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Chapter 14: Chapter Fourteen
"Severus Snape, in the name of the Ministry of Magic, I hereby place you under arrest as an accessory to murder!"
Minerva froze, leaning heavily against the wall into which Severus had pushed her when the three Ministry workers made their descent on him. She watched one of the Ministry officials hold Severus’ arms behind his back while another secured his wrists with a magical bond. There was a ringing in Minerva’s ears, blocking out Albus’ outraged arguments as he loomed over the smallest of the three men.
Of course she knew there were many aspects to Severus’ life that she didn’t know about but could he really be capable of taking a life?
“I’m sorry, Headmaster,” the smallest man said as he looked up at Albus. “I have orders from the Minister and Mr Crouch to bring him in. There’s nothing more I can tell you.” Minerva observed that the man, whose name she suddenly recalled as Walter Harrison, looked genuinely sorry. The other two larger built men were quite the opposite; they looked like they were enjoying themselves.
“You’ll get what you deserve,” one of them sneered quietly in Severus’ ear so the other’s couldn’t hear but Minerva did. The same man planted his hands on Severus’ shoulders and stamped his foot into the back of his knees, making the Potions Master fall to the ground with a grunt. And when Severus tried to struggle back to his feet the other man jabbed a well placed knee into his back, sending him down to the floor again.
“Stop it!” It didn’t sound like her voice. Before she realised what she was doing, Minerva rushed forward and knelt down at Severus’ side. She pushed the man who was standing behind Severus with one hand as hard as she could. “He’s not resisting! You have no right to treat him like this!” The two burly men at each other and immediately drew their wands on her.
“Now see here!” Filius exclaimed as he scurried to stand between them. “This is a school! There is to none of this behaviour here!” Minerva wrapped her arms around Severus’ shoulder and she helped him into a sitting position on his knees. She glanced over at Filius, whose chest was puffed out in a defensive manor and was pleased to see Albus step forward.
“As Headmaster I will not allow you to abuse my staff.” His voice was calm but full of warning of what could happen if they fought his decisions. Minerva noticed the way the burly men seemed to shrink under his gaze. Harrison rushed forward and made an awkward bow in front of them.
“Of course Headmaster and I’m sorry for my colleagues rather zealous behaviour of this...” Harrison cleared his throat. “Your staff,” he finished, not quite disguising his slip. Minerva wondered what he’d been about to say. This man? This Criminal? This murderer? She shuddered involuntary and she felt Severus turn slightly to look at her. Harrison continued, “You have my word Headmaster, Professor Snape will not be harmed at Hogwarts.”
Minerva’s head shot up at that last statement and she glared at Harrison’s back as he and the Albus made their way up to the Headmaster’s office. As the two large Ministry workers made their way toward them, Severus softly nudged her with his shoulder so she would be out of harm’s way.
“It’s ok,” he whispered when she looked at him with worry.
“Severus...”she whispered his name and gently tilted his head up with her fingers so she could fully see his face. She couldn’t read his expression or the fire in his eyes. Of course, part of it would be anger, that she could understand but it was the other part she couldn’t quite figure out.
“Come on Professor!” One of the officials said, trying to keep his gruff voice respectful but failing miserably as they dragged Severus to his feet.
“We’ll get you out Severus,” Filius said and Minerva felt the older wizard pull her out of the workers way.
They followed Albus and Harrison up the stairs, Filius and Minerva bringing up the rear with Severus and his guards in between. Minerva was chewing nervously on her thumb nail, her body jittery and tense. When Filius placed his hand on her lower back she gasped and jumped away from him until she realised who it was.
As they waited at the bottom of the spiral staircase leading to Albus’ office, Minerva noticed Severus sneak a glance back at her. She wanted to go to him, to tell him that things would be fine... but the truth was, things wouldn’t be fine. Her stomach felt like it had sunk into her knees.
Before Minerva was even aware of it their small group were standing in the Headmaster’s office. Harrison handed Albus the official papers and they readied Severus for floo travel. As they passed Minerva, Severus stopped in front of her, his eyes focused on the pendant around her neck.
“I’m sorry Minerva.”
And with that he was pushed into the fireplace, hands reaching from the other side to drag him to the Ministry prisons. A new sense of dread washed over her as she watched Severus’ dark eyes vanish behind the green flames. She felt Filius’ hand squeeze her own and she clenched back, finding some comfort in his touch. The two Ministry officials followed Severus and Harrison soon joined them after talking with the Headmaster.
“Albus?” Minerva turned to look at him as he headed to his desk to retrieve the heavy cloak draped over the back of his chair.
“I shall go with him,” Albus said as he slipped into his cloak. “I’ll send word as soon as I know the charges.”
“I’m coming with you,” Minerva said as she stepped toward him.
“You must stay here, Professor McGonagall.” Minerva knew the Headmaster used her professional title for a reason; a gentle reminder of her responsibilities. “I will not allow them to take him to Azkaban Prison, you have my word Minerva.” He added with a soft tone before stepping into the fire and following Severus’ and his guards to the Ministry.
“And what am I to do?” Minerva asked, turning around to look at Filius in outrage. “Does he expect me to stand by while..?”
“You know you must my dear,” Filius said quietly.
“No I do not!” Minerva cried and she began to pace up and down the worn carpet in front of the fireplace. “Why must I?” She watched Filius out of the corner of her eye as she continued to pace and he shook his head.
“There is nothing you can do for him right now; you must let Albus do what he has to.” He fixed her with a stare but said nothing more. She knew he was right.
After a short while Minerva stopped her pacing and began to chew her thumb nail as she let her thoughts wander. She couldn’t quite get her mind around what had happened. Everything had been fine, better than fine. The evening had gone wonderfully well and she’d found herself enjoying the young Potion Master’s company. And there had been more than a few moments when she could tell Severus’ had been enjoying himself too.
Severus Snape. A man she once described as being ‘wicked, manipulative and untrustworthy’ and although she had no doubt that the man could still show those traits in his everyday dealings, she was no longer felt that they ruled his personality. She had discovered a side of him that had surprised her.
“Neva my dear, please sit down you’re making me nervous.” Filius said and Minerva blushed slightly when she realised she had almost forgot he was there.
“I need an occupation Filius, I can’t just sit here.” She balled her fists up in the gown she still wore and Filius turned to look at her.
“We should hear from Albus soon,” he said and Minerva huffed impatiently. She began pacing again. “I know you are worried for the young man but Albus will sort it out. Just you wait, it will all be a misunderstanding.” Minerva stopped and turned to her friend.
“A misunderstanding?” She asked, incredulously. “You think he’s innocent?” Filius’ eyebrows shot up in surprise at her words and in truth she’d surprised herself.
“Don’t you?” He asked and Minerva looked away from him.
What did she think about Severus’ situation? There was no doubt that the ex-Death Eater could have been presented plenty of opportunities to murder and she was certain that he had probably played witness to a number of them. But the question was; did she think Severus was capable of it?
“I don’t know,” she answered finally, looking up at Filius and trying to stop the flow of tears ready to fall at any moment. He sat back in his chair and fixed his eyes on her.
“Then I think before you can truly help the boy, you need to figure out your own thoughts on the matter.”
Minerva nodded and before she could answer Filius the fire suddenly turned green. Albus stepped out and although he’d only been gone half an hour, he looked exhausted.
“Well?” Minerva asked straight away, not allowing the Headmaster a moment or two to catch his breath.“What did they say? What will happen to him?”
“It seems that they have evidence that Severus was at the Potter’s house the night they were murdered.” He said, sitting heavily in an armchair by the fire.
“But he wasn’t, you brought...” Minerva stopped when Albus began to shake his head. “He was there?” She felt a sudden compression on her chest and she had to concentrate hard on breathing.
“Yes he was,” Albus said, accepting the cup of tea Filius handed to him.
“But he wasn’t part of it, was he Albus?” Filius asked and although the question was directed at the Headmaster, Minerva could feel his eyes on her. She kept her own on Albus.
“No he wasn’t,” he said and Filius let out a sigh of relief.
“How do you know Albus?” Minerva asked, needing the facts from her mentor not just his word.
“Because I know that he wasn’t Minerva, Severus arrived in Godric’s Hollow just as the curse backfired on Voldemort. Think about it, if he’d been in close proximity of the incident, he would have at the very least, bore injuries too. You were the second person to see him after myself; you took care of him and watched over him.” He looked at her over his half moon glasses. “Now tell me, did he have any injuries that needed to be treated?” Minerva stared at Albus for a few seconds, trying to find a fault in his explanation.
“No,” she whispered, tentatively. “No, he had no physical injuries.”
“So the boy is innocent,” Filius said with a triumphant smile.
“But how did they know in the first place?” Minerva asked, ignoring Filius’ joy.
“It would seem that someone has told the Ministry that Severus was there. That he had been the reason Voldemort knew of the Potter’s whereabouts.” Albus said and Minerva frowned. “But he couldn’t have, Sirius Black was the Secret Keeper, only he knew of their location. And if indeed Sirius did tell Voldemort, he would not have informed Severus for he knew where his loyalties lie.”
“You sound as if you believe Sirius to be a murderer too, Headmaster.” Filius said, turning to look at him.
“It would seem the Potter’s put their faith in the wrong person,” Albus said as he stood up and made his way over to his desk. Minerva watched him take off his cloak as she slowly processed all the new information in her head.
“How did he know where to go Albus?” She asked suddenly and she noticed the way the old wizard tensed at her question. She waited for his answer but he said nothing, eventually he fixed his eyes on hers. “Filius, would you mind leaving us alone?” She asked abruptly. She kept her eyes on the Headmaster but in the background could hear Filius wish them both a goodnight before leaving the office.
“Minerva...” Albus started but she cut him off.
“How did he know they were in Godric’s Hollow?”
“Severus informed me that Voldemort himself revealed it to him.”
“Why?” Minerva asked, folding her arms over her chest.
“He was a trusted servant to –“
“You told us all yourself Albus, Severus wasn’t at the heart of the operation.” Albus nodded as he recalled his words. Minerva watched him touch his finger tips together and rest his chin upon them.
“I believe that toward the end he was. Severus had done what Tom Riddle could not, which was to gain access to Hogwarts.”
“But why was he there?” Minerva asked in frustration, leaning against her hands on the desk.
“He was trying to stop him, Minerva.” The silence that followed his statement was deafening and Minerva searched her friend’s face.
“Why?” She asked after a few moments.
“I believe Severus had had enough of the atrocities he had come to expect from his master and I believe that he was seeking forgiveness for his past mistakes. He did all that he could to save the Potter’s,” he said, his eyes watching her carefully. Minerva backed away from his desk and rubbed her hands over her face.
“I want to see him,” she said quietly, slowly looking up at him as she lowered her hands to rest at her sides.
“Severus does not want company; he demanded that no one but me be let in.” There was sympathy in Albus’ eyes and Minerva tried not to let the hurt show in her features.
“Then I shall go to bed,” she said, lifting her chin defiantly and turning toward the door. Just before she was about to leave Albus called her name. She paused, her hand resting on the door handle but she didn’t turn to face him.
“Despite the fact that there are some things that I still cannot tell you, Severus is innocent. Of this crime at least.” At that Minerva did turn to face him, the obvious question on her tongue but she decided it was best if she didn’t know. “Severus is not a murderer; that you can be assured of.”
Minerva nodded curtly and fled through the door.
Despite what Severus had said about receiving company, Minerva had taken it upon herself to visit him. The entire trip had been spontaneous and secret. Teensy was the only other living creature to know where she was heading. She took a deep breath and tucked her nervous hands into her robe pockets. As the gates to the holding prisons down in the depths of the Ministry opened, Minerva confidently stepped through and made her way toward the guard station. She found it to be empty, not surprising considering they wouldn’t be expecting visitors at six in the morning. She rang the large bell on the desk and she heard a heavy door bang closed from somewhere behind her. She spun around to find Paul Harris, a talented Hufflepuff she taught five years ago, walking toward her. He gave her a warm smile and she returned it.
“Professor McGonagall,” he said, offering his hand for her to shake. “It’s very good to see you again, how are you?”
“Very well thank you, Mr Harris,” she said and the younger man chuckled softly.
“You can call me Paul, Mr Harris always made me feel like I was in trouble.” He chuckled again and Minerva gave him a slight smile. “So what can I do for you at this early hour?” He asked and Minerva pursed her lips.
“I wish to see one your inmates,” she said carefully. “But my visit must be kept... covert.” Paul cocked his head in interest.
“Of course Professor,” he said. “I’ll keep it off the books but I must ask you to be no longer than 10 minutes, if I am to keep this quiet then I must ask you to respect my position here.” Minerva nodded enthusiastically in agreement. Minerva knew he could be punished for this; even lose his job over it and in any other circumstance, she wouldn’t ask anyone to do such a thing for her.
Minerva followed Paul down the winding corridors, the cold and damp seeping through her heavy clothes, making her to shiver. They stopped at the large gates leading to the prisons and Paul suggested that the current duty guard take a break. The young wizard made a hasty retreat, probably grateful for an excuse to get out of the cold dungeons. After making sure the young man had left, Paul led Minerva along the cells. She kept her eyes focused on her guides back, not wanting to see what lurked in the depths of the Ministry. Finally Paul stopped and opened a cell door with his wand.
“Call if you need me,” he said quietly and Minerva smiled her thanks. She slowly edged her way into the cell, her eyes falling on the figure sitting at the head of his cot, reading under a dying candle.
“I see you have plenty to read,” she said, resting her shoulder against the wall as the guard left them alone. Severus’ head shot up at her voice and he jumped up from his bed. His face was contorted with anger and for a fleeting second Minerva thought he might lash out.
“What are you doing here?” He asked, his smooth tone belying the fire in his eyes.
“I came to see you,” Minerva said, straightening her back and refusing to stand down.
“I don’t want visitors, leave this instant!” He said dangerously. He was looking down at her, his body close to hers and she could feel the warmth radiating from him in the cold cell.
“I don’t care if you don’t want visitors, I wanted to see you!” She retorted, keeping her eyes steady on his.
“You will associate with a murder?” He sneered, challenging her with his eyes.
“Is this self pity I see you wallowing in?” She asked as she folded her arms over her chest. He glared at her as if wanting to scare her away but she stood her ground. Eventually Severus scoffed and moved away from her. She missed his closeness.
“What do you want Professor McGonagall?” He asked, sitting back down on his cot and picking up his book.
“I wanted to see how you were,” she said, noticing the way he’d reverted back to using her title.
“Well you’ve seen me, now you can leave.”
Minerva felt anger bubble up through her chest and stepped toward him and snatched his book from his hands. He sat up straight in his bed, ready to argue with her but she gripped his head in her hands and made him look at her.
“Why are you always so difficult?!” She asked, feeling tears sting her eyes. “I am here as your friend Severus, I am here to enquire after your welfare. And contrary to belief, I am here for my own peace of mind as well as your own. You have no idea how worried I have been about you.”
“Minerva...” The sound of her name on his lips was the last straw and her tears suddenly started to fall. She lowered her hands from his face and she tried to turn away from him but Severus pulled her into his chest. Minerva froze at the awkward embrace and she felt him bury his face in the crook of her neck. She relaxed slightly at the comforting warm breath tickling her collarbone. Severus held her tightly and Minerva briefly wondered what could have brought on such an uncharacteristic display of affection.
"What have they done to you?" She asked, leaning further into his chest.
"Nothing," he sighed. "Yet." She didn't like the tone of his voice and she reluctantly pulled away from him.
"You'll be out of here before it comes to that," she said, hoping to seem more self-assured than she felt.
"I'm on trial for murder Minerva; they're not going to let me off that easily."
"But you're innocent," she argued and Severus gave a humourless smirk.
"What do you know of it?"
"I..." she faltered and Severus used her silence to stand up and pace in the tiny space in front of her. "Tell me you're innocent." She hoped she hadn't sounded as desperate as she felt.
"I deserve whatever punishment they decide on," he mumbled.
"Albus told me you were there when it happened." She noticed the intense anger in Severus' eyes when he froze and stared at her.
"What else did he tell you?" He asked in the low dangerous voice she had come to expect whenever he thought he was under attack.
"That you didn't do it, that you were there to stop him. That you want to atone for your past mistakes and try to save the family we were protecting." For some reason he seemed to relax as she spoke and he rubbed his hands over his face.
"I think you should go," he said gently after a few seconds.
"Are you kicking me out?" She asked with a slight smirk. Severus nodded, his own smirk pulling at the corners of his mouth. She let out a small sigh and he held his hand out for her to take. She slipped her hand into his and allowed him to pull her up.
"Take care of yourself Minerva," he said and she felt him brush the back of her hand with his thumb.
"We'll get you out of here," she whispered, leaning toward him and resting her forehead against his cheek. She felt Severus lean into her and his lips brushed her skin briefly making her flush with warmth.
"Go," he said gently, rubbing his stubbled cheek against her. And Minerva couldn't help the excited jolt in her stomach when she realised he didn't really want her to leave. He was enjoying the closeness just as much as she was.
After a second Minerva knew it was time to leave, people would begin to question her absence if she didn't return to the castle in time to be present for breakfast. She reluctantly pulled away from her young friend and patted his arm in an absurdly formal gesture after the way they had just been with each other.
"Good bye Severus," Minerva said suddenly, turning and making her way out of the cell.