Dear Reader,

Here it is, the first chapter to Snape's POV.  He's an entirely different person, so I'll try to make it more like I picture him in the storyline that's been kicking around in my head.  I hope that you enjoy this take as much as you did the last one.  Don't be shy.  Tell it like it really is.

Oh, there is one question that came across in the reviews I wanted to answer:  This storyline is completely separate from Antigone.  Different way of hooking up the main characters, different circumstances surrounding their relationship, different everything.  And no time turners!

As always, I own nothing of the Harry Potter universe.  That all belongs to J.K. Rowling.  I only lay claim to this particular plotline.  For those of you who are new to The Rapier, you might want to read A Fine Tension first.  You can find it here:



The Rapier:  The Forging of the Blade

The peace and solitude of Hogwarts during the Christmas holiday was something he looked forward to every year.  After spending nearly four months attempting to hammer something useful into thick headed children, he needed the respite.  Each year he hoped that he would be given an abundance of brilliant, intelligent children with a thirst to learn, and each year only a few would live up to his requirements.  Were the truth to be told, he would be one of the happiest men alive should he be given a school of Ravenclaws with a few Hermione Grangers thrown in to keep up the standards.  As it was, Ravenclaw was only one house out of four and there was only one Hermione Granger.

The steel of his blade barely quivered as he gave a firm forward thrust.  Though he enjoyed his thrice weekly sessions with the young Gryffindor, he also enjoyed the chance to practice on his own.  It gave him time to ponder the different facets of life while at the same time he could work off some of the tension from which he always seemed to be suffering.  Likely only Albus truly understood what life demanded of Severus Snape.  He had to be the loyal Death Eater towards Voldemort and trusted crony of some of the least trustworthy wizards and witches in existence.  He was forced to praise substandard students simply because of their bloodlines and scorn talented minds for the same reason.  The façade he upheld drained him of patience and emotion.  It wasn't difficult to make yourself the most despised teacher in school when you had no kindness left in you to give.  He had been in danger of permanently becoming that cold, bitter man, until he had found her.

He paused at the end of a deep lunge, and smiled.  He had come across her within this very room, early in the school year.  He had just finished a conversation with Argus and was heading back towards the dungeons when he had noted that the door to the blade room had been standing open a few inches, a shadow moving from within.  He had been annoyed.  Though the room had been there long before he had even been a student, he had come to think of it as his own.  Lucius had joined him when they were boys, driven by an ever present need to compete and conquer, but had cast the pastime aside after graduation.  Now he kept his swords as nothing more than affectations, decorations for his study wall.  Severus had learned to fence from his father and had continued to keep in practice.  He had a love for the sport and its simplicity.  It was as deadly as it was beautiful and something that should only be shared with another who had the same love.  To have his private sanctuary invaded by a student was more than he could bear.  He had made his way to the room with every intention of telling the child off, whoever it may have been.  Nothing could have prepared him for what he found.

She had moved with the grace and balance of someone who had been born with a sword in her hand.  Experience had been in the lines of her body, though there was also a hint of how long it had been since she had practiced.  The shock of it being that student had been nothing compared to the shock that she had obviously known what she was doing.  He had just stood and watched her, enraptured by the sight of her sparring with some memory only she knew.  It had taken a great force of will to interrupt her.  That she had turned with her blade at the ready spoke volumes about her knowledge of the conflict growing around her, even if she didn't realize it.  That she so quickly lowered it confirmed that it was still Miss Granger, shocked that she had threatened a teacher.

He hadn't been able to resist the chance to test her, to see just what she was made of.  Given that she was a good deal younger and with far fewer years of practice, he was not disappointed.  He admitted to himself that he had pushed her too far, still pushed her too hard even now, but she had never uttered a word of protest.  When offered the chance to meet with him on a regular basis she had jumped at it and the light in her eyes told him that this was someone who shared his own love.  He had been taking a risk, befriending the girl as he had done, but he was human in spite of what his students may believe.  By giving him someone with whom he would work out his frustrations and burn off the tension of his life, Hermione Granger was saving him from permanently becoming the bastard he pretended to be.  He doubted she would ever understand just how much he owed her.

He smiled, just an upturn at the corners of his mouth really, and made a quick flurry of moves.  The set brought him around to face the door, and he stopped as he noted he was no longer alone.  "That's a rather annoying habit you have, sneaking up on people in such a fashion."  He lowered his blade and flicked an errant lock of hair from his eyes.  "Good evening, Albus."

"Good evening, Severus.  I'm sorry to have startled you, but I was curious as to how long you could stay in that one position.  It didn't look very comfortable."  The wizard moved towards the wingback chair and sat down, peering at him through those half-moon spectacles he always wore.  "Missing your usual opponent?"

Severus gave an irritated sound and moved to place his sword back into its protective case.  "That's another annoying habit you have.  Is there anything within this school you don't know about?"

"If there was, I wouldn't be a very affective headmaster, now would I?"  When Severus turned back around to look at his old friend he noted the wizard was worrying something in his mouth, doubtless some sweet or another. 

"Is there something you need?  Are your joints acting up again?"

"No, nothing like that.  You brewed enough potion to last me through the winter, and I thank you for it.  I was merely walking the corridors and noticed you were in here."

"I see." He didn't pull his shirt on right away.  It was only Albus, not Miss Granger, so it didn't matter that he was clad only in his trousers, his hair pulled back.  He was sweating from his practice and didn't wish to wrestle with the fine muslin of his shirt just yet.  "How long have you known?"

"About your sparring sessions with Miss Granger?  Since shortly after they began.  I will admit I was surprised to learn that she was interested in such things.  I suppose, like yourself, she uses it to work out her troubles."  He opened a small pouch on his belt and took out one of those lemon drops he was so very fond of, popping it into his mouth.  "However, I should point out that Minerva has discovered your secret as well."

Severus bit back an oath.  "When?"

"This afternoon, I believe.  She's down in the dungeons looking for you.  I think she may be concerned.  Miss Granger may not be the most beautiful girl in Hogwarts, but she is certainly striking, and you're not exactly a priest.  I hate to say it, but I fear she thinks the worst."

Snape scowled as he snatched his shirt from where it rested on the back of a chair.  "It figures.  I don't know what I'm going to have to do to finally convince that woman I can be trusted."

"She trusts you, Severus, but only as much as she trusts anyone of the male gender under the age of eighty.  She's rather fond of Miss Granger."

"Every teacher in this damn school is 'rather fond of Miss Granger'.  The lot of you put her up on a bloody pedestal, heedless of the fact that she's only human and is likely to fail you one day."

"So says the man who lets her come at him with a sword three times a week." The headmaster's eyes twinkled with mischief.  "Terribly trusting of you when you consider that most Gryffindors can hardly stand the sight of you."

"You know as well as I do that no one can be killed in this room.  The worst you could manage is a nasty cut from an untipped blade."  He buttoned up his shirt as quick, purposeful steps could be heard coming down the hall.  "Hark, the dragon approaches."  Severus adopted his usual, icy demeanor as Albus chuckled. 

The door swung open to allow Minerva McGonagall into the room.  Her lips were pressed so tightly together that they had almost vanished and her eyes glittered dangerously from behind her glasses.  She leveled that fiery gaze at the Potions Master, her voice dripping with malice when she finally spoke.  "Just what do you think you are playing at?"

He arched an inky brow.  "Something troubling you, Minerva?"  He thought he heard Albus stifle a chuckle at his dry tone.

"Don't you take that tone with me, Severus Snape.  I demand to know what you're doing with Hermione Granger."

"At the moment, nothing.  Rather difficult to do anything when the girl isn't here.  I'll simply have to wait for her return."  He reached for his robes, pointedly ignoring the witch in front of him.  He wondered if she even realized that Dumbledore was sitting in the wingback chair behind her.  From the tense line of her shoulders, he rather doubted it.

"This is not a matter for joking, Severus!  A rather distraught house elf came to me in tears because she couldn't get a spot of blood out of some clothing."

"Well, that's not exactly the sort of thing I usually bother with, but I suppose I could brew a potion to help remove the stains.  However, what did you do to cut yourself so badly?"

"They weren't my clothes."  Her voice could have cut ice with its sharpness.  "They were Miss Granger's clothes.  I asked what happened to them, concerned for the well being of my student.  Imagine my surprise when I was informed she had somehow managed to get cut while dueling with the Potions Master!"

Severus made a sweeping gesture with one hand.  "It is a room full of swords.  What else would I be doing with them?"  He wondered if anyone had ever pointed out to the woman that her ears tended to twitch when she got angry.  Somehow he doubted that as well.  In the face of those quivering ears it was becoming rather difficult for him to maintain his snarky demeanor.  Truth was, he liked McGonagall, but she was more than a bit of a shrew at times. 

"You can't go after a student with a sword!"

"Why not, she comes at me with one.."

"Only because you encourage her!"

"This school is lacking in an adequate physical fitness regime.  Haven't you noticed how lazy and fat many of our students are becoming?  If Mr. Potter increases in size any further I doubt he'll be as effective a Seeker."  That was a lie, of course.  Potter returned every school year looking as though he hadn't seen a scrap of food and dressed in clothes large enough he could have made a tent out of them.  From the disgruntled whispers he had overheard coming from Hermione and the youngest Weasley boy; he strongly suspected that Potter's relations all but starved him when he was home, if not worse. 

"Do not try to dodge the subject!  I demand to know what your intentions are towards Hermione Granger!"

Perhaps he would burn in Hell for this later, but he simply couldn't resist.  "Nothing too spectacular.  I had thought that I would escort her to Hogsmede this coming Valentine's Day and book us a room in the inn.  A romantic getaway for two, away from prying eyes."  He pulled on his robes and smoothed out the creases that had formed while they lay in a chair.  When he looked back, Minerva's hands were balled up into fists, her expression livid.  "Oh, give over, Minerva!  I am not some lecher who preys upon little girls!"

The Transfiguration teacher took a deep, shuddering breath.  "I am only concerned for my student's welfare.  I am sure that many young men in this school have noticed her…"

"Any wizard over the age of fifteen would have to be gay, a eunuch and dead not to notice Hermione Granger!  Last time I looked, I was none of those three things.  However, I have enough sense and enough decency not to form a romantic relationship with a student!"  He was becoming irritated now, feeling insulted by her distrust of him. 

"Minerva," Dumbledore's voice was soft and calm, but it was a surprise to the woman who spun around to stare at him, "you do not need to worry about Miss Granger's virtue.  Not with Severus, at any rate.  With the exception of Viktor Krum, I cannot even think of a single young man who has managed to pull her away from her books long enough to engage her in so much as a kiss.  Besides, you have worked with Severus long enough to know his personality better than this.  He would do nothing to harm her."

The witch bristled a bit more, and then seemed to collect herself.  "You're right, of course, Headmaster.  Severus, I do hope you will forgive me.  I should have had more faith in your powers of judgment."  There was something in her manner that made him doubt that she was entirely ready to trust him, but it was a start.  His pride still stung from the suspicions, but he had gained nothing during his life if not a thick hide.

"Of course, Minerva, if you will forgive me my…" he broke off and clutched his left arm as a burning sensation ripped through it.  Taking a sharp breath, he yanked up the sleeve of his robe and looked at the Dark Mark, quickly turning a jet black in color.  "He's summoning us."  He was aware that Albus rose from his chair by the door and was moving towards him.

"You will need to hurry, then."

"Summoning you?  This close to Christmas?  What on earth could he be planning tonight?"

"Anything, Minerva.  Roasting Muggles on an open fire, most likely."  Even to his ears the words sounded bitter.  He didn't want to go.  Christmas Revels were always the worst.  But he had to go.  There was always a chance he could save someone if he went.  With a curt nod to Albus and Minerva, he left the room.  He thought he heard the witch cut of a worried cry behind him.

He hurried through the corridors towards his rooms.  The Dark Lord did not like for them to dawdle, but he did understand that they needed time to get to their robes and masks, usually.  As he made his way through the school, he began to force himself to think like a Death Eater, to feel heartless and cold.  Until he had taken the position of spy for Albus, he had never known just how effective of a thespian he could be.  When Voldemort had been in power before, it had been relatively simple.  He hadn't known that Severus had left then, so he didn't suspect him until much later.  In this time, however, Snape had been forced to walk a tight rope in order to convince him that he was loyal.  There had been pain beyond comprehension as he had been subjected to Cruciatus time and time again.  To his shame, he had even been forced to kill innocent people to make himself seem genuine.  Even now he was still not entirely trusted, never sent out on missions alone if he was sent at all.  Still, he breathed and Voldemort seemed willing to test him.

So far there had been very little useful information to bring back.

His rooms seemed colder than they truly were as he crossed to his wardrobe and pulled open the heavy doors.  Hidden in the very back were his Death Eater robes and mask.  He draped the robes over his arm, using them to hide the mask, before shutting the wardrobe again and moving to the hearth.  Lighting a fire there, he threw in a pinch of floo powder and journeyed to a secure suite of rooms in the back of the Three Broomsticks. Here he donned his clothing and apparated to a place he didn't know, on the side of a hill where a small place had been magically cleared of snow especially for this meeting. 

The Death Eaters always stood in the same order when they made their circle around their lord.  Never was there any deviation unless status changed.  After returning and declaring that he had never forsaken Voldemort, Severus' position had been moved to the side of Lucius Malfoy, his new keeper.  Lucius, he knew, had grown fond of him since the Dark Lord fell the first time, even considered him as much of a friend as a Malfoy could ever have.  It made these meetings more bearable, but not likeable. 

But there was no Voldemort tonight.  Severus frowned and he heard several of the others who had assembled murmur their confusion.  There wasn't even the entire number here tonight.  Only a little more than a dozen had come, and when the wizard by his side moved forward, Severus knew that Lucius had called this particular meeting.  The feeling of dread that had been chilling his insides grew.  With Voldemort you may be lucky enough to escape with only a reminder of who was truly in charge and tasks given to various people.  Lucius, however, was an entirely different matter.  He may have the face of an arch angel and appear all that is proper and genteel, but he had the heart of a demon.  When Lucius was calling the shots someone was likely to die, but only after providing sufficient entertainment. They all knew this, and as the other's gathered realized who had summoned them, the excitement began to grow.

"My brothers, I have found a special target to help us celebrate the season.  Something heart wrenching and spectacular that will certainly drive it home that we are back and swiftly regaining our stature."  The hum of anticipation grew tense..

"Who is it, Lucius?" came McNair's voice.  Severus could see him rubbing something underneath his robes; his axe would be hanging there by his side. 

"Now, now.  I don't wish to spoil the surprise."  His smile was hidden behind the smooth steel of the mask.  He turned from them, his robes rustling in the wind, and began to walk over the crest of the hill.  The others turned to follow him in silence, all curious to know what was coming next.  Severus steeled himself to be impassive.  He would take whatever opportunity presented itself to save innocent lives, but he knew that he may be forced to let someone die in order to keep his cover.  He wondered if he would ever be able to wash the blood from his hands.

Their robes brushed the thick snow, magic keeping their feet dry within their boots.  With only the stars and the moon to light the area, and the Muggles all snug in their homes, they went unnoticed.  Severus saw that they were moving down the hillside into the edge of a suburban area, the houses relatively close to one another, and found it odd.  Usually they picked targets that were somewhat isolated, but close enough that the dark mark could be seen from neighboring areas.  The isolation gave them time to wring out every last scream that could be won.  Such a densely populated area meant they would have to work fast.

Lucius led them down the street, Goyle and Crabbe putting out the street lights as they went.  All about them were the festive decorations of Christmas and lighted trees could be seen through windows.  Night came early in December, and few bothered to venture out in the cold.  No one saw them, not one of their number, as they followed Lucius to a house with every window lit and five cars in front of it, two in the dive and three lining the street.  The wizards split up, some moving around to the back of the home while Lucius led Severus, McNair, Crabbe and Goyle to the front door. 

Malfoy surveyed the wreath on the door for a long moment, an evergreen branches twined with red and gold ribbons.  "How very Gryffindor."  He rang the bell, just as he had done many other times when they were hunting Muggles.  There was laughter coming from somewhere inside the house, one voice moving towards them.  It was a woman, her laugh musical and happy as she called out to someone over her shoulder that she would be right back.  The door swung open, little golden bells on the wreath chiming in the night air, and an elegant woman in a pantsuit of silk and cashmere looked out at them.  She frowned at the smooth, faceless masks, confused.  Then Lucius spoke a greeting that chilled the very marrow in Severus' veins.  "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Granger."

Lucius rushed her, making her fall back in surprise.  Severus and the others followed suit, the woman yelling as Malfoy gripped her arm and threw her into Goyle's waiting hands.  Snape had no time to be sickened by the buffoon's laugh, no time to think about the twisted little games the man liked to play.  His mind was already working on something else.  Whereas Hermione Granger's holiday plans were not secret, no one had been allowed to utter a word about Potter.  The second he had learned just whose house this was, he knew why Lucius had chosen it.  He had finally tired of Hermione outpacing his son and had decided to do something about it.  He was right, it would send a message.  The girl was not unknown in their world and many would be shocked by the attack.

As their group moved in from the front, the second half moved in through the back, effectively trapping the Grangers between them.  Severus noted that the family seemed to be gathered for a holiday celebration, all of them dressed to the nines.  The adults where all held in surprise, the first to rise from their seats in the parlor being a pair of young men, impossibly tall and built more like walls than men.  The room erupted into shouts and frightened screams.  His eyes scanned the gathering and found no trace of either Hermione or Potter.  He noted that the men present met the threat bravely, but even bravery buckles under Cruciatus.  He forced himself to turn away, unable to help any here, and hid his disgust by gliding up a set of stairs to the second floor.

The second floor was immaculate with very few holiday decorations adorning it.  This would be where the family slept, behind the various doors that lined the hallways.  The sounds of the Death Eaters and their victims could be heard from below, but he was searching for other things.  He knew enough about Gryffindors to know that they wouldn't hide from danger, but run down to face it head on.  He doubted the children were still here. 

He found and ignored what was doubtlessly the Grangers' bedroom, discovered what looked like a small home office and discounted a small bathroom.  The next door, however, opened to reveal a guest room that was in use.  The bed was neatly made, but a change of tasteful clothing was laid out carefully on the coverlet, a pair of polished dress shoes on the floor.  Next to one wall was Potter's trunk, the lid open to reveal several items of clothing still folded as though fresh from a shop.  Not wasting time, Severus transfigured the clothes on the bed into throw pillows, turned the shoes into a statue of an owl which he then levitated onto the dresser and shaped the trunk into a shorter version of a storage case on metal casters which he then sent rolling underneath the bed.  Moving more swiftly now, he made his way through a side door.  Upon opening it, he saw that it lead to a spacious bath, but there was nothing of Potter here.  It wasn't as tidy as the rest of the house, as though the children hadn't had time to clean up after themselves before their company had arrived.  He walked through it to the door on the other wall.

The bedroom on the other side of the door was a mixture of little girl and mad scientist.  The thick blanket that covered the bed was a quilt made to represent what he recognized to be the Periodic Table of Elements, an important reference in Muggle Chemistry.  The drapes were white fabric with lace overlay and the lamps on the bedside tables had pink shades with flowered borders.  There was a poster of Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds in Arithmancy, on one wall.  There were shelves everywhere, and each one crammed full with so many books that they were bowed underneath the weight.  He noted with a twinge of amusement that she had put the books in order by topic, then by the authors' names, much as he did for his own private library. 

His eyes were drawn back to the bed where something crimson lay spread out neatly.  He stepped closer and looked down at the simple, elegant sheath of velvet, resting there in patient waiting for its owner to return.  He could easily picture Hermione wearing such a dress, without a lot of sparkle or gilding to detract from her innocent prettiness.  His fingers reached out and brushed the fabric when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye.  Looking up, he saw a wooden case resting on the feminine desk a few feet from the bed.  He realized what it was at once and bit off a curse.  With purposeful strides he crossed over and snatched up the case, slipping into one of his pockets.  If Miss Granger lived through this night, he planned to give her a blistering lecture on the importance of why you never leave your home without you wand.

Footsteps were running down the hallways.  Someone burst through the room's other door and Severus recognized it as Mrs. Granger, her silk blouse ripped and finger shaped bruises already forming on creamy skin.  The elegant knot of her hair was coming undone and her lipstick was smeared from forced kisses.  Her eyes flew open at the sight of him before they strayed briefly to where her daughter's trunk rested against one wall.  He knew instantly that she had come up here to try and hide as much evidence of her daughter's presence as possible.

"They already know she came home."  He kept his voice soft.  He knew he hadn't much time.  "But they don't know about the boy.  Do you expect them home soon?"  The woman looked at him, but didn't answer.  He knew she didn't trust him.  "Answer me!  Do you expect them back yet?"  Her eyes drifted to a little clock by her daughter's bed, then came back to him.  She swallowed, and then nodded hesitantly. 

He let out a sigh only he could hear.  In the distance he could hear the sirens of the Muggle law enforcement.  The Ministry wizards would be alerted soon.  The Death Eaters were out of time.  He moved closer to the woman, meaning to bespell her into a semblance of death before any of the wizards came upstairs, but before he could mutter an altered version of Avada Kedavra, the real version was cast from just outside in the hallway. 

"Severus!  Any sign of the mudblood?"  Malfoy, of course.

"No.  She must have gone out with some of her Muggle friends."  He concentrated on keeping his voice calm, refusing to look down on the body of Mrs. Granger.  Was this all of Hermione's family?  Everyone but an ailing grandfather?  The books, the quilt, her academic performance all testified to the love and adoration she enjoyed in the womb of her family, and this man had taken all from her out of immature spite.  Severus' fingers tightened around his wand as he fought the urge to murder Lucius Malfoy.

"Pity.  We cannot wait for her return.  The Ministry will be here soon.  You'd best get out before they alert that idiot Headmaster and he notices your absence.  I've already sent the others on ahead."  The wizard looked around the room disdainfully.  "McNair has set fire to the downstairs and sent up the dark mark.  Our work here is done."  Severus could almost hear the smile beneath the mask just before Lucius disapparated. 

Severus stood in the now silent bedroom of Hermione Granger.  There was a part of him that wanted to stay, to be here when she came home to find her family gone so that she would not be alone.  Someone would need to be there to hold her when she cried.  But he was ill suited for such shows of kindness and understanding.  She had Potter with her now, though how much use a dimwitted boy would be to her he couldn't say.

"Take care of her Potter.  Bring her home safely."

There was a soft 'pop' as he left the house, Hermione's wand still in his pocket.