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Chapter 1: Chapter One
Severus stepped down off the train and glanced around Hogsmeade station. He hadn't been on this platform since he was 18. The memory of seeing Lily climbing into the carriage with James hit him hard and he shook it away quickly. He could see the heavy set outline of someone approaching from the smoke coming from the train and he frowned, hadn't Dumbledore said McGonagall would be meeting him? His hand automatically reached for his wand, knowing the outline wasn't the deputy and prepared to duel should he need to.
"Don't just stand there lad, it's raining!" Professor Sprout emerged from the smoke and beckoned him over.
"I thought Professor McGonagall was meeting me?" He shouted over the whistle of the train as it began to make its way back to London.
"Something came up," the professor said and walked towards the station gates. Severus noted the sinking feeling in his stomach, for some reason he'd been looking forward to seeing his old professor again, she'd been one of the few that he had liked. "Come on!" Professor Sprout shouted and Severus quickly walked to join her.
Professor Sprout didn't say anything to him, she barely looked at him and that was fine with him. He shouldered his small bag containing the few belongings he wanted with him and quickened his pace. He noticed Professor Sprout panting a little to catch up with him but he didn't slow down. Finally they reached the carriages and Severus stopped, staring at the Thestrals. The last time he'd seen the carriages he hadn't been able to see the Thestrals...
"I expect things will be different this time 'round," Professor Sprout said, noticing him staring and guessing at the reason. Her tone was hard and when Severus looked at her there was something in her eyes... it was accusatory. So she knew what had happened to Jacob Daniels. She gave him one last severe look then climbed into the carriage. Severus let out a breath and climbed in after her, welcoming the silence that led them towards the castle.
When he stepped out onto the front steps of the castle he was greeted by Dumbledore, who wrapped his arms around Severus and embraced him. Severus was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of safety and when he glanced up at the castle something welled up inside him.
"Welcome home Severus," Dumbledore said with a smile.
Home. That's exactly what Hogwarts had always felt like to him. He was glad to be back.
"Come inside," Dumbledore led the way and Severus slowly followed. He noticed, without surprise, that Professor Sprout had left. No doubt she had returned to the greenhouses. "How was your journey?"
"Fine," Severus said.
"Did you have any trouble with the train time?" He asked and Severus knew he wasn't referring to the train time. Did you have any trouble with the Dark Lord? That is what he'd really asked.
"Good," Dumbledore led them up to his office and Severus paused, remembering the last time he had been here. "Severus?" Dumbledore had already entered the office and Severus forced himself to follow him.
When he finally managed to drag himself into the Headmasters office he walked straight towards the desk where Dumbledore was sitting, a blank piece of parchment rolled out in front of him.
"Your contract," he said and words began to appear onto the page in Severus's own hand, as if he was writing the words himself. "If you'd like to read it and you consent to everything in writing then sign the contract." Dumbledore handed him a black raven quill that was old and worn. Severus signed the contract without reading it, blind trust for the man that had given him his second chance. Dumbledore nodded and after taking the quill from Severus, signed the contract himself.
"What now?" Severus said, looking to Dumbledore.
"Now I sign it," a voice from behind Severus startled him and he spun around just in time to see Professor McGonagall stand from the lavish armchair by the fire. He hadn't seen her tucked away behind the office door and judging from the Headmaster's expression, he wasn't at all surprised to see her there. She walked towards them, her eyes focused on Dumbledore and Severus thought she looked as though she were trying to stop herself from saying something.
"Professor McGonagall," Dumbledore said her name softly. She gave a dry laugh and snatched the quill from his out stretched hand. She signed her name, graceful swirls showing up beautifully next to his and the other mans scrawl.
"Is that all?" She asked impatiently and Severus knew she was probably there under duress.
"Just one last thing Professor." Dumbledore had that glint in his eyes that meant he was planning something and Severus felt Minerva stiffen beside him. "Would you be so kind as to show Professor Snape to his new quarters?" He was met with a cold silence but he continued to look at McGonagall with that same joyful expression he always had.
"Of course," she smiled and Severus thought it looked as though it took a lot of effort.
"Get settled in, I'll send someone by to bring you to the Great Hall for dinner." Dumbledore patted Severus on the shoulder and walked them towards the door. McGonagall headed for the stairs without a word to either of the men and Severus followed her quickly.
They walked in silence and Severus had no trouble in keeping up with her long strides. He glanced at her from the corner of his eyes and noticed she looked different. She wore glasses now, making her eyes seem small and her cheeks hollow. Her hair was as black as ever but the faint lines across her face told him that recent times had taken their toll on her. Severus quickly looked away when she noticed him starring at her.
"You'll be in Professor Slughorn's old quarters. The furniture has been left as it was but should you want to change anything, summon a house elf and they will know what to do." She stopped outside what Severus recognised as the former Head of Slytherin's office.
He followed her inside, the rich overpowering decor just as repulsive as it had been the last time he'd been in here. He stopped to look at the bookshelf, Professor Slughorn had left a lot of books and Severus wondered if he'd be allowed to read a few of them.
"These books..." he started but the Deputy had already disappeared behind the curtain that hung behind the large desk. He quickly walked after her and ran down the small dark corridor to where she was waiting outside his chamber doors.
"This room no longer has a master, you must enter it first to show that you wish to reside there. Once you're settled in you can cast your own protective enchantments and the room itself will have a few, which once you have declared your authority, will reveal themselves." She stepped aside and Severus eyed the door cautiously before opening it and stepping inside. "I'll wait here."
The door slammed shut before he could reply to her and a large bright light shone in his eyes. He tried to block it with his hands but it was too strong and he turned away.
"Who dares enter my chamber?" Came a hissing, haunting voice and Severus looked around blindly for where it was coming from.
"It is Severus Snape," He shouted. The light shone even more brightly and the voice grew angrier.
"I am Severus Snape!" He shouted back, looking straight into the light. It started to fade a little and he felt his confidence grow as he continued. "I am of loyal Slytherin House," he walked towards the light and it started to recede into the shadows. "I was born a Prince and I am Master of this chamber!" He shouted and the air seemed to be sucked into the light as it vanished. Severus stood in the dark for a few seconds before the door flew open, making him jump slightly. Professor McGonagall eyed him curiously, as if trying to decide whether or not to congratulate him. Finally she settled for a small nod and entered the room.
"You were quicker than most," she said kindly, as she lit the candles in the room with a sweep of her wand.
"Is that a compliment?" It came out as a sneer, not at all how he'd meant it.
"Merely an observation," she said, her voice becoming cold again. "I trust you don't need me to remind you of the layout of the castle, it hasn't changed much since you were last here."
"I believe I'm competent enough to find my own way around, yes." The Professor gave him a cold stare and began to leave. As she reached the door she turned back to look at him, her eyes filled with the same accusation as Professor Sprout had earlier.
"Why did you do it?" She asked.
Severus stared back at her. Why did he do it? He wasn't sure anymore. He watched the accusation turn to hurt and he found it almost unbearable to look at her, but he kept his gaze steady on hers.
"All those people," she shook her head.
"I..." he stopped, unsure what he should say. Was he sorry? Did he wish he could take it all back? He closed his eyes. The truth was, if he hadn't wanted to save Lily's life... he'd probably still be with the other Death Eaters. He shuddered.
"Why did you come back to us?" Severus opened his eyes to see Professor McGonagall standing in front of him.
"I wanted a second chance," he whispered. And it was true. He did want a second chance, but what he longed for a second chance with was no longer available to him. He'd made the mistake before and he wasn't going to do it again. Dumbledore had given him a second chance to redeem himself and he knew one way or another, he'd probably die trying.
Professor McGonagall searched for the lie in his eyes but she found none. He could see her thinking things through in her head, trying to process his words. She gave a small nod and turned for the door again. Once again she stopped and turned to look at him, Severus braced himself for what he knew was coming.
"Did you have a hand in what happened to them?" He knew she was talking about her Gryffindors.
The Longbottoms... the Prewett's... she had been fond of them all.
He drew a deep breath. He may not have been directly responsible for what happened to them but he had certainly been involved in most. He'd watched Bella torture the Longbottom's, she'd taken her time with Alice. They had all watched her slowly go insane, drank over Bella's performance while the broken witch lay in a pool of her own blood and piss. Fabian Prewett had been brave, there was no denying it. Both brothers had been hard to defeat and the story of the Death Eater's success was shared with triumph. It was soon after this that he'd flown into the safe confidence of Albus Dumbledore, pleading with him to save the one person he'd ever truly cared about.
He glanced up to look at his former teacher and she was watching him with heart-rending eyes. He opened his mouth to say something but she raised her hand and shook her head. Something in the way she looked at him told him she'd somehow received the answer she needed.
"Albus wishes you to attend dinner with us at 7. You have a few hours to get settled in." And with that she left, leaving Severus staring at the door feeling confused. What had she seen in him that had left her looking at him with such... sadness? Or had it been pity? Perhaps disappointment?
He ran a hand over his hair, brushing it out of his eyes and looked around his room. He explored the lavish bedroom and bathroom and summoned an elf.
"Remove everything but the bare essentials." The elf nodded and bowed low to the ground before setting to work. In a matter of minutes the rooms were ready and Severus looked around in approval. The bathroom contained the bath, a toilet and a small mirror. His bedroom held a bed and nothing else. A bookshelf, sofa and desk occupied his living room.
"Would master be needing anything else, Sir?"
"No." The elf disappeared. Severus opened his bag and began to place his few belongings around his new home.
It was time for a new beginning.