BACK IN TIME by Jayne d'Arcy

written between 4-9-08 to 2-9-09

The aged caretaker of castle Hogwarts could have been an ancestor of Argus Filch. Riesling Landings was a hunched over man borne down by age. White hair sprouted from his skull in a whether-as-you-please manner, and his watery blue eyes were aided by silver-rimmed spectacles. Unlike Argus Filch, who took to wearing the rudest of clothing most of the time, Mr. Landings wore a simple uniform that consisted of a heavy, woolen coat, a matching vest, a high-necked white blouse, dark brown breeches and heavy leather boots that had perhaps seen better days when the caretaker was younger. At the man's hip hung a set of keys and his wand resided in a slim pocket on the right, outer side of his trousers. The caretaker utilized a hand-carved staff to aide him as he escorted Severus Snape to the office of the headmistress.

Severus Snape had matched his pace to that of the elder man's, despite knowing the way. "Madam Arcahnum tells me that you and your children are old family friends?"

The caretaker had been unsuccessfully attempting to pry information from the tall man in the billowing black robes beside him. Snape simply replied that they were friends and left it at that. His family name was a well known one and he couldn't risk anyone snooping into his family's business. Other than the headmistress, whom Snape had spoken to briefly by Floo at the Leaky Cauldron, he preferred to keep his name to himself.

The caretaker sighed inwardly. The young man was not a talkative sort, to be sure, and so he finally ended his probing questions. They soon arrived at the gargoyle that guarded the moving spiral staircase that led to the office of the headmistress. Mr. Landings tapped the head of the gargoyle twice, and it slowly moved aside allowing Snape to step upon the stairs. Snape frowned at that and wondered, briefly, if the annoying old, sweet-toothed Dumbledore had been responsible for causing the gargoyle to respond to a vocal password. Tapping the statue would be so much... nicer than all the candy sweet passwords.

"I shall see that the elves provide a meal for your children, sir." The caretaker bowed, and backed away until Snape could no longer see the man.

The stairs began to spin and rise slowly. When they stopped, he stepped onto a simple landing. The door was open and he walked into the office.

Candles were the main source of light for this all too familiar office. A few wall sconces with bright flame scared away the last of the heavier shadows. To Snape's right was a large fireplace that burned brightly. In front of it were two, very familiar chairs. The only difference in the chairs was that instead of red velvet upholstery with gold trim, they were of green velvet with silver trim. Between the two chairs sat a table with a full service of tea. The china was also green and silver. The silver twined about in intricate patterns that, when he looked closer, were snakes.

When he had contacted the present headmaster, no, headmistress of Hogwarts, she had given her name as Lyrica Arcahnum. The name was familiar to him as the Arcahnum family was one of several aristocratic wizarding families up until the latter part of the 19th century. Not conversant in wizarding family history before his own time, he had no idea what could have happened to the name. He assumed, that if the headmistress were the last of her family, then it was merely the fact there had not been an heir to carry on the name.

That was one mystery he didn't dwell upon. He was more intrigued by a headmistress of Hogwarts he could not recall. Snape had been sifting through his memories of past heads of Hogwarts. For the life of him, he could not recall ever seeing a portrait for a Lyrica Arcahnum in Dumbledore's office. If her portrait wasn't in existence in his time, it didn't mean she had never existed, though. Not all heads of Hogwarts were remembered by a portrait.

Severus Snape wandered around the office a little more and quite approved of the way it looked. It was uncluttered, neat, and he was unable to spy any cobwebs in the corners. Dumbledore's gentle, unconventional nature not only allowed the spiders free reign in his office, but he had even named some of them!

The office was circular, as it was located in one of Hogwarts tall towers - the tower known in his time as the Founders Tower. The main office was open and consisted of two floors. The second floor was accessible by a graceful, wrought iron staircase that began to the left of the fireplace, curved upward along the wall until it connected to a sturdy, wrought iron balcony that encircled the upper floor. The majority of the upper floor consisted of bookshelves. Some of the shelves did not hold books, but held a variety of artifacts that at first appeared decorative; many of the artifacts were no doubt magical in nature. There was some bric-a-brac, but it wasn't the sort of sticks, stones, and shells that Dumbledore always managed to acquire during his travels. Not to say that the man didn't have taste, but he did prefer such simple things. In this office, though, some of the shelves contained statuary of marble, granite and alabaster. There were also smaller figures, and sculptures of gold, silver, and copper, also from a variety of gemstone materials.

The first floor walls of the office were home to more shelves, full of books that were probably accessed more than the older books on the second floor. To the left, on a slight dais, was the desk of the headmistress. It was the same as Dumbledore's desk, but rather newer looking. Its surface was neatly cluttered (was such a thing possible, thought Snape) with a variety of parchment, open books, and a potions ingredient chart. The chart caught his eye and he picked it up.

Snape studied the chart. It was a hand-drawn and coloured chart of different medicinal herbs. Lines were neatly drawn between groups of herbs. Snape recognized many of the combinations as being used in potions for healing in his day. What he found most interesting were the written notes in a very precise, neat print beside certain herbs. It was obvious to Snape that the headmistress was working on experiments and theories regarding new combinations of herbs for new potions. His eye was caught by one notation that read,Merridwells Skeleton Growth potion - irritating and painful - try infusion of buck bark steeped in clover oil to reduce both symptoms. Beneath the notation were a series of numbers denoting experiments how many were successful and how many were not; standard in potions note-taking. So far it appeared there had been some success. Snape could not recall having heard of Merridwells Skeleton Growth, but he certainly knew of Skele-Gro, of which buck bark and clover oil were part of its ingredients. Is this the potions master that had a hand in the Skele-Gro potion? He put the chart back down and took a closer look at the books on the shelves behind the desk.

As he silently mouthed one title after another, he realized that this was just the tip of a superb collection of books any Potions Master would be envious of, himself included. His heart nearly skipped a beat as he came across a thick tome with the title, Practical Magic in the Application of Herbal Medicine by Darlyle Grailing. That was one of the books Snape had desired to acquire for his own collection for years. A collectible, it was far out of range of his own considerable finances. He let out an envious sigh and turned away from the books.

The envy worship was not to end. In turning, Snape came face to face with a potions shelf. There were some ingredients, those that were considered basic stores for a Potions Master that worked with healing potions. The potions on the rack did consist of long storable healing and health potions, but there were also other potions such as Wit-Sharpening potion, Befuddlement Draught, and Veritaserum. This last was half-full and he was curious as to why such a powerful potion would be needed at Hogwarts.

Snape was startled by the sudden movement of a large, albino raven cawing and shaking out his wings behind him. The bird had been so still when first he saw it by the bottom of the staircase that he'd immediately dismissed it as a fine piece of sculpture. The bird lifted off its perch and flew the short distance up to the second floor balcony where a simple door was opening.

When he had contacted the headmistress from the Leaky Cauldron by Floo, the light had been dim, its usual shadowed self. The impression he'd had of the woman was of a pleasant smile, green eyes like emeralds set into patrician features, and dark hair tightly pulled back off the face. The woman that emerged from the upper private chambers was tall and breathtaking. Snape had to quickly remind himself to breathe as he watched her stroke the white bird's head and then descend the staircase.

The headmistress of Hogwarts was a classic beauty with ivory skin – those startling green eyes! – and long, straight hair that fell in a silk curtain down to her mid-back. The woman's lovely hair was a deep chestnut red that fell against an outer robe of rich green velvet. The edges of the robes sleeves and the hem were embroidered with silver; again the sinuous form of the Slytherin snake was prominent in the design. Under the outer robe was a simple dress of black velvet that fell in a soft drape to her feet.

When she reached him, Snape chastised himself for not meeting her halfway as she stretched out her hand. Falling easily into his courtly manners, he took her hand in his, bowed slightly and brought her fingertips to his lips. He noted that her fingers were long, slim, but the nails, though smooth and unbroken, were neatly trimmed short and there were shadows of deeper potion stains that were the unmistakable mark of the devotion of a Potions Master (mistress, he silently corrected himself). His study of her hands was only for a second as she had quickly withdrawn her fingers from his hand.

She curtsied slightly. "Welcome to Hogwarts, Master Snape. I'm very glad to meet you beyond the green light of the Floo. I'm Lyrica Arcahnum." Her voice was rich with a genteel smoothness, another mark of her aristocratic birth. The tone was not the high-pitched quaver his ear was used to from the females in his family, but slightly lower, controlled with a hint of the brogue that was so strong in Minerva McGonagall's voice.

Slipping her arm over his right arm, she led him over to the fireplace. "Could I interest you in some tea, Master Snape? I know it's late, but I hope it will soothe after your adventure."

"Please," he nodded and seated himself after she seated herself across from him. "I'd like to extend my gratitude for you having come to our rescue so quickly, Madam Arcahnum."

She smiled and handed him the steaming tea in a cup on a saucer. "I am glad that we could be of help. And please, I am only Madam to our caretaker, Mr. Landing. It's Professor or you may also address me as Lyrica." She waited for him to sip his tea before taking her own sip of the fragrant tea.

As he took another sip, he tasted the delicate touches of orange pekoe and bergamot enhanced by the subtle bite of cinnamon. "Then you must call me Severus."

For a few silent minutes they just enjoyed their tea. Snape was finally beginning to relax for the first time since this harrowing day had begun. Placing the half empty tea cup on the table, he took a moment to lean back in the softness of the chair.

Lyrica allowed him this moment as she refreshed his tea. After a minute, she asked, "I hope the guest quarters in Gryffindor tower are sufficient?"

Reluctantly he shifted and sat up straighter. "More than adequate, thank you... Lyrica." He took another sip of tea.

"The children, Severus, are they yours?" Her question was polite, but he sensed the undercurrent of curiosity. Curiosity for who they were, how they came to be here, and what they had needed rescuing from.

The thought that those four terrors, hopefully asleep, were his was laughable. However, he restrained his more sarcastic self and replied, "They are students of mine. I am their Potions instructor at Hogwarts. I hope that they are asleep, but I suspect only Mr. Weasley is the one out like a light. No doubt Miss Granger is already working upon a solution to our problem, and hopefully Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Potter are not taking this opportunity to kill each other."

Lyrica laughed; a charming sound that fit her aristocratic upbringing. "They sound like a handful!" Snape's only reply was a simple rolling of the eyes and another sip of his tea.

Lyrica put down her tea cup and eyed the dark-haired man seated across from her. She'd been curious from the moment he'd Floo'd her so directly. How he'd managed that was a puzzle until this moment. Only a teacher of Hogwart's could have accessed her office fireplace. It didn't answer all her questions, though. He had alluded to an accident involving time travel and that alone had been enough for her to send a carriage to fetch them from the disreputable Leaky Cauldron. Although it was late; nearly two in the morning, she needed answers before they went any further.

"Master Snape, when you floo'd me, you made mention of an accident that involved time travel. I think that before we can suitably call it a night, you should tell me what you can about this accident. How did a teacher and his four students wind up in 1898?"

Despite the fact that he wished he could go bury himself in a bed, he knew an explanation had to come sooner or later. He appreciated the forthrightness of the headmistress. Taking a last sip of his tea, he made himself comfortable.

"It's rather a long story since it all begins yesterday morning, in my Potions class. The year for us is 1994, just barely two weeks into the new school year..."