Author's Ramblings: This is my first attempt at Fan Fiction.  It took me a while to write it then a while to get the guts to post it after I began. (I started this October 2000.)  Since it is my first fic, it has an original character, (but believe me, if I had Mary-Sue'd, I would have taken it down.) However, he's original enough that I decided to keep him.  Even though he is related to a main character and tries to steal the limelight, I think I was able to save the story from him, especially towards the end, (and no, I do not do this by simply killing him off). (Listen to me, beating myself up here.)  Anyway, enough of that, enough of the parenthesis, let's just get on with the story.

Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe belongs to J. K. Rowling and Warner Bros. The author does not claim or imply the rights to any item related nor belonging to the Harry Potter universe.

Chapter I

A Cold Beginning

A chilly wind blew down out of the churning dark sky across the small station.  It was the dreariest September first that Harry had ever seen since he had begun at Hogwarts five Septembers ago.  The students all had to brace themselves as they were pounded by the relentless wind and rain.

An early winter.

Hermione looked around nervously to see if the luggage had already been taken in, worrying about Crookshanks in his basket.

It was with numb fingers and rattling teeth that they entered through the main doors.  Peeves greeted them from the inside as perhaps the weather was even too much for him.

"Hawwy Pwotter," said Peeves, doing a somersault.  "Professor Snape's favorite pupil.  Have we a surprise for you!"

"Go away," Harry said drearily.  He was wet, cold, and Professor Snape was the last person he wanted mentioned.

"Go bother the first years," Ron suggested.

"My, my," and Peeves clapped his hands together.  "You'll be delighted too.  Double the trouble!"  With that, he flew off down the corridors and Harry and Ron didn't give him another thought as they entered the warmth of the Great Hall.

They all sat down at the Gryffindor table.  The torches had been lit along with candles in great candelabras at the center of the tables.  The ceiling above was reflecting the black, swirling storm clouds outside.

"I can't believe that the summer is over," Ron contemplated looking up at the ceiling.

"September is still summer, Ron," Hermione piped up.  "Fall does not begin until September twenty-second."

Ron turned to Harry and made a face then turned his attention to the steaming butter beer that had suddenly appeared before them.  "How very nice of the house elves," he commented with an eye on Hermione.

"I hope you two aren't going to be as bad as last year," Harry said, picking up his own mug.

Suddenly, the bench they were seated on gave a jolt as Fred and George slid quickly onto it.  Ron's butter beer sloshed onto his robes.

"Awe, look what you did," Ron said, dabbing at his robes with a napkin.  "This better wash out…"

"You won't believe it!"  George blurted out, completely ignoring his younger brother's complaints.

"We didn't believe it ourselves," Fred added.

"Unless you fed Malfoy a canary cream, I don't care," said Ron, still perturbed.

"No, it's not funny.  It's bad actually," George began.

"Real bad," Fred continued. "But feeding Malfoy a Canary Cream doesn't sound like a bad idea…"

"It's about Snape," said George, interrupting.

Harry lifted his eyebrows as he continued to drink his butter beer.  It was warming him up so well that he didn't want to put down his mug.

"We heard Professor Dumbledore talking about the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor," continued Fred.  "Said that he had a hard time finding one for this year."

"It's Snape!"  George exclaimed.

"Yeah, I think he finally got the job."

Harry suddenly gagged on his butter beer and found himself in the same predicament as Ron.

"Snape? Nooo," Harry moaned.

"I can't believe that Dumbledore would let him."

Harry had to agree with Hermione.  Some how he found it hard to believe that Dumbledore would let an ex-Death Eater take over Defense Against the Dark Arts.  But then again, maybe Dumbledore saw Snape's past experience as an advantage.  Voldemort was back in power and who better to teach how to defend against a Death Eater than one who used to be one himself?  Still, this was bad news.

"Suppose we won't be looking forward to Defense Against the Dark Arts anymore," said Harry as the doors opened at the end of the hall and Hagrid and Professor McGonagall led in the shivering wet first years.

"I wonder who's going to teach Potions," Ron thought out loud.

They looked up at the staff table where there were four empty chairs.  Two belonged to Hagrid and McGonagall and one belonged to Snape—he seemed to be missing.  The fourth had to be for the new Potions master.

The Sorting had already begun and they turned their attention to the Sorting Hat, applauding every time a new Gryffindore stood up from the four-legged stool and joined their table.

"Ron, Harry," Hermione suddenly hissed.

They looked in the direction that she was pointing.  The great doors had opened once again admitting two figures.  After the doors shut, they walked briskly across the grey stone floor.  One of the approaching wizards was unmistakable. Greasy, shoulder length, black hair, sallow skin, and a hooked nose: Professor Severus Snape, the most hated professor of the school. He was wearing deep green robes and his hallmark black cloak swished ominously as he walked.  Usually seen alone glaring at students or his fellow professors, he was surprisingly in deep conversation with the wizard who had entered the hall with him.

No one had ever seen the tall and thin wizard before.  To begin with, he was markedly younger.  He probably was not more than twenty.  His hair was thick, jet-black and tied back into a ponytail that fell down past his waist.  It was bound with several big silver rings, and might have been admittedly impressive if not so incredibly greasy.  He was slightly pale but yet, standing next to Snape, he was somewhat handsome.  His robes were black with silver knot work trim, and his cloak was extraordinary.  It was blood red and trimmed heavily around the collar with thick grey fur.  A heavy silver serpent served as a clasp.  He seated himself at the staff table next to Snape and began to examine the goblet and hollowware set before him, all the while nodding at what Snape was saying.

It was then that they noticed something even more interesting about the stranger than his long hair or lavish robes.  He held in his long, thin fingers, an odd type of staff.

"Oh my," Hermione was first to comment on it.  "I never thought I'd see it.  I mean, it's not suppose to exist anymore."

"What is?"  both Ron and Harry asked, though they were all staring at the staff, which had a stone fastened to the top that seemed to be putting off a soft blue glow.

"He's got the Mage's Staff of Orkney."

"Huh?" was Ron's response.

"What's a mage's staff?"  asked Harry.

"It's…well, it's like a wand," Hermione explained, "but much more powerful.  It doesn't require you to use words.  There's only been a few ever made in history."

"Sounds great," said Ron.  "Great for Charms class, I bet.  Where can I get one?"

"You wouldn't want one," Hermione stated quickly.  "They tend to kill most of those who try to use one.  That's why so many of those made have been destroyed.  That and the fact that once you successfully use a mage's staff, you're bound to it for life. They were seen as too much of a burden.  It was a mark of someone extremely powerful with magic up through the seventeenth century.   By the seventeen hundreds, there weren't many left and the idea of completely dedicating your life to magic became a little absurd—as a master of a mage's staff you can't get married.  The type of power that it creates in your body is just so strong that it would affect any children they had.  The child wouldn't be able to survive unless the staff was given immediately to them—even then, it might kill them.  Also, the only way to get one is to be apprenticed to a wizard who has one then pass it down. The only exception is to make one, which is impossible now because the Philosopher's Stone is needed.  One of the components in the crystal of the staff is the elixir of life."

"Sounds like a dull life," said Ron.

"So that staff, where did it come from?  How many are there?"

"There were seven made.  The only one left is supposedly in Gringotts, and that one was made in Russia.  The Staff of Orkney was made by Merlin up in the Orkney Isles."

"Hermione!" Ron exclaimed. "Can you be anymore brainy?  How do you know all this?"

"From Muggle Studies," she said simply.  "In the muggle world, wizards are usually shown with a staff, not a wand and it's because of the traditional image of Merlin.  There was a side note about the staffs in our text."

Ron rolled his eyes.

"Wow, did you notice that professor?"  Neville Longbottom asked suddenly.

"No, Neville, we haven't," Ron said sarcastically.

"We were talking about his staff," Harry said more kindly.

Neville's eyes widened.  "Is that a real wizarding staff, Harry?"

"Hermione seems to think so."

"Oh," Neville whispered.  They all noticed that Neville had turned deathly pale.

"What's wrong?"  Hermione slowly asked.

Neville gulped.  "Wha-what's the chance of there being two, two wizards with wizarding staffs?"

The question took them all by surprise but they didn't have time to question for the sorting hat had completed its job for the year and Professor Dumbledore had stood up.

"The beginning," he said, "of another year."  His voice, Harry noticed, had slightly taken on the raspy tone of an old man. "May I begin by saying that I have great faith in all of you."  Dumbledore's eyes seemed to twinkle as he scanned the sea of young faces; it vanished, however, when his gaze fell upon Draco Malfoy and the Slytherin table.

"Last year was a very difficult year for many of us and I wish that I could say that this year is going to be easier, but I don't think it will.  Troubled times are dawning and will not go away quickly nor easily.  There were numerous murders over the summer, of both muggles and wizards.  Though the papers failed to say, these were in fact linked to Voldemort.  One paper, in particular, went so far as to blame a string of muggle murders on Sirius Black."  Harry saw that Dumbledore's eyes met his and he wished more than ever that he didn't spend his summer months so cut off and distant from the wizarding world. "Those allegations were false.  Others and I have been laboring hard these past two months on following Voldemort's trail. "It pains me to tell you this, but I must.  There may come a time in the future when you must make some important decisions.  It may even be a decision that involves going against authority.  There will not always be someone to guide you.  You must base your decisions upon what you have learned here and most importantly, what you feel is right.  Always seek the truth.  I may not always be here to give it to you."  Dumbledore paused, again surveying all of the students but this time with a more solemn expression.  He looked down, removed his spectacles and massaged the bridge of his crooked nose.  When he replaced his glasses, his face looked brighter.

"On a more positive note, Quidditch games will resume this year and we have a new professor, very skilled in Quidditch, I might add, who I will introduce to you shortly, that will be overseeing the duties of Madam Hooch until she returns in the Spring term."

Harry quickly exchanged glances with Fred and George.

"And that brings me to an introduction," Dumbledore continued.  "We have yet another Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor..."

The stranger's face broke into a slight smile at this.

"Your new Professor who has come all the way from Durmstrang—and it seems that he has brought the weather with him. Professor Salazar Snape will be your new…"

But Dumbledore was drowned out by an enormous applause from the Slytherin table.  Harry watched as Draco Malfoy banged his goblet on the table and then stood up.  The other Slytherins filed suit.