Summary: At the start of Potter's second year at Hogwarts, additional duties fall on Severus Snape's shoulders with the arrival of an unexpected—and unwanted—guest. Overall story occurs from CoS to post-DH, disregarding the Epilogue.
Warnings: AU, EWE. Rating may increase in later chapters.
Disclaimer:This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made by the humble (and quite poor) fanfic author, and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/Ns:Non-canon Latin words/translations are from .edu. References include The Harry Potter Lexicon and Potterwords. Although potions ingredients in this fiction story are sometimes listed as possible treatments, none of them should be used for such purposes unless in consultation with a qualified medical doctor.
Principles and Honor
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
-I Corinthians 13 (KJV)
NOTES: Occurring during Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban.
The combined scent of leather and polished wood filled her lungs, a soothing welcome after hours of recycled stale jetliner air and the overwhelming ashtray smell in the cramped cab to King's Cross Station. Hitching the backpack off her shoulders and dumping it onto one of the two comfortable old bench seats, the short-haired brunette sat down just as the train jerked forward.
So tired. The flight had been unrestful. When she'd reclined her seat, the passenger behind her had rapped sharply, saying he was using his laptop and needed her seat back upright. Every time she'd dozed a while, neck pain had awakened her.
A gentle smile came to her lips at the thought of the nostalgic train steaming to Scotland. Her travel agent had mentioned it would be old and slow, but she'd hadn't expected an actual steam train that could be straight from a black-and-white movie. She'd found an unclaimed compartment in the last car, which afforded some quiet from the horde of excited and noisy children.
Lying down, she rested her head on the pack and closed her eyes, the train's gentle motion and the rhythmic click-clack, click-clack lulling her to sleep. Images of city buildings, countryside and villages flashed by, the hours marked by the shifting sunlight on farmland and moors, and moonlight shimmering on rivers and waterways.
When the so-called express finally reached its destination, the jolting stop didn't wake her, nor did the excited children disembarking, dragging their luggage. Raincoat-draped and curled on the padded bench, she drowsily awoke only when shaken by the shoulder.
"Oi, miss! We're 'bout to close down for the night, and I only just spotted ya," the conductor said, peering at her with a mixture of amusement and urgency. "Ya won't need any sleep for a week after that nap!"
Shaking her head to enforce full consciousness, she arose, grabbing her coat and what appeared to the man to be a rather small-sized backpack.
"Ya've not got any other baggage?" the conductor asked curiously.
"It'll be delivered in a day or two," the casually-dressed woman replied, disclosing an American accent. "I've got in the pack what I need to tide me over." Meanwhile, she shrugged one of the bag's wide straps over her right shoulder with one hand, the other zipping up the waterproof jacket.
"This way." The elderly man held forward a lantern as he guided her down the steps and onto the platform.
"Thank you," she said automatically, looking around. The platform was clear except for two train personnel near the engine, the conductor and herself. Lights twinkled from houses a distance beyond the station, and the soft streetlights along the platform revealed an attractive reddish tinge to her short, wavy hair, a ringlet teasing her left ear.
"I'm afraid ya've missed both the carriages and the boats," the conductor apologized. He glanced up the mountain, his forehead crinkling in concern. "It's a bit of a hike to the castle…"
His sized her up while she looked uncertainly up the hill. With the dancing lantern light fading quickly, the mountain was nearly black against the night sky.
"Have ya actually been here before?" he asked.
"Uh, no," she admitted, hitching her pack to hang more comfortably.
"Ah, then, you'll need to take a boat," the conductor nodded sagely. "I'm sure one'll be available by the time ya get to the dock yonder." He pointed to a walkway extending from the railway station toward the trees, the groomed trail clearly lit by old-fashioned lamp posts.
Her gaze followed the direction he indicated, taking in the dirt path with fresh shoe prints that disappeared among the trees toward a faint light. The river—or lake, as the case may be—obviously lay beyond.
"But I expect ya may be a bit late for the supper," he added.
"I suppose if I missed it and they're quite strict, I'll just snack on what I brought," she answered, bending over to tighten a shoe lace.
"Oh, they won't let ya go hungry," the man promised, then jerked his head toward the path. "Once ya get to the other side, just take the stairway. It'll take ya straight to the castle."
"Thanks." She smiled into his kindly, lined face. "And thanks for keeping me from missing the stop!" She gave the conductor a firm handshake and, obeying her growling stomach, started along the path at a brisk pace.
"I'm sure Dumbledore and the staff will give ya a warm welcome!" the conductor called after her. She twisted slightly without breaking pace to wave acknowledgement. Turning away, he removed his blue cap and swung the lantern in the all-clear signal to his colleagues.
Two lanterns hanging at the end of the dock cast a yellow glow on a single wooden boat that bobbed gently in the dark lake water. After a moment's hesitation—this, after all, was a rather unexpected means to reach her destination—she dropped the backpack into the boat, then carefully stepped down. Holding the worn sides for balance, she sat down and was bending forward in search or oars when the boat began moving forward of its own volition.
"Whoa!" Eyes wide, she grabbed the sides more firmly and watched incredulously as the motorless boat steadily floated toward what apparently was a steeply peaked island. "It must be done with underwater rails," she murmured.
It took a couple of minutes for her to accept that, somehow, the boat "knew" where it was going and she relaxed into the ride. An invigorating pine scent wafted across the lake, whose water reflected a stream of moonlight surrounded by ever-shifted starpoints.
The boat bumped into a stone pier less than fifteen minutes later and stilled itself next to a lit, narrow stairway. Holding her pack firmly in one hand, she gingerly stepped out, glad to find firm footing. As she climbed the steep flight, the boat silently slipped away.
From the top of the stairs she could finally see the gray castle looming about two football fields away. Welcoming lights sparkled from the windows, and a banner whose design could not be clearly seen nonetheless flew proudly from the highest turret. She paused to gawk at the magnificent sight, and her thoughts turned to dinner—"at the high table," the provided literature had said—and sleeping in a curtained, four-poster bed in an honest-to-God real castle. She sighed in expectation.
Hurrying across the grass, she turned up the stone sidewalk, and pushed open one of the enormously tall, thick double doors.
The Entrance Hall was empty, save for banners and glorious, sweeping staircases reaching several floors. She looked fruitlessly about for someone or for something—a desk bell, perhaps?—to summons staff. As she waited several minutes, she looked toward another set of tall wooden doors from which emanated sounds of festivity and the aroma of a fine meal. Giving up on meeting anyone in the entry, she quietly crossed the room to stand against the far wall that provided a clear view into the Great Hall.
Students wearing robes in traditional British public school robes sat eating, talking exuberantly and squirming along four long tables stretching toward the front of the room, where adults in similar academic gowns more sedately demonstrated good table manners and polite conversation while keeping an eye on the rollicking mass before them. All of the tables were piled high with huge platters and bowls of food, ranging from meats to desserts. Many of the staff and students wore unusual hats, some pointed. Most amazing of all were the hundreds of candles suspended in mid-air and the night-sky tableau on the ceiling.
What a truly wondrous place! she thought, so enrapt with the scene that her hunger was forgotten.
"Pardon me." She started at the unexpected voice beside her.
Looking up at her was a balding, round-shouldered and supremely sour-looking man holding up a lantern to see her better. Apparently trying to smile, his lips could only form a twisted grimace. His thread-bare brown coat looked as if it had been rescued from a seedy thrift store, and what teeth he still possessed were crooked and yellow. Circling his ankles was a scrawny cat whose narrowed eyes glared suspiciously.
"H-hello," the woman squeaked loudly. Suppressing a shudder and slightly ashamed, she pasted on an engaging smile. "Is there anyone available to help me get my room and maybe something to eat?" she asked in a more modulated tone. "Sorry I'm late. Last off the train."
Lips pursed, he eyed her carefully, considering the situation. "Wait here," he muttered.
With a backward glance to see that she obeyed, he entered the Great Hall, creeping along the right wall before stepping quickly across to an old man who had taken his place at an eagle podium. Bending to hear the shabby little man's whisper, the senior with an enormously long beard leveled shrewd blue eyes past the open double doors, then whispered back to the caretaker.
Returning to the wall, her greeter stepped onto the platform and shuffled behind the seated adults to a thin, dark-haired man sitting ramrod straight. Expressionless, he listened to the stooped messenger's whisper, then rose and walked off the platform, the caretaker trotting to keep up with the younger man's long-legged stride. Some students' heads swiveled to see where the pair was going, but one elegantly sharp motion from the black-draped man's hand was enough to make most—particularly those at the table below green banners, the woman noticed—hastily return their curious stares to the front.
Filch trailing behind him, Severus Snape swept silently through the doors, his black robe swirling around his legs as he came to a sudden stop before the unknown woman. His piercing black eyes surveyed her from head to toe. Late 20s, early 30s, he calculated. She plainly had decided there was no need for formality tonight. His lips briefly curled into a sneer as he noted no makeup enhanced her relatively attractive face and her hair needed brushing. She wore a white T-shirt, open waterproof jacket, wrinkled khaki pants, and a suede-like backpack—backpack!—resting rested next to her white trainers. How distinctly American, he thought.
Simultaneously, she appraised the tall man before her. He appeared all black, save for pale skin and touches of while at his neck and wrists. The academic robe, boots, trousers and multi-buttoned coat were black, as was his lank, chin-length hair. A crease between his dark brows underscored an evident sternness. His nose was large and hooked, apparently broken in the past, and there were a couple of clear scares on his otherwise smooth skin. Though he frowned, she noted that his lips were thin yet attractively well-shaped. His eyes were the darkest she'd ever seen, and long-lashed. He exuded a heady combination of self-confidence and mystery.
"And who, pray tell, are you?" he demanded, looking down the hooked nose and folding his arms across his chest. Two long fingers drummed against a black-clad arm.
Although taken aback by the cool acknowledgment, she smiled, displaying even white teeth, and extended her hand, failing to be intimidated by his no-nonsense attitude. Snape didn't move. She dropped her hand and continued pleasantly.
"Nadia Beasley," she replied. "I don't mean to be disruptive. I slept on the train, and would have missed the stop if the conductor hadn't wakened me."
Snape stared into her eyes. The look slightly chilled her, and the corner of his mouth twitched as he sensed her unease.
"I'm sorry to interrupt. I hadn't been informed about a special event," Nadia looked back into the hall, the warmth returning to her as she enjoyed the sight. "Just a little something to eat and a bed would be great. Feels like I've been traveling for days." She turned back to him imploringly.
Severus stood very still, again locking eyes with the woman for longer than she thought necessary. Nadia held his gaze with guileless confidence. Despite his rudeness, he was strangely fascinating.
He turned his gaze to the Great Hall's doorway, where Filch waited. Jerking his head to the side, Snape led both away from the speechmaking within, back to the Entry Hall and to the main stairs. "Wait here until the ceremonies are ended," he instructed, a glance at Filch making it clear that his duty was to keep an eye on the woman. Abruptly, he turned on his heels, his robe swinging to one side, and strode out the main doors, a blast of cold air escaping inside before the heavy doors banged shut.
Beasley and Filch stood uncomfortably in the faint torch light, shifting uncomfortably without speaking. Unintelligible voices occasionally punctuated by applause drifted from the assembly room. After several minutes' standing, Nadia finally sank onto a smooth stone step, resting her elbows on her thighs. Filch pursed his lips again but said nothing, and his cat began winding itself around his ankles, occasionally giving an accusatory stare at the stranger.
A squirming troop of youngsters suddenly emerged from a side room, led by a tall tartan-draped woman in a pointed hat. After being shushed, they filtered through the Great Hall doorway, beyond sight.
Hunger was making her somewhat lightheaded, but Nadia deemed it impolite to break out the sunflower was slowly building in her forehead. Must have a headache coming on from the long trip, she thought, rubbing her temple lightly. She closed her eyes, willing the pain to go away.
Some time later, students rushed through the double doors, parting around Snape, who walked through throng's midst. Nadia stepped hastily aside, kicking the backpack to safety behind her to avoid the crush and possible damage. All of the adults present followed except Severus, who paused to order a prefect to conduct the Slytherins to their dungeon common room; Filch, who had posted himself by the Great Hall's doors to detect any misconduct among the heathens; and Dumbledore, who remained before the head table, enjoying the sight of his students eagerly beginning another school year.
Snape approached Dumbledore.
"Headmaster." Folding his hands inside his robes and across his chest, Snape leaned forward. "She's a Muggle."
A/N: For purposes of this story, Snape agreed to duck outside to catch the errant Potter and Weasley, hauled them into his office and gave them a thorough tongue-lashing before returning upstairs to inform the Headmaster about Beasley and the Terrible Twos' arrivals. I owe him a huge firewhisky.
Canon and other errors are entirely my own. My apologies for any pain this may cause. "grin"
Thank you for joining me. I hope you'll R&R!