I don't own Harry Potter or any of the characters (besides Morgana). They all belong to J.K. Rowling.
A/N: being the non-spoiler person I am, let's assume HBP never happened. Hard to do, I know, but this is taking place in Harry's 6th year. I wrote bits and pieces of it before HBP came out, so there. And I don't know if Morgana would have been accepted at Hogwarts as a student, being what she is, but I rely heavily on the HP Lexicon and I couldn't find anything to say that she wouldn't have been accepted, so I just assumed she would have been. R&R!
CHAPTER ONE: THE NEW PROFESSOR
Another welcome back feast, another Sorting song, and another migraine shooting through his left temple weren't making Severus Snape a happy man. Not that he ever was a happy man, unless he was in the middle of making Harry Potter's life hell. But the loud cheering of the students as first years were sorted into their appropriate houses, and the continuing clamor of cups and utensils clanging against the wooden tables of the Great Hall were drilling into Snape's brain at an incredibly uncomfortable rate.
"Severus, is everything alright?" the headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, asked from his place in the middle of the head table.
Snape nodded and pinched the bridge of his nose, willing the pain searing through his cranium to stop. This must be what Potter feels when he gets those visions from the Dark Lord, he mused. Of course, this thought only angered him even more, and the feeling that his head was going to explode heightened.
"Professor, are you sure you're okay?" Madam Hooch, the flying instructor and Quidditch referee, asked in a concerned tone.
"Yes, I'm fine, thank you," Snape replied in a biting tone. He stared down at the food in front of him and pushed it away; he needed some tea and one of his Migraine Potions.
"Who do you reckon the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is going to be?" Ron Weasley asked thickly, for he had just taken a rather large bite of chocolate éclair.
"I haven't heard anything about it yet," Hermione Granger answered. "And I don't see any new faces at the table."
"I hope that doesn't mean Snape finally nailed it," Harry Potter hissed. "It's bad enough he teaches a class that he could easily poison us in; I would rather not be forced to be in a class where he could easily curse us as well."
"Well, if he had, there would be a new Potions Master, wouldn't there?" Hermione said as she continued to look up at the staff table.
"Maybe they're late," Ron suggested. "Wouldn't be the first time; Moody was late the first night too, remember?"
"Probably on account of Crouch having to take the Polyjuice Potion," Harry said darkly, turning to glare up at Snape. "Ha, he looks like he's ready to throw up."
This was quite true. From where the Trio was sitting, Snape's usually pallid face had taken on a sickly ash color and he wasn't touching his food. Professor Dumbledore seemed to be mildly concerned, for every few moments his eyes would drift over to the Potions Master before turning back to his conversation with Professor McGonagall.
"I wonder what's wrong with him," Hermione said in a slightly concerned voice.
"Who cares?" Harry snapped. "He deserves it, whatever it is."
Hermione sighed and opened her mouth to say something, but whatever it was never escaped her lips, for at that moment the huge oak doors of the Great Hall swung open, and the hall went silent. Students craned their necks and kneeled on the hard wooden benches, trying to get a better look at who had interrupted dinner.
Standing in the doorway in an impatient pose was a tall witch with dark, flowing hair and a sparkling gold hat. She wore a brown frock that clung to her shapely body and an amber robe that trailed behind her and squared out her shoulders (in Harry's opinion, it looked like a blazer with rather long tails). Her eyes were dark and rather bloodshot, like she hadn't slept in weeks, her lips were painted a deep red, and her pale skin seemed to shimmer.
A smirk tugged at her mouth as she said, "Sorry I'm late. Got held up at the gates." Her voice was rich and full of life, yet laced with attitude.
"I'm pleased to see you made it safe," Dumbledore said from the staff table. "Please, join us. Mr. Filch will take your things to your room."
The scraggly caretaker limped over to the elegant witch and began to pull the trunks towards the staircase back in the entrance hall. The newcomer watched him carefully for a moment before striding along the middle aisle to the head table.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione, along with the rest of the school, watched in silence as she passed the Slytherin table, her eyes twinkling as she looked them over.
"Who do you think she is?" Ron asked in a whisper.
"I'll give you two guesses," Hermione said sarcastically.
Harry grinned, but watched the head table as the witch looked daggers at Professor Snape, who seemed only too happy to reciprocate. She took a seat between Professor Sinistra, the Astronomy teacher, and tiny Professor Flitwick, the Charms instructor.
After the tables were magically cleared, Professor Dumbledore rose up and waited patiently for the hall to quiet down. "Another year begins. Welcome back to those who have been with us, and welcome to those who have just joined us," he began, smiling out at the students. "I have a few start of term announcements to deliver. First off, because the list of banned items has grown so extensively over the past few years, and we have a short amount of time remaining tonight, I would ask that all of you check your house bulletin boards for a complete inventory of items that have been forbidden by Mr. Filch." He paused for a moment as many of the students suppressed giggles.
"Secondly, considering recent events that I'm sure you are all aware of, new security measures have been put in place to ensure your protection. Please do not be out roaming the corridors after curfew, and do not sneak out onto the grounds in the middle of the night." He glanced over at Harry as he said this, smiling at the young man. "And finally, I am pleased to introduce to you Professor Morgana Cimmerii, who will be filling the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
He could feel Severus' glare as Morgana stood and nodded her head to the clapping of the students. He smiled as she took her seat again, and said, "And now, as I am sure many of you are beginning to feel the lull of drowsiness from the feast, you are dismissed."
The staff watched as the students hurried to the door and funneled out into the hallway, on the way to their respective dormitories. Several of the professors continued chatting amongst themselves as they rose and made their way to the entrance hall.
"I trust your journey went well, Morgana," Dumbledore said lightly. "Lemon drop?"
Morgana smiled. "No, thank you. And yes, it was rather comfortable. I dropped one of my trunks at the gate and it burst open; that's why I arrived late," she explained as she walked with him into the expansive hall.
"And I trust you received your class lists and have your lessons planned out for tomorrow?" he asked as he popped a lemon drop into his mouth.
"Yes, sir. Everything is all prepared," she answered calmly.
"And we won't be having any problems with…" Dumbledore's voice trailed and he raised an eyebrow at the young witch.
"No, sir. I have a trunk with more than enough for the year. I need to keep it cold, though, so it stays fresh…Perhaps one of the unused dungeons?" Morgana asked, pausing in front of the grand marble staircase.
"Perhaps, but for now, I would suggest ice," Dumbledore said cheerily. He noticed Severus lurking at the bottom of the dungeon staircase and added, "Now, I must run. I will see you tomorrow morning, Professor."
"Good night, sir," Morgana said, turning to the stairs. "And thank you for the job!"
Snape watched Dumbledore wave to Morgana and descend the stairs before stopping in front of him, obviously waiting for Snape to begin ranting about the new professor. "Yes, Severus?" he asked calmly.
Snape sighed. "Sir…you realize what Miss Cimmerii is capable of doing–"
"Severus, I trust Miss Cimmerii as completely as I trust you. I am fully aware of what she could do to the students, and I am confident that she is capable of restraining herself," Dumbledore stated with a hint of annoyance in his voice.
You're the one that hires all these half-breeds, Snape thought. "Yes, sir, but even half-vampires can sometimes be tempted," he whispered.
Dumbledore's cheery blue eyes bored into Snape's cold black ones. "I trust her, Severus. And I forbid you to 'let slip' the nature of Miss Cimmerii's condition as you did with Remus'," he instructed, pointing a long finger at Snape. "She knows more about you than you would like to think."
Snape glared at the headmaster and clenched his fists around the sleeves of his robe. "Good night, Headmaster," he hissed, turning on his heel.
"Good night, Severus," the old man's voice echoed down the dungeon corridor.
Snape slammed the door of his office and sunk down into the uncomfortably hard chair behind his desk. Why in the world would Dumbledore be foolish enough to trust someone who was half vampire? It was insanity! She could be working for the Dark Lord, sent to spy on the school…or sent to spy on him and make sure he was doing his job of spying on the school. It was bad enough that he had to use every ounce of his energy to close his mind from the Dark Lord, who was one of the most skilled Legilimens in the world. The consequences would be horrible should he ever find out Snape was a double agent.
Snape ran a pale hand through his oily black hair and sighed. His migraine hadn't settled down yet and it was pointless to continue worrying at that hour. He would deal with Miss Cimmerii when the time came. Rising out of his seat, he left the dark office and descended further into the dungeons to his rooms, well concealed from the prying eyes of curious students as nothing but a blank wall between an empty candle holder and a muddy tapestry.