Plot, new characters, new magical terms and abilities etc. are my intellectual property. If you want to borrow then please kindly ask. JK Rowling's characters and Wizarding Universe are all uniquely hers. I don't make any money from this.

ALTERNATE UNIVERSE

Summary: Snape learns a lot about real love, acceptance and support in the aftermath of Dumbledore's death - and the Wizard he sacrificed so much for. Inspired by "The Unconditional Vow" by Agnus Castus. SS/OC Asperger's Syndrome

Author's Notes: Inspired by "The Unconditional Vow" by Agnus Castus on Occlumency . Sycophant Hex and ff . Net …

Chapter 017: New Order

Snape and the Carrows touched down on the road halfway between Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.

'Why not Apparate instead wasting so much time and energy?' Amycus Carrow grumbled.

'As neither of you is an alumnus, particularly well-read on the history of Hogwarts or blessed with a good memory, let me take this opportunity to point out (again) that is impossible to Apparate to the school or its grounds and the same is true in the reverse. As you have also never spent any time in the area, let alone Scotland itself, the chance of you actually finding our destination and in a reasonable amount of time without my assistance is not inconsequential.'

'Inconsequential?' Alecto parroted with a vacant look while looking at her equally gormless brother.

Hogwarts's newest Headmaster let out a deep breath as he walked ahead of them, counting to ten in his head. He wasn't one for praying to the Goddess but he just might have to make an exception or a few to get through the dark times ahead lumbered with these dunderheads.

OOO

Snape's first order of business once he and the Carrows were inside Hogwarts was to get the loathsome siblings situated where they could do the least amount of interfering with the rest of the population. He assigned them to quarters and offices in a disused corridor on the Fifth Floor after showing them the Muggle Studies and Defense Against the Dark Arts classrooms on the First. He counted on them being so enchanted by their newly elevated station in life that they would not complain about the arrangement and the Carrows did not disappoint. It did not occur them demand that their personal quarters have links to their offices and that both of those have direct links to their classrooms (as with the Heads of Houses).

He left them near their quarters with instructions to liaise with the newly-appointed Minister of Education and get their teaching materials in order. He would need to see their lesson plan for the year as soon as possible and a revised book list would need to be owled to incoming students by the end of that week.

'A plan? For the entire year?" Alecto hissed. "Why in bloody hell do we...'

'Do I really have to remind you that this is your first year of tenure and with a brand new curriculum?" Snape replied in a bored tone. "Of course if you prefer to go against the Dark Lord's wishes, do feel free to call upon him directly to explain yourselves and good luck with that...'

'The Dark Lord already knows...' Alecto interrupted.

'Established protocols will still be followed, I can assure you. All lesson plans for the year are filed with the Ministry in advance to be approved by the Minister of Education and the Office of the Minister of Magic,' Snape spat, cutting her short. 'This is as true for returning staff teaching the established curriculum here as it is for the Wizarding Home Education Authority. More importantly, it will provide the necessary proof to the Dark Lord that you are carrying out his orders as good servants ought! He will not look upon you favourably should he have to summon you to ascertain this for himself – and before you prattle on any further let me remind you that for the moment the only time I am expected to give an accounting of your performance is if you fail to serve me adequately in the professional capacity in which you now fortunately find yourselves. Questioning my authority is non-negotiable, as was pointed out to you by the Dark Lord himself! This is the last time I will comment on this to either of you!'

'He's got a point,' Amycus growled resentfully. 'His Lordship will want proof that we're doing as we were told with the teaching and that; it's not like we've had much schooling let alone teaching experience. If he has to summon us...'

'If it's all the same to you I'd rather not have to go down to the West Country for a good while,' Alecto sniffed.

'You are Hogwarts Professors now. As such, you will adhere to the basic professional standard expected of all Senior teaching staff. Your lesson plan and any related reference materials will be on my desk no later than Friday afternoon. The Dark Lord will consult with the Minister of Education in a week's time at the very least with the start of the new term being not so far off.'

'Senior teaching staff?' Alecto asked.

'Yes; Senior! You are not lowly assistants doing grunt work! You have been granted full tenured Professorships with commensurate generous salaries and benefits including bonuses. With such rewards comes significant responsibilities,' Snape said in his oiliest voice. 'Far be it from me to make presumptions – but if I were you, I would be thinking about the long-term. These roles are for life, should you be amenable and prove yourselves adequate to the task. This war won't last forever. Once it is over you need never have to make your living soiling your hands with thuggery outside of this school ever again if you play your cards right. You don't want to give the Dark Lord pause to regret bestowing this honour on you, especially given your lack of qualifications for the job to begin with, and I would so hate to trouble him with a negative report. You could do very well for yourselves here, far more than you have considered.'

'I never thought of it that way,' Amycus admitted. 'Something to be said for an office-type job. And the more distance I can keep between me and that trouble-making nutter Bellatrix, the better!'

'Then remember that the next time you dare question a directive from me,' Snape ordered. 'I will not brook any opposition to my authority – is that understood?!'

'If you're asking if you'll have any more problems with us Headmaster, you won't,' Alecto said quickly.

'No Sir, you won't at all,' said her brother, thinking fleetingly of the sumptuous quarters and office that were better than anything he and his sister had grown up with. 'We wouldn't want you or the Dark Lord to think bad of us!'

OOO

Snape wasted no time in securing the Headmaster's Office and the adjacent quarters along with adding his own security enhancements to the castle and grounds – as any new Headmaster would be expected to do. Making the necessary adjustments before the rest of the staff arrived was vital especially in light of the extenuating circumstances surrounding his promotion.

Dumbledore feigned sleep in his Headmaster's portrait in the office, as did a number of the others with one notable exception.

'So, we meet again after all, just as Dumbledore said we would – Headmaster Snape, is it now?' Phineas Nigellus Black called out from his portrait opposite Snape's new desk. Though he had been 78 when he died, his portrait had been painted depicting him at the age he'd been when he'd been appointed – not much older than Snape was now. Phineas had the look of a haughty intellectual, resplendent as he was in fine robes of the Slytherin house colours with his midnight black hair and dark brown eyes as he stared down his aquiline nose at the latest lamb for slaughter.

'It is,' the new Headmaster replied simply with a flick of his hands, changing the colour motif of the rooms to Slytherin green and silver. It wasn't his preference at all, but was another of those things to be expected by the man or woman in charge upon assuming office.

'There hasn't been a Slytherin Headmaster since my time.'

'Indeed there hasn't.'

Snape took his seat at the Headmaster's desk for the first time and listened attentively to what the late Headmaster had to say, since it was he who had been elected spokesperson on behalf of the portrait gallery.

'You can rely on all of us to serve you well.'

'All of you?'

Though the role of portraits was to give advice to the current Headmaster or Headmistress, it had not been one that Phineas Nigellus Black enjoyed or fully cooperated with. He was known for being the least popular Headmaster in the history of the school, though no one was entirely sure of the details. He had thus far proven to be as cantankerous in death as he had reputed to have been in life, as Snape himself had witnessed more times than he cared to remember during his meetings with Dumbledore while he was still alive.

But having a Slytherin in charge – well this was different.

'Yes, all of us.'

XxxxOOOxxxX

Nerys had come close to having meltdown after Snape was summoned and lost a few days needing to recover. Fortunately it took that long for the Daily Prophet to report that Severus Snape had been appointed to the role of Headmaster by the new Minister of Magic, Pius Thicknesse. It was just one of many unexpected and very dramatic changes taking place.

'Pull yourself together,' came his voice faintly in her head as she wept over the crumpled-up newspaper.

What she wouldn't give to be able to see him... to touch him... to hear his admonishments in person.

Nerys wished that she and her lover had the power to communicate so easily across the miles that separated them. But all she had was her own conscience and intuition. Though she'd promised Severus she would relocate to Anglesey, her gut feeling was that to do so now would be too soon. Why, she had no idea – but following her intuition had always proven to be the right thing to do.

She would stay put a while longer and let things take their natural course.

XxxxOOOxxxX

Nerys travelled to London the following day under the protection of a Dark Glamour and combination of powerful enchantments that guaranteed travel unnoticed. She'd packed all of Severus's things and miniatured the trunks, placing them in a small, plainly-wrapped box that an Owl could deliver without much trouble. It was no different than the average parcel from the Honeyduke's sweet shop or Flourish & Blott's bookstore – with the exception of powerful security charms that no one but Snape himself could disarm.

She walked into Swift's Self-Service Courier under the cover of rain and paid for delivery. The fee was the same for long-distance deliveries regardless of destination and so was spared the awkwardness of needing to answer any questions she wouldn't have answered anyway. Murgatroyd Swift was too busy listening to his wireless to pay any attention to her, so Nerys ducked around the corner where a window was propped open and used one of the owls to hand to send Severus his package.

Though it wasn't necessary, she Obliviated Swift on her way out so that he would have no memory of his first visitor of the day.

XxxxOOOxxxX

Several days later Nerys was woken up by the sound of tapping at her bedroom window. She looked at the creature with suspicion given that she wasn't expecting to hear from anyone now that she'd dropped out of sight. She opened the window and the owl dropped the package it was carrying into her hands.

'What the hell is this all about?' she grumbled, fighting a feeling of unease as the animal hooted and flapped its wings excitedly.

Once the creature was reassured that it had captured her undivided attention it stuck out a leg. Nerys sighed as she fished out a few silver sickles from her bedside table drawer and stuffed them into the proffered change bag attached to the owl's leg. She watched as the owl took flight, seemingly eager to get back to wherever it was that it had come from.

The owl forgotten, the former Unspeakable looked at the package suspiciously once more and then spent nearly half and hour checking it for curses and hexes. Only when she was reasonably satisfied that she wouldn't be killed or somehow maimed or incapacitated did she open it.

There were three boxes nested inside and she reached the final one which contained a large rectangular ornamental mahogany box. Once she broke the wards on the locked box the content looked to be a heavy Slytherin Quidditch scarf, the sort the House team wore on cold game days. She removed it carefully, suspecting there had to be more to this seemingly urgent delivery than a scarf she had no intention of ever wearing.

She unfolded it carefully and an ornate black leather case with a monogrammed "H" in royal blue and silver was revealed. She unzipped the case and drew out a green drawstring bag of heavy velvet, also monogrammed but a green and silver "S". Inside was a portrait, quite a grand one from the looks of things but small enough to carry around in a handbag.

'Greetings and Salutations, Miss Pendragon,' the man in the portrait said.

'I... I know you, somehow – don't I?'

'In a manner of speaking, yes. The last time you saw me was at Hogwarts, in the Headmaster's Office.'

'What the...'

'Let me refresh your memory: I helped you with concealing a certain item there; a certain item that the new Headmaster has now found and secured.'

'Phineas Nigellus Black!' Nerys gasped.

'The one and only,' Phineas answered with a smirk.

'But how...?'

'Not up to your usual standard if you really needed to ask that.'

'He's lost his damn mind!'

'I can assure you that Headmaster Snape is in full control of his faculties – well as much as he can be with the dunderheaded gruesome twosome around.'

'You came from him alright with language like that! So – what's going on? Why this?!'

'I would have thought it obvious. For someone reputed to be the cleverest Witch of her age you seem incredibly thick...'

'And you're still as big a gaping haemorrhoidal arsehole as you ever were!'

'Still speaking as you find; enchanting,' Phineas replied in a bored tone. 'If you would prefer to be left to your own devices then by all means, do cut your nose off to spite your face and destroy this portrait it's of no consequence to me.'

'Cut the crap; if you really couldn't be arsed then you wouldn't have agreed to this in the first place and you know damn well that he'd take a torch to your office portrait for pushing me to do it!'

'Touché, Dear Lady, touché. I'll report that you have received and accepted the Headmaster's little gift, shall I?'

'By all means,' Nerys glowered.

She supposed she ought to be relieved, but for the moment the former Unspeakable was ready to ring Snape's neck.