A/N: When I was a teen, I boarded the Hogwarts Express and never looked back. Severus Snape soon became my favorite, most complex and enigmatic character of the series. I began writing my Snape Saga after Order of the Phoenix came out, chiefly for my own pleasure, and finished it well after the Deathly Hallows was released. This is the first story of the series, which is largely canon-compliant, except that Snape does not die at the end of DH. His death always seemed hugely unfair to me. Join me if you believe that Severus Snape deserves to live, rebuild his character, and be happy in years to come!
"I can tell when you think I'm wrong, Severus." She frowned. "And I know you do this time."
"Suppose I do." The man called Severus replied coldly. "Would it make the slightest difference? I think not, and therefore I would rather keep my opinion to myself."
"You are the second most important person in this school, Severus." She said exasperatedly. "The War has ended, but if anything at all happens, you will replace me as headmaster. Your opinion matters to me, and as long as we remain united in our goals…"
"… It doesn't matter if we disagree on the less-than-major issues." He interrupted, a note of finality in his voice. "You have told me this before, Headmistress, and yet I do not think it is a matter we can take light-headedly."
"Oh, come on, Snape!" She said rather louder than she meant, and continued more placidly. "You of all people should know they are harmless. It's the same old superstition that exists against werewolves…"
Snape's lip curled at the world "werewolves". He continued, however, in a humorless voice:
"I am not talking of that now, Headmistress. I won't say a thing anymore against you allowing them to reside here, as long as they don't actually prowl the grounds or the castle at daytime…"
"Which you know perfectly well they won't," snapped the Headmistress.
"I should hope so. And I thought you would have guessed it's your other decision I was referring to."
He said that in quite a polite tone, but Minerva McGonagall's face immediately put on a rather irritable expression.
"Not again, Severus!" She exclaimed. "You came here only a few days ago, before the end of summer holidays, and yet we must have discussed this at least a dozen times! I would have thought that, owing to the fact that you got the position you wanted, you wouldn't mind so much seeing the Potions vacancy filled by another person – after all, you can hardly be expected to hold two jobs!"
Snape tried to put on his mildest expression, which did hardly anything to soften his sour features, his thin lips and hooked nose. He was lean, reasonably well-built, but that couldn't really be noticed underneath his black, billowing robes. McGonagall was also in her usual tartan, her hair pulled back in a neat, graying bun. Not much has change in the appearance of these two heroes of the Second War, the War during which Lord Voldemort had finally been defeated.
"I don't mind the filling of that vacancy." He made an impatient gesture. "You make it sound, Minerva, as if I wanted to keep the Potions Master position while I start teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts at the same time. I just thought that, being Deputy Headmaster," he said the last two words rather smugly, "I have the right to worry about where this school is heading, what will happen to our standards, our reputation, our achievements – once we start appointing…"
"Wait a minute, Severus," said Professor McGonagall briskly, watching him intently over the top of her square spectacles. "I think I know what this is about."
"You do?" Snape looked mildly interested.
"Yes, I think I do." Repeated McGonagall. "You… you underestimate Beauxbatons Academy!"
"I beg your pardon?" Snape said coldly.
"Severus, it is no secret you think those who graduate from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic don't have quite the same grasp of the Magical Arts. And while I agree with you that they put a bit too much emphasis on impractical subjects like Divination, I must say I'm quite satisfied with…"
"It has nothing to do with that, Headmistress," he interrupted her again. "It has everything to do, however, with the age and experience of the candidate you have chosen. I thought the policy of this school was not to accept candidates below twenty-five years of age anymore, unless there is specific evidence that they have enough skills and experience to cope with teaching. Do you know this Miss Costello, Minerva? Or does, perhaps, anyone from the staff?"
"No," admitted Minerva McGonagall. "But I interviewed her, and she made a good impression on me. Seemed like quite an expert, as a matter of fact. She has excellent recommendations, too. Madame Maxime, Headmistress of Beauxbatons, praised her. Her parents own the shop "Costello Concoctions" in Diagon Alley, so she was practically born in a cauldron. As I have told you before, she worked in St. Mungo's until last month, and they spoke most highly of her as well, sent me a letter telling that her knowledge in antidotes surpasses that of many older and more experienced wizards and witches. And you mustn't forget, Severus, that Celena Costello is related to, and was taught by Nicholas Flamel, the only known maker of the Philosopher's Stone. I know we decided about an age restriction, but to tell you the truth, I'm wondering if we haven't made a rushed decision in the first place. After all, personal qualities matter much more than a few years more or less. Maybe we should consider canceling it altogether?"
"She is related to someone else we know well, too," added Snape, ignoring her last point, his eyes narrowing maliciously, a trace of a grin on his sulky face. "Are you perhaps prejudiced in her favor, Minerva, because you are fond of her dear uncle, Remus Lupin?"
"I think most highly of Remus Lupin." McGonagall cut across him rather sternly. "As I think of all my fellow members of the Order, and first of all you, Severus. But in appointing Celena Costello as the Master of Potions in Hogwarts, I followed only the unbiased opinion of those who taught her or worked by her side, and my own impression."
For a mere second, they glared at each other – Professor McGonagall, very straight in her dress robes, her hair in a tight bun, her expression frosty; and Snape, Severus Snape, looking like an overgrown bat in his loose black robes, his rather greasy hair still raven-black, with no tinge of grey, hanging loosely at the sides of his pale face, an evil twinkle still in his eyes. Then he shrugged, as if he still thought he knows better, but decided not to argue.
"How is she arriving, anyway?" He asked. "The Hogwarts Express?"
McGonagall shook her head.
"She's arriving right here, in my office, by Floo Powder. Her things have already been sent. She should be here any mo-"
She never finished the sentence, because at that very moment, the fire in the grate blazed emerald green, and a tall, slim, hooded figure of a young woman appeared. She stepped out unto the carpet, brushing soot off her brown traveling cloak.
"Ah, there's Celena!" Said Professor McGonagall. "Right on time!"
The woman threw back the hood of her cloak, revealing a pretty, porcelain-white face and dazzling, bright-blue eyes with long, curled, thick eyelashes. Her chestnut hair was tied back carelessly, into a knot at the back of her head, rather unlike Professor McGonagall's, about to untwist, with several stray locks of hair coming out of it already.
"I came as soon as I could, Headmistress," she said, bowing her head slightly. "I'm delighted to be here. What a handsome office!" She exclaimed, looking around.
The circular room, its walls covered with many portraits of former Headmasters and Headmistresses of Hogwarts, was indeed magnificent. Full of various artifacts, with the fire burning low in the elaborately carved and scrupulously clean fireplace, the polished desk neat and gleaming and a fabulous sunset outside the wide windows – Celena took all that in, looking around. Her eyebrows lifted slightly as she registered Godric Gryffindor's sword and an old, patched hat, but she didn't say another word. Professor McGonagall gave her a small, reassuring smile.
"Surely Madame Maxime's office at the Beauxbatons Academy is quite as impressive," she said. Celena smiled back shyly. She did look very young.
"Oh, Madame Maxime's office is of course quite large," she nodded. "But not as elegant as this one."
"Celena, allow me to introduce you to Professor Severus Snape. Professor Snape is Deputy Headmaster and Head of Slytherin house. He used to teach Potions for many years, so if you need any guidance, assistance or advice when you start teaching, don't hesitate to seek the help of Professor Snape."
Celena thought Snape didn't look like the reassuring type of person a novice might turn to for help and advice, but she made a brave decision to ignore that for the time being.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Professor Snape." She smiled, revealing very white, rather sharp little teeth. "I am most honored to join the ranks of Hogwarts staff."
She held out her small, gloved hand, but Snape's hands were joined behind his back, and he didn't bother to pull them apart to shake hers. He merely inclined his head, so that his face was half-obscured, shot a rather nasty glance and said:
He then eyed her from head to foot, taking in the gracious smile now fading rapidly from her lips, her outstretched hand in an elegant glove, her shiny boots and her brand-new handbag. One corner of his mouth twitched. Celena flushed. There was a moment of awkward silence, and then he said,
"Got to be off, Headmistress. I must remind you that the Sorting is about to start."
He turned towards the door and was gone in a swish of black robes.
"So," said Professor McGonagall briskly. "Let me show you your office, Celena. Never mind what Severus said, you still have time to drink a cup of tea and change into your dress robes."