In One Spirit

By mavidian

Disclaimer: I am only borrowing for my own temporary amusement.

Summary: Pressure and stress mount day by day at Hogwarts as Lord Voldemort regains his health and his followers. His hunger to triumph over his enemies knows no limit. For some the price of victory will be too high. For others not high enough. Albus Dumbledore needs to win. To that end he recruits allies while spearheading preparations for attack, defense and siege. Severus Snape lost any choice in the matter a long time ago; he can only hope to survive. Now as his past, present and future collide, he finds a new path to possible redemption - a path strewn with questionable motives and hidden dangers.

Along the way he is joined by two unlikely allies: Neville Longbottom and Hermione Granger. Neville gains in confidence and wisdom. Hermione discovers that being muggle born is an unexpected advantage. As the story opens, Snape's atypical behavior sets tongues wagging.

Notes: This work in progress was written way before Order of the Phoenix. This story is not centered around Harry but rather on the heads of houses and other neglected characters especially the faculty and other minor characters. This story's main ship is SS/HG.

Chapter 1

In One Spirit

The Great Hall echoed with the usual hubbub of early morning chatter. The enchanted sky showed bright, cloudless skies rather atypical of Novembers in England. Late risers were just now making their way to their house tables. Most of the early bird fifth, sixth and seventh years were absentmindedly grazing through their meal. Their concentration was reserved for their textbooks or on keeping a tight rein on madly rasping quills racing to reach that last needed centimeter of parchment. At some point in the middle of fifth year, homework had evolved from a necessary nighttime penance to a voracious monster devouring precious time and energy. Thus, overly perky or giggly first and second years were not looked upon with great favor.

In its own way, the staff table was showing signs of stress and strain, too. Many of the teachers had taken on or were assigned additional duties in preparation for Voldemort's inevitable advance towards the school. Many of the teachers were doing research after classes or working with the headmaster in devising ways to strengthen the castle's defenses both magical and non-magical. Dumbledore surveyed the rank and file of Hogwarts' staff and faculty noting the puffy eyes on some, the slumping shoulders of others and the forced alertness of those refusing to surrender to something as trivial as exhaustion. Professors Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape were two of the latter.

Professor McGonagall took her spectacles off then rubbed her tired eyes. Beside her, the headmaster poured more coffee into his deputy's cup. Sparing a quick smile for this thoughtful gesture, her eyes roamed about the hall checking on her young charges. Seeing that all was well, she set to reviewing the day's task list clucking under her breath at all the things left undone from the previous day.

Dumbledore next turned his gaze to his potions master seated at the other end of the table. To all outward appearance Professor Snape was little changed, attired in his usual black on black ensemble with his serious demeanor in plain evidence. The headmaster noticed the little things though - one cup of coffee followed by hot chocolate, several helpings of tomatoes and eggs and twice the amount of sausage and beans. What had brought on this sudden gastronomic indulgence, he wondered.

Professor Snape stabbed at a vulnerable sausage hiding under his eggs. He chewed slowly taking note of taste and texture. The coffee had roused his senses to full alertness and his fuel-starved body was slowly being sated. He ate a bit of everything around him. The tomatoes and sausage were most appealing.

Dumbledore buttered his toast and said almost casually, "Is there anything amiss with Severus that I should know about, Minerva?"

"Why do you ask?"

"He's eaten more in one sitting than he does in a whole day."

"He needs his strength and his rest, doesn't he? At least he's being creative about how he gets it."

"I suppose it is a good sign that he has accepted the situation."

"I don't see it as acceptance, rather a stoic resignation to the inevitable," Minerva sipped her coffee then continued on in low tones. "He has been driving himself harder than ever in every way. Poppy admitted to dosing his drink with rejuvenation potions at every evening meal. How much longer will he last? Will any of us?"

"We will because we must," Dumbledore took a long drink. "Severus' latest project will be the key to our defense and survival."

"As to that, I cannot decide whether to admire his daring brilliance or berate him for his foolhardy courting of disaster. It's the Whomping Willow all over again, and this time no one was there to save him."

"He does not want to be saved, Minerva. He told me so last night. He knows there would be no value to the attempt." Dumbledore sighed and returned to his meal.

After a small sigh and a last sip of hot chocolate, Professor Snape rose and made his way down the center aisle. There was a morning class scheduled. It would not do to be late. His eyes darted around the hall noting details and impressions.

At the Gryffindor table, Ron paced in front of Hermione and Lavender waving a book about in his left hand and gesturing madly with the right. He ranted. "This is impossible! Impossible! How much meaning could there be in two short stanzas?"

After listening to Ron for the last fifteen minutes, Hermione was nearly at the end of her patience. She took a deep calming breath before replying. "You're reading it wrong. Poetry is just like a song but without the music. It has its own rhyme and rhythm."

"Feel the words and the meaning will come to you, eventually." Lavender added

"This bloody essay is due tomorrow! I don't see any essay delivery owls coming my way!" As much as he complained, Ron was no quitter. He took a deep breath and tried yet again putting particular emphasis on any word starting with a capital letter. "The Mountains mingle with the Rivers and the Rivers with the Ocean."

The rendition flowed as unrelenting and graceless as intermittent machine gun fire in an enclosed space. Ron went on and on in ever louder tones.

On his every step down the aisle, Snape's irritation grew. There in the hall a literary massacre was being committed. There was only one thing to do.

Professor Snape sidled to the Gryffindor table. With narrowed eyes, he looked at the guilty party Snape pointed an open hand at the book. "Mr. Weasley, Shelley must truly have done you a great disservice for you to attempt the utter destruction of his work in this manner."

"It's for Muggle Studies, professor. I need to write a two meter essay on its meaning for tomorrow. In two stanzas, what is there to write about?" Ron replied giving Snape the book.

"Poems are exercises in literary subtlety, clarity and elegance. Several qualities that your house has rarely, if ever, excelled at. I am therefore not surprised at your difficulty."

Ron bristled at the insult but kept his composure. He was not about to lose points over a silly poem. "I can see that it's about love and being together forever and ever. That's the theme."

Snape's eyes traveled down the page. "A poem, especially one like this, cannot be read as if it were a conversation expectant of an audience cognizant of your intent. A giver of a poem must have no other guileless purpose than to reveal truth through the poem's nuances. In turn, the recipient must then savour it like a confession of the heart or a sharing of souls."

Ron doggedly pressed on with his point. "And the truth is that it's about love between two people."

Snape looked up from his focused study of the text. "Love, yes. But it is also about passion and the inevitable rightness of that passion. The kind that endures because the love that begat that passion was inevitable, immutable absolute as natural law. It simply is and must therefore exist. This is not prose where your goal is to advance the narrative or describe it so others may understand what is happening. No, you must convey the poem's emotions and ideas and leave the listener to discover what the poem means to them. Attend, if you please."

Hermione and Lavender gazed at Snape in dumb founded silence. His words were in such marked contrast from all they knew of this teacher. How could such words have come from this most brusque, unfeeling of professors but undeniably did with no sarcasm, no snide remark or sly venomous sneer.

Breakfast was temporarily forgotten. Gryffindors milling about close by were looking at Snape with a mixture of surprise, disbelief and growing interest. A few stayed put curious to see how this unusual event would play out. Some eyes at the Slytherin table began to furtively stray towards the Gryffindor side of the Great Hall. Pansy Parkinson nudged Draco Malfoy. She pointed at their head of house. Ron, Hermione and Lavender were in rapt attendance.

Professor Snape stood with one leg resting on the seat bench and the book propped open on his bent knee. He began to read. His cadence was melodic and sure while the tone of his voice crisp and unhurried. His vocal instrument was pitched with the authority to be heard yet imbued with a sensuous gliding timbre. His every word was branded with lingering strokes of anticipation that hinted at promised release like aged wine welcoming the air, and, finally, sparkling to life.

The mountains mingle with the River

And the Rivers with the Ocean,

The winds of Heaven mix for ever

With a sweet emotion;

Nothing in the world is single,

All things by a law divine

In one spirit meet and mingle -

Why not I with thine?

The potions master's distinctive voice drifted around the hall; ears pricked up to listen. The other professors looked on with ill-disguised surprise. The headmaster and his deputy traded meaningful glances with each other. Acerbic, disagreeable Severus Snape would never do such a thing of that they were certain. But they were equally sure that the figure to whom all eyes were now turned was not Severus Snape.

See the mountains kiss high Heaven

And the waves clasp one another;

No sister-flower would be forgiven

If it disdained its brother;

And the sunlight clasps the earth,

And the moon beams kiss the sea -

What is all this sweet work worth

If thou kiss not me?

Snape closed the book almost reverently. He stood up straight and addressed Ron directly. "What does that mean to you now?"

"When you read it that way, I see it as a confession of sorts of why a person needs to love." Ron answered thoughtfully. "A natural need to find the missing half or mate of yourself. The reader is trying to get someone to understand why it's so important to him or her."

"Very good, Weasley, in future, do try to look beyond the obvious." With a curt nod, the Potions Master stalked out of the Great Hall.

He was blissfully unaware of the appreciative murmurs and pointed glances trailing his wake. Female students whispered and giggled as they left the hall. The Slytherins were seen to be muttering in low, dark tones. Quite a few had suspicious looks on their faces. Their head of house never gave the Gryffindors much consideration. His uncharacteristic behaviour was therefore unsettling.

"Well, Ron, your special delivery owl just left the hall," said a grinning Lavender.

"Yeah, the git was pretty good, wasn't he?" Ron looked back at Lavender. "Who knew?"

"Just when you think you know the man." Hermione murmured to herself gathering her books and heading off to her Arithmancy class.

Later that evening Professor Snape sifted through essays and exams in his office. His eyes strayed now and then to a student table holding a strategic position in front of his own desk. Commanding the center of the table as well as the eye's attention was an untidy pyramid of letters almost two meters high in varying shades of pink, purple, fuchsia and red. A cream and silver envelope was singularly obvious. To the room's occupant it was a damning reminder of his lapse of judgment and control in the Hall that morning.

The classroom door opened admitting the headmaster and deputy headmistress. McGonagall approached the pyramid. She could not resist teasing her colleague, "I see Valentines Day has come early for you, Severus."

Snape gestured in the direction of the table. "This merely illustrates absolutely the addle-brained tendencies of teenagers. Mix some hormones with that and you have this ... this pile of misdirected sentiment."

Walking around the desk, McGonagall examined the pile with great curiosity. "The recitation was certainly unexpected, Severus. You can hardly blame the students for their reactions or the owls that bombarded you at dinner."

"I can only blame myself," Snape pinned McGonagall with an unwavering look of disgust. "And Creevey for taking that picture!"

McGonagall caught herself between indignation and a snort "Mr. Creevey only took the picture for the annual yearbook. Need I remind you that it was one of your house who actually sent a copy of your poetic rendition to the Prophet's gossip editor. How unfortunate for you that it came in time for the afternoon edition."

"Witches do love a sensitive poet, Severus," Dumbledore chuckled. "How many marriage proposals have you received so far?"

Snape fairly growled. "Malfoy will be serving a week of detention with Filch. The Prophet has assured me a retraction in tomorrow's edition."

Not enough of a masochist to endure more amorous owl posts in public, Snape had redirected deliveries to the Hogwarts general posting bin. The posting bin was magically sorted and the mail delivered directly to the recipient's office or, in his case, the letters were delivered to the growing pyramid on the desk.

As if to counterpoint the headmaster's comment, several letters appeared hovering over the pile before gently cascading over the sides of the paper mountain. Minerva watched the event; a wry smile graced her lips. She spied postmarks from all over the British isles. They were addressed by flowing feminine hands to "Professor S Snape" or "The Poet of Hogwarts."

"So, Severus, what will you do for an encore?" Dumbledore eyed the pile himself.

"The only thing I can do - live happily ever after," said Snape.

Both McGonagall and Dumbledore let out full-throated guffaws both at his words and the long suffering look on Snape's face. Snape stood up and walked over to stand next to the headmaster and headmistress.

McGonagall took out her wand, "Cirqua Anomi."

The tip of her wand glowed an iridescent blue. The classroom door shut fast and locked itself magically and physically. Thin strands of fiery golden energy streamed rapidly out of her wand coalescing and joining end to end as undulating bands enclosing the three humans within. Even in Hogwarts only a Circle of Anomi assured complete privacy and security.

Dumbledore began their impromptu meeting. "I hope that this recent development will have no adverse effect on your work, Severus?"

"I do not plan on further lapses certainly not in public," Snape answered. "My other projects are progressing."

"We're doing what we can but it seems to be going too slowly," Concern radiated from McGonagall's eyes. "Perhaps, some temporary teachers can take on the early year course work freeing up our time for our assignments."

"A sound idea, Minerva," Dumbledore said. "I shall owl the university in the morning to see if they can send us some graduate students. Severus, you will take an assistant. I will take no objections on this."

"As you wish, Albus, Filius should have two assistants though. He has been expending his energy the longest of all of us."

"Yes, that is unfortunate but unavoidable."

"Vector and the Hogsmeade group are ahead of schedule." McGonagall informed them. "They will be done this week. He's turned into quite a taskmaster I'm told."

Severus chuckled. "Yes, Sinistra had some choice words for Vector's metamorphosis from mild-mannered introvert to assertive, driven risk taker."

"We all rise to the occasion in different ways," Dumbledore grinned. "When is the next shipment due?"

Minerva consulted her notes before saying, "The next delivery will be in four days time. Is that enough time to make preparations, Severus?"

Severus' eyes grew wide but he only said, "It will have to be. I shall inform the Baron and Filch."

"Very good," Dumbledore clapped his hands together.

The Circle slowly began to shimmer and sparkle bathing the room in a golden dawn. The strands disconnected from each other dissolving one after the other. The meeting was at an end.

The farmhouse had been deserted for so long that day or night no one paid it much attention. Its gray clapboard siding had long since forgotten the touch of paint. The house now stood exposed to the elements seemingly helpless and vulnerable. Set within a copse of trees, it was not visible from the road and even a casual airborne observer would have been hard pressed to see it as more than just another abandoned house. Tonight, it was the perfect site for another meeting with a more unsavory purpose.

On the earthen floor inside was a well-defined pentagram. Its lines were gouged deep into the earth forming an unbroken channel. Within its earthen furrows, a dark viscous liquid roiled and steamed. An upright robed figure held court in the middle of the pentagram. The figure commanded two others standing outside the pentagram, "Report!"

"Master, we have located the Dursleys' home," said a short, sniveling man in shabby, gray robes. "Our sources confirm that Potter stays with them every summer.

"And?" prodded the master.

"We have identified all the protective wards about the place. Our counter spells will be ready before the summer."

"What of the girl's family?"

Wormtail hesitated before going on in a tremulous voice, "Ah, we have not been able to determine their location yet but soon, master, we will -"

"Get out there and find them! Do not come back until you have better news!" Voldemort turned his attention to the other figure. "Well, what are you waiting for?"

Lucius Malfoy bowed to his master. With a look of pure satisfaction, Lucius dragged an unconscious human form towards the pentagram. Taking a long curved knife in hand he slit his victim's throat. Both master and disciple watched in perverse fascination as the blood flooded into the pentagram's grooves. Mingling with the blood of past victims, the fresh, bright red blood soon turned black and brackish. In this way, the victim contributed to sustaining the Dark Lord's physical presence. As the stream slowed to a mere trickle, Malfoy tossed the body towards the hearth by Nagini's nest.

"My thanks for thinking about Nagini, Lucius. The body is still warm, " Voldemort looked on with favor at Lucius Malfoy. "You remembered that she only likes live kills."

This meeting too came to an end.