The Nightie stands at the entrance to her fic, cloak billowing and badly-dyed hair blowing madly around her face as she stretches out her hands and wails "Beware of the SPOILERS! Turn back, all ye who DO NOT KNOW!" before vanishing into the night, cackling like the am-dram queen she is.

Ahem. Do excuse me. The morons will keep trying to blow my city up.

Disclaimer: All Joanne's. I'm just undoing all her hard work.

Severus was sitting on the back doorstep, coffee in one hand and a Daily Prophet in the other, enjoying a few minutes of August sunshine before that drivelling flobberworm of a wizard, Wormtail, ceased snoring and began his daily round of irritating Old Snivellus. It was too bad, he grimaced. Surrounded by nauseating adolescents and Albus' hand-picked collection of staff room freaks all year, then instead of his blessed few summer weeks of solitude and independence, the Dark Lord foists the whiniest, most drivelling excuse for a Death Eater upon him. In his own house, too! It was too much to be borne.

He liked spending his holiday in the house in Spinner's End. Scoursby had been a thriving little town, existing because of, and in order to run Batworth's cotton mill. There had been the Women's Institute (Tuesday nights), Batworth's Brass Band (rehearsals on Wednesdays), the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides (Thursdays, in separate ends of the Working Men's Club), and all manner of things centred around the church, organised by the Rev. Burns and his wife, Ivy. The Weavers' Arms pub mopped up all those more interested in beer-related activities.

Then one Friday, out of the blue, Batworth's had closed down. Severus had been small, but he remembered the whole town standing in little knots in the streets, talking in shocked, low voices about 'cheap foreign competition' and 'a slump in the market'. Without the mill, Scoursby had no reason to exist, and the workers' families gradually drifted away, seeking jobs in Barnsley or Wakefield, or even emigrating, like Snape's friend Stanley's family. He smiled at the memory of Stanley. They had both been kicked out of the Cub Scouts at the age of seven when Akela's (1) cap had mysteriously turned into a cowpat whilst he was berating the terrible twosome for misbehaving during the Spring Jamboree. Not the best bit of uncontrolled childish magic, but it had been amusing at the time.

So the town had gradually emptied, only a few families hanging on in the mistaken belief that a market fluctuation might change their fortunes and reopen the mill. The Snapes had been one of them. Tobias had been a foreman, a rather pompous factory-floor overseer, and had always been quick to remind the ordinary hands that Snapes had been working at Batworth's since the mill had been founded in 1826. The closure had shocked him to the core, having been unable to imagine any other kind of life.

Eileen had pleaded with him to move the family away. Why not try Sheffield? She suggested. There was rumoured to be plenty of jobs at the Tetley's brewery in Leeds, too. Or what about the wizarding world? She could get a job in Diagon Alley while they waited for him to get work. He had raged and stormed, broken the crockery, pinned her to the wall by her throat in his hopeless frustration.
'No wife of mine will go to work while I sit idle!'

The phrase was engraved on Severus' mind forever – the terrifying first time that his father had lost the plot. Even at the age of nine, Toby's lack of logic had disgusted him. The family had never been wealthy, but there had always been enough for plenty of food and books. Those mysterious and glamorous cousins, the Princes, had plenty of money. Being a wizard seemed to pay very well. He was acutely aware of his inferiority in their eyes, being sneered at every Christmas and mocked for his ignorance of their world, but who cared about that? They were fascinating creatures. Surely they could just magic up a job for Dad with one wave of a wand? Why couldn't the family just leave Scoursby like everyone else's had? Not one of his friends was left now, the place was downright creepy. He would have to get used to solitude.

Surveying the ghost street from his vantage point on the step as a fully-qualified, thirty-nine year-old wizard, he rather liked the deserted place. Too out of the way to be redeveloped, the town had been left to crumble. There was no chance of anyone seeing him, either wizard or muggle. He could walk across the cobbles and along the half-choked river, stroll around the crumbling mill, its gargantuan chimney still dominating the skyline; then rest undisturbed here, in the terraced house where he had been born.

The bustle of Hogwarts and the reality of his precarious role in the new war were no nearer to him now than those long-lost evenings with Stanley in their little cub scout uniforms.

On owl was perching nervously on the roof of the tumbledown outbuilding which had once been the outside privy. A highly distasteful memory of having to break the ice in the winter surfaced before he could damp it down. No wonder the pampered witches and wizards at school never understood him. In a cosy world full of warming charms, how could they ever understand the sufferings of muggle families, helpless in the face of the freezing elements for four months every year? One Yorkshire winter without magic would wipe out the whole lot of them. But he had magic now. Thank Merlin, thank Reverend Burns' God, thank Lord Baden-Powell or anyone else out there, he had his magic. His relatively comfortable life.

He beckoned the owl, which hooted in apparent annoyance at having to enter a place like this, and took the letter from its outstretched leg. Dumbledore's writing. He glanced over his shoulder, checking for Wormtail's loathsome, simpering presence before breaking the seal.

The coffee cup hit the weed-strewn concrete of the little yard and shattered quietly. Snape blinked as he read the letter. Then blinked again, and re-read it.

Dear Professor Snape,

Thank you for your application for the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.

We are pleased to be able to offer you the job, starting 1st September.

Please confirm your acceptance by return of owl.

Yours sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Supreme Mugwump, etc., etc.

P.S. Well done, my boy. I wonder if you would be so kind as to join me for a spot of tea this afternoon. No lemon drops, I promise. AD x

He had been waiting for this letter for the past fifteen years, but now it was clutched in his trembling hand the expected wave of elation never came. Perhaps it was because of the sudden Bones and Vance murders, which he should have known about before the fact, or the failed negotiations leading up to the bridge massacre. Or perhaps because of last week's scare when a demented Dobby had appeared in his bedroom screaming that Albus was dying of the Creeping Smoulder and Poppy was incapable of helping him. He had been able to save the Headmaster's life, but it had been an alarmingly close shave.

Albus was mortal, just like the rest of them. Though he had always known it at the back of his mind, the shock of almost losing him had pushed Snape's life slightly off kilter. The wizarding world without Dumbledore would be like Scoursby without Batworth's. If the central pillar, the source of light and life were removed, what would happen then? Would people stand in the street, repeating the same whispered rumours over and over because no one knew what else to do?

He realised that these sensationalist musing were getting him nowhere. Repairing the mug, he stood and went back inside to write his reply to the very much alive headmaster. Unable to conceal a smile, he picked up his quill and began to write. Finally! His greatest talent had been recognised, after years of having to sit by as assorted imbeciles fudged their way through the subtlest science and most exact art of them all. Now there was no Lucius Malfoy or Sirius Black to try and dominate him, no more life-threatening potions incidents from Longbottom and (Hallelujah!) no Weasley twins to wreak havoc in the castle.

He could feel Change hovering in the air. The coming year would be his greatest moment yet. He just knew it.


A/N: Another of my rambling attempts to assimilate the new information. I was absolutely thrilled to get such amazing feedback from 'Twinkling of an Eye'! 33 reviews in the first 24 hours! You're such nice people. A huge thank you to everyone who was so supportive! I hope everyone can keep going with their WIPs, and at the same time find interesting new muses from HBP.

(1) Akela – is the title used by scout leaders in the UK, after the alpha wolf in Kipling's 'The Jungle Book'. I always meant to use the name in connection with Remus, but never got round to it. Couldn't resist the image of a mini-Severus in cub scout uniform! Aw!

It was pretty obvious to me that Spinner's End was in a run-down Northern manufacturing town, so I'm assuming that one of Snape's many tasks in concealing his origins was losing a broad Yorkshire accent! By 'eck! Incidentally, if anyone fancies writing 'The Full Toby', where Severus' dad has an entirely different reaction to being out of work, then please go for it. I think we all need a laugh.

Love SN x