[First posted on 27 January 2005.]

De Amicitia

Wednesday 1 September 1971

Minerva swept her eyes over the heads of the new first years, trying to match faces with names. Here surely was the new member of the Black family, Sirius, if she remembered correctly. She noted with surprise that he already looked as thick as thieves with one who could only be the young Potter.

She pursed her lips when she recognised the young werewolf, trying to look as small as possible. She had been against his presence from the first. Of course it was his right to get a good education, but a werewolf loose in a school full of young children was a very bad idea.

She recognised a few of the Muggle-born students, those whom she had already met. They were looking around them in wonder and awe.

At the back of the group, a little apart from the others, there was a small boy, scrawny and clearly undernourished. He had greasy black hair and a large nose which might be attractive in an older face, but which now only looked as if he hadn't been fitted with the right size.

Minerva wondered whether he was the Knockturn Alley child, the only one who had answered positively to his letter. Most unusual; Knockturn Alley denizens generally preferred home schooling. Severus Snape. The name fitted his scowling countenance perfectly. The boy, of course, was headed for Slytherin, the house of ambition and the Dark Arts.

The boy raised his head and bored his black, unblinking eyes into hers. There was power there, and anger. She shivered.

Thursday 10 June 1976

When Minerva arrived on the scene, Severus Snape was dangling upside down, his robes over his head and his underwear rapidly unravelling, thread after thread. Laughing and bowing to their audience were Sirius Black and James Potter, of course.

"Mr Potter, Mr Black! Put Mr Snape back on the ground this instant! And on his feet, gentlemen!"

The laughter ceased abruptly and everyone scattered off before she had even finished her sentence, leaving only Black and Potter on the scene. She scanned the nearby bushes, and hovering but not actually intervening, were Peter Pettigrew and Remus Lupin. She felt a surge of white-hot fury shoot through her; Lupin was a prefect, and yet he had done nothing.

"Potter and Black! Go to my office right now and wait for me. You'd better be there when I arrive."

The boys started in the direction of the castle, but Minerva stopped them.

"And give me your wands. I don't trust you not to get in trouble between here and my office."

Potter, then Black, reluctantly placed their wands into her outstretched hand. She turned toward the other two.

"Pettigrew! Don't you have anything better to do than to egg those two on. Being friends with someone doesn't mean that you have to approve of everything they do!

"As for you!" She had learned to appreciate the young Remus. He was a quiet, serious student. Unfortunately he also completely lacked moral courage, most notably that of standing up to his friends. "I expected better of you, Remus Lupin! As a prefect, it is your duty to stop your fellow students when they go too far! And that was definitely too far. If I catch you just once more encouraging those two, or even worse, participating in those kinds of activities, I'll see to it that you are stripped of your Prefect badge and all the privileges that come with it. Now get out of my sight."

Pettigrew and Lupin did not need to be told twice; they hurried back toward the castle.

Minerva watched them go, then turned toward their victim. The boy had observed their discomfiture with more glee than was healthy and was now arranging his frayed robes and avoiding her eyes.

"Mr Snape."

Snape turned his head in her direction.

"I apologise for their actions, Mr Snape."

"You have done nothing for which you should apologise, Professor."

"They are my students, Mr Snape, my responsibility. I failed to rein them in."

Snape shrugged. "You can't be everywhere at once."

"Will you be all right?"

"They did not harm me, Professor."

"That is not what I asked, Mr Snape."

The boy raised unfathomable eyes at her, and Minerva gave up. Snape could be most infuriatingly stubborn, and she would not succeed in drawing him out of his shell today.

"Very well. You may go, in that case."

Snape nodded and gathered his possessions. He went away with as much dignity as he could muster, which was a great deal, Minerva thought.

She shook her head and left for her office, to put the fear of God and Minerva McGonagall in her wayward students.

Sunday 7 November 1976

As usual, the morning after the full moon found Minerva McGonagall in the Hospital Wing to check after Remus Lupin. As usual, Lupin was sleeping soundly, buried under a mountain of blankets.

What she wasn't expecting was Severus Snape, sitting on an undisturbed bed, clutching his knees tightly and throwing wary looks at Lupin.

"Mr Snape? What are you doing here?"

"He's a werewolf!" the boy blurted out.

She sighed. "Yes, Mr Snape, so he is. How did you find about this?"

He raised such frightened eyes to her that she tried to put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. He flinched away from her touch and she let her hand fall back.

"Well, Mr Snape?"

"Black told me how to enter the Shrieking Shack and I did and there was... there was... that monster!"

She tried to rein in her anger. Black had gone too far this time; she would have to insist on his expulsion.

"Mr Snape. Shouldn't you know better than to trust what Mr Black tells you?"

He looked down in shame. "I thought... I was stupid."

"Yes, you were. Try and learn from your mistakes, will you?"

Snape nodded, the movement barely visible as he had buried his head between his knees.

"Were you hurt? Is that why you're here?"

"No. I... Potter took me out. He insisted that I come here."

Minerva raised her eyebrows. Potter hadn't been on that prank — for lack of a better word — now, that was surprising. Maybe there was hope for the boy yet.

"I shall see Mr Black and Mr Potter about their actions. I don't believe that Mr Lupin knew about this, so don't hold him responsible, Mr Snape. And I'll have to ask you not to disclose his condition to the other students."

He raised his eyes at that, searching her features for something, she didn't know what. After a moment, he nodded.

"Very well, Professor."

"Thank you, Mr Snape. I'm going to see the Headmaster. Do you want me to call Madam Pomfrey?"

"No, thank you."

She left, feeling his eyes following her all the way to the door.

Thursday 20 January 1977

The children were gathering their belongings after the bell had rung. Minerva called out, "Mr Snape, stay."

He looked up and mumbled what could have been an agreement.

When all the students had filed out, he walked up to her desk.


She taped a rolled parchment with her fingers. "Your essay on Smethley's Principles was astonishingly bad, Mr Snape. I know that Transfiguration is not your favourite subject, but you usually manage to write better essays."

He flushed red with embarrassment. "I did all the assigned readings, Professor, I swear. I even read some books which weren't on the list. But I don't understand. Nothing I've read seem to make sense. Maybe I'm just stupid."

"Nonsense," Minerva said severely. "If you were stupid, Professor Nettle wouldn't be waxing poetic about your abilities in Potions. You're merely a little weak in Transfiguration, that's all. One cannot be good at everything."

He nodded, although he didn't look quite convinced.

"So you don't understand Smethley's Principles. That's a problem, as you will need them to understand the inanimate-to-animate transfigurations. Mmm. What are you doing tonight?"

"Tonight? Er, nothing special. I sometimes go and help Professor Nettle to brew for the Hospital Wing, but he's not waiting for me or anything."

"Very well. Come into my office and bring a list of the books you've read on the subject. Take your notes, too. We'll go over them."

Snape looked at her, a little bewildered. "You… you would help me?"

"Of course, Mr Snape. You're going to pass your Transfiguration NEWT with at least an A if I have anything to say about it."

A tentative smile appeared on his lips. "Thank you, Professor."

Saturday 24 June 1978

Minerva always felt a little pang when the time came to let go. She had watched the children grow into adults, after all. There were a few of them whose back she wouldn't mind seeing — especially her four Gryffindor boys. There were others she would genuinely regret, like Severus Snape, who was now unloading his trunk from the carriage.

"Mr Snape?"

He turned his head and smiled slightly at her.


His truck was following him obediently, hovering a few inches above the ground.

"Did you need something, Professor?"

"I merely wished to know what you would be doing now."

"I obtained a scholarship to apprentice under a Potions master. I'm going to study in Germany for the next three years."

His voice was deep and cultured. No one would have been able to guess that seven years before, his strong, lower-class accent had made him nearly unintelligible to his fellow students.

"I'm glad to hear that; you worked hard enough for it. I hope you will come back. My door will always been open to you."

"Thank you, Professor. I'll certainly take advantage of your invitation."

She wanted to hug him, but she didn't think he would let her. She settled for squeezing his shoulder.

"I wish you luck, my dear."

"Thank you, Professor. I guess I'll see you."

A few minutes later, she saw his head poke out of the train window. He waved at her, and she waved back, a smile on her lips.

Tuesday 19 May 1981

She really wasn't expecting to see Severus Snape waiting for her in front of her office. It had been four years since she had seen him last, and she hadn't heard from him in all that time.

She smiled at him, but her smile quickly disappeared as she took him in. He was pale and looking desperate. His arms were wrapped around his torso, as if to keep him warm — even though he was wearing woollen robes.

"Mr Snape! Please enter."

He followed her in silence. She crossed her office and let him into her sitting room. She had an inkling the conversation would be difficult, and her cosy sitting room was more suited to that kind of situation.

He sat down heavily and, all the while looking at his hands, he said, "I've been stupid."

She didn't say anything. She only leaned over and took his wringing hands in her own. He let her.

"There were people who agreed to pay for my apprenticeship, and in exchange, I would work for them after I became a Master."

"It's standard practice. I did that myself. I still do, as a matter of fact."

He nodded, avoiding her eyes.

"Except... I'm not a kind man, Professor, and I'd have no compunction about killing an armed adult. But children... they're another matter. I cannot..."

Minerva tightened her hands on his.

"Severus. Who are those people?"

Letting go of her hands, he began pulling up his left sleeve. There, on the inside of his forearm, was the black tattoo of a snake and skull.

Minerva shivered. She placed a finger under his chin and raised it until he was looking in her eyes.

"Let's go see Albus, my dear."

Wednesday 2 September 1981

Severus hadn't been present at breakfast, and Minerva went down to the dungeons where he had installed his office. She entered without knocking and indeed, there he was.

He raised bleary eyes at her, and she could see that he looked about ready to throw up.

"Severus! It isn't so bad; they're just children."

He snorted weakly. "Children? They're the worst."

She rolled her eyes and perched up on the edge of his desk.

"I'm sure everything will be all right."

"Professor. Do you realise that I know some of them? That the older ones were beginning school when I was finishing it?" When I was hexed right and left by Potter, Black and co. She could hear the last part as clearly as if he had said it.

"I hadn't thought of that, I must confess. But I'm confident that you'll be able to inspire respect in your students."

He chuckled humourlessly. "Or failing that, fear."

"Now, Severus..."

"Come on, Minerva," he interrupted. "Potions is a very dangerous subject. I can't afford to be lax in discipline. Remember Lockwood in my third year? We ran roughshod over him. And how many students did he send to the infirmary in his, what, two months of activity?"

Minerva sighed. "You may have a point. Well, try not to make them cry, please." She smiled at him.

The bell rang, announcing the beginning of the first hour.

Minerva carefully concealed her amusement as Severus seemed to steel himself for the impending ordeal.

"I guess I'll see at lunch whether you have survived."

She was suddenly very happy that "death-glare" was only a figure of speech.

Monday 25 January 1982

Minerva hesitated at the door. He probably didn't want to see her; he probably didn't want to see anyone. Severus was antisocial at the best of times, and three months in Azkaban hadn't helped.

She was raising her hand to knock when the door was yanked open. She gasped in surprise. Severus had never been fat, or even healthy-looking, but now he looked downright skeletal.

"What are you doing here?"

He had never been that hostile to her, either. She made her decision and stepped inside. Curiously, he didn't try to block her.

"When was the last time you ate or slept properly?"

He shrugged. "Sometimes in early November. Maybe late October. Azkaban is a prison, Professor, not a gourmet restaurant."

"It's a damn shame, you mean. Sit down, Severus, you look ready to keel over."

He obeyed, dropping heavily on the sofa. She called the kitchen, and a few minutes later, a house-elf appeared with a tray. There was some light gruel and bland rice. Of course, the meal didn't meet with Severus' approbation.

"I'm not an invalid!"

"No, you're a grown man who has spent the last three months in the worst hell-hole known to man. Now, will you eat on your own or do you want me to spoon-feed it to you?"

Severus looked at her disgustedly, but he took the spoon and began eating. He ate only half of his meal, but the elves had been generous, and she let it pass.

"Now I think you should sleep. Do you want a potion?"

"Stop mothering me, Minerva."

"You haven't been mothered enough in your life, young man. Now answer my question."

He sighed resignedly. "I have some Dreamless Sleep, thanks. Do you know whether I have to teach tomorrow?"

She rolled her eyes. "Of course not, you dolt! Albus got you a replacement while you were away. He'll stay as long as you need. Now, shoo! Go to bed."

It was a sign of his exhaustion that he didn't protest any further.

He was in a sorry state but, Minerva swore, he would get better.

Friday 23 August 1985

Minerva peeked inside Severus' office. Severus was at his desk, a pile of parchment on one side and a pile of books on the other, furiously scribbling on yet more parchments.

"Severus? May I come in?"

"Close the door behind you, will you?"

She sat down on the chair facing his desk and crossed her hands primly in her lap. She felt a little like a cat who had eaten all the cream.


"Whatever for?"

She smiled warmly at him.

"You are the new Head of Slytherin."

She laughed, delighted at his flabbergasted expression.

"You... why me?"

She sobered. "Because I think that you could be a wonderful model to these children. More than a fair few have Death Eaters for parents, and they need to be told that Muggle-borns are not the root of all evil, and that the Dark Arts are not a sensible way of living — that there is power in them, yes, but also lies and deception, dependence and weakness.

"And they also need someone to speak up for them. Albus is disgustingly biased, and you've always been proud of your house. With reason. The four houses were created equal, and it is time they were recognised as such by the general population."

She stopped, a little embarrassed. She hadn't meant to go on like that. Severus was smiling at her, a rare expression on his face; warm, proud and a little tender. She felt her cheeks and ears grow warm.

"What a passionate advocate I have in you, Minerva. I'll gladly accept the responsibilities, but you've been a Head of House for some time now. Will you help me?"

"Of course. I'll be there for you."

"You've always been there for me."

Wednesday 31 July 1991

After Hagrid's report, she sat at her desk, her head in her hands. It was unthinkable, and yet... she had opposed the idea of placing baby Harry with these Muggles from the start.

"Minerva? Do you have a headache?"

She hadn't even heard him come in.

Severus pulled a chair to her side of the desk and sat down.

"Do you want a potion?"

She sighed. "No, thank you. It's not actually a headache. Yet."

"Can you share?"

She pondered the question. On one hand, she wasn't supposed to discuss Harry's situation with anyone. On the other, Severus was Albus' left hand, and he was absolutely trustworthy. The decision wasn't a difficult one.

"You know that Harry Potter hasn't answered his letter, of course."

He nodded; that had been the talk of the staff room for the last few days.

"Well, it turns out that he hadn't even seen it. Apparently, those Muggles never told him about magic, and when the letters began to arrive, they destroyed them, in the hope that it would prevent the boy from attending Hogwarts."

She raised her head and saw that Severus was staring.

"I know. Frightening, isn't it? He will have to be helped to fit in, to be trained..."

Severus shook his head.

"I can't help you with that. The Dark Lord isn't dead, wishful thinking to the contrary, and I must keep on cultivating certain alliances. I can't be seen cosying up to the Boy-Who-Lived."

She pursed her lips. "It would help, though."

"I'm sorry, Minerva."

She snorted delicately. A question came to her mind, and she couldn't help asking it.

"What will you do if Potter is sorted in Slytherin?"

He had risen to leave, but the question made him turn toward her in shock.

"Potter? In Slytherin? Don't be absurd." He rolled his eyes and left.

Monday 8 June 1992

She could feel Severus boiling with rage next to her. As soon as the Feast was finished, he took off and she followed him, to keep him from doing anything he might regret.

The doors to his rooms scrambled to open before him. She caught them and pushed them closed behind her. He went straight to his liquor cabinet and served himself a rather large glass of alcohol.

"I... I apologise, Severus. I didn't know Albus would do that, and I'd certainly have put my foot down if I had."

He balled his fists, but didn't turn to face her.

"I know that, Minerva." His voice sounded strange; he must be speaking between his clenched teeth. "You have more sense than to do something like that. For goodness' sake, couldn't he have awarded the points yesterday? Or even this morning? What good does it do, to steal the victory from my Slytherins at the very last minute?"

He fell down heavily on an armchair and covered his face with his hands.

"They laughed, Minerva. They laughed and they clapped and they cheered when Slytherin lost. All of them, they did."

There was something in his voice which she hadn't heard for a long time; despair. She sighed heavily. "Severus. It's only because Slytherin won the House Cup for seven years. They were happy to see that the other houses were still in the running, that's all," she said unconvincingly.

Severus laughed a little hysterically. "Minerva, if you want other people to believe the lies you tell, you should put a little more enthusiasm in them."

She sat on the arm of his seat and put an arm around his shoulders. Surprisingly, he let her, and even leaned a little against her side.

"I remember what you told me when I became Head of Slytherin, Minerva. But I cannot make Slytherin the equal of the other houses when I have to deceive the Death Eaters' children and put up with the Headmaster's prejudices. I cannot. I should not have accepted the job. I am wholly unsuited for it."

Minerva cuffed him lightly on the head.

"Don't speak like that. There is none more suited to the task."

He snorted, but didn't otherwise contradict her.

Friday 25 December 1992

Minerva was marking the seventh years' essays on human to animal transfiguration when Severus entered her office. He was, of all things, laughing. Not a full-belly laugh, of course, but enough of one that the lines at the corner of his eyes were crinkled. She stared.

He dropped heavily on the chair she usually reserved for her misbehaving students, the one that had been hexed to be as uncomfortable as possible. Severus didn't appear to notice. Of course, given the state of his own chair in his office, it wasn't really surprising.

"What happened, Severus?"

"Your favourite pupil landed herself in the Hospital Wing."

Minerva sat straight. "Miss Granger? What happened?" No point in denying the accusation of favouritism; Hermione Granger was her most brilliant pupil, and a member of her own House.

"She brewed Polyjuice Potion, perfectly I might add, even though it isn't taught until sixth year. Unfortunately, she used a cat's hair instead of a human's, and she now looks like some sort of giant anthropomorphic cat."

"Oh dear..."

She hid her face in her hands, as much to conceal her own bubbling laughter as to avoid Severus' smirking expression.

"How long will that last?"

"A few weeks." He shrugged. "I'm afraid there's no antidote. It must pass by itself. I'm tempted to award points. Even though she used an animal hair, the idea of a second year successfully brewing such a difficult potion…"

"The poor girl would probably die of shock if you were to actually give points to Gryffindor."

They shared a smile.

Tuesday 17 August 1993

"...as for the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, I've asked someone, but I'm still waiting for his answer. I'm afraid I'll have to keep you in the dark a little longer. Thank you, Professors, and have a good day."

The attending teachers began to gather their papers. Minerva bent toward Severus.

"We need to talk."

He frowned at her and mouthed, "Tea in my rooms?"

She nodded.

She entered his private rooms with some trepidation. She really didn't want to have this conversation, but Albus had made an art form of foisting unpleasant tasks on others.

She took the cup of tea he gave her and buried her nose in it, stalling the inevitable.

"You wanted to talk, Minerva?"

Trust him to not beat about the bush. She put the cup back on the table so forcefully a little tea sloshed out. She took a deep breath.

"I know who the next Defence teacher is going to be, Severus, and you're not going to like it."

He raised an eyebrow and waited for her to continue.

"Remus Lupin."

Severus' face went slack with astonishment.

"A fully-grown werewolf! Is Albus mad?"

"Not mad, no. But with Sirius Black's escape from Azkaban, Albus feels that it would be safer and easier to have Lupin on hand."

"I see." Severus' voice was tightly controlled. "And I suppose I'll be expected to provide Wolfsbane Potion as well?"

"Albus didn't talk about that. What is Wolfsbane Potion?" she asked, her curiosity awakened.

"A potion that allows a werewolf to retain his human mind during the full moon."

"How wonderful! Is it a recent development? Lupin didn't have anything like that when he was at school."

"No, he didn't. The potion was invented fairly recently."

"How recently?" She had an epiphany. "Severus, did you invent it yourself?"

He blushed, two spots of colour appearing high on his cheekbones.

"No one should have to face a feral werewolf." He sighed. "It's difficult and expensive to make though, and it doesn't do anything to alleviate the pain of the transforming. Not an ideal solution by any means."

"But it's better than nothing. Oh, Severus!"

He blushed even redder.

"Could we talk of something else, Minerva, please?"

She smiled. "What do you think of Mr Potter's chances to make it through his third year without life-threatening encounters?"

Severus snorted. "With Black on the prowl, very little..."

Friday 10 June 1994

"Severus Snape, I am extremely disappointed in you."

He looked at her defiantly, but said nothing.

"What need was there to reveal to all and sundry Remus' secret? That was extremely mean and petty of you."

"Minerva. I didn't mean for him to resign. I simply wanted everyone to know what danger he could be."

"Severus! You know what kind of prejudices werewolves face. You had to know that he would have to resign!"

He rose from his chair, his face red with anger. "And with reason! He's a danger to everyone! He didn't take his potion yesterday, Minerva! He could have killed someone!"

Her anger deflated instantly. She blindly groped for a chair, and sat down, her eyes never leaving Severus' face.

"What?" Her voice sounded small and feeble to her own ears.

He sat down too, weariness replacing anger on his face. "I took him the potion yesterday evening. I placed it on his desk, and he told me he would take it later. Except he didn't. And he transformed in front of Potter, Weasley, Granger, Black and myself. I couldn't care less about Black, and I can defend myself, but the children could have been killed, Minerva, or even worse, they could have been hurt and turned into werewolves themselves.

"Minerva, he's a danger. Not only because he's a werewolf, but because he's an irresponsible one. I merely wanted the children to know what they could have to defend against. I didn't mean for him to resign; after all, he's the most competent Defence teacher we've had in recent years. I should have known that he wouldn't have the spine to stay after that. I'll never understand how he was sorted into your house, Minerva."

She nodded. "I apologise for yelling at you. What you did wasn't right, but you were justified."

She took her spectacles off and rubbed her eyes. "How could he be so stupid and careless?"

"He's always been. For goodness' sake, Minerva, he used to roam free in the Forbidden Forest with his Animagus friends!"

Minerva shook her head hopelessly. She stood up and kissed Severus lightly on the cheek.

"I'll have to see Albus. See you tonight, Severus."

Monday 31 October 1994

They were both relaxing in the deep armchairs of her sitting room after what had been a trying day.

"I can't believe someone succeeded in fooling the Goblet."

"Never mind how, Minerva. What I would like to know is who, and for what purpose."

She raised an eyebrow. "Who? Earlier tonight, you seemed convinced that Potter had done it himself."

Severus glared at her. "Don't be absurd, Minerva. Of course, he didn't do it. The boy isn't nearly as guileful as would be necessary for that kind of deception. Which raises the question: who is?"

"Maybe if we answered why, who would become obvious."

"Probably. So why? The Triwizard Tournament is traditionally violent, sometimes to the point of being lethal. It wouldn't be the first attempt on Potter's life."

"Yes, and the tasks have been designed for seventh years, not for fourth years. Potter has no chance of winning, but it will provide a few opportunities to get rid of him. Do you know what the first task is?"

Severus shook his head. "Albus would tell me nothing."

"Whoever did it, let's hope we can stop him before anything serious happens."

"Yes, I've fallen into the habit of saving the brat's life over the years. I'd hate to break my record."

She looked at him in amazement; he joked so rarely. Belatedly, she burst into laughter. Wiping her eyes, she said, "Thank you, Severus. I think I needed that laugh."

"I think you might need sleep even more than a laugh. I'll leave you alone. Good night, my dear."

"Good night, Severus."

Friday 24 February 1995

As soon as the results for the second task were announced, Severus turned and stalked back toward the castle. He had been sporting a ferocious scowl for most of the task — since Potter had eaten the gillyweed, in fact. Minerva didn't even pause to congratulate her student; there would be time for that later. She thought it more important to follow Severus and try to calm him.

She didn't actually catch with him before he was in his office, taking jars out of a cupboard.

"The little thief!"

"What is it?"

He turned a half-empty jar in his hand. Her Herbology studies were long ago, and she couldn't identify the herbs inside.

"That," he said, "is gillyweed. My own reserve of gillyweed. And it is lower than it should be, coincidentally just when Potter used some."

She sighed. "I'll talk to him."

"Couldn't he have asked? I would have given it to him. No, instead, he chose to assume that stealing it would be better. That perhaps I wouldn't notice."

Severus was making a noticeable effort not to explode; his teeth were clenched and his knuckles white.

"I'm sorry, Severus. I'll have a word with him. Do you want to take him in detention, or should I keep him?"

Severus' reply was interrupted by the appearance of a house-elf. Strangely, this one wasn't wearing the standard Hogwarts tea-towel.

"No, no, no! Professor Snape mustn't punish Harry Potter! Harry Potter is not stealing the gillyweed! Dobby is sorry, so sorry."

The elf began bashing his head on the edge of the desk, and after a second of staring, Minerva reached out to stop him.

"Don't do that. Why shouldn't we punish Mr Potter?"

"It is Dobby who is taking the gillyweed for Harry Potter. Dobby was hearing Professor McGonagall and Professor Moody talk about gillyweed, and Dobby is thinking that gillyweed is what Harry Potter is needing, and so Dobby is taking some for Harry Potter. Please, Professor Snape is to be punishing Dobby, not Harry Potter."

"You were the one who stole the gillyweed, elf?"

This time, Minerva managed to catch Dobby before he could start his self-abuse. He nodded guiltily.

"Very well. You shall be the one to clean my rooms for, let's say, the end of the year. Until June when the students go away."

Dobby nodded eagerly.

"I trust you know the rules?"

"Yes, Professor Snape. Dobby is being told by the other house-elves when he arrives at Hogwarts. Thank you, Professor Snape. You is not punishing Harry Potter?"

"No, I won't punish Harry Potter. I'll expect you to do your job correctly. You can go now."

The elf vanished with a pop. Minerva asked Severus, "The rules?"

He shrugged. "I have a number of dangerous substances in my rooms. I'd prefer that overzealous house-elves didn't try to 'clean' them."

He looked at the jar of gillyweed he was still carrying. "So Potter isn't a thief. Merely a boy with well-placed friends."

"They will serve him well."

He nodded.

Saturday 24 June 1995

Minerva gasped and clenched at Severus' sleeve. The boys had disappeared from the maze.

"What happened?"

"Portkey, I think. But where to...?"

They hurried to Albus, who had taken a watch out of his robes and was observing it grimly. He showed it to them. Harry Potter's hand pointed to "Mortal Peril". Cedric Diggory's was on "Dead".

Albus began giving instructions to the Professors and the Ministry officials. Severus' face drained suddenly and he pulled away from the group of people. When he was out of general sight, in a group of bushes, he pointed to his left arm and Disapparated.

Minerva swallowed nervously. She took Albus aside, and said, "I think Severus was summoned — by You-Know-Who himself, possibly."

"Very well, my dear. I think we can only hope for the best now."

After what seemed a century, Potter appeared again, clutching the Cup in one hand, and the lifeless body of Diggory in the other. A few seconds later, Severus Apparated back by her side. In relief, she hugged him tightly.

And then, all hell broke loose.

In the evening, she went down to his rooms to the dungeons. The door opened at her touch. He was sitting on the sofa, a drink in his hand. She sat down beside him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"What will happen, now?"

He took a large gulp of his drink — whisky, her nose told her, the expensive Muggle stuff that she herself preferred. "Now, I go back to spying. Ingratiating myself with the Death Eaters and the Dark Lord, and making sure he thinks that I'm spying on Dumbledore for him and not the other way 'round."

She rubbed at his back and he smiled briefly.

"I'm afraid, Minerva."

Wednesday 27 March 1996

When Minerva arrived in Severus' office, he was sweeping cockroaches from the floor. The expression on his face made her pause; his mood had been particularly bad that year, between his spying duties, the Occlumency lessons, and That Woman, but he was looking positively murderous tonight.

She didn't ask what happened, because she would probably be answered by a snarl, and she didn't fancy being insulted by her closest friend. She was rather surprised when he volunteered the information.

"Potter snooped into my Pensieve."

The insufferable, stupid, nosy boy! "What did he see?"

"After my Defence OWLs. When Potter and Black..."

She sighed. Of all memories to witness. "How did he react?"

Severus snorted. "To be honest, he didn't stay long enough to 'react'."

Understanding dawned. "Severus Snape! Did you throw a jar of cockroaches at him?"

"I missed."

She rolled her eyes. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't want to see him. Ever again."

"Severus, you're teaching him. Potions and Occlumency. You have to see him," she said reasonably.

"I'll just ignore him during Potions. And he can find someone else to teach him Occlumency."

"Severus! It's important that he learn Occlumency!"

He stood up and faced her in anger. "Why don't you try telling him, then! Three months of lessons, and the boy cannot keep me out his head any better than at the beginning! He isn't even trying, Minerva! And why would he? It isn't as if he was told why he needs it."

Now she was angry too. "He shouldn't have to be told why. He's a child! He should do as he's told."

"Minerva. He's not a child. He's a weapon, and soon, he'll be a soldier. We can't treat him as a child."

"I hate this war." She sat down on the floor, and hid her face in her hands.

He crouched down beside her and put a hand on her shoulder. Leaning on one knee, he pulled her into a hug and rested his chin on her hair.

"So do I, my dear. So do I."

Sunday 16 June 1996

Severus watched both Potter and Malfoy leave, and turned toward Minerva.

"Minerva. You impossibly annoying Gryffindor!"

She smiled. "Yes. Aren't you glad I'm back?"

In two strides, he was by her side. A scant second later, she was engulfed in the tightest hug she had ever received.

"You're well, you're well."

His arms tightened again, and she squeaked in protestation. He reluctantly let go.

"Would you mind not putting me in St Mungo's again, Severus?"

Her amused smile made it clear that she was only teasing him, but he apologised anyway.

"Will you accompany me to my office, my dear? Let's see whether the two idiots managed to arrive there without getting lost."

"What is the stick for?" Severus asked, lending her his arm.

"I'll never be able to walk as easily as I did. Those spells took their toll, I'm afraid."

Severus looked stricken, but his face soon took a determined expression. "Let me see your leg. I'll see if I can whip up something to make it better."

"It's not so bad, Severus. Though the cat won't like the restriction in her movements."

He smiled. "I'll do it for the cat, then."

"Severus Snape, you have a heart of gold."

He blushed lightly. "Let's not stoop to insults, please."

She laughed delightedly, for the first time since the beginning of the year.