That's What Friends Are For
By Lady Dien

Rating: This is general, good-hearted fun-- but Valence has a filthy mouth, that bad boy! He may say some bad words once in a while, or provoke Snape into doing likewise. So, PG-13 for language.

Summary: I really have no idea where this came from or where it's going. Basically, I just started thinking how everybody, even Severus Snape, has to have friends. (Okay, well, some versions of Snape have him so ****ed up that he DOESN'T, and I'll admit I've written some of the said versions... but THIS Snape has friends. So there. Socially Well Adjusted Snape. Kind of.) ANYWAYS, Severus's best friend comes back to teach at Hogwarts, and reminds our Potions Master that he is indeed a human being. And maybe teaches it to some other people at the same time. This thing has no definite ending or plot, I just add stuff to it when I get tired of writing angst/slash/smut/dark humour/unhappy Snape ficcage and want some warm and fluffy.

Disclaimer: Anybody you've seen in the books is not mine but JKR's. Anybody you don't know-- specifically Valence, but maybe others will show up-- is mine. I can't lay claim to the plot, because I already said there was no such thing to be found here, didn't I? :)

Setting: Fourth year, but there's no GoF because I started the outline for this stuff after reading PoA. So: no canceling of Quidditch, no Alastor Moody (which is good 'cuz I think he and Valence would sound a bit too similar at times), no none of that. You get the idea.

On with the show!


Chapter One: Should Auld Acquaintance Have the Nerve to Show His Ugly Face...

Harry and Ron grinned and waved as they caught sight of each other across the train platform, Ron detaching himself from the rest of his red-headed family to run over to Harry. The two boys engaged in friendly mock-punching of the arms as they said hellos.

"Hey, Harry! How were your aunt and uncle for the summer?" said Ron with an evil smile.

"Perfectly and horribly beastly, as you well know," Harry said with a grimace, aiming at his best friend's head.

"Yeah, sorry. Wish you could've come and stayed with us."

"Me too. Oh well, back to another year at Hogwarts!" Harry said happily, not having to fake any enthusiasm for school. Because, despite the prospect of studying, tests, certain unpleasant people (Malfoy, Snape, and Filch primarily) and the fact that not one of the three years behind him had managed to complete themselves without some showdown between the forces of Darkness and himself.... despite all that, Hogwarts still scored over summer hols in three important respects:

1) It did not have Uncle Vernon.
2) It did not have Aunt Petunia.
3) It did not have Dudley.

Of course, Hogwarts also had Quidditch, and certain pleasant people (Hagrid, Hermione, all the Weasleys especially Ron, Headmaster Dumbledore, etc, etc...), new things to learn in fun classes, and adventures to be had. Yes, he was definitely looking forward to the coming year.

At that moment, the rest of the Weasley family came over to say hellos and deliver more mock-punches (in the case of Fred and George), a surprising, bashful hug (from Ginny, who absolutely adored him), and a more maternal hug (from Mrs. Weasley). Harry endured it all happily. The Weasleys were a bit like an extended family to him, and the affection and warmth was wonderful.

Hermione, with perfect timing, arrived a few minutes later, walking in through the barrier that separated Platform Nine and Three-Quarters from the Muggle world. Ron and Harry headed over to say hellos and help her with her luggage, letting out good-natured groans at the number of books she seemed to have with her.

In less time than one would have thought, it was already time to board the train. Luggage was hastily stowed aboard, last-minute goodbyes were called out to family members, first-years looked, as always, terrified, and the merry chaos of it effectively ended all conversation until they were seated in their compartments.

Hermione, Harry and Ron shared a compartment, Neville Longbottom sticking his head in and asking to join them after a minute or two. Ron let out a low groan but subsided under the combined glares of Harry and Hermione, and their somewhat clumsy and absent-minded fellow Gryffindor sat down with them.

"How's Trevor doing, Neville?" asked Hermione brightly. Neville smiled sheepishly. "I've lost him again--"

"Oh, Neville--" began Hermione, but Neville continued. "--so Gran, who'd been saying she'd just get me an owl if I lost him one more time, finally had to make good. His name is Compass-- because he's got a great sense of direction!" the boy finished happily, just a small brown barn owl flew in through the open compartment door to land on Neville's shoulder. "See? He can find me anywhere. I may lose him, but he won't lose me!"

Harry chuckled, but said, "That's great, Neville. I'm sure he'll be a little more useful than Trevor anyway."

"Yeah. Still, I hope Trev's happy-- I 'lost him' right by the pier in our pond, so I can go visit him whenever I like."

"Neville!" said Hermione. "You didn't..."

"Well, I really wanted an owl," Neville said with a small smile. The boys burst out laughing and said 'way to go, Nev.'

Other than discovering Neville's new familiar, the only subject of interest that came up was the lack of a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. In the course outline, the only name listed was Staff, and Hermione had to explain to Neville that, no, it did not mean a wizard named 'Staff' would be teaching the class.

"You think they haven't got anybody to teach it yet?" Ron asked.

Harry shrugged, and Hermione looked thoughtful. "Maybe people are afraid to take the job. First... Quirrell, then Lockhart, then Professor Lupin... it doesn't seem like anyone manages to keep the post, does it?"

"Maybe it'll be a witch this year. A young, pretty one!" Ron said enthusiastically, and Hermione rolled her eyes. Obviously Ron thought he had discovered the fairer sex this summer.

That led off into a whole new discussion that bordered on heated debate, and took them the rest of the way into Hogwarts.


School was the usual happy chaos, worse than the train, as everyone struggled to get into the Great Hall and say hello to friends they hadn't seen all summer, all at the same time. Finally they were all seated.

Harry scanned the High Table for a glimpse of who might be their new DADA teacher, but saw no new faces. Snape, however, did give him the customary glare, Harry returning it as much as he dared.

Then, the door were opened and the scared-looking first years piled into the Hall. Harry tried to give some sympathetic glances, remembering his own nervousness before the Sorting, but none of the kids seemed to dare look up.

The Sorting Hat was brought out and placed on its stool. It opened its mouth and began to sing.

"Welcome, little first years, to our Hall and to your school
Your home for the next seven years, be you wise or be you fool.
Be you brave or cowardly, be you honest or a cheat,
Be you driven by ambition or a lazy piece of meat!
Let me introduce myself, I'm the famous Sorting Hat.
I sort them all, big or tall, short or small, thin or fat
Fair or dark, rich or poor, but always, always young,
For each of you are first years and your years are just begun.
Try me on, new students, and learn where you will go:
Perhaps to valiant Gryffindor, where strength of heart does show
Where students are courageous, with dash and dare and fire
Where nobility's uplifted, and young heroes all aspire.
Perhaps you'll be a Ravenclaw, quick of mind and learning
Your thoughts spiraling higher, not to base earth returning
But advancing onto knowledge, to wisdom's sacred call.
Or perhaps you'll be a Hufflepuff, hardest working of them all
Loyal, honest Hufflepuffs, tried and true and steady
Stay the course-- with decent hearts-- and souls and hands at ready.
And yet you
could be Slytherin, the house renowned for drive
That House will surely teach you how to advance and thrive
A home for those with cunning, with clever quick ambition
With an eye for power, and their own position.
Put me on, I'll see your mind, and what resides inside
I'll name your House, that place where you'll abide
I'll look you up, I'll look you down, and say where you should be--
For I am the Hogwarts Sorting Hat, and that's my job you see!"

The students all burst into applause, even a few of the first-years. Harry leaned back in his chair and watched as the Sorting began.

It seemed to go far more quickly than Harry remembered from his own first year. Clapping and cheering for the new Gryffindors was quickly over, then Dumbledore's 'speech' -- the old wizard was every bit as cheerful and vaguely dotty as Harry remembered, though he knew that Dumbledore was a lot more together than he let on-- and then (groan) singing the (double groan) Hogwart's school song.

The incomparable noise of four hundred plus students singing soon filled the halls. Dumbledore had formerly had it sung after the meal, but some of the wiser and older students had begun leaving the hall after food and before music, as it were. Hence, the new order of events.

Finally, though, the singing was done too, and the Gryffindor table, along with all the others, gleefully dug into the feast that appeared before them. It was, if possible, more spectacular every year.

Harry was just in the middle of passing a platter piled high with delicious roast turkey to Seamus Finnigan, a few seats down, when a loud booming knock reverberated through the hall-- the volume a consequence of a Sonorus charm laid upon the main entrance door, so that even the most timid of knocks could make you think a giant outside desired entry.

The first years all looked startled or terrified, the older students and the teachers curious. Only Dumbledore's pleased expression never faltered; indeed, it might have kicked up a notch or two. The Headmaster turned in his tall chair and said to Hagrid, "Could you go and get that, Rubeus?"

With a happy nod, the half-giant rose from his seat and lumbered off towards the Great Hall's exit. The students shrugged and returned to their food.

The meal-centered equanimity of the gathered students might have shook a bit when, a few moments later, Hagrid's booming voice was clearly heard to shout, in a tone that suggested he was positively overcome with joy and happiness, "PROFESSOR FEYE!"

The reactions throughout the hall were interesting to watch. As a whole, the student body generally looked curious and speculative; Harry and his friends had not been the only ones to notice the gap on the DADA position.

At the High Table, Dumbledore's pleased expression grew even more so. Professors Sprout and Flitwick looked a bit uneasy, and Professor McGonagall decidedly green about the gills--or whiskers, as the case may be. Madam Hooch and Professor Vector shared a Look. Though Harry could not see Vector's face from his position, a distinctly... well, predatory grin appeared on the flying instructor's face.

Ron whispered to Harry, "Uh-oh-- if staff reactions are anything to go by, we're dealing with a dangerous monster... probably something along the lines of a blast-ended skrewt."

"What makes you say that, Ron?" hissed Hermione.

Ron grinned and spread his hands. "Hagrid sounds like he adores this professor, Sprout and Flitwick look worried, McGonagall looks positively ill, and the only ones who seem to be happy are Dumbledore, who's mad to begin with, and Hooch, who can always fly away!"

The wisecrack earned some laughter around them, but joking aside, everybody's curiosity was definitely aroused. Eyes, ears and necks craned towards the entrance, and were not disappointed.

A gruff, distinctly male voice (Ron sighed in disappointment) could be heard to say, "Rubeus! Good to see you, and all that! Now kindly place me back on the floor before you break something FRAGILE, like my ruddy SPINE!"

"Oh, ri'. 'M very sorry, Professor. Here, lehme grab your luggage, Professor."

The sounds of movement in the hallway, and then the oh-so-mysterious Professor Feye appeared in the doorway of the Hall.

The man was perhaps on the short side but powerfully built, a solid, stocky body visible under his Muggle clothes and the cloak that seemed thrown over them as a last-minute addition. The cloak was dark green and should have looked incongruous with the double-breasted, smartly tailored grey suit underneath, yet complemented it instead. Above the cloak and white shirt collar, a head swiveled to look around the room, the man's eyes boring relentlessly into every student they rested on.

The eyes were pale grey behind utilitarian, steel-rimmed glasses, and set in a face that, while not young, was not exactly old either. Strong features; a straight, aristocratic nose and powerful jaw, the teeth currently showing in a smile that seemed to have something dangerous in it. Despite the silvered hair, wiry and cut close to the skull in a faintly militaristic style, the face was unlined, and the man's age could have been anything from a prematurely greying mid-thirty to a youthful mid-fifty.

A little ways up the table, Harry heard Lavender Brown say to one of the Patils with a dreamy sigh, "Silver fox..." He snorted.

The man gave a final stare around the room and began to stalk (there really was no other verb) down between the tables towards where Dumbledore now stood, an expectant smile on his face.

"Valence! So glad you could make it! You're late, though, you know," beamed the Headmaster. Around him, the teachers also stood, with various degrees of eagerness or reluctance-- with the exception of Snape, who continued to eat supper as if absolutely nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

He probably wouldn't admit he was capable of being disturbed by an earthquake, Harry thought sourly.

'Valence' gave an expressive snort at the Headmaster's words as he made his way towards the High Table, ignoring the students around him as if they were so many wraiths. Hagrid trailed along in the smaller man's wake, a large trunk carried on one massive shoulder as if it were nothing.

"Had to time it so I arrived after that bloody song of yours, Headmaster," he said, the dangerous grin growing a bit wider. His voice was low and slightly growly, with the faint hint of a Scottish brogue. He spoke with the odd inflections of a lower-class man with a good education, coarse and cultured all at once. Dumbledore smiled at the retort.

"Ah yes. I'd forgotten you're no great lover of music." (Half the students in the Hall decided they liked the new teacher-- if so he was-- right then and there.) The man laughed, a low laugh that brought out the growl in his voice a bit more.

"Fa la la. La di da. Calloo, callay. There's your music appreciation, Albus," he said with another snort, finally up to the table now. He shook hands energetically with the old wizard, then turned to the other teachers.

"Filius! Hello, man. How're your Ravenclaws? Won any House Cups recently? No? Ah, don't worry. There's always this year," Valence Feye said, barely giving the diminutive Ravenclaw Head of House a chance to answer before moving on to Sprout.

"Salvia, my dear. You're as lovely and decidedly Hufflepuff as ever." Sprout smiled a tight thanks at the... compliment, if so it was, but did not appear to relax. Feye's grin broadened, and he turned to the Gryffindor Head.

"Well, if it isn't the Mackie! Hello, Minnie. How've you been, woman?" The woman in question shook the outstretched hand gingerly, and one could almost see her reining in her notorious Scottish temper.

"Quite well, Valence, thank you. Yourself?" The Gryffindors were torn between happiness that their Head had never turned that particular icy, spoken-through-clenched-teeth-with-a-smile-on- my-face tone of voice on any of them before, and shock that someone dared to refer to the professor as "Mackie"-- to her face, no less. Or Minnie, for that matter.

The man grinned wildly, a mildly disturbing sight, and said with something approaching wicked glee, "I'm sure you'd like me to say horrible, but I'm afraid your lot in life is to be forever disappointed, Mac. I've been having an excellent time. Especially since I'm well away from the collection of books, brats and boring that makes up this fine institute of higher learning, hah. But it was nice of you to ask."

He then turned to the next person standing to greet him-- Hooch-- with an air that very clearly spoke of dismissal, the way one dismisses a student. McGonagall's pinched expression showed that she was well aware of it and was not pleased.

"My dear Peregrin! It's been too long. May I say you look positively stunning?" Feye said to Hooch, taking her hand with a courtly air and kissing it.

"You may indeed, Valence, and you're not looking half-bad yourself," said Hooch with a mischevious grin. And then it was on to Binns (who was if anything stiffer than McGonagall had been), then Figg (who seemed pleased to see him), and so on and so on.

Finally, Feye turned from Professor Vector, who had been another one in the 'I seem to like him' category, his smile fading as he looked around the table. In bare seconds, his expression shifted from friendly (if possessed of a mildly wicked smile) to grim and hostile. The pale eyes became quite wintry, a chill only surpassed by the cutting ice of the tone when he spoke.

"And where," he said softly, "is that little bastard upstart who fancies himself a Potions instructor in my absence?" The cold grey eyes settled on Snape, still calmly working at his dinner, cutting up a piece of steak with surgical precision. Valence moved to stand next to him, distaste clear in the glare with which he fixed Snape.

Feye continued in the severe tones that had once made him the most feared professor at Hogwarts. "Is the respect of standing too much to ask of the," sneer here "great Head of Slytherin House? Is a little common courtesy too much to demand?

"But of course it is." The tone dripped with sarcasm. "After all, Severus Snape has much better things to do with his valuable time. I'm quite sure of it. So tell me, Snape-- exactly what are you doing, these days?"

Snape finally turned a bored, yet icy, stare on the other man, and stood. In one fluid motion, the Potion Master's long frame unfolded itself from the chair to tower over the shorter, stockier man. The black eyes looked down with no warmth whatsoever on the fiercely glaring Feye. In a voice that suggested he was addressing something he'd just scraped off the bottom of his boot, Snape said, "Not a lot. Just wondering what on earth a dried-up, wasted old fool like yourself is doing on Hogwarts grounds-- besides using up valuable oxygen, I mean."

An odd and slightly terrified hush pervaded the Hall, as all attention was focused on the confrontation. Snape's vicious sarcasm was well known to anyone who had survived a staff meeting or a class with him, and to see someone go after him on his own turf was quite something. The Slytherins silently rooted for their Head of House. Everyone else silently rooted for the newcomer.

The two men stared at each other, mutual loathing and malice written on their features. Feye's fists were on his hips, his legs planted slightly apart and his nostril flaring. Snape's eyes were cold and his lips pressed together in a thin line. The moment held.

Then Feye's scowl transfigured into the most slightly-disturbing grin yet, and he threw back his head and laughed. "Damn, Severus, it's good to see you!"

Snape's expression changed too, the dark eyes warming and his thin lips twitching slightly. "Likewise, Valence," he murmured in a tone completely unlike his usual acid, extending a hand to be shook. He was instead pulled roughly into a bone-crushing embrace, though Valence Feye (perhaps mindful of Hagrid's own attempts to display affection) quickly released him.

The shorter man grabbed Severus's shoulders and looked him over with an appraising glance. "Jesus, Sev, d'they not feed you around here? You're a bloody scarecrow! Mind, I do think you've shot up a few more inches. Awful rude of you, if you ask me."

"Go splinch yourself," Snape said pleasantly. "I didn't ask. How's America been treating you?"

"Oh, fine, fine. Damned if I can get a decent cuppa, but really, Sev, you should see the work the Yanks are doing in health potions, bloody incredible, and they're so much less stodgy than over here, work with the Mugs and get it billed mostly as "alternative medicine," it's absolutely fantastic. Especially on the West Coast, they've done some really innovative stuff with acupuncture, valerian root, and modifications on the first three Aesculapian Potions--"

"Oh yes. I'd read about that in the Journal. Kaczynski and Bowen, yes? And they've been experimenting with the effects of Muggle treatments in conjunction with traditional, wizarding remedies. Very controversial--"

"Oh to hell with the politics of it, I went up to their lab and you'd give your wand to look at their working notes, Severus! Brilliant. Especially Bowen-- now that is one witch with a head on her shoulders... totally rewrote the second half of the formula for Tincture Medicina Nerviosa, got the chemical compounds more accurate then anyone since Bergen. It's all in the application, see, the derivatives of the hellebore extract. Potency isn't the problem, it never has been, you're simply dealing with ramifications of--"

"--the volatile nature of the hellebore. And you say they've gotten around that? How?! Are they distilling, or working with vapors, or--"

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," Dumbledore interrupted gently, which was fortunate since most of the students' eyes and a few of the teachers' were glazing over. "I'm sure the topic is quite fascinating, but perhaps you two would care to pursue it some other time than the middle of dinner...?"

The two men blinked and slowly returned their focus to the Great Hall, both looking a bit sheepish. "Of course, Albus," murmured Feye, pulling out his wand and conjuring a chair. The teachers all sat down again, Feye between Snape and Dumbledore.

The students (once they'd gotten over the shock of seeing someone HUG Professor Snape) waited eagerly for an announcement of some sort that this was the new DADA teacher (some more happily than others). But Albus Dumbledore seemed content to return to chatting pleasantly with McGonagall, on his other side. (She still looked a bit miffed.) The students exchanged disappointed glances, waiting at least for some explanation or further information, but it seemed they were not to be so blessed. Finally, but with occasional stares at Feye, the gathered children returned full attention to their food.

-End part one, get going to the next!