Author's Notes: Many, many, many thanks to Avalon, beta extrodinaire. Young!Severus/Hermione.

Chapter 1

When seventh-year Severus Snape came down the stairs that morning into the Slytherin common room, there was a murmuring crowd around the bulletin board. Mildly intrigued, Severus elbowed his way to the front to read the new notice posted on it.

Bored by unchallenging classes?

Sick of sitting around, doing nothing grand?

Need an escape from reality?

Eager to learn forgotten magics and gain power beyond your wildest dreams?

Join

The Young Adventurer's Club!

Author's Notes: Many, many, many thanks to Avalon, beta extrodinaire, who reacted with extreme nonchalance when I contacted her a week before deadline about betaing a 60k word fic and encouraged me that it was actually good.

Applications and more information below.

Severus raised an eyebrow. Young Adventurer's Club? He'd never heard of such a thing. Curious, he grabbed an application to read over at breakfast.

The Great Hall was buzzing when Severus got there. Every house had gotten a recruitment poster, it seemed. Severus took a seat next to the Lestrange brothers, who were debating over their own forms.

"It explicitly asks 'Are you a Death Eater?'" Rodolphus said. "I don't care what the form claims – it's got to be a Ministry scheme."

"There's no way the Ministry would do this," Rabastan argued. "Promote 'forgotten magics'? Please."

"Snape!" Rodolphus said, turning to him. "Have you seen this?" Severus held up his own form in a wordless response, and Rodolphus nodded. "Good, good. Let us know what you think of it after you look it over?"

"Right." Severus helped himself to some toast and marmalade before settling down to read the form as he ate.

The Young Adventurer's Club is a group for young witches and wizards interested in adventuring. Members will explore lost wizarding ruins, learn forgotten magics, find lost artifacts, and develop new spells, theories, potions, and amulets. Members may face danger on a semi-regular basis and should be prepared accordingly.

The Young Adventurer's Club is unaffiliated with any other organization, including, but not limited to, the Ministry of Magic, Hogwarts, the Order of the Phoenix, the Death Eaters, or Dumbledore's Army. Hogwarts is allowing the Young Adventurer's Club to recruit on school grounds as a courtesy only, not as an endorsement.

"Dumbledore's Army?" Severus said aloud.

"Never heard of it," Adrian Avery said. "Bit of a queer name, isn't it?"

"The Gryffindors don't seem to know what all's up with it either," Rabastan pointed out, smirking. "They're probably hurt that they weren't asked to join the Headmaster's arse-licking club."

Severus glanced up. Several of the Gryffindors looked rather put-out, and a snicker went round the Slytherin table. Severus bent his head and continued reading.

Because of the nature of the Young Adventurer's Club, certain membership requirements apply:

You must not be a member of the Ministry of Magic, Order of the Phoenix, or Death Eaters at age 17.

You must not be pregnant, have an addiction of any sort, or be soul-sick.

You must be willing to follow directions without the intention behind the directive being explained to you.

You must not have a history of mental illness, depression, or suicidal thoughts and tendencies.

You must be willing to temporarily pause your life as you know it. Temporally, you may resume your life after the Young Adventurer's Club has no further need for you as an Adventurer, should you so desire.

Additionally, membership is currently restricted to those 17 years of age. If you are not yet 17, we encourage you to apply when you come of age. If you were once 17 and are no longer, you already received the opportunity to apply.

"Exactly 17?" Severus said, incredulous. "What's the reasoning there?"

"No idea," Rodolphus said. "And I definitely didn't see these posters here last year."

"Maybe the club was full last year and didn't have any spots open?" Avery ventured. "Who knows?"

"They better still have some open next year," Regulus Black groused from across the table. "I want to join..."

If you meet out membership requirements and the Young Adventurer's Club sounds like something you would like to be a part of, we encourage you to fill out our membership application below.

Your full birth name

Any aliases, nicknames, or misspellings you have used, been called, or might be listed under

"Done?" Rodolphus asked him as he looked up. Severus nodded.

"Isn't it weird?" Rabastan butted in.

"It's definitely out there," Severus conceded. "Did all the houses get them?"

"Yeah, even the Hufflepuffs. The Gryffindors were angry to see that we'd all gotten them, too," Rodolphus said, smirking.

"The wording is very odd," Severus continued, glancing back over it. "'Be willing to pause your life'? What on Earth does that mean?"

"Put everything else on hold, I suppose," Macnair said, joining the conversation. "I expect you'll have to drop everything to join up, and then when you're all done, come back to school."

"They're recruiting students, though," Rodolphus pointed out. "Surely they don't expect students to join up with a shadowy cause and neglect their studies without knowing why?"

Macnair grinned at him, revealing several missing teeth. "Why not?"

"The restrictions are odd as well," Severus said. "No pregnant witches or addicts, but no restrictions against felons?"

"I suspect they didn't think many seventeen year-olds would be felons yet," Rodolphus retorted. "Besides, they can always run your name through the public records and deny you if a record comes up."

"Perhaps," Severus equivocated. "All in all, though, it's very odd. And unaffiliated with any group, no less? Or so they claim..."

"Still, though," Avery said. "The chance to go on a real adventure? Learn forgotten magic and gain crazy amounts of personal power?"

Rodolphus snorted. "There's already someone who can provide you with that, Avery," he reminded him. "And he doesn't hide behind mysterious applications like this."

"I know that!" Avery protested. "But I can't get my mark until I graduate, right? So until then, I'm still technically not a member of the-"

"Are you insane?" Severus hissed. "Don't discuss that at the breakfast table!"

They all glared at Avery, who fell silent.

"I was only saying," he muttered, flushing. After a long moment, they turned the weight of their collective glares away from him.

"It could be an advantage," Rodolphus considered. "If we learn forgotten magics and gain more power before joining up, think of what a boon we'd be for his cause-! I wonder who gets the finished applications?"

"Fill it out and find out," Rabastan said, elbowing him. "The common room poster said applicants have a week to submit their papers."

Rodolphus scowled at him. "Maybe I will."

Severus rolled his own application up and tucked it into his robes. Maybe he would as well.

Severus did not look at the application again until classes were over. Taking his book bag with him, he headed down to the lake to look it over.

1. Your full birth name

2. Any aliases, nicknames, or misspellings you have used, been called, or might be listed under

That was easy enough. Severus put down Severus Tobias Snape under the first question and skipped to question 3.

3. Your O.W.L. Scores

Just as he put his quill down to answer, question 2 began to glow red.

We detect you have neglected to include all relevant information,the application proclaimed, brilliant red ink scrawling itself across the parchment. Applications missing information will be discarded unread and not considered for membership.

Severus stared. A nickname or alias? Even his mother had called him Severus. Unless...

With a scowl, he put down Snivellus.

We detect you have neglected to include all relevant information. Red text pulsed on the application once again. Applications missing information will be discarded unread and not considered for membership.

Severus barely resisted the urge to chuck the scroll into the lake.

Another nickname? He didn't have one. No one called him anything but 'Severus' or 'Snape', save the bloody Gryffindors, and he's already put their bloody moniker for him down already. He was the only one who'd ever referred to himself by anything other than his name, and even then, he'd never told anyone...

He glanced back over the question.

2. Any aliases, nicknames, or misspellings you have used...

With a sigh, he picked up his quill once more, almost ashamed, and jotted down The Half-blood Prince.

The glaring red text faded away.

Severus shivered despite himself. How could the parchment know what name he'd put in his Potion's textbook?

Pushing the matter from his mind, he went on.

3. Your O.W.L. Scores

Severus put down his O.W.L. Scores, the N.E.W.T. Classes he was taking, and what his strongest and weakest subjects were in school without much hesitation. He doubted Divination or Arithmancy would be of much use during adventuring, anyway. He hesitated over the next question.

7. What is the most advanced spell you have cast?

He could cast every spell in the seventh year standard book of spells, but none of those were really advanced. He was certain he'd be able to cast an Unforgivable, if he tried, but the paper asked what he'd already cast, not what he could cast. He paused a moment, before putting down Legilimens.

8. What useful skills do you have that would come in handy in an adventurous, survival-type situation?

Severus smirked. This had been more the type of question he had expected.

He was impressed to see the scroll magically expand his answer space as he painstakingly detailed his potions modification skills, Defense Against the Dark Arts ability, his intelligence, his quickness at learning new skills, his reflexes, his stealth ability, and (after hesitating), his base theory experience with the Dark Arts.

9. What hidden or secret abilities or skills do you have?

He hesitated only a moment before detailing everything he could think of, from his Occlumency skills and skills as a Legilimens to his unregistered Animagus form to his hard-worn immunity to certain poisons to his ambidextrousness.

He'd never admitted any of them to anyone, really. He paused, looking over the paper, before continuing. He could always just not submit the application and burn it, if he wanted.

10. Why should we pick you?

He hesitated.

They probably wanted another explanation of his abilities, and example of how his personality and determination would help overcome insurmountable odds. They probably wanted an outlined list of pros and cons for choosing him, and all the cons thoughtfully negated with well thought-out work-arounds.

Severus glanced sideways.

Lily was there, reading from a Charms book as Potter, Black, and Lupin laughed together, filling out their own forms. Her eyes caught his and his breath caught in his throat. Her eyes seemed to cool and she turned back to her own book, her demeanor one of disgust.

A sinking feeling filled his stomach, and Severus turned to glance at his other side.

Rodolphus and Rabastan were there, arguing as they filled out their own forms. Bellatrix Black had gotten one too and was filling it out, though Severus knew she definitely wouldn't qualify with her mother's history of mental illness. Macnair was telling Avery what to put down as they filled out their applications. Macnair flicked his wand, and a small replica of the Dark Mark hung in the air for a moment, before dissipating into the air. Avery looked impressed and bent to write on his form once more.

Severus turned back to his own form, feeling sick to his stomach, the form looking up at him mockingly.

Why should we pick you?

Before he knew what had happened, he'd picked up his quill and scribbled an answer.

Because I need this.

He stared at his answer, the black strokes stark against the dull cream of the form.

It was frightening, to see the truth of his situation spelled out so starkly.

But it was true.

Severus would never fit in with the Gryffindors, with the goody two-shoes and arrogance of the Potters and Sirius Blacks and Lily Evans of the world. Dumbledore's Dark Lord resistance club was practically formed with them, and he'd never be welcome there, even if he wanted to join.

He'd be welcomed among the Death Eaters, he knew. The Dark Lord only cared that a person craved power and was willing to work for it. Severus never shied away from hard work to master some new skill. There were other things about the Death Eaters that made him shy away. They were things that made him hesitate, though he never let it slip to the others... his concerns about the single-mindedness of blood purity, which seemed scientifically proven to be false; the Dark Lord's insistence on Marking each follower, his demand for complete and total obedience, his horrible wrath if angered.

Neither option was appealing. Here, the application was offering a chance to escape, to put his life on hold and not have to choose...

Feeling ill with his own bravery at telling the truth, Severus went on.

Please answer "yes" or "no" to the following questions:

Have you ever cast an Unforgivable?

Do you have hemophilia?

Do you carry a blood-based disease?

Are you anemic?

Are you sexist?

Do you believe in pureblood superiority?

Do you have any children?

Are you married?

Are you a vegetarian?

Do you have a Dark Mark?

No, no, no, no, no, no, no... Down he went, ticking off all the "no" boxes next to the questions. The questions seemed random and varied wildly. Some of them seemed almost Muggle in origin, asking him if he was on any prescription medications or had a pacemaker, but then the next were inextricably wizarding, asking if he'd every used a Time-Turner or studied Quantum Arithmancy. Down he went, ticking "no" for all the questions until he got to the last one.

If you are chosen for membership of the Young Adventurer's Club, do you agree to join?

That seemed a bit presumptuous, assuming he'd be willing to join up without asking any questions beforehand. Frowning, he checked "yes" anyway, only to see the ink disappear.

"What...?"

Skeptical, he tried again.

Once more, the ink bled from view, absorbed into the paper.

Severus regarded the paper uneasily. He had a bad feeling he knew what the paper wanted.

Trying not to think of all the Dark spells that could target him because of this, Severus bit his finger, winced, and let a single drop of blood fall onto the "yes" box.

The scroll rolled itself up and tied itself closed with a scarlet ribbon and leapt into the air. The scroll began spinning around and around rapidly, before it vanished in a burst of flame.

Severus was left staring at the slight bit of ash the scroll left behind as it drifted to the ground.