Chapter 2 : Humiliation
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“Minister, this is not only unheard of but it's outrageous!” Juror number twelve, a twenty eight year old witch named Alara Ayoni strode onto the floor of the Wizengamot to speak. She was on the shorter side, but slender, her black hair tied in a neat braid blended into her dark wizard's robes. Her sapphire blue eyes bored into her debate opponent. “This is an extreme and unwarranted invasion of privacy. Now I am all for Muggle rights and I feel for the loss of the Brockdale Bridge victims as well as the others who lost their lives in the recent war. I am happy to see them included during these war crimes trials, if for no other reason than to assure them that we are taking great steps to punish the guilty and ensure that no one like Voldemort ever rises again." Alara stumbled slightly over the name 'Voldemort,' clearly not used to being able to say it yet. "But Minister, a man’s innermost memories must be allowed to remain private!”
“I disagree, Minister,” said Juror number twenty one, a foul looking middle-aged Squib named Gladys Williamson, also stepping forward. “It shows us his motivation.”
Alara Ayoni shook her head. “He has already testified both of his own accord and under Veritaserum. The two testimonies matched precisely. We have Harry Potter's own testimony over their contents. There is no need for further investigation!”
"Indeed," Gladys Williamson replied. "It is Harry Potter's testimony that alerted us to the existence of these memories. But Mr. Potter is only seventeen! What happens if there's something he missed? Are we to free a man on the word of a teenager, no matter how heroic his actions?"
"And after his figuring out how to defeat Voldemort are we suddenly to stop trusting in his judgment?" Alara asked, the evil wizard's name came out a bit more practiced this time and she took a moment to gather her thoughts. "Now... I'm aware that after three days of testimony Juror Williamson has had some less than positive impressions of Severus Snape. I'm willing to acknowledge that unless we can claim a Slytherin House heritage, those of us who are magical have had experiences that are most likely the same. But are we trying him on charges of not being nice? Of course we aren't. Severus Snape has his faults. You have your faults, I have mine. Many of you right now are thinking that my fault is that I don't know when to shut up and sit down."
The Wizengamot echoed with light chuckles and some whispers of affirmation. Ayoni looked into the gallery at Harry Potter while she gathered her thoughts for her next argument. He had spent an hour making the same line of reasoning earlier in the morning, and he looked grateful to see someone else pick up his banner.
Juror Ayoni continued. "We have reviewed the evidence brought forth to this very courtroom after You-Know-Who fell the first time. We have listened to Severus Snape’s testimony, freely given. Unlike so many others in these war trials, he has not claimed to be under the Imperius curse, he has freely admitted to certain crimes. Crimes which were committed under the guidance, protection, and specific direction of the late Hogwarts Headmaster and orchestrator of the fight against You-Know-Who, Albus Dumbledore. Now... like the rest of you, I wish that Headmaster Dumbledore was here to corroborate Professor Snape's account. But we have the next best thing. Under the powerful potion Veritaserum, his testimony perfectly matched the testimony given of his own free will. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Wizengamot, what more do you want? Is the way forward from this war to take a pound of flesh from a man who isn't terribly well liked? Who isn't terribly social? But is in fact, a man who spent the last two wars working behind the scenes to protect people and defeat the most dangerous and evil wizard to ever live?"
Gladys Williamson looked offended. Of course, Gladys Williamson always looked offended but this was worse than normal. “The purpose of these trials is to sort out those Death Eaters who had been drawn in by this Dark Lord's heavy use of your mind-controlling curse from those truly following him, is it not? Severus Snape's own testimony shows him to be adept at - what was the word? Occlumency? He is perfectly capable of hiding his true intentions in spite of the use of your drug. You yourself admitted it to me! I lost my home, had to live in hiding in a foreign country because of your Dark Lord and your Death Eaters. I demand to know what happened! He was part of that…that group. I demand to know just how involved he really was. If he really did switch sides, I would like to know why!”
Minister Shacklebolt finally spoke. “Madam Juror, we feel for your sacrifice during our recent war. But there's been no evidence that the defendant had any role in your particular situation."
Gladys Williamson looked mortally wounded. “You wizards and witches think of yourselves so highly in your fancy robes, so noble, don’t you? Yet you allow this man to walk free unchallenged. Is this just a dog and pony show? Have you allowed in us poor ‘Muggles’ and ‘Squibs’ as a mere patronization while you allow a man who admits he was a part of your wizarding mafia to go unpunished? Minister, I call now for a vote on getting to the bottom of the truth and discovering Severus Snape's true motivations. I've heard it said that nobody ever left the Death Eaters. But here he is, claiming exactly that! Surely such an extraordinary claim calls for extraordinary proof!"
Murmurs from the crowd filled Alara's ears and she knew she’d lost. The Muggle and Squib presence was indeed a patronization negotiated by the Muggle Prime Minister. Gladys Williamson was working the entire system expertly. Alara had sat through three Death Eater trials, but this woman was the absolute worst.
Perhaps she never really had a chance. Since the fall of Voldemort nearly everyone seemed to have a tale to tell about why they hated Severus Snape no matter what side of the war they had been on, and Harry Potter's testimony of an elaborate covert operation had only served to inflame the conversations. She had one last statement to make. “Minister, I cast my final vote now. My vote is that the defendant be cleared of all charges.”
“Madam Juror,” Minister Shacklebolt answered. “To do so before testimony has been closed leaves you open to charges of pre-disposition, thereby disqualifying you from this jury.”
“I am aware of that Minister,” she said continuing to stare down Gladys Williamson. “My vote remains so cast.”
“Then you are dismissed as a Juror,” the Minister decreed with a slam of his gavel. While Shacklebolt called for a full vote on Juror Williamson's motion Alara walked over to her and whispered. “You want his motivations, you’re about to get them. What are yours I wonder?” She turned and stormed out the door. From the visitors' gallery, Harry Potter followed closely behind her.
Minister Shacklebolt banged his gavel again. “The vote is passed, Severus Snape's motivations will be brought to bear. Bring in the accused.”
The floor opened up and a silver spiked cage containing Severus Snape rose up into the Wizengamot with Snape staring at the floor, his long hair hanging like curtains in front of his face, shielding him from view. He remained completely motionless.
"Severus Snape," Shacklebolt began. "Because of your extraordinary skills additional steps must be taken to definitively prove your guilt or innocence. It has been requested that your memories of the events that have caused this trial be brought to bear. Do you have any objections to this procedure?"
Snape remained motionless.
"No objections are made, the procedure will begin," Shacklebolt announced.
A Pensieve was brought out and explained to the Muggles and Squibs. Gladys Williamson sat in the jury box proud of how she had manipulated the arrogant Wizengamot and smug in the coming humiliation of the man she blamed for taking her troubles for no other reason than he was the highest ranking Death Eater that remained alive, and she was out for vengeance.
Snape continued to remain motionless as a guard brought out the flask of memories Snape had given to Harry Potter and emptied them into the Pensieve. The guard then cast a spell over the Pensieve allowing the entire Wizengamot to view the contents.
When the memories finished replaying the entire room held its breath. As Juror Ayoni had claimed, the Pensieve of Snape's memories confirmed all the events as both he and Harry Potter had previously testified. But neither wizard had admitted to the reason for his behavior: Snape's undying love for Lily Potter. As the memories were played out for the entire courtroom Severus Snape was rewarded for his unconditional love of Lilly Potter, for his years of bravery and sacrifice to her memory and the son she bore with another man, with complete and utter humiliation. The man of so many secrets and so much privacy that it was obvious nobody knew him at all had been completely and openly laid bare. The Wizengamot courtroom remained as silent as the tomb Severus Snape wished he lay in.
At last Minister Shacklebolt called for the vote, every hand in the courtroom voted for acquittal save Williamson, who looked too stunned to vote. Snape stared at the floor, unmoving.
"Cleared of all charges, the prisoner is to be released at once." The silver cage vanished but Snape remained where he stood staring at the floor, his long hair covering his face like curtains, his spirit broken. Shacklebolt looked at Gladys Williamson. If there was any hint of embarrassment in the woman, none showed across her self-righteous face. All the sympathy Shacklebolt may have earlier felt for the Muggle deaths and the dangers they would have faced if Voldemort had succeeded evaporated as he considered her. "This court is adjourned," he announced, disgust ringing in as loudly as his voice did.
The courtroom dispersed quietly save for one person in the gallery, the new Headmistress of Hogwarts Minerva McGonagall who instantly made two decisions. She approached him cautiously. "I'm sorry Severus," she said. "Your cover fooled us all, I didn't know."
"I don't need your pity, Minerva," he spat not looking up at her.
"No, but you do need a place to go. And with your obligation to Harry Potter completed you need something to do."
"I have a home at Spinner’s End, as you well know Headmistress."
"Yes, but you don't have a job. I don't have a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, and with Horace Slughorn's re-retirement I don't have a Head for Slytherin House either. You know as well as I do how the war has decimated Slytherin's ranks. It would be a strong show of magical unity if you were brought back to Hogwarts. Now: I am on my way to pick up my new Transfiguration professor, I leave for Hogwarts in one hour. I believe you know where to meet me." She turned and left him to his thoughts.
Sixty minutes later Severus Snape the free man jostled his way through reporters and curious onlookers surrounding Minerva McGonagall's official Hogwarts carriage, climbed in and slammed the door shut behind him. Moments later McGonagall arrived, acknowledging his presence with an unsurprised nod. Snape noticed no one was following her in. "Our new Transfiguration professor?"
Minerva took off her gloves and placed them in her lap as she pulled out her wand. "Our new Transfiguration professor has been momentarily delayed.” She looked up at him over her glasses. "Have you had anything to eat?" She pointed her wand at a cabinet next to Snape and with a small flourish opened it, a steaming pot of tea along with a platter of several snacks floated between them, all of which Snape refused. She then pointed her wand at the door and opened the window.
After several awkward minutes of silence a peregrine falcon landed on the window sill of the carriage before hopping down onto the seat next to McGonagall, who waved her wand and promptly snapped the window shut on the outside world. The falcon transfigured into a young woman with striking sapphire blue eyes. She was dressed in casual black pants and a black top with a full length black rain coat over it all. High heeled boots, a silver belt, and a long black braid of hair completed the modern, almost Muggle look. “Professor,” she acknowledged Snape then turned to McGonagall, “My apologies Headmistress, this was a bit sudden.”
"Alara Ayoni," Snape addressed the woman.
"Ah," exclaimed McGonagall, "you remember her, Severus. Good." McGonagall tapped the roof of the carriage twice and the thestral outside jolted the carriage into flight back to Hogwarts.
"Graduated top of your class if I'm not mistaken," Snape added, sounding unimpressed.
"Top of Ravenclaw, Professor,” Ayoni corrected him. “William Blackhearth from Slytherin took top of class when he beat me by three points- in Potions."
"Indeed," Snape responded. "Something I'm sure he will continue to find an accomplishment as he takes up his new residence at Azkaban."
McGonagall waved her wand and a floating parchment appeared in front of her. “Alara recently came to my attention. Her employment record with the Ministry has been exemplary and I’m sure she will make a fine addition to the faculty. Now: several things we need to discuss. Hogwarts Castle is still mending and we have several issues in housing due to the damage, particularly in the Tower Houses. I’ve hired Brandon Brewer to replace Madam Hooch, he’s already at the castle mending it. He wants to start Quidditch training early in an attempt to bring a sense of normalcy back to Hogwarts."
“I know Brandon well, he’ll make a fine flying instructor as his schedule permits,” Alara responded. "Have we made arrangements for his disability?”
“Disability?” Snape questioned.
“Hogwarts has a unique chance to make a statement about our world as we move forward, a chance to heal old wounds and mold the future in ways we haven’t had before. Brandon Brewer is a werewolf. I want to make it clear to everyone that prejudice and segregation whether based on blood purity or based on disabilities have no place moving forward at Hogwarts. Anyone who has a problem with it is welcome to leave the school. As a tribute to Remus Lupin's sacrifice during the war one of Kingsley's first acts as Minister of Magic was to repeal that insane bit of legislation Dolores Umbridge pushed through that made discrimination not only legal, but encouraged. Alara, given your history on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, I was hoping you could fill in for him when his schedule demands it.”
Alara grinned as she nodded her acceptance. “I’d love to get back on the Quidditch pitch, even if it is just as a referee.”
Minerva glanced farther down her parchment. “I still need a Potions Master but I have a short list and Severus, I’d like to go through it with you on the way back to Hogwarts. Ideally, I'd like to find a Gryffindor because I need a Head of House for them as well. Oh, and I want a better practical unit put into the Defense Against the Dark Arts class: one similar to Dumbledore's Army. I can't help but wonder how many lives would have been spared if more of our students had received better defensive training..."
That evening McGonagall and the few of the staff remaining for the summer to help rebuild the castle- including Snape, Ayoni, Filius Flitwick and Pomona Sprout gathered in the new Headmistress's office for dinner. Most of the portraits listened to the meeting attentively as they discussed teaching schedules, students who would need extra attention and McGonagall's protocol changes from the previous two headmasters, Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape. Dumbledore’s portrait, feeling some need to be of use, happily confirmed any questions Sprout or Flitwick had regarding Snape’s role in the war, filling in any gaps. To both the portrait and the Headmistress’s credit, they left the more embarrassing portions of the story out, focusing more on his instructions and his actions than his motivations. It was clear that Dumbledore's portrait had as much faith in Snape as Dumbledore himself had during his life. It had the effect of softening Sprout and Flitwick to Snape’s presence again and so Snape tolerated it, though he spent a fair amount of time in moody silence, instead taking the opportunity to size up the new addition to the staff who seemed very keen on avoiding his stare.
An owl arrived at the window with the evening edition of the Daily Prophet rushed to print after the trial. The headline ran thus: Severus Snape cleared of all charges with tale of unrequited love. The secondary headline ran: Hogwarts makes radical changes in hopes of pushing Wizendom forward to a new era. First new hire is known werewolf. McGonagall promises a safe school for all witches and wizards.
Snape’s disgust was obvious. "I wish this Juror Number Twelve hadn't wasted my time.”
"You can't mean that Severus!" Pomona Sprout said as she took a sip of wine. "Whoever this man is, he probably saved you from a life sentence in Azkaban!"
"I'll be sure to send him a thank you owl," Snape responded dryly.
Filius Flitwick picked up the paper and looked it over. "I for one am glad to know you were innocent of what we all thought, Severus." The relief in his voice was obvious as he struggled to put the last year behind him.
"You've no idea who it was?" Pomona asked.
"I wasn't allowed in for the pre-trial motions," Snape answered. He had resigned himself to a life sentence in Azkaban from the moment he woke up alive in St. Mungo's under heavy guard. He didn't care much about the proceedings, but he was irritated that discussions of what evidence for and against him was considered without him there out of a fear of retaliation in the case of his acquittal.
A knock at the door interrupted them.
"Come in!" McGonagall answered as she cleaned her plate of Shepherd's Pie.
The door opened and in walked Brandon Brewer. Brewer was tall and slender with dark eyes and wild, bushy brown hair that stood on ends making him look like he'd been struck by lightning on the Quidditch pitch. He wore a coat that was tight fitting on top and at the waist flared out wide down to the floor. His long sharp features only accentuated his slender build, making Snape think of an upright praying mantis with hair.
"Nice of you to join us," McGonagall said sharply.
"Sorry," he apologized. "I was helping Hagrid with the Astronomy Tower and he got stuck. It's structurally sound again thanks to him but Merlin's Beard we have a long way to go." He spied Alara and a smile grew across his face. "Munchkin!! What a wonderful surprise!"
Alara giggled as she stood to give him a hug. "You haven't changed a bit I see."
Snape stared at the two. "I'm sorry Minerva, I didn't realize your new approach to Hogwarts included pet names."
Brandon shot Snape a glare as he sat down next to Alara and broke off a piece of bread from the loaf in the center of the table as he turned his attention back to McGonagall. "We're just about ready to start Ravenclaw and Gryffindor towers. Functionally they're worse off than the Astronomy Tower but they weren't in danger of collapsing. I'm beginning to wonder if there's a part of the castle that wasn't turned into a battle ground." He poured himself a glass of pumpkin juice. "Unfortunately for me it's a full moon next week."
“Did Horace leave any Wolfsbane Potion behind?” Snape responded. “Or will my skills be needed there as well?”
“Brew my own," Brandon answered, then quickly tempered his bravado. “But I wouldn’t mind you showing me a few tricks when you have the time. I’ve heard you brew a better Wolfsbane than any wizard around.”
Snape returned the compliment with a glare.
Filius Flitwick brought the meeting back on track. "As long as we're allowed to Apparate within the castle, there's no reason why we can't combine our forces on the student residence towers. Set a spell, go on to something else, as long as one person remains behind to monitor the spells and keep them moving along, we should be fine."
McGonagall nodded her agreement. "I'll keep Apparition open until August 30 at the latest, I want all House passwords and entry riddles left off the entrances as well so we can all assist each other as the need arises. But I must have those things back in place before the students arrive. Now: after discussion with Severus, I have decided to offer Michael Carter the position of Potions Master, he has made several new advances while managing Slug and Jiggers Apothecary. He is a Gryffindor, and is also my first choice for Head of House. If he accepts, I hope he will join us in about three weeks. Can you hold down repairs to both Gryffindor and Hufflepuff for that time?"
Pomona Sprout nodded and smiled. "It will be a long six weeks until school starts, and it won't be fully repaired, but I believe we can get the castle functional. Hufflepuff is well underway, I won't need Brandon there much longer. The two basement houses survived relatively unscathed and need only minor repairs. Ravenclaw Tower took more damage than Gryffindor but neither is in the best of shapes."
"I thought part of Slytherin House collapsed?" McGonagall turned to Snape.
"So I've been told, but obviously I have yet to get down there. And I don't need help from a..." Snape stopped a moment and locked eyes with Brewer, "...Hufflepuff."
"I don't care who does it, as long as the dormitories are open on September first." McGonagall answered curtly. "I do not want to have to send owls out to parents that their children may be sleeping in the Great Hall for the first week."
"If you will excuse me Minerva, perhaps it's time I went and had a look." Snape stood up and exited the Headmistress's office without speaking to anyone else, and went down toward the Slytherin Dungeons where he toured them. There had indeed been a collapse at the entrance to the Common Room but there was a large enough opening he could squeeze through. The windows holding back the lake were intact but there was rubble throughout. A second collapse at the entrance to the girls’ dormitory closed it off completely. He wandered over to the notice board: all of the pre-war postings from the previous year were still in place, including the final password-Gloria Castimonia Slytherin.
"Glory to Slytherin Purity," Snape whispered, touching the parchment then looking at the shambles around him. While not all Death Eaters were Slytherins, and a few Slytherins rose up against the Dark Lord, the rough lines of allegiance were impossible to ignore. Slytherin House was in ruins by all measurements Snape could think of: physical, emotional, and reputational- and that didn't even begin to count the cost in blood.
Snape suddenly realized that for the first time in more years than he wanted to count he was completely free and alone with his thoughts. The careful emotional control that had become part of his very existence because of the Dark Lord's Legilimency skills was now superfluous. He was free from his vow to Dumbledore which meant, as McGonagall had pointed out, he was free of his obligation to Harry Potter as well. What would he do? Would he suddenly be invited to cocktail parties and high tea as the brave hero he was? Be invited to guest lecture on the dangers and thrills of being the central person in a three-sided war? Write his memoirs and go on book tours like Gilderoy Lockhart? Snape mindlessly rubbed at the scars on his neck from where Nagini had attacked him as he both laughed and sneered at the thought.
Everything had seemed so clear to him when he joined the Death Eaters. The Death Eaters were intended to be a way to glory, a way to impress Lily. Except that becoming one had driven her away. The Death Eaters believed in blood purity, except that he was a half-blood himself and Lily had been Muggle-born. He had loved Lily Potter more than life itself. Yet she lay in the grave that he wished was his. His guilt threatened to overwhelm him. What right did he have to live when she had died? For years his penance had been to protect the son she had with another man. That penance was over, Harry Potter was a hero and there was nothing left for him to live for. His life was as empty and devastated as the dungeon he sat in.
"Enough," he told himself. Despite the exhaustion of the torment he had received from the other prisoners at Azkaban, despite the long days of his trial, the emotional vivisection that he'd endured that morning and the long journey back to Hogwarts, he was disgusted at his lack of emotional control. He would not allow himself to become weak now that he was free from his obligations.
A voice interrupted his thoughts. "Professor?" He quickly stood up and cast a mending spell on the stonework leading to the girls’ dormitory.
"Professor?" Alara Ayoni's voice came to him again as she climbed through the hole in the doorway and entered the Slytherin dungeon.
Inwardly Snape bristled. The last thing he wanted was a visitor and the last person he wanted to see was her. When he spoke his voice was clear and unemotional as always. "Was I not clear on the carriage ride back? We're colleagues now. You have earned the right to call me by my name."
"Yeah... uhm... give me some time on that one, would you?" She looked around the room, a nervous smile of appreciation crossing her face. "It's beautiful."
"I'm glad you appreciate it seeing as how you're the first non-Slytherin to even see this Common Room in over 700 years."
"Sorry about that. If it makes you feel better, I think we'll all be violating a few traditions as we rebuild."
"Then let's cast aside the pink troll in the room and get right to it?" The edge in Snape's voice made her wince.
"Profess... Severus...." she caught herself. "We need to talk."
Snape lowered his wand and glared at her as sarcasm dripped from his voice. "Here to accept my thanks for being my savior Madam Juror?"
"Not savior and I'm sorry about that," Alara said sadly. "The Daily Prophet hasn't caught on to me yet. How did you find out it was me?"
Snape's lips curled into a thin smile. "Every time anyone has mentioned today's events they have stared right at me. Everyone except you. For all your reported bravery in the courtroom you have been afraid to look me in the eye all afternoon and evening."
She tried to lighten the mood. "Right. There goes playing you in Wizard's Poker." She winced again when Snape's scowl told her she was failing miserably. "Anyway, I wanted to apologize and I wanted you to hear it from me before the evil Queen of the Quill gets a hold of the information."
Snape stared at her. "Did it not occur to you that your rising heroically up to my defense was something I neither needed nor desired?"
"I...." Alara stammered.
Snape didn't bother to let her put her confusion into words, instead seizing the opportunity to vent his frustrations on her. "Did it not occur to you that your brave and gallant actions would turn what could have been a quiet trial into the event of the year? Did it not occur to you that public debate wasn't your goblet of Elvin wine? Did it not occur to you that trying to change their minds was a complete waste of time because their minds were already set?"
Alara finally found her voice. "Has it occurred to you that you were being railroaded by a Squib who was being enabled by a magical community out for blood? Has it occurred to you that this wasn't a personal rescue of you but something I would do for any wizard being dragged through the mud?"
Snape seethed. "Did it never occur to you that you might fail? Were you so sure of your legal prowess that you thought yourself able to play with my fate and my privacy without even consulting me?" Snape's voice rose to a shout. "Did it not occur to you that your legal fight elevated those memories from simple evidence to public fascination? Has it now occurred to you that I have to spend every day of the school year working with a failure?"
His last sentences cut Alara to the core. "I'm sorry. I know I failed and I'm sorry. I didn't come here to play hero but to apologize. I never wanted to cause you any pain."
Snape brought his voice back under careful control. "Will there be anything else?"
She shook her head slowly.
"Then get out."
"I'm sorry Severus," Alara repeated looking for some sort of forgiveness from a man who would offer none.
Snape responded by turning his wand on her as he took a threatening step forward. "I assure you that the few weeks I spent in Azkaban did nothing to inhibit my dueling skills. Unless you would like to discover that first-hand, I suggest you leave. Now."
Alara did so, determined to not let him see the tears welling up inside her. Snape scowled as he turned his wand to initiate more mending spells. He was free to have a life, but not only did he not want the life he now had, he didn't want any life. He spent a few more hours casting mending spells to start the process in the Common Room as well as the dormitories before exhaustion from the day overcame him and he collapsed on a Common Room couch for a few hours of sleep before it would all need to begin again with an all-staff breakfast. The time for disgusting shows of sentiment was over.
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