"Professor Morava?"

A voice interrupted her daydream. Marya Morava, newly appointed Ancient Runes mistress at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, snapped back into reality. She had been looking over her lesson plans, getting ready for the coming school year, but on a beautiful summer day like this it was hard to concentrate on the ancient writings.

She looked up to see a house-elf peeking timidly in through the door of her study. "The Headmaster be wanting to see Madam, please. He sents Binky to tell you."

"Please tell him I am on my way."

As the house-elf disappeared, Marya pulled herself up from her chair, and stepped up to the mirror for a cursory check before going to see Albus Dumbledore. Looking back at her was a small woman with dark brown hair, hazel eyes, and a smattering of freckles around her slightly upturned nose. She made a face at herself, and after quickly smoothing down a few unruly strands of hair, started for Dumbledore's office.

The headmaster sat at his desk, reminiscing. It had been a couple of year since he last had seen his god-child – even though her frequent letters kept him well updated on all the going-ons in her life. After her parents had been killed in the first war against the Dark, he had taken on the role of a substitute father figure.

Hardly anyone knew – while still a student, Marya had been dead set against letting anyone in the school in on her relationship with the Headmaster. Not that he could blame her. He had always been available, though, at a distance, there when she needed him, a constant in her life that she could count on.

There was a knock on the door. "Come in!" he called. As the door opened, he held out his arms and she rushed into them, smiling up at him.

"How are you, Marya? You look wonderful, dear. I do hope you are settling in – I'm sorry I haven't had time to meet with you, but regrettably, current events are keeping me quite occupied these days," he said with a rueful grin.

Her face clouded over. The reemergence of Lord Voldemort had brought back so many painful memories – and she had been under orders to do nothing. Wait. Learn. Study. She had worked hard - she had becomes accomplished at Ancient Runes, taking night courses while studying as a Healer, the job she felt would be of value to the Order.

"I've grown up now. Maybe now I can be of more help to you? I'm tired of waiting; there must be something I can do? I'd like to feel like I am doing something to help fight, something of consequence..."

Dumbledore's face turned serious. "Marya, I do have a job for you, something I think you would be perfectly suited for."

Her heart jumped. Finally, she would be able to do more than watch from the side lines.

"You remember Professor Snape?"

Her face must have showed her confusion. Why was he bringing up Snape? Yes, she remembered him – she had taken Potions all the way through to the N.E.W.T. levels, hadn't she? Sneering face, hissing voice, sallow face, the way he mercilessly picked on some (well, most) of his students – oh yes, she remembered him all right, but there was no fondness in her memories. What did Snape have to do with her task?

"Severus Snape does some of the most valuable work for the Order. What he does is dangerous, stressful, and puts a great deal of strain on him. Someone should keep an eye on him, help him out, and see that he takes care of himself. Marya, I would like you to look after his well-being, to be a friend to him, if you will. Believe me, he needs one."

Marya walked away a couple steps and turned her back on Albus. She was seething. Here she was expecting an assignment to help battle the Dark Lord, and what was she asked to do? Baby-sit an aging and unpleasant Potions master? Well, yes, that sounded like a thrilling task, didn't it?

Albus Dumbledore walked up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. "I know that isn't what you had in mind. You are now on staff, and you managed to make it through school without drawing much negative attention from him in class. Quite an accomplishment in and of itself." He chuckled. "That means you are the only one herewho might be able to pull this off. Everyone else has too much of a history with him. I can't say I envy you – he's difficult man. Your job will not be easy. He hasn't let anyone get close to him in years. I assure you though that this is not a trivial task I am setting you – it IS important."

"Can you tell me what he does that is so important, at least?" Marya asked.

"I'm afraid not," Dumbledore answered regretfully. "No one outside of the Order knows – maybe one day, when I think you are ready to join..."

Her shoulders sagging, she turned around and looked at him. Well, if he was ever going to allow her to join the Order, it wouldn't do to turn down the first assignment he offered her, would it? She sighed in acquiescence. "I can't say I like it. But if you feel that is what you need me to do right now..."

"Thank you, Marya." His eyes twinkled. "I felt so confident in our answer that I have summoned him. He should be here any minute."

As if on cue, there was knock on the door. As she turned around, she saw the Potions master enter – and she almost gasped. It had only been three years since she had last run into him while visiting – but he had changed much more than that time warranted. His face looked gaunt and strained. He had always been thin, but now he was skin-and-bones. Deep lines edged his face. There was a strand of grey in his listless, greasy black hair. Maybe Dumbledore had a point.

A/N (added after completion):

This is a fluffy romance of the old fashioned variety (meaning suitable for just about the whole family.) Rating is due to some mild swear words.

This was my first attempt at fanfiction. The quality improves after about chapter 6, I think, and it turned out ok. Let me know if you agree! Luckily, the first few chapters are short. I think I managed to hit quite a few lovely clichés, LOL! I just didn't know any better before then ;-)

Anyways, I am still fond of the story, and hope you will enjoy it, too.

Disclaimer: All recognizable characters and settings are owned by Warner Bros and JK Rowling.