A/N: Hey readers, just a quick note to say this is a sequel to "Frisson" and while it should be the makings of a good plot without the previous story, it makes sense to read that one first for context.
Ta very much and don't forget to review because everyone knows the tingly feeling you get from reviews.
Reuben deFlash xxx
Chapter 1 – Reinforcements
"Severus? You're not paying attention to me, old friend."
The dark haired man who was draped lazily in an armchair by the fire of Dumbledore's office turned his attentions from the flickering flames and looked at the old man seated at the desk. No, he had not been listening to him; he had been thinking, but of what of was anyone's guess. Severus Snape was not the kind of person you quizzed on the inner workings of his mind.
"Sorry, Albus. I was lost for a moment," Snape replied blankly sitting up straight. "Why did you call me here exactly?"
Here was in Albus Dumbledore's office; it was late night on a Saturday and Severus was tired – the dim lights of the candles that hung in the air doing nothing for his drowsiness. That coupled with the warm fire in the hearth and he was practically asleep.
"I have something of importance to discuss with you," Albus mused pushing his spectacles up his nose. "The story I just told about my Uncle Augustus was entirely irrelevant."
Something like a smile turned the corner of Snape's mouth upwards and he gestured for the man to continue.
"As you know, the new school year begins Monday," Dumbledore began. Snape rolled his eyes wearily.
"I am acutely aware," he mumbled pinching the bridge between his eyes.
"I don't know why you persist in denying your passion for teaching Severus; really, after all this time, it is quite obvious to me that you love inflicting pain on your students." Dumbledore's eyes shone with amusement but Snape didn't even crack a smile.
"And as you may also know, we're having an influx of students this term. More and more magical children are being born, and if we're to carry on, we need to expand."
"Well, the castle has always catered for space and classrooms, Professor," Snape said, leaning back in his chair and putting his hands together.
"It isn't an issue of space, Severus. The problem is that there aren't enough teachers."
"I'm not sure I follow."
"All the subjects are mandatory for first years all the way through to third. The students then choose what to carry on. Some of the subjects have to be carried on, such as Defence against the Dark Arts and of course, Potions." Albus paused, watching his friend's expression carefully. "You can't teach that many students."
Snape said nothing.
"I propose that bring in more teachers, not just for Potions but for other subjects that will struggle to cope with the boom too, and the load will be easier for all concerned."
"I am quite capable of teaching..."
"It won't be physically possible, unless you use a Time-Turner, and we know how well they can turn out. You'll run yourself ragged, into an early retirement. And you're too valuable a teacher for me to lose, Severus," Dumbledore added, peering over the top of his glasses.
"But who?" Snape looked sullen now.
"We have several applicants for all posts."
"I am not happy with this," Severus said crossing his arms. "It complicates my methods. I prefer to 'act alone' as it were."
"The matter, old friend," Albus said sadly, "is non-negotiable. You will work alongside another Professor."
Snape drew a deep breath and clenched his jaw. He didn't appreciate being told what to do, not even by the Headmaster,
"I would like to be involved in the application process," he said simply and shortly.
"I don't think that's wise," the headmaster said, rising. "You may be a little too critical. No one will ever match up to your ridiculously high standards."
Snape pondered Dumbledore's last sentence and raised an eyebrow. "Touché," he muttered, running a finger along his bottom lip. No one would ever be able to match his expectations of a Potions master and the thought made him smile when he looked back at how many wasted Defence Against the Dark Arts professors there had been. The idea of that happening within his Potions department? Laughable.
"Still," he continued, rising from his seat also. "I think I should be involved if I am to work alongside them."
Dumbledore patted his arm affectionately. "The answer is no, Severus. I will choose someone and then I will introduce them to you Monday evening, when everything is settled and before classes begin."
Snape sniffed and realised he was defeated. Albus was kind to him but the wizened man before him was resolutely firm when he wanted to be.
"Very well," sighed Snape as if he had won and had given in to Albus' request. "But no one who got less than an Outstanding at NEWT and OWL. Understood? I won't have anyone featherbrained teaching the students. It's bad enough you let that barely qualified oaf Hagrid..."
"Ah, ah, ah," Dumbledore said, raising a finger in caution. "Kind words Severus, else I shall employee Gilderoy Lockhart again."
Snape grimaced. And then he bit his tongue.
"That's enough first years, settle," Snape said in a loud voice, which frightened them momentarily. This was his new group of Slytherins, and some of them looked as if they had escaped from juvenile Azkaban. There was a cousin of Draco's; easily distinguishable by the distinctive pale blond hair and the proud expression. They all looked the same at this age – only when they reached around fifth year did they get any defining features. The students didn't know fear yet, something that he would soon put to rights. Although he had always been, and would remain somewhat fond of those assigned to his house, he was never a man who was going to put up with their tomfoolery.
The matter of a new teacher had reigned in his thoughts at the weekend, but with the busyness of settling the new students into houses and the feast, Snape's anxiety and annoyance slipped from his mind. It was only now as he looked at how many students there actually were in this year that he suddenly realised the school had its work cut out.
"I believe you were asked to settle," said a calm elderly voice. Snape turned to see Dumbledore, smiling gently at them. The roomful of little people decreased form a loud clatter to a low hum of excitement and then intrigued silence. Albus had a knack for attracting attention.
"What is it Headmaster?" Snape sighed. "I have a date with my newly sorted first years."
"But of course Severus. Have you forgotten I was coming; to introduce the new potion's teacher?" Dumbledore said, gesturing to the figure standing beside him who Snape hadn't noticed. Severus stiffened. He had forgotten, shamelessly. She was looking at the first years with a fond smile before her eyes flickered to his face in a fleeting movement.
He almost gasped, if gasping was something Snape did; they were eyes he knew well.
"Miss Cross was of course a pupil here," Dumbledore started, as if she needed introduction, as if Snape wouldn't know who she was. "And she's been qualified as a teacher for a year."
"Alana?" was all Snape managed to say, in a low voice, turning his body towards them.
"Hello," she said quietly, before extending a hand, which he shook dumbly. She was a little taller, and her hair remained unchanged, aside from being tied back so it fell down her back. She wore a dark blue shirt and dark trousers. Businesslike. Stepping back she put her hands in her trouser pockets, and looked around the dungeon. "It hasn't changed," she mused.
Snape said nothing but looked at Dumbledore accusingly, who was examining his fingers. "A teacher?" he managed finally, wishing he could speak with his usual boldness but her presence had quite alarmed him.
"Yes," Alana smiled. "I studied Potions first but switched to teaching. I was...inspired."
Snape didn't show the surprise he felt. She couldn't have possibly meant him. They had spent most of their time together fighting rather than him teaching her. He had quietly wondered to himself at times what a good teacher she would have made. But not here, Snape thought. Not with him!
"Very well," he said simply. "I'm afraid I don't have time to be idle. We'll have to do the pleasantries later," he said snidely.
"Of course," she smiled warmly, looking at him with a curious expression. "Another time."
He looked at her eyes quickly. He'd forgotten how green they were. There was something in them; Snape got the distinct feeling she was laughing at him. He gritted his teeth and turned his back on her. The sound of her footfalls on the dungeon floor echoed and Dumbledore excused them both before closing the door to the dungeons behind them, leaving him to his unruly first years.
"Silence!" he shouted at them, his clear voice bouncing off the walls in a sudden storm of anger and for the first time they saw a reason to fear Severus Snape.
Snape threw himself back into his armchair in his private quarters later that evening and groaned into his hands.
Disastrous. That was the only way of describing it. Albus had never known the nature of Severus' and Alana's relationship; had he been aware, Snape was certain he would not have hired her as the new Potions professor. They had parted well of course, but that did not exclude the fact that they had in fact kissed and had feelings for each other during her short time at the Wizarding School.
He drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair and frowned. It wasn't as if he'd forgotten about her. He had resigned himself to the fact that on her departure they would never meet again.
Now he bloody well had to work with her. It didn't get much more awkward than that.
And it wasn't as if he could plead to Albus. Then he would have to explain why he didn't want her around. Somehow, 'she disrupts my peace' – however true that may be – would not be sufficient reason to reject someone for a job.
She had looked well; she was no longer the angular young adult from five years ago – she was woman now and he would do well to remember that. He supposed she must have done well for herself. He had requested no one who had less than an O at both sets of Wizarding examinations, and he highly suspected she was a registered Potions Master. Damn. He always knew she would be. It was futile denying her talent then and he supposed she'd only got better.
Teaching. Now he had not expected that one. He couldn't help but feel there was some ulterior motive behind her return. And suddenly all the unanswered questions about her father, and France came to his inquisitive mind. He would have to calm himself; she had only been back in his life mere hours and he was fighting the urge to pry into her life.
Snape leaned back and thought, for the first time in years, about kissing her. About the dream. He shuddered as flashes of his long past nightmare reared their ugly head. He kneaded his forehead with a clenched fist, fighting the headache that was already forming. Was she married? Or seeing someone?
Now there were questions that shouldn't concern him. Not then, and not now.