It's JKR's world, I just play in it.

This takes place in the September after the events in Beltane. Snape is probably about 26 or 27 in both of these stories, which predate the events of Ghosts by about 10 years.

It is not necessary to read Ghosts to grok this, but you should read Beltane.

----------------

Under the best of conditions, staff meetings are far from pleasant. Today, however, it should be noted that I'm far from being in the best of conditions.

Damn that woman, who is, by the way, smirking at me from across the table. I am absolutely positive that every act we engaged in last night was instigated by her with thought to just how miserable I'd be sitting here, right now, having to face her. I smirk at her through my hair. Neither of us blushes; we have too much self-control for that at least, although I will note that the effort it takes for me not to squirm in this chair is far from minimal.

She sighs and stretches ridiculously. Minerva shoots her an incredibly disapproving look and Albus responds by trying to smile at me. No you don't old man, not a damn thing for you to say about this. I promise.

Blast, Hooch is half nodding at him, encouraging him to say something. I rub my hands over my face and peer through them miserably as Flitwick chirps at me.

"Hard night, Severus?" he asks good-naturedly.

"Rather," I respond, without thought, until Hooch's damn yellow eyes flash at me. Merlin's beard. I vaguely decide not to speak again until my first class.

Albus clears his throat, and if there's any sign he knows exactly what's going on, that's it. I'm sure the universe will suitably chasten me for allowing myself this small bit of twisted joy by forcing me to have tea with the man later. I decide to refrain from trying to figure out why Hooch is kicking me under the table as Albus begins to go over the agenda.

Apparently, I'm looking more and more uncomfortable, as I'm startled out of my misery by the smug and completely undeservedly so tones of our DADA instructor of the moment, Nihls Rotgaarten. I can only hope he killed his parents in retaliation for such a name.

"Are you alright, Severus?"

"I'm perfectly fine," I grind out, twisting my head to flick the hair out of my eyes for the first time this morning. Someone lets out a little gasp. This can't possibly be good.

"Have you looked at yourself in a mirror today?" Minerva asks clearly enjoying the question a little too much.

"Why would I do that? The slightest infliction of cruelty on man, beast or household object will, I am assured, land me right back in Azkaban. To your unending and unwholesome delight, no doubt." I try not to smile; I am pleased with myself. They do so hate when I mention Azkaban out of the blue.

Minerva makes that vague clucking noise she's so fond of using when I've upset her, and Hooch grins as she slides a pocket mirror across the table to me.

Alright, I do look like absolute hell. Bad, even for me. How I managed not to feel the scratch down my right cheek, I can't even begin to fathom, but it makes me look as if I spent the night with Mrs. Norris, versus this institution's other yellow-eyed beast. I stop myself from groaning at the evidence of my misery or the fact that she's giving me that look again.

Part of me wants to turn to Albus and curse him for this. The rest of me wants to beg for his protection and indulgence, yet again. That's getting to be a bad habit, but then, so is Hana. Three times in the last week and we are only becoming more brutal with each other. It is, I try to reassure myself, a good outlet.

"Perhaps you should stop by the hospital wing and see Poppy before your first class," Dumbledore says gently and I thank him for his momentary restraint, although I cringe at the poor choice of words in even my internal dialogues.

I shift in my seat. "Yes, perhaps she'll have something for my head."

Hooch licks her lips, which is the most ridiculous, excessive, clich├ęd thing I've ever seen. It's also getting me hard, which is the only thing that stops me from murdering Flitwick on the spot when he asks if I have a headache too.

"No, Filius, just another bout of the temporary insanity that made me choose you lot over Death Eaters."

There. That should prevent anyone from speaking to me for the rest of the day. Hooch winks. Not a good sign. Not a good sign at all.