Disclaimer: He ain't mine. I do things to him in my twisted little fantasies, but if JK can't handle that, then she shouldn't have published him. Margaretta is mine.

NOTE: This story is finished, and hasn't changed to what it was before. However, I thought I'd try to make it a little easier to read. Updates soon!



Playing With Gypsies

by Clarity

Chapter One

The teachers of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had gathered together in the staff room for their first meeting of the year. It was only an hour until the students arrived and the beginning of year feast began, but the meeting was only a formality. Most teachers had arrived a day or two before, settling into their old rooms and organising the first lessons of the year before classes began, and so most of the announcements on new timetables and other school business had already passed by word of mouth.

Each settled into their accustomed positions around the meeting table. The staff of Hogwarts rarely changed. Even in these dark times, when many were fleeing the reemergence of He Who Must Not Be Named, confidence in Albus Dumbledore's ability to deal with any situation was high. As a consequence, it had become routine over time for Professor McGonagal to sit on the right hand of Dumbledore, at the head of the table, beside professors Flitwick and Hooch. Hagrid, the half-giant groundskeeper and teacher of Care of Magical Creatures, sat next to them. On the other side of the oval table, Madam Pince, librarian, and Madam Pomfrey, school nurse, were seated further down, next to Argus Filch, caretaker, who sat at the very bottom of the oval table. In such a manner were all the teachers sat, in the mixture of rank and preference for neighbours that had developed over time.

As the teachers settled, only two places remained empty. At the head of the table, an empty chair stood where the Headmaster of Hogwarts generally sat, and further down the left hand side of the table the spot next to Professor Snape was empty - the place usually taken by the Professor for the Defense Against the Dark Arts.

A few teachers cast curious looks at the empty chair, and at Snape sitting beside it. The position of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher was one of the very few to change hands in the last few years. In fact, in recent years, no teacher had lasted more than a year in the position. There were rumours - not believed by the teachers of Hogwarts, of course - that the position was cursed.

It was well known that Severus Snape, who for many years had taught Potions, desired to be teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts as well. Many thought that this was why he had positioned himself to sit next to the teacher of that subject. Snape, a darkly brooding man, could be very intimidating when he wanted to.

The babble around the table ceased as the door to the staff room opened and Albus Dumbledore strode in. The teachers rose to greet him, as was tradition, and Dumbledore waved them back down. Dumbledore was not one for pomp.

He walked to his seat and beamed down at his staff, before taking his seat.

'Well, my friends, another new year,' he smiled. 'I will not be long as I am sure you all want to go and prepare for the feast.' With a wave of his wand a notepad appeared before Dumbledore. He glanced at it briefly and looked back around the table. 'Ah. Well, to begin with: the fourth floor this year is only to be used by students in their seventh year, as for some reason the stair has taken a dislike to any person under sixteen years of age.' Several teachers nodded. In the last few months of classes, several students had been thrown from the stairs to the landing on the third floor. Dumbledore cleared his throat. 'All of your services will be needed for the periodical reinforcement of the protective spells around the castle this year, as we have gone for the highest security possible. Also, any anomalies found, psychic impulses in the grounds, et cetera, are to be reported at once. Now,' Dumbledore looked around the room, his eyes resting on the empty place next to Snape.

'Ah,' he smiled. 'I suspected this might happen. Oh, well, this gives me time to inform you all that there is to be a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher this year.' Teachers nodded again. The position was hardly one that could be could remain open, especially in these dark times. Dumbledore continued, 'This teacher has had extensive experience in defense against dark magics, having traveled extensively through many of the more dangerous areas, and, with our current trouble, it is very fortunate for us that they also have had several experiences with those who support Voldemort.' Several teachers cringed. Even here, safe in Hogwarts, the name of the Dark Lord drew fear. 'Furthermore, as an ex-student of Hogwarts, their knowledge of the grounds will be of invaluable help in strengthening our defenses this year. There will also be a new class-' Dumbledore paused, and turned towards the door. 'Ah, here she is now.' As he spoke, the door slammed open and a figure, cloaked,

scarved and loaded down with several pieces of baggage, tumbled in the door. It dropped the bags in a corner, noisily stomping feet and puffing.

The figure turned towards the table, struggling with scarf and cloak as it approached the empty chair. With a bright, 'Sorry!', it removed its hat to reveal a long plait of dark hair and a rosy-cheeked feminine face.

'Ah! Glad you made it,' said Dumbledore, turning to the rest of the table. 'May I introduce Margaretta Drumknott.'

The woman finally freed herself from her cloak and scarf, throwing them on the floor behind the chair. She smiled brightly at the group.

'Hi,' she said, quietly, and sat down.

***

Severus Snape had been in a relatively good mood. Though he was reluctant to admit it, he enjoyed teaching at Hogwarts. Forcing information into reluctant young minds was a fairly rewarding task, though frustrating at times. He enjoyed seeing the students in his care blossom under his watchful eye; students who reminded him so much of himself, who had so much promise. Occasionally he would come up against a completely hopeless case, such as young, smarmy Harry Potter- not all students could be future greats.

He enjoyed teaching. He also enjoyed the research he was able to do in his spare moments- being a professor had its perks. And, though he didn't agree with everything the man said, Albus Dumbledore had his brilliant moments, frustrating though some of his policies were. The rest of the staff were, in general, tolerable, though there was nothing to encourage more than civility from most of them.

All in all, life at Hogwarts was acceptable. Dull, without a single bright mind to provoke intelligent discussion, but acceptable.

He had sat in his usual chair, letting the banter of the other teachers wash over him and nodding hello to any he hadn't already met over the past days, waiting patiently for Dumbledore to arrive. The announcements the headmaster had made came as no surprise, being mostly things that had been settled over the holidays. Even the announcement of a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher was unsurprising. Snape had felt the looks of the other teachers as they noticed the empty chair beside him, looks that had increased as Dumbledore read out a description that could very easily have fitted Snape, but, having spoken to Dumbledore upon his arrival, Snape knew he had been passed over for the position again.

He was interested to hear, however, that the new teacher had a career so similar to his own. Was it too much to hope that the committee had chosen someone worthy of the position, instead of the usual fops that had been the fodder of recent years?

His hopes sank when the figure had blundered in. An undignified entrance. The new teacher would be in the usual line, it seemed.

Snape had been taken aback when the figure had manoeuvred the scarf from its face. It was a woman- no, she could be no more than a girl. It seemed more likely she should be a student than a teacher. Snape reflected that it was amazing that such a child could have the resume that Dumbledore had announced- the old man must have been exaggerating. Yet another of his favourite ex-students, favoured and spoilt.

Just as he was turning back to the table, the girl took off her hat, and Snape saw the long plait tumble down. He looked back up as the girl removed her cloak and scarf. Her cheeks were rosy and red, her green eyes sparkled. Her hair was transformed by the light, now a rich dark brown, now black, now auburn. A few strands curled over her cheeks. Snape found that he was holding his breath. He released it. She was a mere child, he told himself, forcing his stare back to the table. Still, he sensed the slim figure, clothed in robes of dark red velvet, as she sat down beside him.

'Sorry to interrupt, everyone, the weather was amazing on the way up,' she said. Her voice, Snape thought, was far too bright. A naive child.

He felt her settle into her chair as Dumbledore began to speak again.

'Margaretta will also be teaching a new course this year, Advanced Bewitchment. I'm sure we will all do our best to make her welcome.' The old man smiled down the table before rising. 'That concludes our business for today. I will be in my office until the feast should anyone wish to talk to me.' Snape watched as Dumbledore exited the room, and stood himself. Several other teachers moved from the table slowly, congregating for a chat beside the fire. There was not much to do but await the feast. Snape wished to visit his office before the meal.

He was halted by a hand on his arm. He looked down to see Margaretta smiling up at him.

'Professor Snape.'

Snape was mildly surprised at the familiarity in her tone. Surely he hadn't himself taught this- youngling?

'Do I... know you?' he said, with barely polite civility. He didn't want to encourage this child to be any more familiar than she was.

She chuckled and leant back in her chair. 'I doubt it. But I felt we should be reacquainted. Margaretta Drumknott.' She held out her hand. Snape ignored it, staring straight at her.

'Yes, Dumbledore said. Congratulations.' Snape turned to leave, but again felt the woman's hand on his arm. He turned to find her standing beside him.

She leant against the table. 'You know, I'll also be teaching the new Advanced Bewitchment classes for excelling students. It'll involve the usual chants, of course, but I thought I would include a few herbal treatments that I have found come in handy. Your help with that side, of course, would be invaluable.' She smiled cheerily up at him.

'I doubt my help would be of any assistance to you,' replied Snape, dislike permeating his voice. His help would indeed be of no assistance, as he felt he would rather become Harry Potter's babysitter than give this whelp any useful advice. Let her make her blunders unassisted.

Margaretta seemed unperturbed. 'Oh, I'm sure you're wrong, Severus.' She smiled again and whirled off before Snape could correct her for using his first name uninvited.

He watched as she bounced over to the group by the fireplace. She was like a puppy, he thought. So irritatingly bouncy, so naively happy. So easily intimidated with a few harsh words. It would be amusing to see her enthusiasm quashed.

This year, Snape reflected, would be interesting.