This is a Harry Potter fiction and all non-original characters, (Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, ect.) belong to the brilliant mind of JK Rowling. I do not even begin to pretend that they are my own characters. All other OC's belong to yours truly. Please...enjoy your reading. = ]

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Occam's Razor is a principle urging one to select among competing hypotheses that which makes the fewest assumptions. In lighter terms, it means that the simplest and least complicated explanation for a phenomenon is typically the correct answer. This is a principle not easily applied to the more complex and emotional situations in life...

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There was nothing at all pleasant about August the thirty-first.

The morning of August the thirty-first always came several hours too early as it seemed the nightmare of the loud, chattering mass of students bound to arrive the next day was enough to prevent even the most accomplished Occlumens from sleeping restfully. When not wide awake, staring at the ceiling, foreboding dreams of nagging, idiotic questions, detentions and late-night test grading flooded his brain. And it was always with the greatest effort that Severus Snape managed to pull himself from that fitful slumber to begin slaving away over extensive lesson plans for the next ten months.

It was apparent that the sun had only just risen as the murky green glow from the opaque glass overhead began to ripple and brighten the dungeon quarters only slightly. The shadows that filled Severus' quarters deepened momentarily before several candles hung in brackets on the walls lit themselves as he walked by, carrying a stack of papers with several books floating along behind him.

The heavy door leading into his study creaked loudly as it always did, adding to the comfortable ominous glow cast by the green light reflecting off the many and varied glass jars lining the walls. The previously floating books had come to rest on his desk with a soft thud and were now waiting for him as he sat down to lean forward over the papers he had placed there. At first, his eyes scanned the words without actually seeing them so for a moment he closed them instead, taking a deep breath to clear his brain of sleepy fog.

This strategy, though it had worked in the past, was only proving to pull him further and further away from consciousness and closer to comfortable dozing. For a few seconds, he thought of opening his eyes...but they felt so heavy and it really was much more quiet this way…

The tip of his nose had just made contact with the desk when a loud knock from the other side of the room forced him upright again, clearing his throat as he blinked hard several times and shook some of his black hair from his face. Hands automatically reached out to hastily straighten and restack the papers before him, even though they had not moved since he had set them down.

"Yes?"

The voice that came from him was much deeper than normal and laced with drowsiness so he cleared his throat again quietly, linking his fingers together in front of him as the door opened. The sweeping bottom half of her robes preceded Professor McGonagall into the room before she paused, her eyes narrowing on Severus' upper half across from her. It was tempting to look away but he was already getting the idea that she knew what she had interrupted so he remained stoic as usual and merely blinked.

"Minerva," He greeted her in his usual level, disinterested voice. "It's still rather early…" his voice trailed off when she straightened up, her eyebrow twitching into a sharp arc.

"But unsurprisingly-," she cut across him. "you're already awake and apparently fully functioning." Her thin lips tightened in her attempt at a friendly grin. "So no harm done."

Several intense seconds passed here where Severus remained quiet, still too tired to use any of the responses his foggy brain was currently spinning. Luckily, he could tell Professor McGonagall was about to continue, her eyes now glancing around at the inside of his office, lingering distastefully on several of the jars containing the more gruesome-looking objects.

"I only wished to relay a message from Albus." She went on, pulling her eyes from the walls to make contact with his again. "He asked me to tell you he wanted to see you."

With a nod, Severus stood, for once glad at the chance to escape his dark cave of an office. Given he had not been interrupted, he might have slept for another hour or two sitting perfectly upright in his high-backed leather chair. Across the room, Minerva was still rather enraptured by the glass containers but upon clearing his throat a third time, she jumped slightly before exiting the room abruptly with one last contemptuous look.

After locating one of his long, black cloaks hung loosely over the back of a leather arm chair across from the fireplace, he swept from the room, closing the creaking door behind him. The soft whooshing noise of the light material trailing along in his wake was strangely comforting to him and he relished in the fact that he could actually hear it as he entered the tall spiral staircase that led to the upper levels of Hogwarts castle. The day that was coming however, September the first, would mark the end of whatever quiet loveliness Severus had so admired about the castle over the past twelve summers.

As he came upon the entrance to Headmaster Dumbledore's study, the stone gargoyle there immediately stepped aside, obviously having not been taught the new password yet. At the top of the moving spiral staircase, Severus knocked twice, pausing before a familiar voice from inside said "Enter"

The room was ticking as usual, slightly cluttered by silver, whirring instruments and large glass cases lining both of the handsomely adorned walls. As it was still fairly early, most of the previous headmasters were still sleeping in their frames, every now and again giving a snore or sigh from above him. Dumbledore was sitting at his enormous wooden desk across the room from the door, his half-moon shaped glasses perched on his crooked nose. The corners of his eyes wrinkled slightly in the genuine grin that met his face when he noticed the potions master standing there.

"Ah, Severus. Good morning." Dumbledore greeted him, setting down the large owl quill he had been writing with. "Please, sit down."

Severus obeyed, seating himself at one of the armchairs the headmaster had indicated. "You wished to see me?" he asked, hoping his tone had not sounded impatient but merely inquisitive and he sat up a bit straighter when Dumbledore nodded, smiling, but remained silent. The momentary lull in conversation was mercifully broken by the sound of the ticking instruments behind the desk and chairs.

"All of your lessons planned? Your tests written?" Dumbledore asked after surveying Severus from behind his glasses. He nodded.

"Yes," He replied, linking his fingers together in his lap as he privately admired the way Dumbledore made people feel as though he knew when they were not telling the truth.

"Are you prepared?"

Severus hesitated at first, knowing he heard the inflexion in the headmasters voice although he was not sure what meaning to take from it.

"Sir?"

Dumbledore was smiling placidly again, tilting his head to the side slightly.

"Severus, approximately three hundred excited students, including one Harry Potter, are set to arrive here tomorrow." He went on, clearly to do what he considered explaining himself although Severus was still unsure of what he was getting at. He remained quiet, hoping his silence would indicate his uncertainty. Dumbledore continued again, his smile now deepening the lines in his features.

"Twelve years is an expansive length of time, even to someone of age, like me." he paused, inclining his head slightly. "I merely wondered if after all this time you found yourself regretting any decisions you may…or may not have made."

Once again, Severus hesitated, focusing hard on keeping his eyes and features impassive while he wracked his brain quickly for an appropriate answer. After several seconds, he took in a short, restrained breath.

"I know what I have to do…" he answered at first. "However…" he went on, glancing upward as Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, linking his fingers together over the desk as though he had been expecting this from the youngest professor of his staff. "The same, constant questions every year, the same nagging little voices, the...cheek from Potter...and the loud chattering and the smallest ones cant stand the fumes and then the hospital wing and-…"

It took a few moments for Severus to regain his composure, but once he had managed to do so, he stopped short, exhaling heavily as he let his eyes fall to his hands still rested in his lap; his knuckles had turned white from squeezing his fingers together. It seemed, across from him, Dumbledore could sense that Severus had recently embarrassed himself by losing control of his complaints like that but nevertheless, it came as a slight comfort that the headmaster spoke next instead of letting that uncomfortable silence stretch on.

"There is no teacher, wizard nor Muggle that has not experienced exactly what you are feeling, Severus." He said wisely, his grin again wrinkling deep lines into his face. "It may be difficult at times, absolutely, I would never say it was easy. But those of us who consider themselves to be good teachers know that there is something more at the heart of it than just disrespectful comments and sick first-years."

Severus noticed that Dumbledore had chose to overlook his complaint concerning the Potter boy; he was not sure whether or not he was being reprimanded for his complaining.

"You are a good teacher, Severus." Dumbledore finally added, smiling peacefully at him. Bypassing a smile, he inclined his head in thanks. "And speaking of good teachers, our new Defense teacher will be arriving tomorrow as well. You see, she comes highly recommended by the most confident of sources and I really think she will make a great addition to our staff."

It took several moments for this last bit of information to sink in and Severus was almost positive that Dumbledore had let this slip in this fashion on purpose to throw him off. His eyebrows furrowed, wrinkling the small line between them as he looked up again.

"Excuse me for-…but…she?" he asked, purposely controlling the level and inflexion of his voice to prevent all evidence of annoyance or confusion from being picked up on by the headmaster. "Did you not already hire Remus Lupin for that post?"

Albus nodded, his calm features still as composed as ever. "Yes, Severus; she. And she is being brought on to assist Professor Lupin with the classes, should he find himself incapable of teaching at any point in time." He replied, raising his eyebrows slightly as he unlinked his fingers. "You've already agreed to keep him supplied with Wolfsbane potion so I trust you will use your most charming manners and assist Professor Dagrin if should she need it." There was a pause before the calm smile on Dumbledore's face disappeared, only for a second. "It would be nice to keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher on, long-term for once."

Although Dumbledore's tone had not changed and the smile was again present, his hand reached out for the quill he had abandoned previously to continue what he had been writing when Severus had entered. The hint was subtle but Severus picked up immediately that this conversation had now ended and that he was politely being dismissed.

The sound of his black shoes echoed copiously in the stone staircase as he approached the entrance to his dungeon office. Aggravation was deepening his gait, causing his normally somewhat quiet footfall to sound more heavy and deliberate. Although it was usually a habit of his to mask certain emotions, it was something of an art form and he was still learning; that, and he was very much alone.

At the door to his office, he wrenched it open in one fluid motion, striding into the middle of the room only to stop halfway into it and turn, as if stuck between staying and leaving. One of his hands came up to run irritably through his black hair as he took a deep breath, closing his eyes.

It was infuriating enough that one of his least favorite people had been hired for the position he so desired, but for some reason, as he paced the room, Severus could swear that Dumbledore had hired the first female Dark Arts teacher for the school merely to rub it in his face. Of course he knew that women were perfectly capable of the job, but it stung him so deeply to think that Dumbledore possibly thought that a woman could do the job better or more efficiently than him. However, upon second thought, it did not seem likely that Dumbledore's personality would permit him to purposefully do such a snide thing as that.

Dumbledore had been absolutely right, Severus realized as he sat down behind his desk heavily. Twelve years was indeed a long time and it seemed the strain was beginning to show. With his elbows on the desk before him, he buried his face in his hands, the tips of his fingers sliding into his front hairline. When it came down to it, he knew there was a duty to be fulfilled and if it was not for Dumbledore himself, Severus would probably be sitting at Spinner's End wallowing in a pit of misery…or else sitting in a cell at Azkaban. Students were much easier to deal with than dementors, even if they both somehow manage to suck a little of your soul out.

With that, Professor Snape picked up his own short, black quill to finish those lesson plans and that one lovely, all-essay test he had started for those blessed seventh-years…

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A/N: Thanks for reading my little prologue! Please go on to the first official chapter! And please leave a review! I'd love to know that my first posted HP fic is getting some love! -QoM