Chapter 1

1998:

The owl came just after lunch, drifting in the open window to drop it's package on Rita's lap. Her brightly painted fingernails quickly undid the twine and peeled back the brown paper. She had a feeling she knew what this was.

Rita saw she was right as she uncovered a thick dark-green book. 'Severus Snape: Scoundrel or Saint' was emblazoned in silver lettering on the cover.

A photo of him stared up at her from the cover, an expression of wry amusement on his face. She smiled but it was a rather sad smile. She still found it had to believe he was gone.

Although every word in the 400 page book was true… as far as she was aware… she had never mentioned that she had known him rather well herself… had known him in fact, for a very long time.

She couldn't help her mind drifting back to the night she had first met him… almost 20 years ago…

1978:

The blonde reporter smiled to herself as she walked into the ballroom of Malfoy Manor. No one seemed to have realized she hadn't actually been invited.

Rita adjusted her glasses and smoothed the silky, acid-green fabric of her dress as she looked around the room. It looked like practically all of the wealthy, pureblood elite had shown up for the engagement party of Narcissa Black and Lucius Malfoy.

There was bound to be something here she could use for a story.

Her eyes fell on a young man across the room. Though he couldn't have been more than 20, 22 perhaps… he was clothed in black from neck to toe.

His black hair was long enough to brush the collar of his long black coat and he had a cold, decidedly intelligent gaze. Slytherin most likely she thought.

He wasn't exactly what she would have called handsome before that moment but there was something undeniably attractive about him.

Those dark eyes caught sight of her, lingering on her a moment… taking in the blonde curls, the blue eyes, the red lips… and the curvy figure showcased in a long, strappy, rather clingy dress.

A smirk curved his lips as he looked away again.

Rita smiled to herself and headed for the bar. Soon she was seated on a high stool, one stiletto heeled leg crossed over the other and her fingers curled around a martini glass.

Looking coyly over her shoulder she saw him leave the group he was talking to and start to walk towards the bar. She couldn't help a rather smug grin as he slid into the seat next to hers.

"I saw you from across the room. You were undressing me with your eyes" he said in a velvety drawl.

"Yes… well… I had a little trouble with all the buttons" she replied, deliberately making her voice light and teasing.

He smirked, raising an eyebrow and looking at her. "What's your name?" he said silkily.

"I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours…" she said sweetly.

"Are you always this coy?" he asked dryly.

"Are you always this smug?" she replied, moving slightly closer and watching his expression.

"Do you ever actually answer a question?" he asked.

"Do you?" she shot back.

They look at each other for a moment before the corners of her mouth curved in a grin.

He couldn't help grinning back. At first he had seemed rather serious but those dark eyes were twinkling with amusement. He looked like he was fighting the urge to laugh. So he does have a sense of humor she thought.

"Rita Skeeter" she said, holding out her hand.

"Severus Snape" he said, placing a soft kiss on the back of her hand. Her skin tingled slightly where his lips had been.

"Were you invited by the groom or the bride?" she said casually.

"Groom. We became good friends when he was my prefect at Hogwarts" he said, eyes flicking over to where Lucius was talking to a group of people, Narcissa hanging on his arm in an elegant ice blue gown.

"Ah. Another Slytherin. I suspected as much" Rita said smugly.

"Which one were you invited by? The bride or groom" he asked curiously, looking at her.

"Neither. But I do know the bride quite well..." she smiled.

"I bet you know her through her sister" he said with a grin, amused at her audacity in crashing the party.

"Yes actually. How did you..." she said surprisedly, blue eyes suddenly slightly hostile all of a sudden.

"Lucius mentioned you were friends with Bellatrix" he said. She visibly relaxed.

"Used to be friends" she said quickly. "We had a… falling out… last year of Hogwarts."

"Ah" he said. Bella wasn't known for her geniality. She was leaning against the opposite wall, managing to look both beautiful and intimidating in a form-fitting blood red dress.

"Do you dance Mr Snape?" she asked sweetly.

"Severus" he said firmly. She smiled.

He held out his hand and led her onto the floor. Somehow she wasn't surprised how gracefully he moved to the music. When that dance was over they had another, and another… until both of them were out of breath.

Rita suggested they get some air. She was feeling pleasantly flustered from the dancing, the drink, his presence… or all three.

They talked for a while. She kept being distracted by those fathomless dark eyes, that silky voice, the curve of his lips… the brush of his fingers on the back of her hand…

"Aren't you a bit young to be picking up women at parties?" she said teasingly as she caught his eyes flicking down to her cleavage.

He smirked, eyes moving back up to her face.

"I'm of age" he said, a trace of amusement in his velvety voice.

"And how long how you been of age?" she purred, voice still teasing.

"A year" he said, smirk still in place as he looked at her.

Eighteen. Nine years younger than her. Sweet Merlin she hadn't thought he was quite that young. He was more confident, more serious than any other man his age she had met.

He saw the surprise on her face and grinned. "You thought I was older?" he asked.

"Just a little" she smiled.

"I would ask how old you are… but I know better" he said playfully.

She laughed. "That's right… never ask a witch how old she is" she grinned.

He took a step closer, looking at her with heat in those dark eyes. "Just as well I like older women…" he said huskily.

She could feel her pulse speed up slightly as he leaned in towards her. But then a little voice in her head pointed out that he was a little young for her… and most likely a Death Eater if he was friends with the likes of the Malfoys.

Not to mention if she let him kiss her she had little doubt where it would lead…

Disappointment flashed over his face for just a moment as she pulled back.

"I should go" she said sweetly.

"Do you need someone to walk you home?" he offered, smiling charmingly.

"I think I'll be all right" she smiled.

She leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. She felt his body tense as her lips brushed his skin.

"Goodnight" she whispered, lips next to his ear.

"Goodnight" he said softly as she walked away, a rather smug smile on her lips.