Disclaimer, author's notes, and other dull stuff:

I don't claim to own any copyrighted material.

This story takes place after Order of the Phoenix , during Harry Potter's sixth year. There is no significant involvement of Harry Potter or the rest of the "golden trio".

"My" version of Snape is not based on Alan Rickman - no offense at all to Mr. Rickman. He makes a great Snape, don't you think ? But I picture Snape as younger – under 40 – whereas Mr. Rickman is over 50. And this is not a May-December romance.

An American Witch at Hogwarts by Rae Roberts

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Alex Rose stood at the gates to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She still couldn't quite believe that she had been awarded a grant to do potions research at the prestigious British school. As she hesitated, the gates swung open to reveal a long flight of stone steps. Alex's stomach clenched with nervousness. Resolutely, she squared her shoulders, picked up her briefcase, and began to climb.

The steps went on forever. As Alex climbed, they grew narrower. The railings stopped after the third flight. Don't look down, she reminded herself. Without thinking, she looked anyway and nearly fell. The stairs spiraled down into oblivion below her. More stairs rose to impossible heights on either side. Her head spun at the sight. Alex dropped to her knees. Must keep going, she ordered herself. They have to end soon. Too dizzy and frightened to stand, she forced herself to keep climbing at a crawl. What kind of school is this, anyway ? For cryin' out loud, they make kids climb these ?

"Alex. Alex, wake up."

"Ungh." Alex blinked up at the woman kneeling beside her. "Oh. I was dreaming. Aw, darn, Naomi, sorry I woke you."

"No problem. Must have been some dream," Naomi remarked, falling back into bed and pulling the covers up over her head. "It's morning anyway." Her voice was muffled by the blanket. "Do me a favor, hon ? Help Dad milk the goats, 'kay ? I'm going to sleep a few more minutes."

"Sure, no problem." Alex was already rolling up her sleeping bag. She pulled on sweat pants and a t-shirt and padded barefoot through the little cinder block house. Outside, the sun was rising, painting the desert landscape its trademark hues of pink and gold. Alex hurried to the shed where John Chavez was already busy milking one of the six goats. His eight-year-old grandson, Naomi's son Mikey, walked back and forth, holding a piece of straw in one hand. He pulled the straw through his fingers over and over as he paced.

Alex stepped in front of the boy. He sidestepped. She followed, blocking his path. "Hi, Mikey. How are you ?"

"Hi. Fine," he responded, not meeting her eyes.

"Good." She ruffled the boy's hair affectionately, then allowed him to duck around her and continue his pacing.

"Mornin', Alex. Sleep well ?" asked John, pouring goat's milk into a large metal jug.

"Pretty well. Need any help ?"

"We were just finishing up." The old man smiled at her, his weathered face creasing into dozens of wrinkles as he did. "Come on, Mikey, help Grandad feed the goats."

"Hi there, Nanny." Alex petted the back of a large brown goat as she watched John and his grandson pour feed into bowls. The placid animal stood on three legs; her left hind leg ended in a malformed stump. Alex scratched her behind the ears absently and grinned as she looked at the man who had been like a father to her for the past five years. Her teacher, mentor, and boss. Former boss, she corrected herself. As of tomorrow she would be working for the famous Albus Dumbledore. She wondered what the British wizard would think of John. Professor John Chavez... Head of the potions department at Roswell University, Apache elder, goat herd.

The old man closed the feed bin and put his straw cowboy hat on his head. "Let's go get some breakfast. You have a long day ahead of you," he smiled, taking his grandson by the hand. Mikey seemed about to become agitated, but John forestalled him with the comment, "Time to eat."

Naomi must not have stayed in bed long, because a huge breakfast of bacon, eggs, biscuits, and strong black coffee was already on the table. "You have everything packed ? Got your passport ? The directions to King's Cross Station ?" Naomi fussed.

Alex laughed. "Yes, yes ! And my medicine – in the original prescription bottles – and the laptop, dress robes, and my wand," she added, before the older woman could ask.

Naomi frowned, obviously trying to find something else to remind her of. "You're not going dressed like that, are you ?" she finally asked triumphantly.

"No, of course not," Alex said, rolling her eyes in mock exasperation. "I'll wear a nice blouse and slacks." Naomi's frown deepened. "What ? You don't expect me to wear dress robes ! First I have to apparate to New York, then to London, and then there's the four-hour train ride to Hogwarts. I won't even meet Professor Dumbledore until tomorrow."

"Well, be sure you wear traditional robes when you do meet him. The wizarding community is much more formal in England. You want to make a good first impression."

John laughed affectionately. "Naomi, stop worrying. Alex is gonna impress the hell out of those Hogwarts wizards !"

Alex felt the tight knot of nervousness settle in her stomach again. Just like in the dream of the stairs, which was the same nightmare she always had when starting a new class or a new job. She forced herself to keep a smile on her face. "I'm sure going to try," she said.