Introduction September 2006

When the Sorting had finished and Professor McGonagal was lifting the hat and stool to exit the hall, the students and teachers gave an astonished gasp. Under the hat, there appeared a petite, brunette woman in muggle clothing. Professor Dumbledore stood up, but only the rather bemused woman took any notice of him until he spoke. Everyone else's eyes were on her. "Welcome. To what do we owe this honor?" His eyes were kind, but there was no hiding the surprise in his voice.

"It appears that I have been pulled out of the sorting hat, Professor," she replied in a distinctly American accent, "to be your new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher." At this remarkable announcement, Harry turned to Ron amid whispers from the other students, but jerked his head back around at the sound of Snape pushing back his chair. They watched as he threw his napkin onto the table and turned to stomp out.

"Severus?" the woman whispered, stepping backward in surprise. Snape paused briefly, then continued out, letting the door slam behind him. There was an uncomfortable silence, which only ended when Professor Dumbledore sat down unceremoniously and said, "Well, Tuck In!" as the new Professor exited in haste through the nearest door.

Harry, Ron and Hermione exchanged a meaningful look before dashing out of the hall to fetch the invisibility cloak, but found, as they mounted the second staircase, that they didn't need it. "Severus, please stop walking for just a moment!" When there was no answer, she muttered, "Impedimenta." Snape's footsteps ceased.

Harry, Ron and Hermione looked up at the next landing to see her walking around to face Snape, whose expression, to their surprise, showed not anger, but resignation. Feeling suddenly as though this was not a scene they ought to be witnessing, they looked sideways at one another before starting back downstairs. As they walked, however, a powerful feeling swept over them. From above, they heard her whisper, "When you can move, join me for tea in your office." There was a hint of amusement behind these words, but the trio didn't catch it, as they were already running back down the stairs at top speed.

"What was that?" Harry breathed as they stumbled back into the Great Hall. He was holding the front of his robes so tightly that they crinkled.

"Don't know," said Ron, "but it nearly knocked me down!" They both looked at Hermione, who was visibly shaken.

"It felt like love," Hermione whispered, in disbelief.