Author's note:

I previously published my stories on HPANA. There, I was also known as Snape's Apprentice and I wrote a series of stories about Severus and his apprentice. This is the first story in the series.

How Severus Snape Acquired an Apprentice

It had been an exhausting year. With the Dark Lord back in bodily form, occlumency lessons for Harry Bloody Potter and the headmaster´s foolhardy plans to cheer him up – as if he had time for pub excursions – Severus Snape was all but at the end of his tether.

Today it had been even worse than usual. After an excruciating day in the classroom – climaxing in a double lesson with Potter and Malfoy in it – and a long deatheater meeting – the first traces of dawn had shown when he had returned to the castle – he had overslept for the first time since he had started teaching. Luckily his first class in the morning had been his NEWT class, which consisted mainly of Slytherins. One of them had discretely knocked at the door to his private chambers when he hadn´t turned up. Of course the Slytherin house loyalty had been twarted by the portrait of Gundula the Gossipy, which had hung near his quarters up to a well staged accident this morning.

Now Severus was on his way to the headmaster´s office, trying to figure out whether this meeting was about his oversleeping, his setting Gundula´s canvas on fire or the explosion in his third year Hufflepuff class in the afternoon. Probably not the latter. Usually, Dumbledore payed any renovations that were needed in his dungeon classroom without batting an eyelid.

He was greeted by the headmaster´s trademark benign smile and an offer to take tea. Tea seemed like a good idea after a tiring day, so Severus accepted a cup and sat obediently on the cushioned armchair Dumbledore was indicating.

"Severus, my boy," the old wizard started their conversation. "There have been complaints."

"Complaints, headmaster?"

"Complaints, my dear boy." Dumbledore smiled sadly. "The board of governors has had a close look at the past school year after Dolores´ resignation. And it turned out that you missed a number of lessons."

"You know why that was!" Severus defended himself. "Those deatheater meetings! The Dark Lord doesn´t take my timetable into account, sorry!"

"I know, I know, my dear boy. You´re not to blame for the missed lessons, but we can hardly tell the governors that you´ve been spying on Voldemort when you were absent from the school. I´m afraid they´re going to demand your dismissal."

The potions master paled visibly. "That´d be my death sentence! You know that! The Dark Lord won´t be pleased if I lose the post he assigned me to!"

"Calm down, Severus, my boy, calm down. I think I may have come up with a plan that will pacify the governors. You need an apprentice!"

Severus was dumbfounded. "An apprentice?" The day was getting worse and worse. First that bad morning, then the explosion, which had pulverized several worktables and now his superior had gone mad! "You can´t be serious! I have no idea how you think instructing an apprentice will do anything than increase my workload!"

"Severus, what I suggest is taking in some nice young person, who will take over your classes for you, if you´re occupied elsewhere." The headmaster winked at the potions master.

"I tought most of the young people who´d apply for the post and I assure you, had any of them qualified as nice and capable of taking over my classes, I had noticed."

"You shouldn´t stick to Hogwarts graduates," said the headmaster. "There are fine smaller wizarding schools all over Britain and some families prefer to homeschool their children. Next week a potioneers´ convention will take place at Oystermouth Castle. I suggest you go there. My old friend Horace pointed out to me that it´s in current use to search for an apprentice at conventions like that."

"I´d rather not take part in a meeting of potions masters." Severus hoped against hope that the headmaster was going to accept his objections, but of course he wasn´t that lucky.

"Don´t be silly, Severus," said the old man, "your job is at stake. You need an apprentice and Horace said that many young people interested in potions come to meetings like that hoping to find a master."

"I don´t want an apprentice," groaned Severus in a last attempt to bring the headmaster around.

"I´m afraid you have no choice, my boy. Though if you´d rather wait for young to graduate... he certainly has the brewing abilities."

"That´s blackmail!" hissed Severus. "How can I take a junior deatheater as my apprentice! Why don´t I confess my betrayal to the Dark Lord immediately?"

"Then it´s settled," smiled Dumbledore, beatific. "You´re going to Oystermouth."

-x-

Severus was greeted by a page when he arrived at the castle via portkey (a dipper).

"Good morning, Sir," said the boy who was about sixteen or seventeen. Nevertheless Severus had never seen the youth before. "Your name, Sir?"

"Severus Snape."

"Welcome, . May I take your luggage?" The boy took Severus´ bag and levitated it in front of him. "Please, kindly follow me to your room, Sir."

The room was not too big, but comfortable. Severus guessed he´d be able to bear staying there for a week. The page set the bag down on Severus´ bed.

"Is there anything else you require, Sir?"

"Yes, now you mention it. I´ve come here in search of an apprentice. How do I make this known?"

"There´s a list of potions masters ready to take up an apprentice on the noticeboard. I can add your name, if you wish."

"No thank you, I´ll do it myself."

Severus unpacked his bag leisurely. Each minute he spent in his room was a minute he stayed away from his doom. The moment he put his name on the list there was no going back. As long as he hadn´t enrolled, he could pretend that he could go back to Hogwarts alone.

At last Severus had to acknowledge that delaying was useless. He needed an apprentice to keep his job and he needed the job to stay alive.

He read the list of people who were looking for apprentices before he added his name. All of them were his seniors by decades and he knew most names from books or articles in potions magazines. They all required their apprentices to be to have excellent marks in their NEWTs and some brewing experience. Some required a minimum age, others special knowledge of some kind. One wanted an apprentice who spoke mermish.

Severus added his name to the list. After a short moment of hesitation he added "male" in the column for "special requirements". When an apprentice was forced on him, he was at least not going to put up with a chatty female.

At lunch another page approached Severus. "Sir, you have been assigned room eight for your interviews," the boy informed Severus. "and here is a list of people who asked for one so far." The youth handed Severus a sheet of parchment.

There were four names on the list. Four young men wanted to be Severus Snape´s potions apprentice. Severus swallowed hard. Part of him had still hoped there wouldn´t be any applications. How was he to choose among those people?

The page seemed to read his mind. "The room is a lab rather, Sir. Most masters choose to let the applicants brew something to see whether they have talent. Please write the time when you want your interviews beside the applicants´ names. The parchment is enchanted to pass the schedule on to the notice board."

Severus looked over the programme for the convention. This afternoon there was a presentation of inflatable cauldrons. He didn´t want to miss that. And for the next morning he had signed up for a workshop on wolfsbane potions. So the next afternoon it was. He scribbled times beside the names, giving each interview a full hour.

-x-

The workshop had been extremely interesting. It alone justified coming to the convention. After another meal alone – Severus wasn´t old enough to be interesting for the young people who tried to get in touch with reknown potions masters and he himself wasn´t interested in contacting his seniors – he went down to room eight to prepare for his interviews.

He had barely had a look over the ingredients and tools that had been placed there at his disposal, when there was a knock at the door.

A blonde girl entered and stood shyly by the door.

She was, Severus thought, a walking nightmare. Clad in a pink dress and pink and black striped witch´s stockings she was girlishness personified.

"You must have misread my advert," the potions master said cooly. "I´m looking for a male apprentice."

The blonde smiled. "Oh! Oh no, Sir! I´m not here for the apprenticeship. I´m part of this." She wiggled her finger about the lab. "I´m here to clean the cauldrons."

"Oh, well." Severus blushed. "In that case... there´s nothing to clean yet."

"I see," said the blonde. "In that case I´ll just sit over here and wait." She went to the sink and sat on a stool which hadn´t been there a moment before.

Severus wondered how she managed to rather glide than walk, and soundlessly, in the high-heels she was wearing.

-x-

"First of all I want you to cut these daisy roots for me," said Severus to the first applicant, a young man of the name of Emmenrich Smythe.

"Daisy roots? That´s first year stuff," replied the young man with a sneer, but nevertheless settled down by the worktable and started cutting.

Severus watched the youth´s every move. After the daisy roots he gave him porcupine quills to chop and parsley to crush.

"Now, Mr. Smythe. Kindly tell me what we could brew using these three ingredients."

Mr. Smythe looked at the ingredients, lost. "I´d have to look that up," he admitted.

", there are at least three potions on OWL level using these ingredients and at least two standard NEWT level potions. I´m afraid I have no job for you."

The young man snorted. "You´re not looking for an apprentice, but a lexicon." And off he was.

Severus took the tray with ingredients to carry it over to the dustbin, but it was taken from him by the girl, whom he had all but forgotten.

"I´m here for that," she smiled. "Let me get rid of these for you."

"Thank you," Severus smiled back.

"You´re welcome," said the blonde. "That didn´t go too well, did it?"

"Not at all," sighed the potions master. Severus just hoped the other applicants were going to be more accomplished.

"May I ask you a question, Sir?"

"Of course."

"Which potions were you thinking of?" asked the girl.

Severus was going to answer, but the girl went on. "I thought you meant pepper-up potion, but he cut the daisy root to small for that. And for rubella tincture the quills should be black, not white. For Euphoria the parsley is of too low quality, you´d barely get a cheering draught. And for Orpheus´ potion the parsley needs to be julienned, not crushed." She shook her head in wonder.

"I´d have been content if he had mentioned any of these potions. I was rather annoyed that he didn´t asked what he was the ingredients preparing for. He just cut them in any size."

The blonde threw the spoiled ingredients into the dustbin and washed the carving board under the hand pump.

-x-

The next applicant, a blond boy of barely 13, who had been home-schooled so far, cut his finger when he tried to skin a shrivel fig for Severus.

The blonde was there with a first aid kit in no time at all.

She held the small basket open while Severus disinfected the wound and when the potions master applied a bandage she helped him fasten it. She cleaned the blood off the work table while Severus ushered the boy out to the corridor where his mother was waiting.

-x-

The third applicant proved to be quite capable. He asked what Severus needed the ingredients for before he set to work and he set up his cauldron skillfully. Soon a sleeping draught was bubbling merrily.

"I´ll let you know tomorrow, whether you got the job." Severus promised.

"Wonderful," said the young man, Augustus Merryweather. "I´ll know by then whether Master Cornucopia accepts my application." He left whistling merrily.

Severus glared after the youth angrily. He didn´t like being second choice.

When he returned to the worktable, the sleeping draught had been filled into bottles, each of which had been labeled carefully, the label giving the date of brewing, the dosage of mistletoe (which was essential for the power of the potion) and the number of stirs (which determined how long the potion could be used).

Severus looked over to the sink, where the blonde was just throwing a handful of some herbs into the cauldron.

"What are you doing?" he inquired curiously.

"Neutralizing the monkshood you had in the cauldron. Don´t want to ruin my nails." The blonde blushed. "Sorry, I should have asked before I took your basil. I can go and fetch a new jar for you."

"That won´t be necessary," Severus pointed out. "as I won´t need any basil today." He watched the blonde fill the cauldron with water, roll up her sleeves and scrub the cauldron with a brush. "Wouldn´t that be easier with magic?"

"Not if you want to use that cauldron in a quarter hour. Your potion could be spoiled by my residual magic."

"You seem to know a great deal about potions."

The girl blushed even more. "Me? Oh no! I helped my grandma sometimes, but she said I have no real talent for it. My grandma was a potions mistress, though not one of the great ones. I mean she brewed for the people in her area, but she never wrote a book or something. Never invented a new potion or something."

"I see. You were home-schooled?"

The blonde nodded. "My Dad was convinced the Dark Lord would come back and attack Hogwarts one day. So I and my brothers weren´t allowed to go there. I took my OWLs and NEWTs at the ministry."

Their conversation was interrupted by the fourth applicant. The boy was about twenty years old and had flaming red hair.

"I´m Chester Shire," he introduced himself.

Severus made the boy cut ingredients and finally set up a cauldron for the brew.

"What are we making, Sir?" asked the youth.

"Skelegrow. Have you ever brewed that?"

"No, Sir," admitted the boy.

Severus conjured a piece of parchment and with a wave of his wand revealed the instructions for the brew on it.

The applicant read the parchment carefully before he started.

Severus watched. The further time progressed, the more he felt reminded of a class at Hogwarts. The boy had to read and reread the instructions again and again. When finally yellow steam formed a cloud over the cauldron – there shouldn´t have been steam at all – Severus exploded.

"Aren´t you even capable of reading?" he sneered. "It clearly says two drops of goat milk, not three. And you were supposed to use a table spoon for measuring the water not a tea spoon. And it clearly says stir anti-clockwise!"

The boy dropped the wooden spoon as if he was burnt.

"I´m sorry!" he wailed. "I swear I did my best! I tried so hard!"

"Stop crying like a little girl!" Severus spat, irritated.

The boy howled like a wounded animal before he fled from the lab.

The everpresent blonde picked the spoon up from the floor. "That was cruel," she muttered. A little louder she added: "Is there a way to save this brew or do I dispose of it?"

"Just pour it down the drain," sighed Severus. "He messed it up so badly that it can´t be used."

"Why didn´t you tell him when he made his first mistake?" asked the blonde while she carried the cauldron to the sink. "Why watch him mess up worse?"

"The brew was so obviously wrong," Severus stepped to the girl with the parchment. "Look, it says the brew should be red after the first stage of stiring. His was blue, but he continued without asking for help. I wanted to see how far he´d go."

"I see," muttered the girl. She emptied the cauldron and started to scrub it. "How could he have saved the brew after he put in too much goat milk?"

"That would have been easy. A little moonstone would have done the trick."

They were interrupted by a knock at the door. A young man in his midtwenties looked in.

"Sir," he said, "I only arrived today and I saw that you´re looking for an apprentice. Would you kindly grant me an interview if the apprenticeship isn´t already appointed?"

Severus smiled. "I´m sorry, but I have already somebody in mind."

The young man looked disappointed. He left after some words of regret.

The girl looked at Severus curiously. "So you´re going to take Mr. Merryweather? What if he gets the job with Master Cornucopia?"

"I haven´t been thinking of Mr. Merryweather." Severus smiled. "I was going to ask you."

The girl gaped at the potions master.

"Me?" the blonde blushed crimson. "But I´m a girl!"

"That, Miss, didn´t escape my notice," drawled Severus. "Nevertheless you showed the best aptitude of all the people who were here today. You seem to have adequate knowledge about potions to start an apprenticeship. You´re able to concentrate on a task and you´re curious. The question is, are you ready to take over my classes when I´m absent?"

The girl looked doubtful. "I´d like to be your apprentice, but teach? I´m not sure I can do that. Whom, by the way, do you want me to teach? Are you a tutor besides a potions master?"

Severus laughed. "I´m potions master and potions professor at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. I hope that won´t be a problem for you."

"Hm," replied the girl. "My Dad won´t like it very much. But I´m of age and I´d love to see Hogwarts. But teach at the best wizarding school in Britain." She shook her head.

"It won´t be often and I´ll leave you lesson plans," suggested Severus.

The girl beamed. "If you´ll help me, I´d be honoured to be your apprentice." With a delighted squeal she fell on Severus´ neck only to back away an instant later. "Sorry," she muttered.

"So, as we´re agreed," grinned Severus, "I´ll pack my bag and we can return to Hogwarts. The headmaster will gladly bond our apprenticeship contract."

The blonde nodded. "I need ten minutes to pack my things and quit my job here."

-x-

Albus Dumbledore scrutinized the curly blonde Severus had brought to his office. It was hard to imagine the potions master putting up with the pink cheerfulness the girl represented.

"You aren´t pulling my leg?" he asked suspiciously. "This is the person you chose to be your apprentice?"

"There´s no reason to insult the girl," hissed Severus angrily. "Of course she´s the person I chose as apprentice, or I wouldn´t have brought her here. We need you as a bonder for our apprenticeship contract."

"Have you negotiated the terms?" asked the headmaster.

"Not yet," replied the potions master. "I thought we´d look into the standard apprenticeship contract and then make changes where we deem it necessary."

-x-

The negotiations were quick and easy. The blonde was modest and frugal. She didn´t ask more days off than the standard contract suggested (two every month) or more money, although the standard contract offered only pocket money.

Apprentices were supposed to live with their masters, the master had to provide them with quarters, food and clothes. So, she pointed out, pocket money was all she was going to need.

When all the terms were clear, the headmaster advised the girl and the potions master to join their right hands. He drew his wand and waved it over their joined hands.

"Are you, Severus Snape, going to teach this apprentice to the best of your abilities? Are you willing to pass on your knowledge to the extent her talents allow?"

"I am."

A tongue of black fire emerged from Dumbledore´s wand tip and wrapped around their hands.

"Are you, Severus Snape, going to house, feed and dress your apprentice as negotiated before in exchange for her work?"

"I am."

Another tongue of black fire was added to their bond.

"And are you, Apprentice, going to obey your master and watch out for his well-being in exchange for his tuition?"

"I am."

A tongue of pink flames entwined with the black ones.

"As you both vowed to follow the contract you negotiated earlier, I proclaim you Master and Apprentice." The headmaster beamed at the two. "You may show her your lab now, Severus."

-x-

Severus was quite nervous as he took his new apprentice to the dungeons for the first time.

"Who´s that?" asked Gundula, when they stopped in front of Severus´ door. "Did the nasty potions master kidnap you, dearie? Shall I call help for you?"

The apprentice whirled around. "Incendio!" she cried and Gundula fled her once more burning canvas shrieking like a banshee.

"My, my, the headmaster won´t be pleased," muttered Severus.

"I couldn´t let her insult my master!" cried the apprentice in righteous anger.

Severus smiled. "No harm done. I set the cheeky cow on fire only last week. Come in." He gestured the girl to proceed him into his rooms. "This is where you´re going to live. I´m not yet sure where you´ll sleep, but I guess we can empty one of the storerooms. Until then you´ll have to take the sofa." He showed her around in his quarters. "I hope you find the quarters adequate." The potions master wouldn´t have admitted it but for some unknown reason he was nervous about the girl´s reaction.

"It´s very nice," said the apprentice. "Am I allowed use the kitchen?"

"Of course. You may use everything, as long you don´t destroy anything."

"I´ll try," grinned the girl.

"Well then," said Severus. "What about I show you around the castle?"

-x-

The tour of the grounds was uneventful but them running into the caretaker, , who grinned at Severus dirtyly when he introduced his new apprentice.

"I´m sure she´s great at scrubbing your cauldrons, professor," smirked the squib with a glance at the apprentice.

"My apprentice will not be spoken about respectlessly." Severus glared at the caretaker sternly.

"Of course, professor, of course," Filch grinned evilly. "no offence meant."

Severus huffed at the man and led the girl back to the castle. She followed willingly, but turned when they had reached the main entrance. She pointed her wand back at the caretaker with a smirk.

"What did you use?" asked Severus when they entered the castle.

"Ant attracting charm," grinned the girl.

Severus looked at the blonde proudly and led the way to the Great Hall.

"Severus, at last," cried the headmaster merrily when they approached the head table. "I was just telling Minerva about our new staff member."

"Technically she´s not a staff member," Severus pointed out as he pulled a chair for the girl to sit beside his usual seat. "I pay her, not the school."

Minerva McGonagall scrutinized the blonde over the rims of her glasses. "She´s a bit young, don´t you think so, Severus?"

"We teach our students potions starting at eleven, how can she be too young to learn potions?" Severus replied, annoyed.

"An apprenticeship is a very personal relationship," McGonagall said pointedly.

"It is," agreed the apprentice. "That´s why I´m glad Master Snape agreed to teach me. He seems to be very sociable and friendly."

The transfigurations teacher swallowed audibly and the headmaster chuckled.

"I think this young lady is a very good choice for Severus," stated the old wizard. "She´ll do him a world of good."

"I´ll do my best," promised the blonde.

The potions master glared at his superior and colleague, but maybe, he thought, the headmaster was right. Maybe an apprentice was exactly what he needed. Maybe THIS apprentice was exactly what he needed.

THE END.