Severus Snape: The Middle Years – The New Professor

Saturday, August 1, 1981 (1 day after the new moon)

Minerva McGonagall apparated into the trees on the edge of Hogsmeade a little later than she'd intended. Each year seemed to be worse than the one before it, ever since the rise of this renegade wizard who called himself Lord Voldemort. Now she dreaded coming face to face with both old and new students, never sure which were the children of this Dark Lord's servants. Her only consolation was that she was the Head of Gryffindor house, and the families of Gryffindor students tended to oppose Voldemort rather than support him. For several years now she'd felt sorry for Horace Slughorn, the head of Slytherin house, knowing that many of his students had to be the children of Death Eaters, Voldemort's followers. Slughorn had just retired, however, and was out of the fire. Who would take his place only Dumbledore knew.

It was in this frame of mind, as she passed the Hog's Head Inn, that McGonagall noticed a familiar young man. He was a little on the short side, very slender, and dressed all in black. His pale, aquiline features were framed in shoulder-length black hair, and highlighted by equally black, impenetrable eyes. McGonagall recognized him immediately, even though she hadn't seen him for more than three years.

He saw her at the same time, and stepped to one side to allow her to pass him. "Good morning, Professor McGonagall," he said politely.

"Good morning, Master Snape," she replied, and continued on her way to the Hogwarts gate without stopping. I need to tell Albus about this, she thought. That boy was hand in glove with the biggest group of Death Eater children Hogwarts has ever seen. If he's not a Death Eater himself by now, I'm a silly goose.

By great good fortune, McGonagall met headmaster Albus Dumbledore on her way up the hill to Hogwarts castle. He was clearly on his way down to Hogsmeade. After the pleasantry of greeting each other was past, McGonagall voiced her warning.

"You will never guess who I just saw outside the Hog's Head," she stated, and continued without waiting for a response. "That strange boy from Slytherin house, Severus Snape. I doubt he's here for anything good. If he hasn't gone over to the dark side, I'm a cockatoo."

"Excellent!" was Dumbledore's response. "Not only on time, but early. He always was punctual."

"You mean you're expecting him?"

"Why of course. I always expect the people that I am interviewing for positions."

"You can't be serious. Headmaster, that boy was dangerous when he was knee-high to a goblin. Surely you remember the trouble he used to cause."

"I remember that the trouble was two-sided, Minerva. Your charges were not always models of good deportment. Especially where poor Severus was concerned."

"Poor Severus! No boy who can do what that boy can do deserves anyone's sympathy. Why he… he…"

"I know what he did. I also know what Sirius and James did. Now if you will excuse me. Otherwise I shall be late for our appointment."

With that, Dumbledore continued down the hill, and McGonagall huffed her way up to the castle.

As he approached the Hog's Head, Dumbledore slowed his pace. He was not one hundred percent certain that the move he contemplated was wise. This boy… no, he is grown now, and has lived through more than most of the people I know… this young man is still very much an enigma. Is he as true as he claims to be? I would be more easy about this if I could read him, but I have not been able to do that since he was thirteen years old. And more to the point, I am not sure that he would be a good teacher. Oh, I know he can teach – he has been doing that for years – but patient with a classroom full of less than sterling students…? Somehow I cannot see that.

The front room of the Hog's Head was dingy and crowded. Dumbledore caught the eye of the barkeep, his brother Aberforth, and raised an eyebrow. Aberforth swiped a dirty cloth along the bar, then sidled over to Dumbledore.

"Is he here?"

"Came in about fifteen minutes ago. I hadn't realized it was the little sneak you were meeting. At first I wanted to chuck him out of the place."

"Understandable under the circumstances. Where have you stashed him?"

"Room off the back. Want I should announce you, or you want to surprise him?"

"I think I shall surprise him. Probably easier on all of us that way."

Dumbledore made his way across the front room to the door Aberforth pointed out to him.

Severus rose as Dumbledore walked into the tiny parlor. He might have been a trifle nervous, but Dumbledore could not be certain. He crossed to the hearth and sat in one of the great chairs, motioning to Severus to sit as well.

"It has been what? A year since we last saw each other? You are looking well considering the pressure I am sure you are under. I was somewhat surprised to receive your request to interview for Professor Slughorn's old position."

Severus steepled his hands and rested his forehead on his fingertips. After a moment he said, "I've been ordered to get a teaching position so I can spy on you. If I don't get it, I'll be punished."

"Ah. Direct and to the point. To tell the truth, that is very convenient."

"I don't understand." The dark eyes were wary, and Dumbledore noted the fatigue hiding behind them.

"You have been engaged in dangerous work. You cannot hope to escape detection forever. If you are here at Hogwarts, we can protect you. What's-His-Name will think you are working for him, so you will be in less danger. He will be expecting information from you, so we can feed you the information we want him to have. It is a perfect situation."

"I hadn't thought of it like that."

"That is why I am Headmaster."

"I don't really want to teach. I don't think I'll be any good at it."

"At least you have the honesty to admit it. I will not insist that you enjoy the job. I do think you could prepare students for their OWLs, however; you have been doing it for years. As long as that is accomplished, we shall be tolerant of your attitude."

"Thank you, sir."

"This is really the oddest interview I have conducted, you know. Most of my prospective teachers try to convince me of how well they will do the job and how dedicated they will be."

"You and I both know that would be a lie." Severus paused for a moment. "There is one other thing, though. He's still after Lily. They need protection. If I'm not in London, I can't learn about all the raids. I won't be able to warn them. You have to have some way to protect them."

"We are returning to an old idea. We are contemplating a Fidelius Charm. I shall be the Secret Keeper. You have no need to worry. Everything will be fine."

"That's all right, then. When do you want me to start?"

"You could come back to the castle with me now. Most of the teachers have already arrived. We usually take most of August to clean the classrooms, order supplies, relax and socialize. It would give you a chance to get to know the others."

"I think I already know them. They were my teachers for seven years."

"Ah, but you will find being at the head table is much different from being at the Slytherin table. Your perspective changes."

The two walked up the hill together in silence, Dumbledore reflecting on the young man's air of melancholy and depression. Which weighs on him more, the accumulated tension of a year's living in the shadow of death, the knowledge that he has just become less of a factor in the fate of someone he loves, or does he truly hate this place so much that being here saps the life out of him? At least when this is over he will be free to go. Until then we must both endure what we cannot change.

Stepping into the entrance hall, the two encountered a small stream of teachers heading into the Great Hall for lunch. Severus hung back a little, as if diffident in the presence of all his former instructors, but they recognized him, and most of them nodded a polite, if somewhat formal greeting.

Once the other teachers were seated around one of the lower tables, Dumbledore presented Severus to them. "Almost all of you remember Mr. Snape, who was a student here not so many years ago. He has applied for the position recently vacated by Professor Slughorn, who retired at the end of last year, and I have considered his application and approved it. Henceforth he is Professor Severus Snape, teacher of Potions. I know you will all give him a warm welcome."

The murmured welcome was anything but warm. Dumbledore set his mouth in impatience. He knew Severus had never been popular, either with the teachers or with the other students, but they were barely even being polite. Severus himself simply stared at the surface of the table.

Finally Professor Kettleburn spoke up. "No offense Headmaster, or to you Master Snape, but Severus is barely three years older than the seventh year students he'll be teaching. Correct me if I'm wrong, but he tutored a lot of them as a fellow student just before he graduated. What experience is he going to bring to the position, and more importantly, how is he going to maintain discipline? Teenagers don't like having their peers placed in a position to supervise them. They'll walk all over him."

"Well, Severus," said Dumbledore, turning to his newest professor. "There is your first challenge. What do you have to say for yourself?"

Severus looked mostly at his hands rather than at the teachers. Speak up with confidence, boy, thought Dumbledore. You have faced the most dangerous wizard of our day and hoodwinked him. If you cannot handle a dozen teachers, how can you handle a roomful of students?

"I know that I don't have any experience teaching classes of thirty students," Severus began, "and I know I'm very young, but I think I have more to offer than you're aware of. First, I had seven years studying how you manage your classes, and while it will take time to accustom myself to the situation, I already know some of the theory of classroom control from your example.

"Second, I do have experience teaching. Many of you know that I tutored students in Potions most of my time at Hogwarts. At first it was one on one, but later it was groups, especially each year as the OWL exams got closer. I know there's a difference between teaching people who want to learn and teaching a general class, but I don't have to learn all of it at the same time. I already know part of it. What you don't know is that for the last couple of years I've been teaching… seminars for people older than I am. So the closeness of age doesn't intimidate me."

"Next, I think the age factor would only be important for the sixth and seventh years, the ones who were second and third years while I was still a student. But not all of them are taking Potions, only the ones who got Outstanding or Exceeds Expectations on their OWLs. That means the ones I might have had the biggest problems with won't even be in my classes. Just the most dedicated students. I think I'm enough older than the others that it won't be a problem."

"You don't think any of them would try to take you on outside of class?" asked Kettleburn. "You weren't famous for the number of friends you had."

Dumbledore was not pleased with the turn things were taking, but kept out of it, watching to see how Severus would respond.

"Not from Slytherin house. They know what I can do. I don't believe there's anyone in any of the other houses who remembers me that well or would have cause." Severus paused, then continued.

"Finally, I think any new teacher, regardless of age, would have some of the problems you anticipate for me. How does anyone maintain order in a classroom of teenagers? Until you face the situation, you don't really know how to handle it. That has to be true whether you get your first class at twenty-one or forty-one. How did you handle your very first class, Professor?"

"Well said," called out Professor Flitwick. "You have presence and a quick wit. You'll be fine."

The rest nodded agreement, and the ordeal was over. The newly accepted Professor Snape was invited to sit and join them for lunch.

"Could I postpone that?" Severus asked. "I mean, you are hiring me as of now, right? I'll be staying here at Hogwarts from this point?"

"That's the way it generally works when you are hired after the year has begun," answered Dumbledore.

"I wasn't expecting it to happen so fast. I have a couple of… things I have to take care of in London and at my own home. It isn't much. It'll probably just take the afternoon and then I could be back by supper time, but if I don't start now, I know I won't have the time to finish it today."

Dumbledore smiled. "I think it is truly amazing that you can wind up your affairs so quickly. By all means, go now. I'll walk you to the gate."

Severus took his leave of the other teachers and he and Dumbledore strolled down the hill.

"They don't like me," Severus said.

"They'll get used to you."

"No, I mean they really don't like me. Do you think they know?"

Are you just nervous, or are you really picking up something? "I do not think they know. A couple of them may suspect. After all, the colleagues you associated with as a student have gone on to bigger and better things. It is natural to wonder whether you have followed in their footsteps."

"If they do, they're right. I don't have a lot to be proud of."

"I think you do. You have already done something no one else has ever done. Having joined him, you left him. You are the only one to do that. It means something."

"Thank you, Professor."

They reached the Hogsmeade gate, and Severus disapparated as soon as he passed through. Good luck on your meeting with Voldemort. He should be pleased at the successful beginning of your new assignment. Though I will only be able to relax when you come walking back through that gate this evening.

"Well," said McGonagall after the two had gone. "I am not ashamed to say that for once something has taken me completely by surprise. I would have thought Albus would mention… I mean, since I am Deputy Headmistress. I would have thought I might be consulted."

"Does anybody really know anything about the boy?" asked Dawson. "He never bothered to take my classes."

"He wouldn't have had to, dear," Sinistra told her gently. "I believe he's a half-blood, raised as a muggle. Wonderful student in Astronomy. Took an Outstanding in his NEWT. There were times I was sure he knew more than I did. Quiet, though. Always by himself."

"Took an Outstanding in Charms as well," piped up Flitwick. "Years ahead of his class from the day he was sorted." He turned to Sprout. "I believe he got an Outstanding in Herbology. Mullein, your predecessor, spoke highly of his work. Not that he would have expected any less from Constantina Prince's grandson. And in Potions."

"Well, he got no Outstanding in Transfiguration. He barely managed an Exceeds Expectations." McGonagall narrowed her eyes. "I'm certain he got Outstanding in Dark Arts. That was something he always excelled in, if you know what I mean."

"That should not surprise anyone. I have met that young man before." Everyone turned to Trelawney, who like Sprout was new, having been hired two years before. "Even then, the Inner Eye told me our paths would cross again."

McGonagall, who normally never paid any attention to Trelawney's mystical pronouncements, leaned forward. "Tell us, dear. We're dying to know."

"You know I came to interview with Dumbledore before the end of the first term last year. We met in Hogsmeade. Even before Dumbledore came to see me, I knew that I was fated to get the position, despite there being another applicant – that pushy young man who was just here. Snape, did the headmaster say his name was? He was not above trying to overhear private conversations. Through keyholes. He was apprehended and removed from the premises. I would recommend being careful what you say when he is around."

"My!" exclaimed McGonagall, savoring the tidbit of information. "Now that I think about it, Slughorn never mentioned the boy much. And Slughorn was his head of house. Not unless he was in trouble, of course. He was notorious for casting hexes on other students."

Kettleburn burst out laughing. "Like the time he turned Sirius Black's hair Slytherin green? I seem to recall Black and Potter were pretty free with the hexes, too. They kept life interesting around here for a few years, didn't they? And as for Slughorn, the boy's family wasn't rich enough or famous enough for him to interest Slughorn."

The conversation shifted to the peculiarities of Horace Slughorn, and by the time lunch was over the question of the new Potions instructor had faded somewhat as the teachers went off to their individual classrooms to assess what had to be done to prepare for the coming year.

Right at dinner time, Severus returned to Hogwarts, apparating next to the gate with several cases and a battered old Gladstone bag. He waited for a while as Filch came grumbling down the hill to let him in, then started to gather his things.

"You can leave that, Professor," said Filch. "You get your traps carried for you now that you sit at the high table. Go on up. They've just started supper."

Severus entered the Great Hall and then paused, not sure where he was to sit. His confusion was resolved by Kettleburn, who waved him over to the table and made room between himself and Sprout. It seemed the memory of Sirius Black with green hair had mellowed Kettleburn considerably, and he was now more than willing to tolerate the newcomer.

During most of the dinner conversation, which centered around the upcoming term, Severus was silent. He listened attentively, which seemed to give Trelawney satisfaction, but had nothing to add. After the meal was finished, however, Dumbledore addressed him in particular.

"In just a moment I shall take our newest professor to his rooms. The classroom you already know well. You have an office, which I am sure you have seen before, and an adjoining bedroom. There is, however, a matter of some importance that we need to discuss. We are still missing one teacher, and until the position is filled we do not know who it will be, but as of this moment we have only one teacher on staff who was in Slytherin house. That, my dear Severus, is you. Traditionally the head of a house should be a teacher who was in that house as a student. It is unusual to have a head of house who is so young, but Professors McGonagall and Flitwick will be able to assist you, as will Professor Sprout, who became head of Hufflepuff house last year."

Severus opened his mouth, closed it again, and looked at his hands. Then he turned to Dumbledore. "If you think I can handle it, I'll certainly try. But I don't know all the things a head of house is supposed to do. I'm going to need the help." He glanced around at the other teachers, who nodded encouragingly.

"Good. Now I am sure you want to see your rooms. And you need to unpack your things. And you are probably very tired. So let us wish you good night, and I shall take you to your rooms and let you familiarize yourself with your new domain."

"Before we check your rooms," continued Dumbledore as they started down the steps and into the passageway to the left of the great marble staircase in the entrance hall, "we need to visit Slytherin house." The corridors beyond the Potions classroom became labyrinthine, but the way was still familiar to Severus, who'd come this way every day for the seven years of his school life. In front of the blank wall that was the entrance to the house, they stopped.

"Wall of Slytherin, do you know who I am?" asked Dumbledore.

The stone hissed in reply.

Pulling Severus forward, Dumbledore continued. "This is Severus Snape, no longer a student but the head of Slytherin house. You will answer to his command as long as his authority remains in effect."

The wall hissed again.

"Good. Now all you have to do is tell the wall to open and it will. You can set the password, or delegate that job to a prefect. The others prefer to do it themselves."

"Are there any special commands to give?"

"No. Just talk to it the same way you would talk to anyone. It does like to be addressed as 'Wall of Slytherin.' Even a wall has its pride."

They returned to the Potions instructor's office, where Dumbledore handed Severus a huge set of keys on an enormous ring. "For the doors and all the cabinets and such. Once you've opened them, you can set your own locks, mechanical or magical. You are required to keep them locked, however. Poisons and such, you know."

"Yes, Headmaster. Thank you."

"Well, good night. Enjoy the evening. If you need anything, you know where my office is." Dumbledore then left Severus standing in front of the Potions office door.

Severus waited until the headmaster was gone before opening the office door. For this he wanted to be alone. The office was as Slughorn had left it – jars on the shelves, papers on the counters, ashes in the fireplace. It would definitely need to be straightened and cleaned. The bedroom was the same. A rather small room, it contained not just a bed but also a table, three chairs, two wardrobes, a bureau, a nightstand, lamps, and a hat tree. There was barely room to move around.

Leaving the office and the bedroom, Severus went next to the classroom. Here again, there was some untidiness and disorder. It was also clear that many ingredients would have to be ordered, as the supply cabinets were sparsely stocked. That's my first big job tomorrow.

Finally, Severus went back to the Slytherin wall. "Wall of Slytherin, do you know who I am?" he asked.

The wall hissed.

"Let me in, please."

The wall slid open, and Severus stepped into the familiar common room. Here there was neatness and order, for the house-Elves kept the area swept and tidy. Severus spent nearly twenty minutes exploring the various dormitories, seeing for the first time where his older colleagues had lived. His own former room was now occupied by students who would be fourth years in September. It didn't look any different, but that was likely due to the house-Elves.

At last Severus returned to his office and room.

"There you are," snarled a voice in the corridor, and Severus saw Filch with his various boxes and cases. "You can have the taking of them into the rooms, unless you want me to do it."

"No, no. I'll handle them from here." The truth was that he'd far rather do everything himself. Severus was really looking forward to making the inner space his own, and the presence of Filch was an impediment.

After first dragging all his things into the office, Severus went back into the adjoining bedroom. There he opened every door, drawer, lid, and cover, checking how much space there was for storage. He immediately determined that he didn't need all the furniture. Just the bed, one wardrobe, the nightstand, a lamp, one comfortable chair, and a smaller table from the classroom. The rest he shifted into the office with a few flicks of his wand. I'll ask Dumbledore tomorrow what to do with the extra furniture I don't need. Another few flicks, and the room was swept and dusted.

Then came the very pleasant task of unpacking and arranging his things. This is my space. It was Slughorn's, but now it's mine, and I can do anything I want with it. It's better than Spinner's End. There are no memories. No one yelled at or cuffed me here. No one threw up a night's worth of gin. There's no bloodstain in the wood under the carpet. This is a place where I'm free of the past. The rest of the school has memories. Even the office has a few memories. But this room that I never saw before in my life, this room is where I can be myself.

Severus had already decided that he would add a small bookcase and bring some of his favorite books here – here where he could read them in peace.

Sunday, August 2, 1981

Professor McGonagall was buried in The Daily Prophet as she absent-mindedly ate her oatmeal porridge and sipped her tea. More fighting, she thought, and no one is sure if that multiple vehicle accident was just that, or some of You-Know-Who's doing.

"Excuse me, Professor."

McGonagall looked up. Professor Snape had approached so quietly that she hadn't noticed him at all. He moves like a cat. I shall have to remember that. "Good morning, Professor. What can I do for you?"

"I was hoping you wouldn't mind if I asked you for some advice later. About being the head of a house. At your convenience, of course. I wouldn't have interrupted your meal except that I wanted to catch you before everyone left for their own rooms."

Now that's a surprise, thought McGonagall. Who would have thought that such a withdrawn, taciturn boy would grow up to be such an articulate young man? Well-mannered, too.

"Why don't you join me for breakfast instead? It's a good topic of conversation during a meal. Interesting and diverse, but with nothing to quarrel over. Sit down here. And when the students are not around, we generally go by first names. You may call me Minerva if you don't feel too awkward about it. May I call you Severus?"

"Of course," he replied, slipping into the chair next to hers, "though I fear it may take me a while to be comfortable with anything less formal than Professor or Ma'am."

"It will come. Now, help yourself to anything you want, and tell me what you want to know."

Snape took a kipper, some toast, and a cup of coffee. "I don't even know enough to know what I want to know." He thought for a minute. "What should I be doing now so that nothing catches me by surprise? What are my precise duties after the students arrive, and what do I have to do with them during the first week or so?"

"You want to know everything, in other words. I would suggest you spend a lot of time looking at the students' files. Learn their names, study their pictures, find out who's taking which classes, especially in the upper levels. It always impresses them more if they can see you've done your homework."

"Do we already have files on the new first years?"

"Already done. I made one up on each of them as I got the replies back from the letters. Normally after they arrive we interview all the first years, but you might want to stretch it out and interview all of them. Just to get to know the students better. It will reduce problems in the long run. Then there are the rules."

"Rules? Aren't they the same for all the houses?"

"Some are. Some are peculiar to each house. Don't you remember Slughorn's speeches?"

Snape looked a bit embarrassed by the question. "They were long-winded and a touch… boring. I didn't always listen."

"Well now you have your chance to be boring as well. But you have to do the speech. You also have to work with the Quidditch team."

"Oh, no. I don't like Quidditch."

McGonagall smiled to herself. Looks like the cup is safe with Gryffindor. "Nevertheless, you are the supervisor of the team. Not the coach, of course, but the formation of the team has to be under your control and you monitor the players' behavior."

"What else?"

"Later in the year you'll be advising the second years on their electives for third year, and the fifth years will need career counseling. Other duties are patrolling the halls in the evenings, supervising Hogsmeade excursions, contacting parents from time to time. You do have to live on the grounds. Heads of houses must be here all the time."

"We don't have any free time?"

"An evening a week. Back by eleven. It isn't so bad unless you have a family that you can't see but once a week."

"No, no family."

McGonagall remembered then that Snape's parents were dead, that everyone in Snape's family was dead, and she felt like slapping herself for having brought the subject up. She looked down at the table and noted that they'd finished eating as they talked. "I think that's the most important points," she said.

"Thank you, Profess… uh, Minerva… I think I shouldn't take up more of your valuable time. I also have a lot to do this month."

"You're very welcome, Severus. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask."

Snape rose and walked softly from the hall. Like a cat. Smooth and quiet… I do believe he was blushing, too, at calling me Minerva. Maybe he isn't such an unpleasant young man after all. McGonagall picked up her newspaper and resumed reading.

Severus went straight from the Great Hall to the Potions classroom. There he pulled a copy of every textbook used by every level and opened them on the desks. These are the potions I have to teach. I'm going to have to figure out how many ingredients I need and in what quantities.

He started with the first year book, then stopped at page five. No. First I have to inventory what I have. How do I know what I need if I don't know what I have? That proved no easy task, since the jars and flasks seemed to have been put back into the cabinets haphazardly. Severus started taking everything out of the cabinets and arranging them on the desks, but then he found three small tins of powdered aconite. Aconite is poisonous. It needs to be under stricter control. I wonder how Slughorn did this.

A lengthy search of all the drawers and cabinets in the office revealed no files, no inventories, no records of previous orders, nothing. Back in the classroom, Severus looked around at the new disorder. He'd been working for a few hours without accomplishing anything, only making it worse; the enormity of the task at that moment seemed almost overwhelming.

There was a heavy thumping at the door, and a very large, hairy head thrust itself into the room. "It's just about lunch time, Professor. Ya ought t' be getting t' the Hall t' get somewhat t' eat."

"Hagrid!" Severus cried, happy at that moment to see any friendly face, but especially that friendly face. "I don't think I deserve lunch. I haven't gotten anything accomplished."

"Looks like ya done a lot of work, pulling stuff out of cupboards. Ya got t' have sustenance. Y're not careful and Dumbledore's going t' put me onto watching your feeding schedule again. We wouldn't that, now would we?"

"No, we wouldn't." Severus locked up and followed Hagrid to the Great Hall. "It would be easier if I knew where to start, but I don't even know that."

"Well, that's by way of being the nature of Potions, now ain't it? Ol' Slughorn, he always did order more by way of supplies than all the other teachers put together. Here." They stopped by the Slytherin table. "Let's sit and talk here. I'll go get the grub. We got a lot t' catch up on, and the rest of them won't mind."

Severus sat at the end of the long table, glad to be off his feet and sitting anywhere, until Hagrid returned with two heaping plates.

"Now, tell me all what ya've been doing this past year," Hagrid said after he'd dulled the edge of his hunger. Severus was eating much less and far more slowly. "Ya didn't never get in no trouble 'cause of us, did ya?"

"There was just one time, when he first suspected a leak. All of us at headquarters were interrogated. My session lasted an hour and a half. I made it, though. Obviously, or I wouldn't be here."

"Humph. Dumbledore didn't tell me 'bout that. Prob'ly thought I'd go running down t' London t' rescue ya. And I would, too, if I knew where t' go." And they talked a bit about spying and drop points, and the self-defense lessons Severus taught to half the Death Eaters in Britain. "Maybe ya could show me what ya teach them," Hagrid suggested. "Then ya could show me how t' block what ya teach them." It was a good idea, and Severus agreed to meet with Hagrid for lessons.

The conversation shifted to the Potions class and Severus's quandary about how to handle the job.

"That's easy," said Hagrid. "It don't really matter what ya do first. Any one of them jobs could be first, second, whatever, just as long as at the end ya know what ya got, what ya need, and what ya have to order. Ya just do first what ya like best. The rest 'll follow. And it don't all have t' happen today. Ya got a month. The supplies come in a week after ya order them."

It was useful information and good advice. Severus returned to his task with a better feeling for what he was doing. The cabinets on the long side of the room would be for herbs and other plant material – leaves, stems, roots, flower, fungi. The narrow side of the room was for animal parts – eyes, spleens, dried blood… Anything poisonous, rare, or expensive would be stored in the office.

Severus first moved out all the cabinets, cleaned the area, cleaned the cabinets, and put them back in, rearranging with an eye to both utility and aesthetics. Then he set up tables in front of the cabinets to begin sorting the ingredients, cleaning the exterior of each container, and moving some from the class to the office and others from the office to the class.

By supper time, every jar, flask, bottle, and tin had been looked at, wiped, and put into the correct room on the correct table. Severus was assembling sheets of parchment, quills, and ink to begin his inventory when Dumbledore looked in and reminded him it was again time to eat.

Supper was Severus's fourth meal as a teacher at Hogwarts, and at none of them had the teachers sat at the high table. Breakfast was random, with each coming in and eating at leisure, frequently alone. Lunch was scattered through the Hall in groups of two or three generally. Only supper was eaten at one long table, but this was in the middle of the hall where they could sit on both sides and face each other. It was then that Severus realized that the teachers sat at the high table not from preference or pride, but in order to monitor the behavior of the students.

Now he sat at the foot of the table where McGonagall presided, with Flitwick to her right and Sprout and Severus to her left, and they talked house business. Most of it was meant to fill Severus in on the details of his job, and to give him a taste for its trials and rewards.

Later, in the staff room, the three older teachers met to chat, Snape having returned to his rooms to continue working.

"I wish I knew what was in that lad's head," said McGonagall, and the other two knew instantly who she was talking about.

"Personally, I don't see why you're all so suspicious of him." Sprout responded. "He seems quite nice to me. Maybe a little shy."

"Shy! There's nothing shy about that one. At school he was withdrawn, secretive, moody, unpredictable, I'd even say vindictive and vengeful because…"

"No, Minerva," interrupted Flitwick, "now you're showing your prejudice. You just liked those rascals James and Sirius so much it blinded you to their shortcomings. My students tell me that it was more likely Gryffindor to start something, and then Slytherin just gave tit for tat, and I never heard that young Severus ever hurt anyone. Embarrassed a couple, but no actual damage. I couldn't say the same for your charges."

"No? What about the fight in fifth year? I disarmed the whole bunch of them, and he attacked James like a little wildcat. An actual fist fight right there on the front lawn, kicking and punching and rolling in the grass…"

"That quiet, polite young man started a fight?" Sprout was entranced.

"I'd say James started the fight." said Flitwick. "He attacked Severus without provocation, and he and Sirius humiliated the boy in front of the whole school. At least that's what my students told me. They rather admired Severus's spirit, still ready to fight after being whipped so soundly. Ravenclaw hasn't quite trusted Gryffindor since. Come to think of it, our incoming seventh years would have witnessed that fight in their first year. I hope they don't give him trouble over it."

"Do you remember their sorting, Filius? You wouldn't know it now because he's grown up so much, but he was one of the smallest students we ever had, short and skinny with those black eyes… Like a changeling child. And spooky? He wouldn't give anything away, not even that young. Locked up tighter than a Gringotts vault, and hard and sharp as obsidian."

"But without equal in Charms. He could do anything I gave him. Years ahead of the others."

"Mostly hexes and jinxes from what I hear."

"Not your usual ones, though. He actually created his own."

"I still don't know how he did the green hair."

"Or made the bats attack Sirius, even in the daytime."

Soon the memories of the curse fights between Slytherin and Gryffindor houses had all three teachers laughing merrily. It was late before they left the staff room and went to bed.

McGonagall had, by that time, renewed her determination to keep a close watch on this former student who had already proven himself such a delinquent. Flitwick, on the other hand, treasured the realization that he might finally have the opportunity to ask Snape how he'd cast some of the more famous hexes. And Sprout was now thoroughly convinced that anyone with a mischievous streak in him as strong as that, was certainly worth getting to know better. Especially since he was reported to be such a good herbologist.

Monday, August 3, 1981

Severus woke the following morning to pounding on the door of his office. He was still sleepy, not having gotten to bed until two in the morning, but he rose and went to the door, rubbing his eyes and yawning. It was Filch.

"Sorry to wake you, Professor," said Filch, who was clearly not sorry at all, "but Professor Dumbledore would like the entire staff to be at breakfast by seven. There's to be an announcement." He turned and walked back along the corridor to the entrance hall.

Severus returned to his bedroom and dressed quickly. Is this normal for Monday mornings? Maybe they always gather early during the week for a staff meeting. It is the same time breakfast is served to the school during term. If so, it was good of Filch to let me know. Then again, it might be something special…

Before leaving the dungeons, Severus checked his rooms. The sheets of parchment with the inventory he'd finished the night before lay neatly on their respective tables. He'd be able to put the various ingredients away and start making his list of what he needed as supplies for the school year. He had a comfortable sense of accomplishment.

Other teachers were passing through the entrance hall on the way to breakfast when Severus stepped out of the underground corridor. Am I the only one down on this level of the castle? he thought, then saw Professor Sprout leaving the corridor on the other side of the marble staircase. Of course, Hufflepuff is near the kitchens. So there are two of us.

This morning the staff was breakfasting at one long table, just as at supper. Severus took what appeared to be his regular place at the foot of the table with the heads of houses. Far away, next to Professor Dumbledore at the head of the table were two men he'd never seen before.

The first, on Dumbledore's right, was a tall, athletic-looking man around forty with a mane of reddish hair. His resemblance to a lion was heightened by his eyes which, though hazel, had more of yellow in them than green or brown. The other man was truly unusual, much older and shorter, heavy-built and powerful. His face was misshapen, craggy, and scarred, and it looked as if someone had bitten off part of his nose. His eyes were small and beady, and seemed to be trying to look at everything at once.

When the entire staff was seated, before the food was served, Dumbledore rose. "Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to introduce to you this morning's guests, one of whom will be a colleague as of today. They have made a special effort to come up this morning from London just to be able to spend some time with the entire staff at the beginning of the day. On my right is Mr. Rufus Scrimgeour and on my left Mr. Alastor Moody. Both are employees of the Ministry of Magic, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Auror Division. Mr. Scrimgeour has been sent by the Ministry to take the position of Professor of Defense against the Dark Arts, as the Ministry feels the situation in the country is currently dangerous enough to warrant the presence of an auror at Hogwarts. I am sure that both these gentlemen will wish to address you as a group, but first we shall eat."

Dumbledore then clapped his hands and took his seat. The table was immediately filled with food for breakfast, more ornate than usual as a tribute to the guests. Severus tried to ignore the men at the other end of the table and focus instead on the food. Of particular interest was a dish that looked like some kind of bread topped with ham, egg, and a sauce. "What's that?" he asked Sprout.

"Eggs Benedict," Flitwick answered for her. "Very rare to see it here. Must be due to them. That's Canadian bacon and Hollandaise sauce."

Severus took the eggs Benedict and was surprised at how good it was. I don't know anything about food, he thought. It could be a profitable line of study.

From time to time Severus glanced up at the head of the table, and each time he had the impression that one or other of the aurors had been watching him. After the third time, he began to get nervous. Don't be silly. They're probably watching everyone. Then he turned to say something to Professor Sprout, only to discover that Professor McGonagall was looking at him, too.

When the meal was finished, and the teachers lingered over last cups of coffee and tea, the new Professor Scrimgeour rose to speak to them.

"Ladies and gentlemen, my new colleagues. We live in dangerous times. For the past decade our world has been gradually overwhelmed by the power and ruthless ambition of the dark wizard who styles himself Lord Voldemort. Though we have made some major advances against him in the past year, his threat is still very real and very immediate. The Ministry fears that it may extend to the safety of our children here at Hogwarts."

At the mention of the Dark Lord's name, Severus had winced, pain stabbing through his left arm. He hoped it had gone unnoticed in the general gasp of surprise from people used to hearing, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or You-Know-Who, but when he looked back at the head of the table, Mr. Moody was staring at him. Then, unnervingly, Moody smiled. It wasn't a friendly smile.

Just when life was starting to get bearable, Severus thought. Now I have aurors to deal with.

The rest of Professor Scrimgeour's speech was predictable – how he wanted to get to know each and every one of the others personally, and how he was looking forward to working with them. When it was over, the staff rose and moved toward the head of the table to be individually introduced to their new colleague and his friend.

Coming from the foot of the table, Severus was near the end of the line when he took Professor Scrimgeour's hand in greeting. Then Dumbledore said his name, and Scrimgeour's grip tightened. For an instant, Severus's startled eyes met Scrimgeour's, but Severus quickly looked down.

"Pleased to meet you," said Professor Scrimgeour.

"Likewise," Severus murmured.

"Snape," Mr. Moody said when Severus was introduced to him, rolling the name in his mouth as if savoring its taste. "You wouldn't happen to know a chap named Dolohov, would you? Antonin Dolohov?"

"No," said Severus, a bit too quickly.

"Odd. He knows you." Moody turned away from Severus to greet Professor McGonagall, though his eyes continued to glance back in Severus's direction and a little downward toward the left arm.

Severus turned and hurried from the Great Hall, finding safety in being among the others who were also heading to their classrooms. He felt as if he was going to be sick. He slipped quickly down the dungeon corridor to his office and, once inside, locked the door. Then he went into his bedroom, locked that door as well, and lay down on the bed, his heart pounding.

This is what 'out of the frying pan into the fire' means. I thought I was safe from the Dark Lord, and now I have aurors after me. Aurors who're going to send me to Azkaban. Send me to Azkaban and feed me to dementors. Severus didn't have a clear idea of what dementors did, but everything he'd read or heard sounded terrifying.

A half hour later, Severus calmed down a bit. He reminded himself that Professor Dumbledore would handle the aurors. Dumbledore would take care of him. His heart back to normal and breathing more regularly, Severus rose and unlocked his doors. He opened the office door and looked into the corridor. No one was there. Work will help calm me down, he thought, and went into the Potions classroom to put away the bottles and jars of ingredients.

The work did calm him down. Severus had a quiet and abiding love for putting things into order, and would have been content at this moment if his whole job consisted of rearranging and taking inventory. By mid morning everything was put away, and Severus sat down at a table in the classroom – there being more room to spread papers out there than in his office – and began to go through the textbooks figuring out how much he would have to order in the way of supplies.

It was almost noon when a shadow obscured the doorway, and Severus looked up to see the auror Moody standing there watching him. Severus stopped writing, staring up at the bulk of the man, his forgotten quill making ink blots on the page.

"You're making a mess of that parchment," said Moody after a moment.

"Drat!" Severus exclaimed, sticking the quill back in its bottle and cleaning the blots with his wand. He rose then from the table. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Just looking around. It's been a while since I've been here. Thought I'd see what's changed and what hasn't. Potions room looks a lot neater than it did with Slughorn here. That your doing?"

"I've been working a little."

"More 'n a little if what Dumbledore says is true. That this is just your second day on the job, I mean. Interesting that you should want to come back to Hogwarts right now. What kind of work are you leaving?"

Severus didn't answer, not being prepared for the question. As each second lengthened the silence, Moody began to smile again, his eyes flickering back and forth between Severus's face and the left arm. "I… did… private tutoring," Severus stammered at last.

"I can imagine," said Moody.

"Here now!" thundered Hagrid's voice from the corridor. "What're you doin' here, Moody y' old goat? Botherin' the professors at their work an' all?"

"Hey there yourself, Hagrid," Moody replied cheerfully, "Professor Snape and I were just having a friendly chat."

"Yer going t' have to chat some other time then, 'cause I come t' take the Professor t' lunch. He and me got some school business t' discuss. Ya ready, Professor?"

Immensely grateful for Hagrid's appearance, Severus said brightly, "Coming right now. Give me a second," and tidied up his papers. He then followed Moody out of the room and locked the door. Hagrid put a great arm around his shoulders and led him toward the Hall, leaving a frustrated Moody standing alone in the corridor.

Moody watched as the enormous hulk of the groundskeeper and the slight figure of the Potions teacher disappeared down the corridor. I don't know what Albus is playing at, he thought, but that little lad is as deep into this Death Eater business as they come, and Albus knows it. Why else would everything behind those black eyes be locked down so tight I can't find a crack in it to slip through? That boy has been trained to hide secrets, and I'll wager not even Albus can get through his defenses. When he's a bit older, the façade 'll be perfect. Gad, what a weapon! And he's Voldemort's weapon, not ours.

The best tactic at this point was to go in to lunch and talk casually to Dumbledore. Moody considered it fortunate that the teachers didn't sit in one group at lunch. It made it easier for him to join Dumbledore, who was eating with Scrimgeour away from everyone else, and discuss what interested Moody most. He had to return to London that evening, so there was a lot to talk about. Some of it about Professor Snape.

Not everything could be discussed in front of Scrimgeour. Business of the Order of the Phoenix, for example. Scrimgeour was Ministry through and through, a rising star in the bureaucracy, and the Order was quasi-legal. But they could talk about physical security at Hogwarts, and about background checks for the staff.

"Where'd you pick up the new one?" Moody asked after they'd talked about everything else.

"Severus? He was the brightest Potions student we have had at Hogwarts, certainly in all my years. A natural for the job. Do not tell me you found something on him."

"No, not in the check. Nothing at all. I'd like you to pay close attention to those three words, Albus. Nothing. At. All. No family, no friends, no one knows where he's from except he went to Hogwarts…"

"I can tell you where he is from, Alastor. I have been to his home. It is in Lancashire. You have found nothing on his family because he has none. His last living relative died about four years ago. As for friends, he was always a lonely boy. That he has no friends does not surprise me."

"What about employment? For the last three years he hasn't been working anywhere."

"Pish-tosh! That young man spent most of his years at Hogwarts tutoring all of Slytherin house for their OWLs and NEWTs. Yes, Alastor, in fifth year he was tutoring seventh years for their NEWTs in Potions. He was that good. Made a fair bit of money, too, I understand. Go ahead. Ask him what he has been doing. I would wager he will say private tutoring."

"All right, Mr. I-Have-All-the-Answers. I'm a better than fair legilimens. Why is he hiding? Why has he shut his brain down like a ship's hatches in a storm? Tell me that." Moody looked over at Scrimgeour who, though not taking part in the conversation, was following it with great interest.

"Now you have hit upon my greatest secret." Dumbledore lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Dare I confide in you? I believe I can have faith in your discretion. I am in the process of preparing a monograph, a scholarly paper, on a highly disputed topic. I intend to prove the existence of congenital occlumency, and that young man is the subject of my study. You have no idea how long I have been working to get him to return to Hogwarts. You must not tell him, however, as his awareness of my observations will compromise their validity."

The two aurors stared at Dumbledore for a moment in total disbelief, and then Scrimgeour spoke, his voice struggling to hide its scorn. "There's no such thing as congenital occlumency. It's a biological impossibility. The whole world will ridicule your ideas."

Moody managed to hide his amusement. Scrimgeour had fallen for Dumbledore's ploy and allowed the subject to change. Aside from his interest in the occlumency question, Moody wanted to watch the two spar.

"No, no, Rufus – and I may call you Rufus now, for you are a member of my staff – no, Rufus, there is congenital occlumency, and Professor Snape is living proof. Ask any of the professors who were here the day he was sorted. Ask McGonagall or Flitwick. Ask Hagrid. That little eleven-year-old brain was sealed off like a pharaoh's tomb. Hagrid and I worked for months just to help him break out. We have never been able to break in."

"That may be as you say," said Scrimgeour, having no argument to counter Dumbledore with, "but I'll still reserve my opinion."

"You may reserve what you wish, my dear fellow, but please do not interfere with my research."

Moody leaned back in his chair, grinning. He still thought young Professor Snape was knee-deep in Death Eater business, but he was somewhat appeased by the occlumency explanation. If there was even some truth in it, then Moody's inability to read the Potions instructor wasn't as sinister as he'd first thought. He'd be sure Scrimgeour kept an eye open, but it looked like they didn't have to sweat the small stuff.

After lunch, Moody poked around a little more, talked to a few more people, then said his goodbyes and returned to London. Scrimgeour remained, to spend at least that night at Hogwarts, though many of the staff commuted from their homes on a daily basis, apparating into Hogsmeade each morning. Only the heads of houses were required to stay on the grounds at night.

Severus spent all Monday afternoon and evening working on his supply lists, taking time off only to go to supper where he gleaned as much more as he could from the others about supervising a house. It seemed that every day one or the other of the three would come up with a new piece of advice or a new anecdote that gave him useful information. Once again, Severus didn't get to bed until after midnight.

The next day he was working on his lists, having gotten almost to the end of fifth year, when Severus had another visitor. This time it was Rufus Scrimgeour.

Having learned from his mistakes, Severus this time carefully placed his quill in the inkwell and rose as soon as he saw who it was. "How can I help you?" he asked.

"Just looking around and getting reacquainted," said Scrimgeour. "It looks different from when Slughorn was here."

"So I've been told."

"Would you mind letting me see what you've been doing? I'm new at this, too. I could use some hints."

There was no good reason to refuse, so Severus pointed out what he'd changed from Slughorn's arrangement and why, trying to limit the majority of his comments to things that might apply to the Dark Arts position.

"It sounds like you've done this before," Scrimgeour commented. "You know, organized a classroom – or a potions work area."

What did Dolohov tell them? Severus thought. I have to act innocent. I have to be innocent. "I have," he answered. "I assisted my grandmother in her potions workshop, and I converted a room in my house to my own laboratory. So I have done this before. Just not quite on this scale."

"I hear you're an expert with charms, too."

That was a trap. At the worst it meant knowledge of his work inventing spells for the Dark Lord, but there were other interpretations. "I've been told Slytherin's exploits against Gryffindor are legendary. I personally think it wasn't that spectacular."

"You're modest." Scrimgeour was examining some of the jars of animal parts.

"I'm sensible."

"I hope so," said Scrimgeour. "It's so much easier working with sensible people."

This time it was Dumbledore who rescued him. "Rufus! Rufus!" the Headmaster's voice could be heard calling as he came into the dungeons. "Professor Scrimgeour, are you down here?"

"Here, Professor Dumbledore," Scrimgeour called back. "Potions classroom."

"Good, Rufus, I am pleased that I have found you. Would you mind coming with me for a while. I need to talk to you about your class schedule." Scrimgeour turned to go with Dumbledore, though somewhat reluctantly.

"Professor," said Severus suddenly. "May I ask you something?"

"Will it take long, Severus? I do need to speak with Professor Scrimgeour."

"Only a moment, sir. I need the answer before I can order supplies. If there's a potion in the book, but I know that there's also an new, improved version of the potion, which do I teach, the book, or the new recipe?"

Dumbledore smiled and peered at Severus over his glasses. He knows, Severus thought, he knows I'm talking about my own experiments.

"Think for a moment, Severus. What is the goal of the majority of your students?"

"To pass their OWLs."

"And to do that, they must be tested on what they have learned from the book. It would not be fair to teach them something that would hinder them from reaching their goal."

"So I teach to the test?"

"Until they have taken their OWLs. Those who are truly interested in potions will continue into NEWT level work. There you may be more creative."

"I understand, sir. Thank you, sir."

"I am pleased to have been of assistance. Now Rufus, we must go up and look at your classroom. There are certain changes..."

Severus listened as they walked away, then sat done to finish his requisitions.