"Haven't you ever wondered just what it might take to change Snape's mind?"-Me to myself

Far Too Many Time Travelers
Interlude 1: Seriously, Snape?


Severus Snape had been teaching for years, and believed he had a very good sense of what to expect from each student as they were being Sorted. So far, he had almost never been wrong, and when he had, he convinced himself he was right anyhow. This year, he expected it to be quite the same; in fact, he had already predicted several merely based on who they were. Another Weasley? Obvious. Draco? Obvious. Simpering Muggle-borns? Also obvious. And then there was the little royal brat himself, Harry Potter.

Snape was not looking forward to this year.

As the students piled into the Great Hall, he took note of the particular reactions, which were always the same sort. Awe, fear, horror, braggadocio. To be expected. He spotted Potter immediately, of course, looking for all the world like a miniature version of his wretched father. Seeing Potter like that, it was quite easy to pretend that he wasn't remotely related to Lily at all. Palling around with Weasley (predictable), some Muggle-born girl (not quite as predictable, but a reasonable enough assumption), and... Draco? Perhaps, Snape considered, he wasn't getting the full picture from his seat at the table. Although he was usually quite good at this sort of thing-perhaps Lucius had asked Draco to insinuate himself into Potter's good graces? Troubling, if true. And unfortunately, highly plausible.

And Harry Potter, acting like a little conceited brat, while his little friends, Malfoy included, seemed terrified. Abnormally so, actually. But then the girl was Sorted into Gryffindor, and Snape realized she clearly didn't matter (he had entertained a brief parallel to Lily, then immediately discarded it, as this girl was obviously nothing like his childhood friend). Malfoy went into Slytherin, after the Hat acted... very oddly indeed. Snape had never heard the Hat make an audible sound as with the Granger girl.

Then it was Potter's turn, and Snape was surprised to find he wasn't certain what would happen. But then Potter was sent to Gryffindor, and Snape dismissed yet another first year into irrelevance. Not that the Headmaster would see it that way, but Albus wasn't always willing to see reason. And then, the most bizarre thing of all-the Hat had burst into laughter when Sorting the next Weasley monster. Snape was worried for a moment, then furious-surely the Weasley Twins had done something nefarious to the precious Hogwarts artifact. But what exactly, that was the question.

After that, Snape merely gave his usual sort of start of term speech to the Slytherin first years: all of whom were sufficiently impressed and cowed, with the possible exception of Draco, who acted almost as if he'd seen it all before. Snape realized he'd have to make sure Draco didn't think his position as a close family friend would make any difference at all-publicly.

But then things changed...

Potter had shocked him with his questions about Lily-for a moment Snape couldn't think of anything to say. And then the revelation that he had been living with that... awful woman. Well, Snape decided he would need to speak to Albus about that. It seemed that Harry might not be entirely corrupted by a posh upbringing, but who knew what lies Petunia had filled his head with? Snape would have to tread a bit carefully until he had a better idea about it. Perhaps Albus would allow some light Legilimency, merely to determine if Potter was dissembling about anything.

It was clear right away that Harry had some of the curiosity of Lily, although undoubtedly nothing close to her innate skill. Still, he was respectful-perhaps something that Lily's terrible sister had instilled into him. Perhaps the only possibly good idea she may have had.

Then came the utter nonsense from not only Potter's stupid Gryffindor friends, but Draco himself. It was obvious Draco felt entitled to special treatment from his family friend, and that disrespectful behavior was perfectly acceptable. Well, Snape wasn't about to let that go unpunished.

Later in the evening, he summoned Malfoy to his office.

"You have one minute to explain your abhorrent actions today," Severus told the boy.

Draco rolled his eyes quickly in a galling display of misbehavior, then pretended he hadn't done anything at all. "Sir, my father told me-"

"Your father?" Snape interrupted angrily. "Your father is not here, nor does he have any say in what I may do at Hogwarts. I run this House, and I run the Potions classroom. Acting up will not be tolerated, especially not by Slytherin students. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, sir," said Draco in a tight voice, but his eyes were glinted with unconcealed anger.

Snape was shocked at this-what the hell had Lucius been telling the boy? He decided that Draco's detention would be harsher than he had planned-the little brat needed to learn respect for his superiors.

The high staff met once a week for most of the year, with a few rare exceptions. There were monthly meetings with the entire faculty, but for now, Snape was glad that it was a small meeting. Easier to handle.

"Well then, I think the students have been settling in nicely," the Headmaster said with a smile. "Nothing too problematic."

"I wouldn't say that!" Snape snorted. "Need I remind you of the appalling behavior of those three incompetent fools in their first Potions lesson?"

"They weren't all from my House," snapped Minerva angrily.

Snape glared back. "I didn't say they were!"

"But how have they been besides that?" Albus asked in a sincere manner. If you weren't careful, you could be fooled by it.

Filius shook his head and looked a bit sad. "I must say, Miss Granger and Mister Weasley do not seem to have any respect for authority-or the curriculum. Mister Malfoy, though, although he seems in a bad mood much of the time, has not been particularly troublesome."

McGonagall frowned and sat back with her arms crossed. "Those two may be a bit... odd. But they are the best students in my class."

Sprout nodded. "I agree, actually."

"Ridiculous!" Snape said dismissively. "Don't allow yourself to get fooled by their little tricks. They are constantly flitting about, making things worse for better students."

"Students like Harry Potter?" Dumbledore inquired with an annoying twinkle in his eye.

Snape rolled his eyes. "Albus, we don't need to get into that one again. Obviously Potter wasn't pampered as I'd suspected he'd been, but..." He looked around the room-not everyone likely knew the specifics of Harry's upbringing, and Snape wasn't about to change that. "But it doesn't matter. Perhaps it's a reflection of how foolish his friends are acting, but Harry seems practically reasonable in comparison."

As he finished saying this, Snape realized he had accidentally said Harry's first name, and then Albus gave him an insufferably smug smile.

"If you ask me," Snape continued as though he hadn't misspoke. "Potter should stay away from those little malcontents and find more acceptable companions-that Patil girl, for example, or one of the Ravenclaws. Those tend to be a bit less empty-headed."

Flitwick laughed. "I do believe I'll take that as a compliment, Severus."

Snape merely grunted in response.

It was not particularly much of a surprise when Minerva decided to put Potter on her Quidditch team-Snape was primarily annoyed that he found it difficult to complain about it. And then Draco had the audacity to insist on getting on the Slytherin team, as if Snape was about to reward his disobedience and cheek.

"You'll put me on if you don't want Potter to demolish the team," Draco said with an arrogant air, seeming for all the world at that moment just like his father.

And then Snape came to the realization that although Quidditch victory was important, it wasn't that important. In a way, by refusing Malfoy's little nonsense, Snape could claim his lack of favoritism, unlike McGonagall.

If she had put on either Weasley or Granger, he'd argue against that relentlessly, but with Harry... it wasn't worth it. Besides, there was a myriad of other concerns to be worried about. The Stone, of course, hidden through several layers of protections. Albus had confided to him that the traps needed to be just difficult enough to not seem a trap, but act more as delays than actual protection. The final trap would be the true snare, a difficult and unexpected idea.

It was also quite clear that Quirrell had gotten into some sort of trouble during his little jaunt to Eastern Europe-perhaps he had a terminal illness and was desperate for the Stone's powers. Or perhaps he wanted it for its monetary possibilities. Either way, he had been acting most bizarrely since the term began. Snape had enough to think about without a bunch of little children running around being stupid.

And then came the little... problem with Peter Pettigrew, who was apparently alive, and Sirius Black, who may have been innocent of betraying the Potters. Even if he was not guilty of that particular crime-about which Snape still had his doubts-there was no question that Black was a raving lunatic with poor impulse control and murderous tendencies. Apparently he had been asking to see Harry-the very idea!

"You must not let Fudge give in to such demands!" Snape had told the Headmaster. "Black is either mentally unstable or intends harm to Potter."

Albus frowned and folded his fingers in thought.

"He might be innocent, Severus!" McGonagall had always been a bit too lenient regarding Black's antics. Her Gryffindor biases overriding her good sense. "And if so, since he is the boy's godfather..."

"Let me see here," replied Snape sarcastically. "Either his addled possibly criminal fool of a godfather or his awful relatives. I'm not sure what's worse!"

Minerva was a bit taken aback at that, and Severus knew she had no good response.

"He is safe at the Dursleys," Albus told them in a serious tone. "Hardly an insignificant point to consider, no matter how unpleasant they may be."

"I have to agree with Severus on this one, Albus!" McGonagall told him with her lips tightly pulled back. "There must be another place he can stay that you can ensure is safe."

Albus made a thoughtful noise. "Perhaps. The blood protection he has with his aunt is quite powerful. It's about the only thing that can guarantee that Voldemort," Snape flinched a bit at this "or his followers cannot get close."

"What about whatever the Potters used?" Minerva asked. "The Fidelius Charm-I admit it isn't something I know much about, but it's supposed to be foolproof."

Dumbledore shook his head. "Unfortunately, it is not so simple. The Charm requires someone capable of casting it and someone to hold the secret. After the death of Lily Potter, I may be the only one who can perform the act-but I am at a loss at who could hold the secret."

"I would!" Minerva insisted. "As would any of the other Heads, I am certain."

Snape nodded, although he knew Albus didn't trust him enough for such a thing. Perhaps a necessity, with the connection he still had to the Dark Lord. An unnecessary security risk to take.

"I will consider it," the Headmaster said in a tone that brooked no further discussion. For now, anyway. "In the meantime, I was hoping you two might accompany me to have a little discussion with Mister Black. I believe I can convince the Minister in a private interrogation to uncover the truth."

"Why bring me along?" Snape snorted derisively. "You both know my feelings on that animal."

Albus nodded and smiled. "Precisely, Severus. I know I can trust you to provide a counterbalance to Minerva in uncovering the truth."

Snape considered this for a moment. It seemed reasonable enough. Merlin knew that given leave, Minerva would probably let Black escape due to her fondness for Gryffindors. Actually, it seemed highly necessary to go as well-the only way to prevent Black from preying on her or Albus' sympathies.

"Very well," Snape said begrudgingly, hiding how much he agreed, even though he had a feeling Albus saw right through him. "But how will you explain it to Fudge?"

"A simple matter," Albus replied with a smile. "Minerva as the Head of Gryffindor House and its defender makes ideal sense, and I will merely... imply that you are his closest surviving friend, hurt by his betrayal."

Snape made a face but nodded. Whatever it took to get a chance to confront Black to his mangy face.

Black looked even worse than expected, even though he had undoubtedly been cleaned up by St. Mungo's staff: sunken eyes, darting around in paranoia, constantly twitching his clawlike hands, thin to the point of ghoulishness. He barely looked human at all. But when he looked up to Snape with an utterly confused and then furious expression, Snape couldn't help but feel a bit amused.

"Sirius, might we have a word? I have assured the Minister that we might be quite helpful in uncovering the truth."

Sirius looked back at Dumbledore and clenched and unclenched his hands. "Y-yes, all right, sir. But why is he here?" Black did not even bother to look at Snape when he asked this, and Snape wasn't sure what annoyed him more, the question or the refusal to look at him.

"I have my reasons," Albus said obliquely, finally putting his skill at equivocation to good use. "I suppose you have heard about the discovery of Peter Pettigrew on Hogwarts grounds?"

"Yes, I have," Sirius growled through clenched teeth. "That bloody evil rat... if I'd known he was at Hogwarts, I'd have gotten to him there. Somehow."

Snape rolled his eyes and snorted.

"Shut it, Snivellus!" Black snarled. "You know nothing!"

"Is there really any point to this?" Snape asked Albus. "He has no idea what he's even saying."

"Calm, Severus," Albus said evenly. "Now, Sirius... I will be asking you a few questions and I expect you to answer honestly. I do not wish to use Veritaserum, but if I must..."

"No, no, I'll answer whatever you need," Black insisted eagerly. "Whatever helps me get closer to seeing Harry."

Snape very nearly said something vicious at this, but managed to hold his tongue.

"Were you the Secret Keeper?" Albus asked in a suspiciously sincere tone.

Sirius sighed and leaned back. "No, I wasn't. Peter was the Secret Keeper-we thought, that is, Lily and James and us, we thought nobody would ever suspect Peter of it. I could run off and take the heat off everyone else. But obviously it didn't work... when I heard the news... that Peter..." His face curled into an ugly snarl. "I confronted him in the street, tried to get some sort of... explanation from the bastard. A few other Aurors were nearby, but it was mostly Muggles. He just yelled something like 'Why did you betray them, Sirius? Lily and James were our friends!'"

Sighing deeply, Sirius rubbed his temples and looked in deep pain. "I was thrown at that. Confused."

"Not in league with him?" Snape asked acidly, which was the question he had been pondering for quite some time.

"No, blast you, Snape, you damned fool!" Sirius yelled furiously at him and leaped up.

"Sirius..." Dumbledore said warningly, raising his hand up.

Black swallowed loudly and scowled at Snape before collapsing back into his chair.

"The Aurors did report you muttering about betraying the Potters," Dumbledore reminded, thankfully. Snape thought that perhaps Black might actually answer this, coming from the Headmaster.

"I wasn't in my right mind," Sirius said, and then glared at Snape to forestall the comment he expected. "But I was sort of thinking that I had betrayed them-not like Wormtail did, obviously, but it had been my idea to change Secret Keepers. Maybe he had been recruited afterwards. Maybe he was just too weak to resist. Or maybe he was dark all along, I don't know."

"Wormtail?" McGonagall pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Is that what you called Pettigrew?"

Sirius nodded. "Because his Animagus form is a rat. Mine's a large dog, and James was a stag."

Suddenly things began to click into place for Snape-Lily's Patronus had been a doe, but was it before or after she had started dating James-the stag? And Snape had a vague memory of more than one large beast when Potter had "saved" his life after Black had originally tried to kill him. Memories first thought to be fragmented due to the circumstances, but perhaps there was more truth than Snape had realized.

"I begin to find myself believing your tale," the Headmaster said slowly. "Severus? Minerva?"

McGonagall breathed in sharply and frowned. "I... believe I do, but I would like to question Pettigrew as well. After that, and perhaps a bit more time at St. Mungo's, we can allow you to meet with Harry."

Sirius smiled excitedly at that, but then his face fell as he glanced over to Snape.

This was it... his chance to cut out the mutt for good. But the only problem was that Snape... wasn't certain. Was Black mentally unbalanced? Assuredly. Had he honestly meant to kill with his little "prank"? Unclear. But was he associated with the Dark Lord? That much... was unlikely. So Snape realized he had only one question left.

"Why did you try to kill me?"

Black blinked in utter surprise, his mouth hanging slack. "Wait a moment," he said. "Are you talking about the incident when James saved your life?"

"Yes," Snape replied through gritted teeth. "When Potter saved me from your own efforts to kill me. Why did you do it? Why did you hate me so much?"

"I..." Sirius stopped talking and looked down at the floor. Then he looked back up, straight in Snape's eyes. "Let me be honest with you, Snape. I wasn't thinking it through at all. I thought you would get scared and run off, maybe wetting yourself or something. But when I told James, laughing about it, he was shocked. Terrified. And then I got scared I had gone too far. James ran off to do something about it, but I was..." at this Sirius looked down again. "Too much of a coward, too filled with anger and hate to do anything about it."

He sighed deeply. "I know you didn't deserve to die. You were just a kid, like us. I can only apologize for that." He smirked slightly. "But don't ask me to apologize for pranking you. It's not like you didn't give back twice as hard."

"I didn't have three others on my side," Snape retorted with a curled lip.

"Just take the bloody compliment, Snape!" Sirius said in exasperation.

"If I may interrupt," the Headmaster said smoothly. "Severus, is your curiosity sated? Do you believe in Sirius' innocence?"

Snape didn't quite want to admit that he did, especially as Sirius would never forget that his freedom had been ensured by Snape. And then he realized... Sirius would never forget. No matter what happened in the future, the fool would owe everything to his old school rival. Perhaps then, Snape could live with Harry-eventually, of course-seeing his godfather.

"Well..." Snape said slowly, drawing out the word deliciously, although it seemed that as usual, Albus had annoyingly already figured out what he had decided. Smiling like that. "I suppose I do."

Naturally, it was easy enough to convince Albus that Black would need some "recovery" time before seeing Harry, despite Minerva's wavering at Black's pouting. But there was still the matter of "Wormtail".

"The Minister is still holding Mr. Pettigrew in custody," Albus told them later. "And he is flexing his political muscles a bit-hoping to be the Minister that fixed the mistakes caused by Bagnold. We'll have our day to speak to Peter, but not quite yet."

"He probably hopes to cripple Crouch's reputation too," Snape agreed with a sneer. Politics were such nonsense, as was this squabbling about for minute bits of power. Such games of ridiculous intrigue had always been ever present in the Slytherin House, one of the many reasons Snape had little use for his housemates, and vice versa.

Minerva frowned. "Why do you say that?"

"Crouch was responsible for the arrest and imprisonment of Sirius in Azkaban," Dumbledore explained. "His explicit orders, you see. Although I'm sure he'd say he was merely operating as needed within the bounds of the law. He already suffered a demotion due to that scandal when his son perished in Azkaban."

"Ah, yes," McGonagall said. "I do recall that sad tale. Poor Barty, joining in with the Death Eaters. Clearly over his head."

Snape nodded. "And although Bartemius doesn't care so much about his political reputation any longer, Fudge can't forget that Crouch was once very close to becoming Minister himself."

McGonagall rolled her eyes. "Politics. Such foolishness."

"On that we agree," Snape told her with a small smirk, expecting her to be a bit surprised by the remark. "Albus, on the other hand..."

"We cannot all be pure educators as you two, I'm afraid," Albus said with a insufferable smile.

Snape had never liked Halloween, finding the fascination with dark imagery needlessly morbid, and the obsession with harvest iconography to be gaudy at best. But Albus reveled in each and every glowing pumpkin, so there wasn't much point in arguing. Instead, Snape spent the Feast drinking heavily and watching everyone with suspicion. The Weasley twins were chatting about something nefarious, no doubt, although Snape was glad that they had never met or heard of the Marauders. What a horror that would be!

He made a mental note to keep Sirius far away from any Weasleys. As for Harry, he was looking unusually cross and out of sorts, as was the Patil twin from Gryffindor. She kept glaring at Granger and the youngest Weasley, then pretending she wasn't doing anything at all. Clearly the two nitwits had finally crossed the line and shown Potter how awful they were. Well, it was about time. And given Parvati's obvious anger at them, perhaps Harry would finally get it through his head to stop bothering with the two idiots. Snape wondered what exactly had happened, so he decided to casually bring it up with Flitwick-not too much interest, of course.

And then Snape realized that Halloween was the anniversary of Lily's murder. Hmm... perhaps that explained it; Granger and Weasley being typically insensitive and not grasping simple human decency. Poor Harry... Well, at least now he'd have a decent friend, and if Longbottom ever got his head out of his arse in Potions, perhaps he'd be a reasonable alternative as well. Snape took another sip of spiked pumpkin juice and wondered if there was some way to give remedial lessons to Longbottom. Not that Snape would personally do such a waste of time, but perhaps an older student could be... persuaded to help. Really, it was better for everyone. Fewer accidents in Potions would only improve safety.

He'd have to be careful in case Albus found out-no doubt the old man would take it entirely the wrong way.

When Snape realized that Quirrell was oddly missing from the Feast, the Defense Professor appeared suddenly with a panicked, girlish scream. Trolls! The very idea. Snape didn't believe it for a moment. Catching Dumbledore's eye, Snape knew the Headmaster didn't entirely buy the story either, but appearances were important. Albus nodded slightly and Snape returned it-he got the message.

After giving a few hasty instructions to his prefects (Snape was reasonably certain that there wasn't an actual troll in the dungeons, but the other professors would check it out anyhow-his Slytherins would be in no actual harm), Snape stepped back into the shadows and waited impatiently for Quirrell to make his move. At first, Snape was worried that Quirrell might actually legitimately fainted, but as soon as the Hall had cleared, the sneaky oddball slowly got up and raced towards what was almost certainly the third floor corridor.

Snape followed quickly behind, albeit a bit out of sorts-cursing himself for drinking too much and impairing his judgment. Just his luck he'd let the hangover cure in his office. When Snape arrived at the third floor, the door was ajar-well, it wasn't like the simple locking spell would keep any reasonably educated wizard out. It merely a precaution to prevent accidental entry. As he began to open the door, Snape suddenly tripped and fell against the wall, sending the door wide open.

A loud growling shook the floor-the beast was still alive and awake then. And if so, Quirrell had likely not made it past. Snape picked himself up and quickly looked into the room-the trapdoor was still firmly closed, so he slammed the door shut. Perhaps Quirrell had not counted on the dog-so much the better. Snape locked the door again, this time with a significantly more powerful locking spell-why make it too easy, after all?

What nonsense. But then he wondered... could Quirrell have really been telling the truth about the troll? Snape decided to hurry back to check.

But as he hustled towards the dungeons, he spotted Flitwick coming toward him.

Flitwick looked pleased. "Ah, Severus, excellent! You must come at once; Albus said you'd be likely heading towards the dungeons. We found the troll."

Snape suddenly felt slightly nervous. "Was anyone hurt?"

Flitwick shook his head. "No, no, well..." The short man frowned. "Actually the troll is dead. And we don't know who killed it."

"What?" Snape said angrily. "How is that possible?"

"It wasn't in the dungeons, we checked there first," Filius explained. "Albus believed Quirrell must've got it wrong."

Got it wrong... intentionally, more than likely. Delay the search until Quirrell had time to scout out the door. Thankfully he hadn't time to get past the monster. But now Quirrell knew about the dog-an important and dangerous fact.

And Dumbledore probably already realized this, but Snape would tell him anyhow.

"The troll was actually right near the first floor girls' toilets," Flitwick continued. "The one right near my classroom."

Hmm... first floor near the Charms classroom. It was actually conceivable that the troll had simply walked there from the dungeons. But given Quirrell's suspicious behavior, Snape wasn't assuming anything.

"When we finally tracked it down, it was dead-decapitated actually." Flitwick chuckled. "A highly clean kill. Impeccably done. And a troll's skin is quite difficult to penetrate."

Snape grunted. He didn't need to be lectured on obvious facts on trolls. "And there is no evidence of who did it or how?"

Flitwick shook his head. "None."

Only Dumbledore and McGonagall were still near the troll when Snape and Flitwick arrived.

"Oh, there you are Severus," Dumbledore looked up from where had been examining the troll's head. "Pomona went back to check in with her House, and Minerva wanted to check for signs of a golem or artificially conjured troll."

"It's real enough to me," McGonagall said with pursed lips. "Silvanus will be here shortly to check on it. As for me, I too will be ensuring everything is safe with my Gryffindors." She nodded to Snape and Flitwick and walked away.

"I also sent for Hagrid," Dumbledore said with a smile. "But you two will also be useful here-Severus, anything unusually Dark? Filius, can you determine what sort of spell was used?"

Snape rubbed his chin thoughtfully and walked over to the troll's corpse. It was indeed a very clean cut. There weren't many spells that could do something like that-even Sectumsempra would have left other wounds. "There's nothing that seems particularly Dark on first glance," he said. "But I will take a slightly closer look at the head." With a wave of his wand, Snape floated the disgustingly foul thing and rotated it slowly. It was indeed a very clean cut, highly unusual: almost as if no spell had been used at all.

"Hmm," Snape mused, thinking about it. There was something he was missing.

"Why, there's no magical residue at all!" Flitwick exclaimed from near the troll's body. "Perhaps it was cleaned up somehow?"

Albus frowned. "Even the very shortest methods for such a thing would take hours, or would otherwise leave very obvious traces. And although I am not as familiar with some of the Darker rituals to achieve a dampening or cleansing effect, we would certainly notice the traces of the ritual. Severus, do you concur?"

"That sounds accurate, as far as my own knowledge goes," Snape agreed.

There was a panting noise, and they were all instantly at alert. But it was only Kettleburn, hustling as fast as he could with his dearth of limbs. Upon seeing the troll, his mouth practically dropped open. "It is a bloody troll! Really, you should ask the Defense Professor about this."

Snape's lip curled. "Quirinus fainted at just the thought of it. I rather doubt he's up for examining its corpse." Of course, Snape did not mention the rest of the story.

"Well, alright then," grumbled Kettleburn. "Just not my exact area of expertise." He looked closely at the headless body for a minute or so, and then hobbled over to see the floating head. "Severus, you mind holding it in place it so I can see the neckline?"

With a nod, Snape held the head in place while Silvanus took a closer look.

"I can't be completely sure," he said finally. "But if you ask me, someone cut off its head with a blade."

"A blade?" Flitwick blinked in surprise. "Surely no knife or sword is sharp enough to pierce a troll's skin?"

"Enchanted one might." Kettleburn said simply.

"Nobody's bothered to use swords in ages," Snape said thoughtfully. "Not when magic is far more versatile. I can't even think of the last time I've heard of such a thing. Or even where you might find one."

"I can," said Dumbledore with a glint in his eye. "Although as far as I am aware, it has been lost for centuries."

Flitwick was shocked. "You don't mean?"

"Let us proceed to my office at once-although perhaps, Filius, I can ask for your assistance in warding off the area to prevent any accidental discovery of the beast?"

After that had been completed, Albus asked Kettleburn to begin the cleanup effort while the three of them adjourned to the Headmaster's office.

"So what exactly are you two thinking of?" Severus asked.

"I believe that Albus is thinking of the legendary sword of Gryffindor," Filius said. "Which was believed to be hidden somewhere in Hogwarts ages ago."

Albus nodded. "Indeed. But there is another reason I asked us to come." He made a motion to the Sorting Hat. "The Hat, having also belonged to Godric Gryffindor, may also know if the sword has been found."

"You younglings are always so concerned with ancient treasures," the Hat said suddenly with what sounded like a smirk. "Normally I wouldn't be able to tell you much, but I can tell you that the sword can be summoned by any true heir of Gryffindor when the need is great enough."

"I have heard as much," said Albus with a nod. "But we are merely trying to determine if it has been summoned-a troll was killed by what was almost certainly an enchanted blade, you see."

The Hat made a huffing sound. "A troll? Many weapons could perform such an act. They used to be all over the place, back when everyone had a sword. However..."

Snape, who had never been in a conversation with the Hat since he had been Sorted, finally got past his initial apprehension. "Spit it out!"

"Severus Snape, from Slytherin, as I recall. I wonder, did you ever reach the ambitious levels I remember you craving?"

"Assuredly," Snape said quickly with a sneer. "Now you were saying?"

"I am working against my enchantment a bit," the Hat explained. "Trying to figure out how to put this. But I think I have it. The sword of Gryffindor could indeed be used to slay a troll, and easily, if the wielder was skilled enough. It is far more likely it was used than any other blade, based on what I know. As for whether or not someone summoned it... who can say? If it was, I can assure you that they would have been a true Gryffindor."

Severus frowned, not very happy with this response.

"Answers and questions alike," mused Albus. "I suppose it remains an open mystery for now. If the Hat cannot tell us who has the sword and killed the troll, we must endeavor to discover who has it ourselves."

"Although," said Flitwick. "If he or she did kill the troll, they did us quite a favor, keeping the students from harm."

Snape rubbed his forehead. "Or perhaps the sword thief was working with Quirrell."

Albus looked back with an imperceptibly displeased look. Oh, hell.

"Working with Quirrell?" Flitwick asked in shock. "What are you talking about?"

"Filius, please have a seat." Albus pulled out a wand in an extremely quick and fluid motion, waving it about to cast what was likely a privacy charm. "We should be clear about each of our loyalties here before continuing." He glanced at Snape and then sat down himself.

Flitwick looked between the two, his hand on his own wand, clearly already putting things together. He finally nodded and sat down.

Snape was furious at himself for such a verbal slip up, and blamed the alcohol from earlier in the evening. Never again would he drink so much without a hangover cure on hand.

After a lengthy discussion about "trust", Flitwick had raised the legitimate issue of whether or not Minerva or Pomona should also be aware of Quirrell's suspicious activity. Albus promised to "consider it", which wasn't exactly ideal, but a decent start. For his part, Snape was mildly pleased that someone who wasn't at an Albus-level mastermind of intrigue was actually in on it. At least he'd have a peer he could talk to-really, he hadn't had that sort of relationship since... well, since Lily. And although Flitwick had actually been Snape's Professor as well, there was a real respect between them.

And unlike Minerva, intelligent and skilled though she was, Flitwick was highly rational. A welcome change of pace from the overly emotional Sprout and McGonagall (although Minerva would never admit it). So Snape was cautiously optimistic.

Of course, soon enough it was time for the first Quidditch match of the year, pitting his own House against the Gryffindors. Sitting out in the stands and watching the players mount their brooms, Snape felt conflicted. Perhaps if Slytherin was ahead and Harry managed to catch a Snitch to end the game, but the point differential still left Slytherin with a win? That seemed like the ideal outcome, but Snape was too realistic to put much faith in such dreams.

But soon Snape became caught in watching one of the most ridiculously lopsided and exciting matches he had ever seen. The Gryffindor team was doing stunt work unlike anything Hogwarts had had in ages. Harry, though, was just floating by himself, clearly waiting for the Snitch. And then, suddenly, his broom lurched, nearly knocking Harry off. Someone was hexing Potter! Snape felt cold suddenly and quickly pulled out his wand to cast a countercurse-unfortunately, whoever was hexing the broom wasn't halting their own efforts just to let Snape stop them.

Unable to pull his eyes away, or he'd lose sight of his target, Snape tried to sense where the curse was coming from. Where was Albus when he was needed? Snape felt a terrible heat all of a sudden and he realized that the bloody stands were on fire! Sparing a quick glance to confirm that Harry was back on his broom, he worked quickly with the other professors to extinguish the flames. It appeared as though no one was seriously hurt, although some students were clearly burned.

McGonagall looked livid and gestured to Snape. "Let's go down."

"What happened?" Snape asked. "I didn't see."

"Oliver Wood is what happened!" Minerva said with a quiet rage. "He set the stands on fire!" She paused and took a deep breath. "At least Harry managed to get the Snitch during the commotion."

"Did he?" Snape mumbled, although the outcome of the game hadn't really been in doubt by that point. He'd need to have words with Flint about the state of the team's abilities. Perhaps Draco should've been put on the team after all?

No, Snape decided, winning the Cup was not worth indulging bad behavior from the only student he had ever known before they came to Hogwarts. Draco needed to learn respect. And he had in fact been getting a bit better-perhaps in a few months, Snape would reconsider his Quidditch request.

Later, when they all spoke in the Headmaster's office, Snape had mixed feelings about the gormless idiot. Wood was blabbering on about protecting Harry-and if Snape thought he had a single iota of guile, it'd be a different story altogether. But although Wood was an idiot, he was a sincere one. So much as it pained him, Snape allowed the Quidditch victory to go through without protest. Potter seemed happy about it anyway.

Things were changing so fast and Snape wasn't sure how he felt about any of it. Harry being more like his mother-well, that was a welcome surprise, certainly. His idiot friends hopefully being cast aside. Draco finally maturing. And even ridiculous Longbottom seemed to somehow be getting marginally less terrible in Potions. He tried to hide it for some reason-very well, in fact, but Snape had noticed. He even approved of the sneakiness.

With all this on his mind, Snape decided to get drunk-although he'd be sure to have the hangover cure ready just in case. But as he approached his room, he saw Quirrell hanging about, leaning against the door. He seemed to be asleep, oddly enough.

"Alright, that's enough," Snape said sharply. "Quirinus, go back to your own room." And then Severus halted as he realized that Quirell's turban was missing and he was entirely tied up in ropes. And more horrifyingly, there was a face on the back of his skull, thankfully also unconscious.

"Ah, damn."

It seemed he'd need that hangover cure after all.

The answer to the question was this: 1) Trick him into thinking of Harry purely in terms in Lily and not James and 2) give him other people he legitimately is annoyed by. Thank you for keeping with this story! APPRECIATE IT GUYS AND GALS!