Disclaimer: I do not own any of the people or places that belong to the wonderful world of Harry Potter, as they belong to J.K. Rowling. The OC (Katherine) is entirely my own.

Chapter 1: The Return from Solitude

"Ah Severus, I am glad you came," Dumbledore announced to Severus Snape as the younger wizard entered the headmaster's office on the late afternoon of September 1st of 1996.

"You wished to see me Headmaster?" Severus asked in a rather irritated tone. "No more cursed rings I hope."

"No, no…" Albus Dumbledore rose slowly from his chair behind the desk. "I wished to speak with you about the new Potion's professor that I have assigned for this year."

"Obviously this person has not arrived yet, because no new faces were present at breakfast this morning," Severus remained stiff with the irritation of having to view a new staff member and evaluate his or her experience with potions.

"She should be arriving momentarily," Dumbledore stated as he eyed the younger wizard with curiosity.

"She?" Severus questioned as he watched the Headmaster walk slowly toward the fireplace in circular study.

"Yes, Severus. She is very experience with potion making, but never taught the subject before. She did, however, teach Defense Against the Dark Arts for a brief time, but that was a long time ago." Dumbledore paused as he stared into the hearth as though he was waiting for something. "She claims to have been taught potions by one of the greatest."

"Really? I guess I'll be the judge of that," Severus sneered as he pictured a young pampered school girl, much like Ms. Granger, reciting word for word from the numerous potion textbooks assigned to all the students.

"Severus, I would like you to do me a favor yet again," Dumbledore looked into the other's eyes for a moment before continuing. "I would like you to watch over the new professor, help her and guide her, if need be."

"Is it so much to ask to baby-sit Potter, and now this new professor? What's wrong with her Albus?" Severus stated harshly at the fact that he was now bestowed with another hopeless dunderhead.

"Physically, nothing. She is also mentally prepared to teach, but it is the social setting that may get to her." Dumbledore paused to collect himself as Severus watched his reactions curiously. "I will tell you the truth Severus; our new Potions Mistress has a very sketchy background and has been recently released from the New England's Wizarding Prison, under my orders."

"If it is who I think it is…" Severus shook his head trying to figure out why the Headmaster would take such a great risk. "Do you think it is wise to have her here, teaching the students?"

"The American Ministry has ensured me that she has changed her ways," Dumbledore said as he glanced at his new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor. "I believe she is ready to regain her life and start a new. I wish for you to help her Severus. She may have accepted her horrid past, but she will still need guidance."

"Albus, I…" Severus began, but was interrupted by the sudden green glow of the fireplace. Out of the flame stepped the new Potions Mistress.

She was tall, thin and pale, with long black robes and black heeled boots. Drawn around her neck, a black cloak that seemed to flow around her as she walked. Blonde hair graced her head and fell just beyond her shoulders. But it was her eyes, piercing ice blue eyes that were as cold and clear as the Scottish sky is in winter.

"Ah…Katherine. It's good to see you." the Headmaster prodded forward and gave the woman a quick hug. "You are looking well."

"Thank you Albus. It's good to be back. I believe I am a bit late thanks to Moody. He decided to do one last interrogation before I flooed from the Ministry," she was blunted and to the point as she addressed the Headmaster. Severus noticed that her face remained expressionless as she talked, obviously applying Occlumency.

"Ah yes, Alastor is watching everyone more cautiously since the Ministry has finally recognized the return of Voldemort," Dumbledore stated as he walked swiftly back to his desk and gestured towards Severus. "I trust, Katherine, that you remember Severus?"

"Of course." Katherine waltzed her way over to the dark-haired wizard, where he stood off to the side. "Severus."

"Katherine," he nodded curtly. She opened her mouth to continue but her thoughts were interrupted by the Headmaster.

"Severus, would you do me a favor and escort Katherine to her quarters. I have some things to finish up here before the Sorting Ceremony tonight, and I am positive that she wouldn't mind getting ready before the staff meeting." Albus looked up at the pair with a mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes. Severus scowled then turned on his heel and headed for the door.

Katherine rolled her eyes, "I'll see you at meeting Headmaster," she addressed to Dumbledore before following Severus out the door.