The Headmaster's First Day
A delicate golden mist wafted gently from the cauldron. Severus Snape watched as it dissipated, revealing a roiling, indigo liquid. He stepped back from the workbench and considered the potion. Scrutinizing the supplies on the shelves around him he chose one. “Comfrey.” A jar floated down to the workbench. And another. “Tobacco, one.” A single large leaf worked it’s way out of a stack on the very top shelf and drifted down next to the comfrey. He opened the jar and sprinkled a good portion of its contents over the leaf. “Infusio.” Picking up the leaf, he tipped its contents into the cauldron and added three pinches of a dark powder from a crock labeled “Cloves”. The roiling settled . . . the liquid solidified slightly and then relaxed. So did the potions master. He chanted, “Vulnera Sanetur” passing his wand counterclockwise over the cauldron until the liquid lightened to a translucent fuchsia.
Snape opened a drawer and pulled out two large phials. One he secreted in his robes. The other he tapped with his wand. It’s mouth widened. He ladled in the potion and tapped it twice. The mouth closed completely, sealing the contents, and it followed the first phial into his robes. He lidded the cauldron and put it on a shelf under the workbench. “Nox.” The lights in the room extinguished themselves and Snape locked the door behind him.
The gargoyle guarding the headmaster’s office stepped aside and Snape headed up the stairs. Professor McGonagall was facing the desk looking up at the portrait of a sleeping Dumbledore. He hesitated briefly but then swept past her.
“Professor?” said Snape. McGonagall started. Her eyes were moist. He seated himself behind the headmaster’s–behind his–desk. McGonagall’s hands shook slightly. She clasped them together. He pulled a sheaf of parchments toward him, shuffled through it and selected one for closer inspection. Frowning slightly, he set that parchment aside, picked up another.
“Dumbledore’s portrait hasn’t moved or spoken since . . . since it appeared.” Snape did not look up. He dipped a quill in the inkwell and signed the parchment. The portrait of Phineas Nigellus snickered.
“Perhaps it’s been cursed?” McGonagall asked.
“I can assure you that is not the case.” Snape signed another parchment. She glanced around the office and rubbed her wrist, running her hand under her sleeve.
“Cursed so that it cannot reveal . . .”
“You are here to discuss a portrait?” His eyes were cold when he looked up at her.
“The students arrived only last night.” She returned his glare with about the same temperature. “But already their treatment by the Carrows is unacceptable. Students can’t learn if they’re being tortured!”
“For many years now discipline at Hogwarts has been . . . lax.” He stood and unbuttoned the cuff at his wrist. “I expect there will soon be a marked improvement in that deficiency. And you forget who’s really in control here.” He pulled back his sleeve revealing the Dark Mark on his forearm, the blackened snake writhing and hissing, the eye sockets of the skull glowering. The color drained from McGonagall’s face and she stepped back, stumbling slightly. She reached toward her own sleeve, to where Snape knew she kept her wand.
“Minerva!” Snape’s voice was stern. He leaned over his desk, scowling at her. McGonagall froze. “Alecto or Amycus–make your choice.”
“What...what do you mean?”
“To replace you as Head of Gryffindor House when you’re gone. Hmm?” Snape cocked his head. “To watch over and protect your students?”
“Either would be a nightmare.”
“Then I suggest you resume preparations for your classes.”
McGonagall hesitated. “I never would have believed this of you, Severus.” Her eyes moistened again. He forced his face to remain impassive. She turned and quickly made her way down the staircase.
“Is she gone?” Snape turned toward Dumbledore’s portrait. The former headmaster still appeared to be sleeping, except for a noticeable lack of snoring.
“Yes, Albus.” The portrait opened its eyes. “You’ve said nothing to her all summer?” asked Snape.
“Engaging in conversation will only invite questions.”
“Is there any way I can merit the same courtesy?” Snape said dryly. Dumbledore closed his eyes again.
“An owl was delivered for you, headmaster.” It was Snape’s turn to startle. He whirled about. Argus Filch stood where McGonagall had been a few moments before.
“Mr. Filch,” Snape said very quietly, “how did you get into my office?”
“Used the password and came up the stairs like everyone else.”
“Like everyone else?” He shook his head. Filch handed him the note. It was brief and it was from Pius Thicknesse.
It has been confirmed that Harry Potter and two of his associates infiltrated the Ministry this morning. Yaxley was able to follow them to a Disillusioned building in Grimmauld Place which we will have thoroughly searched within the hour. As per our Lord’s orders, we are alerting you to all known movements of Potter’s that come to light.
Minister of Magic
Snape picked up the parchment he had previously set aside and scanned its content again. “This report says that a house elf named Kreacher, assigned to the Hogwarts kitchens, has been missing for the past month. Has he returned? Possibly this morning?”
“No sir,” Filch answered. Snape sat down heavily in the headmaster’s chair, leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
“Potter!” he muttered under his breath.
“Excuse me, sir?”
“Thank you, Mr. Filch. You may go.” Filch headed for the stairs. Snape jumped up and followed him. Filch nervously glanced over his shoulder as the headmaster dogged his heels down the steps, billowing black robes filling the stairwell. By the time Filch hit the last stair, he was at a dead run. Snape faced the gargoyle guard, raised his wand – “Muffliato.” Now to change the password. He thought a moment. “Stargazer.” He headed back up the stairs, but stopped, turned toward the guard and waved his wand again. “And let Potter in, if he should ever show up.”
Back in his office, Snape paced back and forth in front of his desk. “Think. . . think!” he ordered himself. Potter, and most likely Granger and Weasley, must have been at 12 Grimmauld Place since Voldemort took over the Ministry. And using the Black’s former house-elf to assist them. Idiots! Did they leave Kreacher there and now they can’t go back? If Ministry officials interrogate that elf, his tenure as headmaster could be the shortest in history, and, worse, if Kreacher knows anything about Potter’s whereabouts . . .
“Phineas–was Kreacher with Potter at 12 Grimmauld Place this summer?”
“Is he there now?”
“I cannot tell–I don’t think I’m there anymore. Since they found out you were appointed Headmaster yesterday, I’ve been bouncing around some kind of bag loaded with tent poles, potions, clothes and some very uncomfortable books.” Phineas rubbed his nose.
“Really? That actually may turn out to be helpful. Keep your eyes and ears open–you might be able to let me know what they’re up to.” Phineas nodded and exited his portrait. Now back to the problem of Kreacher. “Albus?” Snape turned toward Dumbledore’s portrait, but it was empty. “Lovely,” he growled.
Dumbledore had advised Potter to order the elf to the Hogwarts kitchens to protect the Order’s secrets. Perhaps he had provided for unforeseen circumstances as well?
“Kreacher!” With a smart crack, the elf appeared in the middle of the office. Snape’s relief was palpable.
“Were Ministry officials at the Black house before I called you here?” Kreacher nodded. “What did you tell them?
“Nothing, Headmaster. Kreacher hid in the closet. They were breaking down the door when Kreacher was called.”
“Master Harry left this morning and didn’t come back. Kreacher made steak-and-kidney pie.” The old elf appeared disappointed.
“Potter previously ordered you to work in the Hogwarts kitchens, isn’t that true?” Kreacher nodded, not looking too pleased about his former appointment. “And apparently to follow the Headmaster’s orders as well?” Another nod. It was as Snape had hoped. “Then you are to return to the kitchens and resume your duties there–unless Potter requires your assistance. One moment.” He paused, thinking. He reached over his desk, fished out parchment from a drawer, picked up his quill and started scribbling.
“I want you to prepare and bring my breakfast here early every morning before attending to any other duties.” He signed it and handed it to Kreacher. “This informs the cook of my request.” He pulled the phial from the pocket in his robes. “Each morning I will give you one of these. Drop the whole thing–the glass will harmlessly dissolve–into the students’ evening vat of pumpkin juice, without getting caught and without letting anyone else know, understand?”
“Yes, sir.” Kreacher looked skeptical but took the potion from Snape. “Every day?”
“For as long as I’m headmaster.” Kreacher hid the phial and the note in the towel he used as a garment. As he did so, a flash of gold caught Snape’s attention. “And where did you get that?” Kreacher tried to clutch at the locket to shove it back into his garment, but Snape was quicker, leaned down and caught hold of the piece. Kreacher was terrified.
“Kreacher didn’t steal it! Master Harry gave it to Kreacher!” The old elf croaked. Snape turned the plain gold locket over in his palm; it looked familiar.
“This belonged to Regulus Black, did it not?” Snape said, his eyes narrowing as he studied the house elf's face. Tears slid from Kreacher’s eyes. Snape relaxed his hold on the locket and let it slip back down onto Kreacher’s chest. He stood up.
“I liked Regulus, Kreacher.”
“Headmaster knew Master Regulus? Defender of house-elves?”
“Defender of . . .? Yes. He was a friend of mine, before he . . .” Snape fell silent and studied the elf’s tear-streaked face. “I’m sure he would have wanted you to have his locket. Potter inherited it–so if he gave it to you, it’s yours.” He hesitated. “The potion I gave you will help . . . will help defend house-elves . . . as well as the students. Drink some pumpkin juice each day. No one is to know.”
“Severus?” Snape looked up–Dumbledore was back in his portrait. “We have some work to do.” Snape dismissed Kreacher with a nod and the elf Disapparated, returning to his work in the kitchens.
“Apparently some of the students are planning to break into your office and steal the Sword of Gryffindor.” Snape groaned. “Harry needs the Sword. You can’t let it be taken.”
“I am aware.” Snape rubbed his bottom lip with his thumb. “It will have to be hidden somehow.” He looked about the room, but nothing immediately presented itself. All of the cabinets were filled with Dumbledore’s odd instruments, all the shelves crammed with books. He turned back toward Dumbledore’s portrait. “Hmmm...” He looked at the sword in it’s case on the wall. That would be about the right size. Snape took out his wand and waved it at the portrait over his desk. It trembled slightly. “And a Sticking Charm on one side . . . ,” he waved his wand again, “. . . that should do it.” He started toward the sword but then stopped. “I think I can do one better, Albus–I’ll be right back.”
Snape headed down the staircase and out into the hall. He glanced up and down the corridor–empty. He quickly examined the suits of armor lining the wall until he found one with a sword. Extricating the weapon from the stiff cold hands, he then shoved the arms down to the suit’s sides. Now it was simply standing at attention–no hint that anything was out of order. He hurried back to his office.
After laying the weapon on his desk, Snape retrieved Gryffindor’s Sword from its case and placed it alongside the first. He waved his wand over the original and a silvery blue mist rose from it. He caught the substance with the tip of his wand and laid it along the length of the other. “Geminio,” he muttered and after a few moments, an exact replica lay next to the real one. He placed the fake into the case beside Phineas’ portrait.
Picking up the true sword he approached Dumbledore’s portrait. Snape swung the frame away from the wall and fitted the Sword into the new alcove behind. He returned the portrait to its original position just as a loud banging echoed up from the hallway. “What now?” he muttered. Annoyed, Snape headed toward the stairs. He heard the portrait chuckle and looked back.
“Welcome to the world of a Hogwarts Headmaster,” Dumbledore said and gave a slight nod.
“It was never a job I aspired to.” Snape scowled. He headed down the stairs and the gargoyle hopped aside to let him pass. In doing so, it almost knocked over a very angry Amycus Carrow. Snape strode past the Death Eater
“Snape! Have you changed the password?” he demanded. Snape stopped short and turned toward the man.
“How did you address me, Carrow?” Snape’s black eyes fixed the other’s in a dead, cold stare. Startled, Amycus took a step backward.
“I meant . . . mean . . . Headmaster.”
“That’s right, Carrow, Headmaster. And as such I set Hogwarts policy and procedures and they are not to be questioned–is that clear?” Carrow, cowed, nodded. “Now what is it you wish to see me about?”
The two men turned down the corridor and headed for the Great Hall.