The Year of Living Differently

Author's Note: This is the prequel to Transformation. The Pre-Azkaban stuff. Snape does a year at a Muggle university after leaving Hogwarts, and finds things are not as he was brought up to believe. I suppose I need to say that the characters you recognise belong to JK Rowling, the ones you don't... don;t. This first chapter inspired by SilverFox's story "Runaway Dragon'

Chapter 1 - The Partner

She'd been surprised to find another wizard-born here, certainly in these classes. They might slum it for a summer school on literature, but BSc(Chem) was not at all usual. Neither was BSc(Pharmacy), she supposed.

She had gravitated towards him as a lab partner in their shared classes, seeing his natural talent and his finicky perfectionism. That usually turned people off, but she had some of that herself and enough self-preservation to realise that if she was going to do well, such a partner was a bonus. It wasn't till the 3rd or 4th week that she realised he was as deficient as she was or maybe more so in some areas, and not until even later that she realised it was because he was wizard-born.

He was disturbing to be around, it was the intensity. Whether he was focusing his entire soul on a titration, or striding through the corridors like an avenging angel, or devouring books as though he were starving and they were steak, he did it with a most terrifying concentration.

He was brighter than she was, and better educated, even in muggle science. An expensive crammer had apparently shoveled matriculation science and maths down his throat as fast as he could swallow.

But he was lost outside a lab or a library, he was bewildered by the topsyturvey upside-down mirror world he was living in, and by the people around him. Not, she thought, just because they were muggles.

She'd had more exposure to this world than he'd had, but then he was old blood, you could tell by the accent, and the casual way he thought about money, and by the beautiful things in his room, the one time she went there on a detour with him to fetch something he'd forgotten. And everyone knew the old families didn't go near muggle things, especially not now!

So she helped him with the things he found strange and he helped her with the things she did, and they coped in the mirror world well enough.

She didn't ask him what he was doing here, the way he constantly asked questions and grabbed at information as though time was precious and it might all leak through his fingers told her that.

He did ask her one day.

They'd finished the set work early, and she'd finally managed to get him to forsake his new love, the chromatograph, and eat for once.

When he'd come down off his new-toy-induced high, and was back in the land of the living again, he'd asked.

"Well... I had a part time job with a muggle apothecary, they call them pharmacists. He taught me some things that made a lot of sense and he thought I should study pharmacy, I had an aptitude for it. I applied for here and for an internship at St Mungos, and this came through,"

"You want to work in the dispensary at Mungos? Or maybe be a pharmacist?"

"I want to do a degree in medical potions I think, I don't mind the muggle world, but I don't want to live here forever. I hope I can get accepted if I do well in this degree."

"I want to do a Potion Master research degree. I want to specialise in Alchemy" he said, startling her. He never talked about himself!

Except once, when he'd told her he was Slytherin, explaining a reaction he'd had to some student politicking that had disturbed one of their classes. He'd not said anything about the more unsavoury aspects, but she'd heard of those from elsewhere. If he was prejudiced he hadn't shown much sign of it so far though,

"And for that you need Chemistry".

"And for that I need Chemistry, And Maths. But there's so much to learn, I thought maybe a year and I'd have enough, but there's so much to learn!"

He'd said it with a sort of joyful wonder, a kid in a toyshop, all alone. No bullies or parents or family obligations, just him and all those shelves....

She watched him, thinking how happiness changed his face. He wasn't interested in anything but his work of course, and she wasn't interested in any dalliance with someone who would be back to his old family lineage and his Slytherin associates after this brief sojurn in another world.

She wouldn't *want* to follow him there. She didn't belong. And she didn't like what she'd heard about it.

But she enjoyed his company. Enjoyed his enthusiasm and his delight in the new things around him. here in this odd bubble of time, in this different world.