Severus Snape walked the late night corridors of Hogwarts with his hands clasped tightly behind his back. It would be his first year of teaching Potions, and serving two masters that each wanted him to spy on the other for him.
That did not weigh upon his mind, though.
Severus would also be the new Head of Slytherin House and as each day passed while he inspected the House, his quarters, and set up his classroom, a newer responsibility than that of spy began to worm its way into his heart; just as Lily had charged him with the protection of her son, so would he now be the protector of the students of his House.
He could not tell you when, even before their arrival, he began thinking of them as 'my children'.
The Potions Master was a young man; recently he had concluded his apprenticeship that had been paid for by Lucius Malfoy at the Dark Lord's instruction. He kept telling himself he was not looking forward to teaching dunderheads, but the truth he would not even admit to himself was that he simply wanted to do well by these students who were looking to him for knowledge. He wanted to find students to whom he could pass on his skills to.
"Severus, you are up late. Shouldn't you be in bed and resting for tomorrow?"
It was Headmaster Dumbledore; eyes twinkling at this dark hour.
Twinkling and smiling at me, Severus sneered and groused to himself.
Severus bowed deferentially (a habit he would soon break himself of) towards his superior. "I find I am unable to sleep as I go over what I shall say to my chil..." He caught the slip, but sneered as he realised that Dumbledore had caught him almost saying the word 'children' aloud.
"Quite all right, Severus," interrupted the old man before the young wizard could correct himself and finish what he intended to say. "I rather think each of my Heads of Houses should look upon the students as their children. It strengthens the bond between adult and child."
...and maintains the rivalry between the Houses that you foster, Dumbledore, chided Severus. Again, he kept his words to himself. Later, much later, the forms of etiquette between employer and employee would no longer matter to Severus. He would speak his mind just as easily as not since Dumbledore never would mind the young man's temper.
"Go to bed, young Severus. You will need your rest." The Headmaster dismissed his youngest staff member, and as he turned away he sighed to himself. Already it ached knowing that the young man's life would be so hard on him. Lily Potter was safe in hiding with her husband James, and newly born son, and Albus knew that preyed on the young man's mind. With another sigh he returned to his tower, and bed.
AFTER THE WELCOME FEAST ~ 1 Sept.
Severus stared at the common room full of Slytherins. For a moment his gaze lingered on the newest Slytherins, the first years, who all huddled together.
Like prisoners of the Dark Lord awaiting his judgement, Severus remarked to himself.
"Gather yourselves," Severus said in a voice not quite loud enough to carry through the entire common room. For a moment he thought to use the Sonorous Charm on his voice but some instinct deep down warned him that would be a mistake.
Drawing his teaching robes close about himself Severus took one step further into the common room. Not raising his tone, but adding a thread of threat, he repeated himself, "Gather yourselves. At. Once."
The effect was immediate as every student that had been watching their new Head of House owlishly quickly moved to stand at attention, like little soldiers, yet haphazard. With the exception of the still huddled first years.
"Assemble together in your years, Snakes. And do not make me wait."
Once again his dark, silken tone was quickly obeyed as the Slytherins all reassembled themselves so that they were now standing side-by-side, and then each year creating a new layer.
"Very good," Severus softly approved.
Severus swept smoothly past and around his Snakes until he stood before them again.
"We. Are. Slytherins." He eyed each student and did not speak until at least each one had squirmed uncomfortably. "To be a Slytherin does not equate to... evil. Therefore, if I will not accept that I am evil then I expect that none of my Snakes will either. This means that we are now... family. It is the responsibility of each of us to look out for the other. You are now brothers and sisters, and family never betrays family."
A very tentative hand from a new first year rose slowly. The hand was attached to a freckle-faced child with impossible, bushy hair. Quickly he scanned his memory of her Sorting to capture her name.
"Miss Parchetal? You have a question. Speak." His gaze dropped to her pale blue eyes and he saw that she gulped and stepped closer to another first year. She was Emily Anne Parchetal, the last of the Pureblood Parchetals. Moderately well-to-do, but not rich.
The child gulped a second time. "Sir, if we're family; brothers and sisters does that... does that make you our father?"
There were a few soft gasps of shock from the older children, and a few snickers, too. Severus quelled them all by glaring at each of the ones who dared to ridicule the girl.
"Family," he intoned darkly. "Supports one another." He then turned that dark gaze to the small girl and he gave her a simple nod. "If it will make each of you understand what I am charging you with in your time here as Slytherins, then you may think of me as your... father."
Rules were given, bedtimes assigned, and a change in diet for all Snakes announced. Many new changes for the Slytherins but nothing quite had the impact as the young Potions Master's first words; his declaration of family. The older students felt a strange relief they had not known before, and many smiled. Amongst all of the Slytherins there was now a sense of belonging that had not been there for any of them at Hogwarts.
JUST BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Severus Snape roamed the halls of Hogwarts with more confidence than what he had felt at the beginning of term. He was settled with his 'children', his Snakes, he felt comfortable with his classes (even though most of them were dunderheads), and he felt most settled in his role as teacher and Head of Slytherin House.
Until one night he came across Miss Emily Anne Parchetal sitting on the floor not far outside of Slytherin House, in tears, and mournfully gripping that bushy hair of hers.
"Miss Parchetal, you are in danger of breaking curfew. Do you not think it would be..."
Severus did not finish his admonishment as the girl dropped her head into her hands with an anguished wail.
The teacher rolled his eyes. "Do stop that noise, Miss Parchetal!" he snapped. As she lifted those tear-stained, freckled cheeks up, and his dark gaze beheld her watered blue eyes, he sighed. A little softer he inquired, "Whatever is the matter, Miss Parchetal?"
Taking out a handkerchief (her teacher had scolded her earlier in the week for wiping her dirty nose on her sleeve) she wiped her eyes and blew her nose. Once nearly presentable, she started sniffling. Through sniffles she replied, "The older girls are making fun of me, an' so are some of the boys. Handy (Matthew Handel Whitticomb) told me I ought to braid my hair, but it... it hates me! I can't braid!"
Again the eyeroll, but there was a touch of understanding in his tight-lipped expression. Severus had heard some students from other Houses making fun of the small Snake, and he admitted she really did have the most atrocious, bushy hair; too much of it, really.
Conjuring a bench, he Summoned a book from the depths of the Hogwarts Library. Until the book arrived (about five minutes) he seated himself, situating the drape of his robes behind himself elegantly, he bade the girl to get up off the floor. With her facing him he took out his own handkerchief, and using a silent, gentle charm of cleaning, he wiped away the tears.
"I will speak to those in our House, Miss Parchetal, for we Slytherins must stick together and making jest of one another goes quite against my rules." Emily Anne nodded, sniffled, and when Severus put the handkerchief to her nose, she obediantly blew. He Vanished the used handkerchief, heard the nearly whisper-quiet whooshing of the arriving book he had Summoned, and caught it deftly in an upraised hand.
The title, in large block letters, was in Greek. Severus knew what it said from an old Translation Spell he had crafted when still a student. It was: The Styling of A Wytch Chyld's Hair by Elmira Gump.
Emily Anne watched quietly as her Head of House began to quickly flick the pages in the book. He paused at one section, glanced at the child's hair, and shook his head. A few seconds later he paused again, studied the spell that was there, glanced up at the girl, and nodded. He then flipped a few more pages, and barked, "There tis!"
Putting the book down on the bench beside himself he grasped the child's shoulders, turned her so that her back faced him, then frowned. With a slight sigh of exasperation he parted his knees, pulled the child much closer. As an afterthought he closed his knees upon her hips.
"Do not move, Miss Parchetal. I have not done this before so it may not be perfect," he practically confessed. Glancing down at the book, he glared at her bushey hair, then grasped it in both hands; an action that could have been harsh but his fingers were gentle.
The braiding was not an easy thing to master; Severus blamed the girl's unruly hair, and twice he had to start the braid again. Finally, though, he continued the braid with confidence, without looking at the book, and finished it. He conjured a small rubberband, in black, and tied off the braid.
Severus, now finished with his handiwork, pushed the girl from him and turned her around to face him. He scrutinised his work, glared at a few curls that had escaped his fingers (and the braid), but all in all he deemed it to be satisfactory.
"There, Miss Parchetal," he pronounced. He watched as the girl fingered the rough, yet nearly perfect braid. She smiled and Severus felt his heart tighten at the sight of that smile of gratitude and relief.
"Thank you, sir," she whispered. But her smile faded and Severus knew that something was still wrong.
Again she fingered the braid, started to shrug, but then swallowed and began softly, "I like the braid, sir, but what do I do after today? I still don't know how to do this."
With a nod Severus stood, picked up the book, and Vanished the bench. "Before breakfast tomorrow, you will come to my office and I shall teach you the technique." He then dismissed the girl, noting that it was nearly curfew, and made his way to the Charms Professor's office.
He would need to ask Filius for a few spells that would make his life easier.
Little did the new teacher know that puberty was just on the horizon...