Disclaimer: I'm not muscling in on JK's turf - just gambolling on it, like a spring lamb, having fun working out the literary and psychological puzzles which she is having fun setting us
#1: Silence is Pronounced
[In which Mad-Eye Moody and the Ministry of Magic behave about the way you would expect them to.]
She supposed she should be grateful that the Order of the Phoenix's encampment in the Lakelands came under the regional aegis of the new, Hogwarts-based Scottish branch of the Ministry of Magic, and that Scotland shut down for two whole days at Hogmanay, and two more over the weekend that followed - otherwise they would have come for him on the Friday. As it was, by the time the Aurors arrived to arrest him, at eight o'clock on a cold Monday morning four days before his thirty-eighth birthday, he had at least gotten to have his hot bath and his treacly coffee, and on the Sunday Poppy Pomfrey had allowed him to sit up in an armchair for a few hours, instead of spending the whole day in bed.
Her intention, if she had thought much about it, had been to wait until she was sure he was safe and comfortably on the mend, and then return to her work and her cats in St Andrews - although she hoped, she most sincerely hoped, that she would be able to keep in touch with him on a very regular and frequent basis. But that would have required Fate to cut him some slack and Fate, it seemed, was determined to be a bitch.
For as long as she lived, Lynsey thought, she would never forget being woken on that freezing morning by the sound of the doors being flung open, and scrabbling up from a deep sleep to see the shadowy, robed forms seizing her lanky professor in rough hands and hauling him from his bed. For a dreadful moment she thought it was the Death Eaters, come to take him back to the torture, and barefoot as she was she was already half out of bed and preparing to kick the nearest one in the groin before she heard Poppy's furious voice, shouting something about "Ministry thugs," and there was a crack and snap of spells being aimed and parried.
"Poppy, no!" her professor - Snape - said sharply. "Don't antagonize them. Tell Minerva - " One of the Ministry types slapped him across the face, so hard that he would certainly have fallen if he had not been pinioned between two of the others, and bellowed "Silencio!" Lynsey completed the surge from bed to floor in one frantic lunge and delivered the kick with emphasis. The - Aurors, she supposed they were - seemed reluctant to use spells to subdue a Muggle and unsure how to fight any other way, and she had already hauled off for another kick before she saw Snape frantically shaking his head at her, still looking deathly pale and ill and trying to mouth some instruction or other, but unable to produce a sound. With a sinking heart she realized that she was outgunned and outnumbered (even with one down and clutching his crotch) and that all that she was doing was storing up reprisals for him.
And he was gone, as suddenly and as finally as if he were a dream she had woken from, and she and Poppy were left alone together, shaking with impotent rage and shock.
Four days - four days of desperate nothing. Four days of Minerva McGonagall and Poppy and Lupin huddling together, trying to build up a convincing defence case without revealing that Snape had broken his Unbreakable Vow by refusing to kill Dumbledore - information which would condemn him to a magically enforced death if Bellatrix Lestrange heard of it. But not revealing it might condemn him almost as surely.
Snape, it seemed, had wanted to go before a formal Board of Enquiry in any case, in order to clear his name, and he and Minerva had already started work on his statement; but trying to complete it without him was a nightmare and the Ministry refused point-blank to allow any of them to speak to him. Lynsey couldn't even get a very clear psychic impression of him, despite their tentative closeness; his mind was too slippery, too well-warded, and all she could feel from him was rigidly-controlled fear and a sort of ground-in, accepting unhappiness which turned her stomach.
Lynsey herself was deeply shaken; strung out with nerves and shock and unable to settle, or eat, or sleep. To have come so far, to have escaped the Death Eaters and seen her professor through to what should have been safety, only to have him seized and mishandled by his own people, seemed doubly horrible. She, though, was suddenly greatly in demand. She could hardly have gone home now anyway, with her professor under arrest and in danger, and had made arrangements for neighbours to continue feeding the cats; but with Snape gone and no idea when, or if, he would return, the information which he had drilled into her brain during their journey was suddenly vital to the Order.
To her surprize and unease she found herself being debriefed by Alastor Moody; who was now persona non grata with most of the Order, since everyone suspected that it was he who had alerted the Aurors to Snape's return. For reasons of politics she bit back her anger and tried to stay on the right side of the man, but in truth she found herself feeling rather sorry for him. As a witch she could be objective enough to see that he was as sad and bitter as her professor, with rather less self-knowledge and self-control, and he really had loved Albus Dumbledore. The realization that Snape had indeed brought them real and useful information, and had made contingency plans for that information still to be conveyed to the Order in the event of his death, left him shamed and discomfited, although he tried to hide it under his characteristic bluster.
In fact it was Moody himself and a tall black man called Kingsley Shacklebolt, the other high-ranking Auror in the Order, who persuaded the Ministry to grant Lynsey auxiliary status, leaving her memories of the wizarding world intact but spell-binding her not to convey them to any outsider, as was done with the families of Muggle-born wizards and witches. The ostensible reason was that Obliviating her at this stage, when almost two weeks would have had to be cut out of her brain and replaced with a harmless fiction, could cause dangerous complications and leave her with a head full of half-memories. In truth it was because - to her horror - there was apparently a very real risk that Snape would be executed or imprisoned for life, and they would never again have any access to his memories except for the legacy he had left in Lynsey's head.
Moody's new-found conscience and Shacklebolt's influence did not, unfortunately, extend as far as getting anybody from the Order in to see Snape. The Ministry of Magic, it seemed, regarded the Order of the Phoenix as dangerous mavericks, and the fact that Shacklebolt was even a member was a closely-guarded secret; especially since it was suspected that the Unnameable One had his own spies at the Ministry. A junior administrator named Weasley, the estranged son of the red-haired man who had been so pleasant to Snape, had actually spotted the fact that three senior officials had been acting under Imperius: but there was no guarantee that they were the only ones, or that there were no sincere, non-Imperiused Death Eaters lurking in the Ministerial woodwork. Lynsey, already slightly hysterical with frustration and anxiety and sorrow, was reminded of the traditional tag that "All organizations are staffed by agents of the opposition."
And after four days, the 9th of January - the feast of Janus Two-Faced, called the Agonalia, the slaying of the ram of sacrifice. Friday the 9th of January 1998, the trial of her bold professor - the trial, and his birthday. Lynsey wasn't sure whether that was just an unhappy coincidence, or a deliberate, added cruelty. On the Friday that Snape was thirty-eight years old, she travelled to London with a grimly subdued Minerva McGonagall, a tear-stained Poppy and the rest of them, going by the same awkward, jerking method Lucius Malfoy had used to kidnap her off a Croydon street, thirteen days and a lifetime ago.
She knew roughly where they were, she thought - somewhere in the maze of shabby streets and dingy offices that lay around and behind the more prosperous main thoroughfares of the City of London. Around a corner, and there was more of the same - sad offices inhabited by sad workers, an even sadder and grubbier-looking pub, ancient concrete lamp-posts of the sort that would shine like blood-oranges in the dark, a blank wall covered with stark, threatening-looking graffiti and standing by it a vandalized telephone-box - the old red kind, with smashed window-panes and its works hanging out like a disembowelled sofa. It was a measure of how run-down the area was that the telephone actually had a dial rather than buttons - it must have been decaying here, unrepaired, for donkeys' years.
She was surprized, then, when McGonagall, grim-faced, marched straight to this battered box and ushered them all in after her. The five of them crammed in like a surreal game of Sardines and McGonagall dialled 62442 on the antique rotating dial. Instantly, a disembodied female voice, cool, level and (to Lynsey's ears, anyway) obviously artificial, spoke out of empty air. "Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your names and business."
"Miss Lynsey O'Connor; Mr Harry Potter; Madam Poppy Pomfrey; Professor Remus Lupin; Professor Minerva McGonagall. Witnesses for the Defence," McGonagall said crisply, "appearing at the trial of Professor Severus Snape." The final witness, the red-headed man called Arthur, was to meet them at the Ministry, where he apparently worked.
"Thank you" said the level, mechanical voice. "Visitors, please take the badges and attach them to the front of your robes." The returned-money chute clattered harshly and five silver pin-on badges fell down into its open maw. Lupin handed Lynsey hers in silence, and as silently she read what was stamped there. "Lynsey O'Connor, witness for Severus Snape, murderer."
"Visitors to the Ministry," said the smooth voice, which was already getting on Lynsey's nerves until she wanted to punch something, "you are required to submit to a search and present your wands for registration at the security desk, which is located at the far end of the Atrium." With that the whole telephone-box began to sink, lift-like, into the ground. Lynsey saw the cut-off edge of the pavement rise up past her eyes and then they were going down and down in darkness, deeper and deeper into the very pits of Hell, it felt like, and she caught her breath and wondered what dungeon they were taking her to, and in what conditions her brave and brisk professor was being kept.
But golden light spread up round their feet, and further up. "The Ministry of Magic wishes you a pleasant day" said the infuriating voice, and the door sprang open and disgorged them into a vast, confusing space full of light and colour and bustling life.
It gave Lynsey a headache just looking at it. Scores, maybe hundreds of exotically and bizarrely-clad men and women were scurrying this way and that, their lurid, upside-down mirror-images dancing along with them, reflected in the highly-polished darkness of the wooden floor. Arcane golden runes of some kind, blindingly bright, twisted and writhed across a ceiling enamelled a deep, peacock blue. As McGonagall swept their small party with her down the length of the great hall she could see gilded fireplaces set down both the long sides of the room, burning with green flames. These seemed to function like some sort of transporter-pad, with wizardly commuters materializing out of the flames to her left side and disappearing into them on her right.
As anxious as she was about Snape, Lynsey still couldn't help rubber-necking a bit. If nothing else, it distracted her slightly from feeling sick with nerves. Halfway-down the hall was a circular pool, with a central plinth on which sat the gilded, larger-than-life statue of a disconsolate-looking witch, her chin resting on one hand, the other holding the broken stump of a wand from which a thin trickle of water dribbled into the pool, which Lynsey could see was scattered with bronze and silver coins. On either side of the witch, sulkily avoiding looking at either her or each other, were statues of what Lynsey recognized as a house-elf, with water leaking from the tips of his or her drooping ears, and a similar but slightly larger and even more sinister-looking creature with one ear missing, and a sad rain dripping from the tip of its pointed, sagging hat. Next to the pool were two notices: a small, scruffy one which said something about proceeds going to St Mungo's Hospital, and a somewhat larger one, which had been in place long enough for the letters to have started to fade, which read "Fountain of Magical Brethren currently under repair."
Facing them at the far end of the Atrium were what looked like gilded, wrought-iron gates: or were they actual gold? As they approached the gates, an amiably dozy looking witch seated at a desk under a sign which said "Security" waved them over and began scanning them in some way, passing a thin, flexible golden rod over each person's front and back. She seemed disposed to be chatty, especially to Harry, but when she caught sight of the lettering on Poppy's badge her face changed abruptly and she became curt and openly cold. She weighed each person's wand in a sort of one-sided brass scale, tore off the print-out which extruded from a slot in the base and spiked it, all in grim silence.
When it came to Lynsey, the security-witch held out her hand. "Wand. Well, come on then - I don't have all day."
"I - uh - don't have one."
"Oh" the witch said coldly. "The Muggle. I'd heard there was one: I suppose it's only what you'd expect from that - "
"From that what?" Lynsey asked sharply, but McGonagall seized her upper arm in a grip like a vice and hurried her through the gates.
Arthur Weasley, looking even more anxious and careworn than usual, met them on the far side of the gates, in a smaller hall whose sides were lined with twenty or more old-fashioned chain-driven lifts, each set behind a grille made of the same gilded wrought-work as the gates. He pressed the button to summon a lift, and the nearest grille opened on its own, with an echoing clank. The interior of the lift was dimly lit by an antique-looking lamp swaying from the ceiling, but by it Lynsey could make out a column of fairly modern buttons, with their destinations written beside them. She wondered idly what "Ludicrous Patents" were: but Arthur pressed the only button lower than "Atrium", and took them even further down, into the bowels of the London clay.
There were three other people in the lift with them, all wearing expressions of grim, self-righteous satisfaction which made Lynsey sick to her stomach. "Department of Mysteries" said that same smooth female voice, and the lift opened onto a bare stone corridor, lit by wavering, guttering torches and with no door except for a plain black one at the far end. McGonagall's party let the smug trio go on ahead, not wishing to associate with them, and Lynsey saw that the three turned left just before that ominous door.
And yes - they were all going to the same place. Arthur led the rest of them round the same corner and through an open doorway onto stairs which angled steeply down again, even deeper, leading to a second corridor. But this one had much rougher stone walls, fitfully lit by more burning torches in brackets, and Lynsey realized that they must be so far down they had left the London clay and entered bedrock. The resemblance to a working dungeon was depressing, and as they walked along in the flickering light they passed heavy wooden doors, bolted from the outside with massive iron bolts and very emphatic keyhole-locks. Lynsey, feeling even sicker, wondered unhappily if her professor was locked in - shackled, even - behind one of these oppressive doors.
And here was a dark, grubby door, which looked as though it had been often handled and never washed, with an equally heavy lock; but instead of a bolt it had a great iron handle, which Arthur turned, pushing the door open and stepping through.
It opened into the corner of a very large, square, high-ceilinged room, lined with plain dark stone and lit only by more of the Mediaeval-looking torches, which gave little light but added to the sinister ambience. There were three staggered tiers of benches stretching up every wall and full almost to capacity - there looked to be several hundred people present. At the end facing them, the upper two tiers formed a separate balcony, above head-height and accessed by stone steps. This balcony was filled with grim-faced witches and wizards wearing plum-coloured robes, with an elaborate silver W worked on the left breast.
But it was what sat at dead-centre of the room which transfixed Lynsey's gaze. A heavy chair, almost a throne, but there were strong chains wrapped around the arms, and to her heightened nerves it looked like an electric chair. To either side there were three plain, church-hall-type seats, and Arthur Weasley quietly guided their party across the stone-flagged floor to sit down under the disapproving eyes of the crowd; McGonagall, Harry and Lupin on one side of the central chair and himself, Lynsey and Poppy on the other.
The hall seemed filled with whispering and hostile stares. As Lynsey sat down demurely in the seat provided, trying her best not to shake with nerves, Arthur gestured to the group of witches and wizards at their left and murmured "The jury." She looked where he had pointed, and her heart sank further; this lot looked even more grim and hostile than the general audience.
Again, Arthur gestured, this time at the plum-coloured crowd on the balcony above them. "The Wizengamot, the Wizards' High Court. Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister for Magic himself, is presiding - that's him at centre-front." And these were surely no better; Scrimgeour himself looked like an eagle searching for prey, his eyes fixed on the door they had entered by.
Thanks to McGonagall, Lynsey already knew enough about wizarding court-procedures to know she didn't like them. There would be no Council for the Defence. The Wizengamot, theoretically neutral and independent, was presided over by a Chief Warlock - a position once held by Dumbledore himself - but in practice the power lay in the hands of the senior Ministry official involved: usually the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, but in this case the Minister himself. There would be three interrogators, including the Ministry official and two from the Wizengamot, who would cross-examine both prosecution and defence witnesses, insofar as those terms were meaningful. The Wizengamot as a whole would then decide on the defendant's guilt or innocence, but it was almost unheard of for them to go against the wishes of the Ministry. The jury existed only to endorse whatever sentence the Wizengamot chose to impose - and again, it was almost unheard-of for them to fail to do so. There was nobody here to speak for Snape except himself, if he chose to - himself, and their ragged little band.
Somewhere at her back she heard the click as the iron handle was turned, and the hissing mutter of the crowd spiked and fell ominously silent. The sound of the door opening, footsteps - several footsteps, and she fought the urge to turn in her seat as the hissing whisper started up again, louder this time and more aggressive, as malign as a wasps' nest. Craning over her own shoulder she saw her professor being brought in between two burly guards. At least it was human guards nowadays, not Dementors, but they looked like a pair of hired thugs, and between them Snape walked like a wisp of shadow, still wearing the thin robes he had slept in four mornings ago, his gaunt face pale and weary and decorated with several new bruises which hadn't been there on Monday but at least, despite his obvious ill-health, he came on with a firm stride and his head high, shaking the two guards off as if they were mere grubby annoyances as he took his place in the chair of chains, two places to Lynsey's right.
As the chains burned briefly golden and sprang to life in a way which turned Lynsey's stomach, binding his arms so tightly to the wood that he was forced to hunch his shoulders slightly, and the hissing of the crowd rose to a crescendo and began to spill over into open jeering, and Rufus Scrimgeour rose to his feet and stared down at him like an eagle preparing to swoop down on a rabbit, Snape gripped the wood so tight that the knuckles shone whitely through his skin and continued to stare straight ahead, rigidly composed.
"We are gathered here" said the hawk-like Minister in a fierce, cold voice which froze the audience into instant silence, "to hear evidence in the case of Severus Snape, known Death Eater, in the matter of the murder of Albus Dumbledore, Chief Warlock Emeritus of the Wizengamot, a colleague and friend to many of those here present, and known to us all as one of the most eminent wizards of modern times."
"Criminal proceedings of the ninth of January," he continued more formally, "to enquire into the involvement of Severus Tobias Snape in the sudden death of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizarding on the fourth of June nineteen ninety-seven. Interrogators: Rufus Aloysius Scrimgeour, Minister for Magic; Laurent Armand Macpherson, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Sylvia Daisy Pouncer, Secretary to the Minister. Court Scribe, Percy Ignatius Weasley." Lynsey glanced sharply at the rather smug-looking red-headed clerk and then at the older man beside her, but Arthur Weasley was staring studiously off into the middle distance. "Calling the Witness for the Prosecution, Harry James Potter of number four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey."
"Defence," Harry muttered, standing up from his place between McGonagall and Lupin and shooting Snape a rather poisonous look.
"I beg your pardon?" said the Minister, arching his impressive pepper-and-salt eyebrows like tawny wings.
"Witness for the Defence" Harry replied, loudly and sulkily, and it was then that the nightmare really began.
It felt to Lynsey as if they were seated at the bottom of a well, the focus of a burning-glass of hatred turned on the professor and his supporters, surrounded as they were by rank above rank of disapproving faces and hostile whispers. "You stand there and tell us," Scrimgeour said scornfully, "that you know that Albus Dumbledore was willing to give his life for The Cause because he ordered you to feed him what you think might have been poison, and yet you refuse to tell us the circumstances?"
"I told you, I - I can't. It's a secret. Professor Dumbledore's secret. But it was definitely some sort of poison, and he knew it."
"You say that when Dumbledore realized that he had been poisoned he specifically asked for Professor Snape by name, speaking as if no-one else would do?" Macpherson at least, with his lilting Highland voice, seemed genuinely interested in weighing up the evidence with an open mind, but before Harry could answer he was steam-rollered by the Minister.
"I don't think anybody is in any doubt that Dumbledore trusted this... person: the question is whether he did so unwisely," Scrimgeour said smoothly.
"What would you care anyway?" Harry demanded, angrily and, indeed, unwisely. "You never liked Professor Dumbledore anyway - you tried to turn me against him."
The Minister drew up his shoulders like a mantling eagle and glared down at Harry. "Clearly, the boy is delusional," he said softly.
After that, it was downhill all the way.
When it was Lynsey's turn to be quizzed, she did the best she could, assuring the court that Snape had told her that he had fired on Albus Dumbledore on the man's own orders, and yes, yes, she knew he had been angry, he had told her he was - he had been angry with Dumbledore for giving him that order against his wishes. But no, she couldn't be absolutely certain he wasn't just saying that to cover his own back but why would he bother to tell her about it at all, if he had anything to hide? But when it came down to it all she could really say was "I trust him" and that, as the Minister kindly pointed out, wasn't worth the parchment it wasn't written on, because whichever side you believed Snape was truly on, either way he had deceived one of the best Legilimens on record.
And all the while out of the corner of her eye she could see the professor sitting two places to her right, his back forced into an uncomfortable half-crouch by the tightness of the chains, his pale face grimly composed, even when McGonagall and Poppy Pomfrey on either side of him silently rested their hands over his. As Minerva McGonagall and Arthur Weasley spoke up for him, describing his loyal service to the Order of the Phoenix and the trust in which Dumbledore had held him, his expression never changed, although his lips tightened even more than before when Poppy Pomfrey described his many injuries. But the fact that he had undeniably been tortured proved nothing, as Scrimgeour loftily informed the Court: if he had been willing to risk being tortured in order to serve the Order of the Phoenix, he might equally well have submitted to torture for the sake of He Who Must Not Be Named, to make a convincing cover-story.
Only when Remus Lupin stood up in turn to speak for him did something else - surprize, perhaps, or even amusement - flicker briefly across his face; but Lupin was, as Lupin himself had feared, not a particularly useful character witness. The Minister and Ms Pouncer were smugly, smoothly snide about what they called his "condition" and the effect that the imminent arrival of the full moon (due to appear on Monday night) might be having on his judgement. And his firm assertion that he knew Snape to be an honest man because he could smell that he was only brought a ripple of tittering across the galleries.
They were, all of them, horribly out of their depth, and being toyed with. It was only when, finally, Scrimgeour called Snape himself to speak in his own defence that the sense of power in the room shifted. Ill as he was, unable even to straighten in the terrible chair and look his accuser properly in the face, his composed manner and his ringingly clear voice still commanded universal attention.
"I swear to you," he said, his voice clear and low and carrying, the narrow, intense flame of his face shining like ivory in the wavering torchlight, "that I would never have killed Albus Dumbledore of my own will, or on the orders of anyone other than himself. I cannot, I cannot submit to Veritaserum in front of the general court because of the sensitivity of the information which I carry, and in any case I am sure the Minister is aware, as I am, that Veritaserum is not entirely effective when used on an experienced Occlumens. I can offer you no proof save my own word: but I swear to you that I killed him only because he himself wished it so."
And that, as Lynsey and everyone else in McGonagall's party knew perfectly well, was a thundering lie.
"Is there anyone else in this court who has anything to add before we reach our verdict?" Macpherson asked.
"Sir," McGonagall said, firmly but with a faint trace of desperation, her rrr's rolling noticeably as she addressed her countryman, "you must believe me. Severus Snape is an honest man and a brave one who has already suffered greatly in the battle against He Who Must Not Be Named. Yet instead of his sacrifice being recognized, I find myself here saying, in the words of the Muggle poet:
"Unfortunately," said Macpherson softly, inclining his head, "righteousness is more often punished than rewarded," and he turned away from her and went to join the rest of the Wizengamot in their heated debate.
"In short," said Rufus Scrimgeour, smiling his false politician's smile, "we have here the testimonies of a Muggle, a werewolf, an immature boy with a known history of mental disturbance, a minor Ministry functionary with a record of questionable decisions and, oh, yes - a sheltered elderly lady who hasn't left Hogwarts in over twenty years. None of whom, for whatever reason, is willing to submit to questioning under Veritaserum. Not forgetting the testimony of Mr Snape himself, a known and undeniable Death Eater - his crude attempt to remove the brand which marked him as the servant of He Who Must Not Be Named notwithstanding.
"By Mr Potter's own statement, given to a Ministerial Board of Enquiry on the third of August last year, Severus Snape used an Unforgivable Curse on Albus Dumbledore in full view of several witnesses including Mr Potter himself, to the loss of his life, and he did so with rage and hatred in his face as Albus Dumbledore begged him for mercy. Mr Potter's subsequent change of mind, for whatever reason, does not supercede his original eye-witness testimony. Members of the jury, are we agreed?"
He drew himself to his full, impressive height and fixed a look of pure malice on - no, not on Snape, on Harry. Why on Harry? "Severus Tobias Snape, you put out the sun of the wizarding world, and so I sentence you to live your life out of sight of the sun, and out of the sight of man: hereafter no one will ever look you in the eye again. You silenced the voice of perhaps one of the greatest wizards of all time, and so I condemn you to live out the rest of your life in silence. Other than during such interrogations as the Ministry may think fit, mine will be the last voice that will ever speak to you, and these are the last words, whether written or spoken, which will ever be addressed to you."
If he had been trying for a crack in Snape's iron composure, he succeeded then, for the professor blanched deathly-white and gasped as if he had been punched in the gut. But as Minerva McGonagall rose to her feet and began to shout, he clamped his lips to a thin line again and stared blindly straight ahead.
"I have been young, and now am not too old;" - Edmund Blunden, Report on Experience.
This chapter has been slightly re-edited to bring it in line with the new Deathly Hallows backstory. Snape has been made a year younger, and a mention has been added of Percy realizing that some Ministry officials were under Imperius, to explain why this timeline diverged from the main one.
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