Severus woke before his roommates the next morning and hurriedly dressed himself in his new Gryffindor robes. He shook his head in disbelief as he caught a glimpse of himself in the full length mirror by the door.
"Very dashing, dear." the mirror said.
"When I want your opinion I shall ask for it." Severus whispered back, his lip curling, and he quietly swept out of the room.
The common room was empty as he made his way to the portrait hole, Potter was nowhere to be seen. Not that he was bothered, he told himself, last night had simply been part of his latest act of subterfuge. He was definitely not experiencing feelings of sympathy for James Potter's offspring. He cursed his actions last night and resolved to keep more of a distance in future. He couldn't allow himself to get dragged in to Potter's problems, he had more than enough of his own to deal with right now. Striding purposefully down the stairs he headed for the Headmistress's Office, determined to have McGonagall overrule his sorting and move him to Slytherin.
"Evan!" called a voice, as he reached the entrance hall.
He turned to see a pale looking Draco rushing towards him from the dungeon stairs. He looked like he had barely slept and faint shadows ringed his eyes.
"Whatever you wanted to discuss wait until we are in the Headmistress's Office." he warned, looking over his shoulder. "Too easy to be overheard otherwise."
"Are you certain you want her to hear this?" Draco murmured, falling into step beside him as they made their way through the corridors.
"What are you blithering about?" Severus snapped.
"You were getting pretty cosy with Potter at the feast last night." Draco hissed with venom. "Holding hands and everything."
"Have you lost your mind?" Severus snarled, stopping in his tracks and grabbing Draco by the front of his robes. "She put her hand on mine! I can't be responsible for her every foolish action. I have to play my role here as I have always done. I'm not interested in Harriet Potter, I'm old enough to be her father, in fact I was at school with her rotten father."
"You saw nothing but what your jealous mind invented, Draco." Snape turned on his heel and stalked down the corridor to McGonagall's office, leaving a shocked Draco to stare after him.
Upon reaching the gargoyle guarding the office Snape realised he didn't know the password. He vented his feelings by kicking the wall, causing him to be hopping around holding his throbbing foot when McGonagall rounded the corner. He noticed that she hid a smile as she approached.
"To what do I owe this pleasure Mr Asphodel?" she asked as the gargoyle leapt aside and she led Snape up the spiral staircase. "I have already spent the last hour calming down Mr Filch after Peeves decided to lock him in his cleaning cupboard. I do hope this is for something more pleasant."
They entered the office and many of the portraits on the wall nodded their greetings to McGonagall and stared with ill disguised curiosity at Snape. Directly behind the Headmistress's desk hung the portrait of Albus Dumbledore. He gave Severus a little wave, his eyes twinkling knowingly.
"Minerva," Severus began urgently, as McGonagall took a seat behind the desk,"this whole situation is farcical! I don't belong in Gryffindor. I must insist you move me to Slytherin immediately."
"The hat sorted you into Gryffindor Severus." McGonagall said, with maddening calm, "I cannot change the decision once made, nor would I want to, and I urge you to make the best of it and try to make yourself at home."
"I can't possibly stay there," he protested, "I'm not like them."
"My dear Severus," she said with a sad and knowing smile, "As a former head of Gryffindor, I can quite honestly say that I have never met a man with more courage. If ever a man belonged in Gryffindor it is you."
"So you won't move me?" he asked, knowing already her response.
"I'm afraid not." she said, drawing some paperwork towards her and nodding towards the exit.
Severus understood that the matter was closed and he was dismissed. He hung his head and slipped from the roomroom feeling dejected.
The door clicked shut behind him and McGonagall looked up from her desk with a sigh.
"I always thought we sorted too soon." smiled the portrait of the Dumbledore.
By the time Severus entered the Great Hall it was beginning to fill up with students eating breakfast. He found a space at the Gryffindor table and sat down, helping himself to toast. He chewed morosely, mulling over what McGonagall had said. He didn't believe her or the blasted hat. He knew he was a Slytherin really. A hand tapped tentatively on his shoulder and he looked up into green eyes.
"Can you just pretend last night didn't happen?" Harriet whispered, pleadingly as she sank onto the bench next to him. "It was just being back here, it brought back..." she lapsed into awkward silence.
"I'm sure I have no idea what you are referring to." Snape murmured, avoiding her eyes.
"Thank you." she said and reached for a pitcher of pumpkin juice.
Just then Ron and Hermione dropped into the seats opposite holding a whispered argument. Hermione cuffed Ron around the head before giving Snape a strained smile.
"Sleep well Evan?" she asked warmly.
"As well as can be expected in a new place." he said, sensing Harriet stiffen slightly beside him.
"I'm sorry about yesterday." Ron blurted out to Harriet. "I was being an insensitive prat." he looked at Hermione who nodded. "I'll stop going on about Snape, I really didn't mean to upset you."
"I know," Harriet sighed, "I'll be fine once I get back into the swing of things. Sorry I shouted at you."
Snape watched as Harriet forced a smile onto her face and joined in with the joking and laughing around the table. She may have convinced her fellow Gryffindor's, but Snape noticed that the smile never reached her eyes. Maybe he was more adept at spotting fake emotions than someone who had not spent half their life as a double agent, but it was clear that things with Miss Potter were not all they seemed.
After receiving their new timetables from their new Head of House and Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Bill Weasley, the Gryffindor's headed off to their first lesson. Apart from Longbottom they were all heading for potions in the dungeons.
The classroom door was open when they arrived and Slughorn was already inside with other class members. He welcomed Harriet, Ron and Hermione with enthusiasm and regarded Severus with a calculating stare.
"This must be our newest student Evan," Slughorn boomed, clapping his hands. "An unknown quantity as of yet. Tell me young man, how are you at potions?"
"I enjoy it immensely sir." Snape said politely, "I shall let you judge my competance, however, seeing that you are the teacher."
Slughorn laughed, throwing back his head, his expansive stomach wobbling.
"I reserve my judgement for now then young sir." he chuckled, "why don't you pair up with my star student, Harriet here and show me what you are capable of."
Harriet glanced at Snape and shrugged as she placed her equipment on the workbench. He began to unpack his cauldron and ingredients as Slughorn busied himself with arranging the other students into pairs. Draco caught his eye across the classroom and nodded, he appeared to have calmed down. He would try to find him later to sort things out between them. Before he could dwell too much Slughorn was calling for the class's attention and explaining the method required for today's potion. It was a complex healing potion Severus had made numerous times. He smiled to himself as he gathered the ingredients from the storeroom and arranged them on the workstation, where Potter was setting up the cauldron. He swept his shoulder length, reddish hair back into a ponytail and tied it with a black strip of ribbon.
Soon the vapours in the dungeon made it appear misty and Severus was able to lose himself in the comforting familiarity of chopping and stirring. He reached out and grasped Harriet's wrist as she went to add the next ingredient.
"Not yet!" he told her, reducing the height of the flame beneath the cauldron and stirring clockwise once. "If you add the willow bark without reducing the heat it will scorch and make the potion less effective." He watched as the liquid began to turn cloudy, then nodded for Harriet to add the bark.
As soon as the bark hit the potion it began to froth. Snape waited until the froth had subsided and then counted ten stirs anti-clockwise.
"The book says-" Harriet began.
"Trust me." Snape assured her, stirring twice clockwise and then extinguishing the heat, he left the potion to settle. As they watched the liquid turned steadily paler until it was completely clear.
"Outstanding!" exclaimed Slughorn, drawing level with their workstation and spotting their potion. "As expected a perfect performance from Harriet again."
"Actually sir, it was mostly down to Evan." Harriet admitted, "I was about to scorch the willow bark when he stopped me."
"Well done indeed Evan!" Slughorn beamed, "I can see we have another instinctive potions maker in our midst. What a treat to have two in the same class. Why I don't think I have been lucky enough to instruct such genius since..." he trailed off with a sad look at Harriet, "Never mind," he said, "five points each for Gryffindor for producing such a good quality healing potion and working as such an effective team."
Harriet flushed and ducked down to pack away their equipment while Severus bottled their potion to be graded. As he took the full vial up to Slughorn's desk he noticed Draco glaring at him again.