The Golden Elixir

Disclaimer: I assume everyone in the world is aware of who owns the Harry Potter characters (hint, it isn't me). I'm just borrowing them momentarily. There are a few OCs in this which are mine, as was dictated by plot needs. If anyone wishes to borrow any of them, just ask. To JKR and her lawyers: Please don't sue me--I am not making any money off this in any way, and I assure you, it would not be worth your time.

Raison d'etre: I've been reading fan fiction for about three months now, and although there is a huge amount on one of my favourite characters, Severus Snape, there is much less on Albus Dumbledore, who probably heads my list of intriguing Potter people. So this is my attempt to rectify that for any other Albusphiles out there. Hope you like it. Eventually, this will be a pretty long fic comprising three books.

Chapter One

The dungeon smelled of potion supplies and ancient mildew. The myriad long- dead things in jars gave it a familiar feel to the tall wizard who drew his black cloak nervously around him as he carefully descended the last staircase. The hidden crypt below the main dungeon was his destination. It contained, he had been assured, the rarest of ingredients protected by powerful wards. It was a customary set-up, very similar to that of his own dungeons hundreds of miles away, yet there was something not quite right about it. The conspicuous lack of impediments in his search so far worried him, especially considering the value of some of the treasures he had seen upstairs. He paused slightly to run long fingered hands cautiously over the rough, scarred wood of the final door. A faint, but insistent voice in the back of his mind was screaming at him not to lift the iron latch, but he found himself doing it anyway, almost as if some other power was directing his movements. Which, he supposed, it was--Albus Dumbledore had been most specific in his instructions, and Severus Snape was not about to argue with his employer, benefactor and, occasionally, friend; especially not when that individual also happened to be one of the world's most powerful wizards.

The door squeaked open with a loud protest from its seldom-used hinges, providing him with a narrow entrance. Inside was almost completely dark, save for a small blue light that was extinguished almost as soon as Snape glanced in its direction. Had it not been for the faint after effects on his vision, he might have been persuaded that he had imagined it. As it was . . .

Moving with cat-like silence, Snape edged away from the door and the faint light from the stairs that no doubt lit his figure perfectly for an attack, while simultaneously liberating a small potion vial from the bandoleer of similar bottles he had slung across his chest. He felt his way along the slimy rocks behind him, wishing he had thought to use a sight adjustment charm before descending the stairs, but realising that even the faint whisper needed to do so now might betray his whereabouts. He listened carefully, but heard nothing from the other presence in the room. The small amount of light leaking in from the almost dark stairs was useless, illuminating nothing beyond a few feet of rough- hewn stones immediately surrounding the entrance. According to Albus' map, it was also the only exit.

Snape quickly reviewed his options while continuing to listen for any trace of movement from his silent companion. He was still fairly near the door, and could possibly make a successful escape, especially considering the numerous rather nasty potions he had available to toss behind him into the room. He could, if he chose, turn the small, windowless cubicle into a roaring inferno or suck all the oxygen from the air; he could create fumes so toxic that breathing them for a split second would cause almost immediate death, or use a slight variation to prolong the agony for days-- although with the same end result. He could even simply cause the chamber to collapse upon itself, although that would entail the destruction of its priceless contents and constitute a direct violation of his orders.

He sighed inwardly. He knew he should have brought back up, but it had seemed too risky; most of his colleagues evidenced an appalling lack of respect toward potion supplies. They insisted on acting as if everything was as innocuous as beetles' eyes or summer slugs, and would probably have handled the delicate and often volatile mixes Albus had assured him he would find in Zosimus' stores without a thought to the danger. He had ultimately decided to go alone, the lure of being first to gaze upon the master's private workrooms summoning in him an enthusiasm he had not felt for anything in decades.

Appolonius Zosimus, one of the greatest potion masters ever born, had been almost a complete recluse, never showing his face at conferences nor deigning to reply either to queries from admirers or critics of his work. In the past two decades he had kept so much to himself that many had erroneously believed him dead, a supposed fact that had been reported in the press on no less than three separate occasions. The predictions had been somewhat premature; in fact, the master had died only shortly before Albus arrived in Snape's rooms--could it be only a few hours ago?--to inform him of the fact. Snape had known it must be something important for the Headmaster to disturb him at almost one in the morning; even though he knew Severus to be a chronic insomniac, he would never have intruded at such an odd time without good cause. But cause there had been.

As he gazed sightlessly into the most private of all of the maze of storerooms beneath Zosimus' farmhouse, Snape's primary emotion was still excitement over the wonders that were almost certainly inches from his fingertips, despite his trepidation over the fact that someone had managed to arrive before him. Albus had unnecessarily reminded Snape that Zosimus, once his ally in the war against Grindelwald, had been the foremost brewer of battle potions in the world, before his experiments into even more dangerous areas consumed all of his time. Merlin only knew what stores of lethal weapons he still had in his massive potions vaults, incongruously located under an innocuous-looking farmhouse outside Vincennes, France. His supplies could be a great help to their side in the current war, or a catastrophe were they to fall into Voldemort's hands. Severus had been given a map of the labyrinthine storerooms and a list of what old passwords Albus could remember, along with orders to retrieve all that he could and to destroy the rest. He had increased his chances of getting out of Zosimus' vaults alive by bringing his own store of lethal concoctions, none of which he had so far had to employ. He should have known it had been too easy.

The small room now erupted in a blinding flash of amethyst light, and he had the vague impression of a figure darting from the far left towards him before he was hit with the strongest stunning spell he had ever encountered. He was thrown back several feet before his head met the stone of the wall and he almost blacked out, only the shielding charm Albus had cast on him just before he disapparated allowed him to remain conscious. He was weak and disoriented, and the blazing light seared his eyes as he forced them open. Nonetheless, he managed to duck, rather inelegantly, under a large, heavy oak table before throwing the potion vial he still clasped in his hand. He could not see a target, but did not really need one with that particular brew; its fumes alone were enough to fell a charging elephant in seconds. He had, of course, taken the antidote before leaving Hogwarts, but the wave of heat from the exploded mixture and the heavy, if to him harmless, fumes increased the pounding in his skull.

He relaxed slightly, knowing that no one could long survive contact with the mixture he had just hurled, but was given no time to reorient himself before a figure crashed into him, causing Severus to hit the floor rather heavily. With a barely human screech, his attacker began banging his already tender head against the unrelenting stones of the floor. He could get no clear view of him, only a vague impression of long dark hair and black robes, but just as he felt consciousness about to slip away, the assault stopped as suddenly as it had begun. Snape was unceremoniously hauled off the floor and thrown onto a nearby stool. He staggered, but did not fall, mainly because two amazingly small hands grasped the front of his robes and dragged him to within inches of an enraged pair of caramel coloured eyes. It took him a few seconds to realise that the furious individual bending over him was not only female, but familiar. A loud clatter from the direction of the stairs diverted her attention momentarily and Severus used the chance to pull free of her surprisingly strong grasp. He reached for his wand but didn't find it, however the witch's attention was no longer focused on him. "Bloody hell!" She jumped for the door just as a heavy iron studded barrier slammed down in front it with a resounding clang. They were sealed in.

Severus regarded the woman, who stood staring in apparent shock at the barrier, with considerable irritation. He did not know her name, but had seen her several times recently either just entering or leaving a conference with Albus, so he assumed that she was some sort of ally whom the Headmaster was keeping under wraps for the present. There had been many unknown visitors at Hogwarts since the war began to escalate--some introduced to Snape if he happened across them during one of his night-time perambulations about the castle, but some not. She had definitely been in the latter category, with Albus making no attempt on the two occasions Snape had chanced upon her to acquaint them. However, an ally she obviously was, or Albus would certainly not have allowed her into Hogwarts, which was currently as protected as if it were already under the siege they were daily expecting. Her treatment of him he might therefore have been willing to excuse, especially as she had obviously been as surprised to see him as he was to encounter her. However, the tirade of abuse, some of which was phrased in language even Severus had rarely heard voiced--and certainly not by a petite young woman--which she unleashed on him did not improve his temper.

He ignored her ranting long enough to scan the floor for and to retrieve his wand, which her assault had knocked from its usual receptacle in his left sleeve. "Oh do shut up," he finally interjected sourly. "Your stupid impetuosity in attacking me before you even ascertained my identity is what landed us in this predicament, and now I suppose it is up to me to get us out." Pointing his ebony wand at the portal, he prepared to mutter a simple blasting spell to remove the barrier, but found himself tackled again.

"DON'T!" The obviously mental woman grappled with him, concentrating on trying to wrench the wand from his grasp. Once again Snape found himself on the floor beneath the attractive young female, and he did not like it any better the second time around.

"Woman, get off me!" Her elbow connected with a particularly sensitive point in his anatomy and Snape howled, throwing her roughly to the side and leaping to his feet. It was absolutely imperative he get that damn door open before her insanity caused any damage to the room's contents. Once they were on the other side of the portal, he would be able to think more clearly, not to mention get a fresh breath of air as his previous potion still circulated in ominous grey/green clouds. Before she could stop him, Snape cast the strongest blasting spell he knew. He would have preferred to use another potion, but with the air already contaminated and considering the enclosed space, he didn't dare. The girl at his feet screamed, whether in fear or rage he wasn't sure, and cast some sort of golden net about the two of them as she jerked him back to the floor.

At the same moment, all hell broke loose. It seemed for a few minutes as if the entire dungeon was collapsing around them. Bottles and vials flew off the shelves to crash against walls, floor and, in a few cases, ceiling. Multicoloured clouds quickly filled the room, obscuring any view, except for the streaks of red ricocheting off every available surface as if a hundred wizards were casting spells simultaneously. The golden web served as some type of shield, Snape realised faintly, as a stream of red slammed into his right thigh. An incomplete shield, it seemed, as his leg, although probably not broken, felt as if someone had attacked him with a large hammer. It was then that he understood that the room must be safeguarded in some way; its magically sealed surface was causing his own blasting spell to be reflected back on them from a dozen directions.

The spell gradually grew fainter, and finally petered out entirely, albeit not before destroying virtually everything in the room. Not that that was immediately apparent. It took Snape several minutes of relative quiet, broken only by low, almost incoherent swearing from the woman at his side, before he dared to poke his rather long nose out from beneath the sturdy worktable which had, amazingly, remained largely intact. At first he saw nothing but swirling, noxious clouds; the multitude of smells that accompanied them made even the experienced potion master want to gag. He refrained, but took his time getting to his feet as the room swum sickeningly around him. He had already realised that his companion must have taken a similar regimen of antidotes to the one he had consumed, or she would almost certainly be dead now. Judging from her continued cursing, which had now grown slightly louder, she was still in the land of the living, although for how much longer Severus could not be sure. Prolonged exposure to any potent potion was inadvisable, even with the antidote, and he doubted if either of them had ingested something to compensate for all the hundreds of gases that were currently swimming about the room. They had to get out that door, and soon, unless Albus didn't mind the prospect of a potion's master with an extra head or two.

"You bloody stupid IDIOT!" The witch had also scrambled to her feet and seemed almost beside herself with rage. "If we weren't probably already dead, I'd kill you!"

Snape was preparing a suitably snarky reply when he was hit by a wave of nausea accompanied by pain unlike anything he had previously experienced-- enough to make cruciatus seem like child's play. His entire body seemed to be being literally ripped apart, almost on the cellular level; the various methods he had perfected over the years for dealing with physical discomfort were useless against this type of agony. As he fell to the floor, curling instinctively into a foetal position, darkness flooded over him; the last thing he heard before mercifully losing consciousness was his companion's screams.

* * *

Delaia came around under a large canopy of oak limbs that was doing a fair job of shading her from a bright, noon-day sun. She tried to sit up, but quickly discovered her mistake as she was immediate sick. She felt worse than she could ever remember, which was saying something considering a few of her past experiences. She kept her eyes closed until the earth stopped spinning and, when she made her second attempt to move into an upright position some time later, she managed it without repercussions.

She was in a familiar enough spot--the glade outside her uncle's barn--but there was no barn there now, nor any other outbuildings, farmhouse, or anything familiar except the winding road leading toward town and the ancient apple grove in which she had played as a child. Delaia rubbed her eyes with a weary hand and wondered why, if the buildings had all been destroyed in whatever had happened to her, there was no evidence of that fact in view. No charred wood or tumbled stone marred the gentle tranquillity of the scene, no large hole was evident in the ground, and even the earth itself looked undisturbed, as if no huge series of dungeons had ever been carved within it.

The only incongruous note to what would otherwise have been a perfect bucolic scene was the black lump moaning on the ground beside her. Delaia refrained---barely--from giving it a swift kick as she forced her protesting muscles to lever her to her feet. An almost preternaturally white hand snaked out from under the bundle of robes and grabbed her ankle. She sighed, but shook it off relatively gently. If the clues added up to what she thought they did, she was going to need the bastard, so hexing him into next week was probably not a good idea. Later, she promised herself. We'll sort this mess out, get back to where--or when--we're supposed to be, and then I'll hex him. A few really nasty curses floated across her mind and she smiled in anticipation. Her schedule arranged to her satisfaction, she bumped the lump with her shoe. "Get up. We need to talk."

The lump moaned and failed to even manage a seated position, although it did roll over. Snape shielded his face from the glare of the sun with a hand, and groaned louder. Delaia sighed, and propped him against the trunk of the oak. "Are you lucid?" She tried peering into his eyes, but they were scrunched up against something--her presence, the light, who knew.

"We have to get to Hogwarts. Can you apparate?"

Snape's eyes finally opened and he fixed her with a scowl. "How the hell should I know? I . . . " He broke off in time to be sick.

Well, at least he was alive. Delaia supposed that was something.

"Here." She handed him a small vial of the stomach-soothing elixir her uncle had always insisted she carry in case apparating might be necessary. She had never learned to do it without queasiness.

Snape sniffed it dubiously, but must have recognised it from the smell alone, and gulped it. In a few seconds, his colour, such as there was, began to return and he managed to struggle to his feet. As he looked around for the first time, Delaia could see no moment of recognition. Well, perhaps he was not as familiar with the area as she; in fact, he may never even have seen it in daylight, whereas she had spent most of her childhood here. It was also possible, she conceded, that Albus had not told him precisely what experiments her uncle had been working on lately. Oh lovely, she thought sourly, this should be fun.

It took her the better part of an hour and a trip to the edge of Vincennes to convince him, and even then, his scepticism was almost palpable.

"Well what else could this be, unless you think I somehow engineered the world's biggest illusion just to annoy you?" She was beginning to lose patience, never her strong suit anyway, as he continued to throw out objections. They had settled into a small café after transmogrifying their potion-stained robes into appropriate muggle street wear, although of another type than Delaia was used to wearing. She missed her jeans, and these corsets were murder. How had muggle women ever been persuaded that squeezing your inner organs into half the intended space was a smart idea?

"I simply refuse to believe," the annoying creature opposite her was saying, "that Albus would countenance experiments of such a nature. Even time turners are closely regulated, and they only work over a 24-hour period. This is madness!"

For once, Delaia found herself in agreement with the greasy bastard, as she had voiced the same concerns on several occasions, both to Albus and to her uncle. She was not about to admit as much to Snape, however, who annoyed her just by sitting there. He looked, she decided, no more appealing in 19th century attire than he had in his dusty robes. His face had returned to what she supposed was its normal, sallow colour, but the expression on it was forbidding in the extreme. She couldn't help but notice that, while the café owner had given her a pleasant smile of welcome, he had avoided their table ever since Snape had snarled at him, albeit in perfect French, about taking too long delivering their coffees.

"I know it seems risky, but in case you haven't noticed, we've been losing the war," she hissed, hoping he would take the hint and lower his voice. With her luck, the beefy French farmhands at the next table would turn out to be English-speaking spies. Although, the logical part of her mind chimed in, who exactly would they be spying for? Voldemort hadn't even been born yet. For the first time since she woke up, she gave a genuine smile. Deciding after a minute that THAT thought deserved better, she laughed, and ordered some champagne from the startled café owner.

"What the hell is the matter with you?"

"I just realised. This is 1855." She waved the front page of a Parisian newspaper left by a previous patron under his nose. "Voldemort doesn't exist yet."

Snape just stared at her for a moment, then began muttering something indistinct and agitatedly removing clothes. The barman sat the bottle Delaia had ordered on a nearby table and fled. She smilingly retrieved it. Whatever Snape's problem was--too hot, a sudden desire to go skinny- dipping, whatever--she didn't care. There was very little likely to interfere with the sudden feeling of pure joy that the thought of a Voldemort-free world induced. She poured herself a glass and watched as, God knew why, her companion sat staring at his left forearm in what looked like shock. She couldn't imagine what was wrong with him--his arm looked perfectly fine to her, if a bit pale.

"Did you hurt yourself?"

"No. I . . . " He looked up at her with something approaching wonder in his obsidian eyes. "You're telling the truth. This is 1855."

Delaia rolled her eyes and drank more champagne. "Obviously," she remarked, waving her free hand around at the café patrons in their antique clothes, the horses and carriages passing on the road outside, and the general strangeness of everything. She was in a good enough mood to interject more diplomacy into her conversation than normal. "Look, I know this must all seem very strange to you, and yes, I know time-travel is prohibited for some very good reasons, but since we didn't PLAN this to happen, I don't think a cell in Azkaban awaits us on our return. If we manage to return that is, which is what we need to discuss."

He looked around, apparently finally accepting the reality of the situation. "Not here."

Delaia agreed, but took the champagne as Snape obliviated the café owner into believing they had already paid him. She had some francs on her--she usually carried an emergency stash of muggle money--but they were unlikely to be much good under the circumstances. They walked back along the road toward the now non-existent farmhouse, while she elucidated what was probably their best course of action.

"I don't know why this worked," she explained to the silent man at her side who, for once, had evidently decided to listen rather than argue. "Albus and uncle have been trying to work out the particulars for long-distance time travel since Voldemort's initial rise sixteen years ago, but as far as I was aware, none of the experiments were successful. In fact, I'm not sure that this wasn't an accident--I mean, I have no idea what was floating around in that storeroom once you finished . . . ," she had been about to say destroying the place, but reconsidered at his renewed scowl and substituted "when we left" instead. "In any case, however it happened, we are here now. So, as I see it, we have to do two things. First," she held up a lace-covered finger, "get to uncle at Hogwarts--did you know he graduated from there?"

"Yes, one of our more illustrious alumni. But if, as you say, he had not perfected the process even in our period, what good will talking to him in this one do?"

"I said I'm not sure what happened, nor, to be honest, am I sure uncle told me everything. He and Albus used me as a more secure method of communicating than floo or owl would have been, but they weren't precisely forthcoming. If he had perfected it, I am not sure he would have told me. But, in any case, if anyone can send us back, it would be him."

"And two?"

"Two," Delaia smiled, "we have to talk to Albus, of course."

"Dumbledore? But he isn't . . . " Snape trailed off as he suddenly realised the implications of her statement. It cheered Delaia somewhat to see that he wasn't stupid, at least. His actions in the dungeon had made her wonder a bit at Albus' trust in the man. As she watched the procession of thoughts, and emotions, that succeeded each other across his face now, however, she saw that he really did understand. "He must be only . . .," Snape did some swift arithmetic, "sixteen?"

Delaia shrugged. "I don't know, something like that. I remember that he and uncle were in the same year at Hogwarts. Although he often said that there was a bit of rivalry between them as boys. Still," she smiled, her good mood allowing her to wave potential problems away with a flutter of her hand, "it'll work out. After all, we managed to do what Albus and uncle were planning all along, to go back so as to warn their previous selves about what was . . . is . . . coming, so it can be prevented."

Snape had stopped in the road, apparently lost in thought as she spoke, to the point that she had to pull him out of the way of a carriage that was barrelling down on them from the direction of town. He hardly seemed to realise the danger from which she had just saved him as he turned to her with an inscrutable expression. "So what exactly are you proposing? That we simply walk up to them at Hogwarts, smile nicely, and inform them that we are from 150 years in the future and need to explain all about an evil wizard who hasn't been born yet but who they will both end up battling at the end of their lives?"

Delaia frowned. "It sounds really ridiculous when you say it."

"It is ridiculous! No one in his right mind would believe us. Albus and Zosimus must have worked out some type of proof to take back, something that would have made sense to their former selves, and at least have bought them a hearing. We," he reminded her in an unnecessarily nasty tone of voice, "have nothing. The term is about to start. They are going to have more on their minds just now than listening to idiocy from two strangers, one of whom is female."

"And what," Delaia inquired bristling, "does THAT have to do with anything? Neither Albus nor uncle was a chauvinist."

"Not in our time, perhaps. But may I remind you that this is NOT our time? Besides, females weren't even allowed at Hogwarts in 1855. It was a boy's only academy. The girls had their own school, in Lancashire I believe."

"Well, who cares? I'm not planning to attend classes there, after all." She stopped suddenly, not at all liking the calculating expression on her companion's saturnine face.


"Come on, we need to apparate. Are you up to it?"

"Of course, but what . . . "

"I'll explain when we get there."

* * *

Snape and Delaia apparated to a copse of trees just beyond Hogsmeade. Snape was relieved to find that it did not look all that different. Assuming that the school year had always begun September 1, and that the newspaper his annoying companion had practically assaulted him with in France was current, then they had three days before term started. It was not a great deal of time, but it would have to do. As quickly as he could, which was not as much so as he would have liked--did the woman EVER shut up?--he explained his plan and finally obtained her somewhat grudging acquiescence. When she left, looking faintly ill (he had drunk all her motion sickness potion, he remembered with no shame whatsoever) he transformed his muggle clothing back into robes and nonchalantly made his way to what in his day had been called the Shrieking Shack.

In this period, it was a fairly nice house the owners of which were, fortunately for them considering his state of mind, not in. He broke through their childishly simple wards with no difficulty, and, after a brief search, found the passageway leading to Hogwarts. He shivered slightly just from being back in the tunnel where he had . . . would . . . come very close to being dinner for a werewolf. At the end of the passage, he crunched down in anticipation of the need to avoid the Whomping Willow's thrashing branches, then remembered as he came out instead through the side of a decorative fountain, that of course it had not yet been planted. Luckily, very little else had changed at Hogwarts, and he managed to find the hidden entrance to the dungeons, unknown to most students in his era and, judging by the thickness of the dust that overlaid everything, in this one as well, with no difficulty.

Back in familiar territory, it took little time to make his way unseen, thanks to the absence of students, to the small antechamber to the deputy headmaster's office where the records were kept. The wards on the door gave him some problems--whoever had set these had been serious about it-- but he eventually managed to let himself in. Adjusting the records took only a few moments, and Snape finished his business without interruption. He had a close call on his way back to the dungeons, just barely managing to avoid a confrontation with Peeves, who had been terrorising Hogwarts for longer than he had realised, but a quick dodge into an empty classroom saved the day. Making his way back to the copse of trees in which he and Delaia had agreed to meet, he found the annoying woman lounging on what looked like enough luggage to outfit a whole train of students.

She threw something at him that he only belated realised was an apple. Transfigured into a bat by his quick response, it screeched at him and flew off in the direction of Hogsmeade. Delaia gave him a sardonic look before inquiring, between bites of her own apple, if he would like to eat dinner or continue to play with it. He didn't deign to reply, instead beginning to sort through the jungle of bundles and boxes surrounding her.

"What is all this?"

The wretched girl had the temerity to bat her lashes at him. "You sent me shopping, remember? So I went shopping. By the way, here's your key."

Pocketing the replacement she had apparently had no difficulty convincing the goblins at Gringotts to make for his family vault, he reflected that his ancestors' wealth had been considerably diminished by the look of things. He made a mental note not to let the creature near his vault in future.

"They weren't happy; even with the passwords--they're big on having the appropriate key. They were going to owl someone, your grandfather maybe, for permission, but I managed to talk them out of it."

He decided not to ask how, as her damned loquaciousness might keep them there all afternoon. "What did you buy?" They had specifically agreed on her obtaining the basics necessary for them to impersonate two Hogwarts students of this era for long enough to gain the trust of the current Albus Dumbledore and Appolonius Zosimus. They had further determined that she would use his family account for the necessary funds as he doubted, apparently correctly, that the passwords had changed in 900 years. He had not, however, authorised some of these purchases.

"What is this?" He held up the most antiquated broom he had ever seen.

"The latest model, believe it or not." She stuffed an éclair into her cheek, making her next words indistinct.


She swallowed. "I said, you should have seen some of the others. The only thing I'D use them for is sweeping the floor."

"Why," he asked wearily, "did you feel the need to buy a broom at all?"

"I didn't." She tossed him a wrapped sandwich. "I bought two. Oh honestly, Sev, we'll be EXPECTED to fly, won't we? And what if we aren't in the same house? How would we explain sharing one? Anyway, what do you care? Your family has pots of money--I don't think I ever saw a vault that packed before. You're lucky I'm honest."

Severus reflected bitterly that it was not necessary to steal outright when she had apparently bought out Diagon Alley. Something floated to the top of his mind that prevented him, probably luckily, from voicing that comment, however. "What did you call me?"

The witch rolled her eyes and climbed to her feet, dusting pastry crumbs from her new and obviously expensive robes. "What do you expect me to call you? Professor Snape might be a little difficult to explain, under the circumstances. Oh, by the way, what pseudonyms did you fix up for us?"

Severus decided to forgo a long argument over any number of things-- including the fact that his great-grandfather, if anything like the rest of the family, probably went over the regular statements from Gringotts with a fine-tooth comb and was certain to notice the rather sizeable sum that had been withdrawn to pay for their elaborate school supplies-- and simply answer her question. "We are, for the present, two brothers transferring in from Beauxbatons where I was a sixth year and you were first. Our names are Hieronymus and Valentin de Plannis--YOU," he said with some satisfaction, "are Valentin."

"First year? I'm 19 years old, Snape!"

"Well, I'm 36."

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"You can't expect ME to pretend to be a first year, can you?" He did not add that he vaguely remembered some rather unpalatable rumours of things that used to happen to first years in the old Hogwarts. He's have to watch out for her, assuming they were true.

"Why does either of us have to be a first year? You could have altered the records any way you wanted--why aren't we BOTH sixth year?"

"Because, you silly girl, it may not have occurred to you but it certainly did to me that someone may bother to actually check with Beauxbatons about us. I cannot go around altering records all over Europe--I had to choose names that will check out, should they need to do so. The de Plannis brothers did attend Beauxbatons and did leave this past year, although not to come to Hogwarts, obviously."

Delaia was looking at him narrowly. He should have known he wouldn't be able to pull this off without some type of explanation. "And you would know this because?"

He sighed. "Because I know where they did go." She arched an eyebrow, and Snape caved in. Oh, bugger it all, anyway. "Hieronymus went to Russia to study alchemy with my great-aunt Augusta. Valentin went with him," he decided not to mention why. Hopefully, that need never come up. "I know this because Hieronymus eventually became my grandfather."

"So we're impersonating two of your relatives, even though you have OTHER relatives living in Britain right now? And this is better than just making up some names because?"

He pinched the bridge of his nose and reminded himself that he needed to work with this creature for the present, and that her willing co-operation was probably better than simply putting her under Imperius until they got out of this. "The British Snapes had a long-running feud with the Russian branch of the family at this point. It was not resolved until after the revolution, when the Russian Snapes fled the country and took up residence in France, where they still reside. There is virtually no chance of them communicating until forced to do so some decades from now. No one at Beauxbatons was told where the boys were headed as my aunt had an . . .", extremely well-deserved, "rather unfortunate reputation for dabbling in the dark arts. As far as I can recall from family history, the children were simply withdrawn from the academy, no explanations offered. So, if any inquiries do happen to be made by anyone at Hogwarts, they should raise no concerns in France and cause us no problems here."

Delaia looked less than convinced. However, she merely commented, "Let's hope you remember your family history, then."