Dumbledore stormed into his office still very much in shock at what he had just witnessed not five minutes ago, the entire student body attempting to destroy itself as old rivalries and grudges exploded. What was worse was seeing a man he had come to trust actually harm one of the students they were sworn to protect: he already knew McGonagall's reaction and could guess how Flitwick and Sprout would react once they were told. Severus had gone too far this time and even he agreed he would have to be punished: if it got out that he had escaped punishment after harming a student Hogwarts would suffer greatly and he was certain he would lose his job as well for allowing it, not that he would in the first place. Walking behind his desk he turned and glared at Severus who only stood and waited, he did not see any signs that he regretted what he had done.
"Explain yourself and quickly Severus," Dumbledore finally said as he sat down and tried to calm a rising anger, not only at Severus, but at himself for allowing events to reach this point. Perhaps he should have brought Severus to heel earlier, he'd had complaints about the man's actions for the last couple of years, but he had been very lenient in his response. His actions towards Harry had been even worse and still he hadn't come down as hard as he should have on the man. Why? Because he trusted him, and thought of him as a friend. This situation was due to his failing. He rubbed his eyes and promised to do better for Harry and the rest of the student body.
"I shouldn't have to Headmaster, that damn Potter brat was beating Draco Malfoy into a bloody mess and no one seemed to be willing to do anything to stop it, so I intervened to save him from permanent damage," Snape shot back heatedly, his control slipping somewhat in the face of the Headmaster's anger. It was clear to him he would not be getting out of this as easily as he had done before. His Master wouldn't be pleased when he learned of this and that made him fear for his life.
"You attacked a student Severus," Dumbledore cut him off before he could say anymore, angered by the bland response and attempted justification for the attack. "As teachers we are sworn to protect them not only from themselves, but from outside threats as well, and nowhere in our contracts does it say we can harm those students and you have just broken the code all teachers abide by," he shouted, actually really angry about the man's lack of understanding or remorse for his act.
"You are missing the point Albus," Snape argued not willing to take all the blame. "Potter attacked Draco and tried to kill him of that I have no doubt," he continued only to be cut off once more.
"You are over stating the matter. Harry isn't a violent person and every time he and Draco Malfoy have clashed it has been due to being provoked by Mr. Malfoy," Dumbledore stated, standing up and pacing a little and he knew he was right. "He would not have harmed Mr. Malfoy as badly as you claim," he added.
He had been paying attention over the years and had seen how the two rivals had acted towards each other, unless confronted by Malfoy Harry usually stayed away from him and didn't attempt to wind him up or insult him as Malfoy did to him every chance he got. And he had noted that if Malfoy couldn't get to Harry then he would turn his attention towards Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley, although he doubted Mr Weasley would now be worth provoking as he was no longer friends with Harry.
"You give the boy too much leeway as I've stated before Albus and this time it cost you. I have no doubt that rumble in the hall was started by that malcontent," Snape sneered in contempt, knowing he was probably facing some kind of punishment, but he refused to back down on this issue.
"ENOUGH," Dumbledore shouted and spun to face the other man. "Tell me Severus, do you even care that you wounded a young boy at all?" he asked and even a complete idiot could hear the underlining threat in the old man's voice if the answer was anything but a solid yes.
"Of course," Snape shot back, but Dumbledore could hear the utter lack of sincerity in his tone as he did. "I did what I thought best based on a snap judgment Albus, I feared for Draco Malfoy's life and acted," he continued hoping now to weave a competent lie that may save him from anything too harsh. "Potter, in my eyes, had no intent on stopping his assault," he added.
"I find you're reasoning insincere Severus and considering your attitude towards Harry in the past I doubt you didn't intend him harm," Dumbledore admitted with a sigh. "I should have done something about this before, but I let my trust and friendship with you get in the way of doing my job, and for that I'm sorry to you and to young Harry," he told the younger man as he sat back down and rubbed a hand down his beard. "Perhaps if I had said something things wouldn't have come to this," he stated.
Snape wanted to sneer at the old man's words, even more he wanted to finally be able to lash out at him and teach him just how gullible he had been when he had actually believed Snape wanted to switch sides and be a good man. For such a powerful wizard he had one major weakness that could be easily exploited, he trusted too easily. But he held himself back, he had orders from the Master and had to be on hand to carry them out. He was only useful to the Dark Lord as long as he had access to Potter and the school as a whole.
"I'm suspending you for two months without pay and I'm ordering you off school premises while you are suspended," Dumbledore finally spoke again, his tone sounding regretful, which made Snape feel ill. "I'm sorry Severus, but if I don't do something, it is possible someone might inform the Ministry of your attack on Harry and then you would be in a real world of hurt and I doubt even I could get you out of it considering your history as a Death Eater, no matter than you turned spy for us before the end," he explained.
"I... I understand Headmaster," Snape managed to grate out, feeling outraged and pure hatred at Potter who he blamed for this. "I request I be allowed to stay in my quarters Albus, this school is almost a second home for me," he requested trying to use Dumbledore's pity against him to at least allow him to stay where he could watch Potter and interfere if it was needed as he had been ordered.
"I'm afraid I must refuse your request Severus. Had you been in trouble for some other reason I would allow it," Dumbledore replied sadly his anger fading as Severus began to act normally or normally in his eyes. Still he was on guard; his actions in the hall had made him wary. "However in this case I must remove you from the school so no further problems may arise, hopefully when you return things will have died down and you will have regained control of yourself," he explained carefully. "Hopefully the student body will have forgotten as well, however I think you will have an uphill struggle in regaining the trust of your fellow teachers," he concluded.
"I see," Snape said unable to think of anything else he could say to help his cause. "I will leave straight away," he stated before turning and storming out of the office unsure if he should try and hide for the next two months or attempt to contact his Master and let him know what had happened. He almost cursed himself for losing control back in the hall. Instead, as usual, he blamed Potter for provoking him by attacking Draco so badly.
Dumbledore watched him leave feeling confused as to whether Severus had truly changed as he had long claimed, or that he was acting and was still a follower of Voldemort. His attack on Harry refused to let him think of Severus as he normally did, rubbing his beard he let out a sigh knowing the other head of houses would soon be here to discuss this matter and he knew he could not put the meeting of till the morning no matter how much he wished he could. This had been a bad end to what so far had been a good day, a day where he had learned quite a bit more about young Harry that made him believe even more than he was the person who would one day replace him as the one the people looked too for hope.
Harry winced as Madam Pomfrey finished treating the wound Snape's curse had caused to his shoulder, the pain had been intense and unlike anything he had felt before since coming to the magical world. Hermione sat watching with concern written all over her face, he tried to give her a smile, but he knew she would see through it.
"Here Mr. Potter, drink this it will help with the pain," Pomfrey ordered as she handed him a small beaker with a dark blue liquid inside. He grimaced as he hated how most potions tasted, but he did as ordered and downed the whole thing.
"Now I want you to lie down and get some sleep, that was no ordinary spell you were hit with so I want to keep an eye on you for a few hours," Pomfrey stated, causing Harry to sigh before doing as he was told knowing there was no point in arguing.
"Miss Granger, please return to the common room now that you know Mr. Potter will be okay," McGonagall said gently, knowing the young witch would not have left until she was certain Harry would be okay.
"Yes Professor, I'll see you tomorrow Harry," Hermione said, wanting to argue but knowing McGonagall had been lenient enough already in letting her stay beyond getting Harry to the ward as it was.
Leaving the ward she wondered what Dumbledore would do about Snape. She refused to call him a Professor now that he had actually attacked a student under his care. Never in her life had she believed he would do something like that, especially not with Dumbledore and McGonagall standing right beside him, yet he had done so. Considering his refusal to discipline Snape in the past when he stepped out of line, she wondered if Dumbledore had it in him to really come down on the man. And she feared the consequences if he refused to act. Harry would certainly be watching this closely and so would the rest of the student body, bar the Slytherins.
McGonagall watched her leave before turning back to her student who now lay on the bed looking pensive. Hopefully Albus would finally take some real action against Severus for this or she feared this could go badly for them all, especially with so much attention focused on Hogwarts due to the tournament.
"Will you be okay Potter?" she inquired unable to help herself.
"I will be Professor, this isn't the first time I've been hurt within the school," Harry answered somewhat cynically, making McGonagall wince at the truth of that statement.
She had noted that since Harry Potter had returned to the magical world, there had been an increase in dark activity throughout their world. It was almost like his return was the sign for the darkness to return, it had also been the start of the Dark Lords slow return as well. Perhaps Albus was correct and the Dark Lord had never truly been destroyed fully, perhaps he was always destined to return and that Potter would have to face him once more. That was a realization that chilled her to the bone. That one so young would have to face that monster. Hopefully Albus would prepare the boy for the fight to come, she just prayed Albus was wrong and the Dark Lord remained nothing but a wraith.
"Get some sleep Potter; you will need it for tomorrow as we will have to talk about your punishment along with the rest of the house's," McGonagall told him with a grim look before she headed for the exit.
"Professor," Harry called out and she turned to face him once more. "Will something be done about Snape?" he inquired.
For once she didn't bother to reprimand him for not calling Severus by his title, as it was a title she no longer believed he should have. "Believe me Potter I and the other heads will ensure something will be done if Albus has not done so already," McGonagall assured him before turning and leaving.
Harry watched her go and wondered if she was telling the truth where Snape was concerned, hopefully she was because if the man escaped without anything being done he swore he was going to raise hell about it. He had always known Snape hated him, even knew the reason why or at least believed he did, but he had never thought the man would attempt to harm him, especially while Dumbledore was watching him. That he had made him wary of ever being in the man's presence again. If somehow the man got away without being punished or was allowed back should he be punished he swore to never let his guard down around him ever again.
Rolling over he closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep, but his thoughts were dark and it took him some time to finally find this blissful release of sleep. But even then his dreams were dark as he began to once more see the dark house where Voldemort and Wormtail hid. Once again he saw the giant snake that guarded it. He again heard the hissing voice of the monster which had destroyed his life and continued to haunt him, planning something concerning the tournament and his eventual death. It was sometime before his awareness faded all together and he slipped into normal sleep, but his dreams continued to haunt him throughout the night.
Dumbledore was still sitting in his chair looking pensive when McGonagall, Flitwick and Sprout arrived. They were surprised to find no sign of Snape. They had expected him to be still here. McGonagall frowned wondering if that was a good sign or a bad one.
"Albus?" she said hoping to gain his friend's attention.
Albus almost jerked as he realized he had allowed himself to get lost in his thoughts since he had dismissed Severus. Looking up he noted his three colleagues had arrived, each looked concerned. He gave them a small smile as Fawkes gave a soft cry from behind them.
"I'm sorry I was thinking a little too much," he told them as he stood and moved to the small table of to the side and began to pour them all a small glass of brandy which he handed out before retaking his seat. "I'm sorry to say that I should have listened to you a long time ago and cut down on Severus, because I did not things have come to a head and I witnessed something I never thought I would see," he admitted, shocking them all considering his long time backing of their colleague. "I was wrong and you were right," he confessed and saying those words made him feel a lot better than he had been.
"You trusted him Albus as did we all, and while we complained about his abuse of power and his favoritism we didn't exactly challenge your word on the matter as we should have done, so part of the blame falls to us as well," Flitwick said with a sigh as he sipped his brandy.
"I agree," McGonagall agreed with a nod of her head. "But we are not here to blame you Albus, we are here to help decide what happens now," she told him. "Snape must be punished this time Albus, not only for the school's sake, but for any chance you have to keep any respect from Harry and the rest of the students who all witnessed what Severus did," she advised.
"I have already done so Minerva," Albus admitted as he downed his own glass of brandy before continuing. "I have suspended Severus for two months without pay and banished him from the school while he serves his suspension," he informed them and almost felt like smiling at their looks of shock and in one case amazement, but this was no laughing matter. "Now I will hear if you think it is enough of a punishment or not, or if you believe something else is called for," he stated.
"He attacked a student Albus and not just any student, but Harry Potter," Sprout was the first to say anything surprising many as she usually let the others have their say first. "Someone we've all noted he has a deep abiding hatred for," she added pointedly.
Dumbledore frowned as he had never considered Severus to truly hate Harry, just disliked him due to being James and Lily Potter's son. Had he truly been so blind that he hadn't seen the truth of the matter? Had he allowed his trust in Severus to make him blind to this fact? "Do you really think he hates the boy?" he inquired.
McGonagall sighed at this as she knew Albus had truly trusted Severus and now that trust was truly tested after seeing what he had done back in the Great Hall. Signs he may have missed or avoided really seeing were now coming to light. She knew it must be painful for him, but there was no hiding from the truth for any of them.
"Yes Albus we truly do," she said, knowing she spoke for them all. "We've all seen it at different times. Any time he is near the boy it reveals itself in his eyes," she told him gently. "Being the son of his greatest rival ensured he would be hated, but it was always going to be worse considering Lily chose James over him all those years ago," she continued. "Something Harry does not know just yet, but he will in time Albus," she assured him.
"Yes the boy thinks it is all about Snape's rivalry with his father, he has no clue it also includes his mother as well," Flitwick agreed as he poured himself another glass of brandy. "He already hates Severus as it is Albus, just think how much worse it will be when he learns about his obsession with Lily," he added with a pointed look at his friend.
Dumbledore had to concede this point. Harry's feelings for his father were not as strong as those he had for his mother. In Harry's eyes his mother was the best witch ever and with the way everyone talked about her he could see why he thought that, but he knew thanks to last year's events his father was not as perfect as he might have once thought. He had learned his father was a prankster and trouble maker along with his friends. He had learned he had hated Severus, but had ended up saving the man's life earning a life debt. A debt he knew Severus had hated owing, tapping his fingers on his desk he wondered if that debt had added to Snape's hatred of Harry. Due to James and Lily both dying the debt transferred to the last living member of their family, Harry himself. Perhaps it had helped twist that hatred into something far more dangerous, either way once Harry knew about Severus's feelings, which even he had to admit, had been obsessive, would not help matters.
"Lily choosing James drove Severus mad and while most people get over things like that I don't believe he ever truly did," Sprout put in as she finished her own glass of brandy. "It is in my view the major reason he feels such hatred for Harry, he is the living embodiment of Lily's choice," she continued gaining all their attentions. "Every time he looks at Harry I'm certain he is reminded of the fact that Lily didn't love him and that she preferred his hated rival and Harry's eyes are exactly like Lily's, thus it must be like looking at a ghost which taunts him as the face they belong to is almost an exact replica of James," she concluded.
"This is not just about Harry," Dumbledore finally said, taking everything that has been said on board, but deciding to move this away from Harry for the moment.
"We know that Albus, but it was not any other student he attacked," Flitwick argued before downing his second glass of brandy. "It was the one student most others know or have seen he has a personal grudge against," he stated.
"But even with that we must make our choice on what is best not just for Harry but the rest of the school as well," Sprout said to which the other two nodded.
"If he has done it once, then what is to stop him doing it again?" McGonagall stated. "That is the question most will be asking themselves Albus, can we be certain if he is brought back he will not do something like this again and are we to trust him with Harry's safety considering what he has done?" she asked glancing at each of her colleagues in turn.
Silence met this question as none of them had an immediate answer that would satisfy them all. Albus leaned back in his chair and thought long and hard. He had always thought when Voldemort returned as he knew he would then Severus would be a key player in finally defeating him permanently, now he had begun to question if he really could be trusted. Long held beliefs about his friend had been shaken after seeing him attack Harry, it had been made worse by his complete lack of sorrow for having done so.
"I think for now we should have to think over the matter for the next couple of days, so we have some perspective on the whole thing and not make a snap judgment," Flitwick suggested.
"That sounds like a good idea Filius," Sprout agreed with a quick nod and soon Dumbledore and McGonagall agreed as well.
"That leaves only one question," McGonagall told them gaining their attention. "Who will fill in while Snape is suspended?" she inquired.
"I have already considered the matter and I intend to track down our old colleague Horace Slughorn. He will be the ideal replacement until either Severus returns or we decide on the matter of if he comes back at all," Dumbledore informed them with a slight smile. "For tomorrow all potions classes will be canceled and we will use the time to discuss what happened in the hall and what we expect of them in the future," he explained. "I think it is also time I put a stop to the rumors about Harry's entry in the tournament. Something I should have done before, but again I allowed myself to be distracted and it has cost us," he continued with a shake of his head as Fawkes began to sing a soft tune behind him to help lighten his spirits having senses his partners' unease. "This outbreak in the hall could have been avoided had I made it clear he didn't enter it himself," he stated.
"I doubt it would have helped Albus, they know how close you are to Harry Potter," McGonagall replied. "They would have believed that you were covering for him," she told him.
"The only way they will believe it is if Harry is willing to make a magical vow on the matter in front of the whole school along with our foreign guests," Flitwick mused.
"I have to agree with Filius on this, it is the only way they will believe," Sprout agreed. "And seen as we know he did not put his name into the Goblet, there should be no risk to Harry if he decides to make the vow," she advised.
Dumbledore stroked his beard for a few minutes as he considered the matter and allowed Fawkes music to calm him greatly; finally he decided it was the only way now to calm the uproar in the school.
"I will see Harry and discuss the matter before the students arrive for breakfast," he finally decided. "Knowing him as I do, I feel confident he would agree to make the vow," he mused almost to himself. "Once breakfast is finished and we have dealt with this matter, I will leave for the rest of the day to track down Horace so Minerva you will be in charge while I'm away with Filius filling in as deputy until I return," he told them.
"And if Horace will not return?" McGonagall inquired.
"I feel certain I can persuade him to come back to Hogwarts, especially with the tournament going on," Dumbledore answered confidently. "No I feel sure he will want to come back," he almost repeated only this time with a soft chuckle as he already had an idea what would draw his old friend back.
"What are we going to say about the incident if any of the Ministry officials who are here for the tournament start inquiring just what is going on and why Snape has been fired?" McGonagall asked.
"If we tell the truth then I feel certain Severus will be arrested and charged, and with his past well I doubt he would escape Azkaban a second time," Dumbledore answered with a troubled frown. "I doubt I would stand up for him in this," he admitted knowing if he did it would cost him dearly. Worse case it would break his friendship with Harry completely and he knew he needed to be on good terms with Harry to help him survive Voldemort's eventual return. "For now I suggest we claim it is an internal matter of Hogwarts, but if they persist or it comes out another way then we admit the full truth and leave it up to the Ministry to decide what is to be done," he suggested. "I have a small bit of hope this was a one off incident, that Severus lost control and it will not happen again and yet I can't ignore your views or my own growing concerns about him that have sprung up after seeing what he did," he admitted honestly.
The others nodded in agreement, they had slim hope that it would be as Albus hoped. But they were willing to try for now. Severus Snape had been a colleague of theirs for the last fifthteen years and while they couldn't claim to be his friend they had to concede he had been a good teacher, except his bias to his own house and his misuse of power. They each said goodnight and headed for their own quarters, hoping the next day would prove better than this one had been. McGonagall on her way back to her own quarters couldn't help to feel that Snape would never return to Hogwarts as a teacher. The news of what he had done would get out and once it did there would be a public outcry for his head and Albus would have no choice but to fire him.
What had surprised her however was that Albus seemed willing to do it, seeing him actually attack Harry seemed to have shaken his trust in the man and made him question his true loyalty. She wondered with a sudden chill if it had anything to do with his belief that the Dark Lord would return. Did he now doubt the man would not return to his former master, or did he actually doubt whether he had ever truly left the Dark Lord's service? That was truly chilling idea, that Snape could so fool Albus and the rest of them so well. Worse was the idea they had allowed a loyal Death Eater to teach children, she hoped her sudden beliefs were wrong and this was just an isolated incident.
Snape sat staring at the roaring fire nursing a large glass of port. His mind was going a mile a minute as he tried to work out what he was going to do. He knew from personal experience that not useful servants to the Dark Lord were quickly killed, and he had just become un-useful thanks to Potter. His hatred for the boy grew if that was possible. Downing half the glass he continued to stare into the fire. Finally he decided that if he was going to die for failing the Dark Lord then he was going to a least ensure the Potter bloodline went with him. He would find some way back into the school and use the tournament to finally have his revenge on James and on Lily. He'd send their precious baby back to them in whatever bit of hell they had been sent to in pieces. He almost let out an insane giggle as he dreamed of seeing Harry Potter's dead body and the reactions of his friends and that old fool Dumbledore. Even the Dark Lord would have to admit his place as the killer of the famous boy who lived, even if he was quickly killed for doing something he knew the Dark Lord wanted to do himself. But now he no longer cared about his Master's plans, he'd had enough of Harry Potter and wanted him dead and he would see him dead at his own hands.