Chapter 1: Back to Hogwarts

Rakka Darkflame sat back against the plush seat of the Hogwarts Express with a sigh. She was returning for yet another year, her seventh and last, as a Slytherin. It was a week and a half after her 18th birthday when she was dozing off on the clunking train to Hogwart's School of Wizardry. Her last hurrah would be nothing more than another boring year of levitating feathers and learning poinless little spells to turn bullfrogs into mushrooms and back again.

"Rakka!" Isamu Perrelfoot, Rakka's younger cousin, a fourth year fellow Slytherin, ran into the small booth, tossing herself lightly onto the seat. "Did you hear about Professor Durrendell?"

"That boring old drone?" Rakka sighed, remembering the sniveling little brute who had been both their potions teacher and head of the Slytherin house. "What about him?"

"He's.. dead," Isamu whispered. Rakka shook her head.

"No way. No one could kill that pathetic old bag, hes to grotesque to die," Rakka spat. Her cousin wasn't usually one for gossip, though, so Rakka was inclined to believe her, despite her apparent incredulity.

"It's true!" Isamu whispered harshly. "Supposedly, he was a follower of You-Know-Who."

"Really?" Rakka raised one eyebrow. It almost made perfect sense.Rakka muttered all but to herself. "The miserable little wretch would probably do anything to get enough power, even join Voldemort. He had probably been with him for years, long before Voldemort had disappeared in your first year at Hogwarts, after the incident with the Boy who Lived."

"Yeah, and to think we've been within a few feet of someone to evil for so long," Isamu shuddered. "I hate to even imagine what he's been up to, under our very noses, this whole time!"

"How did they find out?" Rakka asked.

"Well," Isamu sighed. "Apparently he'd been sent to try to kill Dumbledore. When he failed, he'd been discovered... so the rest of You-Know-Who's followers.. disposed of him. I wonder who figured it out..."

"Hmm.." Rakka sighed. "I wonder who our new Potions teacher will be."

"I hope he's nicer than Durrendell," Isamu grumbled.

"Well," Rakka shrugged. "We'll find out soon enough. I mean, he's probably going to be the head of our house, so we should meet him soon enough."

"Yeah," Isamu nodded. "After all you're a Head Girl this year, aren't you? So you'll be meeting with him as soon as we get there."

"Yeah," Rakka nodded, looking out over the rolling landscape as Hogwarts grew closer, growing from a dot on the horizon. "I guess so."

"And, I think we have a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, too," Isamu drew the door closed, flipping the latch as she reached for her bag to change from her usual clothes to her uniform. Rakka did the same.

"I wouldn't be suprised," Rakka nodded, changing from her smooth black skirt to a thicker, grey wool one. "I mean, we haven't been able to keep a steady Defense teacher since Professor Garron died my second year."

Just as Rakka was pulling on her robe and Isamu was buckling her shoe, the train came to a halt. There was a great shuffling as everyone on board struggled to grab what they had brought in the train cars with them and headed toward the great doors, where Headmaster Dumbledore stood waiting.

"Welcome back, everyone!" Dumbledore smiled, waving one arm in an all-encompasing gesture. "As you all know, we have only until tomorrow to get settled before the first year students arrive, so I'd appreciate if everyone would head off to their rooms right away to get themselves settled in. You all know the drill by now, I assume, save for a few of you second year students who are here for the settling day for the first time, but I'll review anyway. All students, head to the main hall, while all Head Girls and Boys will be meeting with their heads of house in their offices. Once the Head Girls and Boys and heads of houses are done with their meetings, they will be joining the rest of us in the main hall. Now," he clapped his hands, "Everyone knows where to go, yes? What are we waiting for? Get going!"

"Later, Rakka!" Isamu smiled, running off into the crowd headed for the main hall. With a sigh, Rakka gathered her briefcase-sized tapestry bag, which was black with a silver handle and the Slytherin green and whire crest embroidered on the front, and headed down the first staircase on her left, toward the dungeon where potions class was held. Both hands on the handle of her bag in front of her, Rakka strolled just past the classroom, to the next door, which had been Professor Durrendell's office only months before. Fighting back the grumble of resignation that had always accompanied entering that office, Rakka reminded herself that old Durrendell wouldn't be in there and, forcing her best smile, opened the door.

The office was far cleaner than it had been when Durrendell had taught, with all the bottles dusted and in order. The only thing disheveled may have been the teacher, who looked like he was about to drop dead of nervousness.

He couldn't have been over twenty five, by the look of him. He was thin and a bit pale, and judging by how much higher he sat in the chair behind the desk than Durrendell once had, he seemed significantly taller, perhaps just a bit over six feet in height. He muttered to himself shoving his dark hair back behind his ears, while the same rogue strands kept falling back where they had been, running stright down along the side of his eyebrows, down to only a few inches above the papers he was shuffling through, while the rest of his smoothed, raven hair fell down behind his shoulders. Rakka stifled a giggle at the poor young teacher's distress, relieved that he wasn't some other obnoxious brute like the old Slytherin head of house. Aware that he still had obviously not noticed her enterance, Rakka cleared her throat, and the young teacher jumped. This time, her efforts to hold back a grin were more straining, as she bit her lip and coughed, covering her mouth politely as she berated herself mentally for not having more self control. The young teacher stood quickly, still a bit shaky with nervousness, and smoothed his black shirt, shoving his hair back once again as he sidestepped around the desk with a suprisingly fluid motion.

"Hi, I'm Rakka Darkflame, Slytherin Head Girl. You must be our new head of house."

Still a bit shaky, but gaining a bit more of a fluid composure, the teacher took her hand and gave it one smooth, firm shake.

"Hello, Miss Darkflame, I'm Professor Severus Snape, your new potions teacher and head of house," he nodded formally. "I'm afraid I'm still not one-hundred percent sure what we're exactly supposed to be accomplishing here.."

"Don't worry, Professor Snape," Rakka smiled lightly. "My brother was Head Girl last year with Professor Durrendell. He told me every boring detail."

"Well, at least one of us knows what we're doing," he shook his head lightly, with what seemed to almost be a smile as he walked back behind his desk, and gestured for her to sit, shich she did, carefully resting her bag against the side of the leather chair, sweeping her robe under her as she sat down, crossing her legs and smothing her knee-length skirt.

"Okay, well, first matter of buisness, I need the password to the Slytherin chambers."

"Oh, yes, I wrote that down somewhere.. Ah, it's 'firebramble' this year. It changes every school year, correct?"

"Yes."

"Good, it's nice to know that things haven't changed too greatly since I was here. Wandering these halls.. reminds me of when I was a young Slytherin like yourself, Miss Darkflame."

Rakka smiled. At least he seemed to be a little more relaxed, his tone of voice not wavering so much as he folded his hands on the neat stack of papers on his desk.

"If you don't mind my asking, how long ago did you leave Hogwarts? You barely seem much older than a final year student."

"Well, you're a seventh year, correct? I graduated the spring of your second year, I should think. I haven't been out long at all, really."

"Well, I'll tell you one thing, after Durrendell, that old gripe, everyone will love you," Rakka smiled. "He was such a nasty man.. I was so shocked when I made Head Girl.. he hated me! But Dumbledore chose me, since by the time they chose Head Girls, Durrendell was already thrown out of the school, little did we know."

"..Thrown out? I was told he retired."

"I was told he was a servant of Voldemort and tried to kill Headmaster Dumbledore. But even if that was the case, Dumbledore would tell everyone that Durrendell simply quit, so I guess we'll never know. Though I'll tell you one thing, teachers here die more often than they retire. Not that you have any need to worry, Professor. It's only the ones that get tangled up in the Dark Arts that end up in any sort of trouble. That and the likes of Professor Binns, who just don't know when to quit."

"Binns is still here?" the young professor asked with a small, controlled smirk. "I figured he'd be dead by now, the boring old man."

"He is," Rakka smiled, sitting back a bit more comfortably. "He died my first year. And he still teaches History of Magic. And he's still the most boring teacher here."

Snape seemed a bit thrown, but covered it up quickly, shaking his head with a sigh. "So, is there anything else we need to get out of the way? We've already been here quite a while."

"Well," Rakka thought back to her older brother, Zackary, recounting his talks with Professor Durrendell. "As Head Girl, I'm kind of your second in command as far as handling the other students of our house. Whenever there's a problem, you'll probably be talking to me, so we're pretty much just getting to know eachother, and you might want to let me know any ground rules that you personally want to apply either to me or to all the students in general... any particular time of day when you are not to be disturbed and whatnot. I know some of the teachers here are explicit about not being distubed after hours unless it's an extreme emergency. I figure that if I'm going to need to talk to you after classes about anything, I'll let you know about it in advance, at the end of your class or inbetween classes if I can find you in the hallway. I'll be having one of your classes almost every day, since potions is one of my major areas of study."

"Well, then, it looks like you've set the ground rules for me," he smirked again. Rakka shrugged, blushing a little bit and mentally kicking herself for applying her newfound authority to one of the few people in the school that had authority over her.

"Sorry," she shrank down a little bit. He laughed.

"You're a real Slytherin," he shook his head. "You've got that take-charge attitude to you. I appreciate that, since I'll be relying on you alot this year, what with it being my first year teaching. I have no problem with you disturbing me any time of the night, and I leave it to your discretion wether or not something is worthy of my attention. You have the potential to be a teacher, yourself, you know."

Rakka blushed a little again, this time because of the compliment, as opposed to her embarassment at overstepping her bounds, or so she had thought.

"Thank you, Professor. Your opinion is greatly appreciated," she smiled, trying to regain her composure that had gotten her so far already in life. Her first day as a Head Girl was no time to lose her cool.

"Well, then, since we both seem to understand our borders and limits, I think it's tiem we join the rest of our fellow teachers and students, if we're finished here," he straightened the stack of papers again, s one or two pages had shifted when he moved his arms, which had been resting on the small pile. Rakka nodded.

"Sorry I'm late!" Tomas smiled from the doorway. "We had some trouble with a second year falling into an invisible step on the staircase. I had to pull him out."

Snape nodded to him. "Actually, we were just getting ready to head up to the main hall, right, Miss Darkflame?"

"Yeah," Rakka stood, reaching for her bag.

"Alright then, off we go," Snape nodded back, standing and smoothing his long, black robe over his shirt and pants, the same raven tone as his robe and hair, walking around her to open the door. She smiled a simple 'thank you,' as he held the door before following her out, and together, they followed Tomas back up to the great hall.