The Snape in this story has a background story that was a possibility at the end of the Order of the Phoenix, based on the information we had at that point. Since then, the story has been thoroughly canon-shafted, so please consider this Snape part of an alternate universe. The story was fully canon-compatible until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published.
A dark figure huddled in front of a dim fire that barely gave off any heat. Staring into the flickering flames, he thought bitterly about the ugliness of the last few months. It all had ended so suddenly, so unexpectedly - his plans come to nothing, his visions of grandeur destroyed, his dreams shattered like glass . They had died along with the One in whom he had put all his hopes for the future. The One who had promised him a better life, who had waved before him visions of fame, greatness, and glory as the just compensation for fealty. Oh, the dreams he had dreamt.
It was nightmares, now, instead. All that was left was the bitterness of defeat. Always on the run, chased by Aurors, and heaven help him if they found him. Too late had he seen the traitor in their midst. That one. His heart convulsed with hate. He had trusted him, had thought he was on their side all these years, had even looked up to him. Yet all along he was being played for a fool. The traitor had betrayed him, betrayed them all. The Dark Lord was vanquished, and yet that one lived.
That wasn't right, was it? He should have to pay for what he did, shouldn't he? Yes indeed, he should. But how? Simple death was not enough. He would have to figure out something special, some way to not just kill him, but destroy him; a painful and slow end...
As Minerva McGonagall droned on about this year's test results, Professor Severus Snape impatiently tapped the tip of his quill on the parchment in front of him. This was the last staff meeting of the year. After this, there would be blessed freedom – freedom from students, teaching, meetings, lesson plans, and preparation.
There already was freedom from more than one thing – Lord Voldemort was dead, his Death Eaters either in Azkaban, or scattered and in hiding. The last of the by now obligatory crises – what was that now, seven years in a row? – had passed, and he was free; free of the Dark Lord, and free of Harry Potter.
By all that was right, he should have been rid of the boy two years ago. Everyone knew that he only accepted students with no less than an 'O' on their Potions O.W.L. into his N.E.W.T. class. But no, as always, there had been special treatment given to the Potter boy – Dumbledore had called Severus into his office and mildly 'requested' that he allow at least 'E' students to participate in his classes as well, insinuating that his standards were unreasonably high. Strangely enough, the Headmaster had never complained about that in any of the previous years.
Well, that was over and done with, water under the bridge, and the fact that the Potter boy was finally gone for good from his life put the Potions master in a much more charitable mood. In just a few more minutes, he would be free to go and do what he wanted, a whole summer at his disposal. His presence would be required neither by the Order nor among the Death Eaters; his time was finally his own again. Free. He cautiously tried to get his mind around the word. The thought was almost disconcerting. It had been so long.
He looked up as Albus Dumbledore rose and cleared his throat.
"First of all, I want to thank you all for a successful year. In view of all that happened, it is nothing short of a miracle that we managed to finish the school year as planned. All of you have shown outstanding commitment and ability, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
"Before I dismiss you for the summer, let me just touch on a couple of points. Several staff members have brought to my attention that the composition skills of the lower years have been steadfastly declining."
The Potions master snorted softly. The lack of mastery many of the students displayed concerning grammar, structure, and spelling was completely unacceptable. He had let the Headmaster know in no uncertain terms that he could not be expected to teach basic English in addition to drumming the finer points of potion preparation into the dunderheads' skulls. Seemingly, he hadn't been the only one. It was unreasonable to expect that the students would progress on their own in writing skills after entering Hogwarts at the age of eleven. Instruction in the magical arts was certainly paramount, but instilling the ability to write a coherent sentence should not be underestimated, in Snape's opinion.
"...I am delighted to inform you that next school year we will create a new staff position that will add an hour or two of English Composition to the students' schedules," Dumbledore continued. "I assume you all will be pleased with that?"
He looked straight at Severus with that infernal twinkle in his eyes as a smattering of applause broke out across the room. "Please let me know if you know of any candidate suitable for the position. Other than that, there will be no changes; I am overjoyed to report that all the rest of the staff will be returning next year. Please get your supply lists to me no later than August first, and Professor McGonagall will have the new class schedules to you no later than the middle of that month. If that is all then? Any questions?" He paused for a moment with raised eyebrows. "No? Well, then all that is left for me to do is wish all of you a great summer. Enjoy your time off; you have earned it."
A murmur filled the room as teachers and staff stood up, gathered papers and quills, and started shaking hands and saying good-bye to friends and colleagues.
So all the staff would be returning – Severus Snape realized with a bitter smirk that that meant his application for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position must have been rejected yet again. Dumbledore hadn't even had the decency to tell him. He sent an icy glare over towards Remus Lupin, who had filled that position for the last two years. So Lupin would get the job for another year, and as a consolation price, Severus would again get to spend several extra hours in the dungeon every month, whipping up Wolfsbane Potion. And fill in occasionally when the werewolf was indisposed. Terrific.
He stood up with a sigh, gathered his belongings, and said some curt good-byes to those he passed on his way out the door. He let out a deep breath – finished, over, done. Finally. One more unpleasant obligation to get out of the way and he would be free for the summer. Free...
A/N: This story is a densely plotted, twisty-turny tale written with the main goal of of getting Snape to a good place, where he can recognize his own worth and also come to terms with the idea that there are at least a few others who think highly of him. It is also a "proper romance" in that the focus is on romance, getting to know each other, UST, comfort, love, mercy, kindness, and care, and not much at all on what happens in bed. I don't really like reading sex scenes and so I don't like writing them. The rating reflects some violent content/torture scenes.
The St. Comgan chapters are necessary to give Snape the change to get to know someone, even if superficially, without the usual baggage. I believe that without that background, the relationship later would have not stood a chance at all. But we'll be back at Hogwarts before you know it! This story has been nominated for several awards, and I am still proud of it, all these years later. So I hope you read on - leave me reviews if you find distracting typos or lines you really like - I'll fix the first and rejoice in the latter! Thanks so much for reading.