A Marked Man
By Kris Daniels

Disclaimer: Harry Potter, Severus Snape, Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts, and all else you recognize are sadly not mine. They belong to JK Rowlings.

Summary: Severus Snape comes to teach at Hogwarts, and Minerva McGonagall accidently discovers his secret.

Note on Time: Based on the assumption that Voldemort was first defeated Halloween, 1981, and the first HP book began in 1991.

August 7, 1979

He was, he supposed, an unusual sight. Torn robes, bloody face, black hair tangled and no doubt sticking up in crazy directions. Not naturally unruly, like Potter's, but sticky and stiff from dried and drying blood. Not all of it was even his. The blood, not the hair. The hair was all his own. Black, and long, and dirty. Despite his battered appearance, he strood across the lawn between forest and castle with brisk, ground-eating strides that even healthy men would envy.

His black eyes darted about, seeking people, but finding none. No students this time of year. No professors in sight. No sign of the groundskeeper, either. Pathetic. He was almost to the castle now, and nobody had yet challenged him. As far as he could tell, no one knew he was even on the property. And his Lord feared this place? He wasn't sure which he should disdain more.

The side door he had arrived at was even unlocked. Pitiful. He pushed it open and stepped inside the castle. Still, no one. He sneered. True, it was summer break, but this lack of protection was ridiculous. After the HeadMaster found himself face to face with a Death Eater with a drawn wand, he expected it would be remedied, but by then it would be far too late. Fortunately for Dumbledore, this Death Eater didn't intend to use his wand for anything but putting it on the Headmaster's desk.

He found the gargoyle to the Dumbledore's office without difficulty. It had only been two years since he had graduated himself, so the school was easily navigated. "Lemon drops?" he hazarded. "Bertie Botts, Chocolate Frog, Pumpkin Fizz," he continued, throwing out every kind of sweet he could think of. "Dragon Pop, Sugar Quill, Licorice Stick, Cinnimon Bun, Sti-" the gargoyle jumped aside before he could finish saying 'sticky roll'.

He stepped onto the moving spiral stair, and rode up to the door at the top, where he turned the knob and stepped inside without knocking. The old wizard looked up, surprised that someone would enter without fair warning, but he greeted him as though seeing him was nothing out of the ordinary. "Hello, Severus."

Severus grabbed his wand and slapped it down on the center of the desk with enough force to shake the frames of several past Headmasters. He then stepped back and crossed his arms. The Headmaster looked down at the wand, then up at his former student. Severus did not look away. The corner of Dumbledore's mouth twitched, but his eye's twinkle was conspicously absent. "You look . . . vexed." He didn't mention the blood or the wand. Severus wasn't sure if that should surprised him or not.

"This school is atrociously defended, Dumbledore. What if I had been sent to kill you?"

A small smile. "You would have collapsed at the Apparation line, without getting in, and alerted the Ministry of your location. Since you weren't, I had Minerva unlock the side door for you."

Severus blinked. Subtle defences, then. "I could have changed my mind once I passed there."

The Headmaster shrugged, apparently unconcerned. "You didn't," he pointed out. Severus only grunted in reply. "Should I call up Poppy for your face?" Dumbledore asked, changing the subject.

Severus touched the crusted blood as though he'd forgotten about it. "Scalp wound. Bled a lot, but essentially harmless."

"A cleaning spell, then." He drew his own wand and cast a simple charm in Severus' direction. His first inclination was to try to dodge it, but then he squashed the instinct, recognizing the spell as non-threatening. He felt a mild tingle, and touched his forehead again. His fingers met only skin.

"Thank you," he said gruffly, crossing his arms again.

"It was nothing you couldn't have done," Dumbledore dismissed the thanks, and Severus wondered if he was too stupid to realize they were something he rarely gave, or if he was deftly manipulating the conversation. Well, he'd comply. That was what he had come here for in the first place.

"Not with my wand on your desk, I can't," Severus denied bitterly, as though he hadn't voluntarily put it there without being asked.

"Ah, yes. Your wand." The Headmaster's disappreared back up his sleeve, and he picked up Severus's ten inches of ebony and phoenix tail feather. "Why did you give this to me?" He looked up, locking gazes with the Death Eater. Severus was almost certain the old man already knew exactly what was going on.

"To break it." The old man wanted to play games? Then he could deal with literal answers.

"Why would I want to do that?" He was after a confession then. Severus's eyes narrowed in irritation, though he knew he should have expected it. The Headmaster wanted to know his sins? Fine. Severus would tell him. Hopefully he could shock the old man.

"Why would you want to?" he repeated in a low voice that would frighten most people who knew him. "Because, with that wand I have cast seventeen adava cadavras, twice that imperios, and I can't even count the number of crucios anymore," Severus answered, his eyes never leaving the Headmaster's, and his voice staying calm and even. Just discussing the weather, here. "Then there were all those Dark potions and poisons I brewed for my Lord, which if properly applied, surely accounted for another hundred or so deaths or tortures. If you'd dare to cast prior incantium on that wand, I've done twenty-four of that, as well."

The Headmaster did not look away for what seemed a very long time. Severus did not waver nor fidget. Finally, the old man broke the contact, and half-curiously, half in dread, cast the suggested spell. A small, pale, ghostly version of the Dark Mark formed in the air between them. "I'm a Death Eater, Albus," he whispered into the stiff silence. He wondered what had possessed him to call the Headmaster by his first name. Shock value, perhaps. He certainly had no right to use the given name.

Another long moment passed. Then the Headmaster wrenched his eyes from the ghostly Mark. A wave of his own innocent wand dispelled it. "You were," he agreed finally.

Severus scowled and shook his head. Rolling back his left sleeve, he displayed his own Mark. "I am, Headmaster. You can't make this one go away. Break my wand and be done with it."

"Why me? Why come through the trouble of coming to Hogwarts? The Ministry would have long since carried out your request. Tea?" he asked suddenly, as if mentioning the Ministry reminded him of acting like a proper host.

"No tea, thank you," Severus replied, somewhat taken aback.

"At least sit down, I'm getting a crick in my neck looking up at you."

Uncomfortably, Severus lowered himself to perch on the edge of one of the chairs. He had no right to be comfortable tonight. Or any night, really.

"Why Hogwarts?" Dumbledore redirected the conversation.

For the first time, Severus looked away from him. "I don't know." Cowardice, but he didn't even have the bravery to admit that. Self-preservation, but he had no right to preserve himself anymore. Somehow, his subconscious foolishly thought the Headmaster might just snap his wand, and send him out to work with Hagrid. Or give him a lifetime of detentions. Anything was better than a Dementer's Kiss or Azkaban. "I don't want to die," he whispered, almost too quietly to hear.

"Why turn yourself in at all?" Mildly curious. Did nothing shake him?

"It's not what I signed up for."

"What did you sign up for?"

Finally, a question he could meet the Headmaster's eyes with again. "The mystery. The forbidden knowledge. The dark allure. My Lord promised power, as well, but that was incidental for me. I wasn't going to refuse it, but that wasn't my priority." His parents and peers had only encouraged the path with their teachings and propaganda, but that wasn't what the Headmaster asked. Severus was willing to take full responisbility for his choice.

"And these were not granted?"

Severus made a noise that passed for a bitter laugh. "I got the forbidden knowledge until I surpassed my teachers. The rest was just a front for what we really are."

"Which is?"

"Puppets. Our Lord pulls our strings and we dance. He has the power. We've none. There's no mystery. Just random acts of murder and torture. There's no dark allure. Just blood and punisment and guilt. Of course, I seem to be the only one of us to realize this. Not that I've mentioned it to any of the others. That's a slow and messy way to suicide. But I don't want to be his puppet any longer."

Dumbledore looked thoughtful for a long moment. "Even if it means Azkaban?"

Severus couldn't quite stop a flinch. He continued to meet the Headmaster's gaze though. "I'm here, aren't I? I know what the punishment is for using the Unforgivables."

"Would you consider dancing to two puppeteers instead?"

Severus frowned. "I haven't enjoyed one, and he wouldn't like giving me up. Who are the two you're thinking about?"

"Your current one and myself."

Severus felt his eyes widening and his blood draining from his face. "You want me to go back disloyal? As a spy?"

"We need one."

"I won't go to Azkaban?"

"I'll vouch for you myself."

Severus nodded slowly, thinking it over. It would be more than dangerous. Likely suicidal. But there was the slim chance he could help end it all and be allowed to live a normal life. Though his eyes had never left the Headmaster's, they had briefly turned inward. Now, they focused back on him. "So be it."

The Headmaster smiled tightly. "You'll need this," he said, offering the ebony wand back.

Almost reluctantly, Severus accepted it. "You should have broken it."

"Mayhap," the Headmaster said, though his tone clearly indicated his doubt. He turned quietly thoughtful again, a practice Severus was quickly learning to dislike. "My potions master was killed end of last term, and I haven't found a replacement, yet." He arched a white eyebrow. "Interested?"

"Me?" He was too stunned to keep the incredulity from his voice and expression.

"You are more than qualified on the subject."

"I'm a Death Eater! I can't be a Hogwarts professor!"

The Headmaster cocked his head to the side, as if Severus had said something remarkably odd. "Whyever not?"

Severus could only stare wordlessly at him. Mad. If he hadn't thought so before, he was sure of it now.

"It's perfect really," the crazy old man continued, "You can keep an eye on me, for your other master. I'm available for you to report to, without raising his suspicions. Perfect." He didn't mention that Severus would be there for Dumbledore to keep an eye on, but Severus heard it anyway.

He had only one objection left to the insane notion. "I've only just turned twenty, Headmaster."

"Ah! Good! I won't have you retiring on me anytime soon." Completely loony, without doubt.

"If you insist, I'm sure I can talk my - my other master into it."

"Splendid!" The old man gave a sharp nod, which Severus understood to be a dismissal. He rose to his feet, and turned toward the door. "And Severus." He turned back to the Headmaster, raising a black eyebrow. "If at all possible, try to avoid the Unforgivables in the future."

Severus incline his head marginally. "I will try." The words But I offer no promises hung in the air between them, unspoken.

"That is all I can ask. I will send you a letter accepting you to the faculty shortly."

Severus nodded. "Kindly wait one week, so I can ease, ah, Him, into the idea. Make it seem like his own."

"Very well, then."

August 31, 1979

One day until term began. One day until the first day of his teaching career. He hadn't even stepped inside Hogwarts since that night almost three weeks ago. Well, he was about to now. He scowled back at where his luggage should have been, but it had already disappeared. He couldn't even yell at the House Elves to get a move on. Just himself. He summoned his courage and stepped inside through the large front doors.

It wasn't quite as enormous as he remembered from first year, but it was still huge. And empty, for another 24 blessed hours. "S-Severus?"

He jumped, and spun towards the voice. Not entirely empty then. There were professors around. "Professor Flitwick," he greeted the little creature politely, and hoped word of his gaping at the front hall like a pitiful first year would not spread.

"What are you doing here?" The tiny professor's voice held equal parts suspicion and curiosity.

Clearly, Headmaster Dumbledore had not informed the faculty about their newest member. "Potions professor." Merlin, that sounded pretentious. He was barely done being a student.

Apparently, Professor Flitwick agreed. "You?" he asked, the word startled out of him, before he could try to be diplomatic.

Severus sneered, "Indeed." He had sneered at a professor. He'd done it before, but it had always been followed immediately with either point deductions or a detention.

Professor Flitwick looked taken aback for a moment, catching himself barely from doing one or both of those things. "But you're S- so young," he protested, though Severus was sure that had not been his first objection.

"You can distiguish me from the seventh years by the fact that I no longer wear a Slytherin badge," he noted drily, almost enjoying Professor Flitwick's discomfort. He hoped the three years difference in age afforded some other proof as well, or he would likely have a great deal of difficulty controlling that class. Though he did have his reputation to help him. They had known, or at least, had heard of him, as a student. Aside for Potter and gang, most people had been reluctant to cross him three years ago. With the powers of being a Professor backing him, they'd surely be terrified. He gave Professor Flitwick a small tight smile that barely passed as friendly, and stalked past him, toward the dungeon rooms the House Elves had told him were his.

He arrived early to his first staff meeting that evening. More to get a sense of the older professors' individual reactions to him, than because of his normal penchant for punctuality. He was the first in the Staff room, though it was less than a minute later when Professor McGonagall arrived. She looked only mildly surprised to see him. "Severus."


She quirked a smile at him. "You may call me Minerva, now, you know, Severus." Call Professor McGonagall by her first name? That was . . . that was . . . well, it wasn't conceivable. It was just wrong. Severus knew he had trouble telling whether something was wrong or not, but he was sure that was. It was like call his lord 'Tom' but worse.

Some of his thoughts must have shown on his face, because she laughed. He'd have to work on that if he was going to survive this spy thing. As it was, having Professor McGonagall giggling at him was bad enough. "You should see the long on your face, Severus," she breathed. He supposed she was right. Then he could make a note not to ever put it into that configuration again. "Is the thought of using my name really that awful?" She was so thoroughly amused, it was sickening.

Fortunately, Professor Flitwick chose that moment to enter, thus saving Severus from answering her question. "Minerva," the tiny professor greeted his collegue warmly, then turned to the room's other occupant. "Severus," he said neutrally.

"Hello, Felton," McGonagall returned, equally warm.

"Professor." Which, of course, set her off laughing again. Severus sat stiffly in his chair, trying not to look or feel offended.

"Something amusing, Minerva?" a deep voice asked, as another person stepped into the room. By the his dubious inflection, he apparently didn't truly believe anything in the world was amusing. He inclined his head toward Flitwick and Severus.

"Nothing you'd enjoy, Ignatius," she snapped back, her previous mirth vanished. So. The Gryffindor-Slytherin Heads of House really didn't get along. That was mildly disheartening. As a student, he had almost believed their act of tolerance.

The remaining professors arrived as a group, followed by the Headmaster, and the meeting commensed. Dumbledore cleared his throat to gain everyone's attention then began, "First off, I'd like to introduce you all to our new Potions Professor. I believe you all know Severus Snape." The Headmaster smiled warmly at him, eyes twinkling merrily. "Welcome back to Hogwarts, Professor Snape."

Severus's sneer froze, only half-formed. Professor Snape? He was Professor Snape, now, wasn't he? He wasn't sure if his parents would laugh or cry if they could see him now. And if it was the latter, would it be from pride or disappointment? Professor Snape, indeed. Though he'd never admit it to anyone, he did feel proud. He was a Hogwarts professor, the youngest one in at least a century, though he'd need to check that to be sure.

The ironic thing of it all was, of course, that if he hadn't been a Death Eater first, he wouldn't have gotten it.

By the time he recovered from being addressed as Professor Snape, the Headmaster had moved on to other, more tedious details.

TBC . . .

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