Disclaimer: not mine.
The Newest Professor
Severus Snape, youngest of the Hogwarts staff, was nervous on his first day of lessons. He had only been out of school a few years himself, which left the oldest students still familiar with his history. A history he was not trying to live down.
He dressed with great care that day, attempting to look older and sterner than his years allowed. He had opted for the traditional waistcoat, covering a white shirt with high neck and long sleeves, and then donned his formal teaching robes. He carried himself erect and regal, striding down the halls as if he were a wizard with a purpose, instead of the twenty- three year old youth that he was.
The combined group of sixth and seventh year students were already in their seats when he arrived. He entered the room quickly, pushing the door open with enough force to slam it loudly against the stone wall in a show of authority. All heads turned to see him glare down at them as he strode to the front of the class. He kept his face impassive, his eyes hard and his voice low. He made them quiet to hear his instructions, deducting house points if their hearing was keen enough to hear, forcing them to quiet and listen closely. He offered little in way of assistance, afraid that his wavering voice may ruin his ruse.
He stood firmly, arms crossed at his chest, sneering down at the students as they fled his presence at the end of the session then flicking his wand to make sure the door to the hallway was firmly locked he fled to his private chambers through the back storeroom.
Grabbing a bottle of whiskey, he did not wait to pour it into a glass. Tipping the amber liquid to his lips and letting the burn slide down his throat, he relished the feeling of escape it offered. Returning the bottle to the table, he stood, placed his palms on the table, and leaned forward with his head hanging down between his shoulders. Behind him, the floo roared to life, causing him to turn his head to see Headmaster Dumbledore walk though the green flames into his living room.
"I see you made it through your first day," the Headmaster said, crossing over to an overstuffed chintz chair that he always used.
"Headmaster, I can't do this," Severus stated flatly. "They look at me as if I am some sort of freak. I am not old enough for this. They remember me."
"Which is it then? Since you are not a freak that leaves your age, or their memory of you, which prohibits you from doing your duty. Which is it I wonder."
"Please Headmaster." Severus sat opposite him on the leather sofa. "You are asking too much putting me in this position."
"I do not see it that way." The Headmaster frowned at the young Professor. "I ask for no more than you offered and I will take no less."
"Headmaster, please," Severus implored. "I have pledged my very life to you. Take that, but let me out of this infernal job."
"I think not. So, back to your objections. Is it your age?"
"I have no experience in this. I am not qualified," Severus said stubbornly.
"Yet at your tender age you have already done such things at Tom's side to warrant the oath that you took," Dumbledore said seriously. "You only acquire experience with time, and in that time the students will accept you."
"You know what I mean," Severus sneered.
"Ah, yes." Dumbledore leaned back, resting his head against the chair, and looking up at the ceiling. "That leaves us with the third argument. They have memories of you."
"Yes," he spat out. "They remember me as a student. They remember me as the one ridiculed. They even suspect that I was loyal to Riddle."
"Shall we waste our time going over each of those memories as well?" Dumbledore questioned kindly. "Or should I just spell it out for you?"
Severus only threw himself back in his chair and crossed his arms with a petulant pout.
"Severus, or should I be calling you Professor? Yes, I think for this conversation you shall be Professor Snape. You are an adult now, albeit a young one, but an adult none the less."
Severus jumped up and grabbed the bottle of fire whiskey and two glasses. He slammed them down on table that separated them and poured himself a drink. Downing it he glared at the Headmaster and returned to his seat, still sulking.
"Now that you are quite done showing your tempter, young Professor Snape, may we continue?"
"By all means Headmaster," Severus said with a sweep of his arm, "do continue, Sir."
"You have made many grievous errors. You aligned your self to a dark wizard that has plans to end our society as we know it." Dumbledore's eyes had grown cold. "You came to me looking for redemption, to save not your life, but your soul. Do you think a soul comes so cheaply?"
He waited for Severus to answer, knowing none would be in the offering. Albus sat and waited until he saw Severus look up to his eyes.
"Do you think a childhood of abuse from a drunken father and a mother to weak to defend you gives you licence to abuse others? Do you not think that part of the redemption you seek should be punishment for you sins?" He stared into Severus dark eyes for confirmation.
Severus lowered his head and nodded. Resting his chin on his chest.
"Do you not think that I thought hard and long about how your very presence in this school would affect my students?" The Headmaster almost roared. "Do you not think I considered how evil your very attendance at this Academy could be taken?"
Severus looked up to the Headmasters blue eyes, willing his own to remain clear. His stolid expression beginning to crack. He had never considered the implications of his teaching. He had not once thought of how Albus must have fought to convince the Board and the Ministry that he was worthy to work in the hallowed halls of Hogwarts.
"I thought of all these things. I thought that perhaps you could forgive yourself if you saw the students could," he said a little more gently. "I thought that by your returning to us, the students would, by your example know not to follow the next one that comes along. I thought perhaps to keep an eye on you."
Severus sat trying to control his breathing, to remain the adult he was. He did not want to slip back to the comfort of youth, the comfort of accepting failure and laying down excuses.
"Severus." Dumbledore returned to his former role of the gentle grandfatherly Headmaster. "I trust you with my very life, and the lives of everyone within these walls, all but one. I do not trust you with your own."
Severus felt his throat closing, and worked at his jaw to stem his tears. Losing the battle, he hid his face in his hands and freely cried.
"Ah, my boy," Dumbledore nearly whispered. "That is the most adult thing I have seen you do. You can not expect others to forgive you if you can not forgive yourself."
Severus sat long after the Headmaster had left. He finished the bottle of Ogden's finest and stumbled to his bed, knowing his memories would show themselves in dreams. He would dream of playgrounds, and summer heat, young girls on swings and boarding the train the first time. He would feel terror and see the sun change to darkness, and darkness to a glowing mark with cold winter winds and Scotland's mountain mist. He would see the Dark Lord, and Lily's smile change to a look of horror.
His eyes flew open as he sucked in air to fill his empty lungs. His legs swinging from the bed before the last of the Marks shimmering glow left his eye. He fought to stand, and then he returned to the living room and searched for another bottle. Leaning against the fireplace with his right hand bracing on the mantle and his left wrapped around Ogden's neck he was as close to peace as he could find.
In this cold underground room of stone floors and silent halls, he finally let himself breathe. He did not look over his shoulder, or wonder who watched him. He sought the solitude of the dungeons and found his protection in that solitude and after many nights felt he belonged.
However, he still walked to his desk and picked up the top parchment from the stack of fifth year essays. He still busied himself until nearly morning, correcting classroom endeavours, looking at the clock he would return to the completed stack, and start again. He would pick up a quill and dipping it in red ink begin to fill his time.
Professor Snape assigned enough work in his lessons to fill his nights and keep his dreams at bay. He could loose himself in red ink and stained parchment, writing biting comments in the upper corners. If Ogden's finest eluded him, he would slash across the page in long lines of anger.
He no longer thought beyond the walls of this place, his self-imposed prison. For to him it became a sanctuary.
No one bothered him in the dungeons. Occasionally Headmaster Dumbledore would invade his space, smiling and offering small talk in his search for information. Severus sat stonily listening to the old man drum on waiting to be alone, wanting to hurry the old man and make him leave. He sat and listened, looking to his desk, and wanting his red ink and stacks of parchment to put an end to his thoughts.
"Well," the old man would eventually say. "I see you have much to do. I will leave you to your work."
"Thank you for your visit, Headmaster." Severus would always politely reply and then hurry to his desk to lose himself again.
At first taking meals in the Great Hall, required by the Headmaster, put him on display three times a day. The staff's table seemed purposely positioned to afford the students permission to watch and pry. Three of the four long tables were satisfied with guarded scowls and darting glances towards the youngest Professor, while the Slytherin table held their eyes on him firm and steady, their chins lifted in challenge.
Professor Snape raised his head tipping it slightly back and started down his nose at them. The smirk that came to his lips he had practiced and perfected. He had learned to pull up walls in his mind when he was in the presence of Tom or at a Dark Revel, now he learned to pull up walls around his heart and soul sitting at the Headmasters table.
Memories of the lank haired gangly youth he was soon became confused with the new stern Professor Snape he became. Soon his persona fused and became a new memory that the fourth through seventh years would take with them and warn their younger siblings of. No longer was Professor Snape the ridiculed one, the one that had turned to darkness, the one rejected by love. He was the Professor to fear and the one that had the ear of Dumbledore. He was the one that lived alone in the dungeons.