This is a fanfiction based in JKR's world of Harry Potter. Original characters are mine. All others are hers. Please see the first chapter for full disclaimers and credits to my wonderful team of betas. I've had a i lot /i of help with this story!
An extra note for this chapter, I must credit JL and Adrianne for pointing out to me that Severus would have started his first year teaching during Rowena's final year at Hogwarts. I have as much trouble as JKR with dates! Also, JL portrays Severus on my roleplaying website, and that interpretation has colored my Severus' teaching style you will see briefly here. Thank you!
Alternate Universe to Half-blood Prince.
Chapter7: Choices and Redemptions
That summer, suffering from all the angst of a thirteen-year-old girl who has lost her first crush, Rowena indulged herself in a fanciful gesture. She purchased a very beautifully illustrated copy of her favorite fairy-tale, "The Witch and the Animagus" which was the wizarding equivalent of the Muggle story, "Beauty and the Beast." It was a lovely, leather-bound tome with fine gold accents and hand painted illustrations--a very elegant book. This had been her favorite fairy-tale as a child, and Remus had read it to her often.
This copy, she magically modified. Everywhere it said "Beauty" or "witch", she put her own name, and every instance of "Beast" or "Animagus" was obliterated, replaced with "Severus". At the very end of the book, in her own delicate hand, she scribed, "And Severus and Rowena Snape lived together, happily ever after."
It was silly. It was irrational. It was childish. But it soothed her sorrow somewhat, and she hid the book away for no one but herself to see, cherishing and reading it often.
Remus had not returned home after he completed school. Voldemort was becoming stronger all the time, and Dumbledore had asked him for assistance, which Remus gave whole-heartedly.
Where he lived, none of them knew. But he wrote often to their mother, and assured her that he was well. Determined to make his own way in the world, he refused to burden his family with his condition any longer, nor did he wish to rely on their charity. His marks in school had been excellent, and if not for the slight matter of the lycanthropy, he would have been easily employable just about anywhere.
Rowena spent all her holidays with her father at St. Mungo's. He had not given up his hope that she would become a Healer, or at least abandon the desire to become an Auror. He kept her with him during the worst, most severe cases of Dark Magic injuries. Sometimes she treated Aurors wounded in their line of work. Sometimes she helped with victims of the Death Eaters—though these were rarely found alive; or, if alive, they were often beyond mortal aid.
Sometimes she actually treated injured Death Eaters themselves. St. Mungo's helped everyone without discrimination. If a Death Eater was injured, then they were given proper treatment, under strict guard of course, before being remanded into custody of the authorities.
One of these Death Eaters had been an ally of Severus'. He recognized her as she treated him. Wilkes was his surname; she had never known his given name.
"You're that Ravenclaw girl that hung out with the some of the Slytherins, aren't you? You'll be done with school soon?" he asked her, through gritted teeth, as she tended a long gash across his chest.
Rowena refused to meet his eyes for a moment. It was hard for her to imagine a classmate, even a Slytherin one, knowingly and willingly being Death Eater with all that it entailed. She had seen enough to know of the sheer inhumanity of their actions.
Finally she looked at him and nodded. "Yes. I'm about to start my final year. And yes, some of my friends are from Slytherin."
Wilkes was barely more than a boy himself, maybe about twenty years old now. She didn't want to hear the answer to her next question—she thought she already knew the truth in her heart. Yet somehow she couldn't leave it unspoken.
"Do you see Mr Snape much since leaving school?" she asked with an air of unconcern, as though making casual conversation.
Wilkes snorted, and replied snidely, "Now see here. I'd be good as dead if I started spouting off names, even to such a mousy little innocent like yourself."
He grinned somewhat evilly, and then pulled up the sleeve of his left arm, exposing an ugly red tattoo of a skull with a snake protruding obscenely from its mouth like some horrible parody of a tongue. "Next time you see Snape, you look here. That'll answer your question for you. The faithful's all got 'em, as I'm sure you know.
"You might check Warrington, too, if given the chance—I think you remember him, eh? He attacked some girl during our last year and got himself expelled. Took him a while to recover after Severus and Lucius finished with him. They've both got twisted senses of honor and propriety. Took it upon themselves to teach him a lesson, so to speak."
She paled visibly at the Mark, at the words, at the memory of the boy who had attacked her. Even the thought that Severus had some hand in "teaching him a lesson" was not soothing. Wilkes sat quietly as she finished his treatment, and then the guard came and took him away.
The knowledge he had left barely unspoken—that Severus was indeed one of the "faithful"—decided her on one thing. She would not be an Auror. She knew what atrocities the Death Eaters could commit. She had lately seen evidence of horribly complex poisons designed to cause maximum pain and a slow death—concoctions whose subtlety she felt certain was a signature of Severus' own creation.
Yet even this could not dull the hold he had over her heart. Assuming she would qualify for and pass Auror training, she would not fight him; she would not allow herself to be put in the position to make such a choice necessary. She would not even try.
This resolve had not decreased—the rational voice in her head had long since convinced her she was not cut out to be an Auror in any case—but it no longer had the same urgency when she arrived at Hogwarts on September first.
There, sitting at the staff table, was the man whom she had thought never to see again. Severus Snape. As a seventh-year, her seat was nearest the doors, furthest from the staff table, and yet there was no mistaking him. What was he here to teach?
If he was teaching, surely he wasn't a Death Eater?
Had he ever been?
The questions were impossible to answer, but her heart pounded in her ears as she stared, gaping, open-mouthed—until her friend poked her in the ribs.
"You'll drool onto your plate if you're not careful," Emmeline said with a laugh in her voice. "He's not going anywhere—you can stare more subtly from your seat."
Her horrible, burning blush became worse as Severus chose that moment to glance away from his conversation with Flitwick, seeming to stare right through her from across the Hall. She sat down quickly, and spent the rest of the meal trying to be as small as possible.
Potions! Oh, sweet Merlin, why did he have to be teaching her worst subject? A groan of despair escaped her when Dumbledore announced the new appointment. She had received an 'E' on the O.W.L. at the end of her fifth year, but had barely scraped an 'A' last year. She knew very well how little patience he had for incompetence. It was bad enough that her fancy had not dimmed in the three years of his absence—to have to see him regularly, and have him see her in the worst possible light—seemed unbearable.
In the end, it was not so bad as she had feared. In years to come, someone with her marks would never have made it into his N.E.W.T. class, but as this was his first year teaching the subject, he was not given the option to be more selective with his students.
He was a harsh instructor, as she knew he would be, but his impatience was with stupidity. He was never kind or complimentary, even to the best students like her friend Emmeline. But she thought he was fair, and she could not deny that she learned a great deal.
Rowena's weakness stemmed from her strength—maths, concrete figures and calculations. If she could read it in a book, touch it, measure it, and see it, she could handle the subject well. Potions had too much subjectivity—a 'dash' of this, a 'pinch' of that, a 'drop' of the other. She could not quantify those things, so they made her nervous and insecure. How could her potion turn out the same as Emmeline's when her 'handful' of chopped roots was inherently smaller because her hand was smaller?
She tried to find ways to make up for this deficiency. There were instruments available to those who would search for them. She purchased a more precise scale, delicate glass pipettes used in Muggle chemistry measurements for exact dispensing of liquids, and even tiny, precise measuring spoons and bowls that were supposed to give uniformity to the finest of powders—things such as 'dash' and 'pinch'….
Professor Snape caught her at it immediately. With silent intimidation, he swooped to her worktable in an impressive swish of billowing black robes, causing her to all but cower in her chair, desperately wishing she could melt into the floor and vanish. Scooping up the entire lot of expensive Muggle instruments, he stalked back to the front of the class and threw them all into the bin, where they crashed, shattered, and clanked with a spectacular amount of noise.
"This is not a Muggle chemistry class, Lupin!" he said irritably, with the same disdainful emphasis on her last name as she had heard him use when addressing her brother—though thankfully Dumbledore had assured her that Severus was, even now, unaware of the relationship.
The other students snickered at the sounds of the breaking glass and clinking metal still settling in the bin.
"Every potion is unique to the brewer. When you attempt to place precision where variables have been designed, you rob your potion of your unique touch—which also robs it of its efficacy."
He paced the front of the classroom, emphasizing the point for all the students to hear, though still directing his comments at her. She could feel her face burning hotly.
"You are a witch, not a Muggle. Do you understand that Muggles cannot create potions, even if they had the same instructions and ingredients? A Muggle would end up with a useless, but quite probably accidentally poisonous, Stew of Nothingness. The ingredients alone do not create the magical effect we expect from a properly brewed potion.
"It is your magic which is the final, but most important, ingredient of your potion. By withdrawing your individual variations, you strip your potion of your magic.
"Do not let me find that Muggle rubbish in this classroom again," he finished, threateningly. "Ten points from Ravenclaw. Begin your potion—properly."
She never did completely get the hang of that variability, though she never stopped trying her best. Thankfully, her essay work counterbalanced her less than exemplary brewing, and she was able to scrape an 'Acceptable' in the final exam—barely.
She also struggled not to draw any attention to herself in his lessons after that incident. It was difficult not to be more than a little disappointed that she succeeded in the endeavor magnificently. He paid her no more notice than any other student.
In October of this year, the war officially ended. You-Know-Who killed Lily and James Potter, and then attacked their infant son. The baby, somehow, miraculously survived, while You-Know-Who, apparently, did not. Hogwarts was sheltered and isolated from the worst of the war, it was true, but the students joined in the jubilation of the rest of the Wizarding world over the news.
She did feel a twinge of compassion and sympathy for her brother, as the news reached her over the next few days. One after another, he lost all his closest friends, each loss splashed brazenly across the front page of The Daily Prophet. James and Lily killed by You-Know-Who himself, and then Peter at the hands of Black, Black then rotting in Azkaban.
Her sympathy did not extend to a wish to see him. He had chosen his friends over her; she would let him live with that choice.
At last, she completed her own schooling. She apprenticed with her father and other Healers at St. Mungo's for several months after finishing school—still unsure if she would chose that career but enjoying the work. Eventually she decided against being a Healer as well. She was too shy to have her father's soothing bedside manner, or interact with strangers in a stressful environment all day long.
She remained fascinated by the more complex sciences and learning the "how and why" of magic, not being satisfied with the standard, "because it's magic and it just works that way" answer. She truly wanted to know why it worked.
In the end, about six months out of school, she accepted a position at the Ministry for Magic, in Research and Development. It suited her well, though her father was disappointed she did not choose Healing, and Flitwick that she did not choose to be an Auror.
She started at the bottom, of course, with Household Charms and Enchantments, but the department was huge, with many sub-departments. Eventually she was promoted to Security Wards, Concealments and Alarms, with the hope of one day moving to Combative Spell Research. It wasn't so grandiose as being an Auror or a Healer, but she felt useful and enjoyed the work.
She settled in quickly among the other researchers at the lab. As a whole, they were a socially awkward bunch for a variety of reasons, bookish and shy. They tended to be most comfortable in quiet isolation with stacks of research surrounding them. They were friendly though, and if they could be brought to conversation, they were ready enough to chat.
Rowena's cubicle was soon dotted with pictures from Hogwarts. It didn't take long for the analytical minds of her coworkers to notice and comment on the appearance of the boy in each photo. They would tease her gently, but she would merely blush and insist it was coincidence, and it would be left at that.
However, she developed a close friendship with one of the girls near her age, and eventually confided the story of her fascination with Severus Snape, swearing her to secrecy.
Elizabeth was a good confidant. She was not prone to gossip or teasing, and so Rowena's secret was safe. It was pleasant to have someone with whom to discuss her fascination and sadness. Elizabeth even managed not to be shocked or disgusted that Rowena thought he might have been a Death Eater, and yet still clung to her hope that there had been some sort of extenuating circumstance. After all, would Dumbledore really have allowed him to teach if he had been a Death Eater?
Lizzy also proved to be a serendipitous choice in a friend. When Voldemort had been apparently vanquished in the attack on Harry Potter, the resultant confusion among the Death Eaters had led to numerous captures and trials. Elizabeth had a sister, Jessica, who was the court reporter for the Wizengamot. Elizabeth was able to provide Rowena with the missing pieces in support of her blind but determined faith.
Rowena was at home one evening after work, alone and reading in her small, tidy flat when a knock came on the door. It was Elizabeth, and she looked breathless and excited.
"Rowena," she gasped, "I had to come straight away and tell you! You mustn't breathe a word to another soul. If word got out that she had told anyone, she would lose her job, and maybe go to Azkaban herself. But Jessie just told me the most amazing thing, and I knew I had to tell you."
Rowena grinned and said, "Of course, Elizabeth. I would never betray your confidence, you know that. But I admit, I'm dying of curiosity! Tell me quick, what has you in such a state?"
Elizabeth drew her to the couch and sat beside her, holding both of Rowena's hands in her own.
"I asked Jessica if she'd ever heard anything… you know, about Professor Snape when all those trials were going on. Don't look at me like that," she chided, "I was careful. Besides Jessie loves to talk about interesting cases. She said she remembered that one especially because Dumbledore himself came and testified on Professor Snape's behalf.
"It wasn't a proper trial—they didn't have official charges against him. Jessie thinks that Dumbledore wanted it all kept quiet—he had a lot of influence in the Ministry in those days. Not like now.
"Anyway, Dumbledore testified that Snape had been a Death Eater, but had turned spy—over a year before Harry Potter was attacked. 'At great personal risk,' Dumbledore said. He even said, 'Severus Snape is now no more a Death Eater than I am.' Jessie says she remembers it so clearly because Dumbledore was so resolute.
"Rowena—Professor Snape was working for Dumbledore against You-Know-Who for over a year before the war ended! I had to tell you, knowing how you feel about him."
Rowena absorbed the news in a state of shock. If she hadn't been sitting down, she might have actually fainted from sheer relief. As it was, she squeezed Elizabeth's hands tightly, as though to make sure she was real. She was pale and wide-eyed in wonder, but couldn't help disbelieving.
"Oh, Eliza—are you sure? Are you absolutely certain?"
The blonde woman smiled at her friend and nodded. "It's true, Rowena. Just as you've always hoped. Somehow, he found his own way back, his own redemption, just like you said."
Rowena was so overwhelmed that she burst into tears. Elizabeth enfolded her into a hug, and let the storm of emotion pass.
Rowena's life settled into a state of normality after this, just as the rest of the Wizarding world did. She dated some, but nothing serious. Promotions came with reasonable regularity, as she immersed herself in her research, rapidly becoming one of the most productive in her lab. She even invented a personal-protection charm to help her overcome her lingering fear, which was residual from Warrington's attack.
She loved her work, and enjoyed her friends. Craving independence, she purchased a small flat in Muggle London and warded it carefully. She maintained regular contact with her parents, but heard nothing from Remus, except through her mother's letters, and kept it that way.
Many of her colleagues at the Ministry had children who were students at Hogwarts. In this way, she contrived to hear a little of Severus. It seemed that he was rather unpopular as a Professor, as the students believed him to be too strict and the parents, of course, sided with their children.
Rowena smiled inwardly. He was indeed a harsh taskmaster, as she knew first-hand. But students leaving his classes with passing grades would be well versed in potions, of that she was certain.
She made no attempt to see him in person. He had no reason to remember a few fleeting conversations with a Ravenclaw girl four years his junior, or a particularly unremarkable N.E.W.T. student; especially from a time of his life when he was combating his own personal hell.
It was enough that she could content herself with the knowledge that he was alive, well, and redeemed. If part of the reason she couldn't develop serious relationships with any other man was because they all fell short in comparison to him, well, that was her own doing.
She was satisfied with the life she had chosen. Weekdays were filled with a satisfying career. On weekends, she often volunteered at the Children's Wing of St. Mungo's, particularly tending the children orphaned in the war. She had friends, hobbies and interests. All was comfortable, if admittedly a bit dull.
Until Voldemort returned.
A/N: This completes the Prologue. I hope you will read Lost Souls Found to follow Rowena and Severus through the second war. I love to hear comments and constructive criticism from my readers. Please let me know what you think.