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“Many of you are surely wondering why I have summoned you at this hour.” Severus Snape walked impassively, footsteps ringing on the marble floors of the Great Hall, towards the dais where both Carrows were leering. The students’ faces were cold, but he did not need Legilimency to sense a lingering curiosity in the air.

“It has come to my attention that earlier this evening Harry Potter was sighted in Hogsmeade.” Immediately, excited whisperings broke out among the students. He saw Alecto Carrow take a step forward out of the corner of his eyes.

“Now,” he said icily, and all mouths were shut at once; Alecto paused. “Should anyone, student or staff, attempt to aid Mr. Potter, they will be punished in a manner consistent with the severity of their transgression.

Furthermore, any person found to have knowledge of these events who fails to come forward will be treated as equally guilty.” He took care to emphasize each syllable of the last two words, all too aware of the Carrows. Though his voice was quiet, it carried through the absolute silence of the Hall. The students’ faces – excepting most Slytherins, he noticed drily – were filled with disgust and loathing, but to his relief not even Neville Longbottom had the idiocy of downright disobedience. Dumbledore had bade him protect the students, but he doubted that he could have kept such a fool from being Alecto’s plaything without putting himself at risk. Confound Dumbledore and his wishes!

 

“Now, then,” he retraced his steps slowly, lazily surveying the faces as eyes turned hastily away from his own, “if anyone here has any knowledge of Mr. Potter's movements this evening, I invite them to step forward,” he paused, and said, “now.”

The silence continued, and he dared hope that perhaps fortune was on his side for once – with his words, the children would have solid confirmation that the Chosen One, their one chance of defeating the Dark Lord, had indeed come, and would try to aid him in any way possible without himself, or the Death Eaters knowing. Perhaps Potter would be able to get help with whatever Dumbledore entrusted to him – 

Then, another set of footsteps sounded, met with a collective gasp from the students. He glared at the newcomer, wondering which person was coward enough to betray the whole school – and he decided luck never favored him, nor will it ever.

 

“It seems, despite your exhaustive defensive strategies, you still have a bit of a security problem, Headmaster.” The Potter boy! He was rendered speechless – a feat that only she had ever achieved. The thought came to him unbidden, and he pushed it away. Potter was still talking. “I'm afraid it’s quite extensive.”

The doors banged open, and in marched the Order of the Phoenix. He spared a glance at his former associates. None of them had really appreciated having him, he knew. Judging by the look on each face, they no longer cared to conceal those feelings. Not that he cared – the feeling was mutual. He turned his attention back to the Potter boy. Those green eyes were glowering at him with a hatred that reminded him of another pair in another time, and shook him slightly.

 

“How dare you stand where he stood? Tell them how it happened that night. Tell them how you looked him in the eye, a man who trusted you, and killed him. Tell them!”

At that, his own anger flared up, though he knew not if it was directed at the boy, or at Dumbledore. But Dumbledore was gone, and nothing was preventing him from exuding his emotions at the person standing, blissfully ignorant, in the center of all his predicaments. He glared back at the boy, every cell burning with the passion of his anger at this unjustness, his hate of James Potter...his love for Lily Evans.

You know nothing of anything, foolhardy boy. You should beg for my forgiveness.

Before he knew it, he had raised his wand – and –

Minerva McGonagall pushed Potter aside, pointing her own wand at his heart.

 

Time seemed to stretch infinitely. There were several shrieks from the students as they scattered to either side of the hall, but Snape did not hear them. McGonagall...a teacher and colleague. What had it been, twenty-four years? She had always treated him with the same respect and courtesy she showed the others, while others could never hide their mistrust and disdain completely; she had been the only one who felt even remotely like a companion in the Order. He did not recognize the person glowering at him now. It was as if the hot rage had been doused in icy water – he felt hollow, empty. He could have laughed at the irony of it all. Why bother, if the people he swore to keep alive wanted him dead?

If you loved Lily Evans, if you truly loved her, then your way forward is clear.

He had not realized he had faltered slightly, but as his composure returned, he pointed his wand back at her. Their eyes met – another shade of green, was it? - and Snape wondered what the Gryffindor saw in his eyes.

 

Eyes blazing, McGonagall fired the first curse. He deflected it instinctively. Age had not withered her strength - if anything, she seemed stronger. Perhaps it was fueled by her fury at Dumbledore’s murder; he knew they had been very close. He judged that Dumbledore’s promise to him was probably the only reason she had not known anything. Yes, he reminded himself. I chose this path. I made him swear he’d never tell. And perhaps deep within her heart McGonagall still trusted Dumbledore’s confidence in him, as Snape could have sworn he saw her hand tremble slightly.

My apologies, Minerva. You will understand in time, I hope.

 

She fired curse after curse rapidly, but he managed to shield himself. He knew he had to act soon; the Carrows were bound to notice his lack of attack even through their thick skulls. He deflected the next curse cleverly, leading it so that it hit both sister and brother behind him. He heard the satisfying thud as both fell, and he decided that it was time to leave.

Grabbing the folds of his cloak, seemingly shielding himself with it, Snape spun as if to Apparate. Instead, he felt his body become less solid, felt the familiar lightness of flight. The Dark Lord had indeed taught him this method of flying without broomsticks. He saw the slight confusion on McGonagall’s face, and wasted no time in retrieving both the wands of the Carrows and flying out the window behind him, shattering the stained glass. He heard McGonagall scream “COWARD!” behind him, and the echo of a cheer erupting from the students. He felt an odd sense of deja vu, running away from the people who cared for him...

“LEAVE HIM ALONE!”

“Ah, Evans, don't make me hex you.”

“Take the curse off him, then!”

“There you go. You're lucky Evans was here, Snivellus-“

“I don't need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her!”

He smiled bitterly. Lily, I’m sorry. I hope to see you soon.

The great castle of Hogwarts grew smaller and smaller as he flew away.