Severus closed the door to the staff room behind him and sank into it. It was finally Friday! He'd just completed his first full week of teaching and although it had gone better than he had expected, he was glad to be done with it. He'd had a shaky start, especially with some of the older students who had come to expect special treatment from Professor Slughorn but once they had figured he wasn't to be messed with, the rest of the week sped past smoothly.
"How was it?" Filius asked from behind his newspaper.
"Gruelling." Severus walked to the chair near Filius, flopped down into it and propped his feet on the chair in front of him. "The seventh year students are nowhere near the standard they should be considering they have their NEWT's coming up."
"They've just come back from their summer holidays. It takes them awhile to get back into the swing of things but once they do, you'll find that they'll do just fine." Severus scoffed quietly at the older man's words but remained silent. He'd been at the school for nearly a week now and Filius was still the only one that engaged him in conversation. It suited him fine but for some reason he found himself half hoping Professor McGonagall would say something to him, she'd even stopped with the snide comments.
He could hear hundreds of footsteps outside the door as students finished their lessons and made their way back to their common rooms and he found himself looking towards the door to see if she would appear. He didn't have to wait long. She swept into the room with Professor Sprout and she was laughing about something, her eyes shining and cheeks flushed. She glanced over at him and something passed over her features as if she were about to say something but deciding against it, she followed Professor Sprout. He wasn't surprised; she'd been doing the same thing since his outburst that day in her rooms. He turned his head towards Filius and watched the words on the newspaper move around without reading them.
"How was your first week?" Severus turned around to see Professor McGonagall standing beside him with two cups of tea.
"I'm sorry?" He asked, unable to keep the surprise from his voice. She'd never done this before.
"Your first week," she handed him one of the cups. She'd definitely never done this before. "How was it?"
"Fine," he managed to squeeze out. She nodded and waited for him to continue but he was lost for words. When she looked like she was going to walk away he did something that even amazed himself. "Would you like to sit down?" He removed his feet from the chair and ran his hand over it to make sure there was nothing on it.
"Thank you," she said as she sat down. Severus saw her glance behind him and he guessed the rest of the staff were watching her every move. They were quiet for a few seconds and Severus watched her take a sip of her tea.
"My first week..." His words came out sharp and loud and the sound of it made him nervous. "It was..."
"First weeks always are," Professor McGonagall said with a knowing smile and Severus heard Filius mumble something in agreement from behind his paper. It was quiet again and Severus racked his brain for something to say, why was he trying so hard?
"Thank you for the tea," he added, feeling somewhat idiotic.
"Of course," she said, as if the act was a natural thing. Severus focused on the hot liquid in his cup. For anyone else, sharing a cup of tea was a normal everyday thing but for him... no one had ever willing brought him tea. He looked up at his former teacher; what did it mean?
Filius put down his paper and picked up his own cup. Severus could feel him observing them and he knew Filius was going to try to keep the conversation going, something he'd tried, unsuccessfully, with other teachers.
"Severus was just telling me that he thinks the seventh year students are behind," Filius said and Severus felt Professor McGonagall's eyes land on him.
"Is that so?" She asked and Severus nodded, his eyes lifting to meet hers. "They all performed very well in their final exams earlier this year, they wouldn't be in your class if they hadn't." She added and Severus noticed the way she had shifted in her seat to face him properly, giving him her full attention.
"I just don't believe they are ready." He said and although he tried to keep the tension from his voice it still sounded hard. Thankfully it didn't deter the other Professor.
"Of course they are not ready." She chuckled slightly which surprised him. "That's why they have you, to prepare them for what is to come." Severus observed her, thinking about what she'd just said. When he had been at Hogwarts, he had always made sure that he had a good understanding of what was to come in the following year. He always felt it gave him a solid ground to build his learning on.
"When I was a student..." He started but Professor McGonagall cut him off with a look of understanding.
"You were an exception. You'll discover that they come along every once in awhile." She gave him a kind smile that he didn't feel he deserved and placed her empty cup on the table on the table. "If you will excuse me, I have a meeting with Albus."
Severus wasn't sure what to say as she got up but his eyes followed her until she disappeared from the room. He glanced back at Filius to find the older man smiling slightly and wondered what could have brought it on. Before he could question it any further a few of the other teachers followed Minerva's suit and sat down next to him. Overwhelmed by their sudden interest he abruptly excused himself, knowing full well that by doing so he was taking away his chance to be finally included in the staff's friendly circle. He found himself regretting it as soon as he closed the staff room door behind himself.
Severus had woken up on Saturday morning with a headache and he knew straight away that it was due to lack of sleep. He'd tossed and turned all night, worrying about the Dark Lord's plans for Lily and knowing that his stay in the castle was keeping him out of touch with what was going on within the Death Eater's circle. He got up and padded across the cold floor into his living area to check for post. There was a letter from Lucius Malfoy but it contained nothing of importance and no sign of a summons. Severus let it fall into the empty fire place and set fire to it. He knew the Headmaster was becoming restless and frustrated at the lack of information he had been able to obtain but sometimes he felt Albus had misjudged his level of importance within the trusted circle that reported directly to the Dark Lord. He was a grunt, a no one, someone who cleaned up after the others. The only thing that set him aside was his connection to the Black's and the Lestrange's, and he knew the only reason the Dark Lord hadn't cast him aside was because he had been vouched for by Lucius. He knew that the time would come when he would have to try to attain some sort of information, anything to do with the Dark Lord's future plans and he realised how dangerous his task would be.
Severus walked back to his bedroom, feeling slightly sick at the thought of what he must one day do. He quickly changed, deciding on taking a walk to clear his head. He glanced outside to see the grey clouds darkening and he pulled a thick robe from his closet. He made his way of out of his room and up the winding staircase and as he approached the heavy oak doors he heard heels clicking on the stone floor behind him.
"Good morning Professor Snape," Professor McGonagall said as she made her way down the wide staircase behind him.
"Good morning." He mumbled.
"Would you care to join me for a walk into Hogsmeade?" She asked and although Severus knew he should accept her offer, part of him couldn't.
"It's raining," he said and he knew from the way her eyes travelled over his thick robes that she knew he was planning on taking a walk.
"Barely," she said, ignoring the fact that he'd tried to brush her off. "I'm meeting my sister and her son, I'm sure they'd like to meet you."
"I'm sure you are mistaken Professor." His voice was clipped, the kind of tone he used when trying to make sure people left him alone.
"Come, one drink and then if you wish to leave, you can." Severus shook his head, she just wouldn't give up.
"I..." he sighed and looked into her eyes. "I have things to do here." He said finally, unable to accept her offer when his frame of mind was so dark.
"Then perhaps you can meet us there?" She said, looking at him with encouraging eyes. "We'll be in The Three Broomsticks."
"Perhaps," he said, quietly. Professor McGonagall nodded and as she stepped towards the door he pushed it and held it open for her. She brushed past him, wrapping her long black shawl around her head and shoulders and Severus froze when he felt her hand land gently on his shoulder. He looked into her eyes that shone brightly from under the shadows of her cloak and he felt something in him relax. He watched her run gracefully across the courtyard then closed the door once she had disappeared from sight.
He wasn't sure what had passed between them but something had. He began to walk aimlessly along the corridor. He couldn't allow himself to be distracted, he had to find a way into the Dark Lord's inner circle but no matter how hard he tried, his mind was already in Hogsmeade. He shook himself, what was happening to him? More importantly, what should he do about it? For some reason Professor McGonagall was reaching out to him and although every fibre of his body was telling him to pull away, there was one small neglected part of him that longed for her company.
Just one drink... he took a deep sigh and ran his hand through his hair. Somehow she'd gotten to him. He growled deep in his chest and turned on his heel to make his way back to the main doors. He pulled it open forcefully and began to march towards Hogsmeade.
As he pushed the door open to The Three Broomsticks he was immediately greeted by loud cheerful voices and he had the sudden urge to leave. He tried to back-pedal out of the family pub but a large group pushed their way in, dragging Severus with them. He managed to free himself from the group and bumped into a nearby table. He mumbled a quick apology and headed for the door when he suddenly spotted her in the corner of the room. She was sitting with her sister, who shared similar features with the professor but had short light brown hair. Severus had already made up his mind to leave the bar when she suddenly looked up. Their eyes met for a second and she smiled brightly as he slowly made his way over to her.
"Professor Snape, I didn't think..." She was obviously surprised at his appearance and a fleeting shot of panic swept through his body.
"If you wish to withdraw your invitation..." He watched her shake her head quickly.
"No, not at all! I'm glad you decided to join us. Would you like a drink? Logan has just gone to get us some tea..."
"That's alright, I can buy my own." He almost ran to the bar. He couldn't understand the change in the deputy's behaviour, why was she suddenly being so nice to him? But was this not what he wanted? When he came back to Hogwarts he was looking forward to speaking to his former professor but she had been anything but the fair and admired teacher he had once known. But now she was more than that and in addition, she was welcoming him into her life. He ordered a strong cup of coffee and made his way back to the table where he noticed a man with dark wavy hair sitting with Professor McGonagall.
"Professor Snape, I'm Lydia." The sister reached a hand out to Severus when he joined them and he shook it. "This is my son, Logan." He shook hands with the other man and Severus thought he couldn't have been much older than himself. He was long and thin but he had what his mother would have called 'broad worker shoulders'. His face shared the same square jaw and eyes as his aunt but his overall face resembled his mother.
"Good to meet you Professor Snape," Logan said as they shook hands.
"Severus, my name is Severus. Taking into account that we are sharing a drink I think it appropriate to use my first name." As he said it he noticed Professor McGonagall look at him at little surprised. He wasn't even sure why he'd said it.
They lapsed into an easy conversation and Severus was glad that he wasn't expected to join in too often. He found Logan easy to talk to and they were soon discussing the other man's Auror training.
"He's doing wonderfully," Lydia said proudly, brushing her hand through her son's dark locks. He brushed her hand away playfully.
"With the amount of time he's wasting visiting friends, he'll be lucky to pass his exams this year." Severus turned to see Professor McGonagall fixing her nephew with a firm look.
"Oh sister, you're too tough on the boy." Lydia said, filling her son's cup with fresh tea.
"And you're not tough enough, dear sister." Professor McGonagall said with a forced sweet smile.
"My aunt believes in all work and no play," Logan said with a chuckle.
"There's always time to 'play' later," she responded to her nephew, "but you only have one chance to pass these exams. Studying hard for four years during your training will allow you to live your life as you wish."
"Your aunt is right," Severus heard himself say. "I believe that kind of thinking will make a successful individual and your aunt is living proof of that. Perhaps you should take on her advice; I know I wish I'd had someone giving me that kind of counsel." Severus could feel everyone watching him closely so he peered down into his empty cup. After a few seconds Lydia spoke to her son and the conversation started again. When Severus finally lifted his head he caught the deputy looking at him with an expression that he couldn't quite place.
An hour later they left the pub and after a long goodbye Severus finally began the walk back to school with Professor McGonagall.
"Did you enjoy yourself?" She asked and although he had, he didn't feel he could admit it to her.
"It was better than the marking I had planned for this morning." He glanced to his side to see her shake her head but she wore a slight smile. Something deep within him jumped at the thought he'd put that smile there.
They carried on walking in companionable silence and Severus found it odd that he felt so at ease with her. He glanced at her from the corner of his eye and noticed she was frowning. He wanted to say something to her but he could think of nothing. Suddenly she stopped and he turned to look at her.
"Did you really mean what you said back there?" She asked, eyeing him carefully as if waiting to catch the lie in him. He wasn't sure what she was referring to. "That you think I'm successful?" She asked, jogging his memory.
"I don't just think it, it's factual." He kept his voice neutral, like he didn't really care about what he was saying. "You are a powerful, successful witch that is held in high regard." He watched the frown deepen on her face.
"I've never felt..." she whispered, almost to herself.
"What do you mean?"
"Nothing, it doesn't matter." She shook her head and began to walk past him.
"Professor..." He grabbed her arm and turned her back to face him. As he did, her arm twisted slightly and the sleeve on her dress fell away to reveal the scar there. She hadn't noticed.
"We should head back -" She started quietly.
"How did you get that scar?" He cut her off forcefully and her eyes snapped down at her arm.
"What does it matter?" She jerked her arm away from him and he let her go.
"Do you have others?" he asked, feeling foolishly brave.
"This is personal, I do not..." Severus could see she was becoming uncomfortable but he kept questioning her.
"Does the rest of the staff know about it?"
"No they don't and that's how it will stay." She gave him a distrustful stare and started to walk away from him. He knew he'd ruined it, messed up his chance at getting to know her a little better. There was one last question burning on the tip of his tongue... how much more damage could he do?
"Did you do it to yourself?" He called after her and she spun around to face him, eyes blazing with fury as she marched back to him.
"I'm no coward Professor Snape! I may be plenty of things but I would never take the easy way out of any predicament, no matter how desperate I felt." Severus could see her rebuilding the walls around her that she had let down for him and he felt almost sorry for it.
"Who did it to you?" He asked, unable to stop his curiosity. The deputy gave a dry laugh and shook her head.
"We are not friends professor Snape, not by a long shot." Her words were cruel and he ignored the clenching in his stomach. "You are not privy to this information and nor should you expect an answer to your presumptuous questions." She wrapped her shawl around her shoulders and began walking towards the school. Severus stayed still, watching her walk away.
He knew he'd made a mistake, a mistake that hadn't even been worth making. It had got him nothing. He'd just chased away the only person who had reached out to him after Filius and he regretted it. He seemed to be regretting a lot lately. He looked down at the floor and kicked some of the stones before taking a deep breath and heading back towards the castle himself.
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