A/N: Hey guys! I know, I know, I should be working on getting Shackled done, or at least 17 written, but I absolutely had to take a break. I know where it's going and the breakdown for the rest of the chapters, so it should be out pretty quickly. In the meantime, I wrote for a new pairing.
This has actually turned out drastically different than I had first intended, but I hope you like it all the same. It was certainly refreshing and gun to write!
Here we go!
As always, I own nothing and claim no profit.
Part I :
Sometimes Goodbye is a Second Chance
He sat, leaning forward, forearms resting gracefully along the smooth wood of the table in front of him. His hands were steepled together, in the manner he had learned from Dumbledore many years ago. He waited patiently for the rest of the staff to file in.
"Severus," McGonagall greeted with a nod as she took her customary seat to his left. Her hair was pulled back in its usual bun, but the years had worn on her, showing now in the grey shade of her hair and the fine wrinkles adorning the corners of her eyes.
She sat straight as ever, waiting for the staff to settle in before beginning their start of term meeting.
Severus let his mind wander as she prattled on about cheating quills, and the proper disciplinary actions to be taken with unruly students. He had heard the same speech every year for the past twenty of his life; not much had changed. Detentions were still served on evenings and Saturday mornings, and the regulations on anything to do with potions hadn't changed in decades. He needed little else to perform his job.
As she moved on to bi-weekly Hogsmeade trips and scheduling the chaperones, he could barely contain a snort. Why she insisted on his attendance, he couldn't fathom. He had never chaperoned; nor had he, or anyone else, ever wanted him to. Out of habit, he moved to stow his hair behind his ear. He stopped, cursing himself silently. That would be a hard habit to break. He had cut his hair short two months ago, in a desperate attempt to break away from his past. He instead used his raised hand to stifle a yawn.
He thought back to the two years he had spent away from teaching. After the war, he thought he might like to retire early, having already worked a lifetimes worth in his mere thirty six years. He had gone home to Spinner's End, and busied himself with potions journals and conventions. But he eventually grew bored, and ultimately missed stalking through the halls, scaring children and deducting points. It held the strangest thrill, which he chalked up to his years in service to the Dark Lord. He scowled, cutting off that train of thought before it even started.
He sighed quietly, leaning back in his chair, crossing his arms and furrowing his brow impatiently, ever the image of condescension. He smirked as he noticed a few younger teachers shift, glancing uneasily in his direction before looking away quickly; his reputation certainly hadn't tarnished. He supposed he should let the new teachers pay attention to the Headmistress, as they would actually need the information. Than again, they were just as bad as first years. Hell, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher didn't even bother showing himself. Severus scowled unhappily, chewing the inside of his cheek.
The meeting came to a close with a final notice on class schedules, and they were released. Severus collected his things slowly, in no hurry to get back down to the dungeons and watch over another batch of simmering potions.
McGonagall cast a sideways glance at him as she stood to leave. She looked as if she wanted to say something, but instead just shook her head sadly and walked away.
He stood finally, following her out.
"Professor! I'm so sorry!" a voice called out, as a young woman stopped in front of McGonagall. Snape hesitated in the doorway.
"Please, dear, it's Minerva,"
"Thank you. I'm so sorry I'm late, there was an emergency at the Ministry, father needed help with some possessed tea pots being sold at a muggle shop, and all the Aurors were out," the girl explained quickly.
"I quite understand. Did you get it under control?" Minerva asked, a slight tone of worry to her voice. Even though the war had ended, the Auror department had stayed plenty busy.
"Yes, although the spell they used was nothing I'd seen before. Took longer than I thought to sort it all out," the woman sighed tiredly. "Anyway, what did I miss? Everything?" she asked, guilt clear in her voice again.
Her voice sounded familiar, but older than he recalled. Severus had taught her, he was sure of it. But he had taught many young witches over the years, it was impossible to differentiate which of his ex-pupils it may be.
"Meet me in my office once you're settled in and I'll give you a quick run down," McGonagall told her, already starting to walk away.
"Thank you," the woman sighed, sounding relieved.
Snape chose then to come out of the empty classroom, not liking the idea of being caught lurking in a doorway, no matter who this new Professor was.
"Oh! Professor!" The woman turned to face him, cheeks blushing ever so slightly. Her bold, brown eyes looked directly at him, her flaming red hair falling in waves around her shoulders.
"Mrs. Weasley," he greeted. She looked nothing like how she had when she had been his student. Her cheek bones were well defined, her nose straight and petite, and her warm eyes were round and bright.
She looked around awkwardly, not knowing quite where they stood with each other.
"Do you need help setting up your classroom?" he asked, surprising them both.
"Yes," she said hesitantly, as if weighing her need against the possibility of spending a prolonged period of time with the dour Potions Master.
Severus didn't blame her. He wouldn't particularly want to spend time with himself either. And he wasn't sure exactly what had possessed him to offer his time anyway. He wasn't excited to return to brewing the simple medicinal potions Poppy needed, that was true enough, but he would almost rather spend a week doing that than spend the next two hours helping a Weasley unpack.
He cursed himself silently, unable to take back the offer now that it had been made.
She looked up, straightening her back and looking him right in the eyes.
"I would love some help. Thank you," she smiled serenely. "This way," she waved at him to follow her, and grumbling under his breath, he followed reluctantly. What had he gotten himself into now?
He followed her down the familiar passages until they came to a stop in front of the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.
"Everything should be in here already," she said, unlocking the door and making her way inside. "Yes, great. We just need to find a place to put it all,"
She stood with her hands on her hips, surveying the classroom. She squinted her eyes at the back corner, and the motion sent a pang through Severus. She looked like someone else, when she stood like that. He couldn't pin point exactly what had happened to her features, or who he was thinking of.
He cast the thoughts aside and shook himself, not quite sure why he was acting so erratically this morning. His solitude must have been worse than he had originally thought, clearly. Why else would he be offering up his valuable time to an ex-student? And a Weasley, no less. He had far more important matters to attend to before the students arrived the next week.
He sighed, resigning himself to the task ahead. At least it wasn't Potter. He had been dreading meeting the new Dark Arts professor, thinking for sure that Potter had quit his job at the Auror office to instill his ridiculous hero complex into the next generation.
He supposed he could live with the Weasley girl. If he remembered correctly, she was far more bearable (and had a good bit more potential, if he was being honest) than any of her six brothers.
They set to work, unpacking boxes and transfiguring shelves. They worked in silence, only broken by Severus' occasional query as to where she wanted something placed.
"Sir, if you don't mind me asking, where have you been the last couple of years?" she asked timidly, not looking up from her box of text books she was currently stacking into neat rows in a shelf near the back of the room.
"I thought I would like some peace and quiet," he answered smoothly, "After a lifetime of spying, I figured I owed myself that much," he wasn't sure why he was answering her question, but he didn't see the harm in it. He figured he would be asked to explain himself sooner or later, anyway. He might as well get used to it.
"Oh. Than why come back to teaching?" She looked at him quizzically, furrowing her brow as she paused in her work.
"I got bored," he said simply. He looked down at his work then, not wanting to meet her gaze anymore. Something about the young woman troubled him deeply, but he couldn't help but feel connected to her. He decided it was a sense of post-war camaraderie. How he had fallen victim to such a petty emotion was beyond him.
Silence fell upon them again, and they had half the room set up before Severus spoke up.
"Your brothers, what do they do?" he asked, feeling bad for offering to help and then making her suffer through a deafening silence.
"Ron plays for the Canons, he's a Keeper. Married Hermione, she works with Harry. Best friends, they are," she grinned, "They come for dinner all the time. George runs Weasley's Wizard Wheezes still, but he brought in Lee Jordan to help. Percy works with Dad now; he's written a few papers on muggle studies. Bill gave up his job at Gringott's, he helps George design new products; stays close to home. Fleur works from home, to be with the kids mostly. And Charlie's still working in Romania. He does come visit a bit more now, though."
Snape nodded, mulling over what she had told him. That was right, Fred had been lost to the war. He felt like apologizing, but suddenly that didn't seem like enough. The words died in his throat.
"Have you heard from Harry?" she asked softly, as if afraid to broach the subject at all.
"Thankfully, no," he sneered.
She laughed. "I'll let him know to drop that train of thought. He's been thinking of visiting, to thank you in person,"
"Tell him you passed the message along," he said flippantly, trying to avoid a run-in with Potter.
"I'll tell him you're doing well," she said, suddenly sounding unsure of herself. He supposed she couldn't really tell if he was doing well or not.
"Thank you," he said stoically, as he moved on to a box full of lecture notes.
"He keeps insisting our first born's middle name be after you," she said softly, casting a shy glance at him.
He couldn't help but stifle a snort. "Right," he muttered. A somewhat awkward silence settled over them. They kept working.
Ginny stopped, coming to sit on a desk near him. She wiped her brow with the back of her hand, sighing and pulling her hair into a ponytail.
"Hungry?" she asked.
Lunch was another silent affair, both thankful for the excuse that food gave them not to talk. A House Elf named Stella had brought light sandwiches and pumpkin juice.
Severus looked over the young woman before him. She had certainly changed in the few years since the war. She was slightly taller, and had more defined features than she had in her school days. She had filled out, and grown into a slender figure, dipping in at the waist in a graceful manner. She was small, petite, but Severus could tell she was a force to be reckoned with.
Her hair was long and sleek, falling to her shoulder blades now that it had been pulled back. The shade was intimate, familiar somehow, and it made him feel warm. Endearing freckles lined her nose and cheekbones. Her brown eyes were soft and inviting, but intense and bold at the same time. She was unmistakably independent.
He felt a sadness well within him, an unspeakable loss. He clenched his jaw, fighting against the unruly emotion. What had come over him?
"Sir? Is everything okay?" she asked gently, seeing the look on his face.
He fixed his expression, once again restoring the cool mask of indifference he thought he had trained himself so well not to break. He didn't know what to say.
"What is it, Severus?" she asked, worried now.
At the sound of his first name, he flinched. He ran a shaky hand through his short hair. What was so different about this young lady, that he had so little control over himself in her presence?
It hit him suddenly, like a freight train. He closed his eyes momentarily, unbelieving. He thought he had let this go. He couldn't let this effect his professional relationships.
He swallowed heavily, taking a deep breath and collecting himself.
"You just remind me of someone I used to know," he said softly, before he could stop himself. She stilled at the hopelessness to his tone of voice. She had never seen him anything but cruel and unrelenting. She just continued to look at him.
"I have to go. I'm sorry. I have potions to attend to," he said briskly, reclaiming his air of coldness as he swept from the room in a blur of black robes.
He stopped in the hallway outside the classroom, leaning against the wall and breathing heavily. He closed his eyes and rested his head back on the cool surface of the stone passage.
He walked swiftly back to his chambers, working himself into a formidable rage and slamming the door behind him. He hadn't been gripped with any amount of emotion in years. He had been able to suppress it, albeit with varying degrees of success. But he had never been so out of control before. He had never let it consume himself, sway his decisions. Damn the Weasley girl.
She had even ended up marrying his son; his carbon copy, born twenty years later to haunt Severus in every way possible. It was his worst nightmare, all over again. And to top it all off, they were planning on naming their son after him. He wanted to be sick.
Damn her. Damn them both.
But it wasn't her fault, he knew. The thought of Lily drove ice cold spikes into his heart still.
That was partly the reason he had despised the trio so much from the minute they stepped into the castle. Harry, with her eyes; Ron, with her hair; and Hermione, the smart muggleborn. It had been too much.
He sat on the edge of his bed, cradling his head in his hands. He couldn't live like this anymore. But what did he think he deserved? He had fallen off the path, chosen wrong. He was sick, a shallow shell of a man, undeserving of anything. He tortured and yelled for pleasure. There were things in his past that made him cringe still to this day. Things he had craved, enjoyed even. He deserved this cursed half-life he had been dealt.
But he couldn't help but long for more.
How had he let her slip through his fingers like that? If only he had known, he could have saved her, he could have given her the life she deserved. This new wave of torment hit him solidly in the chest, knocking the wind out of him and wracking his whole body with bone crushing sobs.
He couldn't let her go; he had been delusional. After all these years, he couldn't just let her go. She was all he had ever had, all he had ever wanted. And she was ripped from him. He would never be whole again, and he deserved this misery.
He had lived for her; lived for that stupid wretch of a son, just so he could do some semblance of right by Lily. So he could feel human again, and not drown in this remorse and guilt.
What a fool he had been to think it might actually work.
He grabbed a bottle of Firewhiskey and settled in, ready to piss the rest of his night away.