Author's Note: I do not own Harry Potter.
Hoo an owl called from the window, its beak rapping lightly to catch Severus' attention. He sighed and set down the potions text from which he had been reading. He allowed the large amber owl to enter, recognizing it as Alfred, Minerva's owl. Handing Alfred an owl treat Severus untied the parchment from its leg. Setting himself back in his lone living room chair in his house at Spinner's End, he began to read.
I know that I said it in person while you were recovering at St. Mungo's, however I would like to say it again in writing with the hopes of a different outcome: Hogwarts is truly not home without you. Though we never truly became friends, you were always someone I enjoyed seeing every day. As Headmistress I am requesting that you reclaim your post as Head of Slytherin house and as Professor of Potions. As someone who hopes to one day become a friend, I ask you to come back to your home and restart your life as a war hero and a free man. I hope you can consider this offer and will accept.
A slight scowl developed on Severus' face as he read her letter. He knew in his heart that he belonged at Hogwarts—it was his home, and always would be. Unfortunately, he also knew that the students would be mercilessly scrutinizing his every action the minute he returned. A Death Eater spy turned war hero, what wasn't to trust, really. "Accio parchment." He drawled lazily and flicked his wand.
Producing a quill and some ink from his robes, Severus wrote back hastily.
You truly know how to convince a man. Hopefully the news of my return will be distributed fast enough that the students won't be too reckless upon arrival.
Once again he was forced out of his chair and away from his book to tie the parchment to Alfred who remained by the window nibbling his treat. Severus opened the window and watched as the amber owl flew away. He felt his freedom leave as well.
A week later Severus had resettled into his chambers in the dungeon; his forest green plush carpet was a welcome amenity after his hard wood floors at Spinner's End, and his reclining chair by the roaring fire place was always his favorite reading location. His entire library did not fit in his chambers, so he had only brought a portion of his reading material with him. A select few muggle classics, as well as myriad potions reference texts and theoretical works. His own personal missives and research journals had made the journey as well, though he placed them in his lab rather than the small bookself located in his bedroom. While his space at Spinner's End had been more abundant, Severus was content with his decision to come back to teaching.
After completing his unpacking, Severus made his way up to the Great Hall for dinner, anticipating a few professors' surprise at his return, lest Minerva spoiled the surprise. The walk was peacefully silent as the students were not due back for another week. The portraits watched his graceful stride, though they said nothing about his appearance back at the castle.
Opening the door to the Great Hall Severus found that he was the final arrival to dinner. Seated at the head table were his colleagues and more than one of them appeared surprised at his entrance.
"Severus," Minerva greeted him with a smile. "Welcome back. We are so pleased to have you home again."
He merely nodded and took his seat to the left of tiny Professor Flitwick, who smiled at him though his mouth remained shut. Dinner had already been served, and Severus found his plate already full of ham, mashed potatoes and corn. He took his fork and began eating the corn, grateful for the warm food after a busy day of preparing his chambers.
"I trust you are moved in then, Severus?" Minerva looked to him past Filius. Minerva McGonagall looked the same as she had during the war, though her hair had grayed further. Her emerald robes draped over the edge of her chair, and her eyes wore their usual concerned yet stern expression.
Severus nodded and he kept his face expressionless. "Yes, I am completely moved in. Though I must be honest I had forgotten that the bookshelf in my chambers was that small. I may require a second shelf, as I have a lot of books that I would like to keep with me in case they could be of use to my research. Save for that the room is in livable conditions." He smirked and returned to his ham.
"I shall have a second bookshelf sent down after dinner." She replied hastily, clearly desiring his comfort in an effort to be sure he stayed. "Truly Severus, we are glad to have you back."
"Although I don't want to admit it, I will say that Hogwarts is my home. I am comfortable here more so than anywhere else." With that statement he took a swig of pumpkin juice and pushed his chair out. "And now I shall return to my chambers and begin preparing my lesson plans. Classes start in a week, and I have not had time to prepare." Standing and turning on his heel he left the Great Hall and returned to the dungeons. That night he had his best sleep since before the war.
"To some of you, welcome. To the rest of you, welcome back." Minerva's voice commanded the attention of everyone in the Great Hall, right down to the first years. Though she had to project, whereas Albus could have whispered, she definitely held the authority as Headmistress. "I have a few announcements. After deliberation of the staff I believe we have chosen this year's Head Girl and Boy. Miss Hermione Granger and Mr. Neville Longbottom, would you please stand up."
Severus fought to keep control of his expression as he laid his eyes on Hermione. He hadn't known that she would come back for her seventh year, although if he had thought about it he probably could have assumed so. The girl was a walking encyclopedia, why wouldn't she finish her education properly and take her N.E.? Hermione had clearly taken on her womanhood through her role in the war; her face no longer held the adolescent wonder in her features, but a hardened look of understanding. Severus found himself staring as the room erupted into applause at the announcement. A little too late he brought his hands together twice.
"Also, I would like to welcome Professor Snape back to our teaching staff and would like to let everyone know that I will not tolerate false accusations of his allegiance. If you would like to discuss concerns regarding Voldemort or post-war turmoil, my office is open." Severus mentally kicked Minerva. Great, he thought now they'll all question my "allegiance".
Dinner was served shortly after, and then prefects began bringing their houses to their respective common rooms. Minerva asked the staff to remain behind for a quick meeting, along with Hermione and Longbottom. Once the Hall was cleared Severus was allowed to see Hermione better than when she had stood during Minerva's speech. Her curves had filled out, and she carried herself better. The mess of brown hair had been managed into wavy order, and her teeth were straight and proportional. She looked, Severus mentally cringed, attractive really.
"Alright," Minerva turned to face everyone. "Heads of House you are going to have dormitory meetings later tonight, as you know. I would like Hermione and Neville to be present so the students can get to know them. Being war heroes the students might be nervous around them, and I would like to stop that immediately. In addition to attending classes Hermione and Neville will be assisting a professor this year, almost like an apprenticeship. They both have an interest in teaching, and I have decided that they could finish their Hogwarts education while preparing for Professorship in the future." She nodded to Hermione and Neville in a proud fashion and smiled at them. Hermione returned her smile with a confident one of her own while Neville merely nodded. "Professor Sprout, Neville's all yours. Professor Snape, Hermoine will be with you."
Severus choked a little at this announcement. His eyebrows shot up and then his face went hard. He could see that Hermione was taken aback by his reaction. "Me?" was all he managed to get out.
"Yes, you Severus," Minerva stated curtly. "Miss Hermione would like to become a potions researcher in her spare time as a Professor, and I know that you can teach her the ropes of instruction while also getting her feet wet in research."
"But surely I don't have time," Severus started.
"You will allow Miss Granger to be your assistant Severus. I will not take no for an answer. I believe the two of you will work marvelously well together. Now, we all have a busy day tomorrow. Attend to house meetings, and then get some rest." Minerva shooed everyone away and walked to the door herself.
Hermione stared at Severus, internally begging for his acceptance. If anyone was able to further her education beyond the standards of the N.E., it was him. She followed him out of the Great Hall silently and began walking with him to the dungeons, remaining a pace behind him as his long silent strides made their way.
"Yes, Miss Granger? Is there a reason you are already intent on incessantly bothering me?" He snapped, contorting his face to a scowl without looking back at her.
"I have decided to go to the Slytherin common room first sir," she replied with a defensive edge to her voice. "Headmistress McGonagall made it clear that Neville and I were required to visit every house tonight during the meetings."
"I see." He said as he quickened his pace a little. They were nearing the portrait to the common room now.
"Password?" a portrait of a creature resembling a centaur with a serpent bottom instead of a horse asked.
"Wolfsbane," Severus complied. The portrait swung open to reveal the stone archway corridor, entrance to the Slytherin common room. As he and Hermione entered he saw that the prefects had rounded up the whole house and they were seated in a semi circle along the couches and on the floor. A sudden silence came over the room upon their arrival to the center of the circular room. Severus looked at everyone, giving a stern look to them all.
"Hello, my name is Professor Severus Snape," he stated in his smooth commanding teaching voice. "I am the Potions professor and the head of Slytherin House. Whatever rumors you have heard about me, set them aside. I do not tolerate ill behavior from my House, and I will not tolerate gossip. I expect that each and every one of you will do your work, and will seek out help if necessary. Follow the rules, conduct yourselves in an appropriate and respectful manner, and do not bother me and we will not have a problem. Step one toe out of line and you will have me to deal with." By the end of his speech he could see that some of the younger students were nervous, while the older students merely wore smug looks of being scolded. He was proud of himself—he still had it in him. "Also, this is Hermione Granger, Head Girl and my assistant professor this year. You will treat her as you treat me. She can and will give you detention or dock house points."
This made Hermione surprised, although she made sure that it didn't show on her face. She felt herself warm up inside knowing that Snape had accepted her role enough already to enforce her position with his house. She gave the students a firm look, though nothing like the glare Snape gave them, and took her leave, nodding to Severus on her way out. He nodded in return.
Hermione left the dungeons and ran through similar speeches with the other three Heads of House. Afterwards she returned to her private quarters, gained by being Head Girl, at the top of the Gryffindor Tower. She ran her hand through her hair and changed from her school robes to a black knee length silk night gown. She brushed her teeth in her small bathroom then walked to her bed. The burgundy down comforter looked inviting; though she wasn't sure she could sleep just yet. Kneeling to her trunk she pulled out a length of parchment and began to write. Often she found that writing her feelings out on paper made her thoughts clear enough for sleep. Tonight she wrote about how Professor Snape might actually be able to accept her as his assistant and about how this year at Hogwarts was going to be different from the previous six. Finally content she decided it was time to sleep.
Severus sat in front of his fire wearing a black t-shirt and black pajama pants preparing lesson plans for the seventh years. As he finished writing he allowed his thoughts to wander, thinking about how working with Hermione would be. Would the insufferable know-it-all ask an endless stream of questions, not allowing him to work in peace, or would she help him by grading and watching classes as he performed research experiments in his adjoining private lab? Time will tell, I suppose.