A/N: This is set during Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, sometime after Chapter 29: Careers Advice. It's my first Harry Potter fanfiction.

"Potter, a word please."

Harry turned to see Professor McGonagall waving him towards her emptying classroom. He heard one of the exiting students say, "My toadstool still had warts. Do you think she'll dock points for that?" Harry waded his way through the second years towards the Transfiguration classroom, trying to decide what he was in trouble for this time. Fred and George's fireworks display? Contacting Sirius? Dumbledore's Army? It was probably, he realized, with a cold hard knot in his throat that felt something like swallowing Gillyweed, because it was his fault that Dumbledore had been forced to flee the school.

"I'm sorry, Professor McGonagall. We didn't set out to break school rules, and it wasn't even a rule when we started. We only wanted to-" he broke off, eyeing McGonagall's bemused expression. "Er, what was this in reference to, Professor?"

"Guilty conscience, Potter?"

He flinched at that. Of course he had a guilty conscience. Hogwart's last and best line of defense was gone, all because of him. But he was still grateful to McGonagall for pretending the DA didn't exist. With Dumbledore in hiding, Harry's little line of defense would have to do.

Harry forced a laugh. "Just my idea of a joke, because, of course, I would never break... school... rules. I'll sit down, now, shall I?"

McGonagall sat at her desk, and Harry fell into the seat opposite her.

"I wish to discuss your careers appointment."

"Is it about my OWLs? I meant to ask Snape to tutor me a bit in potions, but I haven't quite gotten around to it, because I was waiting for him to be in a good mood, and, well... it's Snape."

McGonagall looked as though she was trying to suppress a smile. "Professor Snape, Harry, and that's not what I wanted to speak with you about. I see no reason you can't become an Auror if you apply yourself a little harder in your weaker subjects. I simply wished to ask you if you had any questions for me about your chosen career path?"

Harry blinked. "You asked me that during the appointment. Oh, I see. You mean do I have any questions I don't want to ask in front of Umbridge. No, I wasn't holding anything back. I figure even she couldn't find a way to give me detention for saying I want to work for the Ministry. Though I wouldn't put it past her to try."

McGonagall offered him the tartan biscuits tin a bit absently, not seeming to realize it was empty. She seemed to be struggling with herself for a moment.

Suddenly, she stood, and moved to the classroom door, shutting it firmly, before coming back to stand in front of Harry. He felt rather at a disadvantage, sitting while she was standing, plus it meant he'd be speaking to her naval. He quickly stood.

"In strictest confidence, Potter, the other professors and myself have been on the lookout for a way to get rid of Umbridge once and for all."

It sounded a bit like his Transfiguration professor was suggesting murder, but Harry was sure he must've gotten the wrong end of the wand. "Er, what do you mean by that, Professor?"

She gave him a sharp look. "Umbridge is not a Death Eater, Potter."

He noticed she didn't call her Professor Umbridge.

"Probably just because a Dark Mark wouldn't match her pink cardie," he said, momentarily entertaining the mental image of Umbridge insisting Voldemort give her a kitten instead of a snake.

"She works for the Ministry. She supports Fudge because she knows he will, in turn, support her. But if she does something that Fudge cannot be seen, publicly, to stand behind, then he would be forced to dismiss her."

"Does something like what?" Harry couldn't help thinking that there didn't seem to be much Fudge wouldn't stand behind these days, besides him, of course.

"I trust you remember Professor Moody- well, the imposter Professor Moody's punishment of Draco Malfoy last year."

"Sounds a bit familiar, yeah." Harry tried not to grin and failed miserably. Then something occurred to him, and the smile vanished from his face. He glanced down at his hand, which had still not fully healed since his last detention with Umbridge. He'd taken to keeping it wrapped in a handkerchief at all times, partly to hide the cuts, partly to discourage the pitying glances he got from Ron and Hermione, and partly because the wounds were still weeping gently.

He'd told Ron and Hermione that he hadn't gone to McGonagall because she didn't have the power to stop Umbridge. Truthfully, it was because he was afraid she already knew. That would be much harder to bear than a bit of blood.

"Er, Professor?"

"Do you know something, Potter?" McGonagall asked, almost eagerly.

"I think I might. I mean, it's not transfiguring a student," he hurried to add. "But well, you know I've been doing detentions with Umbridge."

"I do," she said sternly. He wondered if this had been a bad idea, but he pressed on anyway.

"Well, her punishments are maybe a bit odd for Hogwarts. I mean, I imagine Filch would probably approve, but..." he trailed off, unsure how to proceed.

"I thought she was making you do lines?" said McGonagall.

"She is, yeah. But she didn't have me use ink," he said.

"I am not Professor Trelawney," she said. "And despite that fact, I am still not psychic. You will have to use your words."

But suddenly words seem to have failed Harry. Not knowing what else to do, he undid the handkerchief around his hand and showed Professor McGonagall the words that would probably be there for the rest of his life. I must not tell lies.

At first he though maybe she had known about it all along, because she didn't say anything. Then she took his wrist, abruptly, but carefully not touching the cuts on the back of his hand, and dragged him out of the classroom.

She led him to the staff room and flung open the door. It was rather depressingly furnished in shades of gray. Professors Sprout, Snape, Vector, Burbage, Hooch and Flitwick were all seated at a large slab of a marble table. Snape was idly stirring a cup of tea. That was all Harry had time to take in before McGonagall held up his hand and announced. "That old toad has used a Blood Quill on Harry Potter."

Professor Flitwick gasped and Professor Burbage looked away as though she might be sick. Harry wondered at the name. Blood Quill. It was so obvious that it sounded a bit stupid. He'd always been so busy hating the owner, that he'd never given much thought to the thing itself, but now he realized it was probably a very dark object, something that might find a home in Borgin and Burkes.

"How dare she!" said Madame Hooch.

"Why didn't you tell us about this, Potter?" asked McGonagall.

"I thought you knew," Harry said simply.

None of them seemed to know what to say to that. They were all staring at him, no one moving, Snape's tea growing cold.

It was, to everyone's apparent surprise, but none so much as Harry, Snape who moved first. He stood and lifted Harry's hand, examining the cuts.

"Murtlap Essence, do you think, Severus?" asked McGonagall.

I've already tried that," said Harry. When everyone turned to stare at him again, he added, "Hermione."

"I have something a bit more potent," suggested Snape.

"By all means, fetch it," said McGonagall.

"Accio Abus!"

A small glass jar whizzed into the office a few seconds later. Snape undid the top and swept up some cream with his long fingers. He began to apply it to Harry's hand, using even more care than he did when he was dicing daisy roots. Pausing briefly, he met Harry's eyes.

"We did not know, Potter."

The fact that Snape was being kind to him, more than anything else, drove home precisely how stupid he'd been. Of course they hadn't known, or they would've used the information to get Umbridge the sack. Instead, he'd kept it a secret and subjected them all to weeks of unnecessary Educational Decrees and "hem hems."

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, and Madame Hooch started as though he'd shouted. "I should have realized the ministry couldn't be seen to support her if this got out. I didn't think-"

"For heaven's sake, stop apologizing, Potter," said McGongall, but still she looked upset. If only Harry could just explain.

"I just thought, after you told me to keep my head down, that you must know, and you just weren't in a position to get rid of her."

"Oh, Potter." If anything, McGonagall sounded even more upset.

"We do not have that happy power," said Snape. "But the Minister of Magic does."

"I'll go to Fudge immediately," said McGonagall.

Snape finished applying the potion, and Harry realized his hand felt better than it had in ages. Still, Snape did not move. He didn't look like he was in anything that could be described as a good mood, but for some reason, Harry was driven to ask, "Professor, do you think you might tutor me in potions? Only, we just had careers appointments, and I think I want to be an Auror."

"In that case," said Snape, finally releasing Harry's hand. "I suggest you work a little harder on recognizing evil for what it is."