A/N: Welcome everyone! And, for those of you that have read "The Serpents' Kiss", welcome back! This story takes place between epilogues 8 and 9 of "The Serpents' Kiss" and, as such, is a sort of a "sequel", though some of it is spoiled in epilogue 9, but hopefully not too much. And you know everything turns out okay, but I'm not trying to hide that, LOL … I'm just hoping you'll all read and enjoy this story anyway XD
If you haven't read "The Serpents' Kiss", I would recommend it, but if not, the following tale and summary contains spoilers for it, just so you know. Basically, Severus Snape has survived the wizarding war and is now married to Muggle Studies professor, Dinah Snape (formerly Dinah Samson), and they have two children. Everything is peaceful right now, but all that might change and they have an adventurous year ahead! This story also features two student OC's introduced in "The Serpents' Kiss", Ravenclaw Mae Yates and Slytherin Andrew Speasy, and Sirius Black (also a survivor through a mysterious "rebirth magic" that went into effect upon Voldemort's defeat) and his wife, OC Lucy Ketteridge from CommanderValeria's stories "Don't Leave Me" and "Carry On", which I also recommend you read and can be accessed through my favorite stories on my profile.
I hope to update this story weekly :)
And, as some of you old readers may be happy to know, I'm fixing some "oddities" from my previous story in this one. Instead of having Severus's POV and M-Scenes in two separate, supplementary tales, I am including them all in the main story. So, yes, this story is rated M and will have some mature love scenes in various chapters, but with warnings in case you wish to skip or skim them. Also, and probably the nicest thing (for me, lol) is that I am officially dispensing with the one-word chapter titles thing! YAY! That got a little ridiculous after awhile, LOL.
Enjoy, and please leave a review! :)
"Yes, Minerva?" Professor Dinah Snape looked up from the pile of surveys on her desk to where the Headmistress was standing, having just finished knocking on the doorframe of the open entrance to her office. Minerva McGonagall did not look her usual self, although her appearance was as normal in her stately green robes and large-rimmed, pointed hat. Her stern but kind face, however, was set in an odd little frown, as though something was disturbing her.
"Severus is not back yet, is he?" The old woman's voice, also, was slightly apprehensive.
"No, though he's due back this evening," Dinah agreed of her husband, who had been attending an Auror conference abroad as Hogwarts's Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, after having published a series of new spells that were a current hot topic in the wizarding world. He had, of course, not wanted to go, but had had little choice in the matter. The potions conferences were much more agreeable to him. Dinah wouldn't be surprised if he stopped inventing spells after this ordeal.
"I see." Whatever was bothering Minerva, she decided to not get to it right away, and instead shifted the subject a bit, "The students are quite thrilled to be able to put off lessons with him for a week, or so it seems," she managed a slight, amused smile.
"I'm sure," Dinah mirrored her expression. The students in her classes had been quite careful not to say anything very obvious to that effect in front of her, for fear of losing points, but it was clear to all that that was the general consensus. In sharp contrast, however, were the two much smaller children who were currently under Sirius's care, who had for the past week continually demanded to know when Daddy would be back. Apparently, according to Maylene at least, Dinah was boring, having been bogged down with these surveys as of late.
Minerva was now tapping her foot on the ground, her gaze shifting around the room, and for the first time Dinah noticed that she was clutching an envelope in her left hand, which was nearly concealed by her robes.
"Is something wrong?" Dinah could no longer contain the question.
She sighed, meeting her gaze. "Yes and no. Well, maybe but perhaps not."
"Indeed?" Dinah raised an eyebrow. The gesture was now second-nature to her, but Minerva still found it amusing.
There was little amusement in the Headmistress's gaze right now, though, as she decidedly marched forward and slid the envelope across Dinah's desk to her. "I received a suspicious letter this morning. Granted, Hogwarts gets many of these letters over the course of the year, most of which are ignored as they cannot really be taken seriously, but this one worries me. There are some indirect jibes at many of our professors including yourself and Lucy. Severus is mentioned by name."
Dinah felt her eyes widen and for the first time felt a little worried. She fingered the envelope but didn't move to open it just yet. "Mentioned how?" she had to ask.
"Threatened," Minerva said flatly, apparently no longer beating around the bush.
"Threatened!" Dinah frowned down at the letter in front of her, sliding it a little closer but still not opening it, her heartbeat quickening, "But you said most of these letters are not to be taken seriously."
"Most of them. The language and wording of this one, as well as the timing, puts me in a different mindset," Minerva said with an apologetic look. Timing, of course, referring to the fact that over the summer that awful Rita Skeeter had finally managed to get her Snape: Scoundrel or Saint? book published. It had caused quite a stir and most of the information had been falsehoods. It spun ridiculous tales all the way from Severus's birth through his Death Eater days, participation in the wizarding war against Voldemort, and the 'mysterious circumstances' during Dinah's first year here, involving Dumbledore, Grindelwald, and Tommy. And of course, plenty of snide remarks had been directed at their current life together. It even tried to slander their children. Needless to say both Dinah and Severus had been furious and had done everything they could to try and expose the book's falsehoods. Thankfully, after many interviews and support from friends and other Hogwarts professors, most people realized what was true in reality and what was not. But there were probably still others…
Dinah took a deep breath and finally opened the letter, unfolding it and reading silently:
Dear Headmistress McGonagall;
It grieves me to say that I am extremely disappointed in the direction that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has taken in the days since the last war. Your students are floundering and the education they receive is mediocre at best. The 'fair-minded' attitude that is present at the school is a joke and produces nothing but weak, powerless young witches and wizards who would be incapable of defending themselves were another war to arise, as it most certainly will, and perhaps sooner than you think. You should be ashamed to promote the school as it is now.
Sorting has become a joke, as students are placed into houses with only half the traits of the house they are sorted into, at best. Slytherin, specifically, seems to have been stuffed full of students which would be much better placed into one of the other houses, due to their blood statuses and inability to fit into the correct Slytherin mentality. Unnecessary classes such as Wizarding Literature poison our students' minds with useless rubbish. Ridiculous extra-curricular game night requirements take time from students' studies and encourage the mingling of completely incompatible individuals. Your graduates will be entirely uncompetitive in the wizarding world if you continue to operate as you do. It is as though, in contrast to the Dark Lord's noble views of uniting the school under the house of Salazar Slytherin, you have instead named the school in honor of that ridiculous Helga Hufflepuff.
Additionally, the presence of the traitor Severus Snape, inexplicably wed to 'Helga Hufflepuff Incarnate', and in a horrifying heel-face-turn still teaching at a school which now exemplifies values he should have nothing but disdain for, I find utterly abominable. Severus Snape should have been sacked years ago, especially considering his unstable history that we have all come to learn of this summer, thanks to Miss Skeeter's excellent, telling book. He should be on his guard. He should not be teaching and should be removed from his position as soon as possible, forcibly if necessary. A force I myself would not hesitate to use.
I highly suggest that he, you, and all faculty and students keep a very close eye on your surroundings throughout the upcoming year. Things might happen. Terrible things. This is a fair warning. Hogwarts must suffer the repercussions of its recent actions. I am now wholeheartedly ashamed to have graduated from this school.
A new Dark Lord is on the horizon and he shall arise within the year.
"Traitor? Anonymous? New Dark Lord? 'Correct' Slytherin mentality?" Dinah sputtered, unable to form a complete sentence. "Who – what – wrote this?"
"Now that is exactly what I wish I knew," Minerva admitted, sighing and settling herself in the chair across from Dinah, probably tired from having been standing for so long.
"Doesn't he - or she – understand?" Dinah murmured, "The reason the house differences are less evident is because they are exposed to each other more. The only reason they were so different before is because they were kept so separate… it wasn't a natural state. This is a complete instance of nurture, not nature. And Severus… if they call him a traitor they must be referring to the Death Eaters? Is this person a Death Eater? And there is no 'correct' Slytherin mentality!" she fumed, glaring down at the abominable piece of unfolded parchment in front of her.
"I'm thinking of enhancing security measures at Hogwarts," Minerva said, not answering any of Dinah's questions. "This is probably just some madman trying to avenge Voldemort's defeat. We've had these sorts of letters before. But none so long, detailed, articulate, and… specific," she finished quietly. "I had hoped Severus would be back to see this, but you shall have to show him later."
"I will. I'll show him," Dinah chewed on her lip, replacing the letter in its envelope. "Perhaps he can analyze it and attempt to see who wrote it. Apparently a Hogwarts graduate, but there are thousands of those. And almost certainly a Death Eater or of that mentality, given the consistent use of the term 'Dark Lord'." She sighed and spoke softly, "Tommy does not need to be avenged. He doesn't care about that anymore…"
"Yes, I know," Minerva said gently. "Speaking of Tommy's, however, your office hours are nearly over and you should be collecting your children for lunch, should you not?"
"Yes, of course," she said, distracted, and then looked up at Minerva, trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach and chest, "Do you think Severus – or any of us – are actually in any real danger?"
"I don't know. I certainly hope not. For now all we can do is keep our eyes open, try to figure out who wrote this, and go from there."
"Yes, I suppose. Let me know if you find out anything more. I assume we're keeping everything under wraps right now, as far as the student body is concerned?"
"Yes, for now," Minerva stood and offered her an attempt at a reassuring smile, although the lines of concern still creased her forehead, "Try not to worry too much. I'm sure this will all get sorted out in due time."
"Thank you. I hope so," Dinah agreed, bidding the Headmistress farewell and standing up to collect her things. She took her bag of survey materials with her and locked up her office, travelling the short distance down the halls to Lucy and Sirius's rooms, where the latter was settled in for a break with the children. She knocked on the door and awaited an answer.
"Coming!" Sirius called. When the door opened he had four-month-old Adara in his arms, feeding her a bottle. In the background Owen was climbing up in a chair to reach a 'secret cookie' for Maylene who was standing close by. In contrast, Tommy was concentrating on drawing something on his piece of paper.
Altair, Lucy and Sirius's red-headed youngest son, was standing close to his father's robes. "Mummum?"
Sirius maneuvered a little bit so that he could reach down and ruffle his son's hair, "Not yet. Soon. Come to pick up the kids?" he asked Dinah, "Or were you having lunch with us?"
"Let's have lunch," Dinah said, hoping to have some company to mull this over with. They often had lunch together but both Sirius and Lucy knew she was busy with the surveys as of late. She was working on a version to distribute throughout Britain, thus reaching a wider sample size. It would be her biggest endeavor yet in the Muggle-born surveys department. "Oh, Maylene, you do not need that cookie! Stop asking Owen to feed you. You'll ruin your lunch!" she called to her four-and-a-half year old daughter, who was positively drooling as Owen finally acquired the cookie jar.
"But May's hungry," Owen insisted.
Dinah chuckled. Poor Owen. Waited on May hand and foot sometimes. Granted, he sort of liked doing that. He was such a helpful little boy. Dinah hesitated to label him a Hufflepuff just yet, but… "May is always hungry, Owen. Just like me. But she can eat lunch like everybody else and have a cookie afterwards."
"Aww," May groaned, "Daddy would let me have the cookie."
"Daddy's not here, and the secret cookie incident only happened twice," Dinah chided. Well, as far as she knew Severus had only given their daughter a cookie on the sly twice, calling it a "secret cookie" and asking Maylene not to tell about it, which she had done anyway, being only two years old at the time. At any rate, it was now a long-standing family joke. Although deep down Dinah was fairly certain it had happened more than twice by now, and she was sure to Tommy as well. But their more subdued son was better at keeping secrets.
She smiled at her husband's behavior. For a man who supposedly hated most children he certainly spoiled theirs rotten. Then she recalled the letter that was still tucked into her bag and sighed. Hopefully he was safe. Although the person had sounded like they had it in for Hogwarts and would do any kind of… damage here and not abroad. But she wanted to get the letter to him so that he could look at it.
Maylene grumbled a bit but let Owen put the cookie jar away as they all gathered around the table to see what the house elves had prepared for lunch. Dinah leaned over Tommy's drawing and ruffled his hair, "Is that the Whomping Willow?"
"Uh huh," her son, who was nearly three and had his father's nose, nodded, "Uncle Sirius says hole there," he pointed to a little hole he'd drawn in the trunk, "But don't go in."
"Trying to redeem yourself, huh?" Dinah teased, winking at Sirius.
"Always," Lucy said, coming in and hefting Altair onto one hip and waving her wand to tuck a napkin into Owen's collar with the other, "Heard from Severus?" she asked, thoroughly kissing her husband. Even with three children the two of them seemed to spend a good deal of time snogging.
Dinah shook her head, feeling a little apprehensive again as she sat down between her children , eyeing the soup, salad, and sandwiches that had appeared before them, "Not since his last owl yesterday morning, saying he'd be back tonight. Since I haven't heard otherwise, I'm sure that still stands."
"Is there any reason it wouldn't?" Sirius asked, settling his daughter in her bassinet and sitting at the table. Lucy portioned out some salad and a sandwich for Owen before cutting up a sandwich for Altair and picking some cut veggies out of her salad for him as well.
"I don't think so," she shook her head again as she got her own children's meals settled, "Unless…." She sighed, looking up to meet her two friends' eyes. She might as well just out with it. "Minerva came into my office hours just now and showed me this letter that she received from an anonymous person," she dug into her bag to extract the letter, and was just handing it across to Lucy when Maylene grabbed for it.
"A letter! Can I read it?"
"No, Maylene, this is a letter for grown-ups," Dinah said, probably making herself more boring in her daughter's eyes, but they didn't need the children to deal with this. They were far too young, and luckily also young enough that they didn't follow adult conversations very well. But Maylene was an excellent reader for her age, and so seeing the letter was out. She handed the envelope to her friend.
"I can read!" Owen announced, but didn't grab for the letter.
"Yes, you can," Lucy nodded, "but you're not reading this." She quickly scanned the letter before handing it to Sirius over Altair's head. "So…"
"Minerva thinks we should be concerned about this?" asked Sirius, "We get letters like this all the time…"
"The detail and specificity concerns her," Dinah admitted. "To the point where she's considering enhancing security measures around the school."
Lucy frowned, "She might bring Aurors in you mean?"
"Harry? Uncle Ron?" Owen asked, catching the word Auror and connecting it to the two men.
Dinah had to chuckle at that, "I certainly hope not or Severus will have a conniption. I assumed she meant shields and protective enchantments, at least to start."
"That seems like the more sensible thing to do," Sirius nodded, "at least to start."