TITLE: Shades of Grey
AUTHOR: Morgane
EMAIL: salzkartoeffelchen@web.de
DISCLAIMER: If I told you that I owned Harry Potter, would you actually believe me?!
IMPORTANT: this is my very first Harry Potter fic so please show leniency towards a poor non-native speaker!
SUMMARY: The arrival of the new Dada teacher, a former Hogwarts graduate, brings forth old scars, some doomed obsessions, many interesting facts about Snape and a fair amount of new tragedy. The story takes place in Harry's fifth year but I choose to ignore Voldemort´s ascent in book 4. For me he is still in the "I-prepare-to-rise-again-in-order-to-kill-the-
insufferable-Potter-and-yadda-yadda-yadda"- Phase
RATING: will still increase =^_~=
FEEDBACK: I crave it like I crave coffee and chocolate!!
DEDICATION: This goes to Isidra, my demonic twin and favourite bunny, who is entirely to blame for my writing this story


Chapter 1: A brand-new Circle of Hell

"I don't know how it could become any worse", Ron Weasley stated around a mouthful of carrot cake. "First a stuttering clown who secretly shares his body with you-know-who, then the most high-handed idiot the world has ever seen, after that a werewolf and as a culmination a former Deatheater. I really don't see how they could top that."

"Just one word", Harry at his side returned darkly while stirring in his pudding. "Snape."

It was the first day after the holidays and like nearly all the rest of Hogwarts the two friends were busy disputing the tricky question who would be their next teacher in Defence Against the Dark Arts while enjoying the usual exquisite start-of-term feast. The Great Hall looked its usual splendid self with uncountable golden plates and goblets gleaming in the light of hundreds and hundreds of candles floating over the tables in midair but like most of the students the two were too deep in their discussion to worship the beauty like usually.

The red-haired boy shuddered visibly at Harry's latest remark. "Err...right." Then he shook his head. "By the way, where's the greasy bastard anyway? Haven't seen him yet."

Harry scanned the table where the teachers were sitting more carefully; Professor McGonagall, judging from the thin line of her lips once more angered by the Divination Teacher at her side, Flitwick arguing with Sprout and Sinistra of the Astronomy department, and - his face brightened - Dumbledore, looking as wise and congenial as ever...but no Snape. "Perhaps he quit", he stated hopefully although not really believing in this hypothesis.

Ron sighed deeply. "Too good to be true."

"If only his absence does not mean that he was chosen to take Moody´s place, it really doesn't matter to me." The green-eyed boy twisted his face in disgust. It was common knowledge that the Potion Master wanted the Defence Against the Dark Arts job for himself - most probably because it was the ideal subject to torture students without getting trouble from aurors or ministers of magic.

"Dumbledore wouldn't let him!" His friend returned with great certainty. Then he frowned, his round blue eyes suddenly widening in worry. "He wouldn't, right? Oh Merlin, he simply can't do that!"

"Well, there are not many people who still want the post", Hermione at Harry's side joined the conversation, her face expressing the same mixture of disgust and worry as Ron's. "It is already said to bring back luck. The Daily Prophet even published an article on the topic of the short-lasting existence of Hogwarts´ DADA teachers last week."

As the two boys just stared at her dumbfounded, she rolled her eyes and laid her spoon neatly next to her plate. "Honestly, don't you ever read?"

But before any of the two could answer, the buzz of chatter, which had filled the hall before, ceased at once. The Headmaster has gotten to his feet.

"And there comes the answer to all our questions", Ron muted before quickly turning his attention towards the old man, who smiled cordially around them all.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, first of all, welcome you back in Hogwarts", Dumbledore let his wise blue eyes wander around his little herd. "Since you would not listen to me anyway, I won't bore you with wishes for a quiet and peaceful year but nevertheless there are a few things I'd like you to pay your attention to. Like every year, I would like to remind you that the Dark Forest is out-of-bonds for all students, as is the village of Hogsmeade to all below third year. Now, before Mr Filch reads his list of items banned on school grounds - over 500 by now, I hear - I shall come to the point, everybody here is most interested in", the corner of his mouth twitched, "the new teacher for Defence Against the Dark Arts."

If this were possible, it became even quieter in the hall.

A merry light appeared in the Headmaster's eyes as he made a dramatic pause, enjoying the curious glances of his children. "I am very pleased to inform you that a former Hogwarts graduate has kindly consented to fill the post."

"Oh no", Ron whimpered, ignoring Hermione´s frantic "Shhhh!". "Oh, please no! Not him!"

But he was not the only one who found his heart stopping at Dumbledore´s words. Also Harry was holding his breath, waiting for the fateful words that would decide whether his fifth year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry would be a total disaster or not. Dumbledore opened his mouth, coughed two times and suddenly revealed the name: "Professor McGregor!"

The silence that had filled the hall ever since the Headmaster stood up, suddenly broke with loud jubilation and the grumbling of some Slytherins.

"Not Snape! NOT SNAPE!" Ron sang cheerfully. "Oh, this is the happiest day of my life!"

"McGregor", Hermione murmured, ignoring her friend's outburst completely. "The name doesn't tell me anything. She isn't mentioned in..."

As his friend began to enumerate a long list of books Harry had never before heard anything about in his life, the boy turned his attention back to Dumbledore, who was visible not done with his speech but waiting silently for his students to calm down again. And indeed, as he got the attention back, he continued, "Professor McGregor has been living in Ireland for a couple of years and has just come back to England. I expect all of you to give your new teacher a very warm welcome here at our school."

"We would if he were here", George Weasley retorted loudly, which caused a storm of laughter in the hall.

Even Dumbledore chuckled appreciatively. "A good point, Mr Weasley," he remarked good-humouredly. "Well, your statement shows me that I have to clarify two facts. First, Professor McGregor decided to take the bus to Hogsmeade, which is by the way also the reason for Professor Snape´s absence this evening for he kindly agreed to catch her there."

"Poor guy can be lucky if he arrives here in one piece", Ron murmured darkly.

"Second, Professor McGregor is not a `he´, but a ´she´ or to be more specific one of the greatest witches Slytherin had brought forth in the last years..."

Once again he couldn't continue with his speech because of a new tumult in the hall.

"A WOMAN? A WOMAN teaching DADA?!"

"But there had never been a female teacher in Defence Against the Dark Arts!"

"Why the bloody hell must it be a Slytherin?!"

"Exactly! Why didn't they got us a snake from the beginning on?"

"That would have been kinder, no question!"

Obviously Dumbledore still wanted to add something, but regarding the sudden tumult in the hall, he just shook his head in amusement and sat down, probably doubting that he would get any more attention this evening.

"Isn't this great?" Hermione beamed. "A woman teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts. It must be the first one Hogwarts has ever seen! That's a revolutionary step for the emancipation of witches!"

In response Ron only rolled his eyes. "Last year it were the house-elves, this year it is emancipation", he mocked her. "I wonder if you and Hagrid will found a "Save the dragons" club in sixth grade?!" As she elbowed him in mock anger, he only grinned good-naturedly, before turning back to Harry. "About what I said earlier, I was wrong. A Slytherin easily tops incompetents, werewolves and minions of evil."

"At least it isn't Snape", Harry returned warily. "I doubt that she can be any worse than him."

"You don't even know her yet!" the bushy haired girl at his side interrupted them high-handedly. "I would never have considered you that prejudiced!"

"Prejudiced?! For Merlin's sake, she's a Sly, Hermione! Did ever come anything good out of this house?" Ron twisted his face in disgust. "I mean just look at that little chit over there."

Harry and Hermione turned in unison just to see Draco Malfoy grinning evilly at them from the other side of the hall. Obviously he was more than just pleased with the news about the new teacher.

"Well?" Ron asked.

Hermione just shrugged his shoulders, annoyance shining in her eyes. "That doesn't have to say anything. Right, Harry?"

But in spite of supporting her, the black haired boy suddenly grinned mischievously. "I only wonder how she and Snape will get along."

Ron's expression matched his easily. "You mean you wonder what is stronger: Slytherin bonds or good, old envy?" He began to chuckle evilly. "With a bit of luck they will finish each other off and the world has two Slytherins less to worry about."

"Will you two stop that nonsense?!" Hermione demanded angrily and stood up. "Why don't we simply go to the common room and enjoy the evening? We will see this Professor McGregor soon enough!"

"Enjoy the evening? In the common room?" The red haired Weasley faked shock. "Hermione, is that really you? I had expected to head towards the library the very moment the meal is over!"

Rolling her eyes, the girl choose to ignore him. "Well, Harry?"

Harry wrinkled his face. "Sorry, I can't. Angelina has arranged a meeting of the Quidditch team after the meal."

His friend rose an eyebrow. "On the first evening? Is it just me or do all Gryffindor´s Quidditch Captains tend to be fanatics?"

He just rolled his eyes. "That's beyond me."

********************************************************************************

Harry hastened through the empty corridors, his black robe billowing behind him. Angelina, the team's new captain, had chosen to copy Oliver's old start-of-term-speech ("We will train more often and much harder! We will train in rain, snow and thunderstorms!! I don't want you to concentrate about anything but Quidditch this year!!!") but somehow managed the unbelievable and made it even longer than Wood ever had. By the time she had finally come to an end, the rest of Hogwarts had already vanished in their own chambers long ago so that the school now laid grave and silent before the boy who couldn't wait himself to get into his bed.

He was just about entering the Gryffindor tower, when a painfully familiar voice suddenly made him stop dead in his tracks. "I have no hope for any of these pathetic creatures I have as students", he heard the owner of that voice explaining loudly. "The majority show themselves not even remotely competent in the realm of Potions, and the rest owes their achievements to dumb luck!"

Harry's eyes narrowed. Was this... Carefully he glanced around the corner and caught sight of Snape, walking side to side with a slender blonde in a silver-grey robe.

The boy found himself staring at them with open mouth before feeling himself turning redder than even Ron's hair. The stranger was by any means the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life. Small-waisted, tall and slender, she kept up with Snape´s long steps with effortless grace, obviously not irritated at all by his lament. Long blond hair fell in accurate curls over her shoulders, gleaming in the dim light like pure gold around the pale and satin textured skin of a sculptured face with broadly spaced but delicate cheekbones and very clear cobalt blue eyes. Although probably in her companion's age, there was something unnerving sweet, almost kittenish about her expression that made her look like a mischievous young girl, barely older than last year's graduates.

Was this the new DADA teacher?!

Curiously he approached them, trying to overhear more of their conversation.

The blonde was smiling appeasingly at the Potion Master right now. "Don't forget how young they are", she reminded him in a melodic voice that reverberated softly in the long corridor. "They are still children."

Snape snorted. "That's no excuse for incompetence."

Shaking her head, his companion began to laugh, the sound as clear as a thousand crystal bells shattering on cold stone. "By Merlin, Sev, don't you think that you over dramatize things a bit?"

Sev?!

But most obviously the Potion Master didn't mind the nickname for he only shook his head in rough denial at her latest question. "I swear, Morrigan, these children are sent by the gods of hell to test my patience", he returned darkly. "It is as if they get just a small bit worse every year. And after the holiday they have usually forgotten already what little they have learned as well as that small grain of common sense that may have redeemed them."

Harry's eyes widened more and more. Did his eyes play an evil trick on him or was Snape actually befriending the new DADA teacher?

Eager to hear more of this weird dispute, he moved nearer towards them, not noticing the little Merlin statue he was approaching with this action before it felt to the ground with a loud bang.

Uh uh.

Looking up, he found him eye to eye with a glaring Snape.

"Potter! What are you doing here at this time?" the Potion Master snapped, his voice heavy with unspent venom. The black eyes eyed him with the usual mixture of loathing and disgust as a mean smirk appeared on the thin lips. "Wanting to get yourself into trouble already on the very first evening I suppose?"

Harry bit back the sharp response which was laying on his tongue. "No Professor, we just had a meeting of the Quidditch Team", he answered shortly, hoping not to cost his house any points on his very first evening. Although he had done nothing bad, there was no chance to predict what Snape would do with him after being caught when acting nicely - or however one would call this in his case - with a colleague he was supposed to hate.

Indeed the black eyes of the Potion Master already glimmed evilly. But before he could say whatever nasty remark he had in mind, the blonde at his side suddenly gasped. "Potter?" she asked breathlessly. "Harry Potter?!"

Elbowing Snape out of the way, she rushed towards him and suddenly Harry found himself confronted with the most enchanting eyes he had ever seen in his life, deep blue like sapphires, instantly vulnerable and warm with empathy, but also telling of quick wit and high intelligence while possessing an unnerving knowledge that suggerated to see straight to the heart of things. "Erm...", he stuttered when the woman's lips suddenly began to quiver as if she was on the verge of crying. "Sorry...err...I...", he broke up as she touched his face with trembling hands, obviously overwhelmed by something she found there.

What had he gotten himself in _now_?

"Your eyes", she suddenly whispered hoarsely, staring at him with unconcealed movement. "Good Merlin...just like Lily's."

Her last sentence made Harry regain his senses in a flash. "You knew my mum?" he asked incredulously.

At this she blinked, before a deep flush of red appeared on her delicate cheeks. "Oh, sorry!" Letting go of him as if the touch had burned her, she stepped back, her lips pressed together in a hard line. "You must consider me to be utterly insane."

"He wouldn't be too wrong to do so", Snape grumbled but shut up instantly as the blonde cast a short glance in his direction.

When she turned back to him, the sweet smile had found itself a way back on her face although her eyes were still veiled by something Harry couldn't quite named. For a moment the boy thought, she was about to touch him again, but then her hand balled itself to a fist, refusing to give in its desire another time. "I think I should introduce myself first", she began firmly, obviously trying to save the rest of her dignity. "My name is Morrigan McGregor. I suppose Professor Dumbledore has already told you about me being the new teacher for Defence Against the Dark Arts?"

Harry nodded, his eyes widening in sudden understanding. "He said that you were in Hogwarts yourself", he said slowly. "Is that why you know my parents?"

The corners of her lips quirked. "As I see, you are as clever as your mum", Flipping a curl of her golden hair out of her face she pointed at Snape, surprising Harry with a sudden teasing twinkle in her sparkling eyes; obviously her moods could change with frightening speed. "Indeed, I was a classmate of James and Lily just like this grumbling fellow here."

The Potion Master shot a murderous glance at her that would have led others to lose the power of speech, but the new Professor only smiled mildly at him. "I suppose you haven't told him anything, have you?"

"He never asked", Snape returned icily.

The blonde snickered, but the sound was not unkind. "Don't fool me, Sev, I know you far to well to fall for this. You have probably been acting like a jerk around the poor boy all the time, so how was he supposed to guess?"

"And you don't even know this brat, Morrigan!" Snape shot back. "The only things he shows interest in are Quidditch and breaking every bloody rule he can think of! So why should I have wasted my precious time on him!"

"Your precious time? Oh I see, sitting in a dungeon and brewing stinky little solutions will probably change world history!"

"As I see you are still the same annoying, flighty..."

"What didn't Professor Snape tell me?" Harry interrupted them before the two could forget completely about him. His heart beat heavy in his chest. "And how is my mum connected to this? What's this all about?!"

The shining blue eyes returned their attention to him, a sparkle of mischief apparent in them by now. "Potions", she answered simply, the merriment in her voice even more genuine now, before she began to giggle. "Severus' only virtue, your mother's only failing."

As the boy only stared at her uncomprehending, Snape sneered impatiently. "She means that your mother was a dismal failure at Potions so that I was forced to tutor her," he explained bluntly. "A brilliant student in all other areas, that I won't deny her, but completely incompetent when it came to brewing even the simplest solutions." He snorted. "The only person who eventually tops her in incompetence is your friend Mr Longbottom."

Harry felt his face heating and had already a scathing retort ready on the tip of his tongue when Professor McGregor gave the Potion Master a fierce slap on the head. "Don't be a jerk, Sev," she snapped surprisingly sharp before turning back to a now wide-eyed Harry, her expression cordial again. "Well, long story short, in the end, Severus had to tutor us both, your mother and me, because I wasn't much better than Lily, and we three somehow got friends."

Harry felt like being hit by a ton of bricks. Unbelievingly he stared at the blonde, his green eyes widened, but her expression spoke of total honesty.

His mother and Snape, his mother and the greasy bastard whose fiercest wish was to have him expelled from Hogwarts had been friends?!

He couldn't help glancing towards Snape who did likewise in the very same moment so that deep pools of endless night met with brilliant green eyes for a mere instant. If it were not for his bitter and more-than-just-nasty Potions Professor, Harry would have sworn to see something like the faintest hint of grief in their depths, but Snape broke the eye contact nearly at once, judging from the hard line of his mouth angry about himself.

The silence was becoming awkward already, when Professor McGregor decided to break it with her bell-like laughter. "Well, you are not the only one who reacted this way, Harry", she remarked, wrinkling her nose girlfully. "Two Slytherins and a muggleborn Gryffindor, it had been kind of a shock to the entire school. I remember a bunch of people telling Lily that she had gone completely sack to hammers, but your mother has always made her own choices, ignoring how the rest of the world judged them." Her eyes softened. "She was a very special person, Harry."

Harry felt the eyes behind his glasses burn deceitfully. "And how..."

"Morrigan, we have to go", Snape interrupted his question abruptly, shooting a frightening dark glance in the boy's direction. "Albus said that he wanted to meet you the very minute you arrived and I don't see why you should waste your time with a student you shall see every day for the next two years from now on."

"Ever the same old Severus." She smiled somehow wistfully, before turning her attention back to Harry, her eyes warm with obvious affection again. "If you ever want to know something more about your mum, I would gladly tell you - and I'm sure that Severus here would do likewise."

Harry glanced to Snape, adjusting from the murderous look on his face that his title would soon be changed to "The Boy Who Lived Only To Be Killed By His Potions Master" if he ever thought of accepting this offer. "Thank you", he finally found his voice back. "I look very forward to it."

"So do I." Professor McGregor gave him a last parting smile. "See you tomorrow in class."

"See you", Harry returned, feeling how a brand-new circle of hell was entering his life.