A/N: Hello and welcome to my (perhaps ill advised) attempt at a Harry Potter Fanfiction. I am aware there are lots of people out there who are religiously loyal to JK Rowlings plotlines (who wouldn't be- they're fabulous) but for the sake of this fic I am taking monstrous liberties and ignoring pretty much everything after the end of Goblet of Fire.
I obviously own nothing of the Harry Potter books, films, associated works etc etc, all are the intellectual property of JK Rowling and I have no intention of profiting from this- not that I would be able to.
For those new to Nova all I can say is if I change the rating its for a reason and please refrain from flames if you choose to review- they help neither you or I!! If however you would like to leave constructive criticism it will be greatly appreciated and I will reply where I can.
I would like to thank in advance my fabulous beta I-Confuse-Everyone who has helped me through this fic since its infancy and no doubt will have to cope with my screaming and tears when I encounter the infamous writer's block.
But now, without further ado, we begin…
'Talking to myself and feeling old, sometimes I'd like to quit, nothing ever seems to fit. Hanging around, nothing to do but frown; rainy days and Mondays always get me down.'- Rainy Day and Mondays, The Carpenters.
OWLS. He hated the things with a passion. Jumping through hoops to stick to what the Ministry decided was curriculum and having to at least try to help even the feeblest minded student to get a decent grade. He would much prefer suspending the dozy nitwits over a pit of ravenous Dementors by their pretty school ties.
Severus Snape, Potions Master of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, allowed himself a small smile at the last thought before the echo of a score of small, clunky feet in the corridor outside restored his customary scowl. His first class of the year, an hour with the fifth year Gryffindors and Slytherins, an hour of Potter and his aggravating little band. Snape groaned. An hour of Longbottom.
The bell sounded and he got to his feet, flicking his wand in the direction of the blackboard and not even having to check as the chalk began to write the ingredients list for the day's potion of its own accord. He pulled on his long black teaching robe and folded his arms across his chest, allowing himself one more breath of peace and freedom.
"Enter," he barked, feeling the beginnings of a headache start to brew at his temples at the simple sound of the lock.
The door swung open and his class entered with the usual hubbub and chatter that accompanied them. He frowned, wondering if it would hurt for them to fear their teachers as he had learned to in his youth. He could almost hear the snide little remarks that would accompany that notion while his back was turned. Snape? Youth? Did they even have schools in those days?
He grabbed hold of the nearest collar and plonked the wriggling student in the nearest seat as he turned an icy glare on the rest of them.
"Yes I know it's all very exciting but could we please take our seats."
"Miserable git," came a familiar whisper to his left.
"Do you have something to say Mr Weasley?"
The youngest of the Weasley boys seemed suddenly intrigued by a loose thread on his tie, "No sir."
"Very well then," said Snape as the shuffling finally found some respite, "Today…"
He stopped as the door opened once more and he looked from his students to see his colleague enter with an aggravatingly bright smile.
"Professor McGonagall," he said, "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Minerva McGonagall smiled, "Do you not remember? Today is my day for watching the classes of my fifth years, part of the new examination program. Cornelius Fudge spoke about it last week."
"That may be so but when that halfwit is speaking I infinitely prefer counting the ceiling tiles," said Snape, earning a scowl from the woman before him. He sighed, "Very well, come in and take a seat. As far away from the cauldrons as you can I would suggest."
McGonagall slipped into a seat behind an empty bench, "Just pretend I'm not here Professor," she said.
Snape bit back a retort and instead slammed the door with such force several of his charges rose from their chairs in fright. He smirked and strode to the front, eyeing the Gryffindors before him with malice. If he was to suffer the day then so would they.
The lesson progressed with the usual disasters, the Potions Master infinitely glad he'd chosen to charm the floor to repel even the most noxious of substances. He'd already broken up several vicious wars of words between his own Slytherin students and their house rivals. He'd taken points as always, crueller to Gryffindor despite the daggers shot at him by his colleague but he was not about to change years of teaching practice even for one of the few teachers he respected.
He was forced to admit that the lesson was not a complete waste, one of his students at least succeeding in creating the potion he had set though he was loathed to admit it aloud. Hermione Granger, Gryffindor's most insufferable know-it-all, the steadiest hand and quickest study Hogwarts had seen for many years. Snape enjoyed watching the precision of her work though he did so behind a scowl, his attention however was often pulled to her left and the biggest disaster to ever enter his classroom. Neville Longbottom.
Today proved no difference in the boy's incompetence, while everyone else's cauldrons simmered close enough to a vibrant orange his bubbled and fizzed a lurid purple. The headache that had threatened now lodged itself firmly in place as Snape crossed to the unfortunate student, seeing him cringe in anticipation.
"Mister Longbottom," he drawled, the class immediately falling deathly silent, "Why, pray tell, have you chosen to fashion a potion that's sole purpose is to resemble Professor Trelawney's carpets?"
"S…s…sorry…s…sir," stuttered the boy, "I…"
"Ten points from Gryffindor."
"Truly Professor, would it not be best to instruct the boy rather than punish him so quickly?" said Professor McGonagall, getting to her feet.
"Not when said boy is beyond instruction," sneered Snape, throwing a withering look at those of his own house who were sniggering in excitement at the prospect of a disagreement between their two teachers.
McGonagall was beside Neville in a second, "You have not even attempted to correct him," she said, "How can he be expected to learn?"
"I had thought that I still retained the position of Potions Master at this school," said Snape, "And as such may run my classes as I see fit."
"Even so," said McGonagall stepping round the bench, "You should be encouraging the students not sanctioning them."
Soon the two were so embroiled in their disagreement that neither of them saw the growing bubbles in Neville's cauldron or took heed of the frantic calls of the students or the hands pulling at their robes. It was only the final desperate tug on Snape's long black cape that caught his attention and he turned with a snarl.
"Miss Granger, what…"
The warning came too late and both teachers had only a second to register the danger before the cauldron flew up from the table, its contents being flung point blank at them both. The heavy metal struck McGonagall and Snape as he tried to push her to safety, sending them both flying up to the podium. Snape's body the only thing that prevented McGonagall's from hitting the blackboard with a sickening crack. The students looked on in horror as their teachers fell, unmoving in a tangle of robes onto the floor beneath.
The silence lasted only a moment before Pansy Parkinson began screaming, the other Slytherin and some of the Gryffindor girls following suit. Malfoy wasted no time in accusing Neville of murder and all sort of dastardly acts while others seemed too shell shocked at the scene to do anything but stare. Three however remained calm in all the din, a strong female voice the one to issue command.
"Harry, you'd better go and get Professor Dumbledore," said Hermione, "Ron, look after Neville."
"Why do I have to…" began Ron but a withering look from Hermione answered him.
"Would you rather look after Snape?" she hissed as she headed towards her teachers.
She didn't have the chance to reach them though as a low groan echoed from the tangle of robes. Material rustled and a fine, black hat rolled across the floor, leaving behind it not a familiar tight grey bun but a cascade of long auburn curls.
"Severus?" came a soft voice, "Are you alright?"
A low groan answered her as one of the knotted bodies slowly sat up, the form too small in the heavy black teaching robes and obscured by a far longer sheet of midnight black hair.
"Oh my goodness!" was the cry as a girl of no more than sixteen sat up beside him but her accent was unmistakable, "Severus you…"
"You…" said the boy beside her, "Minerva what's happened? How…?"
"The potion, what were you brewing?" said the girl with McGonagall's voice.
"A simple poison antidote," said the boy as he grabbed for a silver preparation tray. He looked at his reflection for a moment before casting the tray away with a small yelp, "This isn't good."
"Professors?" said Hermione, edging slowly to where they sat, "Professor McGonagall?"
The red headed girl looked up, "Oh Miss Granger, hurry and get Professor Dumbledore."
"I've already sent Harry," said Hermione, "Are you really Professor McGonagall?"
The girl nodded, "I am," she said, "But somehow far far younger it would seem."
"But how?" said Hermione.
"Now that is a question dear," said McGonagall, "One I hope Dumbledore can answer."
"Dumbledore isn't needed," said the boy, "A simple potion, a simple cure."
"Severus," said McGonagall laying a hand on his arm, "The cauldron exploded, I doubt there'll be enough left for you to analyse, wait for Dumbledore."
"Like this?" snapped the Potions Master tossing the length of his hair behind him in exasperation.
Hermione fought to contain her gasp at the sight of him. Gone were the heavy lines of a life filled with trials, in their place was simply pale, flawless skin stretched tightly over a slim face. The sneer that met her gasp however left her in little doubt that the boy before her was her cantankerous professor even if he did look little more than sixteen.
"And what precisely are you staring at Miss Granger?" he said.
"Sorry sir," she said, "Its just you…you both look so young."
"I had gathered that much," said Snape before frowning at the cacophony of his classroom, "Would you kindly silence that ridiculous shrieking before I give you to Professor Sprout to pot with the mandrakes."
The Gryffindor girls wisely subdued but several of the Slytherin girls still whimpered as their head of house got shakily to his feet. Hermione hurried to McGonagall's side, helping her up as the witch gathered her far too loose robes around her.
"Thank you Miss Granger," she said, "I must admit this is all very surreal."
Snape had already begun to stalk in Neville's direction but the door opened before he could begin any tirade. Even Dumbledore showed a spark of surprise on his usually infallible face as he saw the young man in his Potions Master's garb.
"Well that's a face I've not seen in twenty years," he said before turning his attention to the other casualty, "Nor that in far longer. Minerva, my dear…"
"Am I so very young?" said McGonagall, still clutching Hermione's arm.
"You've not looked that way since you were head girl," said Dumbledore, "Were it not for the other children I would think myself still a teacher to you both."
Snape crossed his arms, his scowl looking more a petulant pout on his youthful face, "Charming as this trip down memory lane is perhaps we could get on," he said leaning back against the desk, "I have the first years after break and would like to look old enough to teach them."
Dumbledore shot him a look but said nothing, turning instead back to McGonagall, "Perhaps it would be best if we continue this in my office after a brief sojourn to the hospital wing to check you have no ill effects from the explosion," he said, ignoring a snort from Snape's direction, "Children, please return to your Common Rooms, I think Potions can end early for today."
It was amazing how the early finish of a dreaded class could usurp even the shock of two teachers being regressed to their younger selves. Only a few lingered quietly as Dumbledore talked in hushed whispers to the professors, Malfoy muttering wicked words to his two troll like companions while Harry and Ron tried to talk Neville out of his silent panic. Hermione however stood, the most silent of all, intrigued by the pretty Celtic looks of her head of house but more so by the pale elegance of her Potions Master. Her gaze did not leave them until Dumbledore had led them from the room.
It was something about a headmaster's office, regardless of age, that filled anyone sitting inside with worry over their fate. Dumbledore's office was no different especially with the faces of every past school head looking down from their portraits in curiosity. Snape looked up at the portrait of the headmaster who had ruled over his years and frowned at the look he received in return. He returned his gaze to his lap, frowning deeper at the pale hands and skinny legs dwarfed by the now too loose trousers.
He risked a glance over to the fireplace where Dumbledore was bent over the fireplace, talking in a low whisper to the face of Cornelius Fudge. He strained to hear their words but he was sure the old wizard had weaved a charm to muffle their voices further.
He startled as a small hand slipped into his, squeezing gently. He looked to his right and saw the brilliant red hair and serene face of his colleague, appearing unflappable despite having dropped far too many years in one morning. He shook away her hand with a scowl.
"Sentimental Gryffindor," he growled, "I don't need mothering."
McGonagall frowned at him, "Maybe not but you're as tense as a spring Severus," she said, "Relax a moment."
"I will relax when I no longer look like one of the vacuous parasites we house here."
McGonagall tutted and turned her gaze from him, her face set in a look she always got when she chose to ignore his venom. Snape returned his gaze to his hands, turning them over in his lap, amazed by the smooth skin and uncalloused fingertips. He flexed his fingers, feeling the tightness of young skin, pianist's fingers rather than those that had suffered years of burns and scalds in the lab.
He was roused from his musings as he heard Dumbledore bid Fudge farewell and the soft puff of his presence leaving the fireplace. The old wizard turned to them with a familiar glitter, offering them a reassuring smile.
"Well then," he said clasping his arms behind his back as he began to pace, "This is quite the conundrum. Your…predicament, the Ministry has never seen the like and as such can offer no solution at this time. They're sending several of their best people tomorrow to analyse what they cane and develop a cure."
"Why do we need the Ministry?" said Snape, "Give me access to my classroom and an hour. If Longbottom can get us into this mess in less time it should be simple to resolve."
"Severus," said Dumbledore, his tone that of a coddling father, "What happened to you was not planned, the potion was volatile and as such, even with your mind, it may not be unravelled easily. My concern is that with your physical regression there may also be some mental alterations."
"Excuse me?" snapped Snape.
Dumbledore silenced him with a wave, "I mean no disrespect Severus and I imply not a failing of intelligence but in knowledge. You look no more than sixteen, you are physically a youth and though you know yourself grown perhaps key parts of your mind do not."
"Preposterous!" said the Potions Master, huffing at the long strand of hair that fell in front of his eyes.
"Tell me then," said the Headmaster, "What are the key ingredients to Veritaserum?"
Snape shot an incredulous look to the woman beside him but she simply nodded for his to continue.
"Very well," he said, "You need…you need…"
Dumbledore said nothing as the boy got up from his chair and began to pace.
"You shouldn't test me off my guard Albus."
"Why not?" said the Headmaster, "Severus if I'd posed the same question to you at breakfast this morning you would have rattled off its ingredients, its brewing and its antidotes before taking a breath."
"Or snorted and told you to leave him alone," said Minerva smiling sweetly at the scowl she received from her friend, "Severus, Dumbledore has a point."
Snape huffed down in his chair, folding his arms with a pout, "Doesn't he always," he muttered, "So what happens now as I'm clearly too stupid to teach?"
"Don't be a child," scolded McGonagall before turning to Dumbledore, "Severus' tantrum aside Albus, what can we do if we do not have a basic grasp of the advanced portions of our arts?"
"The Ministry is quite insistent that you should not be allowed to teach and also that I am for the time being, in the absence of your parents, your temporary guardian."
"Our what?!" cried Snape looking up from his boots, "I've not needed a guardian for twenty years."
"You've not been sixteen for twenty years," said Dumbledore, "The Ministry now recognises you as minors and as neither of you have close family to act as guardians that responsibility passes to me."
"And what then?" said Snape, "We get locked in our rooms until Daddy lets us out to play?"
Dumbledore fixed him with a disapproving stare, "Behaving like a child is not helping your case."
"I thought I was a child now," said Snape, "This is truly beyond endurance. A guardian! I served the Dark Lord and I need a guardian!"
"Perhaps you would have fared better with one back then," said McGonagall.
Snape forced himself to bite back a truly petulant retort before he sighed in resignation, "What are we to do then?"
Dumbledore reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder, "You keep your patience and live here under my protection."
"Well I suppose I had some reading to catch up on," said Snape.
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled, "You shan't have much time fore reading alongside your studies."
"Studies?" said Severus brightening, "Do you have a project for us to work on?"
"Quite," said Dumbledore, "Your Ordinary Wizarding Levels."
Snape and McGonagall both paled.
"Our OWLS?" said the witch, "But Albus…"
"The Ministry's decree Minerva," said Dumbledore, "Only students and staffs reside at Hogwarts and since you may not teach…"
"We have to study," finished McGonagall.
Snape was back on his feet in a second, "No! Anything but that! I've already passed my OWLS, I don't need to do them again," he said, "I'll keep to my rooms, I won't be seen, the Ministry need never know."
"Severus you know that isn't possible, they will check," said Dumbledore, "The situation may be swiftly resolved, this may only last a few days."
"I don't like may."
McGonagall got to her feet, crossing to her colleague and laying a hand on the loose sleeve of his robe, "Think of it as an experiment."
"What? How much torture can one wizard endure?" he said bitterly, "Sharing a common room with mini-Malfoy!"
McGonagall laughed, "And there's me thinking you favoured him."
Snape snorted but said nothing.
"That fate may not await you Severus," said Dumbledore, "In the eyes of the school you're new students and therefore…"
Both professors stood silent as Dumbledore reached up and took down a ragged looking old wizard's hat.
"Albus?" said McGonagall.
"All new students must be sorted," said the Headmaster, "I'm sure the students before me now differ greatly to those these halls first welcomed."
"But what if the Hat…Albus I'm head of Gryffindor House!"
"Even so," said Dumbledore, "New students need to be sorted before the school so I think as there are still several hours before dinner I shall have Madame Hooch take you to Diagon Alley for uniforms and books along with everything else you'll need. Pack what you need from your rooms into a trunk and they will be moved to your dormitories when we know where they'll be."
He finished with a wink before crossing to the fireplace too contact the Broom Mistress.
"Minerva," said Snape in a voice barely audible, "Pinch me."
"Because this is a ruddy nightmare."
The Great Hall was a great hubbub of noise and activity as the students all rushed from table to table sharing wild conspiracies. News of the Potions accident had spread like wild fire and each group of students had their own theories on what had happened. The teachers flitted in and out trying to calm the excitement but their actions only revealed the conspicuous absence of the Potions Master, Transfiguration Mistress and Headmaster.
"What do you reckon then?" said Ron, "Seamus said one of the seventh years spoke to a girl in Hufflepuff who saw them taking a stretcher out the back entrance. Do you think maybe they're…"
Hermione grimaced as Ron ran a finger across his neck, "Ronald, that's macabre, stop it!"
"They would have told us by now surely," said Harry, "Especially as we saw what happened."
"Precisely," said Hermione.
"Wouldn't mind if old Snape copped it though," said Ron claiming space on the Gryffindor table.
"That's a wicked thing to say," exclaimed Hermione, "You shouldn't wish people dead."
"Snape's not people," muttered Ron, "Miserable old git, world would be better off without him."
"Well why are you so bothered about defending him?"
"Because regardless of his faults he's still human."
"Just," muttered Harry, "If they're not carted off somewhere do you reckon they'll still be teaching us?"
"I don't think so judging by how they look," said George appearing with his usual stealth to their right.
"I didn't think it was possible but Snape looks paler than ever," said Fred.
A stunned hush descended on the crowd as all eyes turned to the doorway. Dumbledore stood front and centre in his silver and lilac robes, blue eyes twinkling in the candlelight, but it was the two figures behind him that held everyone's attention. Snape and McGonagall, still sporting their sixteen year old forms, stood dressed in Hogwarts uniforms and robes that distinctly lacked house badges. Both of them looked as nervous as any first year to first grace the hall.
Dumbledore led them up to the raised dais, the other teachers looking on in as much shock as the children. Snape's hair fell before him, obscuring him from view while McGonagall had pulled hers back into a low knot of auburn curls, revealing a shockingly pretty face that already had several girls muttering malevolently into their hands. Several of the teachers offered them what seemed to be attempts at reassuring smiles; Professor Trelawney's however looked more a mad dribble as she stared, wide eyed, at the young Potions Master before her.
Dumbledore sat his two charges down on a bench beside the lectern before turning to the eerily silent congregation.
"Children, teachers, as you are no doubt aware there occurred this morning a minor incident in the fifth year Potions Class."
A brief titter of laughter rippled through the hall at the Headmaster's words as McGonagall flushed and Snape succeeded in hiding even further behind his raven hair.
"Yes indeed," said Dumbledore, "Well this incident resulted in two of our professors being somewhat altered. Many of a certain age long once more for the flush of youth and Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape both get to experience this first hand."
"I'll give you flush of youth you bumbling old coot if you don't end this torture soon," muttered Snape earning himself a sharp kick in the shin from the woman beside him, "Oww!"
"Behave!" she hissed.
Severus smirked, "Make me."
McGonagall bit her lip to stop her smile, "Don't be wicked."
"…and therefore as it stands we must welcome Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape once more as students to Hogwarts school. I trust you will treat them with the same kindness and respect you give your fellows. As our newest recruits are now no more than sixteen the will be joining our fifth years until such time as an antidote can be found."
Another murmur ran through the crowd, the fifth years growing most notably agitated.
"Well I suppose McGonagall isn't so bad," said Ron, "And it's not like she can give us detention anymore."
"I dread to think what Snape'll be like allied with Malfoy though," said Harry.
Dumbledore's cough silenced those gathered once more before he continued, "As we are considering both Minerva and Severus as new students there is one rite that we must fulfil."
A gasp echoed in the hall as Dumbledore reached for the Sorting Hat before placing a stool before the lectern. He turned to the two new students and held out a hand.
"Ladies first I think."
McGonagall took his hand and got to her feet, perching primly on the well worn stool with her hands folded in her lap. Dumbledore placed the Hat on her head and it immediately sprang into life.
"Well then, what have we here?" said the Hat, "Such a jumble of thoughts but very much unchanging. There's only one place for you. Gryffindor!"
A cheer went up from the Gryffindor table as Dumbledore took the Hat from her head. Minerva smiled as she got to her feet, soon welcomed to the house table by the open arms of her former charges. The noise died down as the Headmaster ushered a reluctant Snape onto the stool. A deathly silence fell over the crowd as the Hat was lowered but remained silent. Whispers began before the Hat finally spoke.
"Well then, this is a mind that I remember well. Such a sharp intelligence, such sadness. Forthright and driven, cunning to a fault but I see now a destructive path from our first encounter. Yet courage was found and bravery grew, traits of a very different sort. Yes indeed, perhaps another path is right to follow now."
"Put me anywhere other than Slytherin and you can consider yourself rags for my lab rats," muttered Snape.
"Still playing the Slytherin," said the Hat, "But I see your heart and there is only one place for you now. Gryffindor!"
Even Dumbledore stood dumbfounded at the Hat's cry, standing a full minute before reaching out to remove it from the near trembling student. Snape shook his head wordlessly at the Headmaster, obsidian eyes pleading.
Dumbledore patted him on the shoulder, trying to ignore the stunned silence, "Off you go then."
"Albus…" said Severus quietly.
"They're waiting," said the Headmaster, "Go on."
"Take your seat Severus," he said firmly, "Everyone's ready to eat."
Severus got to his feet and walked towards the Gryffindor table as silently as one condemned. The hall was silent, no calls of welcome or opened arms greeting him. None moved aside to allow him to sit, groups merely knitting tighter together as if fearing his infiltration. He finally reached the end of the benches, setting himself a distance enough from the last group, feeling every eye in the room on him as never before. He vaguely heard Dumbledore give the call to eat and the beginning of the clattering of plates.
Finally convinced everyone was suitably distracted he raised his own gaze but his appetite for the food before him had long since fled. A figure slipped onto the bench beside him, a small hand coming to cover his own.
"Leave me alone Minerva," he said.
"Come and sit with me," she said, "You don't want to eat all alone."
Severus cast a look down the table, the eyes he saw still turned on him bearing little but disdain.
"I doubt your friends would want me to," he said, "Go Minerva, no need for both of us to be isolated. I'll be fine."
Minerva released his hand, "You know where I am should you change your mind," she said getting to her feet.
He watched her as she returned to the chattering throng of Gryffindors, all of them welcoming their former house head with smiles and kind words. He risked a glance over to the Slytherin table but none seemed interest in his presence now there was food to bicker over. The lesser of two evils his mind told him until he caught a glimpse of a vibrant blond head, holding court over his doting classmates. Severus shivered, remembering when he too had been duped into worshiping at the cult of Malfoy. Perhaps alone in Gryffindor was better than at Draco's mercy in Slytherin. With a resigned sigh he turned his attention back to his plate, determined to at least push the food around it until they could retire.
The Great Hall wasn't nearly as daunting as entering the Gryffindor common room even with Dumbledore at his side and Minerva crossing the breach before him. It hardly helped when Dumbledore once more fashioned a speech about welcome and kindness before proceeding to speak to every image upon the walls leaving no one able to quit the room out of politeness.
Severus kept to the edge, feeling quite the proverbial cuckoo, scowling at any who glanced his way, glad to see several of the first and second years skittering away to the older children as he did so. He heard the odd whisper of disdain, augmented by the fact that Minerva sat with a group of fifth year girls, several of them already fashioning her hair into braids.
Finally Dumbledore bid them all goodnight, the hour late enough to have many filing off to bed. As the portrait closed a final thought descended on the former Slytherin, he was a fifth year and therefore required to sleep in the fifth year boys' dormitory. He looked to the stairs to see a flash of short red hair disappear and groaned to himself. He'd not even made the connection between the fifth years and Potter.
With great reluctance he willed his feet to the stairs, climbing them slowly and counting off the rooms until he found the right one. He'd barely pushed the door open when he heard a brash Irish accent ring out.
"Whose mangy cat is this?" said Seamus, "Ugly thing."
A cat mewled in agony but Severus reached down and caught it before it could scarper from the doorway. He picked it up, the cat purring in recognition.
"She's called Réglisse and she's mine," he said, the room falling silent as all eyes turned to him and the black and tan Siamese in his arms.
"Snape?" said Ron bitterly, "Lost already?"
"Sadly no," said Snape, seeing a familiar trunk placed at the end of a bed in the corner, "I'm afraid this is where I'm staying."
"Not bloody likely."
"Believe me Weasley I'd prefer a nest of venomous scorpions to sharing breathing space with any of you but Dumbledore has dumped me here with you so get used to it," said Snape trying to cross to the bed.
He soon had both Dean and Seamus before him but he shoved passed them without blinking. He set Réglisse on the bed where she mewled at her master's displeasure once more before he got on the bed himself, drawing the curtains all around to block out at least the sight of his roommates. Sight however meant little and he sat awake long into the night as the boy's outside protested his presence amongst themselves. It was only when they finally quieted that he fell into fitful sleep, his wand clutched tightly in his hand.
Severus awoke shivering, immediately disorientated as he came to realise the small single bed and deep red curtains. The reality of the situation finally dawned on him and he cursed impressively to himself. The only comfort came from Réglisse as she trotted up the disordered covers, purring with a demand for her breakfast.
"At least this situation is pleasing to you," he said scratching her behind her ears.
He could hear movements beyond the curtains, signalling the stirring of his roommates. Part of him wanted to throw open the curtains, regardless of the predictable hostility, and continue as though they were not there but a long ago learned sense of self preservation stilled him. He could still hear the disparaging remarks however, perhaps even more pointed when they thought he was sleeping.
"Why couldn't they have dumped the greasy git in Slytherin where he belongs?"
"At least McGonagall is a proper Gryffindor."
"He'll be hexing us the second our backs are turned or running to Dumbledore when he's stuck his ugly great nose into everything."
"He's not moving in there, do you reckon the potion got him in the night?"
"Leave him to rot if it did."
"Leave him anyway, his problem if he's late for class."
The voices finally silenced as the room cleared and Severus emerged from the bed, shooing Réglisse away safe in the knowledge that she'd find food courtesy of the house elves. He dressed slowly; the red and gold tie of his new house near abhorrent as he fastened it around his neck. He stuffed his books into the plain black satchel Dumbledore had given him on his return from Diagon Alley the day before, frowning at the timetable that met him but glad to see Potions wasn't one of the labelled classes for the day.
The common room was near empty as he left it, drawing only one or two suspicious glances as he headed for the portrait hole and down the stairs to the bustling Great Hall. He was glad when only a few people looked up to see him enter but immediately felt eyes on him from the top table, Dumbledore raising a glass of pumpkin juice at him in a silent toast that made Severus frown all the more.
No one from his house table looked his way as he sat down, even Minerva appearing too engrossed in her conversations with several of the fifth year girls. Breakfast appeared before him but he simply pushed it around his plate as the night before, little seeming appealing to him as the dread of the day filled his stomach. He'd just reached for a book when a piece of paper fluttered down before him. He opened it out seeing the magically animated drawing of a scrawny boy with a dramatically hooked nose being struck on the head by a Gryffindor badge before collapsing in a bloody heap. The word 'traitor' pulsed in thick black letters beneath the sketch, the malevolence coming from it in waves.
He turned in his seat to see Draco and his friends giggling viciously as they pulled faces in his direction. He screwed up the paper and flung it on the table before him. He pulled out his wand and shot a small spell at it, pleased to see it flame before disintegrating to nothing but ash on the table. He wiped it away with the back of his hand, turning his attention back to the Divination book he was reading, cursing that Dumbledore had refused to let him take Ancient Runes. Although he had been next to brilliant in all his OWLs twenty years before the old wizard had insisted he return to the subjects he had either dropped or not fared as well in. The unfortunate nature though was that the majority of the subjects being forced on him were his most hated from his school days and now run by the teachers he had the least respect for.
The bell finally sounded and he stashed his book with a growing sense of dread as he filed after the others, the sea of students parting at the door to reach their various classes. Severus trailed behind the fifth years of his own house who were heading almost as unwillingly as he to Trelawney's room. They reached the top of the winding staircase only to come to a halt as the trap door remained closed. Severus leant against the wall at the back of the group, trying to avoid the glances from the students before him.
The door finally opened and a breathy 'enter' drifted down from above. A reluctance seemed to pass once more through most of the students as they ascended to the room. The smoky atmosphere had them all coughing as they hurried to take their seats. Severus spotted a secluded table far back from the front and turned swiftly towards it until a piercing cry caught his attention.
"Oh my dear, my dear!" called Trelawney, crossing the room to him and grabbing his hand, "How wonderful that I can be the first to teach you on your return to school. You know I foresaw this accident but I could do nothing, one must never interfere with the powers of fate."
"Sybil let me be," muttered Severus trying to wrench his wrist from her grip.
She ignored him, addressing the class, "Today my dears we will be looking at the devastating effects that can come from acting on one's predictions," she said tugging Severus over to a table at the front and sitting him down in an overstuffed chintz chair, "Settle there then dear and do not worry if you feel a little out of your depth, you'll soon catch up."
Severus let his hair fall to mask his face, pushing back into his chair as the class around him sniggered. Trelawney began to pull away and he dared to hope the worst was over but too soon as she let out another shriek and reached once more for his hand. She began to paw his palm with various excited exclamations, her face a picture of rapture.
"Oh my dear, my dear, such a new path open to you in this fine young hand," she said drawing more sniggers from the crowd, "I see a new house, success where there was less and…yes, yes it's quite clear, you will have a romance. Yes I see romance here. Oh young love, how truly special."
Severus fought to keep the blush from his cheeks but too late as the class fell into peals of laughter. He wrenched his hand from her grip and shot her a withering stare as she straightened to better harass those sat close to her. She continued a while making wild predictions though they were clearly old hat, Potter barely flinching as she predicted him a horrific death.
Finally the lesson settled to the professor merely standing before the class, dramatically describing the dreadful consequences that could come from interfering with fate. Severus soon lost interest and focused instead on listing the possible brewing misdemeanours that could have resulted in the explosion. He refused to let himself be frustrated as he found himself forgetting key ingredients or methods as he wrote, blaming it on fatigue and the distraction of a wildly gesticulating Trelawney. His only relief came when the bell sounded to signal the end of the lesson and the sound soon became the only thing to long for as each lesson drew more stares, most of the teachers less than sympathetic to him whilst doting upon Minerva.
He avoided the Great Hall at every break and dinner, absorbing himself in his homework in the bower of his bed, realising as he heard the voices in the Common Room below that he hadn't spoken to a soul since his plead to Trelawney that morning.
"Crookshanks leave me alone," muttered Hermione as he pawed at the blankets covering her, "Go to sleep."
The cat continued to fuss for a moment before settling back to sleep but the movement had been enough to wake Hermione fully. She tossed and turned in her bed for a while before she heard someone rise from the bed to her right and pad softly to the door.
Hermione peered from her curtains just in time to see her newest roommate and former house head descend the stairs to the Common Room below. Curiosity as ever getting the better of her, Hermione slipped out of bed and pulled on a robe, tiptoeing after her new friend. She had almost reached the bottom when she heard voices and pressed her back to the wall better to see but not be seen.
She saw the fiery hair of Minerva sat by the hearth but was shocked to see when she placed an arm around the figure beside her, persuading him out of his reluctance to place his head on her shoulder.
"You've not been eating," said Minerva like a concerned mother, "You didn't even come down to dinner."
"I was hardly in the mood," said Severus, the firelight streaking flame red against his hair, "This is all beyond endurance, there must be another way."
"It's not so bad," said Minerva, "I admit it's strange but amusing in its way. Before we'd have said we'd give anything to be sixteen again."
"You might have done," muttered Severus, "I hated sixteen and it's even worse the second time around."
"How so?" said Minerva.
Severus gave her a look that would easily have silenced one of his classes had it not been for the long hair that kept falling before his eyes.
"It's alright for you playing little miss popular," he muttered, "Not one of these bloody Gryffindors would give me the time of day."
"You do realise you're one of that collective now."
"Albus' idea of humour no doubt."
"Albus aside," said Minerva, "You've never attempted to be liked when you can be feared, what's changed?"
"The students feared me," said Severus, "My colleagues, well those who aren't certifiably insane, I classed as friends. Now I am not feared, simply despised and my colleagues are treating me like an infant."
"You do have one friend in all this," said Minerva, "Even when you were being insufferable you always were and remain still a dear friend to me. You should have come to me today."
"And make this experience as dreadful for you as it is for me?" said Severus, "Even I'm not that cruel."
He let out a forced laugh, "Ignore me," he said, "I'm grumpy, tired and sadly facing teenage hormones with even less joy than I did before. I do not do cuddles by the fireside or silly heart to hearts, it's the damn adolescence speaking and if one of the others gets wind of this I'll be even worse off than I am. It was better when I was taller than all of them."
"I can speak to the others. I still retain some of my influence I think."
"You know how I feel about people doing that," said Severus, noticeably flinching at a memory.
Minerva looked on sympathetically, "This must bring back some memories," she said, "Especially with Harry in the same room as you."
"At least he and Weasley have yet to prove themselves as cruel as James and Black were. Time however may alter that."
"Not Harry," said Minerva, "He has too much of his mother in him…oh, damn! Severus, I'm sorry."
He attempted a smile but failed, "I have reconciled to the knowledge somewhat Minerva but still…"
"This must remind you."
"Every moment," said Severus, "You know at the start, back then, I always wanted to be a Gryffindor. I had been tempted to ask the headmaster until my first meeting with Potter and his band."
"You would have been welcome," said Minerva, "I remember the meeting with the teachers half way through the first term when they were discussing your results and I would have loved you for Gryffindor."
Severus managed a more genuine laugh, "Surely the powers of House Head and Dumbledore's favourite would have allowed you to pluck an obscure little twelve year old from his house."
Minerva smiled, "If only. I swear Slytherin won the House Cup that year on your results alone."
"Coupled by the fact that we annihilated you on the Quidditch Pitch."
"You didn't dominate for long though," said Minerva, "Speaking of Quidditch, you do know that the Gryffindor team are looking for a new keeper?"
"My Quidditch days ended a long time ago," said Severus rubbing his arm, "I can still feel that Bludger. Besides, play Quidditch on the same team as a Potter and two Weasleys? I'd be dead before the first goal."
Minerva smiled mournfully, "You're determined to be downcast I see. Can you find nothing good in this situation?"
Severus frowned before popping the button of his left cuff and rolling up his sleeve, revealing a pale forearm but Minerva gasped all the same, reaching out to trace the skin.
"It…it's gone?" she said, "How?"
"Before the age of nineteen I was unmarked," he said.
"You're free," said Minerva softly, "Oh Severus this is so wonderful."
Severus shook his head, "A temporary respite," he said, "I have little doubt that it will return when we are cured. Seems either way I am to be cursed either by a master or my classmates."
"You're not alone in this."
Severus patted her hand as it rested still on his arm, "Dear to me as you are my friend, you see I may admit affection without melting, I was born lonely. I will not have your time like this tainted by association. I'm going to bed; we have Transfiguration first thing tomorrow so it's best you don't stay up too late. Goodnight."
"Goodnight," said Minerva, following him to her feet before pulling him into an awkward hug, "Just remember that I am capable of listening."
Severus stepped from her arms quickly, "Goodnight Minerva," he said before heading to the boys' dormitory.
Hermione watched him go from her hideaway, her mind already made up as she remembered the pain of being ostracised in her first term. Severus Snape was convinced he had no friends. She would make sure that changed.
A/N: Please leave a little review. More to follow in a week.