Book 1: Chapter 1
It was early in the evening when two first year students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry were on their way to see gamekeeper Hagrid. They were hoping that a nice cup of tea in the company of the gentle giant would be a refreshing end to their first week at Hogwarts.
"I really don't know what his problem is," complained Harry.
"What? Who?" Ron asked.
"Snape! Really, I mean what could I have done in only a week here that could make him hate me so much?"
"I don't think its worth worrying about Harry. Fred and George say he's got it in for anyone who's not in Slytherin."
"Yeah, well still. I think we've got to watch ourselves with him. There's something that just doesn't feel right."
As the two boys made their way across the grounds to Hagrid's hut they heard two loud cracks off in the distance. They looked up where the sounds had come from, somewhere just beyond the gate marking the boundary of the school. Before they could decide what to make of it, the large gates swung open and two figures walked through. Harry could see the unmistakable outline of Professor Dumbledore as he led a second person up the grass towards Hogwarts. They appeared deep in conversation as they walked and seemed not to notice the two small boys nearby until they suddenly altered course straight for Harry and Ron.
As they came closer Harry could make out that the second figure was a woman. She was a lot shorter than Dumbledore but could match him stride for stride seemingly without effort. She had black hair that was tied into a pony tail that just reached her shoulder; she was dressed all in black except for a plain silver necklace that shone brightly on top of her tight black cape. Harry suddenly had horrible visions that he was about to meet the female version of Professor Snape until he saw a huge smile that spread across her face.
"Ah, Harry and Ron. Interesting to see the two of you out," Dumbledore smiled at them.
"Sir, we were off to have some tea with Hagrid," Ron said, his eyes not leaving the mysterious woman.
"Good to know Hagrid is looking out for you both," Dumbledore motioned towards the woman by his side. "Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, I would like you to meet Professor Validus. She will be working at Hogwarts for the rest of the term as the History of Magic teacher while Professor Binns recovers from his small accident."
"Boys, it's great to meet you both."
As the new Professor spoke for the first time Harry could already sense that he was going to like her, there was great warmth and sincerity about her.
"I hope I have the two of you in my classes tomorrow, it will be good to see a couple of familiar faces," her voice was soft and smooth and when she spoke her green eyes glistened, not unlike the way Dumbledore's always did.
"Come now Alethea, we'll get you settled before your first classes tomorrow." The Headmaster used his right arm behind Professor Validus' back to guide her towards the castle.
She smiled goodbye to Harry and Ron then let Dumbledore lead the way.
"Wow!" Ron beamed as they turned to watch the teachers walk away. "Now that's the kind of Professor we need around here."
"She seems nice," Harry smiled. "But isn't Professor Binns a ghost, how could he have had an accident?"
"Yeah, that's weird."
The boys chatted away happily as they walked towards Hagrid's hut. Harry thought about the new Professor and hoped that her stay would be longer than just the rest of the term. It would be good to have something to take his mind away from the dark Professor Snape.
* * *
Dumbledore continued to lead Alethea through the large entrance doors of the castle and towards her quarters. Down one passageway they walked past the staffroom.
"I know you might like to rest first but would you like to meet some of the staff?"
"I guess so, now?"
"Don't be nervous Alethea, there's no one who will bite you." The Headmaster pushed open the door to the lounge and waited as Alethea passed through.
A small assortment of faces looked up from their coffees and newspapers in curiosity.
"Everyone," began Dumbledore. "This is Alethea Validus, here to fill in for Cuthbert while he recovers."
Most of the other teachers smiled or waved before losing themselves again in whatever they were doing. An older woman with sharp features and hair in a tight bun came over with hand extended.
"You may only be here for a short while but I'm sure we all appreciate having the help. I'm Minerva McGonagall."
"So good to meet you Minerva," she smiled shaking the older woman's hand. "I am truly honoured to be teaching here."
"I'm going to show Alethea to her room then I was wondering if I could have a word Minerva."
"Of course Headmaster, I will meet you in your office shortly." Minerva nodded and returned to her seat.
Dumbledore again headed off quickly with Alethea skipping down the corridor behind him. They had almost reached their destination when a tall black figure in a flowing cape rounded the corner so fast he collided with Alethea, knocking her hard into the stone wall. They both looked a little dazed saying nothing but eyeing off each other curiously. Alethea's breath caught in her chest, there was something about him that caused her body to tingle.
"Sorry," the black figure finally said speaking so softly that Alethea could barely hear him.
"Where are you off to in such a rush Severus?" Dumbledore asked.
"Nowhere Headmaster," he said without taking his eyes from the woman in front of him.
Dumbledore took his slight frown as a question. "Alethea Validus, Severus Snape," he nodded in each of their directions.
"I'm Professor Binns… I mean I will be his replacement."
"I see," Severus said cocking his head slightly to the side.
Alethea could feel his black eyes burning deep inside her. She was mesmerised, hardly able to turn away from him. Feeling him looking at her, she felt oddly attracted to him and yet uncomfortable at the same time.
"I fully expect her to be a terrific replacement for Cuthbert," smiled Dumbledore as the two teachers still stood eyeing each other. "Perhaps Severus, you can help me get Professor Validus settled by escorting her to her room? There is a spare quarters I believe near the Astronomy Tower."
Before Severus had the chance to respond, Dumbledore had strode off and left them alone in the corridor.
"This way," Severus held out his hand in the direction he had just come from. As Alethea started walking he kept pace alongside her.
They walked in silence for several minutes before Severus came to a halt outside a solid wooden door. He turned the knob and pushed his way in. Alethea waited until he turned a light on inside before stepping in. She noticed that her trunk had made its way okay and it was already sitting on the floor by the bed.
"If there's anything you need…" Severus' voice trailed off as he turned and made his way from the room.
"…just ask for you?"
Severus, who stood more than a foot taller then her, turned to face her again. "Of course," he nodded.
Alethea thought she saw a slight twitch in the corner of his mouth, the beginning of a smile that was quickly extinguished.
As he left her room Severus pulled the door softly shut behind him.
"Interesting man," she said aloud, blinking as if trying to rid herself of his black eyes that were still burning in her head.
She turned around to investigate her quarters. In the main room she had a large double bed covered with emerald green covers, beside it on either side were a set of drawers. Beside the single window stood a solid wooden bookshelf that still contained several dusty books left by a previous occupant. In front of the fireplace sat two cushioned lounge chairs and a small coffee table. Alethea walked through a doorway to the second room and found a small bathroom.
"It's not big, but it's home," Alethea said to herself as she dragged her trunk closer to the closet and began unpacking her clothes.
After she had finished unpacking Alethea showered and climbed wearily into bed. She knew she would have trouble sleeping that night because she was feeling so overwhelmed by the excitement of having the opportunity to teach at the prestigious school. She looked forward to getting to know the staff and students. And if she allowed herself to admit it, Alethea was almost as excited to begin her classes as she was to run into Severus Snape again.
The following morning when Severus woke up, he didn't climb straight out of bed as he usually did; instead he pulled his blankets up to his chin, rolled over and closed his eyes again. Severus had always enjoyed being a good sleeper, and yet last night he couldn't turn his brain off, kept awake well into the early hours of the morning. He squeezed his eyes closer together in an attempt to shut out the light now streaming through the window.
"Blast her," he cursed throwing the blankets to the side and dragging himself out of bed.
He had slept so poorly because he couldn't get the new teacher out of his mind. There was something about her that caused a rumbling in the pit of his stomach. He had spent all night trying to diminish his feelings; it was only because she was young and beautiful and Severus was only human after all. He shook his head as if to void it of all thoughts of her, and stepped into the shower.
As he entered the Great Hall for breakfast a little while later, Severus scanned the Head Table for the new teacher but she wasn't there yet. He took a seat and began dishing up his food. When the doors opened again and Alethea Validus walked in, Severus' breath caught in his chest. He watched her enter and even though she was obviously uncomfortable about the way the students were all eyeing her curiously, she still managed to have a small nervous smile on her face. Severus thought that it made her look even more attractive. When she reached the Head Table Minerva Gonagall stood to greet her and showed Alethea to a seat. Severus turned back to his meal but after only a few mouthfuls of muesli, he glanced over to Alethea again. This time she caught him and smiled; Severus forced his face to appear emotionless.
"If I could have everyone's attention please," Dumbledore stood up and was tapping on his goblet with a spoon. "Before you all get too carried away with your breakfast, I would like to introduce you all to Professor Validus. She will be replacing Professor Binns in History of Magic for the remainder of the semester. I hope you will all be on your best behaviour to help make her time here at Hogwarts a good one."
Alethea raised her hand shyly and attempted a small wave.
As they each finished breakfast the students left the Great Hall to get ready for their classes. Severus watched as Alethea finished eating then stopped to talk to several staff members at the Head Table. He tried not to look at her but found himself magically drawn to her.
"Stupid man!' he cursed himself.
"I beg your pardon?" Filius Flitwick frowned up at him.
"Not you," he turned and headed for the doors.
When Severus reached the doors Alethea had arrived at them at the same time. They stood awkwardly both looking at each other until Alethea glanced down at the door then back to Severus. He looked down and realised with embarrassment that his hand was on the handle.
"You're not trying to keep me prisoner are you?"
Severus pushed the door open and they both tried to walk through at the same time, then both stopped to let the other through.
"After you," he finally said and held out his hand.
Alethea smiled and passed through. He watched her as she walked away down the corridor, not aware that he was staring until a student pushed past and awoke him from his trance.
Alethea felt that she was as prepared for her first day of teaching as well as anyone who had never taught before could be. She had researched her topic thoroughly and even had visual aids to help motivate the students. As organised as she felt she was, Alethea was still incredibly nervous. As class time approached, Alethea heard her students, a class of first years, gather outside the room. She opened the door and let them in.
"Welcome everyone, come on in and take your seats."
As the students sat down and pulled out their books, Alethea flicked her wand at the board and a piece of chalk sprang up and began writing her name.
"I'm Professor Validus," she began. "And I might not be here for long but that doesn't mean we shouldn't work hard."
"What happened to Professor Binns?" a student from the front row asked.
"What's your name?"
"Hermione, Hermione Granger."
"Nice to meet you Hermione," Alethea smiled. "Professor Dumbledore didn't really fill me in on what happened but I think another ghost, Peeves I think his name is, had something to do with it."
The students started talking excitedly until Alethea quietened them down again.
"We'd better get down to work before Professor Dumbledore walks in and catches us talking about anything other than history."
* * *
In their common room that evening three students from Alethea's first class, Harry, Ron and Hermione, were sitting beside the fire.
"What do you think of the new Professor?" Ron asked poking a stick into the fire absentmindedly.
"I think she was really quite nice," Hermione answered. "She seemed a little nervous but I guess that's to be expected for anyone on their first day."
"She seemed friendly enough," agreed Harry. "Did you like her Ron?"
"What? Why would you say that?"
"You're the one who brought it up you dope," Hermione said yawning. "So I thought maybe you had an opinion."
"Well, she's alright isn't she? I mean from what Fred and George say about Binns then we're really lucky not to have him."
"What do you mean?" asked Harry.
"I'm not sure but George calls him a 'human sleeping draught'."
The kids talked a little while longer about how the were enjoying their time so far at Hogwarts before they headed to bed soon after.