. And the need would arise, Merlin's beard, it had arrived already. But no matter what everyone thought, Minerva McGonagall knew her former colleague Severus Snape. He hated to be rushed, and he hated to be forced to do anything – having been the prey of two masters for too long. Way too long. She understood the need for him to be away, to be invisible for a while, when in actual fact, still half the wizarding world thought him dead, with the other half not believing the rumours that he was still alive and had been seen on more than one occasion, striding through Diagon Alley with his robes billowing. Not even those who had seen him had believed it. After all, the boy-who-lived-twice had reported – on more than one occasion – that Nagini had gotten him and that he had stopped breathing after giving him his memories. Those, that had turned the evil bat of the dungeons into a war hero, Merlin First Class. Snape had never come to receive it, and yet, Minerva McGonagall knew that it was somewhere amongst his possessions now, having given it to him herself.

She had in fact, that dreary November morning in her office, tried to pin it on him but he wouldn't have that, instead, he had stuffed it in one of his many pockets, accepting a cup of tea gruffly and told her that he would seek sanctuary somewhere else. Minerva understood. He wanted to get away from prying eyes and ears, curious glances, Rita Skeeters of the world who wanted to write his biography, away from his status, away from people who wanted to tell him how great he was. Not that he said that. No, Severus Snape, Potions Master Extraordinaire would never do such a thing, but she knew. Merlin, she had known him for most of his life – all of his life, to be precise. Eileen, seeking her sanctuary at Hogwarts for a while after little Severus Tobias had been born – only to go back to that vile husband of hers weeks later. But Minerva knew him inside out, and when Eileen had died, in his 4th year, she had held the inconsolable boy in her arms in the privacy of her quarters. One look at him that grey afternoon told him that she was spot on, once more priding herself on being able to judge him so well. That judgement had only failed her once, and that had almost proved to be fatal. For him, for Potter, for the entire sane wizarding world. Never again would she make that mistake.

That had been over five years ago. She knew he was moving from place to place, never staying long somewhere, constantly on the move, but always sending the same owl with the same message. But somehow, the little owl never left until she had written him something. Grinning, she picked up a fresh parchment and dipped her quill in some royal blue ink.

In that exact moment, there was a knock on her door and Minerva jumped. She scowled at the large drop of ink on the parchment and rather huffed a 'come in'.

She looked up and saw one of the newest additions to the Hogwarts stuff standing in her office. Hermione Granger, Transfiguration Mistress and more her right hand than her deputy could ever be, ever since she had come to teach the year before.

"Hermione.", Minerva looked up over her square spectacles. "Sit down."

Hermione nodded and smiled weakly. "Thank you."

"Tea?", the Headmistress asked, and upon seeing her younger colleague nodding, she conjured two cups. "What can I do for you?"

"Who's owl is that?", Hermione squinted at the small bird.

"One of the school's.", Minerva fibbed.

"Ah. Uh, that so-called Potions Master had three first years sent into the infirmary."

"Again?", Minerva groaned. "I don't know how that Henry Fiesco ever got his degree."

"Won it, probably.", Hermione muttered, blushing slightly.

"You might be spot on with that one.", Minerva chuckled good naturedly. "Are the children alright?"

"Just some spots, so yes. But…", she hesitated.

"But?", the Headmistress raised her eyebrows.

"Your deputy…"

"Mills? What has he done now?", she groaned again.

"Was also in the hospital wing.", Hermione said softly.

Minerva raised her eyebrows quite high. "What happened?"

"From what his 7th years say, they were practicing duelling during Defence and he was hit by a stray hex. He's been unconscious since and he looks quite odd."

"Why? What does he look like? Wait, you said 'was' in the hospital wing."

"Poppy brought him to St Mungo's. She has no idea what it might be.", Hermione shrugged her shoulders.

Minerva grumbled and pulled her specs from her nose and put them none-too gently on the desk. "So we need a substitute?"

"Poppy said yes, most likely."

"Good. I'll go and look, thanks Hermione.", she replied warily and with a wave of her hand, dismissed the young Transfiguration teacher.

Hermione nodded to herself and left the office as quickly as she had come, not noticing that the older woman picked up some fresh parchment and began to scribble on it with a determined expression on her face.

Severus,

Contact me immediately. It's urgent.

Sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

With a sly grin, she rolled it up and tied it to the leg of the little owl. "Peck him until he replies.", she whispered softly as she let the bird out of the window again, looking after it as it flew away.

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