Author's Note: This is a completed work at approximately 70,000 words. It encompasses one year of Severus' life. The chapters will be months, so I expect 12 chapters, though one is very long and might get broken into two. It is from Severus' POV. Severus is a little OOC. He is sarcastic and funny, but not quite as snarky and rough or angsty and damaged as some of my more favorite versions of Severus in other fanfics. He deserves a little happiness and normalcy, so I gave him some. Fluffy and romantic, rated M to be safe for language and off-screen intimacy; no lemons to be found.
It was rare to see an owl enter the Great Hall at dinnertime. Even when Albus Dumbledore was alive, as many owls as he received daily, it was rare to see one in the evening delivering mail. So when a large light colored owl entered the Great Hall during dinner on a Sunday night, all eyes were immediately trained upon it. The seven surprised people in the Great Hall that evening garnered even more shocked looks when the owl gracefully alighted on Severus Snape's chair. Severus turned slightly to look at the bird. Usually owls were impatient to have their burdens relieved, but this owl was amazingly reserved. Severus looked over at a curious Minerva McGonagall, shrugged slightly, and carefully removed the box. The owl remained on Severus' chair as he turned the box over in his hands. It was no larger than a wand box and did not seem threatening, but nonetheless, Severus held his wand over the box and began muttering a series of incantations to detect hexes. At once, he could hear Alastair Moody's long gone voice: "Constant Vigilance!"
At the unpleasant reminder of the harsh man who died mistrusting him, Severus muttered, "Bastard."
Minerva looked to the man on her right and asked, "Who's a bastard, Severus?"
"Alastair Moody…" he replied, distractedly.
Suddenly, Minerva's right arm was gripped painfully onto Severus' arm, while her left arm clutched her chest. "That's from Moody?" she asked in a panicky voice.
The oddity of the question made Severus chuckle. "No, Minerva. He's still dead. Sorry, I was just thinking about him. I have no idea whom the box is from."
Minerva's grip slackened, making Severus look down at where Minerva's hand still rested on his arm. Noticing his eyes on her hand, she let go of his arm. "Sorry, Severus," she said quietly.
"It's all right, Minerva," he replied. Was it all right? Yes, it was. What would have been unthinkable just a few short months ago was fine today. Last April, she would have as soon poisoned him as touched him. But then the world changed on the second of May. The Last Battle raged and incredibly, not only was Voldemort defeated for good, but he had also survived Nagini's would-be fatal attack. When he awoke four weeks later, it was Minerva's hand that he felt gripping his own. And when he had awoken every day afterwards, it was Minerva sitting at his bedside. It took weeks of talking, yelling, and stony silence, but Severus trusted Minerva, their friendship restored.
Shaking the cobwebs from his brain, Severus refocused his attention onto the box. He opened it to find many scrolls of parchment, and a shrunken owl perch. Upon seeing the perch, he twisted his body once more to look at the owl, perfectly content on Severus' chair back. He knew at once as he read the labels on the scrolls that they were from Hermione Granger. Six years of too-long essays had burned her handwriting indelibly onto his brain. He passed the scrolls to three of his fellow Professors, seated with him at the table: Minerva, Filius Flitwick, Rubeus Hagrid and a scroll for himself. At this, the remaining three Professors had their curiosity assuaged and resumed their conversation, having been interrupted by the owl's arrival. Flitwick, Hagrid and Minerva immediately opened their scrolls with obvious delight at having received a letter from Miss Granger. Severus had a heavy weight settle in his stomach at the thought of opening the letter. Still recovering both physically and mentally from the last three months, as well as the past twenty years, he never knew from interaction to interaction what to expect. The reactions to his survival, and the subsequent revelation of his role as a spy, had been mixed, to say the least. Even within the Order of the Phoenix, he knew that there were people who did not fully trust him. And of those that trusted him, many still did not like him.
Minerva noticed his reticence and smiled kindly. "Open it, Severus. She is a friend."
A friend? When did a student, a student whom he treated horribly at that, become a friend? Didn't it take two people deciding to become friends?
Seeing the still-unopened letter, Minerva's countenance changed. "Open that damn letter, Severus."
Severus growled as he unfurled the very long letter.
Wednesday, 29 July 1998
Have you incinerated this letter yet at my impertinence at calling you Severus? I would not blame you. However, that is who you are to me, now. I am sad that I have not been able to see you recover, but I hear that you are getting along quite well, for which I am glad. I was there when you finally awoke after your injury, but I am sure that you were not aware of me, or you would have thrown me from your room at St. Mungo's. After they transported you to Hogwarts' infirmary, Minerva was gracious to let me know how you were improving, and that you were finally well enough to be released in June. I'd love to be there now to see you and Minerva and have you berate me in person for my impertinence, but I'm in Australia. I will be here until September, when I go to University. By the way, did you go to University? Anyway, I don't think I'll be able to visit Hogwarts before Fall Semester begins, so if you want to berate me, you'll have to do it via owl post.
Speaking of owls, the owl that delivered the letters is named Columbina. Isn't she beautiful? She's an Australian Masked Owl, hence the name. I hope you found her perch. I would very much appreciate it if you would take care of her for me between trips. She needs to rest for at least a couple of days after such a long journey, so I am loath to house her in the Owlery where a student might use her. If you are unwilling, maybe Hagrid would house her?
I have said these words over and over to you, but as I'm pretty sure you couldn't hear me while practically comatose, I think they bear repeating: Thank You. Thank you for saving my life countless times. Thank you for being a spy and working for the Order, even when everyone turned their back on you. Thank you for not dying, though I think I have many people to thank on that account. I can see the dark scowl forming on your face from here, so I'll digress.
I was there in the shack when you almost died; in fact, I was certain your death was inevitable. The only real friends I had at Hogwarts, I gained while facing death: Harry and Ron battling a troll, Luna, Ginny and Neville facing Death Eaters at the Ministry. I have faced death with you and you are now in that illustrious group of "Hermione's friends that didn't die while fighting evil with her."
Overwhelmed, Severus bade the other six Professors goodnight. As he stood from his chair, he offered a black-clad sleeve to Columbina, who gracefully hopped from his chair onto his arm. He entered his private quarters, which were once more in the dungeons. Severus would shortly be resuming his position as Potions Professor, for which he was grateful. He had enough of the Dark Arts and enough of being Headmaster to last a lifetime. A simple Engorgio charm, and Columbina was settled on her large, ornate perch near Severus' writing desk.
She asked too much of him. Severus felt as if he had been drawn and quartered in the previous fifteen months, both physically and emotionally. As surprised as he was to awaken in St. Mungo's alive, he was equally surprised to be not be in a permanent bed next to Lockhart or a cold cell in Azkaban. He had gone from the second-most hated man in the Wizarding world to a not-so-hated not-quite-beloved hero in a very, very short time. He woke up to a very long list of dead witches and wizards, including Voldemort himself, as well as a much shorter list of witches and wizards who wanted to embrace Severus into their lives again – Minerva being top of that list. He was already trying so hard. Trying to keep it all together. Trying to let go of his role as spy. He now only answered to himself, but he hardly knew the real him. And she wanted to be his friend? The only thing he knew for sure is that Minerva would have his head mounted next to the elves' heads in Grimmauld Place if he didn't answer her letter. So he drew a piece of parchment at his writing desk.
Sunday, 2 August 1998
Columbina is indeed beautiful and settled happily in my quarters. I have charmed a magical owl version of a doggy-door to allow her free entry, seeing as I have no windows in the dungeon. Should be interesting to see her flying in the corridors over the dunderheads when term begins. Obviously, I could not allow her to be drowned in Fang's slobber.
What the hell are you doing in Australia?
PS, Tuesday – Phineas Nigellus says hello. I think he actually misses you, though when I suggested that to him, he huffed and has not since returned to visit his portrait in my quarters.
Wednesday morning before breakfast, his letter to Hermione, along with a letter from Minerva, were tied onto Columbina's leg. He stroked her feathers and admonished her to be safe on her journey to Hermione.
Sunday, 9 August 1998
Australia is hell, thanks for asking. As you are enjoying a pleasant, sunny, summer month in England, I am visiting Australia in winter. Brilliant, yes? But I only have myself to blame. Look at us – discussing the weather like proper friends!
I am in Australia because my parents are in Australia. After my sixth year, I modified their memories, removing myself from their lives completely and convinced their new selves that they desperately wanted to retire to Australia. I was only thinking of their lives, which I perceived to be in grave danger. However, when I say only, I mean only. I did not think through the repercussions of restoring the memories of their daughter and previous life, and having two very angry, very hurt parents to contend with after the war. I arrived here in July and found them after two weeks of searching. It has now been three weeks since our reunion, and things are horrible. It will take years, if not a lifetime, to undo the damage. They lived through the war and that was my goal. If they hate me forever, I still think I would do it over again, sans Australia. Maybe the Bahamas would have been a better choice. But while I hate Australia, they absolutely love it. They are frequent patrons and major donors to the Opera House in Sydney and for that they refuse to come home to England. I ask you: is world-class opera really worth giving up your mother country? I think not.
I will stay with them until 30 August, when I will portkey straight to Bristol and set up for the start of term on 1 September. You didn't answer my question about University. Don't think I didn't notice that! I am currently quite cut off from the magical world, as I am trying, obviously, to regain my parents' trust. They were fine with Columbina, but no foolish wand waving, to be sure. I feel as though I will be equally cut off at University. That sounds incredible, seeing as I will be at the only magical University in Europe, but I will be without friends and still too far away to Apparate to London to see Harry and Ginny; the same with Hogwarts to see you and Minerva. You are one of my few connections to my world, currently. So, thank you for writing.
Besides telling me about University, I would love to know how you are looking forward to the new year at Hogwarts.
PS, Monday – I almost forgot! Please relay to Phineas Nigellus my most sincere regards. Believe me when I say that he was quite often my favorite companion on my little camping trip.
Sunday, 16 August 1998
No, I did not go to University. That is not a period of my life that I would actually like to remember at the moment, or ever, if I am honest. Do you drudge up miserable memories with all of your friends? Voldemort wanted a Potions Master, not a well-rounded Academic with a Potions Mastery to boot. I went straight into an apprenticeship with a very hard man named Stephanopoulos. Severus Snape bound to a hard man for whom to work. It's hard to picture, surely, but try your best. Two years, a Mastery to my name and countless regrettable choices later, and I was installed at Hogwarts and now bound to two very hard men, each of whom made Stephanopoulos look softer than Lockhart.
Why are you going to University? And did you get advice from Minerva before deciding? I would like to know if you are already bonded.
I do not "look forward" to the beginning of the new school year, ever, and this year is no different. I have never "looked forward" to anything, really. But in the spirit of friendship, I will endeavor to answer your question regarding my thoughts toward next year. And here it is: I have no idea. Introspection does not even scratch the surface of my musings during these last weeks of newfound quasi-freedom. I say quasi-freedom, and not total freedom, because I don't actually have a choice labeled, "not teaching." Hogwarts is my home, and I need the protection it affords right now. And Minerva would have my head. Which is, incidentally, the reason I write you back. No offence intended.
Back to the question. As I have thought about life with a normal, although rather headstrong, boss as opposed to two masters, I honestly don't know whether I like teaching or not. I had to treat you, an excellent mind, miserably. I had to treat Goyle, an idiot, favorably. I wanted both of you to pass your Potions OWL. What if I could have encouraged you? Would if I could have actually concentrated on teaching my craft instead of concentrating on simply staying alive one more day and keeping Harry Potter alive one more day? Add to that volatile mixture a bevy of soon-to-be returning students who suffered at my hand last year, and you've got an exploding cauldron of which Longbottom would be proud.
Regarding Australia, it's nice and sunny here today, by the way; your parents would be dead if not for your precaution. I know that to be the truth. If that makes your burden lighter, so be it. I love the opera; you are an unsophisticated wench.
Your friend, I suppose,
On the following Sunday night, when Columbina entered the Great Hall at dinnertime, he knew there would be a letter for him. And again, the weight of unease settled in his stomach. This would be his third letter since they began this unlikely string of correspondence. He couldn't remember the last time he had received three personal letters in a year, much less one month's time.
"Why?" he asked Minerva, baldly.
Minerva looked at him, not with pity, not with confusion, but with a steadiness that almost immediately lifted some of the weight from his stomach. Severus knew that he was in unchartered waters, but Minerva was not. Normal people, he reminded himself, did not flinch when receiving letters.
"Why not?" She paused. "Many of us receive letters from past students who want to correspond with us, adult to adult. I know this is new to you, but it is not unreasonable." He nodded slightly. "And really, Severus, who else can she write to about adult matters, academic topics?"
Severus untied the parchments from Columbina and distributed them. Besides Severus, both Minerva and Flitwick received letters this time.
"Hermione was born to thrive in academia. She should have been a Ravenclaw," began Minerva.
"Too true," interrupted Flitwick.
"I believe it was the Apostle Paul from the Biblical writings that described himself as 'untimely born.' That's how I think of Hermione. Any other decade and she would have a lovely group of Ravenclaw friends with whom to debate academic matters ad nauseum. But she was sorted in war. And we have peace because she was sorted into Gryffindor. And what does she have? Impetuous friends who tire after five minutes of listening to her discuss what she wants to learn about Transfiguration. Brave friends who want boring jobs at the Ministry or to play Quidditch. Add to that her problems with her parents, and it is a recipe for a brilliant and isolated young woman." Here, she paused to read her own letter, but Severus was still digesting Minerva's words and couldn't open his letter quite yet.
When Minerva was finished, she turned her attention back to Severus. In a more quiet voice, she continued: "I know you did not ask for this friendship, which you see as so odd. But you deserve friendship, especially with someone so like yourself. Don't scoff, Severus – you know it's true! And, I would like to remind you that you were once my student, and I am many more than 20 years your senior. Are we friends?"
At this, Severus scowled at her.
Minerva laughed out loud and said, "Open the damn letter."
Sunday, 23 August 1998
First, I sincerely thank you for your confirmation about my parents. I doubt it will hasten our reconciliation, but I am grateful for the knowledge.
Also, I am humbled by your words that I have an excellent mind. I do not see you as the type to offer false praise. I will hold to those words tightly.
Your questions regarding University both concern me and make me roll my eyes at you.
I am going to University because research is my forte', and I desire to be, in your own words, "a well rounded Academic." I imagine myself ending up in a career that has to do with research, though I am not sure in which discipline. My first year, I am allowed to study three disciplines and I have chosen Potions, Transfiguration and Charms. I will drop one after the first year and finish with a degree in the remaining two. After that, I will either get a "real job," as my parents phrase it, or continue to an apprenticeship. And yes, I am already bonded. I anticipated problems in Australia; in honesty, I thought the problems would be before I found them, not afterwards. So, before I left, I got permission for an early, private bonding and I will not even attend the formal bonding ceremony.
Did I get advice from Minerva? That would have been a logical course of action. I do seem like the type, don't I? But alas, a little thing like war precluded me from my normal research. Let's see, whom did I have access to in my "Seventh year"? Harry, Ron (stop laughing), Griphook, Kreacher, Xenophilius Lovegood, Mr. Olivander. Oh wait! I did spend some lovely time in Malfoy Manor with Bellatrix, but I was too busy trying not to end up in a bed next to Lockhart.
Give it to me straight, Severus. I have a feeling I am missing some major information that a Pureblood witch probably would take for granted. Will that ever change? Will I always feel as though I am only ninety percent witch? Do you know how hard it is to think that Pansy Parkinson probably knows the information I'm missing?
But enough about me. Thank you for sharing about your life musings, even if it took Minerva threatening you to do so. I look forward to hearing what you decide about the upcoming year. You are a brilliant strategist, trained at the heel of two obsessive strategists. "Obsessive" sounded rather nicer than "maniacal", "Machiavellian" or "ruthless", don't you think? I understand that you don't have the freedom to choose your career right now, but do you have the freedom to enjoy your craft? I hope so. I saw glimpses of that when I was your student. Those glimpses stayed with me even more than your brusqueness, your feigned hatred of us, or the exploding cauldrons. Those glimpses of the "subtle science and exact art" are why I am studying Potions at University. I must stop now. I have quoted you twice in one letter and fear inflating your ego. Minerva would never forgive me!
Severus inwardly groaned. It was 30 August, which meant that in two days time, Hermione was going to walk into the lion's den, completely oblivious to what awaited her. He calmly told his colleagues goodnight and quickly made his way to the dungeon. Once there, he sat at his writing desk.
Sunday, 30 August 1998
I was truly hoping that your answer would be: "Of course I talked to Minerva, I am going to University to blaze a trail for muggle-borns," and maybe throw in some rude anecdotes about pureblood nonsense, but instead I am now concerned for you.
You wanted the straight truth? Here it is: I don't actually know of a muggle-born who has attended University. I'm actually shocked that they accepted you, except that you obviously meet every requirement. Don't misunderstand me: you belong among the elite at University.
The only thing that Pansy probably knew that you didn't is that University is the paragon of pureblood philosophy and tradition, as well as education.
Ignore my question about getting advice from Minerva. She attended University and she sits on their Board of Governors. She would have advised you to go. She has every faith in both your intellectual ability and your Gryffindor bravery. Unfortunately, I think you will need that bravery. Voldemort is dead; prejudice is not. Not only did you help stop Voldemort's pureblood agenda, but you are also infiltrating one of their most beloved institutions. And since you are bonded, there is no chance of dropping out. You will graduate in two years, no matter what.
Your best bet is to befriend the witches and wizards from the United States, or from Durmstrang.
My hope is that you get this before your first day; I don't know how long it takes an owl to deliver mail to Bristol.
Hermione, you are not ninety percent witch, you are one hundred percent witch. I will not listen to such nonsense again.
Severus stood and went to stand before Columbina. "Are you able to go to Bristol tonight, Columbina? Hermione needs this, but I will get a school owl if you are unable." Columbina obediently offered her leg to have the letter attached. He searched the owl's eyes for signs of fatigue, but he found none, and indeed, Columbina almost nipped at him because he had not yet tied the letter. Smirking, he attached the letter. "You are strong, just like your mistress. Now take this to Hermione in Bristol."
The next day was Monday and students would arrive the following evening. Severus should have been concentrating on the new school year. It was not as though he had to write lesson plans, but there were still half a dozen administrative tasks to get through. He continually found his thoughts drifting, however, to Hermione.
When Columbina found him at lunchtime in the Great Hall, he felt both relieved and worried. He took the scroll from Columbina and left his lunch uneaten to return to his rooms.
He knew the moment he opened it that it was going to be bad; it was short.
Sunday, 30 August 1998
I can't do this. I can't fight any more! I am done with the war! I was going to University to get as far away from the war as possible. What the hell am I going to do?
I'm grateful for the warning.
As he read, very strong feelings began to build inside Severus. A strong desire to protect Hermione from pain welled up in his chest. He was forever protecting someone; many times it had even been Hermione. But this was different. He wasn't protecting her because he had been ordered to, or out of guilt. He wanted to protect her because he actually cared about her. In a few short weeks, from a few short letters, he knew Minerva was right. He and Hermione were very similar, and if Severus was correct, she was about to be as isolated and lonely as he often felt. And he was suddenly surprised to know that he knew how to help her.
Monday, 31 August 1998
What the hell are you going to do?
First, you are going to stop whining. It is unbecoming in a Gryffindor. Only Ravenclaws whine. You should hear Professor Flitwick, especially when he's had too much to drink.
Secondly, and this is most important, you are going to get a world-class education. The education you desire. It is, quite likely, the only thing that you are assured. I have no idea how other students might treat you, but if the Professors treat you unfairly, one word to Minerva, and it will get fixed. She loves you like a daughter, and is quite good at getting things done.
Thirdly, you are going to find your strategy. You wanted to know my strategy for this year? Here it is: I am going to concentrate on the First Years and the Seventh Years and not worry about the other years, because I don't think I have a chance in hell with those students. The Second, Third and Fourth Year students were so young last year, that the only thing I can do for them this year is earn their trust and hope next year will be better. I expect the Fifth Years to actually be hostile towards me. Sixth Year Students are notoriously distracted: too many hormones. If they even notice that I'm their teacher, I'll be shocked.
But I want to do better by the First Years. I want to have a fresh start. The older students will look at them as though they are habitual liars when they talk about how Potions is their favorite subject. I am going to find a bushy haired Gryffindor First Year and make up a reason to award her house points. As for the Seventh Years, they are adults. I am desperately hoping that we can have an honest discussion regarding my role in the war and move forward together. My Seventh Year students are intelligent and they obviously need to take Potions for their chosen career, or they would not be in there. In one year, I will challenge them and grow them into excellent Potioneers.
I expect Columbina to arrive with your reply tomorrow.
Severus fixed the letter onto Columbia's leg and gave her a treat. She gracefully flew from Severus' room.