Chapter 28: The beginning of the future
There was only one week left before term started and Severus would have loved to spend it with Lily. But it wasn´t possible. He had to go to Hogwarts every day in order to prepare lessons and materials and – worst of all – to meet his new colleagues.
It was strange to think of professors McGonagall, Flitwick or Sinistra as his colleagues. They had been his teachers only so little time ago!
Especially professor McGonagall seemed to agree with that.
"Albus," huffed the deputy headmistress when Severus was introduced to the assembled teachers as the new potions master, "are you completely out of your mind? First you appoint that ... that ... that woman and now a child!"
Severus felt himself blush.
"Severus is hardly a child, Minerva," the headmaster said benignly. "And he is qualified. I´m confident he´ll do a wonderful job teaching potions."
The woman snorted. "You won´t know the teacher if you enter his NEWT class. Look at him, half of his students will be taller than he is."
"That can be said for Filius, too," Dumbledore pointed out.
Professor Flitwick snickered. "In fact I never had a student who didn´t tower over me," he giggled. The head of Ravenclaw winked at Severus.
"See?" the headmaster asked pointedly.
The deputy headmistress wasn´t beaten so easily, though. "Albus, how can he be a teacher for his former housemates? No offence, Master Snape, but I think you are too young to be a teacher. Too young by far. The headmaster didn´t do you a favour by giving you the job."
"I´m confident I´ll do a good job," Severus replied, though he didn´t feel confident at all. "I may need some hints in the beginning but I planned my lessons carefully and I know my potions. There won´t be any mayor problems."
Dumbledore smiled benignly and professor McGonagall looked doubtfully.
"You can come for advice whenever you feel you need it," said professor Flitwick. "And as we´re colleagues now, you´d better start calling me Filius."
"There´s one more thing," said the headmaster after Severus had accepted the small wizard´s offer to use his given name, "Horace was head of Slytherin. With him gone Severus is the only Slytherin teacher we have. It´s only fit that he takes on the head of house duties."
Professor McGonagall didn´t look convinced it was a good idea but she said nothing.
Severus asked the headmaster about the head of house business after the end of the official meeting.
"Professor McGonagall is right, and we both know it," he said. "I´m too young. For teaching and even more to be a head of house."
Dumbledore smiled. "My dear boy, the head of house business will come in handy, you´ll see. We can use it as an excuse whenever you can´t be where Voldemort expects you."
"That may be true, headmaster," replied the potions master, "but I can´t just be head of house formally. I have to fulfill the duties of head of house. The students need someone to look after them and guide them. I´m not sure I can do that properly and I don´t want their education to suffer because of me."
Dumbledore chuckled. "I´m sure you will do well, dear boy."
Hadn´t it been for the fact that Severus feared the Dark Lord´s wrath, he´d have taken Lily and Harry and gone running. Never had he been so frightened than the evening of September, 1st, at the head table of the Great Hall at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Filius Flitwick, who had visited the young man at the potions classroom to see how he was doing several times over the past week, patted his hand reassuringly.
"Everything will go well," the small man whispered under his breath.
Severus nodded solemnly. He tried to concentrate on the sorting. The deputy headmistress had just brought the new first years into the hall and was now placing the sorting hat on their heads one after the other.
After the sorting, the headmaster made his start of term speech. He informed the students of the school rules, especially about forbidden items. Then he announced the appointment of a new potions teacher.
Severus rose when his name was mentioned. There was a polite round of applause and some whispers at the house tables.
Then Dumbledore announced him head of Slytherin.
The House was dumbfounded. "He can´t be serious!" somebody cried and there was murmur of consent.
The headmaster ignored Slytherin house in favour for announcing the start of the feast.
Severus went down to the dungeons to greet his house after the feast with a foreboding of doom.
All of Slytherin house was assembled in the Common Room.
"Slytherins," Severus addressed the students nervously. "Welcome back to a new school year. I hope it will be a successful one for everybody. Good night."
Severus was glad he had only prepared a very short speech. Some of the older students were smirking at him. Had they been at the lake in Severus´ fifth year? Did they know about his war with Potter and Black?
It seemed they did.
A tiny first year knocked at Severus´ door the next morning before breakfast. He held greying underpants in his hand and held it out to Severus. "We found this at the Common Room, Sir," said the boy politely. "And we wonder whether you know whose it may be."
Severus had to use all his willpower not to hex the child. The boy was looking at him so innocently that Severus was sure some of the older students had tricked their younger housemate into asking Severus that.
The young potions master took the pants from the boy and sent him back to the Common Room.
The first duty Severus had to fulfil as head of Slytherin house was to hand out the timetables to the students. It went well with the lower years, but the older students treated him more like a classmate than their head teacher.
"Sev, double History of Magic on Monday morning?" said Bertram Mullins. "Isn´t there anything to be done about that?"
"It´s Professor Snape for you, Mullins," hissed Severus.
"Oh, come on, I´ve been calling you Sev for years."
That was true, but Severus had never authorized or liked the nickname before.
"Two points from Slytherin for lack of respect for a teacher," said a small voice from beside Severus. "Professor Snape, when you have a free minute, I´d like a word, please. I need your help with a potion."
Severus gave a nod, grateful for Professor Flitwick´s interference. The students were well behaved, now that the small head of Ravenclaw was standing within earshot, waiting for Severus.
When all the students were on their way to get ready for their first lessons, Severus and the Charms teacher sat down at the head table. Flitwick poured them both coffee.
"So, what can I do for you, Filius?"
"I just wanted to sample this excellent coffee with you," smiled the smaller teacher.
Severus blushed. So Flitwick had seen he was in trouble with the Slytherins and had come to his rescue. What was going to happen when Flitwick wasn´t nearby?
"You have to get used to dealing out punishment," said Filius. "Teaching wasn´t easy for me in the beginning, with me being so small. And it won´t be easy for you, because you´re so young. We both don´t look like the typical teacher, so we have to gain their respect. We don´t get it in advance."
Severus was all ears. "How do we do that?"
"By showing in our lessons that we´re competent teachers. Despite their dislike for homework, most students want to learn. When they see that you can teach them something worth learning they will respect you. You have to survive the time before that insight, though. Deal out punishment. Take points. Give detentions. There are rules and you have to insist the students obey the rules. No exceptions unless the castle is on fire."
The small wizard snickered at his last suggestion.
"It sounds easy when you say it, but I´m not sure I can do it," he sighed.
"You´ll see, once you´re started it gets easier."
Severus´ first lesson was a third year Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw class. He had chosen a simple draught to prevent wounds from scarring. It was easy enough to brew and mistakes couldn´t lead to something dangerous. Severus wanted time to watch his students prepare the ingredients to get an impression where they stood in their learning.
"While the potion should be easy for third years to brew," he explained, "the preparation takes diligent work. Cut your radish too big and the potion will be useless. Crush your fish scales too sloppy and your potion will cause scars instead of preventing them. Count your stirs well. Any change could ruin your brew."
The students started and Severus was content that the Hufflepuffs did a very good job preparing their ingredients. The Ravenclaws tended to be too quick, but they were better at the actual brewing.
Everybody finished within an hour.
"We´ll use the second part of the lesson to brew the same potion again," said Severus. The students moaned. "But this time, we´ll team up a Hufflepuff with a Ravenclaw. The Ravenclaw student in the team will be responsible for the ingredients, the Hufflepuff for the brewing."
"But Sir," cried a blonde Hufflepuff girl. "that way everybody has to do what they can´t!"
"Miss Skyblue, I´m convinced you´re very able to brew this potion. Until now, you only didn´t, because you are even better at preparing ingredients. If you practice what you´re not so good at, you´ll end up a competent brewer."
"Oh!" The girl blushed.
An hour later Severus had twenty exhausted, but happy students in his classroom. Everybody had done what they thought they weren´t good at, nevertheless ten acceptable potions bubbled in their cauldrons.
"Miss Skyblue, Mister McDowel, Miss Scarborough, please fill your brews into one of the flasks you find on my desk."
"Sir?" asked Charles McDowel, a gangly Ravenclaw.
"It would be a pity to waste excellent work. Madam Pomfrey will be glad to get a refill for her stocks," Severus explained.
The children beamed and rushed to obey.
If Severus had thought things would be easy in class he was mistaken. His first class ever had gone well, but it was an exception. Any class with Slytherins in it was hell. The older Slytherins obviously had lost no time at all to inform their younger housemates of Severus´ time at Hogwarts. He was asked about hexes and jinxes, about inter-house fights and one girl even asked openly whether he could tip her off how to deal with troublesome Gryffindors.
Worst of all was the NEWT class on Thursday. Severus had prepared a lesson on skele-gro, a potion that came up in the NEWT exams in four out of five years.
"I´m sure you´d rather teach us something really wicked," Bertram Mullins commented. "Something more ... dark." He even had the cheek to wink at Severus.
The young potions master paled. Did the children know?
"My uncle says you´re good at wicked stuff," said Cindy Mulciber.
The weekend couldn´t come quickly enough. The headmaster called for Severus after his last lesson on Friday.
"How are you, dear boy?" the old man asked. "I hope you found your way into teaching easily enough."
"It's a disaster," Severus confessed. "I don´t think I can do it." He hung his head.
"You want to resign?" Dumbledore asked softly.
The potions master shook his head. "I wish I could, but he´d kill me if I gave up the job. I only fear I won´t be good for the school. If the students don´t take me serious, they won´t learn much."
"I´m sure you´re having only beginner´s trouble. Things will get better," soothed the headmaster. "So, Severus, you have the first weekend off. What will you do?"
Severus shrugged. "Go back to him. He ordered me to come on my first day off. I just hope he´ll let me leave in time to see Lily."
The Dark Lord read through Severus´ timetable thoroughly. The potions master had apparated to Malfoy Manor first thing on Saturday morning.
"You´ve got a lot of patrolling duties," he remarked.
"I´m the youngest on staff. It seems it´s a job nobody wants and therefore the new teacher got it, my Lord," Severus explained. Dumbledore had suggested to put ´patrolling the corridors´ onto his schedule for the time he was going to spend with Lily.
"It seems that Tuesday evening is the best time for you to come and report about Dumbledore," said the Dark Lord. "Report to Lucius now. I think he has troubles with some of his potions."
Severus bowed and went to the lab after a quick hello to Narcissa and Draco. Lucius was slicing squid tentacles.
"Severus!" cried the blond. "I was hoping you´d come. Our Lord wishes to use Measle Draught on the muggles, but it´s complicated. It don´t think I can brew it properly without your help."
They made the draught together. Severus couldn´t have been more unhappy. Measle Draught had to boil down for eight hours. There was no way to make it quicker. They put the time they had to wait to good use, though. Severus made more healing draughts and oinments for battle wounds. At noon they took a little break and went upstairs for lunch.
Severus enjoyed conversation with Narcissa – she had read a new muggle crime story and needed someone to discuss it – and playing with little Draco. The little boy had learned to walk properly during the summer and now took pleasure in carrying his toys around all over the house. Dobby, Narcissa smiled, was busy making sure that the Dark Lord wasn´t bothered with Draco´s things.
It was already dark outside when Severus was finally able to apparate to Godric´s Hollow. Lily was waiting for him by the door. They kissed as soon as the door had closed on Severus.
"What kept you so long?" she whispered.
"Potions," Severus whispered back. "He wanted Measle Draught."
"What for?" Lily´s eyes shone with amusement.
"Muggles." Severus felt bad about telling her that he had helped prepare an attack on defenseless muggles.
"Muggle medicine can cope with measles very well," Lily pointed out.
Severus smiled. "I´m glad."
"Won´t he be angry when his attack won´t be the success he wanted.?"
"Not really. Being a pureblood snob, he doesn´t expect his deatheaters to keep up with muggle research."
Lily giggled and led the way to the living room. She disappeared to the kitchen when Severus had sat down on the sofa and returned with a platter of sandwiches and a bottle of wine.
"So, how was your first week?" she asked gently as she poured the wine.
"It's a disaster. The seventh years have wasted no time telling the younger students about my own school-days. And some of the Slytherins even know who I´m actually working for. Luckily they only keep hinting but don´t tell openly."
"How do they know?"
"They have relatives working for the same master. Parents. Uncles. Brothers."
"What will happen to their relatives if a student´s behaviour causes you to fail?"
Severus could have slapped himself. Why hadn´t he thought about that?
The head of Slytherin cornered Bertram Mullins and Cindy Mulciber before breakfast on Monday morning.
"Listen, you two," he hissed as he locked and warded the door of the empty classroom he had pushed the Slytherins into. "Let´s not beat about the bush. You know who I´m working for and I know why you know. What I don´t understand is why you are stupid enough to endanger your relatives´ lives. Do you really think that He will be pleased if I fail because you didn´t cooperate? Do you really think that I won´t give him your names when he makes me pay for my weakness? I think not."
Bertram and Cindy paled.
Severus smirked. "On the other hand I may mention how helpful you were..."
"We´ll do our best to be of assistance, Sir," said Cindy.
With the Slytherin students under control life as a teacher became easier.
"I told you so," smiled Filius kindly when Severus told him about his last NEWT class. "only beginner´s troubles."
"I was very sceptic about your appointment," said Professor McGonagall – who had become ´Minerva´ at the end of September – kindly, "but it seems that I was wrong. You´re doing well."
Life had, again, settled into a routine. Most of his time Severus was a Hogwarts teacher. On Tuesday evenings he went to the Dark Lord. No matter how long it took for him to return to the castle, the headmaster always waited for him at the gates and sent a patronus message to Lily to inform her of Severus´ safe return.
Potter spent Tuesday evenings with Lily to see his son. Severus was glad about it. That way Lily was distracted and couldn´t worry for him all the time.
Severus went to see Lily and Harry every Wednesday evening. He could only stay for two or three hours, but every minute he was able to spend with them was precious to him.
The best thing were the weekends. Severus had no idea how the headmaster had explained to his colleagues that the junior staff member had every weekend off, but he didn´t ask. He spent every Saturday and Sunday with Lily and Harry. The days were dedicated to playing with the little boy. It wasn´t easy to raise a child exclusively indoors, especially when Harry had started exploring the world on his own little feet. The child loved to look out of the windows and Severus thought that it wasn´t fair that the little boy couldn´t go outside.
Lily kept asking Potter to consent that Severus adopted Harry. They wanted to become a real family. Potter, though, hesitated. He feared to be left out of his son´s life. Part of Severus could understand him, but nevertheless, he couldn´t wait for Potter to make the decision.
Lily was impatient, too. More than once she told Severus about having quarrelled with Potter because of the adoption matter.
October was nearly over when Potter finally agreed.
Severus went to Dumbledore´s office when he returned to Hogwarts that Sunday.
"Severus," the headmaster greeted him. "Is there a problem?" The old man looked worried as it was rather unusual for Severus to come and see him on Sunday.
"No, headmaster. I´ve come to ask you a favour."
"What can I do for you, my boy?"
"Potter finally agreed to let me adopt Harry," Severus explained. "So Lily and I can get married. The problem is, Lily can´t go to London to sign any papers. It´s too dangerous. Can you help?"
Dumbledore beamed. "Of course, dear boy. Congratulation! What about I ask a friend of mine to come to Hogwarts. To minimize the risk for Lily I suggest to have the divorce, wedding and adoption on one day. Have you decided on a date?"
"Not yet. We wanted to ask you first."
"Then I suggest the 1st of November. The students usually sleep in after the Halloween feast, so Lily and James won´t be seen when they come to my office."
"November, 1st, would be great, headmaster. Thank you."
"You´re very welcome, my boy, very welcome, indeed. Now, indulge an old man and have a glass of champagne with me." The headmaster handed Severus a glass which hadn´t been there a moment before. "To you and Lily, my boy!"
The raised their glasses and drained them in one.
Halloween morning dawned bright and sunny. Severus and Lily enjoyed their morning in bed longer than usual. Lily pointed out she wanted to take advantage of having an unmarried boy in her bed. Severus realized only then that the next time they were going to be together it was going to be as husband and wife.
"If you prefer unmarried young men, madame," he growled, "let me kiss you once more, before you have to put up with an old, boring husband."
"You´ll never be boring to me," giggled Lily, but she didn´t refuse the kiss.
They were a bit late when they finally got up (Harry was asking for attention loudly). The only way to be at Hogwarts on time was to skip breakfast.
"Do you really have to go this early? Can´t you stay for breakfast?"
"No, sorry. You know how busy the whole school is on Halloween. Dumbledore´s doing so much for us, I don´t want to make him angry by being late."
Severus pulled Lily close for a quick hug and placed a gently good-bye kiss on her cheek.
"I´ll come to accompany you to the castle tomorrow at 9 o´clock."
"I can hardly wait."
"You´ll have your divorce by 9:15, be my wife by 9:30 and I´ll adopt Harry by 9:45." It sounded too good to be true. "You don´t think Potter will back out?"
"No, he keeps his promises. He´ll be there."
"Good. I´m looking forward to tomorrow."
"So do I. I was a bit nervous, we won´t get our wedding in time."
"For the baby." Lily´s eyes shone with joy.
"Baby?" Severus wasn´t sure he had heard right.
"You mean to tell me..." It wasn´t possible! A baby? For him? Just when he had thought life couldn´t get better!
Lily nodded. "Go now, you´ll be late. We can talk tomorrow."
"A baby!" Severus beamed. He kissed Lily again before he was shooed out of the front door.
Severus had to use all his willpower not to grin like a fool all day. Severus spent his morning brewing Euphoria with the NEWT class. It was, he thought, a clever move. If he slipped and grinned, people were going to think it was because of the potion.
By lunchtime all the seventh years were in an extremely good mood. Severus hadn´t made them sample their brews, but the fumes alone were enough to plaster happy smiles on their faces.
Luckily it was Halloween. The afternoon lessons had been canceled to give the children time to prepare for the feast. Severus spent the afternoon with Filius, decorating the Great Hall. The potions master conjured garlands and the Charms teacher added special effects.
Hagrid brought huge pumpkins and the three men made laterns out of them.
The feast was magnificent. The Hogwarts elves had outdone themselves. The variety of dishes was overwhelming. Severus tried a bit of everything. It was, after all, the closest to a stag party he´d get. By dinner time tomorrow he was going to be a married man. A married man with a wonderful adoptive son and expecting his first natural child. A man with a family.
Severus was woken before dawn. Dumbledore´s head sat in his fireplace.
"Come to my office immediately, Severus."
The man´s tone alone told the potions master that something was very wrong.
Severus was just crossing the Entrance Hall when he ran into Hagrid.
"Professor! Good news!" beamed the half-giant. "You Know Who is dead! The war is over!"
Severus could hardly believe it. He was free!
Hagrid´s face fell, when he continued. "What a pity we lost Lily and James so close to the end."
It couldn´t be true! No!
Severus left the gameskeeper and raced up the stairs, ignoring the other man´s cries behind him.
"Tell me it´s not true!" he panted as he pushed the door to the headmaster´s office open without knocking.
"Oh Severus," Dumbledore said sadly. "Who told you?"
"Ah." The headmaster needn´t say another word. Severus knew from the pity that was written all over the old face.
The potions master fled to the window. "Is it true?" He stared out of the window. The first light of morning showed on the horizon but the Hogwarts grounds were still pitch black.
"I´m afraid so." Dumbledore said softly.
"Potter died with her?"
"With her and for her."
"This was supposed to be our wedding day. Now she´ll be Lily Potter forever. She never wanted to be this. Why was he there?"
"Whenever you weren´t there to protect her, he was. Under his invisibility cloak, for she wouldn´t let him stay openly. Did you know that she had a habit of telling Harry how happy she was with you? The poor boy suffered cruelly."
"You´re talking about Potter I assume. – Where is Harry?"
"Why do you ask?"
"I´m the only parent he has left."
"I´m sorry to say, but you´re not."
"It was agreed..."
"Alas, it was. But the papers weren´t signed. His guardian is Mrs. Petunia Dursley. His only living relative."
How could Dumbledore rip that tiny little bit of happiness that was left from him like that? "You can´t send him to Petunia! She despises magic and you know it!"
"Do you wish to ask her whether she´ll give you the boy?"
"No. She hates me. She won´t do anything to make me happy."
"I´m sorry, Severus."
Severus kept staring out of the window. The glow of dawn intensified. Soon the sun would show.
"She was with child. My child."
Dumbledore stepped behind his young potions master. He raised his hand to touch his shoulder but withdrew it. The old man looked as helpless as Severus felt.
"I quit. You´ll need a new potions teacher." What was there in staying in a position he didn´t like. Every stone of Hogwarts reminded him of Lily and the little secrets they had shared within these walls.
"You can´t, Severus. The ministry is hunting down the remaining deatheaters. Sooner or later your name will come up. I can protect you at Hogwarts. But I can´t if you leave."
"What would you want to protect me for? My life is over."
"Harry. I promised his mother to protect him. Voldemort´s body wasn´t found, nor was his wand. Oh, Severus, I´m afraid this is not over. The boy will need help and protection in the future. He´s perfectly safe at his aunt´s for the time being. But when he leaves the shelter of her home to come to Hogwarts, we have to be prepared to guard him."
Severus stared at the grounds. Dawn had just touched the Forbidden Forrest. After some moments he turned.
"You´ll excuse me, headmaster. I have lessons to prepare."
Harry needed protection. And whatever Severus was able to contribute, he was going to do.