Beta-reader appreciation: I would like to thank my wonderful and brilliant beta-reader, Splatt, for being so patient and basically teaching me how to write properly. I'd also like to thank Miss K and Carissa for beta reading and help. Thanks to Cindy Eric of designerpotions.com, for allowing me the use of her theories and character sheet. Thanks to Birgit and Spartina for coming up with ideas for this new version of the story---
Chapter 1 - Snape's Boggart
September 1st 1993. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.
"What are we going to do about Black?" Professor McGonagall, the deputy headmistress of Hogwarts, asked Professor Dumbledore as they made their way to the staff meeting that was to be held in the Great Hall.
"What do you mean, Minerva?" Albus Dumbledore, the long-serving headmaster of Hogwarts, replied while looking at his pocket watch.
"Well, you heard what the Minister said," she commented, "Sirius Black will try to kill Harry. How are we going to prevent him from entering Hogwarts?"
"Ah, we will discuss that at the meeting," Dumbledore said, stopping by the entrance as if waiting for someone. He checked his watch again, sighed and put it back inside his robes.
All of the teachers were gathered, sitting around a long table in the middle of the Hall. Madam Hooch was reading the sports section of the Daily Prophet; Professor Flitwick was laughing at a joke told by Professor Sprout; and Professor Snape, who was wearing his usual black robes, was absentmindedly scribbling down notes.
"Good, everyone is here," said Dumbledore, clapping his hands together and smiling. The teachers looked at him and straightened up.
"Everyone?" said Professor McGonagall, walking to an empty seat. "What about the new Defence Against the Dark Arts and Ancient Runes teachers? You have found a replacement for Professors Lockhart and Wales, haven't you?"
"Yes I have, we have to start the meeting without them," Dumbledore said resignedly, with a final worried glance towards the door. "One will be arriving on the Hogwarts Express after three hours, and I'm certain that the other..." he turned his head back to the teachers, "...she will be here shortly."
"By 'she' I assume you mean the Runes teacher?" Professor Flitwick, the tiny Charms teacher, asked curiously after adjusting one of the many cushions he was sitting on.
"Yes, but we will begin by discussing the securities of the castle," Dumbledore paused slightly, "I have spoken to Cornelius Fudge and he has insisted on placing dementors in the school grounds." The teachers shuddered and there was a low murmur. "The minister is very insistent and I'm afraid I can not deny him this. They will be arriving within the hour," Dumbledore went on.
"Do you think it's safe to have them walk amongst the students, Albus?" Professor McGonagall asked and the other teachers nodded in consent.
"The dementors will not be walking freely in the school grounds. They will be placed at the gates and around Hogsmeade," said Dumbledore and placed his fingertips on the table. "We will be tightening the security inside and outside the castle ourselves. I have drafted a timetable for patrolling the corridors at night," he said as he handed a piece of parchment to Professor McGonagall.
After the timetable had been passed around and some suggestions had been made, Dumbledore raised his hand for silence. "The timetable will be adjusted further after our three new teachers have been added to it.
You all know Hagrid," he smiled at Hagrid, who blushed and cast his eyes down at his hands. "He'll be teaching Care of Magical Creatures this year."
Dumbledore took a moment before continuing, "Our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher is Remus Lupin. Many of you should remember him – he finished his education at Hogwarts fifteen years ago." Professor Snape's lip curled with disapproval but he said nothing. Dumbledore looked from one teacher to another and took a deep breath. "I have found a replacement for Professor Wales, our old Ancient Runes Master. Some of you already know her, as she also finished her education fifteen years ago..." he paused again and sighed.
"Well?" Professor McGonagall asked curiously and furrowed her brow, "Who is it?"
Dumbledore looked at the door once more before turning to face the teachers. He took another deep breath, "Her name is -"
With a loud bang, the door flew open with a cold breeze. The teachers jumped in their seats, chills running down their spines; they all turned around, startled. Framed in the doorway stood a short, slender woman dressed in a long, dark-grey Muggle winter coat with light-grey fur around the neckline and sleeves. Her long, dark, wavy hair surrounded her face as she subtly swept her eyes over the room. She said nothing, but walked slowly towards Dumbledore with a straight back, holding her head up high.
Dumbledore had turned towards her. "Ah, good, you're here," he said with a relieved smile and motioned his hand towards the other teachers. "Everyone, this is Isolde Montage."
There was dead silence in the Hall. Some teachers looked thunderstruck, others simply curious. "Is it snowing outside? In September?" asked Professor Flitwick as he looked at the big snowflakes on Isolde's coat.
"It isn't snowing," whispered Madam Hooch while squinting up at the ceiling.
Professor Flitwick looked back at Isolde and finally seemed to realize who she was. "But...Miss Montage? That's quite impossible!"
Isolde didn't look at Professor Flitwick, she was still focusing on Dumbledore, who shortly began introducing each teacher and as he did so she looked at each of them with a vacant expression. "...Sibyll Trelawney teaches Divination... you know Minerva McGonagall of course; she's still our Transfiguration teacher. ...You also know Severus Snape, our Potions master..." She looked from Professor McGonagall to Snape and her grey eyes grew cold with fury as she met his eyes.
"Isolde, welcome..." said Professor McGonagall after recovering from her shock.
Snape seemed to be lost for words as he returned her stare, but broke eye contact after a while and looked back at his notes.
Isolde sat down in an empty seat and slowly took out some parchment and a quill. She took notes as the meeting progressed, occasionally looking up at Dumbledore – ignoring everyone else.
Just before the start-of-term feast the teachers met in the room beside the Great Hall. It was dark outside and the fireplace had been lit, filling the room with warmth and a faint glow. The portraits were dully moving around in their frames that hung on the dark stonewalls.
Snape, who had kept quiet during the meeting, was sitting in the corner, eyeing Remus Lupin with great dislike. It bothered him to great lengths that Dumbledore hadn't informed the other teachers about Lupin's lycanthropy. McGonagall knew, of course. She had been the Head of Gryffindor House when Lupin was a Hogwarts student, but Snape felt the others should know as well. After all, it was common knowledge that werewolves could not be trusted. Of course Dumbledore felt otherwise and was convinced that Lupin was harmless. Well, he most certainly was not harmless without Snape's expertise and precision!
"Severus," Dumbledore said one morning after lunch. "I have
appointed the Defence Against the Dark Arts position to Remus Lupin
for the next school year. You remember his condition, do you not?"
he asked as they walked over the grounds under the burning sun.
Dumbledore had summoned Snape to Hogwarts in July to discuss an
important matter – and this was it, Lupin. Quite an important
"Yes Headmaster, I do," Snape answered calmly, through his clenched
teeth. He wasn't happy about this at all. Lupin had been a danger
to a Hogwarts student before years ago, and he would be again. "Do
you think it wise to have a werewolf teach at Hogwarts?"
"I believe it will be safe with your help..." Dumbledore said and
lifted his purple robes slightly to step over a fallen twig. "I
need to ask you to prepare Wolfsbane Potion for Remus, so that he
can keep his mind when he transforms. That way he will be of no harm
to the students, or the staff."
They stopped by the lake and the giant squid poked one of its
tentacles out of the water before quickly drawing it back down under
the surface, as if it had suddenly decided that it didn't like the
burning globe in the sky. Snape was thinking about what Dumbledore
was requesting of him, and slowly turned his eyes away from the lake
and met his eyes. Dumbledore looked like he knew what Snape was
thinking as he looked over his half-moon spectacles. He must have
known how difficult this would be for Snape – a whole school year
with one of his sworn enemies.
Snape wanted to protest, but knew from experience that it was
futile. "If that is what you wish me to do, then I'll do it,
Headmaster," he said calmly, moving under the shadow of a tree.
"But I really -"
Snape abandoned his thoughts abruptly at the sight of Dumbledore entering the room. He stood up swiftly from his seat and quickly swept towards him. "Headmaster, why wasn't I informed?" he asked sharply, "When -"
"Severus, I really can't discuss this now," Dumbledore interrupted him determinedly, "It wasn't my place to inform. But I ask that you be patient and passive until the time is right."
"Yes, Headmaster," Snape said coolly before glancing towards the person who had just then walked through the door. Isolde glared at him icily as she brushed past him and stopped at the sight of Lupin, whose jaws had dropped.
Lupin slowly folded the Daily Prophet he had been reading and got up from his seat. "Izzy...?" he said with disbelief and frowned in surprise.
"Remus," she replied shortly, turned to Dumbledore and opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted.
"Izzy," Lupin laughed and pulled her into a tight hug, "I don't believe this!"
Isolde was stiff as a board in his arms and pushed him away with force. "Don't ever do that again!" she hissed coldly and glared at him. Snape's lip curled slightly into a subtle sneer at the surprised look on Lupin's face – a look that Isolde seemed to be ignoring as she straightened her black robes before turning to Dumbledore and speaking directly to him. "I've set up a meeting with our friends," she said, mysteriously emphasising the last word.
She quickly glanced at Snape while Dumbledore nodded thoughtfully and looked from Isolde, to Lupin, to Snape and then back at Isolde. He did this several times before turning away and raising his voice so that all teachers could hear him. "All right everyone, please enter the Great Hall, the students are about to arrive."
Before walking into the Hall he took a long, calculating look at Snape, who returned it with utter calmness.
Neville ran after his fellow Gryffindor students to keep up. They had just finished breakfast and were now on their way to Herbology, and Neville was looking forward to the first lesson in his favourite subject. It was, after all, the only subject he could pride himself in being good at.
"I'm very excited about learning Ancient Runes," he heard Hermione say as she made her way down the path towards the greenhouses with Harry and Ron, only a few feet in front of Neville. "I've read a lot about it and it's used in many ways, usually in very old magic. Professor Montage seems nice," she said and checked her bag as if to make sure she had all of her books.
Neville's grandmother had insisted that he take Ancient Runes, because his father had been very good in that subject, but Neville had disobeyed her for once. He had chosen the subjects his friends had chosen; Divination and Care of Magical Creatures. He wasn't so sure that he'd made the right choices though... Professor Trelawney was very odd and Hagrid had introduced a hippogriff that attacked Malfoy... Of course it had been Malfoy's fault, but nonetheless... But Ancient Runes? That was supposed to be a very difficult subject...
"Nice? She looks strange," said Ron who was adjusting the strap on his school bag and sweeping his flaming red hair away from his forehead as he walked. "Well, you've seen her at the staff table - she looks...just weird. Did you see how she glared at Snape this morning?" Ron continued, facing Hermione as they stopped outside the greenhouse. He dropped his bag by his side and leaned up against the wall. His face suddenly lit up and he chuckled. "I think Snape may have met his match this year. Fred and George are taking Runes and they say that she's like a female version of him."
Neville was about to stop by the three friends but almost tripped on a small rock that was sticking out of the ground. He dropped all of his school things; quill, books and an inkbottle, all hitting the ground with a thud. Somehow, and for some reason, the mentioning of his least favourite professor always made him nervous. He wasn't exactly sure why he was so scared of Snape...
Harry immediately bent down to help Neville gather his things. Hermione picked up Neville's quill that had rolled towards her, and handed it to him as he straightened up.
"Well, I'm not going to take Fred and George's word for that. I'm going to decide for myself this afternoon," she answered in a dignified voice and turned back to Ron. "I can't wait to see what she's like."
"Well, it's quite understandable if she doesn't like Snape, I mean who does?" said Ron, pulling a face and letting himself slowly slide down along the wall until he was sitting on the ground. "Anyway, I can't wait for the Defence lesson tomorrow. Fred and George keep going on about Professor Lupin," he said as he tore up some grass and tossed it away.
There was still some time until Professor Sprout would let them inside the greenhouse, so Neville, Hermione and Harry sat down in a circle and started talking about all of the things they'd heard about the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.
Isolde hurried out into the grounds and walked towards the greenhouses. She was in desperate need for knotgrass and hoped that Professor Sprout would have some. She was certain that there would be a stock in the Potions classroom, but under the circumstances, she preferred to avoid that dungeon by all means.
Dumbledore had assured her that the school would provide all potions ingredients she might possibly need, before she accepted the position of the Ancient Runes teacher. She had once before run out of potions ingredients and the result had been devastating! She was very reluctant to cut down her daily doses of the Claresco Potion, even though she had been advised by Dumbledore to do so.
She hastened her steps and burst through the greenhouse door where Professor Sprout was teaching young students. She strode up to Professor Sprout, ignoring the curious looks she got.
"I need knotgrass," she stated curtly and tried to take deep, controlled breaths after her walk.
Professor Sprout widened her eyes and pointed towards the students. "I'm teaching right now, my dear, can't this wait?"
"I really... I need it. Now," Isolde insisted although she tried her very best to sound calm and expressionless, but she was already starting to feel a little light-headed. "Please," she added persistently.
"Very well," Professor Sprout said and put down what looked like one of those modern Self-Snapping Clippers. Professor Sprout buried herself in the shelves and Isolde tried not to look at the students behind her. The silence in the uncomfortably warm greenhouse told her that everyone was watching. From the corner of her eye she saw a red-haired boy elbow a girl with bushy brown hair, and jerk his head in Isolde's direction. The girl rolled her eyes and shook her head, but glanced appraisingly at Isolde after a while.
"Here it is," said Professor Sprout with a smile and produced a jar full of fresh knotgrass. She looked at her pocket watch and then at the students. "Class dismissed."
"Thank you," Isolde said quickly and turned to leave the greenhouse but stopped abruptly, placing her hand on a table for support. She stared at what had to be hallucination... which was rather strange, because the hallucinations hadn't come so early last time...
She stared down at a thin-faced, black haired boy, who was returning her stare and giving her a nervous smile.
"You're..." she started but successfully prevented herself from continuing with the 'supposed to be dead, James,' when she saw his green eyes. She straightened up and pulled herself together. "You must be Harry Potter," she said and continued peering into his eyes. She had been told about his accomplishment as a baby and assumed he was used to people staring at him.
"Yes, I am," he said and fumbled with a leaf of a plant, placed on a table that stood between them.
She quickly broke the eye contact and walked out. How foolish of her to think that she was hallucinating! Dumbledore had told her that Harry Potter was attending Hogwarts.
Isolde hurried to her office and added the knotgrass to the already boiling potion. She stirred for a minute and watched the colour change to a bright yellow one. Feeling very relieved, she measured her dose and drank it in one draught, washing the dreadful taste down with water.
She heard her third year class enter the classroom, which was located next to the office. There were only twenty students in the third year that had signed up for Ancient Runes, so she would be teaching a class of mixed Houses. It was similar with the other years - only one or two classes for each.
Isolde sat down in her chair and relaxed for a bit, feeling the effects of the potion spreading throughout her body. She looked forward to the day she would be free of the potion, but that day seemed to be too far away.
After a minute she gathered her notes and straightened up before walking into the classroom. She scanned the room swiftly after sitting down at her desk; it was a plain room, with bare walls, empty shelves and only the necessities: desks, chairs and a blackboard. She studied the students, who were all watching her intently, before looking down at the name list. As she read the names out loud she eyed each student briefly before reading the next name, trying to remember their faces.
That bushy haired girl was in this class, sitting in the front row. She answered by the name 'Granger, Hermione'.
"Malfoy, Draco..." She looked at Malfoy, a little longer than she'd looked at the others. His white-blond hair seemed to emphasize his paleness and his arm appeared to be bandaged – she assumed as a result of the incident in his first Care of Magical Creature's lesson – Professor Trelawney, who had heard it from Professor Sprout, had very excitedly explained to her what had happened. He didn't appear to quite know what to do and just looked back with determination on his face.
"As you already know, I will be teaching you Ancient Runes this year," she said after reading out the rest of the names. "We will begin by opening our Ancient Runes of the North books to page 11..." she paused and turned to face Malfoy, who had been whispering and sniggering amongst the people that sat closest to him.
"Mr. Malfoy, is there something amusing you'd like to share with the class?" she asked coolly. This must be the son of Lucius Malfoy. The resemblance was uncanny.
"No. Nothing that concerns you," he said with a smirk, glaring defiantly at her.
"It is 'No, Professor' to you and you'll talk to your friends after the lesson, or I'll be forced to deduct points from the Slytherin House. I'm sure your Head of House wouldn't like that very much," she said harshly, standing firmly in her place by the blackboard. "Is that clear?" she added in a cold, steady voice, stressing every word.
Malfoy didn't reply but his expression remained defiant.
Isolde turned to the class again. "This year you'll be studying Nordic Runes and low level magic associated with them. Does anyone in here know the Futhark alphabet?"
The girl, Granger, shot her hand excitedly into the air.
"Yes, Miss Granger. Please write it on the blackboard and explain."
Snape walked into the staffroom seething. "That...Girl" he muttered savagely under his breath as he slammed the door shut behind him. How dare that insufferable know-it-all help Longbottom with his potion!? He had WARNED her not to help him. She had to be punished with more than a few points being deducted since it clearly had no effect on her. How DARE she humiliate him like that in front of his students! And that Longbottom! He had never met a clumsier boy. If his head wasn't attached...
"Is there a problem, Severus?" asked Professor McGonagall who was sitting at the table, reading the Daily Prophet. "You look rather upset."
"No, no problem," Snape snapped before sitting down in a low armchair and staring at the floor. He hadn't noticed anyone when he walked into the room.
He could see McGonagall observing him over her spectacles from the corner of his eye. "By the way," she said, "There's a note from Albus on the table. It's about the staffroom wardr –" She stopped as she was interrupted by Professor Flitwick, who just then stuck his nose through the staffroom door.
"Oh, Minerva, good, you're here," he said in high pinched voice. "Oliver Wood was looking for you, it seemed important...something about the Gryffindor Quidditch robes being out of control after a charm gone wrong..."
"Mr. Wood? Very well," she sighed, "Thank you, Filius," she said and left Snape to his thoughts.
He barely noticed them leaving as he was still angrily regretting that he'd been to too lenient, taking only five points from Gryffindor. A sudden noise distracted his thoughts, however. He looked at the wardrobe at the end of the room, the doorknob of which was rattling violently. "Another student locked in that damn wardrobe!" he snarled to himself irritably as he stood up and wrenched the door open.
He certainly wasn't prepared for what happened next. A woman fell out of the wardrobe and collapsed on the floor. She looked weak and as she turned her head slowly he could see blood running from her mouth. She looked tired, worn out and tears were running down her face into her tangled hair. She seemed to be waiting for something with fear in her eyes and then, from nowhere, he heard a male's voice call out "Crucio!"
Snape took a step backwards, "...no..." he whispered with horror on his face.
The woman on the floor started screaming with pain, her head thrown back and her body stiff. Then he saw a puddle of blood forming on the floor...
Covering his ears, but not being able to tear his eyes away, Snape realized what this was. "Riddikulus!" he tried, but the boggart only crawled backwards, into the wardrobe, still in the form of the woman screaming. Snape took the opportunity and slammed the wardrobe door shut before taking a few steps backwards. Panting he placed his hand on the table and saw the small note from Dumbledore. The words on the note seemed blurry and he tried hard to focus on them.
Attention all staff:
I have granted Professor Lupin permission to take care of the boggart that has moved into the staffroom wardrobe. Please do not dispose of it.
The screaming had stopped. Snape sank back into the armchair, his hands covering his face. It was only a boggart, he thought to himself, but he couldn't get the image, nor the screaming out of his mind. He had tackled boggarts before, but this time it had been different. He associated it with the sleepless nights he'd had since the term started, thinking about the past. He leaned back and tried hard to empty his mind.
A few minutes later the door opened and Lupin entered along with the third year Gryffindor students. Snape sneered at the sight of Neville. "Leave it open, Lupin. I'd rather not witness this," he said before getting up and striding past the class. He turned on his heel in the doorway and said, "Possibly no one's warned you, Lupin, but this class contains Neville Longbottom. I would advise you not to entrust him with anything difficult. Not unless Miss Granger is hissing instructions in his ear."
To his pleasure, Neville's face went scarlet and Harry glared at him resentfully.
Professor Lupin raised his eyebrows and said, "I was hoping that Neville would assist me with the first stage of the operation and I am sure he will perform it admirably."
Snape glared at him and shut the door with a snap, setting off down the corridor at a rapid pace, keen to put distance between himself and the staffroom. At least the encounter with Lupin had managed to put the boggart out of his mind, and at the sight of Neville, he had managed to pick up the thread of his previous thoughts, which occupied his mind for the rest of the day.
Neville added 'powdered bicorn horn' onto his parchment. It was getting late, judging by the lack of daylight, and he still had one foot to go before his extra Potions report was done. It looked messy, written in misshaped letters, with ink specks here and there. He would have to spend extra time on re-writing it before handing it in... Professor Snape would never accept it the way it was now.
He had found this empty classroom to study in since the library had been too crowded. Hermione had promised to help him, so they couldn't be in there anyway. Madam Pince always got so angry when he made the slightest noise.
He heard the door open and close behind him.
"I still have a foot to go, Hermione," he said and sighed. It must have taken him two hours to write the three feet he had finished. For some reason, Hermione hadn't moved away from the door and Neville turned around to see why. But when he had turned, he found himself face to face with the new Ancient Runes teacher, Professor Montage. She stood there in the shadow, wearing black robes, quietly looking at him with a calculative expression.
Neville swallowed the suddenly large amount of salvia that had gathered in his mouth. He remembered what Ron had said about her...that she was like Professor Snape.
She slowly walked towards him, around his desk and peered down at him. Neville did nothing but nervously look back at her, but after a while she examined the items lying on his table; quill, parchment and an inkbottle marked with his name.
"Neville Longbottom, what are you doing in here?" she asked and Neville couldn't help feeling surprised. He had expected the cold, harsh tone she had spoken in, in the greenhouse, but her voice was calm, almost...curious...
"I...I needed to do this extra Potions report for Professor Snape. I have to finish it for tomorrow," he said and looked down on his parchment.
"Extra report?" she asked, pulled out a chair and sat down opposite him. She scanned the report and looked back at him.
"I added the wrong ingredient to my potion yesterday and...Professor Snape got angry, again..."
"And you got punished by getting extra homework?" she asked and looked at his inkbottle again. "Tell me, does the Professor often treat you this...unfairly?" she asked and Neville didn't fail in noticing the change in her tone – it was much colder.
He didn't know how to answer. Yes, he felt that Professor Snape always treated him unfairly, but he could hardly say that to another teacher...
"It's just that I'm not very good at Potions...just like most subjects..." he mumbled and blushed, looking down at the desk. "I...I'm not very good at anything but Herbology. Gran wanted me to learn Ancient Runes, but I don't think I can learn something that difficult..."
"Ancient Runes isn't very difficult," she said and Neville looked at her as he fumbled with a loose thread on his robe.
"Well, Gran says that my father always got top marks in Runes," he said and gave a quick smile, "Hermione says it's very interesting."
"Your parents...are Alice and Frank Longbottom?" she asked after a moment and leaned a little over the desk, gazing at him significantly.
Neville looked at her in surprise. "Yes, Professor...did you know them?" he asked in a hushed voice.
"No, I didn't, but I've heard of them." She looked at him appraisingly for a while before speaking again. "Would you like me to give you some private lessons in Ancient Runes, Neville? It's really no bother, I have too much extra time on my hands."
"I don't know..."
He was curious about the subject that his father had excelled at, but he knew that he couldn't learn it.
"I won't even give you homework, I'll just lend you a book and you can come and talk about it whenever you want to," she said and waited for an answer.
He didn't know what to do, so he nodded and she stood up, walked to her desk and picked up a rather worn out book. "This book describes the runes in a very easy way. I also have some methods that make it easier to remember. Look at the book and come and talk to me when you have questions," she said and gave the book with a supposed smile which didn't reach her eyes.
To be continued in chapter 2 – Poor Defence
I apologize for any grammatical errors – English is not my first language. Also, this is my first fiction, so please bear with me ;)