Author's note: Hey, everyone! This is my first fanfic, so please give feedback! If I'm doing something wrong I want to know about it, so I can fix it and not do it again. Thank you to my beta, moonrevel, who is awesome.
Disclaimer: Don't own any of it. Really wish I did, though, 'cause then I'd be J. K. Rowling and I would be a filthy rich genius.Chapter One: First Night
Severus Snape stared at the stone ceiling of his bedchamber and cursed his mind for being overly active. His mind knew that the only way he would be able to teach the next day was with sleep, and yet it refused to let him have any. His long hair was a greasy mess from tossing and turning for what seemed like hours, and the comfort of the freshly-laundered duvet and sheets seemed to mock his restlessness.
He was remembering the whispers that had traveled through the Great Hall when Minerva introduced him as the "new" Potions teacher. The looks of fear and hatred that had been shot his way had killed any appetite he had possessed at the time, and he had spent the rest of the feast staring at his half-finished food and wondering if he would ever shake the epithet of murderer.
His mind went to the flask of Sleeping Draught that was in a cupboard in his office. A small dose, just this once… No. You know what lies down that road. A small dose "just this once" led to the same the next night, and the one after, until it was impossible to sleep without it. Sleeping Draught was out of the question. He had dealt with addictions in the past and had no desire to repeat the experience.
With an oath, Snape sat up. He glared at the bare stone walls of his room, taking in the sparse furnishings and cold fireplace. Perhaps a walk through the castle would clear his head- or at least tire him out a bit. Raking his fingers through his hair, he got out of bed, slid his feet into his slippers, and reached for the black silk dressing-gown that hung on the back of the door. Unfortunately, it snagged on the wrought-iron hook that it hung on, and he nearly ripped out the collar as he yanked at it. Jerking it on with ill grace, he grabbed his wand from his nightstand and shoved it in his pocket. No sense going anywhere unarmed, especially after the animosity he had felt from the student body earlier.
Severus slipped out into the cold stone hall that led to his dungeon room. He needed no light to find his way along the dark corridor and up the stairs that led to the main hall, having walked the way countless times since his appointment as Potions master at Hogwarts.
The chill of the dungeon hall soothed him, and he ran his long fingers along the stone walls, feeling the patterns of cracks, bumps and crevices. His slippers found the worn shallows of the stairs where many footsteps over hundreds of years had worn a path down to the dungeons, (and, presumably, back up again). These cold, damp, musty-smelling corridors had been his sanctuary as a student and were now his kingdom as a teacher.
But even thick stone walls could not protect him from his past.
Suddenly, Severus found only empty air beneath his fingertips. That and a sudden freshening of the air and a feeling of open space told him that he was in the Entrance Hall. A susurrus of soft breathing, punctuated by the occasional snore, reminded him of the moving portraits that adorned the walls of Hogwarts, all of whom were now sleeping.
He never really thought he would be back at Hogwarts, teaching Potions- especially after what happened with Dumbledore. But a posthumous look through the Pensieve at the trial had saved Snape's life, as the jurors watched the memories which detailed his true role in the war against Voldemort. Fully acquitted, he had gone back into the world with his head held high, only to find that no one wanted to hire a former Death Eater. When Minerva had come to him with the offer of his old job at Hogwarts, he had been close to destitution and in no position to refuse.
He caught himself going over his own past, and allowed himself a wry smile. If he didn't want to spend all his time thinking about what had happened, he was going to need a diversion- perhaps a particularly Potter- or Longbottom- like student to torment.
A glimmer of light where there should have been darkness interrupted his reminiscing. Peering down the hall, he noticed that one of the huge, wooden doors to the Great Hall was open and dim light was spilling out. There was a man-shaped shadow on the floor, and as Severus approached he saw that someone was leaning against the doorframe- a tall man, though not as tall as Severus, with ragged hair and a posture that suggested weariness. Suddenly, the man cocked his head, as though he had heard something, and turned towards Severus.
Damn. It was Remus Lupin. Of all the people to run into during a bout of insomnia, it had to be a werewolf.
Severus considered the appearance of the other man as he advanced down the hall. Remus' dressing-gown looked to be in slightly better shape than the rest of his robes, but it was still patched in a few places, and his slippers had holes in the toes. It had not been an easy few years for werewolves, no matter which side of the war they fought on, and Remus was sporting more grey hair and less weight than he used to. Like Severus, the opportunity to take up his old job at Hogwarts had been the only employment he could find.
Remus smiled slightly, and pressed a finger to his lips, inclining his head towards the interior of the Great Hall. Wondering what the hell the man was playing at, Severus stalked towards him as quietly as he could, and as he neared, he became aware of a voice, singing in a lovely soprano. He reached the doorway, ignoring Remus' amiable nod, and looked inside the Great Hall.
A girl stood in the center of a circle of conjured flames, their blue light flickering off her waist-length blonde hair. She was short, but curvaceous, as was revealed by the blue, form-fitting tank top she wore, along with blue flannel pajamas. Her feet were bare, though if she was bothered by the cold stone floor, she showed no signs of it.
But it was her voice which caught Snape's attention; a clear, lyric soprano which she was currently using to sing a sparkling Italian song. Of all the genres of Muggle music in the world, the only one he really cared for was opera. It was complex and had to be done just right for it to work- much like potions, come to think of it. Half closing his eyes, he just listened. Pure tone, he thought. Shimmery, almost delicate, but not breathy. Although anyone who knew him would laugh at the idea, Severus had a deep appreciation for a beautiful voice, and this one had him enthralled. He winced slightly when she hit a flat note, but she continued without pause, gliding over the mistake.
A tap on his shoulder broke his reverie. Startled, and trying to hide it, he looked at Remus, who stepped to the side of the door, beckoning. Reluctantly, Snape followed him until they were about ten feet away from the door, at which point Remus stopped and turned to him.
"Good evening, Severus," he said in that irritating mild manner of his, a slight smile on his face. "It is… unsettling being back, is it not?" His calm, tired eyes met Snape's, silently asking an uncomfortable question.
Snape would not have admitted for the world that it felt uncomfortable to be back teaching potions at Hogwarts, and that seeing Minerva seated in what had been Dumbledore's chair was even more so. Instead he silkily replied, "Actually, Remus, returning to the place where I taught for sixteen years is not unsettling. Encountering a werewolf prowling the school at night, on the other hand, is." He crossed his arms and leaned back a little, watching Remus for a reaction to the insult, but a resigned look was all he got. Deciding that he had all year to bait the other man about his lycanthropy, Snape changed the subject. "Who's the nightingale?" he asked, inclining his head towards the Great Hall.
Remus shrugged. "Unfortunately, having arrived only today, I don't know any of the students. I assume you're in the same predicament?" he added, raising an eyebrow in inquiry.
Snape glared at him. "So it would seem," he replied, coldly.
A slight sigh escaped Remus. "Ah, well. It can't be helped. Shall we?" He indicated the Great Hall with an arm.
Snape did not deign to reply, but simply swept past him. He heard Remus follow.
When the two men again reached the doorway, they were brought up short by what they saw. As the girl sang, images swirled in the air in front of her. The ballad described the tale of a wounded knight who needed a witch to heal him, and it was being played out in bold, flowing streaks of blue. Glittering blue lines illustrated the song, flowing easily from one scene to another, but always keeping to a simple, almost primitive, style. Snape reflected that, because of the simple style of the pictures, one could watch the images, but still be able to listen to the song.
As the final images (the knight riding away over the horizon), faded with the last notes of the song, Remus began to applaud. The girl gasped, and whirled around, raising her wand. As her eyes took in two professors standing in the doorway, Snape saw her lips form what looked like, "Oh, bugger."
Remus walked towards her, still applauding softly. Snape followed, watching the girl's eyes flick back and forth between him, Remus, and the door to the entrance hall.
Remus came to a halt in front of the girl, who was flushing slightly but met his eyes. She was pretty by most standards; full lips, big eyes, fair skin, but with a strong nose that prevented her from looking like a porcelain doll.
"Er…I'll just add a detention to my schedule, shall I, sirs?" she said, her mouth curling into a weak smile that revealed one or two crooked teeth. Severus was surprised at her low, throaty voice- given the singing he had just heard, he had expected it to be high and fluty.
"Two, if you continue to be impertinent," he snapped, waspishly, before Remus could respond with something annoyingly understanding. The other man shot him a look, frowning slightly at what he no doubt considered to be unnecessary sharpness, and turned back to the girl, giving her a slight smile.
"I'm afraid so, Miss…?" he said, trailing off.
"Cupris. Sasha Cupris," she answered, shifting her weight uncomfortably under the gaze of the two men.
"Well, Miss Cupris, while you have a beautiful singing voice, this is neither the time nor the place to practice it. You should be in bed," Remus said, gently reproving her. She turned slightly pink and looked at the floor. "I do have a question to ask you, however." She glanced back up at him, meeting his kind, brown eyes. "What was the spell you used to produce the images during that ballad? I have never seen it before."
Sasha looked startled that a professor, especially one who had just given her detention for being out of bed, would ask this of her. "Er, well, you wouldn't have seen it before, sir, because I created it." She glanced at Remus, and, seeing the encouraging look on his face, continued. "It's just a piece of magic that reacts with the images my mind produces when I think of the words. The magic takes its form from those images, and so illustrates the song," With a slight grin, she added, "It's what I did during History of Magic in my fourth year."
"Fascinating," Severus interjected, dripping sarcasm. "Unfortunately, inventing a spell to make pretty pictures does not excuse you from being in trouble. What house are you in?"
Snape raised a black eyebrow. "Given that, I am surprised that you chose this place as a nighttime conservatory. It has a central location, and there are any number of reasons why a teacher would visit it at night. Not a particularly clever choice, if you wanted to remain undiscovered. Ten points from Ravenclaw, for unaccountable foolishness," he added, smirking at the abashed look on her face. "And I suggest, for your own good, that you not concoct spells during my class."
For a moment she stared at the floor, and then she looked up at him.
Brilliant green eyes filled Severus' vision, and he felt time stop. He sank into their depths and found himself in her mind, seeing himself through her eyes.
Tall, imposing, maybe even a little intimidating. That hooked nose gave him a hawkish look, but it was not quite unattractive. Add those glittering black eyes and curtains of long, black hair and he was rather striking…
Severus yanked himself out of the girl's mind, his own reeling from the fact that she didn't find him terrifying or repulsive, but almost attractive. Hastily, he studied her face for any sign that she had noticed his brief use of Legilimency, but he saw nothing that would indicate that- no fear, no confusion or shock.
A moment later, Remus' soft, hoarse voice broke in, drawing both of their gazes.
"Severus, I believe the Ravenclaw dormitory is between here and your quarters. Would you be so good as to escort Miss Cupris there? I'm afraid I was distracted,"- here he shot an amused look at Sasha, - "from my earlier goal, and therefore have not acquired the hot chocolate I was craving," Remus said, mild as ever, turning his head to look at Snape.
Still off-balance from what he had found in her mind, Snape didn't trust his voice to hold at that moment; so he nodded curtly, turned on his heel, and strode towards the door. He heard quick footsteps behind him, and smirked as he pictured the petite girl half-jogging to keep up with his long strides. He made no effort to slow down, and even increased his speed up the staircases that led to her dorm. A few of the lighter sleepers among the portraits awoke at his footsteps, and their scolding followed him as he walked
He kept up his swift pace all the way to the section of wall that guarded the entrance to the Ravenclaw Tower. When he finally stopped and looked back at Cupris, she was about fifteen feet behind him. Panting slightly, she stopped next to him, and he caught the faintest scent of sweat coming from her. After catching her breath, she approached the stone wall and knocked on it.
A regal female voice inquired, "Which is the more dangerous, a perfect archer or an unsure one?"
Cupris seemed to consider this for a moment and then said, "An unsure one, for you cannot dodge something if you can't predict where it will strike."
"An acceptable answer," the voice replied, and the wall swung inwards, revealing a large, sparsely furnished common room with huge, arched windows that looked out over the now- darkened grounds. A small fire crackled in the fireplace, but the air smelled of light incense, not smoke. Cupris turned back to Severus and said, "Goodnight, sir." Severus sneered in reply, turned on his heel, and left as swiftly as he had come.