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.
September 17, 1979
Two weeks of school had finished, and the third was just beginning. Severus looked out over his first class of the day: seventh year Gryffindor-Slytherins. After a few close calls, he had finally broken the habit of calling the Slytherins by their first names. He had always called the members of other Houses by their last name; the only difficulty now was remembering to throw in the "Mister" or "Miss" when they weren't actively annoying him.
He knew he had an advantage over any other new teacher Dumbledore might have hired. As a former prefect, he knew perfectly well who the troublemakers were in the seventh, sixth, fifth, and fourth year classes.
"Mister Blake," his sharp voice cut through the quiet bubbling of cauldrons. "Move your hand one inch closer to the fireworks in your bag and you will not have a day without detention until you leave Hogwarts." The Gryffindor blanched, and swiftly changed the direction of his arms movement to pick up a dropped lacewing.
"I was only picking up my wing, Professor." He had gotten over being called a professor fairly quickly, though for some of the older Slytherins and Gryffindors is sometimes sounded forced or mocking. Because it was one of the few offenses he removed points for on Slytherins, it was becoming less common, lately. Disrespect to a teacher was worth twenty points regardless of House. Particularly severe cases would also receive the most unpleasant detention he could device. Severus was a creative man.
"Ten points from Gryffindor for lying to a teacher, Mister Blake."
Blake scowled but did not try to deny it further.
After that class, the rumour of his ability to read minds was born. When McGonagall passed it back to him, he could only smirk. He made a concentrated effort to pay close enough attention to his students to be able to maintain the belief. He began to stalk the hallways at night not only to catch students out of bed - which was always good for the House point count - but also to see if he could overhear anything that he might use to further foster that impression.
Picking up on and remembering useless facts about teenagers turned out to be remarkably good practice for noticing and recalling details that he had never picked up on before at Death Eater meetings.
Death Eater Quentin Avery, for example, pulled at his sleeves in exactly the same way as sixth year Bruce Paquette in Ravenclaw when he was completely clueless about a topic, but working his tongue about it anyway. Lucius Malfoy had a remarkable habit of tilting his head to the left when he was nervous. Jacqueline Lestrange had a tendency to shift her weight when she disagreed with something, and nod fractionally when she agreed.
It made finding weaknesses in the ranks much simpler.
A pensieve allowed him to observe his own mannerisms and school himself to display them only by conscious decision.
He refined his intuition and observational skills to such a sharp edge that, by December, even Malfoy had once wondered if perhaps he had developed the Sight.
His fellow teachers noticed, too. McGonagall and Dumbledore congratulated him on taking such a personal interest in the pupils. As if he had ever used the information he had gathered for any purpose other than intimidation or to prevent troublemaking. Flitwick admitted he was impressed by Severus's deductive ability, and requested a game of chess against him. (Severus was somewhat astonished to find that beating the little professor soundly was the fast track to the Ravenclaw's respect and friendship.) Wallsby, the Slytherin Head of House, on the opposite end of the spectrum, began to eye him with suspicion and did his best to avoid Severus at every opportunity.
January 6, 1980
It was the last day before Christmas hols were over. Wallsby, the DADA teacher, would not be back from Albania until midnight. But a boggart had been stumbled upon in a little used maintenance closet. Filch had gone into it for some cleaning supplies and was still in the Hospital wing for a severe panic attack. Reportedly, he kept muttering about children laughing and fluffy pink bunnies.
Severus and McGonagall were sent to dispatch the creature. The closet was in a dusty, disused classroom on the third floor. McGonagall looked at him, asking, "What will it turn into if you see it first?"
Severus frowned, not wanting to share his greatest fears with her, but knowing it was pertinent. "Three years ago it would have been a werewolf. I honestly can't say if that will still be it. It is equally likely to be a Dementor now. What would you see?"
"A dog. A very large dog." When he gave her an odd look, she reminded him, "My animangus form is a cat."
Deciding that a large dog was somewhat less dangerous and easier to turn into something ridiculous than a werewolf, McGonagall stepped forward and opened the closet.
When she had said 'a large dog' Severus had pictured something about the size of a black Labrador. This dog was not. He had seen smaller centaurs. In his surprise, Severus forgot to cast the spell. McGonagall shrieked and retreated before the monster. Then it turned its attention to Severus, and, with a loud crack, the beast was gone. Both professors stared in confusion at its new form.
Albus Dumbledore stepped toward Severus, smiling inanely. Severus tried desperately to think of a way to make the old wizard wearing a blue robe with shiny stars and moons look any more ridiculous than he was already. McGongall was apparently too befuddled to help him out. When the boggart reached out and took Severus's left arm in a firm, almost bruising grip, he realized just what fear the creature had decided to mold itself to. His mind went blank and his mouth went dry.
His sleeve was shoved back. "I have made a mistake. Your wand, Death Eater." He held out his hand expectantly.
Wand! Yes! He was supposed to use his wand! He jerked away and cast the spell. Dumbledore was suddenly wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt, equally loud and clashing shorts, a Death Eater mask that his beard poked out beneath, one beach sandal, one black formal shoe, and a tattoo around his ankle that proclaimed "Salazar + Godric Best Friends 4ever"
McGonagall's eyes nearly popped out of her head, and she began laughing. It wasn't humourous laughter, but it was laughter none-the-less. It turned toward the sound, irritated, and snapped back into the dog. This time Severus was ready for it, and got off another "Riddikulus!" Large pink bows gathered tufts of the dark fur into clumps, and the handle of a basket holding several happily sleeping kittens was held between its teeth. The giant canine looked confused, and Severus smirked superiorly at it. McGonagall began laughing harder, and the boggart exploded, leaving only wisps of smoke to mark its passage.
She recovered quickly. His sleeve had fallen back over his Mark, but she still stared at the arm. "Pull it up," she told him. It was a tone she hadn't used on him since seventh year. He did as instructed.
"Headmaster Dumbledore already knows," Severus told her, wondering why he so desperately wanted her to believe him. "I swear, me being a teacher was his idea."
She . . . snorted. It was a very unladylike and unMcGonagall thing for her to have done, and Severus's felt the rest of his panicked explanation die on his tongue. "It would have to be," she agreed, sounding more exasperated than anything else now. Then her eyes narrowed. "Obviously, you've turned yourself in, or the boggart wouldn't have asked for your wand back." Severus nodded shortly. "The night I opened the side door for Albus. That's when you confessed and he came up with this crazy scheme." Severus nodded again. She sighed. "He'll confirm all this?"
A small knife twisted in his gut. She didn't believe him. No upstanding witch or wizard who knew the truth was ever going to take him at his word again, not without looking to Dumbledore for confirmation first. "Yes, Professor."
She did not even crack a smile this time. In fact, she seemed to have forgotten that he was no longer a student. She looked at him, somehow managing to look down at him despite being six inches shorter, and pursed her lips in severe disapproval and disappointment. "Come, we are going to have an extended conversation with Albus."
"Yes, Professor." He quietly followed her to the Headmaster's office.
He had always thought he would have to be older before he could revisit his childhood.
When they reached Dumbledore's office, he was surprised to find the two older professors completely ignored him. He retreated against a wall of the room (there were no convenient corners), feeling decidedly out-of-place.
McGonagall marched right up to the Headmaster's desk, and planted fists on it's wooden surface, glaring daggers at the mild looking old man sitting behind it. "Something wrong, Minerva?"
"Something is very wrong, Albus. The boy is a Death Eater."
Dumbledore's eyes flickered toward him, but he continued to address McGonagall. "He was," he agreed lightly, with subtle emphasis on the past tense.
"Do you know what form his boggart took, Albus? You."
The Headmaster blinked in surprise, and shot a startled glance in Severus's direction. Severus looked away, the faintest hint of a blush on his skin. "Just me, or me doing something specific?" Albus asked.
McGonagall sighed, but answered truthfully. "You pushed his sleeve up, told him you had made a mistake, and asked for his wand back."
Severus felt the heavy blue eyes of the Headmaster on him again. He dared not look up, and did his best impression of Being A Wall. He had thought he hated the idea of people talking about him behind his back. Upon second consideration, he would take that anyday over people he respected talking about his greatest insecurities as he listened.
"You do not believe that proves his good intentions?" Severus looked up sharply. Did Dumbledore truly believe that? But the twinkling eyes were impossible to read. The Headmaster's nonverbal tells were always under as much discipline as Severus's usually were.
"If he were betraying you," McGonagall began, "it would justify the boggart's hostile attitude."
"Fears are not always rational," the Headmaster remarked mildly. Severus relaxed marginally.
McGonagall was not convinced, but she dropped that objection for another. "Albus, how can you let a Death Eater, former or otherwise, teach children?"
"He is a fully certified Potions Master, Minerva. He is more than qualified."
"It is not his academic qualifications I question, Albus! The boy is a murderer!" He flinched, and took a deep interest in the pattern of the rug.
"He poses no danger to the students." He heard a drawer open, and the sound of shuffling paper, then an unexpected clink of glass vials. The drawer closed, and a vial was placed on the desk. Severus looked up, his curiosity piqued. But the vial of clear liquid made him regret it. He drew in a calming breath, and resigned himself to what he knew was coming. "Would his word under Veritaserum put your worries to rest, Minerva?"
He endured her scrutiny for several moments before she nodded. "It will do."
"Severus?" Dumbledore held out the vial. As Severus took the vial and unstoppered it, the Headmaster added, "I am sorry, but it is necessary, child." Severus nodded his understanding. He was Marked. Branded as one of Voldemort's own. He would always live with that stigma. Even if he managed to convince someone that he was against the Dark Lord, the proof was on his arm that he had turned coat once. Who was to say he would not do it again?
He drank the truth potion.
They waited a few moments to let it take affect. "What is your name?"
"How old are you?"
"Were you once a Death Eater?" Well, that was subtle.
"Are you one now?"
He hesitated, the potion trying to find the true answer to the deceptively simple-sounding question. "Yes."
McGongall drew in a sharp breath. "It was a literal answer, Minerva," Dumbledore assured her, "Let me rephrase the question. Are you still loyal to Voldemort?"
"Are you loyal to me?"
"Are you safe to leave children with?"
Merlin, Dumbledore, what do you think? Be more specific. "No."
McGongall frowned, and Dumbledore looked surprised. "Have the children in your classes ever come to harm because of you?"
Open-ended question, Albus. "Yes."
He was starting to look worried. "When?"
Thank you. "First year Hufflepuff, Samantha Shaver, burst into tears when I called her an idiot. Third year Ravenclaw, Matthew Davis, cut his finger chopping beetles when I didn't notice he was doing it wrong. Second year Slytherin, Belinda Wilkes, had an allergic reaction to -"
"Stop." He sounded relieved. "Why are you unsafe to leave children with?"
Much better. "I don't like them, I wouldn't know what to do with them, and I haven't the first clue about how to care for an infant."
The Headmaster blinked. "How did you define 'leave children with'?"
Good. "Indefinitely. Foster care, adoption, parenting. Baby-sitting to a lesser degree."
Confidence back, Dumbledore asked, "Is it safe to leave you in charge of a potions classroom?"
As safe as it is to leave anyone in charge of a potions classroom. "Yes."
"You have no intention to hurt, kill, kidnap, or otherwise cause harm to the students of this school?"
Of course not. What kind of monster do you take me for? "No."
"What is your opinion of the students at this school?"
You did not just ask me that. "Hopeless idiots. They should all fail potions."
Dumbledore smiled brightly at McGonagall. "You see? Perfectly harmless."