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The Call of the Ancestors by Gwendolyn Archer

Format: Novel
Chapters: 14
Word Count: 81,848
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Crossover, General, AU
Characters: Dumbledore, Filch, Hagrid, McGonagall, Snape, Lucius, Neville, Draco, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Snape/OC

First Published: 03/25/2006
Last Chapter: 10/15/2006
Last Updated: 10/15/2006

Summary:

Professor Gwendolyn Archer was a student at the same time as Snape and the Mauraders. Thinking that returning to her old school will solve all her problems, she soon finds herself faced with hauntings, thousand year old monsters and relatives returning from the dead. All artwork in the story and in the banner are drawn and painted by me. I also want to state that I am very aware that the Gwen character has Mary-Sue qualities. That is actually part of the plot.


Chapter 1: A New Beginning
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24 August, 1992 - A New Beginning

It was a dream come true. For the past several years since I had left Hogwarts, what I wanted most was to return there some day and be a part of the teaching staff; and now that was finally going to happen for me.

It was the week before the start of the term and I had been out on the balcony of the second floor of my house when the tawny little owl flew towards me. I noticed that it had a piece of rolled up parchment attached to its leg as it landed on the small table that I often used for my afternoon teas.

Inside the rolled parchment, along with the standard form letter, was a hand written note from my grandfather, Albus Dumbledore, who was the school's Headmaster. He told me how happy he was that I would be joining the faculty and that he looked forward to seeing me at the start of the term. Skimming over the form letter, I read that I was required to be at Hogwarts shortly before the arrival of the students. That was only a few days away. I didn't have much time to prepare.

Giving a squeal of excitement, I hurried downstairs and went outside to the paddock where my newly acquired horse, Ashlar, was grazing. He raised his handsome black head and trotted over as I approached. His red eyes glowing, he pushed his nose against me, eager to see if I was hiding an apple or some sugar cubes in the pockets of my robes.

Running my hands over his sleek neck I said happily, "We're going to Hogwarts, Ash. You and I."

Not as impressed as I was, Ashlar shook his head and returned to his grazing. Giving him a final pat, I turned around and went back into the house. Climbing the stairs I began to make a mental list of what items I wanted to pack. The list included most of my clothing plus my art and painting supplies. There was also a selection of books I wanted to take as well as some items that had belonged to my parents, such as Father's clock with the gold enchanted bird that sang in the morning.

Taking a seat at my desk, I unrolled some blank parchment and wrote a quick letter to my grandfather, saying how I was looking forward to coming home and seeing him.

I abruptly stopped and looked at what I had written. ‘Coming home’. But Hogwarts was not a home. It was a school.

No, to me it has always been home, I thought to myself.

For far too many years, I had lived entirely alone in the large house that I had inherited from my parents. It would be nice to hear the sounds of voices echoing through those school corridors again after having to listen to the silence night after night.

"Holda." I called to my white snow owl. She hopped off her perch and flew over to my desk. After I attached the message to her leg, she flew out the window. Like all post owls, she knew the way.

Not expecting to be back until the conclusion of the school year, I quickly went about making arrangements with my house-elves for maintaining my home while I was away. I also contacted my late father's studio to let them know that I would no longer be teaching art classes there, due to accepting another position.

"All set." I whispered to myself as I rose from my chair and went to my wardrobe. As I pulled out gowns and began folding them into a chest, I said, "It's going to be so nice to rejoin the living."
*~*~*


30 August, 1002 - Return to Hogwarts

At long last, the day finally came for my journey to Hogwarts. All that was left to do was send my luggage on its way. Placing everything into a pile on my bed, I waved my wand over the chests, causing them to shimmer a moment before fading out of sight. My owl had remained at the castle since I couldn't see having her come all the way back to Wales.

With some last minute instructions to my house elves, I went outside and then magically sealed the door behind me. This big, empty house would be safe and waiting for the day I returned, whenever that would be.

Ashlar was saddled and waiting for me next to the front gate. Pawing the ground, he tossed his head and neighed impatiently as he swished his heavy black tail. The horse never cared where we were going, he simply enjoyed the journey. Ordinarily I might have taken the train, but found that viewing the countryside from a horse's back was far more charming.

"Alright! We're going." I smiled as I climbed up into the saddle. For a moment I paused and looked at my house that, for so many years, had been nothing more than a shrine to memorialize my deceased parents. Knowing that they would approve of the choices I was making, I squeezed Ashlar's sides with my heels and headed out of the gate, never once looking back.

Even for a horse such as Ashlar, the road from Wales to Hogwarts was a long one. We used a carefully hidden Portkey to transport us to Hogsmeade. The horse shook his head with annoyance once the village appeared before us. Leaning forward, I pet his sleek black neck and said, "Nothing against you Ash...I just didn't want to be riding in the dark. You can take me the rest of the way."

With a snort, Ashlar proceeded to move through the village at a proud, high stepping trot. I couldn't help but notice the expressions on the faces of the pedestrians as we went by. While Ashlar has the personality of a puppy, he was intimidating in appearance with his glowing red eyes giving him a slightly demonic look. Very aware of the attention he was getting, the horse arched his neck and raised his tail. He rather looked like he thought he should have been marching in a parade.

Not long now, I thought to myself eagerly as the front gates came into view. Oh how well I remembered them. To my pleasant surprise they stood wide open, as though waiting for me. Unable to contain myself anymore, I nudged Ashlar's sides and we went through the gates at a brisk canter.

Now the castle was in view and slowly growing larger. While my heart felt lighter than it had in years, I felt a pang of guilt as I first glanced at my old home. As we neared the front doors, I saw a large framed person walking across the grounds, followed by an intimidating looking boar hound. Before I could call out, the tall man with the shaggy hair and beard looked towards me.

"Gwendolyn Archer! You haven't changed a bit!" He laughed.

"Hagrid!" I called as I brought Ashlar to a stop. Sliding down from the saddle, I bounded over to the school groundskeeper. "It's so good to see you!"

Hagrid caught me up in a hug that, for a few seconds, lifted me entirely off the ground. Being a rather tall woman, this wasn't something that happened to me very often.

After he released me I smiled up at Hagrid and said, "You're looking well."

"I was about to say the same thing to you lassie." Turning his cheerful eyes towards my horse he asked, "Who do we have here?"

Holding the reins I replied, "This is Ashlar. I was hoping that I would be able to keep him here."

"Well that won't be a problem at all." Beamed Hagrid, who had a deep love for all creatures. "I have an empty paddock next to my house that he would be more than welcome to." Studying Ashlar, he added, "He looks like one of those Azkaban horses."

"He is." I said nervously.

Shaking his head, Hagrid commented, "Most of those horses will kick you as soon as look at you."

"Usually they do," I agreed, "but Ashlar seems to think he's a puppy."

Hagrid broke into a laugh as he turned to me and said, "If you want to go on inside I can get this fellow settled in for you."

"Are you sure?" I asked anxiously.

"We'll be fine." Hagrid assured me. "Your grandfather has been pacing the halls all morning waiting for you. Go in and say hello."

Ashlar, who was used to towering over everyone, didn't know quite what to make of Hagrid. He nonetheless extended his head and nickered a friendly greeting. After giving the horse a final pat, I watched for a moment as Hagrid led him away before turning and going into the castle.

The entrance hall was exactly as I remembered. Taking a few steps inside I was immediately greeted by Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost.

"Welcome back Gwen." He smiled. "Professor Dumbledore will be so glad to know that you have arrived safely."

"Thank you, Sir Nicholas. Could you tell me where I could find him?" I asked.

"I'm right here, Gwen." Said a warm voice from down the corridor.

Overjoyed, I ran to the old wizard with the long flowing white hair and beard. Since the death of my parents Dumbledore and his brother Aberforth were my only living relatives. Like many grandparents, my grandfather had always doted on his "little Gwen Doll" and had a tendency to spoil me but that was not the only reason I loved this man so much. He was my conscience, my confidant, and my rock. There was never a problem that Grandfather Dumbledore could not solve.

Gazing at me through his spectacles, my grandfather smiled, "Now that you're going to be living here, there is no excuse for you not to show up for our Sunday afternoon teas."

Beaming at him I replied, "I have been so looking forward to that."

Putting his arm around my shoulders he directed me down the corridor saying, "Your belongings have arrived and are already in your room being unpacked by our house elves. Holda has made herself at home in our owlry, so you need not be concerned about her."

"I'm sure she's happy to have the company." I smiled. "For that matter, so am I."

As we headed up a staircase my grandfather said, "I want you to meet the rest of the staff, but first, I'll show you where your room is and then we can take a look at your classroom."

I was delighted to see that he had the portrait hole to my room covered with one of my own paintings. The ivory unicorn tossed its head and neighed in greeting to me as we approached.

"Morning Glory." said my grandfather quietly.

The unicorn painting immediately swung open and we climbed through the portrait hole. I couldn't help but gasp in surprise at my surroundings. The walls were covered in highly polished mahogany wood paneling and towards the back of the room was an ornate fireplace with impressions of horses carved into the stone. A little ways from the fireplace was a cozy window-seat that curved outward in a half circle. Layers of velvet draperies had been added to keep out the draft. Before the fireplace were a couple of wing back arm chairs and a small dining table.

My clothing had already been unpacked and were now hanging in the beautiful wardrobe which, like the paneling, had been polished to a high gloss. Towards the back of the room was the door leading into a charming well lit bathroom that had been covered in light pink tiles.

Without a doubt the most amazing, and somewhat intimidating object in the room, was the bed. It was a huge, canopied four poster that like the fireplace, had horses carved into the headboard. Dark red curtains...Gryffindor colors, hung from the canopy.

Turning to my grandfather I said, "This is amazing. I never expected anything like this...This room...It's fit for a princess."

Smiling, my grandfather replied, "Then in that case it is perfect for you. I hope you can feel at home here."

"I feel at home already." I said happily.

"I'm glad to hear that." he replied warmly. "Shall we go see your new classroom now?"

The classroom where I was to conduct my Visual Magical Arts classes was located one floor down from my living quarters. Newly renovated, the space had a high ceiling and plaster walls that were covered with paintings, some of which had been created by my father Galen Archer. The eastern wall was nothing but high windows that allowed plenty of sunlight to fill the room. There was also a pair of stained glass doors that led outside to a small but charming balcony that was complete with a short stone bench.

My grandfather then directed me to a smaller room that was towards the back of the classroom that had been turned into my office. The windows were covered with the same stained glass designs that had been put into the balcony doors.

"Well my dear, will this work for you?" asked Dumbledore.

Overwhelmed I turned to him and replied, "Everything is perfect. There is nothing more I could ask for."

Looking very pleased, my grandfather again touched my shoulder and said, "Let us now go to the staff room where your fellow professors are waiting to meet you.

I remembered very well where the staff room was located but having been a student the last time I was at Hogwarts I had never been inside it. As we walked in, I saw a small group of the teachers assembled. Some of the faces were familiar to me and some were not.

One by one, my grandfather took me down the line and I couldn't help but wonder if all new members of the staff were received in this way. The first teacher to welcome me back to my old school was Professor Binns, who was very easy to remember due to the fact that he was a ghost. Another that I remembered very well was the flying teacher Madam Hooch, as well as the Care of Magical Creatures teacher Professor Kettleburn. Although they were not professors, I was also introduced to the caretaker Argus Filch and the school nurse Poppy Pomfrey.


"Next Gwen, I would like you to meet Gilderoy Lockhart, our Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher." Said Dumbledore as he continued down the line of professors.

"How nice to meet you." I said as I extended my hand.

Flashing his huge white teeth, Lockhart smiled and said, "Please believe me when I say, Miss Archer, that meeting you is almost as pleasurable for me as it is for you."

"Thank you...What?" I asked, not sure I had heard him properly.

"And here," my grandfather broke in, "are the heads of the four houses. First we have-"

"There is no need to introduce us Albus. Gwen was after all sorted into my own House." Smiled an older woman in green that I would have known anywhere.

"Professor McGonagall," I exclaimed as I took her hands. "I can't tell you how good it is to see you again."

"Welcome home, Gwendolyn." smiled the head of Gryffindor. "Now that you have joined the staff feel free to call me Minerva."

"That could take some getting used to." I laughed.

Taking a few more steps, my grandfather directed my attention to another teacher that I remembered well from my school days.

"I'm sure you remember Professor Flitwick, head of Ravenclaw." said Dumbledore.

"Oh yes I do." I smiled at the tiny old man. "How are you Professor?"

"Very well, dear. Very well." he smiled as he looked up at me. "When you first entered the room I thought for a moment that I was looking at Aislyn. You look so much like your mother."

"Thank you." I smiled appreciatively.

Moving down the line, my grandfather introduced me to a short older woman that I remembered from my Herbology classes. "Pomona Sprout, head of Hufflepuff."

"Welcome back to Hogwarts, Gwen." She smiled.

"Thank you so much." I replied.

Finally we reached the black robed professor at the end of the line. He had been watching my grandfather and I approach with an expression of boredom.

"Gwen, I would like you to meet Professor Severus Snape, our Potions Master and Head of Slytherin."

Severus Snape. I remembered that name well and not simply because we had been students at Hogwarts at the same time. Snape has been one of Voldemort's Death Eaters, yet for some reason my grandfather had chosen to give him a teaching job and had fought hard to keep him from being sent to Azkaban. Many, including myself, had questioned Dumbledore's decision but knowing my grandfather as well as I did, I knew he never did anything without a good reason.

As Snape took my extended hand, he looked down his hooked nose and regarded me with his rather cold black eyes. His thin pale face was framed with curtains of shoulder length black hair.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Professor Snape." I smiled, trying not to wince away from his dark glare.

Snape did not reply as my grandfather continued, "We're all delighted that you have returned to Hogwarts...wouldn't you agree Severus?"

"Ecstatic." Snape answered in a quiet, icy voice that did not sound happy at all.

"Now that we have the introductions out of the way, I suggest we all move to the Great Hall for a late lunch. Are you hungry, dear?" Asked Dumbledore as he turned to me.

"Yes I am." I answered. "I was too excited to eat earlier today."

As my grandfather led me from the room I couldn't help but glance back at the Potions Master and wonder why he would glare at me in such a way. In the weeks to come I would find myself getting to know that glare very well.

*~*~*



Chapter 2: A Swan Quill and a Sorting
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31 August, 1992 - The Swan Quill



My grandfather and I had been awake chatting long into the night, so it was late in the morning when I woke up the following day. Staring up at my canopy, I smiled as I realized that I really wasn't dreaming. I had in fact returned to Hogwarts.

Rising from the bed, I wrapped my bathrobe around myself and went to the window seat. Looking down over the grounds, I could see Ashlar trotting around inside his paddock. He looked content with his new surroundings, and he no doubt loved the attention he was receiving from Hagrid. As soon as I had gone over my lesson plan for the coming term I would be sure to go out to visit him.

After getting dressed, I climbed through my portrait hole and headed for my classroom. I hadn't gone far before I heard an offensive sound coming from the ceiling.

"Oh no, not you!" I exclaimed as I looked up.

Sure enough, it was Peeves the Poltergeist, the one resident of Hogwarts that I had not been looking forward to seeing. To my surprise, instead of hanging around to torment me, he simply stuck out his tongue and then disappeared into the wall. The entity had constantly tormented me when I was a student but apparently showed a little more respect for the teaching staff.

Laughing softly, I whispered to myself, "Yet another reason that I love my new job."


Relieved, I continued on my way until I reached my new office. As I sat down at my desk a small, gift wrapped box caught me eye. Next to it was a hand written note.


Gwendolyn,
I can't begin to tell you how happy I am to have you as a part of my staff and how proud I am of you.

With Love, Grandfather


Opening the gift I was delighted to find a lovely swan feather quill. Very happily, I turned to my lesson plan and then went over the names of the students who would be studying the Visual Magical Arts. Mine was an elective course and could either be dropped or continued once students had reached their third year. As I went down the list of those enrolled I saw a number of sur-names that I recognized from my own school days.

Leaning back in my chair I gave a contented sigh. Tomorrow the students would be arriving and then, the following day was the start of the term. Gathering up my lesson plans, I saw that there was not much left to do. All I needed now were my pupils.

Just as I was about to get up from my chair, I was startled when a figure abruptly appeared in the doorway.

"Ah, good afternoon, Professor Archer!" beamed the blond haired man with the wide toothy grin.

"Good afternoon." I replied. "Professor Lockhart isn't it?"

"As if you could forget." he winked. "Do call me Gilderoy."

After a moment's pause I asked, "Can I help you with something?"


"Actually, Professor Archer, I am here for you. I'm here to offer to grace you with my company on the way to the Great Hall for lunch."

There was no way I was misunderstanding this man. He was obviously more vain than Ashlar, but with none of the horse's appeal. Nonetheless, I was beginning to feel hungry and I did not want to appear rude.

Reluctant to encourage him by using his first name I said, "Thank you, Professor Lockhart. As a matter of fact, I was on my way to lunch now."

"Excellent!" beamed Lockhart.

Before we had gone halfway down the corridor I found myself regretting my decision. Never in my life had I ever met anyone more self absorbed than Gilderoy Lockhart. With every step he bragged about his numerous adventures...for full details he advised me to read his published works.

To my great relief, we were joined by Hagrid on our way into the Great Hall.

"Hagrid," I greeted the giant warmly. "How is Ashlar?"

"Right as rain." Hagrid replied with a grin. "Hard to believe he's an Azkaban horse. I've never seen one with such a cheerful personality."

"Neither have I." I smiled.

Hagrid continued, "Well, I'm sure a lot of that has to do with who his mistress is. I seem to remember a little blond student who managed to charm a forest dragon into giving her his diamond collection."

"No, no." I laughed. "I never charmed him. He just offered them and refusing would have been rude."

As we reached the table where some of the staff had assembled for lunch, Lockhart made a point of pulling my chair out for me. As I sat down next to my grandfather, I once again observed the black haired Snape glaring down the table at me.

"Did you sleep well, Gwen?" asked my grandfather.

"Yes I did. In fact, I slept very well. It's as though I never left." I answered. Turning to him I added, "Thank you for the swan quill."

"You're very welcome, my dear." he smiled. "As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for you."

The rest of lunch was spent in pleasant conversation. Tomorrow would be spent getting ready for the arrival of the students. The evening would begin with the sorting, followed by the feast. Once again I would be here to witness these wonderful events, but this time, it was from the faculty table.

At that time, newly added to the Hogwarts staff, I had no idea how different my experience at the school would be the second time around.

*~*~*


1 September, 1992 - Another Sorting


After a sleepless night, the day for the students to return to Hogwarts finally arrived. The morning and afternoon proved to be very long as there was not much to do and the Hogwarts Express would not be arriving until later in the evening.

To kill some time, I took a walk out to the paddock to check on Ashlar. He had obviously been rolling on the ground and his long black mane was now full of snarls and tangles. Nickering pleasantly, he stood still while I began the complicated process of smoothing out his mane and tail.

While I was grooming Ashlar, Hagrid came along and leaned against the fence as he said, "I told you he would do okay out here."

"That you did." I smiled. "I can't thank you enough for getting him settled in, Hagrid."

"Aww, it was nothing." he replied with his dark eyes twinkling. "The more the merrier."

"By the way, is the Forbidden Forest still forbidden?" I asked.

"For students, yes." he answered. "Now that you're part of the staff, no one would stop you if you wanted take a walk through there but I wouldn't advise it. If you must go you'd do better to not climb down from Ashlar's back while you're out there."

"I'll take that under advisement." I said agreeably.

Once Ashlar was cleaned up, there were still a number of hours to go before the staff needed to assemble in the Great Hall, so I saddled the horse and managed to burn off some energy by cantering a number of times around the outskirts of the grounds. At any other time I would have been tempted to ride into the forest, but it wouldn't do for the Headmaster's granddaughter to be late for the sorting. When the sun began to set, I returned Ashlar to his paddock and then hurried back to the castle.

Wanting to make a good impression, I spent the next two hours primping in front of my mirror for the feast. I chose my dark red gown with the gold accents. Blue was usually my favorite color, but like many who had passed through these halls, I was still fiercely loyal to my old house.

At long last the clock chimed, alerting me that it was time. The students were very likely in the process of getting off the train and climbing into the Thestral-drawn carriages. With high spirits, I left my room and hurried downstairs to the Great Hall.

On my way there, I once again met with Nearly Headless Nick.

"Good evening Professor Archer." he smiled as he floated by. "You're looking lovely this evening."

Turning around I smiled and answered, "Thank you, Sir Nicholas. Have they started arriving yet?"

"The carriages are coming through the gate now." he replied. "You'll want to go in and take your seat."

"Oh yes. Thank you, Sir Nicholas."

As the ghost floated on his way down the corridor, I turned around to go through the doors of the Great Hall and almost walked into a thin, black-robed figure. Jumping a few inches off the floor, I gasped and then recognized the pale features of Snape. His eyes widened slightly as I stood before him.

"Oh, you startled me." I laughed. Trying to be friendly, I smiled, "Good evening, Professor Snape."

"Easy for you to say." he whispered and then walked by me without another word.

For a few seconds, I watched him walk quickly down the corridor and wondered if he was tense because of the arrival of the students, or if that was simply the way he was all the time. Deciding not to take his rudeness personally, I continued into the Great Hall and took my seat at the staff table next to my grandfather.

The next several hours were as magical as I had remembered them being when I was a child. Smiling, I watched as one by one, the first years nervously sat on the high stool and took their turns wearing the sorting hat.



Oh, how vividly I remembered my own sorting. Minerva had barely placed the tattered old hat on my head before it had shouted, “Gryffindor!” Now, here I was on the other side of the staff table. How quickly those years had flown by.

Once the sorting was completed, my grandfather stood up and gave his usual welcome to the students, which then led to the start of the feast. During the meal, I noticed a number of the students looking at me curiously. With the faculty being fairly small, it was easy for them to notice when a new face appeared at the staff table.

At the conclusion of the meal my grandfather once again stood up and commanded the attention of everyone present. Just as he did years ago, he gave a reminder that the forest was off limits and the Quidditch trials would be held the following week, then he introduced Professor Lockhart as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

Finally, Dumbledore looked towards me with a warm smile and said, "It gives me great pleasure to welcome my granddaughter, Professor Gwendolyn Archer to the Hogwarts staff as our Visual Magical Arts teacher."

I couldn't help blushing at the warm applause that seemed to come the most enthusiastically from the Gryffindor table.

Now, at the end of the evening, my grandfather dismissed the students to their dormitories, advising them to get some sleep and be well rested for the start of the term first thing tomorrow morning.

As the Head of Houses left the room to assist the new students, I lingered for a little while at the table with Dumbledore. When the doorways were no longer as crowded, my grandfather smiled, "I would suggest you go and get some rest as well, Gwen. You have an exciting first day ahead of you."

"I am a little tired." I admitted. "I was too excited to sleep last night."

"I figured as much." he laughed as we rose from out chairs. "And if you need anything, do not hesitate to let me or any of the others on the staff know."

"Everything will be fine, Grandfather." I smiled. "You really don't have to worry so much."

"Alright then." he replied. "Sweet dreams, Gwendolyn."

"You too." I said warmly.

After bidding a goodnight to the other members of the staff that were still in the Great Hall, I went cheerfully to my room and got ready for bed. Although I expected to have another sleepless night ahead of me, I found myself feeling drowsy once I had curled up under the covers.

It's just as I remember, I smiled to myself as I drifted off to sleep. It’s so nice to know that some things can be depended on to not change.

*~*~*




Chapter 3: Dumbledore's Darling and an Unwanted Admirer
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2 September, 1992 - "Dumbledore's Darling"


I was so excited about my first day as a teacher at Hogwarts that I woke up an hour before the golden bird on my clock began to sing. Jumping from my bed, I quickly bathed and got dressed, choosing to wear one of my lighter blue gowns. After an hour of nervous primping, I went down to the Great Hall to get some breakfast before happily going to my classroom.

To start the term off we began studying the very first known works of magical visual arts...the prehistoric cave paintings that were scattered over northern Europe. While faded and no longer detailed, the images of those primal hunts still moved across the stones on which they had been painted. Later on in the term I would be teaching my students how to design and paint their own personal Tarot cards which is the reason most of them had elected to take my course. Tarot art was a passion of mine and I was looking forward to teaching that subject as much as my pupils were to learning it.

By the time students and staff were taking a break for lunch, I was in high spirits, thoroughly enjoying my day. Feeling more content than I had ever been in my life, I went to the staff room to get some tea and perhaps read one of the copies of the Daily Prophet that was lying around.

"Good afternoon, Gwen." said Professor Flitwick as I entered the room. "How is the day treating you so far?"

"Everything has been wonderful." I answered sincerely. "I don't think I have ever been happier."

"Ah I'm glad to hear it." smiled the tiny old man. "It's always a pleasure to see one of our former students doing so well."

"Thank you." I smiled warmly.

As I poured myself some tea, Professor Flitwick bid me a good afternoon and then left to the room to prepare for his afternoon classes. Sighing, I walked to the window and gazed out at the grounds. After so many years of grieving in isolation, I was at last feeling that heavy weight of sadness lift from my heart.

"Everything is absolutely perfect." I said aloud as I gazed out the window.

"Did Dumbledore's Darling really expect anything to be otherwise?" asked an icy voice.

Turning around abruptly I saw Professor Snape, whom I had not noticed, rising out of one of the arm chairs.

"What did you call me?" I whispered.

"Dumbledore's Darling. That is who you are aren't you? "Or do you prefer to be called his Perfect Princess?" asked Snape as he fixed his cold black eyes on me.

"Who do you think you are?" I demanded coldly.

"Just one of the many people here who now have the job of fawning over you and catering to your every whim. It's been interesting watching the Headmaster prepare for your arrival..from inventing a class for you to teach to turning two classrooms into one...all so his lovely darling can have the best."

"Inventing a class! How dare you say that to me! My grandfather didn't do anything of the sort! I'll have you know that the entire Ministry of Magic agreed that there needed to be more cultural studies added to the curriculum and it just so happens that I had the nessassary qualifications to fill this position!" I exclaimed indignantly as I took a few steps towards the black haired wizard.

"How convenient!" Snape replied snidely.

"There was nothing convenient about it! My class makes the students aware of the other options that are available to them once they have finished their schooling. Not all of them are cut out to be aurors!" I said angrily.

"No they are not." he whispered as he stepped closer and glared into my eyes. "And they, like many of us will have to actually work for a living."

We were now standing toe to toe as as I returned his glare with my own. "Exactly what are you implying, Professor Snape?" I said sharply.

Staring down his nose at me he answered quietly, "I am not implying anything, Professor Archer. I was stating a fact!"

"Is everything alright in here?" asked Minerva who had suddenly appeared in the staffroom doorway and now stood watching us warily.

Without moving his eyes from me, Snape replied, "Not to worry, everything is just fine."

After a few seconds of silence Minerva said, "Are you both sure?"

"Yes." I whispered, still staring angrily into Snape's black eyes. "Couldn't be better."

There is no telling how long the hateful glaring would have continued if we had not heard the bell signaling that it was time for the next class.

"If you will excuse me, Professor Archer, I need to go and teach my students something that will actually be useful to them." said Snape in his soft, snide voice.

Gasping in righteous indignation, I watched as he turned his back and walked out the door, his full black robes billowing behind him.

"How dare you!" I called after him angrily.

The moment my final class was over I stormed up the spiral staircase to my grandfather's office. He was seated at his desk and looked surprised to see me when I came charging through the door.

"Good afternoon, dear. Is something wrong?" he asked quietly.

"Yes something is wrong!" I exclaimed. "I am sorry to bring this to you on the first day of the term, but Professor Snape just insulted me! I demand that he be sacked at once!"



Dumbledore looked at me for a moment and then asked, "Wait a moment Gwen...exactly what did Severus say to you?"

"He....He called me Dumbledore's Darling!" I answered.

There was yet another moment of silence then to my dismay, my grandfather began to laugh.

"This isn't funny!" I shrieked.

"I'm sorry, dear....but what's wrong with Severus calling you that? You are after all my darling granddaughter." Dumbledore explained once he finished laughing.

"That isn't all of it!" I said angrily. "He also implied that I don't actually have to work."

Dumbledore shrugged, "Your parents provided for you well enough that technically you wouldn't have to work if you didn't want to."

"That isn't the point!" I said as I started pacing the room. "Alright it's not what he said...it's the way he said it. He...He took a tone with me!"

"Gwen, I can't dismiss Severus from his position simply because of a tone."

"Why not!" I demanded.

"Gwen, Professor Snape is too valuable to this school for me to let him go over something like this. Are you sure you understood him correctly?" asked Dumbledore gently.

"Quite sure!"

Getting up out of his chair, Dumbledore came around to the front of his desk and put his hand on my shoulder. "I want you to give Severus another chance Gwen. He's not as bad as you think he is. Why don't you sit with him during supper, talk with him and get to know him a little better?"

"With all do respect, I would rather not." I replied coldly.

Outraged I stormed to the door but before leaving I looked back at my grandfather and said, "While Professor Trelawney may be the so called expert on Divination at this school, I am going to make my own prediction! I will never, ever ever share a conversation, or a meal or anything else for that matter with Severus Snape!"

*~*~*


Morning of 3 September, 1992 - An Unwanted Admirer


When I awoke the following day I began to wonder why I had allowed Snape to upset me so. What difference did it make what he thought of me? I knew that I was a qualified professor and I was teaching a legitimate course. As I got dressed and prepared for the second day of the term I resolved that I wouldn't allow Snape's words to upset me further. My grandfather clearly thought I had overreacted and he had always been one to take my feelings and emotions seriously.

Determined to have a good day, I left the room and went down to the Great Hall for breakfast, making a point to smile cheerfully at the students and other staff members I passed along the way. Dumbledore's Darling indeed! I deserved to be there just as much as any of the other professors.

As I passed through the doorway into the Great Hall, I once again found myself face to face with the pale, black haired wizard. For several seconds we silently glared at each other.

Deciding that I had better things to do than stand there and wait for him to insult me, I greeted him coldly, "Professor Snape."

"Professor Archer." he replied with equal coldness.

For a few more moments we continued to stand there, neither wanting to give way to the other and I was beginning to become aware that some of the students were craning their heads and staring at us. Snape's black eyes narrowed slightly and I supposed he was trying to intimidate me as I stared back at him defiantly.

The glaring probably would have evolved into another argument had I not suddenly caught the eye of Professor Lockhart who had just finished his breakfast and was leaving the Great Hall.

"Ah there you are, Professor Archer! Just the lady I was looking for!" said Gilderoy in his usual loud voice. Noticing the wizard in the flowing black robes he added, "I hope you don't mind Professor Snape if I steal the young lady away for a moment?"

"Be my guest." Snape whispered as he walked past me and left the Great Hall.

Without realizing what I was doing, I turned and watched him as he stalked down the corridor, his robes making him look like something out of a bad dream. Why in the world would my grandfather have such a spooky person on his staff? His scowl alone would surely bring most students to tears.

Chuckling softly, Gilderoy snapped me out of my thoughts by saying, "Now now, Professor Archer. There is no need to be intimidated."

Turning towards him I replied, "I'm not."

With a wide grin he said, "You don't have to pretend. I understand completely."

"You do?" I asked.

"Of course I do." he winked. "After all every witch in the world daydreams about having the chance to have a private conversation with me...and here you are."

After a moment's pause I raised my eyebrows and said, "Excuse me?"

"I assure you dear lady that you are not dreaming." smiled Gilderoy. "And I am about to make your artistic dreams come true."

"Oh, that's not necessary." I quickly replied.

"Now don't go thinking that you're unworthy." he laughed. "I realize this must be an overwelming moment for you, Professor Archer. You're about to be given an opportunity that most witches and wizards in your field can only dream of!"

At that moment I was beginning to wonder why I hadn't simply gone to the staff room for a pastry and a quick cup of tea. Almost afraid to know what this vain man had in mind, I asked hesitantly, "And what opportunity are you speaking of Professor Lockhart?"

"I couldn't help but overhear your grandfather say that you have a number of sessions scheduled this term for your students to create paintings from live subjects," he answered. "and I knew that I was the model that you had in mind! Now I normally don't allow my image to be used in such a way. I am already in such a high demand you see, due to my numerous accomplishments that you can read about in my published works, but for you Professor Archer, I am willing to make an exception."

Trying not to sound rude I replied, "That......that is.....errr....very generous of you to offer, Professor Lockhart but I-"

"Not at all, not at all!" he beamed. "Although for students of this age group I must insist on not posing nude. I'm sorry to disappoint you but I'm sure you can understand!" Lowering his voice and stepping closer he added, "Who knows, perhaps at some point a private session would not be out of the question."

He ended that statement with yet another of his annoying winks.

Perplexed, all I could so was stare at him in amazement. First Snape insulting me and now I had this egotistical man's unwanted attention. As I turned my eyes longingly towards the staircase that led to my classroom I began to fear that I would be spending a lot of time that term hiding in my office.

Laughing he said "Professor Archer, I do believe you are speechless!"

"I was just wondering exactly what I have done to deserve this." I replied weakly.

With a wide smile Gilderoy replied, "Now what did I tell you a few minutes ago about feeling unworthy? A lovely witch such as yourself deserves the best....and lucky for you, here I am!"

"Professor Lockhart-" I began.

"Gilderoy my dear lady!"

"......I really should get going. My students will be waiting for me." I said as I backed towards the door.

"Ah, of course, Professor Archer." Gilderoy replied with a dramatic bow. "I have no doubt that after this conversation you'll have a wonderful day!"

Turning abruptly I hurried down the corridor wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into in taking this teaching position. All I had ever wanted was to return to Hogwarts but nothing had prepared me for any of this. Fortunately the rest of the day went well with attentive students that were eager to learn a subject that I enjoyed teaching. As I went over the proper charms to change the color of ink in a drawing quill I resolved that no matter what Snape or Lockhart might say or do, I would not allow them to ruin this experience for me.

*~*~*



Afternoon of 3 September, 1992 - Round Two



My first week as a teacher was rapidly drawing to a close and my classes were more of an orientation than anything else. The real work would not begin until the following week when my students would begin learning an assortment of spells and charms that could be conjured through the Visual Magical Arts.

Going over the course outline, most of the students seemed excited over the various projects I had lined up, including walks through the school grounds to give them a chance to create images of magical creatures that Professor Kettleburn assured me he would be able to get for us. As the morning progressed I felt myself relax and was able to put the events of the previous days out of my mind.

Thursday was a short work day for me as I had only one class right after lunch which lasted a little over an hour. Just as I did that morning, I went over the course outline and for that week did not assign any homework. Once we began work on serious projects the students would all clearly realized that mine was not a class that could simply be coasted through with little effort.

When the bell rang I smiled as I dismissed the students then went to my office to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of the afternoon. Realizing that my work load was also going to increase as the weeks went by I thought I should probably take advantage of the free time and either go outside to visit Ashlar or do some work on one of the many half finished paintings that I had brought along from home. I chose the latter and began arranging my office in such a way that it doubled nicely as a personal studio.

I sat at my easel for another two hours and eventually began to feel drowsy. Rising from my stool, I walked to one of the tall windows and stretched realizing that I had been unable to get much sleep that week for various reasons. When the final dismissal bell rang I decided to retire to my room and rest a while before it was time for supper.

Crossing the room I noticed a small leather parcel on one of the desks that a student had left behind. Picking it up I wasn't sure whether to leave it or take it with me. It was then that I noticed the Gryffindor symbol on the closure and decided that I would drop it off at that House's common room since my personal quarters were nearby.

Just as I was locking the classroom door behind me, I was approached by a bashful looking round faced boy with light brown hair. In a soft uncertain voice, he pointed to the parcel in my hand and said, "That belongs to me....I forgot it."

Smiling I said, "Neville isn't it?"

Although it was only the first week, this particular student had impressed me with his attentiveness and thoughtful questions during the class.

"Yes, Professor." the boy answered politely.

"You have good timing. I was just about to take this to your common room." I said as I handed him the parcel. Still smiling I added, "Be more careful next time."

"You will find that Longbottom is prone to forgetfulness." said a soft icy voice that was quickly becoming familiar to me.

While I had been speaking with Neville, Professor Snape had come silently down the shadowy corridor. Turning a scornful eye towards the student, the black haired professor whispered, "Don't be surprised if you constantly have to remind him which end of the brush is used for painting."

Neville's face turned pink and he now looked scared out of his wits. Turning towards Snape I felt a rush of protective anger. Insulting me was bad enough but tormenting a student was unacceptable.

"For the past few days I thought that you simply held some sort of mysterious resentment against me, but now I see that you are nothing but a spineless, cowardly bully." I stated clearly as I glared at Snape.

The professor's black eyes widened as he stepped towards me. "What did you call me?" he asked in a very snake-like hiss.

Studying his drawn and sallow features I began to seriously wonder if my grandfather had unknowingly hired a vampire when he employed Professor Snape. Refusing to allow myself to be intimidated, I also stepped forward and met his gaze, as I replied, "I said you were a spineless, cowardly bully."

"You dare!" he exclaimed in a soft but deadly voice.

At my side, Neville whimpered softly and began taking frightened steps backward.

Once again standing toe to toe with him, I stared angrily into his eyes and whispered, "What have you done so far to make me think otherwise, Professor Snape? Tell me, just how weak and powerless do you feel? How insecure can a man be that he must ridicule students? Does such treatment towards others make you feel strong? Have you recovered some sort of lost power that was long ago stripped from you?"

Snape now looked absolutely furious and he clenched his fists at his sides as though to restrain himself from wrapping his long narrow fingers around my neck.

"Don't you dare try to analyze me, Professor Archer!" he growled, his face livid. "What can a spoiled, self-centered, over-privileged brat such as yourself understand?"

"Far more that you would think, Professor Snape." I whispered, my anger matching his own.

"This from the witch who has had Grandfather Dumbledore pave the way for her?" he said with a snide smile. "How has he managed to keep all of those strings that he has pulled for you from being tangled?"

"For the last time-"

"Gwen, Severus...is there a problem?" asked my grandfather who had suddenly appeared in the corridor. He had been away that afternoon at an appointment with Ministry of Magic and was still wearing his traveling cloak.

Taking a few steps backward I answered, "Professor Snape and I were just having a...professional disagreement."

"I see." said Dumbledore as he studied us warily. "Has this disagreement been resolved?"

"For now." Snape replied without taking his eyes off me.

Not looking convinced, my grandfather said, "In that case Severus, would you mind coming with me to the staff room. There are some Head of House matters that I need to go over with you and Minerva."

"Of course, Headmaster." Snape answered respectfully. With one final glare at me, he accompanied Dumbledore down the darkened corridor. I then became aware that poor Neville was still standing nearby watching with open-mouthed amazement.

"I'm sorry you had to see that." I said kindly. "Why don't you go on to your common room and get cleaned up. It's nearly supper time."

Saying nothing, Neville nodded and now looked at me with what appeared to be admiration. Once the student was out of sight I again looked down the corridor in the direction Snape and Dumbledore had gone. Sighing I realized that this conflict was far from over.

*~*~*


Chapter 4: The Weekend and a Talk with Dumbledore
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4 Septemeber, 1992 - The Anti-Snape


Mid-way through Friday morning I discovered that students who had witnessed my argument with the Potions Master had dubbed me "The Anti-Snape", a title I proudly accepted after seeing how horrible he had been to Neville.

It was soon apparent however that Snape himself did not find my title very amusing. While he said nothing, he glared at me furiously the few times we saw each other in the corridors or at meal time in the Great Hall.

As the afternoon drew to a close and the final dismissal bell rang, I sat down at my desk and gave a contented sigh. I had made it through my first week...not that I had any doubts that I would, although Lockhart's unwanted attention and Snape's hostility were not things I had been prepared to deal with.

Looking toward the window, I thought it was far too lovely an afternoon to stay indoors and decided to take Ashlar out for a run. Locking up the classroom I cheerfully went down the stairwell and headed down the corridor that led to my personal chambers. Before I had gone very far, I noticed Lockhart coming from the opposite direction. In no mood to deal with his vanity, I stepped close to the wall and knelt down next to a statue of a strict looking witch. Peeking around the statue's stone robes, I gave a sigh of relief as Lockhart disappeared into one of the classrooms.

"Oh, this is so silly." I grumbled to myself.

Then as I was about to straighten up, I became aware that someone had come down the corridor behind me and was now standing next to the statue that I was kneeling against. I didn't have to raise my eyes to identify the person in the flowing black robes.

"Tiring of your admirer's attention already?" asked Snape as he glared down at me. "How surprising. I was under the impression that you lived to be adored and worshiped by all who cross your path."

Climbing to my feet, I retorted, "And I was under the impression that you spent most of your time down in the dungeons, yet every time I turn around, there you are." Scowling, I crossed my arms and added, "If this persists everyone will be under the impression that we are in love."

"Perish the thought!" he replied snidely as he continued his walk down the corridor.

Watching him go I muttered to myself, "If Lockhart doesn't drive me batty, then Professor Snape will."

Now greatly annoyed, I continued down the corridor until I reached my personal chamber. Once inside, I changed into my riding clothes and then left the castle to go visit with Ashlar at his paddock. The giant, black horse snorted resentfully as I approached the fence.

"I'm sorry I haven't been out to see you sooner, my friend." I smiled as I offered him the apple that I had stolen from the kitchen. "It's been a busy week. Forgive me?"

After accepting my offering, Ashlar shoved his head against me and nickered playfully letting me know that all was forgiven. He pawed the ground and began tossing his head indicating that he had been in the paddock long enough and wanted a change of scenery.

"Alright then." I laughed as I opened the paddock gate and fastened a long lead rope to the horse's halter. "Come on."

With neck arched and ears perked forward he stood still while I grabbed a fist full of mane and vaulted onto his bare back. He was delighted not to be saddled and took of at a cheerful trot. He seemed particularly interested in the students that could be seen here and there around the school grounds. The weather was still very much like summer and it was not uncommon for students to spent their late afternoons outdoors until it was time to go to the Great Hall for supper. Aware of the cautious looks, I steered the horse well away from the children until I was sure how Ashlar and the students would respond to each other. As far as I could tell, the horse had merely been curious about them and seemed far happier than he had been while at my house with only the birds for company.



After spending a few minutes letting the horse run off some of his energy, I slid down from his back, gave him a few feet of the lead rope and allowed him to graze. From time to time he would raise his head, watch the students and then once again return to grazing. He didn't appear to be anymore bothered by the activity around him than Hagrid's boar-hound Fang. We spend the early part of the evening quietly walking around the grounds.

I was almost ready to return the horse to the paddock when I became aware that a small group of students had quietly approached and were now standing at a respectful distance. One I recognized immediately as Harry Potter but I kept my thoughts to myself. He was likely getting tired of everyone immediately commenting about the scar on his forehead and how much he looked like his father except for his mother's eyes.

Instead I smiled at the group as a whole and said, "Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon." replied one of the girls in the group who had long bushy brown hair. "Is that an Azkaban horse?"

Placing my hand on Ashlar's neck I answered, "Yes it is."

After a moment of silence the other girl in the group who was a few years younger and had long red hair asked hesitantly, "Aren't you afraid of him hurting you?"

As though insulted, Ashlar raised his huge black head and snorted. Shaking his head so that his forelock fell over his eyes, he returned to grazing as though to say, "This ignorant child isn't worth my time!"

I laughed softly and said, "No, although I admit the first time I saw him I assumed he had a foul temper." Ashlar raised his head again and pushed me with his nose as I added, "I know he looks dark and sinister, but all he needed was someone to allow him to show his true nature. It's surprising what you can find out about a person...or a horse...once you give them a chance." Taking a few steps towards the students I asked, "Would you like to pet him?"

Harry and the red headed boy in the group both looked mortified at the very suggestion but after a moment's hesitation both girls came forward and reached up to touch Ashlar's extended nose. He nickered playfully and swished his heavy black tail, obviously loving the attention.

"He's so soft." whispered the red headed girl.

"Yes he is." I agreed. "That's because he loves to be brushed and cleaned up. Ashlar is a bit of ham as you can see."

Indeed he was posing for the students as he arched his sleek black neck and perked his ears forward as though he were being presented to have his portrait painted. Sensing that the students were far weaker than he was, the horse refrained from pawing the ground or tossing his head.

"I thought he looked scary at first." the brown haired girl commented as she gazed into Ashlar's glowing red eyes. "But now meeting him, he is so beautiful."

Eventually the two boys overcame their intimidation and also stepped forward to pet Ashlar who was now looking as though he were having the time of his life. After a few more minutes the four students politely wished both my horse and I a good evening before heading towards the castle for supper.

Placing Ashlar back in his paddock I un-clipped his lead rope and smiled, "That wasn't so bad was it? Once they get to know you they'll wonder how they could have ever thought of you as something dark and scary."

Disinterested, the horse stepped away from me and directed his attention to the fresh hay that Hagrid had placed inside the paddock while we were gone. With a sense of accomplishment that I had my first week as a teacher behind me, I walked contently back to the castle.

*~*~*



6 September, 1992 - Tea and Conversation


I spent Sunday morning working on a painting on my classroom's balcony. Shortly before I had received word that I was being considered for a teaching position at Hogwarts, I had begun work on the palomino Abraxan mare and foal that now galloped across the canvas.

At two o'clock I climbed the tall spiral staircase the led to Dumbledore's office. Entering the room I saw that Fawkes' perch was empty but on the platform beneath it was a pile of ashes where a tiny featherless bird nested.

"Ah, a fledgling again." I commented as I crossed the office and glanced through the door that led to my grandfather's personal chambers.

"Yes, he burst into flames on Friday evening." said my grandfather in a matter-of-fact tone. The old wizard was in the process of placing a teapot and a couple of cups on a small-end table that was placed near two wing-back chairs. "Have a seat, my dear."

"Thank you." I smiled as I sank comfortably into one of the chairs.

My grandfather taking the other chair, filled the cups then handed one of them to me. Sitting back in his chair, he took a sip of tea then smiled as he asked, "Have you been able to keep yourself busy this weekend?"

Nodding I answered, "That hasn't been a problem at all. In fact I should probably enjoy my free time while it lasts."

"Very true." Dumbledore replied. "As the term progresses you'll find the paper-work alone difficult to stay ahead of, but it's all worth it."

"I'm sure." I smiled as I sipped my tea.

"How are you getting along with the rest of the staff?" asked my grandfather.

After a pause I answered, "Everyone has been wonderful but I tend to still think of Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick as my teachers. It seems odd to call them by their first names and be considered one of their peers."

"Perfectly natural, after all you have only been here a week. You will adjust." Dumbledore smiled.

"That's what Hagrid said." I commented.

"And he's right. You'll see." the old wizard chuckled. He paused a moment then inquired, "Then all is well between you and your colleagues?"

"For the most part." I answered. After hesitating a moment I said, "Could I ask you a question?"

"Of course you can." he answered, his blue eyes studying me.

"With all due respect, why Gilderoy Lockhart?" I asked.

Laughing, Dumbledore answered, "He is knowledgeable in his own way and was quite eager to educate young minds. Have you read any of his books?"

"I've read Voyages With Vampires, and frankly I found it all a bit hard to swallow, especially having met him. Forgive me, I know that's unkind...I just have trouble seeing Professor Lockhart doing all the things that he has claimed to do." I replied.

"You always were rather difficult to impress." said Dumbledore as he took another swallow of tea. Studying me carefully he asked, "Am I correct in assuming that you are not...shall we say...receptive...to his efforts to get your attention?"

"You noticed that?" I said softly as I felt myself blush.

With a warm smile Dumbledore answered, "My dear, I believe everyone has noticed that."

"I'm sure he's a good person, but, the way he goes on about himself is...well...tiresome." I said as I lowered my eyes to my cup. Smiling I added, "So if you are trying to find out if I'm swooning over him the way ever other witch in the world is, the answer is no."

Finding my comment amusing, Dumbledore laughed outright nearly dropping his cup.

"And the lady has spoken." he exclaimed cheerfully as he poured himself more tea. Looking towards me he asked, "More?"

"Yes, thank you." I answered leaning forward slightly.

On our second cups, my grandfather again relaxed in his chair and rested his kind eyes on me as he said, "Now....Severus."

"What about him?" I inquired.

"Have the two of you managed to resolve your...differences?"

With a sigh, I answered, "For the past few days we've managed to stay out of each others way and I think that's the best we can hope for. I really don't think I'll ever be able to get along with Professor Snape."

"How can you be so sure after only one week?" asked Dumbledore with a twinkle in his eye.

"Grandfather, the man is impossible!" I exclaimed.

"He said the same thing about you." Dumbledore replied casually.

My eyes widened as I said, "He spoke with you about me?"

"Well the other day we talked briefly about that confrontation the two of you had outside your classroom. Naturally I wanted to make sure that there wasn't anything happening that would interfere with either of you living up to your responsibilities as teachers." my grandfather explained.

"He said I was impossible?" I asked indignantly.

"He said you were not receptive to advice he was giving you regarding a student that he has been teaching for the last year." my grandfather explained with a hint of amusement in his voice.

"Why that.....that's not it at all. He was bullying that student. There was no reason for Professor Snape to come and say what he did!" I retorted.

Dumbledore said seriously, "Some of the students need a firm hand. In fact you would be wise to take some of what Severus tells you under advisement. Perhaps an evening this week you should sit with him during supper."

"Sit with him?" I repeated, hardly believing my ears.

My grandfather nodded and said, "Yes, sit with him. He has been a teacher at Hogwarts for a number of years and has a great deal of knowledge about his profession. I think you should listen to what he has to say."

"So far all Professor Snape has done is insult me!" I said heatedly.

"Are you sure he was insulting you? Perhaps he was only offering some constructive criticism." suggested Dumbledore.

"Calling me 'Dumbledore's Darling' is not constructive criticism!" I protested. Seeing my grandfather's reaction I added, "I can't believe you find this amusing!"

"Well I'm sorry, Gwen, but I thought the name was cute." Dumbledore laughed softly.

"Professor Snape didn't call me that to be cute! He said it to be snide!" I stated firmly.

"Perhaps he was just trying to make conversation."

"I don't think so. He keeps implying that I don't belong here."

"Then," said my grandfather as he looked over the top of his spectacles at me. "you will have to demonstrate professional behavior and prove him wrong won't you?"

Speechless, I gazed at my grandfather a moment before exclaiming, "You're taking his side!"

"It's not a matter of taking sides." Dumbledore replied. "You are new to the staff and could do a lot worse than following at least some of Severus' examples. Let me finish." he said firmly as he leaned forward slightly. "Gwen, trust me. Give Severus another chance and try not to immediately take offense at anything he might say."

After a moment's pause I said quietly, "Grandfather, I really don't think I can be friends with that man."

"I'm not asking you to." Dumbledore replied. "I am asking you to show some patience and make more of an effort to control your temper. In other words, don't give him things to criticize you for."

With another deep sigh I sat back in the chair and said, "Alright. Perhaps we just got off on the wrong foot during the first week."

Nodding with approval my grandfather turned the subject of the conversation to more trivial topics and as I relaxed in the chair sipping my third cup of tea I thought how good it was to have these wonderful long talks with my grandfather again.

When I was a child, Sunday was always the day he came to visit my parents and I, and he always set aside some time to have tea and conversation with his "Gwen Doll". As I grew older, I came to cherish those Sunday talks and I always came away with a gem of my grandfather's wisdom. In hindsight, I don't believe I could have gotten through my first year of teaching without those talks to advise and guide me.

*~*~*





Chapter 5: Staff Meetings and Dinner for Four
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7 September, 1992 - Week Two


When I rose from my bed the following Monday morning, it was with a firm resolve to take my grandfather's advice and not allow myself to be goaded into losing my temper. As I stood before my vanity brushing my hair, I told myself that no matter what was said I would remain calm and keep my words soft. I was after all the granddaughter of Albus Dumbledore and I needed to start acting like it.

Since the term had started on a Tuesday the previous week, I had entirely new students on Monday so I quickly repeated the orientation before beginning the formal lesson. We continued discussing the European cave paintings as well as the tools and charms that were used to manifest that ancient magic. We also went over the magical properties of colors as well as ingredients that could be added to paint mixtures to add certain powers to spells.

"This is similar to Potions" a girl from Ravenclaw pointed out.

Reluctantly I agreed, "Yes in many ways it is. For example, you would not want to add too much Dragon's Blood to red. While that mixure will add a great deal of energy to a painting, too much could of course cause your canvas to burst into flames....so yes, very much like Potions, it's very important to take careful measurements."

At the conclusion of the morning class, I gave them their first assignment which was to write a brief essay on how the cave painting magic had been performed and carried out. The students seemed dismayed at receiving a written assignment as their homework for a Visual Magical Arts class but I explained that to understand how the work was done now, it was important to learn how this branch of magic had been developed originally. I then assured them that they would find the following week's assignment more entertaining.

With Monday half over, I spent my lunch time in the staff room in one of the comfortable arm chairs reading the Daily Prophet. As I was sitting there sipping my coffee Professor McGonagall entered the room looked a bit frazzled.

"Is something wrong?" I asked curiously.

"Oh hello, Gwen. I'm afraid that we are suddenly without a teacher for Muggle Studies." she answered.

"Really? What happened?"

"Peeves! That's what happened! He has been terrorizing Professor Andrews since last year and today caused that poor man to take a nasty fall down the Entrance Hall stairs." Minerva answered angrily.

"Oh my goodness! Is he alright?" I asked.

"He is now. He had a few broken bones that Madam Pomfrey was able to mend but Professor Andrews said he has had enough of Peeves and just handed in his resignation." Minerva replied.

"Oh dear." I said softly.

With a sigh, she said, "Oh dear is right! Of course now we'll need to find a substitute until a permanent replacement can be found. Your grandfather is going to visit the Ministry this afternoon to see about obtaining a list of suitable candidates. Teachers for Muggle Studies are so hard to come by!"

Indeed they were. Many professors considered that class frankly too boring to teach but it was important for the students, especially those who came from magical backgrounds to learn how the non-magical community lived.

"This isn't a good way to start off the term." I commented as I rose from my chair.

"No it isn't, but we'll do the best we can." my former teacher agreed. Smiling slightly she asked, "How are you getting along, Gwen?"

"Everything is fine Professor McGonagall." I answered with a smile.

"Well good. I'm glad things are going smoothly for someone here." she replied. Heading for the door, she added, "If you'll excuse me Gwen, I have a class to get to."

"Of course. Good afternoon."

It's quite interesting to see the faculty's point of view, I thought to myself as I placed my empty cup on the coffee table.

Leaving the room, I once again almost walked into Professor Snape just as he was coming through the doorway. How was it that we were always running into each other when our classrooms were a couple of floors apart?

As usual he regarded me with his stern, dark glare that made me feel as though he resented my very existence. His black eyebrows drew together as though the sight of me filled him with annoyance.

Before he could say a word I put my hands behind my back, forced a slight smile and said, "Good afternoon, Professor Snape."

He continued to glare at me silently for a moment and then said icily, "Professor Archer."

To my surprise he withdrew from the doorway and allowed me to pass into the hallway although he kept his eyes on me the entire time as though he didn't trust me not to try to pull something when his back was turned.

Slightly amused I returned to my classroom to teach my afternoon students and was thankfully able to end Monday on a peaceful note.

*~*~*


8 September, 1992 - The Staff Meeting


The following day was the first staff meeting, which was always held on Tuesday afternoon following the final dismissal bell. After a cheerful, if uneventful day, I locked up the classroom and made my way to the faculty room where my grandfather and Professor McGonagall along with a number of the other professors were already assembled.

"Hello, Gwen." said Dumbledore as I came hesitantly through the doorway. Gesturing toward the chairs, he added, "Have a seat. We'll get started as soon as the others arrive.

Feeling excited about my first staff meeting, I sat in one of the arm chairs that was close to the front of the room. Moments later, the remainder of the teaching staff filed through the door and either sat down in chairs or stood along the walls. Gilderoy was the last to arrive and he shut the door behind him before moving to stand next to the school governor, Lucius Malfoy and Professor Flitwick.

For the first few minutes, Minerva went over reminders regarding annual school events that were coming up that week including tryouts for each House's Quidditch team. The stern looking professor also mentioned some problems with some suits of armor on the fourth floor that had begun uttering obscenities at anyone who walked by due to an enchantment that a student had placed on them.

Finally, my grandfather stepped up to the podium and said gravely, "As many of you know by now, Professor Andrews has handed in his resignation so we are currently without a teacher for Muggle Studies. We will have a substitute who will be arriving Monday and will hopefully be able to stay until we find a permanent replacement. For the remainder of this week I will need to ask some of you to substitute for the Muggle Studies class on days when you have a free period."

Dumbledore's eyes turned towards me at the end of that sentence. Since I had some free hours on Thursdays and Fridays I would likely be asked to fill in, not that I would be able to really teach the students very much on that particular subject.

After a pause, my grandfather continued, "The Ministry is currently going over a list of possible candidates and we will begin the interview process shortly." There was another moment of silence before he added, "We have come to the decision that the new Muggle Studies professor will in fact be someone from the Muggle community."

His statement was followed by gasps of surprise from the staff as well as an exclamation of outrage from Lucius Malfoy.

"You can't be serious! A Muggle? Here?" he roared from the back of the room.

"You have a problem with this decision, Lucius?" asked Dumbledore as he rested his eyes on the blond wizard.

"Yes I have a problem!" Lucius retorted. Tightening his grip on his cane, he continued, "It's bad enough that you allow Mud-....Muggle-born students to attend...but a Muggle teacher as well! You've gone to far!"

"Why do you say that? Who would know more about how the Muggles live than one who has lived their lives without magic?" my grandfather responded softly.

"Personally, I don't understand why that course is a part of the curriculum at all! Why should we concern ourselves with how Muggles go about their insignificant lives?" said Lucius, his eyes blazing.

To my surprise, my grandfather smiled at Lucius and said in a quiet, but firm voice, "A very knowledgeable witch once said that it's best to keep your words soft and sweet, lest someday you have to eat them. You would do well to heed that advice, Lucius."

I smiled to myself for it had been my own mother who had made that statement from time to time. Dumbledore's eyes again turned towards me for a moment before he continued with the meeting.

The Headmaster's gaze moved around the room as he explained, "Once a suitable professor is hired, we will need to assign one of you as a guardian, at least for the duration of the first term, to help our new colleague adjust to his or her surroundings."

"So the Muggle is going to need someone to play nursemaid to it!" Lucius sneered.

"It?" asked my grandfather as he again turned his eyes towards the blond, outraged wizard. With a very firm, mildly angry tone Dumbledore continued, "That sort of prejudice is the very reason we have decided to search for a Muggle teacher. The students need to see that those from the non-magical community are not really so different from us!"

Lucius said nothing more for the remainder of the hour but I could tell from his sour expression that he was far from accepting the Ministry's decision regarding the new Muggle Studies professor. Minerva concluded the meeting saying she would be in touch with a few of us the following day about substituting for Professor Andrews' class for the rest of the week.

As I gathered my belongings and left the staff room I thought about Lucius's outburst and couldn't help but feel sorry for the yet unknown Muggle professor who would soon be joining our staff.

*~*~*


9 September, 1992 - Dinner For Four



The day after the staff meeting I was not surprised when a note from Minerva was delivered to my classroom asking me to stop by the faculty room at the end of the school day. Figuring that it was regarding the need of substitutes for the Muggle Studies course, I made my way to the meeting immediately following the final dismissal bell.

A few other teachers were already assembled at a long table that had been moved to the center of the room. As I came through the doorway I abruptly came face to face with Gilderoy Lockhart.

"Professor Archer! There you are are! You know, if I didn't know better I would begin to think that you have been hiding from me! Didn't I tell you that you needn't be shy around me?" he exclaimed.

Forcing a smile I answered, "Yes as a matter of fact you did, Professor Lockhart."

Chuckling, Gilderoy winked as he said, "I know, I know. It's still so hard to believe."

Before anything else could be said I was rescued by my grandfather who at that moment got up from the table.

"There you are, Gwen." he said as he put his hand on my shoulder. With a smile, he added, "Please have a seat."

He directed me to a chair that, much to my dismay, was directly across the table from Snape, who was sitting there with his arms crossed and glaring at me. As I sat in the chair, I couldn't help but notice that his black eyes never blinked as he blatantly kept them fixed on mine.

"Professor Snape." I greeted him coldly.

"Professor Archer." he replied in an icy voice.

For a few minutes nothing more was said as I crossed my arms and silently returned Snape's glare with my own. Somewhere in the background I was slightly aware of Minerva and Dumbledore thanking Gilderoy for being able to substitute for Muggle Studies on Thursday. It seemed to take quite a while for him to be convinced to teach from the regular textbook instead of referring to one of his own. Throughout all of this, Snape and I continued to silently glare into each others eyes, each refusing to back down.

At long last, Gilderoy left the room and Minerva took a seat at the head of the table. She made some quick notes on a roll of parchment that I assumed was the list of teachers that would be taking Muggle Studies for the rest of the week.

Turning her attention to me, Minerva said, "Alright, Gwen.....Gwen?....Gwen!"

"Hmm...What?" I tore my eyes from Snape's and looked at my former Head of House. "Oh yes!"

Looking as though she were trying not to smile, Minerva asked, "Would it be possible for you to teach the Muggle Studies class at two o'clock, Friday afternoon?"

"Yes, I would be happy to. Anything I can do to help." I answered sweetly as I turned my eyes back towards Snape who was still silently glowering at me across the table.

Minerva glanced once at Snape and then back at me as she replied, "Very good. We're covered now for the rest of the week. Thank you, Gwendolyn."

"You're more than welcome, Professor McGonagall." I said, still defiantly keeping my eyes on Snape.

My grandfather came to the side of the table and said cheerfully, "Perhaps now we should all go together to the Great Hall for supper."

Minerva looked up at him puzzled as she asked, "It's a little early for supper isn't it?"

"Perhaps, but later this evening we could sit down for dessert or a drink together." He answered. Smiling he turned to Snape and I as our silent glowering continued and said, "Does that sounds alright to the two of you?"

"I think that's a wonderful idea." I answered, never once moving my angry gaze for Snape.

"How about you, Severus?" asked my grandfather.

"Of course, Headmaster." Snape answered coldly his eyes still glued to mine.

"The perhaps we should go now then." said Dumbledore merrily as Minerva rose from her chair. She was still looking back and forth warily between the black haired wizard and me.

Even as we rose from our chairs, the battle of wills continued between Snape and myself and eye contact was not broken until we were all in the corridor and walking toward the Great Hall. Along the way, my grandfather suddenly had something very important to tell Minerva and had her walking next to him, forcing me to walk side by side with Snape. Every few steps, I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye and each time caught him doing the same as he continued to glare scornfully at me.

Well, I thought angrily, if he thinks he can intimidate me that way he is sadly mistaken.

Instead of sitting at the usual staff table, my grandfather directed us to a small room that was located at the back of the Great Hall where a table for four was set up and waiting for us. Dumbledore quickly directed us to our chairs. He and Minerva sat on one side while Snape and I sat on the other.

At that point, I was seriously wondering what my grandfather was up to. Was he trying to force us to get along? If so, his plan wasn't working. Even though Snape and I were seated side by side, we still managed to give each other angry, silent glares throughout the entire meal.

After taking a sip from his goblet of wine, my grandfather smiled, "This is nice. I've been wanting us to have a quiet meal together since Gwen arrived."

Minerva replied, "I have to admit, it's nice to have a meal now and then without all the noise in the background." After taking a swallow from her goblet she added, "This wine is excellent."

"It is, isn't it? I've been saving this for a special occasion and what can be more special than welcoming my granddaughter to the staff?" asked Dumbledore cheerfully.

"Of course we can't have anything less than the best for the Lady Gwendolyn." said Snape coldly.

No longer caring about be subtle, I blatantly turned and glared at Snape who was also no longer making any secret of scowling at me. Minerva was looking nervously across the table at us.

"Ah, dessert!" exclaimed Dumbledore happily as plates with raspberry tort appeared where our supper plates had been earlier in the evening. Smiling across the table he asked, "Has everything been going well for your class, Gwen?"

"Very well." I answered as the scowling war with Snape continued. Keeping my gaze fixed on the Potions Master, I added, "I have no complaints at all about my class!"

Snape's black eyebrows drew together making him look as though he were silently wishing for me to burst into flames.

Nodding, Dumbledore said, "Good. I wanted to make sure that we didn't miss anything when preparing your supplies."

"Yes. It's very important that Professor Archer has everything that she believes she needs." Snape whispered.

"Right you are, Severus." replied Dumbledore, seemingly oblivious to the angry glaring that was going on directly across the table.

Minerva on the other hand, had frozen with her fork halfway to her mouth and looked as though she thought at any moment Snape and I would withdraw our wands and start hexing each other.

"This was nice. In fact the four of us should have a quiet supper again soon." Dumbledore commented as we finished dessert.

No longer trusting myself to keep the friction to angry glaring, I smiled at my grandfather and said, "This really was a lovely evening Grandfather, but if you'll excuse me, I'm feeling a little tired so I believe I will retire for the night."

"So soon?" asked Dumbledore looking disappointed. With a slight smile, he added, "Well, of course dear. Sweet dreams."

"Thank you." I replied as we all rose from our chairs. Smiling across the table, I said cheerfully, "Good night Grandfather, Professor McGonagall."

Turning to the wizard at my side I scowled, "Professor Snape."

"Professor Archer." he hissed as he glared down his hooked nose at me.

Leaving the hall, I was annoyed with myself for being the first to leave but I thought it was better to do that than end up getting into yet another argument. The week was now over halfway finished and I was determined to get to the weekend without allowing Snape to goad me into another outburst.

*~*~*




Chapter 6: Reprimanded and an Apology
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15 September, 1992 - Reprimanded


After getting through the past few days without any blatent arguments with Professor Snape, I began to believe that the second week of the term would end on a peaceful note. I was to discover later that afternoon that I was gravely mistaken.

The sun was shining brightly as I led my students across the school grounds towards Hagrid's hut. With the brilliant blue sky and lush green of the grass there was no hint of the cold weather that we would be experiencing in the weeks to come. It was a perfect day to sit outside and have the students create nature sketches.

As we drew closer to the hut I noticed a Thestral was tethered to the fence. Frowning, I thought that Thestrals could be a problem as most of my students were unable to see the black skeletal horses. Hearing my class as we approached, Hagrid came smiling from his hut.

After greeting us, he said, "There ya are. I have something very special for your art students today."

"Hagrid, I'm not sure that Thestral will work for everyone." I replied warily.

Laughing, he explained, "Oh, he isn't here for that. Poor fellow has a bad tooth. No, your model should be along any moment and I'm sure you'll be pleased to see him."

Curious, I asked, "Him? Is this someone I know?"

"You'll see." Hagrid answered with a wink.

No sooner were the words spoken when several of my students emitted frightened screams. Turning in their direction I saw they were looking into the sky and pointed, their eyes wide with fear. Looking upward I saw what had drawn their attention.

Soaring overhead was a beautiful emerald green Forest Dragon, the size of a young elephant. He passed over us gracefully then began gliding towards me. Looking closer, I saw he was none other than the little orphaned hatchling that had been found on the edge of the Forbidden Forest when I was in my third year...now grown up, of course. It had been a rare chance for those of us in the Care of Magical Creatures class to see a young dragon up close and we came to regard the hatchling as our friend.

Smiling, I turned my back to the dragon and took a few steps away, then raised my arms, closed my eyes and waited.

Moments later the ground disappeared beneath my feet and I felt myself being carried upward in the dragon's strong arms. Slightly aware of the screaming that was going on down below, I swung my arm around the dragon's neck and pulled myself on to his back.

"Grayle!" I exclaimed excitedly.

For a few minutes he soared with me over the school grounds before flying downward to land on a large fallen tree. Sliding from his back I gave the dragon an enthusiastic hug.

The brilliant green dragon fixed his golden yellow eyes on me and replied with a combination of soft growling noises and telepathy, "Little Gwendolyn Archer. I heard that you had returned so of course I had to come see you."

Sitting on the tree beside the dragon I asked, "How have you been all these years?"

With a slight smile, Grayle answered, "I have managed to replace almost all of those diamonds that you swindled out of me."

Laughing, I protested, "Swindled? I did no such thing! You said you had no use for them."

"You swindled me! That is my story and I'm sticking to it!" Grayle replied.

"So...you are the model that Hagrid was able to get for my art students?" I asked with a smile.

Grayle nodded and answered, "He thought you would be pleased."

"Oh I am! I never expected to see you." I assured him. Curious, I asked, "Have you been living in the Forbidden Forest all these years?"

"From time to time, although I've taken to spending the winters in Brazil. In fact I will be leaving shortly but I wanted to come by to see you first." answered the dragon.

"I'm so glad you did." I said appreciatively. With a laugh I added, "We should probably get back to my students before the class is over."

"It looks to me like they are coming to us." Grayle replied as he pointed to a crowd of students, as well as members of the faculty that were rapidly approaching where we were seated.

Over the voices I could hear Hagrid pleading, "It's alright I tell ya! Gwen knows this dragon! There's nothing to be upset about!"

Gasping, I saw that the approaching professors had their wands out, more than likely to perform a stunning spell on the dragon next to me. Leading the group was Professor McGonagall, along with Sprout, Lockhart, Lucius Malfoy and Snape.

"Wait!" I called out as I jumped off the tree. Holding my hands up, I added, "Hagrid is right! Grayle is an old friend!"

"Friend!" Minerva exclaimed.

"Yes. Everything is fine." I assured her.

"I knew it! As soon as I saw him I knew that he was a rare species of friendly dragon...not that I expect the rest of you to be able to tell the difference!" said Lockhart dramatically.

Grayle raised his eyes to the sky and shook his head as he sighed, "Ah....wizards!"

Smiling nervously at my peers I explained, "I'm sorry we frighted all of you. Grayle and I were just happy to see each other again." Looking towards Snape as he stared at the dragon I added, "Nothing to worry about at all."

The black haired wizard turned his eyes towards me. Taking a step closer he glared at me and hissed, "It should have eaten you!"

As I gasped in outrage, Snape abruptly turned and started walking back towards the castle.

"Oh, no you don't!" I called angrily as I stormed after him. "You do not walk away! You do not walk away from me, Professor Snape!"

Realizing that I was following him, he picked up his pace until I was forced to run. Heading him off I stopped in front of Snape, blocking his path as I glared at him.

"How dare you say that to me!" I exclaimed.

"Is that the only retort you know? It's getting tiresome." he replied snidely.

Clenching my fists I said, "I don't know why you have such a problem with me, but these comments of yours stop right now!"

Stepping towards me he snarled, "I am not a follower who has to do the bidding of Dumbledore's Darling!"

"Stop calling me that! I demand that you stop calling me that!" I shrieked as I stamped my foot.

"Oh and what Princess demands, Princess expects to get! No, I don't think so! Hogwarts is not your Ivory Palace where we all wait on you hand and foot!" he replied as he glared in my eyes.

"I have done nothing to indicate that I expect to be waited on! All I have ever wanted was to be treated as an equal!" I shot back at him in a fury.

"An equal? Most certainly Princess, once you actually earn everything that has been given to you!" he sneered.

Jabbing my index finger into his chest I practically screamed, "Nothing has been given to me! Do you understand? Nothing! I have earned it! I have only received exactly what I deserved!"

"That is a matter of opinion!" Snape said in a terrible voice as his eyes widened. "You never did tell me exactly how many strings the Headmaster had to pull to make sure you received what you deserved!"

Before I could stop myself, I seized the front of his black robes in my fists and screeched, "My grandfather did not pull strings for me! I will not allow you to keep saying such things!"

Minerva suddenly put her hands on my shoulders and said gently, "Perhaps we should take this inside."

I was then aware of numerous students standing around watching us with their mouths hanging open but I was too angry to care.

"You will not allow me?" hissed Snape as Lucius appeared at his side. "I do not answer to a spoiled brat Princess!"

"And I don't have to take this sort of treatment from an angry bitter man who thrives on rising from his cold gloomy dungeon to torment me!" I replied furiously. "What exactly is it you want to do? Glower me to death! Bully me to tears? Fine! You do that! I'm sure you'll find that I won't cower and take it like your students! How long will you last now that there is an 'Anti-Snape' to stand up to you!"

Seething with anger Snape made what appeared to be an angry lunge at me. At that point both Minerva and Pomona had my arms and were dragging me backwards as Lucius did the same with Snape.

"Let go of me!" hissed the black haired wizard, his eyes fixed on me.

The school governor who looked as though he were trying very hard not to laugh said, "Now Severus, you can't just kill Professor Archer. If you do Dumbledore will be forced to have you terminated."

Snape snarled, still glaring at me, "It would all be worth it!!!"

Not knowing when to quit, I persisted in trying to break loose from the professors who were restraining me. This was yet another moment in my teaching career that I'm not proud of.

*****


Later that afternoon as we stood in my grandfather's office, Dumbledore looked at us from behind his desk and said, "I must say, I am very very disappointed in both of you. Never would I have expected this sort of behavior from either one of you."

"It was his-" I began.

"I'm not finished Gwen. I am aware that the two of you have had...differences since the start of the term but I must insist that you find another way to work through them." said Dumbledore firmly. Indicating a pile of letters on his desk he continued, "Owls have been coming in all afternoon from parents concerned that two of Hogwart's professors are going to kill each other in front of the students."

Snape said nothing as he stood next to me, still looking furious. Behind us, I could hear Lucius's failed attempts to refrain from laughing.

With a deep sigh, my grandfather gazed at us and asked, "How did this happen?"

Pointing at Snape, I replied, "He said the forest dragon should have eaten me!"

"Is this true?" said Dumbledore as he turned his eyes towards the wizard beside me.

"Yes. We had no idea that Professor Archer was acquainted with this particular dragon and knowing what we do about the species that dragon should have eaten her." Snape answered softly.

Looking at him in outrage, I said, "That is not what you meant!" Turning to my grandfather I continued, "That is not what he meant at all!"

"How exactly do you know what I meant?" Snape demanded as he glared down at me.

Facing him I glared into his eyes and replied, "It was all in your tone!"

My grandfather abruptly got up from his chair and said, "Gwen, you and I spoke before about how we can't make rash judgments on mere tones!"

For a few seconds no one said a word as Snape and I glared hatefully at each other.



Watching us warily, Dumbledore said firmly, "I will over-look this afternoon's incident this time...and I trust you will find a way to co-exist peacefully. If you can't get along than I suggest you at least try to stay out of each other's way."

I heard him yet refused to be the first to tear my eyes away from Snape's. After yet a few more seconds of silence, Dumbledore cleared his throat and said, "If that is all I suggest we all go about our personal business now."

Narrowing my eyes slightly, I turned on my heel and stormed out of the office door. Why was my grandfather keeping such a hateful person on staff? I shuddered to think what his potions students had to endure with him teaching that somewhat difficult course.

As I reached the bottom of the spiral staircase and headed down the empty corridor I was aware of the a thin form in black coming down the stairs behind me. Turning around I glared and said sarcastically, "Following me, Professor Snape?"

"Don't flatter yourself! I don't live and breath to be in your company." he retorted.

"Yet I see so much of you." I grumbled as I crossed my arms. Not wanting us to walk in the same direction, I pointed at the other end of the corridor and said, "My grandfather told us to stay out of each others way. Go!"

Through clenched teeth Snape replied, "The way I'm going leads to Slytherin. You go!"

Looking around I saw much to my dismay that he was right. "Oh." I said lamely, "As dark and dismal as it is I should have guessed. Good day, Professor Snape!"

Aware that he was once again clenching his fists, I turned away and stormed down the corridor which led to where my own chambers were located close to Gryffindor. Feeling like I could tear my hair out, I muttered out loud, "So much for a peaceful week!"



*~*~*


16 September, 1992



It was early Friday morning as I sat at my vanity gazing at my reflection in the mirror. Why had I allowed myself to lose control? Within hours the entire school was talking about the spectacle that had taken place out on the grounds. The abrupt seizing of Snape's robes had been found particularly amusing, especially by the Gryffindor students.

I had been unable to face everyone in the Great Hall for supper and had instead eaten a quiet meal alone in my room. Now it was the beginning of another day of classes and I couldn't hide any longer. With a deep sigh, I forced myself out of the chair and left my chambers, bracing myself for the stares and giggles that I was sure would greet me.

Sure enough, as I entered the Great Hall and approached the staff table for breakfast, I was conscious of many heads turning in my direction but the response to yesterday's argument didn't stop there. To my dismay, many of the students at the Gryffindor table got up from their chairs and started to cheer and applaud. If that wasn't bad enough, the Weasley twins began bowing in the aisle chanting, "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!"

Stealing a glance at the staff table I noticed the professors that were assembled there had stopped eating to watch. My grandfather seemed slightly amused. Professor McGonagall appeared annoyed with the way her House was behaving. Snape looked murderous as he scowled across the Great Hall at me.

"Alright, alright that's enough!" I called as I raised my arms, very aware that from a distance it must have looked to members of Slytherin like I was waving to my fans. The chants and cheering only got louder as most of the Gryffindors followed the Weasley twins' example.

"Yes, yes good morning everyone!" boomed Gilderoy who had just walked through the entrance way behind me. "I'm glad to see you too!"

He didn't seem discouraged when by some miracle he realized that the students were in fact cheering because of me and not because he had just entered the Great Hall.

Laughing as he approached he said, "Well Professor Archer, now you know what's like to be me!"

Literally pulling on my own hair, I turned around and stormed away from the table as Minerva finally succeeded in getting the Gryffindors to settle down and return to their breakfast.

Wishing with all my might that I could return to my room, I took a chair at the staff table next to my grandfather.

"Did you sleep well, Gwen?" he asked kindly.

"Not really." I answered as I took a sip of pumpkin juice. Feeling mildly exasperated, I looked at him and said, "I don't remember things being so difficult when I was here before."

"Welcome to adulthood." Dumbledore laughed softly. After a pause he asked, "Have you apologized to Severus yet?"

I glared at my grandfather in outrage. "I'm not apologizing to him! It was his fault! You don't hear how he speaks to me!"

"From what I understand you were the one who started getting violent by grabbing the front of his robes. Did Severus at any time lay so much as a finger on you?"

I glowered at my plate at I muttered, "Well.....no."

"Severus, along with the rest of us, thought your life was in danger and I'll have you know he was one of the first ones to leave the castle when we heard the dragon had carried you off." said Dumbledore quietly.

"I'm sure he was, because he wanted to see that dragon swallow me whole. He was disappointed when he realized that Grayle was a friend of mine." I retorted.

"Now Gwen, you don't really believe that."

"Of course I do! It's obvious that he hates me. He's made that very clear since the day we met." I replied.

Looking at me over the top of his spectacles, my grandfather said gently, "Severus may not know exactly how to relate to you. Perhaps if you would allow yourself to be a little more approachable you would find him easier to get along with."

I looked at my grandfather in amazement. "Me? He's the one that skulks in the shadows scowling at everyone and making snide remarks...and you say I'm not approachable?"

"Well, at our dinner the other night you never once responded to his attempts at conversation." Dumbledore pointed out.

"Professor Snape was not trying to make conversation with me. He was taking the opportunity to be sarcastic...again!" I protested.

"Are you sure of that, Gwen?"

For a moment all I could do was stare at Dumbledore before whispering, "I don't understand why you keep defending him and suggesting that I...talk..to him."

Lowering his eyes to his breakfast, my grandfather answered, "There are not many professors here that are close to your age...plus for a while you and Severus were students at the same time. I can't always be here to keep you company and.....I believe you could use a friend."

"What would we talk about? How soon he has to go back underground in the morning before the sun burns him?" I asked sarcastically.

"That's not amusing, Gwen. I want you to apologize to him." said Dumbledore sharply as he raised his eyes to me.

"Grandfather-"

"I'm serious. I want you to take responsibility for your part in what happened yesterday and apologize to him." he replied, his voice soft but very firm.

"Alright." I conceded. "When I see him I'll....I'll tell him that I'm sorry for losing my temper."

While I meant what I said, I didn't see Professor Snape for the rest of the day and figured that he was keeping to his dungeons. After dismissing the Muggle Studies class that I was substituting for, I made a quick trip to the library for something to read and once again, had a quiet supper alone in my room.

*~*~*


17 September, 1992 - The Apology


Tempting as it was to continue to hide in my room on Saturday, I realized that it had been a while since I had taken Ashlar out for a gallop and he was no doubt getting tired of being confined to his paddock. Not wanting to be seen, I carefully made my way out of the castle and crossed the grounds to visit my horse after changing into my riding clothes.

As I neared the paddock, I was alarmed to see the huge black horse lying on his side in the grass as Hagrid knelt beside him. Breaking into a run, I ducked under the fence and went to Ashlar's head. The horse groaned, blinked his red eyes and feebly stretched his nose towards me.

"What happened to him?" I asked Hagrid frantically.

"It's nothing serious." Hagrid assured me. Shaking his head, he added, "One of the students left their sack of Bertie Bott's beans near the fence and ole Ash reached over and got into them."

The horse let out a loud groan and gazed at us pitifully.

"Well it's your own fault for being such a pig!" I scolded.

Hagrid straightened up and said, "It will pass but he's in a lot of discomfort now."

With a sigh, I looked towards the castle and replied, "I'm sure there is something that could help him in the hospital wing." Looking down at the groaning horse I added, "Perhaps some powdered ginger root to sooth his stomach."

"If not in the hospital wing I'm sure there would be some in the potion stores." Hagrid pointed out.

"Could you keep an eye on him while I go see Madam Pomfrey?"

"I'd be happy to." Hagrid smiled.

With a sigh, I returned to the castle and climbed the stairs to the hospital wing. The school nurse was in the process of putting some supplies away in a storage cabinet when I entered the ward.

Seeing me, she smiled, "Good morning Gwen."

"Good morning, Poppy." I smiled. "Would you happen to have any ginger root or something similar on hand?"

"Upset stomach?" she asked with concern.

"Not for me." I replied. "My horse."

"Oh, I see. He would need a larger dose than a person wouldn't he?" asked Poppy.

"Yes." I answered. "About five capsules would be one dose for a horse and I think he needs about three doses."

Looking regretful, the nurse shook her head and said "I'm only equipped to treat people up here. You would be more likely to get the correct amount from Professor Snape. I'm sure he would prepare it for you if you asked him."

My heart sank. Why hadn't I apologized yesterday? How hard would it have been to go look for Snape in the dungeons and get it out of the way? Now I had to go apologize and ask for his help.

"Ashlar, if I didn't love you." I muttered under my breath as I went back down the staircase that led to the Entrance Hall and headed for the door that led down to the dungeons.

I hadn't been to that part of the castle since I was a student and as I carefully made my way down those dark, narrow steps I observed that that atmosphere really hadn't changed much over the years. The corridor was illuminated by torches and the light played eerily on the faces of the stone gargoyles that kept there silent watch along the walls. No doubt Professor Snape felt right at home down there.

The Potions classroom was also exactly the way it had been when Professor Slughorn taught the class. My eyes passed quickly over the old fireplace along with the desks and cauldrons. Students and professors came and went but Hogwarts itself was basically unchanged.

Stepping further into the room I noticed Harry at a table in the back corner of the room and appeared to be pickling some sort of distasteful object.

"Detention?" I asked.

Harry said nothing as he nodded his head, looking extremely annoyed. No matter what he must have done I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Being trapped in the dungeon with Snape was not my idea of a pleasant way to spend a Saturday.

I was suddenly aware that I was being watched from one of the back rooms. As my eyes adjusted to the shadows I was able to make out Snape's sallow features as he stood silently in the doorway that led to his office.

Taking a few cautious steps towards him I said softly, "Professor Snape, if you have a moment, may I speak with you?"

For a few seconds he said nothing as he continued to glare at me from the doorway. Finally, he beckoned me inside as he withdrew further into the room. With a nervous glance at Harry, I followed Snape into his office.

While his back was still to me, I said, "First of all, Professor Snape....I.....would like to offer my apologies for what happened the other day."

Saying nothing, he glanced at me as he took a seat and began gathering up rolls of parchment that lay across his desk.

Trying not to be angered by his silence, I continued, "It was wrong of me to..get as angry as I did, especially after I scared everyone and you had come outside to...help me. Please forgive me."

After yet another moment of silence, Snape raised his eyes to me and asked quietly, "And what else have you come down here for?"

Taking a seat in the chair in front of his desk I said tentatively, "I need help with something. Someone left a large quantity of Bertie Bott's beans near my horse and he ate them...and now he's sick. Madame Pomfrey said you might be able to prepare something to help him."

Snape still didn't say a word as he glared at me across his desk. What did he want me to do? Beg?

Desperately trying to remain calm, I continued, "I wouldn't bother you, Professor Snape...and I know this will pass but right now...my horse is in pain. If you could do something to help him I would be deeply appreciative."

Remaining silent, the Potions Master rose from his desk and moved towards one of the shelves along the wall, his black robes giving the impression that he glided like tall, thin phantom. Taking a large jar from the middle shelf, he went to the classroom and began working at the large cauldron that was in the fireplace. Not sure what to say or do, I stood in the office doorway and watched him as the fire he had just conjured illuminated his pale features. Harry was also watching curiously from the corner but said nothing.

After about fifteen uncomfortable minutes, Snape turned around and silently walked towards me, looking stern and menacing as his hair partially obscured his face. Handing me a jar that now contained four horse sized capsules, the Potions Master whispered, "I assume you know the correct dosage?"

In other words, was I intelligent enough to know not to give Ashlar all the capsules at once?

Refraining from making a sarcastic remark, I took the jar and answered, "Yes I do." Raising my eyes to his I said sincerely, "Thank you, Professor Snape. This means a lot to me."

Snape said nothing as he walked around me and headed back into his office. I felt strangely disheartened by his lack of response but I couldn't worry about that at the time. Ashlar's aching stomach needed tending to. With a nod towards Harry, I left the dungeons.

*~*~*



Chapter 7: Peace, But Not For Long
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20 September 1992 - Another Staff Meeting

I confess, I was more than a little nervous about giving Ashlar the medication that Snape had prepared for him, but everyone around me swore that the Potions Master knew what he was doing and that my horse would only benefit from the capsules.

Much of Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning was spent making the horse walk. Holding his lead rope firmly I led him several times around the school grounds. At first he protested but as the medication worked through his system the effects of the flavored beans began to wear off. His eyes became brighter and he was looking more alert by late Sunday afternoon.

Returning the horse to the paddock, I watched him carefully as he lowered his head towards the pile of hay that was stacked in the corner. He seemed perfectly fine. As I began to walk back towards the castle I told myself firmly to make a point of thanking Snape as soon as possible.

On Sunday night, I had my chance shortly after dinner. As I was getting up from the table at the end of the meal, Snape's black robed frame caught my eye as he made his way silently across the Great Hall and headed towards the exit. Wanting to thank him and perhaps offer an olive branch, I quickly walked after him.

"Professor Snape." I called, trying very hard to keep my voice from sounding sharp.

The pale, black haired man stopped and looked back at me but said nothing. His expression was his usual cold stare that stated clearly that he didn't feel I was worth bothering with. Nonetheless, I smiled as I approached.

"I just wanted to thank you again, Professor Snape. My horse recovered much faster than I expected him to." When he still said nothing, I continued, "I sincerely appreciate that you helped him."

"Not at all." he whispered in a quiet, icy voice.

Starting to become uncomfortable under his sharp glare I said softly, "Perhaps we can put our differences behind us."

He still said nothing and I was starting to get angry. What did this man want from me?

Placing my hands behind my back I said, "I'm sorry for disturbing you, Professor Snape."

With a slight nod, he turned away and said , "Have a good evening, Professor Archer."

*****


At the end of the following school day was the weekly staff meeting in the faculty room. Leaving immediately after the dismissal bell, I was able to get there before the rest of the staff and thus had a chance to speak with my grandfather alone. He gave me a warm smile as I came through the door and headed for my usual chair.

"Good afternoon, Gwen. Is the day going well for you?" he asked as he poured himself a cup of tea from the refreshment table.

"It couldn't be better." I smiled. "How is the search for a new Muggle Studies teacher coming?"

With a sigh he answered, "This may take a little longer that we expected. It would take a very special Muggle to leave the life they have always known and learn to adjust in a world of magic."

Frowning slightly I said, "So you're still wanting to hire a Muggle for this position?"

Nodding he said, "I believe in the end it will be well worth the the trouble. Now then," he smiled, "was...everything alright after supper?"

Raising an eyebrow I asked, "Are you referring to when I followed Professor Snape out of the Great Hall?"

His blue eyes twinkling, my grandfather answered, "Well there has been so much tension between the two of you I simply wanted to make sure everything was alright."

Shrugging, I said, "As far I know they are. I wanted to thank him for helping Ashlar get well."

"And?" he asked curiously.

"And......I said I was sorry for bothering him and that what he did meant a lot to me." I answered as I studied my grandfather's reaction.

"And then?" he asked again as he sipped his tea.

Crossing my arms I said, "And then we fell into each others arms and made mad passionate love on the floor of the Entrance Hall. The students were certainly surprised."

Coughing, my grandfather quickly lowered his cup. After a few moments the cough turned into a laugh.

"I'm sorry." I smiled. "He just glared at me. That's all Professor Snape ever does."

Clearing his throat, Dumbledore chuckled, "Well if you didn't get into another one of your arguments I would say that is an improvement."

At that moment the rest of the staff began to file into the room. Feeling generous, I smiled at Professor Snape as he came through the door. His eyebrows drew together as though he suspected that I was actually up to something and he had better keep an eye on me. Without a word he went to the back of the room.

"Fine, be that way." I muttered as I sank into a chair. "No one can say I didn't try."

I immediately put Snape's rudeness out of my mind and focused my attention on the meeting. The biggest news that week was that they were continuing to look over candidates to teach the Muggle Studies course and Minerva would be going to interview them some time in the next two weeks. I had expected another outburst from Lucius, but he remained strangely quiet, although he blatently sneered every time he heard the word "Muggle".

As I listened to the discussion, I began to wonder what sort of person the new Muggle Studies teacher would be. Dumebledore was right, most of the staff was older than I was with the exception of Lockhart and Snape. Realizing that I had no one to relate to, I found myself hoping that the new teacher would also be a thirty-something female.
*~*~*


21 September 1992

Wednesday morning was one of those days when you wish you could just pull the bed-covers up over your head and continue to sleep. As we entered the second half of September, the weather saw fit to remind us that summer was indeed over and the crisp days of autumn were swiftly approaching.

After a night of fretful dreams, I awoke to the sound of thunder and a heavy rainfall outside the castle. The sky was a dreary, cloudy gray and black storm clouds could be seen hovering the distance. It was obvious that the storm was not going to clear up anytime soon. Oh well, at least this was not a week that I planned on taking my students outdoors, I reminded myself.

Skipping breakfast, I walked alone to the staff room for a quiet cup of tea and a pastry before heading to my morning class. Images from my dream continued to dance before my minds eye...the screaming, the flashes of light...the dark hooded figures. Would these memories ever stop haunting me?

My Wednesday classes consisted of fourth year students so the lesson was slightly more advanced than the ones I had taught the previous two days. While I had them continue to work in black and white mediums, we covered creating the appearance of textures are well as the illusion of a light source in a finished drawing.

By late afternoon I began to have a mild headache, which always happened after a night of reliving the death of my parents. Making sure that my students were at work on their assignments, I decided to take a quick walk to the hospital wing to see if Madam Pomfrey could give me something to make the dull pain subside.

In the corridors, I noticed the red headed Weasley twins closely examining a suit of armor and laughing softly. They each had their wands out and looked like they were trying to place a small, round object inside the helm.

Attempting to keep the amusement out of my voice, I asked, "Do I even want to know what the two of you are up to?"

Their expressions alone were enough to make me laugh as they abruptly turned around and put their hands behind their backs.

"Good afternoon, Professor Archer!" beamed the twin that I believed was George as both boys made a dramatic bow.

Trying very hard not to smile, I said, "You two wouldn't happen to know why the armor around the school has suddenly began uttering such...shall we say...colorful...language?"

"Couldn't tell you." Fred replied with a bright smile.

"You can't tell me." I said as I crossed my arms in a vain effort to look stern, all the while trying to keep from laughing. "You can't tell me as in you don't know or you can't tell me because that would mean the two of you would have to be disciplined?"

"The lady is on to us." said George solemnly to his brother.

"Exactly what was it that you were attempting to place inside the helm?" I asked curiously.

At that point in the term I had not been a teacher for very long and had a tendency to still identify with the students. As the twins explained how they had enchanted the suits of armor using what appeared to be nothing more than colorful rubber balls, I couldn't help but laugh. Even when the armor suddenly payed a crude compliment to the upper portion of my anatomy, it didn't occur to me to behave like a teacher and give the twins the punishment that they deserved.

We were abruptly startled by a now familiar icy voice, "Sneaking around the corridors when you should be in class?"

As usual, there was Professor Snape scowling at us as he stalked down the corridor. Why was that man always on the second floor?

"It's alright, Professor Snape." I said, trying very hard to sound friendly.

"You gave them permission to tamper with school property?" he asked coldly.

"Of course I didn't." I answered indignantly.

Turning his eyes towards the twins, the Potions Master said softly, "Twenty points from Gryffindor as well as detention tomorrow evening."

Scowling I said, "I was taking care of this, Professor Snape."

"Were you?" he asked his gaze returned to me. "It looked very much to me like you were in fact encouraging them. I would have thought since you joined the staff that you had given up your tiresome school-girl antics."

"Oh, you do remember me!" I exclaimed sarcastically as I clasped my hands in mock rapture. Still feeling hurt over his lack of response over my attempt to make peace between us, I stepped closer to the Potions Master and glared into his eyes. "Listen, I realize that they should be in class and I was in fact going to send them where they are supposed to be but they aren't hurting anything. Don't you think point deductions and detention is rather harsh?"

Scowling at me, Snape replied coldly, "I suppose since there has always been a separate set of guidelines for Dumbledore's Darling, you forget how the commoners live and the rules that we need to follow." Pointing at the twins he added, "These two have been sneaking around the castle and breaking rules since they day they arrived."

"I guess that means your way of dealing with them isn't working." I retorted.

Behind me, I was aware of one of the twins fighting to keep from laughing.

Snape's black eyes widened slightly and his lip curled as he glared at me angrily.
"And exactly what would you do, Professor Archer?" he hissed. "Simply send them to their room without dessert?"

"Well, I would try to communicate instead of just scowling at them!" I replied as I assumed our typical toe to toe battle stance. "Really, Professor Snape, would it hurt you to smile?"

As we continued to glare at each other I was slightly aware that the dismissal bell had rung and the corridor was filling with students who were on their way to their common rooms. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the children who walked by turning their heads to watch us with great interest as "The Potions Master and the Anti-Snape" had yet another one of their battles.

"Smile?" he said sarcastically.

"Yes, Professor Snape, a smile." I repeated. Leaning forward I said with my voice rising, "For the past few days I have tried....I have been polite to you. I offered my apologies for what happened last week and I made a point to thank you for helping my horse!"

Snape's expression faltered slightly as he took a step backward while I continued to advance towards him.

"Yet," I exclaimed. "you continue to scowl, glare and glower at me! What it is you want! Please tell me, Professor Snape!" Once again I seized the front of his robes. "What do you want from me?"

So intent was I in dragging an answer out of Snape, that I never heard my grandfather approach. I nearly jumped several feet off the floor when he suddenly put his hand on my shoulder.

In a soft but firm voice he said, "I believe the three of us need to have another talk in my office tomorrow after the conclusion of classes."

Suddenly aware of the many eyes on us, I wanted nothing more than go outside and hide somewhere in the Forbidden Forest. Why was I letting the Potions Master infuriate me so?

Releasing Snape's robes, I stepped back away from him and lowered my eyes. Turning towards Dumbledore I said softly, "Yes, Grandfather.

There was no getting out of it and I realized that I did in fact deserve whatever was coming.

Snape's eyes passed over me angrily but his tone was soft and respectful as he said, "Of course, Headmaster."

I knew Dumbledore was disappointed in me and he didn't bother to hide it as he gazed at me one more time before making his way up the staircase. For a moment more, Snape and I continued to glare into each others eyes before finally turning around and walking away in opposite directions.
*~*~*


22 September, 1992 - Reprimanded Again

As I prepared to face the following day, I was filled with embarrassment and remorse. No matter how many times I replayed the event in my mind, I came to the same conclusion; this argument was entirely my fault. Much as I hated to admit it, Snape was right. I should not have been standing there laughing with the Weasley twins. As a teacher I should have taken away House points and saw to it that they returned to their classroom.

Throughout the day it was difficult for me to keep my mind on the lessons. As the hours slid by, I prepared myself for once again having to face Snape and would more than likely be reprimanded by my grandfather in-front of him.

With a sigh, I turned to the homework that was on my desk that needed to be graded and told myself firmly that I was not going to last very long in this position if these outbursts continued. Headmaster's granddaughter or not, I had to obey the rules and maintain professional behavior no matter what might occur.

To add insult to injury, I overheard Draco Malfoy whispering to his Slytherin friends that I was probably going to be sacked before the week was over. Truthfully I didn't think I was in that much trouble but I was probably approaching that line. Neville began to look particularly concerned when the rumor of my impending termination reached his ears.

When the final dismissal bell rang, I placed my hands palms down on my desk and took a few deep breaths as the students left the room. After a moment by myself, I forced myself to lock up my classroom and go up the stairs to the gargoyle statue that guarded the secret doorway to my grandfather's office.

Like the rest of the faculty, I knew the password. As the door opened, I thought I had never before felt such dread when going to see my grandfather. I was hoping that I would be able to get there before Snape and thus have a chance to speak with Dumbledore alone.

"Good afternoon, Gwen." my grandfather greeted me when I came into the room.

"It was my fault." I said, seeing no reason for small talk. "It was entirely my fault. Not Professor Snape's."

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Exactly what brought on the conflict this time?"

Sitting in one of the chairs in-front of his desk I answered, "I caught the Weasley twins cutting class and attempting to enchant one of the suits of armor in the second floor corridor and instead of being a teacher and disciplining them, I behaved like one of their school mates." After a pause I added lamely, "I thought what they were doing was funny."

With a slight smile, Dumbledore replied, "Truthfully, I find their antics amusing as well but what does that have to do with your argument with.....oh good afternoon, Severus."

Clenching the arms of the chair, I forced myself to look at the Potions Master as he glared at me with those pitch black eyes. He didn't say a word as he took the other chair that my grandfather had placed in-front of his desk.

"You were saying, Gwen?" said Dumbledore as he turned his eyes towards me.

"I know I should have immediately taken House points away," I continued. "and that's what Professor Snape pointed out."

"I also believed they should have been given detention." Snape added coldly.

"Which I felt was rather harsh." I replied.

With a smile, Dumbledore said, "When dealing with students such as the Weasley twins, I'm afraid the deduction of House points without detention doesn't do a lot of good....as you well remember, Gwen."

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Snape glance at me snidely. Yes when I was a student I had been in detention a few times but I wasn't all that bad.

"I'm still not clear how this escalated into another argument." said Dumbledore after a pause.

I waited a moment for Snape to speak and when he didn't, I said, "I...got defensive when Professor Snape pointed out that I was acting more like a friend than a teacher." With a deep breath I added, "He was right and I was wrong."

Again out of the corner of my eye I was aware of Snape glancing at me but I resisted making eye contact. After yet another pause my grandfather said softly, "Is there anything you wish to say about this, Severus?"

In his usual soft, snide tone Snape replied, "Only that if Professor Archer hopes to ever be taken seriously by the students she would be wise to take what those of us who have been teaching here for years say under advisement."

As far as I was concerned my students did take me seriously but I was not about to contradict Snape and once again find myself caught up in an argument. In fact, as I sat there I decided that it would be best to just stay as far away from the Potions Master as I possibly could from now on.

From behind his desk, my grandfather said solemnly, "I hope that we have seen the last of these...incidents...that involve the two of you. Gwen, I am inclined to agree with Severus that as you go through your first year of teaching to listen to what he and the other professors say. We all want you to succeed."

I wouldn't bet on that, I thought to myself. It was obvious that Snape wanted me thrown out of Hogwarts the moment I set foot in the castle.

"And, Severus," my grandfather continued, "perhaps you could be a little less...abrupt....when giving your advice."

Snape said nothing as the corners of his mouth twitched. He was probably not expecting my grandfather to criticize him after all the times the Headmaster had taken his side so far.

"Now, I want to the two of you to shake hands and then go about your evening." said Dumbledore.

Surely he wasn't serious. Shake hands with this silent, glaring man?

"Yes, I'm serious." my grandfather smiled. "Shake hands."

Rising to our feet, Snape and I glowered at each other for a moment, then the Potions Master extended his pale, long fingered hand. Forcing myself to smile, I was aware of how cold his touch was as I placed my hand in his own. Of course he spent his days down in the dungeon so yes, he would feel cold.

The awkward part was leaving the office and walking down that spiral staircase together. Neither of us said a word but we continued to glace at each other from time to time. As we reached the landing I was beginning to seriously question why I allowed this man to upset me.

As we went our separate ways I realized that I was spending far too much time dwelling on the scowling Potions Master. Surely there were other more pleasant things to think about.

*~*~*


Chapter 8: Disturbing Dreams
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25 September 1992 - Snape on the Brain

"Good afternoon, Gwen. I was beginning to think you wouldn't be coming." said Dumbledore as I came sleepily into his office the following Sunday afternoon.

Smiling slightly, I replied, "I was awake most of the night and as a result I slept through most of this morning. I only woke up a little while ago."

With a warm understanding smile, my grandfather touched my shoulder as we walked together through the door that led to his personal living chambers.

"You had a difficult week." he observed softly as we settled into our usual chairs.

"I'm still so embarrassed. I really don't know what has gotten into me lately." I said as I took the cup of tea that my grandfather offered me. Raising my eyes to his, I asked, "Was I always so temperamental?"

Laughing fondly, Dumbledore replied, "You have always had a rather strong will."

"I suppose." I sighed as I took a sip of tea. "Plus Professor Snape always seems to know exactly what to say to make me angry."

"I'm sure he doesn't mean to."

"You don't really believe that do you?" I asked. "Of course he means to. Professor Snape knows exactly what he's doing!"

After taking a swallow of tea, Dumbledore replied, "Learn from the mistakes you've made, Gwen, and you'll find that the weeks to come will not be nearly as difficult as the time you already have behind you."

"I know you're right, Grandfather and I really do try to start each day telling myself not to let such petty nonsense upset me...but...." I paused a moment and shook my head in frustration. "Professor Snape-"

"You seem to spend a lot of time thinking about Severus." Dumbledore commented with a twinkle in his eye.

"I....what? No! No I don't." I retorted defensively.

"Dear, you have said his name three times in less than a minute." he pointed out with a grin.

For a moment I could only stare at my grandfather in amazement before I stammered, "That's because each and every time I have been angry, Professor Snape has been right there. Every time I look at him he is scowling at me as though he finds the mere sight of me annoying."

"I see...and do you look at him often?" asked my grandfather as he continued to smile.

"No, I do not look at him often!" I answered indignantly. Leaning forward in the chair, I added, "I see him at meals, staff meetings and occasionally we pass each other in the corridors and in spite of the fact that I have apologized for my part in our arguments, he has never once done the same. At the moment he seems to be ignoring me."

Dumbledore smiled at me a moment, than sat back in his chair and laughed.

"What's so amusing?" I asked.

"Poor Severus can't win." he replied. "If he speaks to you, you get angry. Now you claim he is ignoring you and you're still angry. Exactly what do you want from him, Gwen?"

My eyes widened as I answered. "Nothing! I don't want anything at all from Severus Snape!"

"And you say his name yet again." Leaning forward, my grandfather suggested quietly, "It appears to me that you want his approval."

"I don't care if he approves of me or not!" I exclaimed as I took another swallow of tea.

"Then why are you so upset, Gwen?"

"I'm not upset. I'm really not, he simply drives me up the wall!"

"You are aware that you just contradicted yourself aren't you?" smiled Dumbledore.

"No, I didn't." I argued. "Why should I care if a spooky, mean tempered professor believes that I'm a spoiled child that has had everything handed to me on a silver platter?"

"That's a good question, Gwen. Why does it bother you?"

"It doesn't."

"Then why do you spend so much time dwelling on it?"

Defeated, I slumped into the chair and answered, "I don't know. Perhaps it's because I've had more trouble adjusting to being here and Professor Snape is simply an easy target for my frustration."

Turning his gaze towards the window, my grandfather said softly, "I was around your age when I first came back to Hogwarts as a teacher and I recall feeling that like you, I was coming home when I accepted the position...As a student I believed that the teachers had everything so simple. It never occurred to me that the staff had personal lives of their own...that adult issues arose for them every single day....and for each of those days they had to put their personal problems aside and do what they were here to do...to teach, to guide and protect the students that were in their care." Smiling at me, he continued gently, "You are simply in the process of discovering what the rest of the staff has known for some time now...that we don't have all the answers....and life becomes more complicated when you are on the other side of the teacher's desk."

I felt myself smile slightly as I asked, "So it does get easier?"

"I promise you it will." he answered. "I have seen you with the students and it's obvious that you love what you are doing. As the months go by you'll find it easier to go about your work and live up to your responsibilities without letting personal issues interfere. I assure you, Gwen, you are by no means the first young professor to struggle with the transition from being a student to becoming a teacher."

"Thank you." I smiled gratefully. "I really needed to hear that."

Refilling my cup, my grandfather asked, "So tell me, what artistic endeavors will you be taking your students on this week?"

Feeling encouraged that I really did have the ability to face yet another week, I spent the remainder of my visit that week describing how my students would be studying the art of Tarot Magic. As always, I came away from my weekly talk with my grandfather believing that everything really would be all right and no problem was as insurmountable as it appeared.

*~*~*


26 September, 1992 - A Disturbing Dream


I carefully made my way down the narrow stairway that led to the dungeons, ignoring the chill in the air that covered my skin in goose bumps beneath the sheer, white night-gown.

The dungeon was dark and empty. The only illumination came from the fire that burned beneath a large simmering cauldron. Standing before the fireplace with his back to me, was the black robed Potions Master, his attention fixed on the bubbling potion.

Quietly approaching him, I whispered in a breathy voice, "Professor Snape, I wish to speak with you."

"So that means I am to stop everything I am doing simply because Dumbledore's Darling wishes me to?" he asked icily.

My chest swelling in anger, I replied, "That is exactly what I wish to speak with about, Professor Snape. I came down here to inform you that I am not going to tolerate your hostility against me any longer!"

Turning away from the cauldron, Snape glared at me, his features only partially illuminated by the fire as he hissed, "And how much longer must I tolerate what you have been doing to me?"

Tossing my hair behind my shoulders, I replied indignantly, "I have no idea what you are talking about! I've done nothing to you!"

"Yes, you have you manipulative temptress!" he snarled as he advanced on me, his black eyes gleaming. "You have troubled my sleep and bewitched my senses. Little by little you are driving me mad!"

"How dare you speak to me of such things!" I exclaimed as I turned away, intending to storm out the dungeon door.

To my surprise, Snape had suddenly crossed the room and pulled me roughly into his arms. "No more!" he hissed. "I can't contain myself any longer!"

"Unhand me you beast!" I demanded. Then, like something out of a horrible romance-novel, my bodice ripped.

Far from unhanding me, Snape dragged me down on the bed that had suddenly appeared in the middle of the dungeon. While my words protested, my body responded willingly to his icy cold touch as I eagerly reached up to put my arms around him, wanting more of his caresses and kisses. In that incredible moment of completion I was aware of the nearby cauldron bubbling higher before finally boiling over.



I was awakened abruptly as the gold bird on the clock began to sing, alerting me that it was time to get up and face another Monday morning. Sitting up in bed, I wondered what in the world had prompted that dream. As if I would ever let someone like Professor Snape so much as kiss my hand.

As I stood before the vanity mirror and ran a brush through my hair, I couldn't help but flush as I recalled the vivid details of the dream. It must be understood that at that time in my life, although I was thirty-one years of age, my knowledge of wizards was limited. After only being briefly involved with a couple of potential suitors, I had not experienced anything other than a few clumsy kisses goodnight. I had simply never met anyone that had invoked stronger emotions in me and over the years, had become comfortable with my solitude.

"But....Professor Snape?" I said incredulously to my reflection. "He's so....so......He's Professor Snape!"

"And your problem with that is what?" asked my mirror.

Trying not to dwell on the dream, I left my room and went down to the Great Hall for breakfast, desperately hoping that I wouldn't bump into Snape along the way.

My grandfather smiled at me as I approached the table. "Good morning, Gwen. You look well rested."

"I do?" I replied. "Oh...I...well...Yes I slept well last night. A very deep, heavy sleep."

Seated to my left was Gilderoy Lockhart, who was going on and on about the new book he was writing. On my right was my grandfather who was conversing with Minerva about the ongoing search for a new Muggle Studies teacher. I only caught bits and peices of what was being said, due to the fact that I had become aware that Snape had entered the Entrance Hall and was approaching the staff table.

I had wanted to avoid eye contact but didn't lower my gaze in time. His black eyes met with mine for a brief moment as he silently stalked by the table and took a chair next to Professor Flitwick. Stealing a glance at the Potions Master now and then, I could only imagine what his reaction would be if he had any idea that I had dreamed of him during the night....no doubt he would find it sadistically amusing.

Thankfully, I did not have any more contact with Professor Snape for the rest of the day and was somehow able to keep my mind on my lessons as my students were finally given a chance to create full color paintings.

Almost finding the dream humorous by the time supper was over, I retired to my room that evening positive that the previous night's erotic images would not be repeated. I soon discovered that I was mistaken.

*~*~*



27 September, 1992 - "I Like It Spooky"


As before, I found myself descending the dark, cold staircase that led to the dungeons wearing only the same sheer, white nightgown that I had worn the previous evening.

Entering the empty potions classroom, I noticed that the door to Snape's office was open. Silent as a cat, I crossed the room that was as usual, only illuminated by the fire beneath the cauldron.

Snape was there at his desk when I stepped into his office. His eyes gleamed as his long black hair partially obscured his pale, drawn face. Tossing my hair back, I approached his desk as he silently glared at me.

"Professor Snape," I whispered, "I want you to know that I forgive you for your barbaric, animalistic behavior."

"Are you sure that's the only reason you came down here?" he asked snidely.

"Indeed, it is." I answered curtly.

"Are you certain of that?" he said softly as he rose from his chair and walked around to the front of his desk. Glaring at me, he continued in his soft, icy voice, "You could have told me that in the Great Hall or the staff room. Instead you have left your warm, royal bedchambers to come down here where it is dark and cold and spooky."

Flustered, I glared at him and said breathlessly, "I like it spooky!"

With a growl, Snape pulled me tightly against him, his fingernails digging into my back as he covered the side of my neck with kisses.

"No!" I protested as I made a half hearted attempt to pull away. "We can't! This is wrong!"

"You can't deny me!" he whispered hoarsely.

Keeping one arm tightly around my waist, Snape swept the pile of parchment along with an assortment of small bottles off of his desk and on to the floor.

"But, Professor Snape," I exclaimed as he laid me back on his desk. "That was homework that your students handed in. It all needs to be graded!"

"It doesn't matter!" he hissed as he embraced me. "They are all a bunch of dunderheads who are bound to fail anyway!"

Putting my arms around him, I arched my back and submitted to his passionate demands.

"Yes, my love!" I sighed.



The golden bird on my clock awakened me with a pleasant rendition of "Greensleeves". Sitting up in bed, I pushed my hair out of my eyes and thought about the vivid dream I had just had.

"I like it spooky?" I said incredulously. Shaking my head, I jumped out of bed and said out loud, "This has got to stop."

As I got dressed and ready to face the day I realized with a groan that it was Tuesday which meant there was a staff meeting in the faculty room immediately after the afternoon classes were dismissed. I could more or less avoid Snape the rest of the day but it would be rather difficult when we all assembled in for the meeting.

Oh well, I reminded myself, he typically stands at the back of the room. Perhaps if I take my time getting there he will already be in the meeting when I arrive and there will be no need to speak to or make eye contact with him.

The better part of Tuesday was more or less a repeat of Monday. I only saw Snape as he passed by the table at breakfast and took a seat next to Professor Sprout. As the afternoon drew to a close, I had almost managed to put the dreams I had been having out of my mind and thought that perhaps the staff meeting would not be as difficult as I had feared. Besides I hadn't mentioned my dreams to anyone so Snape couldn't possibly know about them. There was nothing at all to worry about.

At last the final dismissal bell rang. Watching my students file slowly out the door, I remained at my desk with the intention of not going to the staff room until the last possible moment.

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sound of loud voices along with flashes of light. Hurrying to the classroom door I saw that a small group of students had gotten into a fight in the corridor and were now casting hexes as each other. One of them, to my surprise, was Neville Longbottom, along with Harry and his friend Ron. The other three students that were involved was Draco Malfoy and two other Slytherins whose names were unknown to me.

"Enough!" I said sharply as I stepped out into the corridor.

To my surprise, the hexing came to an abrupt halt as the students all looked at me sheepishly. Glaring at them, I demanded, "What do all of you think you're doing?"

They never had a chance to answer for at that moment, Professor Snape emerged from the surrounding crowd of students, once again mysteriously on the same floor as my classroom. Without a word, he approached the boys who had been involved in the scuffle and glared down his hooked nose at them. It was then that I noticed that Draco and his friends' skin had all erupted in ugly red blisters.

"Hospital wing." Snape said softly. Turning his eyes to the three Gryffindors he whispered, "All of you. Thursday evening, detention in Filch's office."

I could see the looks of outrage on Ron and Harry's face while poor Neville looked in bewilderment and fear at the glowering Potions Master. Surely Snape had noticed that the three Slytherin students were involved as well.

"Professor Snape, what about Draco Malfoy and the other two Slytherins?" I asked calmly.

Fixing his dark gaze on me, he answered softly, "You saw the state they were in. I believe they have suffered enough."

Oh really?, I thought defiantly.

I'm sure Snape expected me to step forward and challenge him but I managed to keep my thoughts to myself. While I had not been a teacher very long, I knew a few things about how detentions were handled...and with this incident taking place right outside of my classroom, I had the ability to step in and conduct the detentions as I saw fit but I saw no reason to remind Snape of that fact at that particular moment. With a small smile, I quietly went on my way to the staff meeting aware with each step that the Potions Master was walking beside me.

Thinking of the expressions on the faces of the three Gryffindor students, I thought to myself, Don't worry. This isn't over. I'll take care of it.

*~*~*


28 September - Sybill Trelawney


For the third morning in a row, I abruptly awoke from a rather...intense dream about Professor Snape. Once again I had gone down to the dungeon in that ridiculous sheer lace nightgown and paid Snape a visit in his office. In the most recent dream however I had been the aggressive one, eventually causing the buttons to be torn from the Potions Master's frock coat as I pulled him roughly to that damn bed that again seemed to materialize in the middle of the classroom.

"I can't stand this anymore!" I ranted to myself as I got dressed for classes that morning. "As if I would ever allow Professor Snape of all people! I'm sure the man sleeps in a coffin!" Roughly running the brush through my hair I continued, "Why is this happening? And more importantly, when will it stop?"

During the lunch break, I went to the staff room with the intention of adjusting the scheduled detentions so that they Harry, Ron and Neville would come to my classroom the following evening. While I agreed that they did need to be punished for fighting and casting hexes in the corridor, it bothered me that Snape had allowed the Slytherin students to get off scot-free. Once I had made the adjustments, I noticed that the Divination teacher, Sibyll Trelawney had a free period that afternoon.

I had not known Professor Trelawney when I was a student at Hogwarts so I had no way of knowing exactly how skilled she was in the art of Divination but figured she couldn't be as bad as many of the students...and some of the other staff members...said she was. My grandfather never would have hired her if she was unable to do the job.

Wanting another opinion on my dreams besides my own, I decided to pay Sibyll a visit while we were both free that afternoon.

The Divination classroom was very much the way I remembered it although the current professor appeared to keep it a little darker than her predecessor had plus the air was thick with perfume that I was sure caused many students to get headaches after an hour or so.

"I knew you were coming to see me." said a somewhat cold and misty voice from the back corner.

Trying to appear friendly I smiled and said, "Then at least I didn't take you by surprise. Do you have a moment?"

"Why don't you tell me?" the thin woman shot back sarcastically as she stepped further into the room.

"I beg your pardon?" I asked, wondering what I had done to offend this woman.

"Well, it's common knowledge that everyone thinks you should have been given this class. Therefore you with your superior gift of the Sight should already know if I have a 'moment' or not."

Groaning inwardly I thought to myself that the last thing I needed was yet another professor who felt hostile towards me.

"Professor Trelawney," I said respectfully. "I have no interest in teaching Divination and am quite happy with what I'm doing right now. Actually, I've come here because I was hoping you could help me with some dream interpretation."

Her already vastly magnified eyes widened slightly begind her large spectacles.
"You, the Mistress of Dreams...granddaughter of the great Seer, Gabrielle Corwin, need my help?" she asked.

Mistress of Dreams? That was a new one. First "Dumbledore's Darling", now this. I was starting to wonder if I should just hand in my resignation and go home.

"Yes, I can't seem to make sense of them and....Professor..you are the Divination teacher, which is why you were the first person I thought of." I explained sincerely.

The thin woman's demeanor changed and she looked quite pleased at what I had just said. With a smile, she gestured towards one of the tables and said in a more pleasant voice, "Of course, Professor Archer. Do sit down and tell me all about it."

As we took our chairs, Sibyll placed a cup of herbal tea before me then stared at me with great intent.

Sipping my tea, I began, "A friend of mine contacted me recently and told me about these...disturbing dreams she has been having. They have occurred three nights in a row and she has begun to wonder if that means anything."

"Oh it does!" she shrieked. "A dream taking place three nights in a row means that what occurs in the dream will come to pass!"

"Are you sure?" I asked warily.


"Indeed, I am. What happens in these dreams? Does your friend dream of death?"

"I....No...No she doesn't." I replied. "My friend has been dreaming of a wizard that she knows in her real life...and she doesn't get along with him. In fact, she and this wizard detest each other. They often fight and he is always berating her and making her feel like she's had everything handed to her."

"Oh!...Like you and Professor Snape!" Sibyll smiled.

"Yes...I mean no!" I stammered. "I...anyway...the dreams she has been having...they are..."

"They are what?" asked Sibyll when my voice trailed off.

Trying hard not to blush I answered, "They are...erotic in nature. Very very erotic."

"Oh, I love those dreams." the thin woman laughed.

"So, as you can see," I continued, "it bothers her that she has dreams of that nature about someone that she can't stand. She wants them to stop but they seem to be getting more and more vivid."

After a pause, Sibyll asked, "You say he berates her and makes her feel like she doesn't deserve what has been given to her?"

"Correct."

"Well, I would say that she wants to show this wizard that she is in fact an equal and every bit as good she believes she is. The erotic nature of the dream is simply a symbol that she is someone that the wizard should in fact take seriously." Sibyll explained.

I considered this explanation a moment then said happily, "That makes sense! It really does. I don't know why I didn't see it before. Thank you. Thank you so much for helping me to sort this out!"

With a beaming smile, Sibyll replied, "Oh, not at all, my dear. I'm glad I could help." After a pause she added, "Of course, there is one other thing these dreams could mean."

"What is that?" I asked as I finished my tea.

"Well, while your friend won't admit this to herself she could simply be wanting this wizard to take her and do her until the owls come home." she smiled impishly.

Stunned, I said softly, "I.....no...I don't believe that's it."

A moment later the thin woman snatched my tea cup and closely examined the leaves then said, "It appears to me that is exactly what is going to happen. Lucky girl!"

"No, wait!" I exclaimed. "Those are my tea leaves. Don't you need to read the leaves for..for my friend...to do a reading for her?"

Sibyll turned her greatly magnified eyes towards me then after a pause said, "You're right. How interesting." Once again she examined the tea leaves before asking, "Do you know this wizard who has been giving your friend such a difficult time?"

"No." I answered trying to sound convincing.

"Really?" she replied, then with a girlish giggle, she said, "Well, you're going to. You're going to know him very well!"

"I see." I said softly, not liking the idea at all. Rising from my chair, I added, "Thank you again for your time, Professor. I do appreciate it."

"Oh, anytime, Professor Archer." she replied.

Stunned, I left the Divination classroom than stopped in the corridor to ponder what Professor Trelawney had said about the tea leaves.

Running my hand through my hair I whispered, "She really is a fraud."

*~*~*


29 September, 1992 - Victory


Much to my delight, I managed to sleep through the following night without another dream about Professor Snape. More the likely, Professor Trelawney had been correct in that the Potions Master's snide remarks had been causing me to doubt whether I was indeed qualified to be a teacher at Hogwarts and that I desired to be seen as an equal.

With new determination, I went downstairs to face yet another day of classes, resolved to be every inch the professional that my grandfather believed I could be. As usual, Thursday's class was my favorite and that week we began our work on the Tarot Trumps with the assignment being to design the Fool card in whatever color medium they preferred. It was fascinating to walk around the classroom and see the different interpretations for this particular card. The Fool of course, did not stand for being foolish. Instead it represented a new stage of life...a "babe in the woods" period that is usually met with great enthusiasm but tends to have it's pitfalls that the Fool needs to learn to watch out for.

Which sounds a lot like my life at the moment, I thought to myself.

At the end of the day, I sat down at my desk at the front of the classroom and proceeded to grade homework. Neville of course remained behind for detention.

A few minutes later, Harry and Ron came hesitantly to the door.

"Come in." I smiled. "If you brought any of your homework along you may as well work on that."

Taking seats in the desks next to Neville, Ron said tentatively, "We thought the other day that Snape had assigned our detention with Filch."

"He did," I explained. "but I thought that was a bit harsh and since I didn't have much to do this evening I thought your detention would be better served here."

From the looks on their faces, the change in plans was acceptable to them and the three boys got to work on an essay for Professor McGonagall's class. I left them to their work and continued grading that day's drawings.

A little over an hour later, I was aware of the students putting their quills and parchment away. Raising my gaze to them I asked, "All finished?"

They nodded, looking unsure about what would happen next.

Glancing at the hourglass I explained, "I'm afraid I can't let you go for another forty-five minutes. If you have nothing else to work on you could play Exploding Snap or something. Neville there should be a deck of cards in that supply cabinet behind you."

Beaming, Neville got up from the desk to retrieve the cards while Ron and Harry looked at me as though I were speaking in a foreign language. Smiling, I explained, "As I said earlier, I believe that the three of you were treated unfairly. You're being detained when you would rather be in the common room with your friends...I believe that is punishment enough for such a minor offense."

So for the remainder of the time they were there, the students played Exploding Snap while I pretended not to notice. Now, years later, I look back on that time and realize that allowing students to play during detention was not exactly the best way to be taken seriously as a teacher.

At one point, I became aware of a pair of glowing, lamp-like eyes staring at me from the corridor.

Pausing in my work, I raised my eyes to Mrs. Norris. While I absolutely adored cats, there was something about Filch's skeletal feline that I found distasteful. After staring back at me a moment, she sauntered down the corridor, no doubt to inform the caretaker that Ron, Harry and Neville were not being punished enough.

"Fine, go tell him." I muttered to myself. "There is nothing he can do."

At long last the last grains of sand passed through the hourglass. Rising from my chair I smiled and said, "All right. You three have done your time so let's all call it an evening and get ready for supper."

Looking grateful, I noticed all three of them lingered in the corridor while I locked up my classroom for the night. Feeling pleased with myself, I walked along towards the common room with them since my own chambers were close to Gryffindor Tower.

We hadn't gone far when Ron glanced over his shoulder and whispered, "He looks angry."

Turning around, we saw Professor Snape angrily walking down the corridor with his black robes billowing behind him. Further down the hallway, I could see Filch and Mrs. Norris. So that cat had in fact gone and tattled on me.

Harry grumbled, "He's probably going to make us go to another detention."

"No he won't!" I said firmly. "Don't worry. Everything will be just fine."

With that, I turned around and walked briskly down the corridor to confront Snape. His eyes gleamed and his lip was curled in a hateful snarl. Oh well, there was nothing he could do. This time I had done my homework before taking any action.

As we had so many times since the term began, we assumed our toe to toe battle stance and glared at each other.

"Professor Archer," he said icily. "these students were supposed to be doing work for Filch this evening."

"Yes they were," I replied. "until I made some changes, as I had every right to do."

"And what did you have them do?" he smirked. "Play with finger paints?"

Ignoring that remark I said firmly, "They have served their detention and now have a clean slate...which is more than I can say for your Slytherin students."

Pointing at the boys who were apparently still standing a few yards behind me, Snape said coldly, "They will be required to attend their original detention tomorrow evening."

"Ah, ah, ah!" I said as the Potions Master started to turn away from me. "I don't think so."

His black eyes widening, Snape stopped in mid-stride and looked back at me.

Smiling sarcastically, I explained, "Just to make sure that I wasn't over-stepping my bounds, I did some research and found that since the incident involving these students took place more or less in the doorway to my classroom, it is up to me to assign detention. Even if someone such as yourself interferes, I still have the ability to step in and assign the punishment that I see fit."

Crossing my arms, I continued, "As I said a moment ago, they have served their detention and now have a clean slate. To assign them yet another detention for nothing...well, I'm sure you would agree that would be wrong....not to mention, very unprofessional of you."

There was a long moment of silence as Snape turned back and slowly walked forward, glaring at me furiously down his long hooked nose.

"He's going to kill her!" Neville squeaked in a terrified voice.

I returned Snape's glare as he loomed before me, refusing to give an inch. As I studied his expression, I couldn't help but notice that he looked very similar to the way he had in my first dream when he had lunged at me and said that he couldn't contain himself any longer.

No sooner had the thought gone through my mind when Snape suddenly looked uncertain, his eyebrows furrowing slightly. Without a word, he took a step backward and drew his black robes around him before finally turning his back on me and walking away.

At first all I could do was stand there and watch as he disappeared into the shadows, then the realization hit me that I had won. I won and I didn't have to throw a tantrum to do it.

With a sense of accomplishment, I turned back to the three students who were still in the corridor watching and said, "Time to get to the common room and get cleaned up. You don't want to be late for dinner."

*~*~*




Chapter 9: The Beginning of October
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1 October, 1992 - Ashlar


Ever since I was a little girl, October had always been my favorite time of year. I loved the sight of the colorful leaves and the feel of the cool, crisp autumn air. It was hard to step outside and not feel invigorated, even though this was technically the period in Mother Nature's cycle when everything was dying and preparing for the season of sleep.

I spent the morning of October first curled up on my window-seat reading. From there I was able to see the Quidditch field and watch the Ravenclaw team practice. Smiling slightly, I thought that someone would have to truly enjoy playing that game to ride their brooms when there was such a sharp chill in the air. Personally, I never used a broom at all if I could help it.

Shortly before lunch-time I set my book aside and stretched, feeling content and accomplished. Dumebledore had said it would get easier once the first difficult month was behind me and he was right. I really did feel like I was ready for anything the remainder of the school year could throw at me.

As I gazed out the window, my eyes fell on Ashlar as he grazed in his paddock. Even from a distance his breed was obvious. Something that I was both relieved and puzzled about was the fact that no one questioned my arrival on an Azkaban patrol horse that was normally only ridden by the hooded Dark Riders.

The riders were similar to Dementors but a bit more "human" for lack of a better term. While not quite as sinister or as dangerous as the Dementors, the Dark Riders were still feared and dreaded. Their giant black steeds were thought to have horrible tempers and would kick or bite at the slightest provocation. According to legend, the Dark Riders were human at one time but had been twisted into something else by a particularly strong and evil form of Dark Magic.

Of course on rare occasions the prison was known for selling their stock, usually if a horse wasn't..to put it simply...mean enough but Ashlar had obviously been a part of their mounted patrol. In fact, I still had his Azkaban saddle and trappings tucked away in a truck in the attic of my manor. All I knew was that the moment his rider had disappeared and I had touched him, he was mine.

Azkaban horses only acknowledge one single rider, which makes them impossible to steal. As long as that rider lives, no one else can ride that particular horse. They will fight, sometimes to the death, to protect their rider, but Ashlar had not shown any reaction when the dark rider that sat in his saddle disappeared in that ugly puff of black smoke and covered the entry way of my house in ashes.

Knowing that I should have stayed inside the house, I had cautiously opened my door and approached the huge black horse, speaking quietly and making no sudden movements. His ears flickered back and forth a few times and he snorted in confusion.

Moving ever so slowly, I had placed my hand on his coal black neck and gently taken hold of his reins. Tossing his head, the horse began pawing the ground and for a moment I thought he was going to throw his vast weight against me....but he didn't.

Looking around to make sure there were no other Dark Riders nearby, I led the horse through the empty paddock next to my house and into the small barn, surprised at how willingly the horse followed me.

Very cautiously, I offered him a carrot which he accepted after a moment's hesitation. Continuing to stroke his neck, I was struck at how beautiful he really was. True he was in great need of grooming, his mane and tail full of tangles but he was certainly not the demonic creature that Azkaban horses were believed to be.

After a while, I removed the prison trappings and placed a halter that had belonged to one of my mother's old horses on his head. Ashlar never moved as I clipped on a lead rope and tethered him to the grooming post. He looked at me a few times in confusion as I began to run the body brush over him but after a while the horse visibly relaxed and obviously enjoyed the attention.

He did however snort a few times in irritation as I worked the comb through his tangled mane and tail. His hooves were also in need of a cleaning. Obviously the Dark Riders did not spend a lot of time making sure that their steeds were groomed properly, which was vital to a horse's health.

I spent a great deal of time with Ashlar that night, not quite sure what to do with him. I didn't exactly want more Dark Riders coming to my home to retrieve this horse, especially when I didn't know why this horse's Rider had been there in the first place.

The following day, after another grooming session, I climbed onto Ashlar's back, simply because I knew not everyone had a chance to know what it was like to mount an Azkaban patrol steed. In that moment the horse relaxed. He arched his neck and swished his tail. In his mind he again had a rider and that was all that mattered to him. From then on he was more like a big, black over-grown puppy than a battle trained war steed.

Smiling at him from my window, I knew that technically I was a horse thief but I couldn't bring myself to give him back to that awful prison, especially now when I saw how happy he was. I honestly believed that sending Ashlar back would break his heart. So far no one had come looking for him and no one had questioned his presence.

Thinking that it was silly to spend such a splendid day indoors, I changed into my riding clothes. The countryside always looked more beautiful when seen from a horse's back.

*~*~*


2 October, 1992 - He Picks On You Because He Likes You


"Good afternoon, Gwen." Dumbledore greeted me warmly when I arrived at his office. "You're looking particularly cheerful."

With a smile I replied, "I feel good."

"I'm glad to hear it." Gesturing towards my usual chair he said, "Well, come in, my dear. Have a seat."

Once we had each settled into a chair and filled our tea-cups, Dumbledore sat back and asked, "So tell me, what has uplifted your spirits?"

"Oh...a number of things." I answered as I sipped my tea. "When I turned the calendar and saw that I had actually made it through an entire month....I don't know. I guess I found it encouraging, as though I felt that if I made it through September I can get through the rest of the school year as well."

"I see. Is there anything else?" my grandfather inquired curiously.

"No not really....well.." I paused a moment, then continued, "I suppose I have finally learned that there are other ways of dealing with conflict besides...throwing a tantrum."

Dumbledore laughed softly as he added some sugar to his tea. "I discovered a long time ago that much can be accomplished with a soft answer."

"Plus thinking things out before I act." I grinned. "That made a difference too."

Looking at me fondly he said, "Is it safe to assume that there will not be any more...incidents?"

Blushing, I shook my head and said, "I have no intention of allowing things to escalate out of control again."

Studying me closely he asked, "And how are things between you and Severus?"

Pondering a moment, I answered, "Well we're not friends by any means....actually he hasn't spoken to me since Thursday evening which I suppose is a good thing."

"To be honest with you, Gwen, I'm sorry you feel that way." said Dumbledore quietly.

"Why is that?" I asked. "If we're not speaking, then we're not fighting."

"As I said before, most of the staff is older than both of you...I had hoped that perhaps the two of you could find some common ground." he answered.

"Yes you have mentioned that before." I commented. "Grandfather, why is it so important to you that I get along with Professor Snape?"

Raising his eyes to mine, my grandfather replied, "Because I believe having a friend would do both of you a lot of good."

Smiling slightly I said, "I appreciate thath Grandfather...I do...I just....I really don't think that is going to happen. We can't seem to stand being in the same room with each other."

"Are you sure about that?"

After a pause I answered, "Yes....yes I am. He just so......" my voice trailed off.

Leaning forward my grandfather said seriously, "Gwen, I would like you to try to keep an open mind about Severus and try not to judge him too harshly. You might regret it later."

I honestly could not understand why my grandfather was so protective of the Potions Master but Dumbledore was known for being a good judge of character and I had always trusted him in regards to other things. Obviously he saw something in Snape that I had missed.

"Wellh I'm willing to try if he can stop making such snide remarks to me." I sighed.

In a voice so soft it was nearly a whisper, Dumbledore replied, "Gwen, maybe he simply doesn't know what else to say to you."

With a soft laugh I commented, "You're almost making is sound like that excuse parents give their daughters when the boys at school insult them...'They pick on you because they like you'."

Dumbledore smiled slightly, "Does that seem so impossible?"

"I have looked in his eyes." I exclaimed. "He despises me."

"That's what you see when you look in his eyes?" asked my grandfather.

"Yes I do." I replied. "I see that he can't stand my very existence."

After looking at me in silence for a moment, Dumbledore took a sip of tea, then said, "I'm surprised at you, Gwen. I had thought you were better at reading people than that."

"He glares at me!" I said defensively. "How am I misreading that?"

"Yes, he glares at you...and more or less ignores everyone else." Dumbledore replied with another small smile.

Shaking my head I said, "Alright....since we are starting a new month I'll...I'll try harder to get along with Professor Snape. The next time I see him I will be sure to wish him a good day."

"That's all I ask." the old wizard smiled. Refilling my cup, he asked, "So tell me, how are the Tarot painting assignments coming?"

It was a relief to have the conversation shift off of Snape after all the dreams I had been having about him the previous week and we spent the afternoon talking about classes, the students and the upcoming Quidditch matches. For what it was worth, I had meant it when I agreed to try harder not that I believed it would do any good.

Oh well, I thought to myself, if he didn't respond to my greetings, the only one who would look bad was Snape himself.

*~*~*


6 October, 1992 - An Act of Desperation

There was something about my Thursday afternoon class that made them a pleasure to teach. One quality that made them stand out was that there was almost an even number of students from all four Houses and it was interesting to see interaction between them that might not have otherwise taken place. Nearly all of them had signed up for the following week's trip to the Magical Visual Arts museum and were already asking intelligent and thoughtful questions.

"As I have told the other classes," I said as I stood at the front of the room. "before departure we will all be meeting here immediately after lunch next Friday. The curator will be sending me a Portkey that will take us from outside the school-gates directly to the museum's front doors. Please remember that no cameras will be permitted inside the building."

With that announcement made, I set the students to work on that week's projects and then took a seat at my desk to go through the homework that had just been turned in. A few moments later I was aware of the smell of something burning coupled with a gasp from Neville Longbottom.

Approaching his desk, I saw that the parchment had begun to smoke and blacken where Neville had applied the light red ink he was using.

"Neville, let me see your ink bottle." I said warily.

After he handed it to me, I noticed that the small clear bottle was giving off a sour smell. After removing the lid and making a closer examination of the liquid, I saw right away that the contents of the bottle was not ink at all. Instead it was some sort of potion.

Looking at the student I smiled and said, "It appears that you're trying to work on your drawing with your Potions homework."

"Oh no." he gasped.

"It's all right." I tried to reassure him. "Just get a new sheet of parchment and start over. Truthfully I might have made the same mistake. At first glance this liquid does look like red ink...plus being in the same sort of bottle."

Turning white, Neville said softly, "If my homework is here...that means I gave my ink to...Professor Snape."

A few aisles away, Draco Malfoy laughed snidely.

I replied, "Well....just go downstairs and retrieve your ink bottle and give Professor Snape your potion."

Now trembling, Neville explained in a soft voice, "He said if I made this mistake again I would get detention."

"You've done this before?" I asked, perplexed.

The poor boy nodded miserably. Knowing Snape, Neville's detention would be next Friday and I knew he dearly wanted to go to the art museum. There had to be something I could do to help him get out of this mess.

Turning to the rest of the students I said, "Continue working. We'll be back shortly. Neville, let's go downstairs and see if we can set things right."

Ashen faced, Neville followed me as we went down the staircase that led to the dungeons. Truth be told I didn't believe that Snape would listen to anything I had to say but I hated to see Neville punished for a mistake anyone else could have easily made.

As we reached the bottom of the staircase, we saw the Weasley twins, apparently in the process of putting an enchantment on one of the large gargoyle statues. Seeing me, they immediately pocketed their wands and made a poor attempt to look innocent.

"What are the two of you...Wait, nevermind. I don't want to know." I said tensely. Before they could respond I continued, "Perhaps the two of you could help Neville and I with something."

"Your wish is our command, Professor Archer." Fred replied dramatically.

Keeping our voices low, we approached the potions classroom where Snape was in the middle of a lesson. On the table next to his desk I could see an assortment of small bottles including one that was identical to the flask in my hand.

After making sure with Neville that the identical flask was in fact his ink bottle, I turned to the twins and whispered, "I am going to try to distract Professor Snape...how I don't know. When his attention is diverted I want one of you to go in there and switch the bottles then come right out of there. If we're lucky Neville's homework will be turned in and no one will be the wiser."

"You can count on me, Professor Archer!" George replied as he took the flask.

"Now what am I going to say?" I muttered to myself. "I have nothing to say to him...How am I going to do this?''

Turning to George again, I said, "There won't be a lot of time. Move quickly but quietly and only when he's not looking. Hopefully I can get him to speak with me in his office."

What in the world do you think your doing, Gwendolyn?, I asked myself.

As I entered the classroom, Snape abruptly halted his lecture to the class and glared at me.

Attempting to sound calm I said, "I beg your pardon, Professor Snape but I need to speak with you a moment."

"After the lesson." he snapped as he turned away from me.

"I'm afraid it can't wait that long." I replied as I stepped further into the room and approached his open office door.

"I said, after the lesson." he replied coldly as he stepped toward me.

"Professor Snape, I promise you this will only take a moment." I continued. "If we could just step into your office-"

Glaring at me, he snarled, "Do you think I have nothing better to do than come when you beckon me?"

To my great surprise, George had already come into the room and was making his way along the wall toward the small table, and Snape would very likely turn around at any moment and see him.

Trying to remain calm I persisted, "Please, I would not have come down here if this matter were not important. If you could just-"

"Not now!" he snapped as he started to turn away from me.

What happened next in that moment of panic was not expected by anyone, least of all me. I hesitated for a fraction of a second, amazed at what I was about to do. Before I lost my nerve, I grabbed Snape by the front of his robes and pulled him against me. Throwing my arms around his shoulders I covered his mouth with my own in a long kiss.

No doubt the students were too stunned to notice George as he switched bottles. I'm not sure exactly how long I kept Snape's attention diverted but when I did finally release him he stared at me with a wide-eyed expression of shock.

Taking a few faltering steps backward I said, "Perhaps from now on you'll listen to me when I say I want to speak with you. Good day, Professor Snape!"

Almost tripping on my robes, I fled the room without looking back.

"Upstairs! All of you!" I hissed at Neville and the Weasley twins were looking at me in amazement.

Once we reached the Entrance Hall, I turned to them and said firmly, "No one speaks of any of this or we will all be in trouble. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Professor Archer." the twins answered together as Neville nodded his head.

Crossing my arms, I said, "Alright...all of you go back to your classes. I need to take care of something."

Stepping outside the front doors into the fresh October air, I leaned against the wall feeling greatly disturbed by what I had done. After all this was a man that I detested, who had made life difficult for me almost since the day I arrived. He and I could barely stand the sight of each other, which was what had made what had just happened so disconcerting...but that was not the worst of it.

The most disturbing part of all....was that I liked it.

*~*~*


7 October 1992 - I Apologize....Again


"If you must continue to do things to make a fool out of yourself, could you at least wait until Friday afternoons so you have the entire weekend to spend in hiding!" I said angrily as I glared at my reflection in the vanity mirror.

As usual the mirror laughed in reply.

"Oh, shut up!" I grumbled as I went to my wardrobe and busied myself with trying to decide which gown to wear that day.

It goes without saying that by supper time the previous evening, every student and staff member had heard about my "attack" on the Potions Master in the middle of his classroom. Lucius Malfoy had asked snidely when we passed in the corridors if he could come to the wedding.

One small comfort was that apparently Snape had no idea that George had been in the room and had switched the bottles so Neville was in the clear. The Weasley twins had sung my praises saying I had gone "above and beyond the call of Gryffindor loyalty."

"But I'm a teacher!" I exclaimed furiously as I put on my earrings. "I shouldn't be pulling these stunts anymore!"

Not that I had ever pulled anything quite like this. What happened yesterday afternoon would not have occurred to Gwen Archer the student.

To make matter worse, I was no longer having dreams about Professor Snape...because he now haunted my waking thoughts. His name was repeated in my mind like a strange, dark mantra. In spite of my embarrassment, I kept thinking about how he had the most fascinating black eyes I had ever seen and why had I not noticed that before.

There is only one thing to do, you know, said the nagging voice in my head. And that is to go downstairs and apologize.

"Oh no, I'm not going down there." I said out loud. "Bad things happen when I go down there."

So you are just going to avoid Professor Snape for the rest of the school year?

"That sounds like a good plan to me!" I exclaimed as I took the brush through my hair.

"Have you always been one to talk to yourself?" asked my mirror. "It's a very bad habit."

"I told you to keep quiet!" I snapped as I threw down the brush and headed for the door.

Just as they did a few weeks ago following my argument with Snape out in the school grounds, the Gryffindor students stood and cheered when I entered the Great Hall for breakfast. No doubt as red as my old House's colors, I crossed the room and took my usual place at the staff table next to Dumbledore.

Barely able to contain his amusement, my grandfather looked at me and said fondly, "You appear to have a talent for causing a great deal of excitement around here."

"It's a gift." I sighed miserably. Turning my eyes towards him I said, "I suppose I'm in trouble for this?"

"No, not at all. Severus hasn't complained." Dumbledore answered.

That surprised me. I would have expected him to have gone straight to the Headmaster and demanded my removal from the castle.

"You probably should give him an explanation, Gwen." my grandfather suggested gently.

"I know." I whispered. Taking a quick glance towards the other end of the table, I noticed that the Potions Master had not come to breakfast...probably to avoid me...and that hurt. Oh, how the thought of that hurt.

As the hours crawled by, I continued to debate with myself if I should in fact go speak with Snape about what happened. It was tempted to just creep off to my room after the final dismissal bell rang but I somehow forced myself to walk down those cold dark stairs to the dungeons.

At least I'm not wearing that silly lace nightgown, I thought to myself when I realized that the scenario was very much like the dreams I had been having.

My stomach full of butterflies, I walked through the empty potions classroom and peered into Snape's office where the Potions Master was seated at his desk. Before I said a word, he raised his black eyes to me.

Almost trembling, I stepped into the room and whispered, "Professor Snape...may I speak with you?"

"I suppose it would be in my best interest to say yes." he answered coldly.

Wincing, I approached the desk and said, "Please accept my apology for what happened yesterday. I certainly don't blame you for being angry."


Glaring at me, he replied, "Do you have any idea how dangerous Mr. Longbottom's mistake could be in a real life situation? Imagine needed a Blood-Replenishing Potion and discovering that all you have is a bottle of ink!"

I groaned inwardly as he made it clear that he knew exactly what had happened. What in the world had I been thinking?

Not bothering to argue I said, "You're absolutely right...but Professor Snape...the bottles were identical. Anyone could have made the same mistake."

"Then perhaps Mr. Longbottom should have been more careful when choosing his flasks." he retorted icily.

Taking a few more steps towards his desk I pleaded, "Please, don't punish Neville. This was entirely my idea."

"I never would have guessed." he snarled. "You really will do anything to insure your popularity with the students won't you, Professor Archer?"

I protested, "Please understand I don't normally do that sort of thing...I only did what I did because I was desperate!"

Snape's eyebrows drew together as he scowled, "I see."

"Wait, that's not what I meant!" I said hastily.

"Oh, I think I know exactly what you meant." he hissed. "You, Professor Archer, are very much like a porcelain doll.....exquisite and flawless on the outside but if you ever crack you will reveal yourself to be hollow on the inside!"

That hurt more than I wanted to admit. If anyone else had said that I might have been able to laugh it off...but I realized that I cared more about what Snape thought of me than I had realized.

Taking a deep breath I lowered my gaze and said softly, "I won't trouble you any further, Professor Snape."

Without waiting for a response, I turned away and left the room feeling a terrible weight on my heart.

*~*~*


10 October, 1992 - How Can You Not Know?


I was gradually beginning to learn that while at Hogwarts it was pointless to go into hiding because sooner or later, circumstances would always force me to emerge from my room and face the world. Monday was yet another bright and cheerful day that seemed to be mocking my low spirits as finally found the courage go through the portrait hole and make my way downstairs.

My nerve failed me however as I approached the Great Hall. Still unable to bring myself to see my fellow professors over breakfast, I went to the staff room where I had coffee and a couple of crescent rolls.

At the end of the school day, I was in better spirits and beginning to feel that I was finally able to face everyone in the Great Hall for dinner that evening. Cheerfully dismissing the class, I locked up my office but decided to start leaving the main classroom unlocked in case any my art students wanted to use the drawing tables instead of trying to find a work space in the Great Hall or in the House common rooms. Before going to my room, I made a quick stop in the staff room to leave a notice for Filch that any students seen in the art room had my permission to be there.

"How are you feeling, Professor Archer?" asked a familiar voice at my side.

Startled, I turned and to see Minerva standing next to me with a sympathetic smile on her normally stern face.

"Oh, I'm doing well. I was feeling drained over the weekend but I'm much better now." I answered truthfully.

I wasn't sure she believed me, but still smiling, she replied, "Good. We've all been worried about you. Will we see you at dinner this evening?"

"Yes. Yes you will." I smiled as I placed the note for Filch into his staff mail box.

Again expressing that she was glad to see I was doing well, Professor McGonagall left the room, leaving me to believe for a moment that I was alone.

"Ah yes, the world comes to a stop when the Princess fails to make a royal appearance to the court." said a cold voice behind me.

Whirling around, I saw that the person who was the source of my aggravation had entered the staff room while I was speaking with Minerva and was now regarding me with his usual cold glare. Staring down his hooked nose, Snape asked sarcastically, "What in the world could have kept Dumbledore's Darling from mingling with her followers and receiving the adoration she loves?"

"You don't know?" I whispered in anger. "You really don't know?"

Not giving him a chance to respond, I charged forward and glared into his eyes.

"How can you not know? It amazes me, Professor Snape, just how much you don't know! You believe yourself to be so observant and in tune with everything that goes on around you but the truth is you don't have the slightest idea! How can someone who spends so much time staring down his nose fail to see what is going on right under it!"




Again not giving him a chance to respond, I turned on my heel and stormed out of the room. Not wanting to take my fresh surge of anger out on anyone, I ended up spending yet another evening having a quiet supper alone in my room.

*~*~*


11 October, 1992 - Don't Bother Fighting. You Can't Win


After four days of keeping myself in isolation, I realized when I woke up that Tuesday morning that no matter what happened that day, I had to resume taking my meals in the Great Hall with the others. My continued absence was noted and was sparking more and more questions of concern from the students as well as the other professors. Thankfully, no one had witnessed the previous day's "Snape versus Archer" confrontation.

Once again, working with the students had a calming effect on me and my inward ranting over the Potions Master ceased for the duration of the school day. The paintings turned in by my Tuesday class were just as impressive as Monday's and my spirits lifted to see how eagerly the students took to learning new drawing and painting techniques. At least they thought the course I taught had value so what did it matter what anyone else thought?

When the final dismissal bell rang, I informed my students, as I did the previous day, that the classroom would remain open for their use and I was pleased to see that quite a few of the children remained at their drawing tables to continue their paintings. Feeling encouraged, I locked my office and then went to the staff room for the weekly meeting.

As I approached the door, soft voices carried out into the hallway, one of which I identified as Snape's. While I didn't catch his complete sentence, I did clearly overhear my grandfather's response.

"What I find so amusing, Severus is that I am aware of what lengths you are willing to go to....what you were in fact willing to risk for her. Yet now when actually faced with her you are putting up walls...as though she herself frightens you." said Dumbledore in his usual quiet voice.

"With all due respect, Headmaster...she is impossible!" Snape replied.

My grandfather laughed, "Gwendolyn is very much like her mother and her grandmother. All of them having strong, unbreakable wills...therefore, Severus I know what I am talking about when I say don't bother fighting. You can't win."

After a pause, I heard Snape whisper, "I beg your pardon, Headmaster?"

In a firm but still warm tone, my grandfather answered, "Stop pushing her away when that is not what you actually want to do. Gwen may not notice how you look at her when you think she isn't paying attention...but I do."

My jaw dropped and I stood quietly outside the door. Snape didn't hate me after all. In fact, these emotions that had been troubling me the past few days were not one sided. I waited a moment for Snape to deny what my grandfather said but that denial never came.

Just as I was processing what I had heard, the other professors approached the room, many of whom asked how I was doing and my presence had been missed these past four days. Now greatly cheered up, I replied to them with a smile that all was well and my isolation period was indeed over.

The only thing I really remembered about that particular meeting was that Professor Grubbly-Plank would be substituting the Muggle Studies class for the next two weeks while the new professor was making preparations to leave her previous job and home to come and live at Hogwarts.

At the end of the meeting I lingered next to the staff bulletin board which happened to be near a window and discreetly watched the reflections of the other professors as they filed out of the room. It was very easy to pick out Snape's black robed figure.....and equally easy to see how he turned his head to look at me as he walked by.

Once alone in the room, I leaned against one of the tables and smiled to myself. So Snape was dealing with his emotions towards me by glaring, making snide remarks and more or less building walls around himself to keep me out. Obviously he didn't know much about what I was like when I was a student....I specialized in trying to come up with ways of breaking through barriers. Nothing made me want to be somewhere more than be told I had to stay out....If Snape was building walls I simply had to knock them down.

Turning my eyes towards the doorway that the Potions Master had gone through only a few minutes ago, I whispered to myself, "You do realize, Professor Snape...this means war."

*~*~*



Chapter 10: Conversations in the Dungeons
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12 October, 1992 - An Olive Branch


I was nearly late for breakfast the follow Wednesday morning, not because I dreaded going downstairs, but because I spent additional time primping my hair and make-up. Wearing my sky blue gown with the gold trim, I took one more appraising look in the mirror.

"Not bad if I do say so myself." I smiled cheerfully.

"If you've got it, flaunt it." my mirror replied.

Feeling as though I were walking on air, I made a dramatic appearance as I entered the Great Hall for breakfast for the first time in nearly a week. Smiling warmly at the greetings I received, I made a special point of approaching the table from the opposite end that I normally did so that I deliberately walked by Snape. Meeting his eyes, I wished the Potions Master a good morning.

It was not surprising to me that his response was only a silent glare but now that I knew his secret I would no longer allow that to bother me. Feeling better than I had in days, I took my usual chair next to my grandfather who looked at me in such a way that clearly said he was wondering what I was up to.

The hours crawled by that day as I kept looking over and over again at the clock. I had decided last night that following the dismissal bell I would take a walk down to the dungeons and have a conversation with Professor Snape whether he liked it or not. This bickering had gone on long enough and if he insisted on calling me "Princess" then perhaps it was time to act the part and lay down the law.

Oh, the man won't know what hit him, I thought to myself with glee.

At long last the final bell rang and I had left the room before my students had barely begun to move. As I descended the stairs leading to the dungeons I received a number of curious glances from the children who were on their way up to their common rooms. No doubt they were wondering if there would be yet another fight. Well, there was going to be, but not the typical ones that the staff and students had come to expect from the Potions Master and the Anti-Snape.

Sure enough, he was seated at his desk in his dismal office, apparently grading homework. Noticing me in the doorway, he raised his black eyes and silently glared across the desk at me.

Beaming with confidence, I stepped into the room and said to him, "Good afternoon, Professor Snape."

"What do you want?" he asked rudely.

Approaching his desk, I replied, "I believe we have wasted enough time so I am going to get right to the point."

I then noticed a stool in the corner. Before he had a chance to respond, I grabbed the stool, dragged it around the desk and sat down right beside him. At that moment, he lost his stony composure and looked at me with slightly widened eyes.

"While the staff and students may have found our petty bickering amusing, I'm sure you will agree with me when I say it has to stop." I said enthusiastically. "It's time for us to face the facts that you are not going anywhere and I am not going anywhere...therefore we need to find a way to co-exist."

"I see you have given this some thought." he replied, still looking wary. "I hope you didn't hurt yourself."

"At one time that comment would have angered me." I laughed. "But not anymore. Things are going to be different from now on."

"Shall I alert the Daily Prophet, Professor Archer?" he asked snidely.

"Gwendolyn."

"Excuse me?"

"My name is Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn Isabella Elizabeth Archer...but I prefer Gwen." I replied. Pulling the stool closer so that my knee was now touching his, I leaned my elbows on the arms of his chair and looked playfully into his eyes and added, "I find it interesting how we both call the other staff members who were once our teachers by their first names yet we address each other as 'Professor'. Don't you find that interesting, Professor Snape?"

"Fascinating." he whispered as he glared at me.

"I think it's silly if you ask me." I said as I continuing to gaze without anger into his eyes. Still allowing my knee to press against his, I added, "After all, if it were not for a few years difference in our ages we could have been in classes together. We could have been seated side by side every single day."

"Imagine that." he replied, now looking thoroughly uncomfortable as he sat rigidly in his chair. I was amazed that he was finally at a loss for a snide remark.

"Therefore," I continued, now speaking in almost a whisper, "I would like it very much if you would start calling me Gwen...In fact it would give me great pleasure if you would do so....Severus."

For a moment the Potions Master only stared at me in an uneasy silence before finally clearing his throat and asking hoarsely, "Is there anything else?"

"No...not at this time. We'll see how being less formal with each other works and go from there." I smiled as I rose from the stool. Placing my hand on his shoulder I said, "Have a good evening, Professor Snape."

Feeling victorious, I walked with my head high from the office. For a moment I considered taking my grandfather's advice and sitting next to him at dinner but then decided that Snape had been through enough for one day. It wouldn't do to go through my weapons all at once.

*~*~*


13 October, 1992 - Taking Dumbledore's Advice


As far as I was concerned, things were definitely looking up for me. A week earlier there was nothing I had wanted more than to permanently lock the door to my room and never come out again, now I was greeting the day in cheerful spirits.

Difficult as it was, I somehow managed to keep my mind on my lessons and to make last minute arrangements for the following day's trip to the museum with my students. The moments that I had to myself I spent remembering the expression on Snape's face when I had sat down next to his chair and suggested that he start calling me by my first name. Clearly he had no idea how to respond when I returned his insults with smiles.

And that is just the beginning, I thought to myself.

Eagerly awaiting for the school day to be over, I decided it was time to get a different perspective of the Great Hall during dinner by being seated in a different chair. Yes that would be a surprise to a lot of people but my grandfather had after all made the suggestion a number of times and anything Dumbledore suggested was worth considering.

Following the final dismissal bell, I hurried back to my room and similar to yesterday morning, spent additional time primping after changing into fresh gown. Gazing at my reflection, I realized that I would have to be careful with the timing. If I arrived too early it would be easy for Snape to simply go elsewhere. If I was too late the chair that I wanted to take could be already occupied. At that moment I decided to use my popularity with the students to my advantage....I could simply chat with a few of them on my way by the Gryffindore table. The moment Snape had taken his place at the staff table I would make my next attack.

"Ah, the poor man." I laughed softly to myself. "And with the Headmaster sitting right there, Professor Snape will have to behave himself."

The embarrassment of last week entirely forgotten, I cheerfully went downstairs and very casually approached the staff table. Right away I noticed that the Potions Master was already in his usual seat so stalling was not necessary. Crossing the room, I stopped for a moment in front of the table and smiled at Dumbledore.

"Is everything alright, Gwen?" my grandfather asked curiously.

"Everything is fine." I assured him. "I just wanted to let you know that I decided to take your advice this evening."

"Oh? Regarding what?" he inquired with a slight smile.

Lowering my voice I replied impishly, "I have decided I want to see what the other end of the table is like."

Dumbledore's smile broadened as he said, "Ah, I see....Well, enjoy yourself."

That was exactly what I intended to do. Still keeping a casual pace, I walked down the length of the table, moved around behind it so I was now facing the students and took the empty chair next to the Potions Master who did a poor job of hiding his look of surprise.

Before he could say a word, I picked up the goblet of wine that had suddenly appeared on the table in front of me and said, "I found out something very interesting from one of the students today, Professor Snape."

Looking at me warily he replied, "What would that be?"

Taking a sip of the wine, I smiled and commented, "It appears that in previous school years you usually sat at the other end of the table. Tell me, what was it that made you decide to come down to this end?"

"One might ask you the same thing, Professor Archer." he retorted as his eyes narrowed slightly.

"I wanted a change of perspective." I explained cheerfully. "It's amazing how a person's point of view can change once he or she finally sees things from a different angle. Wouldn't you agree?"

"Your profound insight amazes me." he said icily.

Turning to my dinner I commented pleasantly, "You didn't answer my question, Professor Snape. What made you move down to this end of the table?"

After a pause he answered sarcastically, "There was a draft."

"A draft." I repeated. "That's interesting considering how cold the dungeons get. When I was a student it would get so cold down there during the winter that we could all see our breath. I'm sure it's still that way now. Tell me, Professor Snape, how do you manage to keep warm?"

Glaring at me, he whispered, "One learns to adapt."

"Yes I suppose one must." I replied as I took another sip of wine. "Of course at this time of year it isn't all bad...at least during our conversation yesterday I thought it was quite warm. Wouldn't you agree?"

Hagrid, who was seated nearby, made a vain attempt to hide his amusement as he laughed softly at the Potion Master's discomfort. Snape was once again sitting rigidly in his chair and for a moment turned his eyes warily toward Dumbledore who didn't appear to be paying us any attention as he conversed with Minerva and Pomona.

"Do stop looking at me that way." I said cheerfully. "It's not as if I'm going to bite you...at least not without an invitation."

Following my statement poor Hagrid who had at that moment been drinking from his goblet had wine suddenly shoot out his nose as his laughter joined Flitwick's. Snape was glaring at me silently but I noticed his eyes did not shine with the usual cold malice. As the meal drew to a close I decided the Potions Master had had enough for one evening.

"This was quite pleasant." I smiled as I rose from my chair. Again resting my hand lightly on his shoulder I said, "Have a wonderful evening, Professor Snape."

He didn't reply as I left the table but there was no doubt in my mind that his eyes were on me as I walked across the Great Hall. Smiling as I climbed the stairs to retire for the evening I found that I couldn't wait for tomorrow and the days to come.

*~*~*


14 October, 1992 - This Isn't What It Looks Like


Karma can be such a nasty thing and from time to time it reminds us to take care in the choices we make because the energy we send out really does come back to us in spades. So caught up was I in my new hobby of tormenting Snape, that I had almost entirely forgotten that Professor Lockhart had offered to accompany my class and I on our afternoon trip to the art museum the previous week.

For the most part, the trip was a success. The students that had signed up arrived at my classroom as the designated time and we went as a group across the school grounds and through the gates.

The Portkey that the curator had sent me was an ordinary looking plastic bottle that would easily pass as nothing more than rubbish that had been carelessly thrown away. Gathering the students around me, we were immediately transported to the museum's front doors.

Professor Lockhart was actually more help that I expected him to be. He had a way of making himself heard and knew a surprisingly great deal about the artists who had created the paintings we viewed. The curator was visibly impressed with the students behavior as he gave us a personal tour, starting with the carefully preserved paintings and sculptures from prehistoric times all the way up to our modern age.

I was very touched to see a small memorial section dedicated to the late Galen Archer. A number of the students looked at me curiously as they studied the photograph of the man whose long blond hair was very much like my own. I also heard murmurs of surprise as his biography which was etched in a plaque beneath his picture was read, revealing that he along with his wife had been murdered by followers of "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named".

Aside from that bitter-sweet moment, the afternoon was quiet pleasant and as our visit came to it's conclusion the curator told me that I was welcome to bring students back to visit in the future.

Once we were all assembled outside, I again used the port key to transport us back to Hogwarts, where we appeared outside the gates. At that point it was nearly supper time and I could tell the students were tired and hungry although they had certainly appeared to have enjoyed themselves.

As we entered the front doors, I told the students how proud I was of all of them before sending them off to their common rooms to get cleaned up for the evening meal. With a great sense of accomplishment I went to my classroom to write a thank you note to the museum for their wonderful hospitality.

No sooner had I sat down at the desk at the front of the room when I became aware that someone was standing in the doorway. Raising my eyes I saw Gilderoy as he approached my desk with a beaming smile.

"I wanted to thank you for your assistance today, Professor Lockhart." I said sincerely. "You were a great help to me."

"Oh not at all, Professor Archer." he replied with a grin. "I've always had an appreciation for the arts...in fact I appreciate all of the...finer things life has to offer."

Unsure of how to respond I smiled and said, "I see. Well, I hate to take up any more of your time."

"I assure you, Professor Archer there is no where else I would rather be." he said dramatically as he walked around the side of my desk. Leaning towards me, he added, "In fact I think today was a good example of just how well we...work together."

Rising from my chair, I busied myself with straightening a pile of drawing paper that had been left on the nearby supply table. Searching for words I replied, "Well, yes I was surprised at how well such a large group of students behaved so well for us."

Ambling over to where I stood, Gilderoy added, "It makes one think about the future doesn't it?'

Glancing at the blond main uneasily I said, "Well the curator did say we - that is we as teachers and the students - were welcome to return."

"Yes he did." Gilderoy smiled. "But that's not what I was talking about."

"It wasn't?" I asked fearfully.

"No." he answered with a wink. "Seeing you, me and a group of children...it all seemed so perfect didn't it?"

Swallowing nervously I said, "I'm not sure I understand."

"Oh of course I wouldn't expect to have that large a brood. Four would be more ideal wouldn't you say?"

"Four what?"

Suddenly lowering his voice he said, "I think it's time for us to throw this pretense aside and finally admit we were made for each other."

Taking a step backward I replied, "Professor Lockhart...I believe you are misunderstanding something."

"Do you think I haven't noticed that look in your eyes every time we are together, Professor Archer?" he asked.

"What look?" I squeaked.

"That look of feeling that your fondest dream is right in front of you but yet out of reach." Stepping closer he added, "I am hear to tell you that not only is what you want well within your grasp, it's waiting for you with open arms!"

"A new set of camel hair paint brushes?"

"No, Professor Archer, I am talking about me!" he exclaimed.

"That's what I was afraid of." I muttered.

"Oh just picture it, Professor Archer. Together we can travel the world promoting my new book!"

"Wait, wait just a moment." I said as I continued to step away. "I have only just begun teaching here...and right now that's all I want to focus my energies on. I'm very flattered but -"

"You misunderstand me, my dear lady." he broke in. "Of course you would want to finish the school year. I can understand that."

"Professor Lockhart, you are the one who isn't understanding!" I snapped as I started to walk away.

To my surprise, he grabbed my wrist and pulled me back towards him, causing me to tip over an easel in the process, which hit the easel next to it...and then the next, ultimately leading up to a domino effect with the remaining easels that thankfully did not have any paintings resting on them.

"I understand perfectly, Professor Archer." he said dramatically as he pulled me against him. "The time of pretending is over! You need not restrain yourself any longer!"

"Professor Archer restraining herself? Since when?" asked an icy voice.

Startled, we both turned to see Professor Snape standing in the door way, looking at us with a cold glare.

"Let go of me!" I demanded and forced myself away from Gilderoy.

Making a few motions with my wand the easels all raised up from the floor and righted themselves.

Glancing at the Potions Master, Gilderoy chuckled, "The lady is feeling a bit flustered at the moment."

Scowling at me scornfully, Snape whispered, "Well if everything is under control-"

"No, wait!" I said quickly as he started to leave the room. Grabbing his sleeve I exclaimed, "I need you to stay and help me with the...thing."

Looking mildly amused Snape asked, "The 'thing'?"

"Yes...the...thing that I needed help with." I answered lamely."You promised you would help me with it."

"Did I?" he said snidely. "I don't seem to recall that."

"Well, you did and you can't go back on your word now." I said firmly.

After what seemed like a long silence, Snape said clearly without moving his eyes from mine, "If you would excuse us, Professor Lockhart, I do need to take care of this....thing...that Professor Archer needs my assistance with."

"Oh of course." smiled Gilderoy. Turning to me he said, "Remember what I keep telling you, Professor Archer...you really are worthy!"

With his usual wink, Professor Lockhart smiled and left the room. Relieved, I sighed and looked at Snape.

"Thank you." I said simply.

Glaring at me he replied coolly, "Poor Princess. So many followers...so little time."

Crossing my arms I said, "You do realize that...anything Gilderoy thinks is going on is just in his own mind don't you?"

"Why would that be any concern of mine?" he asked.

"I just thought....." my voice trailed off, then with a defeated sigh I answered. "No reason."

An uneasy silence descended as we stared at each other. Feeling awkward I began to think that perhaps my grandfather was mistaken and Snape didn't have the feelings towards me that Dumbledore thought he did.

"Thank you again, Professor Snape." I said softly as I turned away to resume organizing the supply table.

Although my back was to him, I was aware that for a few seconds he stood there and watched me before finally leaving the room. Once I was alone, I walked to one of the large windows and gazed at the darkening grounds.

"Why does everything have to be so damn difficult?" I asked in frustration.

*~*~*


16 October, 1992 - You Have To Finish What You Start


When I woke up the following morning there was a note on the bedside table from my grandfather. Fearing that it was saying he wouldn't be able to see me that day, I was relieved to read that it was simply telling me to come up for our visit a hour before supper time due to the fact that he had appointments that afternoon.

Appointments on a Sunday? That struck me as odd but I supposed from time to time the Headmaster was required to keep odd hours. Walking sleepily to the window, I stretched and noticed with disappointment that it was still gray and dismal outside..the sort of day that could make you feel chilled to the bone in a matter of minutes.

Noticing my sketchbook that I had left on the window seat, I flipped through it until I came to the rough, pencil drawing I hade done of Snape. I had to admit it was well done considering I had worked from memory. He actually had nice features. His nose although prominent, was not really as hooked as I had originally thought it was....and those black eyes....

"Stop it!" I scolded myself as I tossed the book down and went to the bathroom to shower and change.

As I dried my hair, I realized that I was in fact hiding again which never solved anything. Yesterday I had not left my room at all, even for meals. What sort of message did that send to everyone? Probably that I was a moody spoiled brat who pouted in her room when something didn't go her way.

Tired of confining myself, I went downstairs to my classroom and continued work on the Abraxan horse painting. After only a few brush strokes I relaxed considerably and admitted to myself that more than likely hiding away only made problems worse and in fact tended to make them bigger in my own mind.

The painting was nearly finished when I looked at the time and realized that my grandfather would be expecting me. After cleaning the brushes, I hurried upstairs to him office.

"Come in, dear. I gather you got the note I sent down?" he asked as I entered his personal chambers.

"Yes I did." I smiled as I sat down. "Working on a Sunday?"

"It goes with the territory." he replied.Pouring the tea and handing me a cup he said, "You've had an interesting week."

"Yes I have." I agreed. "In more ways that I could have imagined."

"Is that good or bad?" he asked.

With a sigh, I answered, "I honestly don't know."

Looking slightly puzzled Dumbledore said, "I was quite pleased to see you sitting with Severus during dinner last week. He looked like he enjoyed your company."

"He did?" I asked, sincerely surprised.

"I really believe he did." my grandfather smiled. "In fact I think he was disappointed that you never came down to dinner on Friday or yesterday."

Looking at my cup I said softly, "I didn't think he would notice."

"So tell me, why have you been in hiding these past few days?" he asked as he sipped his tea.

Raising my eyes to my grandfather I answered, "Professor Snape...he saw something Friday afternoon..but it wasn't what it looked like. And I tried to tell him that."

"What exactly did he think that he saw?"

Blushing, I described to my grandfather how Gilderoy had pulled me into his arms and seemed to have gotten the idea that I was interested in being romantically involved with him, which was not true at all.

Dumbledore laughed softly and asked, "What did Severus say when you explained that you didn't return Professor Lockhart's affections?"

"He asked why I thought that would concern him." I answered miserably.

"And what was your answer?"

After a pause I said, "I didn't really answer him. I guess I was caught off guard...but really, how could he ask me that after the past few days?"

"So Severus is supposed to know what you're thinking because after weeks of fighting with him you sit down next to him for one dinner?" said Dumbledore as he raised his eyebrows.Before I could answer, my grandfather added, "If I may ask, why did you decide to try to make up with Severus?"

Shrugging I answered, "I don't know. I suppose I'm tired of fighting and..now when I look at him I wonder what's going on in his mind. I'm sure he's interesting if I could get him to actually talk to me instead of making snide remarks."

"Is that what he did during dinner?"

"At first he did, but then he just looked uncomfortable."

Again laughing my grandfather pointed out, "Well dear you did take him by surprise."
Looking at the time, he suddenly rose from his chair and smiled, "Now my dear it's time to go downstairs for supper. I think you have dined alone enough this term."

Staring at him I said, "That's the real reason you wanted me to come later in the day, isn't it?"

Taking my hands as I got to my feet, Dumbledore smiled and said, "Gwen, you can't start something and then not finish it. You extended an offer of friendship last week and then disappeared for a few days. Can't you see how that could confuse him?"

I hadn't given that a thought and frowned as I considered my grandfather's words.

"If you honestly want to make up with Severus you're going to need to be consistent." he said firmly. "I realize you don't really know him but trust me...if he truly disliked your presence there would not be a doubt in your mind about it."

"If you say so." I smiled weakly.

"I say so." he said fondly. Putting his arm around my shoulders he said, "Now then, let's go down to dinner and show everyone that my granddaughter is not the hermit she appears to be."

*~*~*


17 October, 1992 - Why Don't You Ask Me To Leave?


There was no getting out of dinner the previous evening with my grandfather personally seeing to it that I went downstairs and into the Great Hall. He never once left my side as we crossed the room and took our seats at the staff table. Despite my efforts to keep my eyes off Snape, I couldn't help but notice him in his usual place at the far end.

Yes, I'm Dumbledore's Darling, I thought irritably as Snape watched my grandfather and I cross the room. No doubt he was sitting there thinking that Dumbledore had to figure out a way to placate his spoiled, temperamental granddaughter to get her to come downstairs.

Well isn't that exactly what happened, my annoying inner voice asked.
As always, Dumbledore knew best and before the evening was over my spirits had lifted and I ended the evening considerably cheered up. When I retired that night I decided that after classes the following day I would pay another visit to Snape's office.

The following morning I introduced my students to Artistic Candle Magic which consisted of carving a visual image on the side of a candle that could be used for spell casting later. I emphasis that while it was often tempting to go into great detail as the image began to take form in the wax, it was important to remember that since the candle was intended to be burned it wasn't wise to put so much effort into it that the witch or wizard ended up not wanting to use the candle at all. Instead it was the focus of the energy itself that was important...not the final result of the carved image.

At that point those who wanted to continue working on their Tarot Trumps were permitted to do those along with the regular assignments. Those who made the extra effort were of course rewarded with additional house points.

When the final bell rang, I hesitated a moment but after strengthening my resolve made my way down to Snape's office in the dungeon. As I approached the open door I realized that I was finding myself down here far more often then I had when I was a student. Of course the dungeons were not as interesting to me then as they were now.

"Good afternoon, Professor Snape." I greeted him cheerfully as I approached his desk.

"Back again?" he asked in mock surprise. "All finished with your weekend tantrum?"

"As a matter of fact I am." I smiled as I dragged the stool in the corner next to his chair. "And how was your weekend?"

"Why do you want to know?" he asked.

"It's called conversation, Professor Snape." I answered, taking a seat on the stool. "I'm sure you're familiar with that...one person says something, the other replies."

"Have you always been so annoying?" Snape asked as he turned his glare towards me.

"Most people I have met have described me as charming." I said as I rested my hands on the arm of his chair.

"And who are these people? Grandfather Dumbledore I suppose?" he said snidely.

"He among others." I replied as I turned my gaze towards the small bottles that covered the Potions Master's desk...no doubt homework from that day's students.

"I see. Well if your grandfather says so then it must be true." he replied as he began examining the contents of one of the bottles. "So the headaches you cause me are actually the result of your 'excessive charm' rather than you simply being a nuisance."

"Yet you have never once asked me to leave. Why is that?" I asked curiously.

"You mean you would actually go?" Snape whispered as he glanced at me briefly.

"Of course I would....but only if you specifically asked me to." I answered.

Finishing with one bottle and moving on to another, he said softly, "So you're saying being politely subtle would be a wasted effort on you?"

"I have a difficult time imagining you being politely subtle...no offense." I smiled.

"None taken." Snape replied as he closely examined the contents of the second bottle.

For a couple of minutes neither of us said a word as Snape continued grading his student's potions. From time to time he glanced as me as I continued to sit on the stool next to him but I noticed he appeared much more relaxed that he had when I have come to visit him the previous week.

"You have nothing else to do?" he asked finally.

"No, not really." I answered pleasantly.

"And being a pest is the only way you could think of to spend your free time?"

"As I said a few minutes ago, all you have to do is ask me to leave." I pointed out.

"I refuse to believe that getting rid of you is that simple." he said snidely. "If my request were denied I don't believe I could handle the disappointment."

Smoothing my robes on my knees I replied, "I don't think that's it. I think that you don't actually want me to leave. In fact, I believe that on some level you are enjoying the company."

"Why would I want the company of a spoiled witch who continually asks me ridiculous questions and annoys me with her endless commentary?" he asked.

Once again leaning on the arm of his chair, I said clearly, "Ask me to leave. It really is that simple."

"So you can go up to the Headmaster's office and complain that I was rude and demand my removal?"

"I promise I won't do that. Tell me to leave and never come back and that is exactly what I'll do." I assured him.

"Ah, the loop hole." he said triumphantly.

"What loop hole?" I asked innocently.

"To never come back...when you and I both know that over the course of the school year there might be a reason for me to ask you...as a professor of course, to come to speak with me regarding school matters." he explained.

"You are making excuses to not ask me to leave." I replied. "After all, what would the esteemed Potions Master have to say to the worthless art teacher? Just admit you aren't asking me to leave because you don't want me to."

Staring at the bottle in his hand, Snape whispered, "I see I am going to need one of these before the afternoon is over...properly brewed of course."

"What is it?"

"The Draught of Peace. It calms anxiety and soothes agitation. If you're going to be down here regularly I suppose I will need to start keeping a cauldron full on hand." he answered.

"I don't recall Slughorn teaching us that." I commented.

"He didn't." Snape replied as he picked up another bottle. After he examined it closely, he handed it to me, much to my surprise. "This one is more or less correct."

The potion had an odd smell to it. Turning my eyes to the Potions Master I asked, "What's in it?"

"Among other things, powdered moonstone and syrup of hellebore." he answered.

"Ah, so that's what I smelled." I replied pleasantly as I handed the bottle back to him. "See, you are capable of conversation. I knew you could do it."

"I have begun to realize that there is no point in ignoring you. You will continue to sit here and chatter no matter what." he explained.

After waiting for a moment when he wasn't handling any of the potion bottles, I placed my hand on his shoulder, leaned against him and said clearly, "Ask me to leave."

For a moment he said nothing and stared straight ahead with a mildly defeated look on his sallow face. Finally he turned his gaze toward me and said, "Wednesday I will be grading the students attempts at brewing a Strengthening Solution. I'm sure you would find that entertaining as well."

"Then yes I will certainly come down to see you after classes then." At that point I was starting to mind the cold. Rising from the stool I said, "Your company was fascinating as always. Have a good evening, Professor Snape."

While I didn't look back at him as I walked to the door I was almost certain that Snape's eyes remained on me as I left his office.

*~*~*


19 October, 1992 - Say My Name


"Since your office door was standing wide open, I'm assuming you didn't have any objection to me paying you another visit." I said cheerfully as I entered Snape's office at the end of another day of classes.


"Would closing the door really have done any good?" asked Snape as he continued to arrange an assortment of jars in one of the supply cabinets.

"You act as though I would have stood outside and demanded entry." I replied as I crossed the room and took a seat on the stool next to his chair.

"Well it is a well known fact that Dumbledore's Darling is accustomed to getting what she wants when she wants it." he said softly as he briefly glanced at me.

"Where in the world do you get your information, Professor Snape?" I asked playfully as I leaned my elbows on the top of his desk. "You are the only person I know of who says such things."

"I am the only one who dares to tell you to your face." he said snidely as he closed and locked the cabinet. "Everyone else chooses to allow you to believe that anywhere you walk is holy ground."

"By the way, I'm happy to see you too." I replied cheerfully as he continued to go about his work. He turned his eyes towards me warily before returning his attention to jars of potion ingredients on a nearby shelf.

"Of all your fellow professors in this castle, why am I the one you have chosen to spend your free time harassing?" Snape muttered as he finished what he was doing with the potion ingredients and turned to approach his desk.

"You intrigue me." I answered. "Since the beginning of the term I have been wondering why in the world my grandfather would have someone as mean tempered as you are on the staff. Over and over I have demanded your removal but Grandfather refuses so I have decided to find out why."

"And what have you discovered so far?" he asked as he settled into his chair.

"Admittedly, not much." I answered. "Although I will say I'm not finding you quite as aggravating as I did at the beginning of the term. There are moments when I find you almost likable."

Snape replied sarcastically, "How kind of you. If you continue to pay me such compliments I may have to fling myself at your feet and beg for the honor of polishing the soot off your boots."



"I would be happy to settle for a simple polite greeting from you." I smiled. "And you are still addressing me as Professor or Miss Archer. What is so difficult about saying my name?"

"Have you any interest in the Strengthening Solution I mentioned to you on Monday?" he asked as he bent over yet another group of small flasks that were assembled on his desk.

"Why are you avoiding the question?" I inquired.

"I don't suppose you have any recollection on how this particular potion is made." he muttered without looking at me.

"The key ingredients are salamander blood and pomegranate juice...in that order. Otherwise undesirable results are achieved." I answered. "Say my name."


"I have to admit I'm impressed. I would not have believed you would have retained such information for so long." Snape whispered as he began making notes on a roll of parchment that he had placed on his desk next to the bottles.

"What are you so afraid of?"

"What makes you think I'm afraid of anything?"

Pulling my stool closer and leaning on the arm of his chair I answered, "Gwen. Say it just once. I promise it won't hurt."

"If I may ask, what did you receive for Potions during your O.W.L.s?" he asked without looking at me.

"Exceeds Expectations." I answered proudly.

"Well, Professor Slughorn was teaching at the time." said Snape "Had you been one of my students you would have been lucky to squeak by with an Acceptable."

"How can you possibly make a judgment like that?" I demanded. "It's not as though you and I were in the same classes. Do you actually think the professors gave me passing grades simply because I was related to the Headmaster?"

"That's quite possible, although I am more inclined to believe that you...dare I say...charmed....your professors into giving you passing grades." he said with the slightest hint of a smile.

I replied, "How amusing. You seriously think I could charm someone like Professor McGonagall into giving me a grade that I didn't actually earn?"

"I didn't say you had to do that with all of them."

Feeling mischievous I asked softly, "Is that what I would have had to do with you?"

"It wouldn't have worked." he answered quickly.

"No?" I smiled. Leaning close I whispered in his ear, "Would I have had to resort to..Amortentia?"

Turning his eyes towards me abruptly, Snape muttered, "Why does it not surprise me that you would think of that?"

"Oh please!" I exclaimed. "As if I would ever do something so unethical!..And why do you continue to change the subject?"

"Did I do that?" he asked in mock confusion.

"Yes you did." I answered, continuing to lean on the arm of his chair. "At least explain to me why you don't want to call me by my first name."

"You really are the inquisitive one aren't you?" he remarked as he leaned back in his chair and turned his gaze toward me.

Smiling I said softly, "What can I say? I have always been drawn to the dark and mysterious."

After a pause, Snape started to look uncomfortable and once again leaned forward over his work. "Stop looking at me that way."

"What way?"

"What way?" he repeated. Glancing at me he snapped, "That way!"

"I'm not looking at you in any particular way." I laughed softly. "Why are you so uncomfortable?"

"Do you ever stop asking questions?" he asked incredulously.

"Perhaps if you would actually answer me I wouldn't have so many questions." I explained playfully.

"Professor Archer-" he started to say as he turned towards me.

"Gwen!" I whispered insistently as I placed my hand on his shoulder. Gazing into his eyes I leaned closer to him and said softly, "My name is Gwen."

The Potions Master swallowed nervously but did not draw away or lower his gaze. Looking hesitant, he began to lean towards me. He was close enough that I could feel his breath on my lips...then he stopped when we each heard a surprised gasp.

Glancing at the doorway, I saw Harry looking at us with a comical expression of surprise. Clearing his throat, Snape straightened in his chair and said coldly, "You're late, Potter. The rats' brains are on the table behind you."

Once again, Harry had been given detention...and obviously few teachers could make the punishment more unpleasant that Professor Snape who would more likely than not require the student to pickle one sort of foul object or another. After gathering the the bowl of brains, Harry withdrew to the classroom.

Unfortunately the moment had passed. The corners of Snape's mouth turned down slightly as he returned his attention once more to the grading of homework. While I could have remained there longer, the knowledge that there was a student in the next room made our attempts at conversation more difficult. Eventually, I rose from the stool and walked around to the front of the Potions Master's desk.

"Again, I enjoyed my visit with you. Have a good evening, Professor Snape." I said softly.

Raising his eyes to me, he whispered, "You as well, Professor Archer."

Mildly flustered, I turned and made my way out of the dungeons, ignoring Harry's curious stare on my way by.

*~*~*


Chapter 11: My Dark Guardian
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20 October, 1992 - The Muggle Arrives


The school was a buzz with activity as staff and students awaited the arrival of the new Muggle Studies teacher. Over breakfast I heard Professor Sprout mention to Professor Flitwick that Professor McGonagall and Lucius had taken the train to meet this woman and escort her to the castle.

Why Lucius?, I pondered to myself but figured that it may have had something to do with the fact that Lucius was the school governor and affiliated with the Ministry which had made the decision to hire a Muggle in the first place. Hopefully he wouldn't scare the new teacher off before she had a chance to set foot inside the castle.

Over the course of the day I found the questions I was overhearing the students ask each other about the new teacher amusing. At one point in the afternoon after hearing the term "Mudblood", I got up from my desk and said, "I'm surprised at all of you. One would think that this new teacher is an alien from another planet!"

"Well isn't she?" asked Draco sarcastically.

Crossing my arms I said, "Ten points from Slytherin. No she is not!...She is just as human as anyone else in this castle and you will all treat her with the respect that she deserves just as you would any other professor."

"My dad doesn't think she'll last a week!" Draco retorted.

"Another ten points from Slytherin." I replied. "Contrary to what many of you believe, there are no entirely 'pure blood' families...Not one. Do any of you have any idea just how many of the old families have died out in the past century? Quite a few! The fact is there are not enough of us in the Wizarding community to exist without some of us marrying Muggles."

Glaring at Draco who was regarding me with a sneer very much like his father's, I added, "In fact, if the remaining old families continue to hold on these outdated prejudices and only inter-marry with each other, in a few generations it will be those in the Magical community who will find themselves sporting extra eyes and limbs!"

That statement brought about soft laughter from some students and eye-rolls from others. This poor woman, whoever she was, was in for an uphill battle.

Shortly after the students were dismissed for the day, I heard the sound of loud voices coming from the Entrance Hall. Leaving my classroom, I stood at the top of the staircase and watched curiously as Minerva and Lucius escorted a short, very pretty but frightened looking woman with long red hair into the Great Hall. Even from the top of the stairs I could see how wide eyed and unsure she looked.

"So that's her." said Professor Flitwick who had suddenly appeared at my side.

"I guess so. The poor thing looks like a deer being led into a den of wolves." I replied.

Shaking his head, the tiny man replied, "For her sake I do hope that the Ministry and the Headmaster know what they're doing."

No sooner were his words spoken when Dumbledore, Snape and Pomona began climbing the stairs towards us.

"We need to all meet briefly in the staff room." said my grandfather gravely. "There are some things we all need to go over."

Around twenty minutes later, the entire staff except for Professor McGonagall and Lucius, took their usual seats and waited curiously for what the Headmaster had to say about our new arrival. Standing at the podium at the front of the room, Dumbledore looked at all of us over his spectacles and his gentle but firm voice carried through the room.

Looking at each of us, he said, "As most of you already know, Minerva and Lucius have just arrived with Professor Narya Prewitt, our new Muggle Studies teacher and are currently getting her settled in. The woman is understandably overwhelmed so I suggest that this evening we give her some space and allow her to adjust to this new...and strange world that she now finds herself in."

There was a few seconds of murmuring among the staff and my grandfather waited patiently for the voices to subside before continuing.

"She will begin teaching classes on Monday morning. Over the weekend I do encourage each of you to introduce yourselves and make her feel welcome. I also suggest that staff and students refrain from using magic in front of her for the time being. Narya is a lovely and intelligent woman and I have no doubt that she will make a positive contribution to the school." After another brief pause, Dumbledore concluded, "While Lucius is her official guide and guardian, it's up to all of us to make sure she feels at home."

Lucius?, I thought in amazement. Lucius had been assigned to help the Muggle teacher to adjust to living in the magical world when it was widely known that he didn't consider non-magical people to being any better than the dirt under his boots? What in the world was my grandfather thinking? This poor woman really would be lucky to last a week with that arrogant man assigned the task of looking after her.

A few minutes later, the staff slowly filed out of the room, continuing to murmur among themselves. Lagging behind, I approached my grandfather who was speaking with Snape and Filus.

"She looked so scared." I commented when my grandfather noticed me standing nearby.

"She is." he replied. "In fact she had a scare the moment she got off the train. She was able to see the Thestrals that were pulling her carriage."

"Really?" I exclaimed in surprise.

Nodding, my grandfather said, "The world as she has known it has entirely changed." Placing his hand on my shoulder, Dumbledore smiled, "I hope you take some time to welcome her. You might find that the two of you have a lot in common."

"I'll do that." I replied."If I may ask...why Lucius?"

With an amused glint in his blue eyes Dumbledore replied, "Because Lucius has a lot to learn as well."

*~*~*


21 October, 1992 - One Small Step Foreward and Giant Leap Back


Yet another week behind me, I thought to myself as I dismissed my final class. With a contented sigh I turned to the stack of drawings on the corner of my desk and proceeded to grade them. The wonderful thing about having only one class in the afternoon was that it allowed me to get through all of my students homework leaving nothing to be graded during the weekend.

The past few days had been very pleasant and unless I was greatly mistaken, Snape was actually enjoying my late afternoon visits to his office. While he usually acted as though my presence annoyed him, and had in fact called me a pest, he never actually asked me to leave. In fact it seemed as though he contributed just enough to the conversation to keep me there. I had also noticed that he never moved the stool that I had pulled over next to his chair.

It was another two hours before the school day was over for everyone else. Smiling, I realized that I was checking the clock every few minutes and admitted to myself that I was looking forward to the afternoon visits as much as Snape appeared to be. I was very slowly beginning to see that my grandfather was right about him.

Not wanting to appear too eager, I forced myself to remain at my desk for a few minutes after the final bell rang. For a while I listened to the sound of students moving through the corridors on their way back to their common rooms. When their voices finally died away, I got up from my chair and left the room.

Take your time, I told myself as I reached the stairs leading to the dungeons. For some reason the lower level of the castle no longer looked so sinister to me. Having only been in the Potions classroom, I found myself becoming curious about what else was down there.

"Good day, Professor Snape." I said cheerfully as I entered his office and approached his desk.

"If you say so." he replied without looking up at me.

Used to his apparent indifference, I walked around to the other side of the desk and sat down on the stool.

Looking at me out of the corner of his eye he said, "You do realize, Professor Archer that if you continue making these visits people will begin to talk."

"Let them. It would not be the first time I would be the topic of conversation." I replied.

"Oh, of course not. Since your arrival no one has been able to focus on anything else." he whispered as he turned his eyes back to the parchment he was writing on.

"So tell me, what else is down here?" I asked as I pulled the stool closer.

"Down where?"

"Here. The dungeons. What else is down here besides your office and classroom?" I asked.

"Shadows, dust and spiders. How exciting." he answered snidely.

"Oh there has to be more than that down here. There are gargoyle guardians all the way down the corridor." I pointed out.

"That doesn't mean that they are actually guarding anything." he said, still keeping his eyes on his work.

"True...in that case, what were they guarding?"

"I understand you excelled in Divination. Can't you do crystal gazing or cloud watching or whatever it is you do to find out?"

"I could but I think it would be easier to simply take a look around." I smiled.

"Don't go sneaking around the dungeons." Snape said firmly. Raising his eyes to me, he smiled slightly and added, "You don't want to get yourself in another mess like you did with the ectoplasm do you?"

That embarrassing incident took place when I was a student in my fifth year. Looking at Snape in surprise I exclaimed, "You know about that?"

"I'm afraid everyone knew about that." he answered.

Staring at him a moment I said sharply, "No they didn't."

"Obviously they did."

"No, it wasn't common knowledge. Who told you about it?" I demanded.

Pausing in his work he turned his eyes towards me and replied, "I don't know....it was just out there with the other senseless school gossip."

"I never heard anyone else talking about it." I retorted.

"Well maybe they didn't want to hurt your fragile feelings!" he said as he returned his attention to his work.

"That wouldn't have stopped some people." I said as I leaned against his desk. "In fact I can think of a number of individuals who would have been happy to remind me of it at every opportunity."

Sitting back in his chair, Snape looked at me wearily and asked, "What difference does it make?"

"I just find it odd that you knew about something that my House-mates didn't know." I answered.

"I'm observant which is more than can be said for some people." he replied.

Obviously I wasn't going to get any more information out of him, at least not at that time. Shaking my head in amusement I asked, "Have you always been this difficult to get a straight answer from?"

"I gave you straight answers."

"That is a matter of opinion." I smiled as I leaned my elbows on the arm of his chair.

Once again Snape glanced at me out of the corner of his eye I he leaned over his work and I couldn't help but notice that he now longer appeared as wary as he did when I had first started visiting him.

"I should probably inform you that I am not going to be working long down here," he said softly. "so if you aren't through bothering me we will have to continue this session over dinner."

Pushing my hair back I smiled, "Professor Snape, was that your way of asking me to have dinner with you?"

"I merely meant that if you wanted to persist in demanding my time and attention you wouldn't be able to do so down here." he replied.

Amused, I said, In that case, I would very much like to continue annoying you when you're ready to go upstairs."

Sitting back I watched him a moment then commented, "I have to admit my grandfather knew what he was talking about."

"He usually does." Snape replied.

"He told me a number of times that he thought we could be friends if we gave each other a chance and I am beginning to think he was right." I said as I rose from the stool.

Snape paused a moment in his writing then said somewhat stiffly, "Did he?...Friends."

"Yes he did." I said as I took a few steps away from the desk to stretch my back. Looking back at him I added, "I hope you don't mind if I have in fact begun to think of you in that way. It's been wonderful having someone to talk to."

"Well as long as you're happy. That's all that matters isn't it?" he said in a strangely cold voice.

Hoping I was mishearing him, I stopped in front of his desk and said, "I was....at least I had thought I was getting the impression that you felt the same way."

He didn't reply as he raised his black eyes to me and I was alarmed to see some of the coldness returning to his gaze.

"Have...you actually been serious when you say I've been annoying you?" I asked warily.

"Would it have mattered?" he asked coldly.

Hurt I answered, "Yes it would have mattered. I don't want to be anywhere I'm not wanted."

"There are places that Dumbledore's Darling isn't wanted? I had no idea!" he snapped.

Taking a step backward I whispered, "I had thought you were through saying such things to me."

"Did I upset you?" he asked snidely. Rising from his chair he hissed, "Well forgive me for causing you distress and disrupting your perfect life!"

Heart broken and angry, my sight blurred with tears. Stepping up to his desk I glared in his eyes and exclaimed, "I am done, Professor Snape! I am done with this!"

Jabbing my finger at him, I shrieked, "You keep making snide remarks about how everything has been so perfect for me and that my life has been nothing but roses and rainbows....Well let me tell you something Professor Snape...You don't have the slightest idea what I have been through! Did you not pay any attention to what your friends were doing during your time as a Death Eater?"

I thought I saw Snape wince slightly but he said nothing.

"In case you don't know.....that group that you were a part of came to my house!" I snarled. "They murdered my father before he had a chance to know what was happening. My mother was tortured and killed by your friends right before my eyes. Does that sound perfect to you?! Does it?"

Backing away from his desk I sobbed, "I am done with you. Do not speak to me again...ever!"

Not waiting for or even wanting a reply, I ran from the room, up the dungeon stairs and didn't stop until I reached my room where I remained the rest of the night.

*~*~*


22 October, 1992 - The Dark Riders


The day started out normally enough. As Ashlar and I cantered around the school grounds through the brightly colored trees, there was nothing to indicate that later that evening I would be wondering if I would in fact live to see the dawning of another day.

At the end of the ride, I dismounted and led my horse back to the paddock where I then proceeded to remove his tack. Since he was so well trained, I didn't bother to tie him to the fence as I unbridled him. Ashlar opened his mouth wide a couple of times as he always did once the bit was out of his mouth. As I went over his sleek hide with the body brush I was aware that many of the students were spending the day outside, taking advantage of what was probably one of the last warm days of autumn. Neville and a few of his classmates came to lean against the paddock fence and from somewhere behind me I could hear Hagrid talking to Fang.

"Okay Ash, ready to go in?" I said to the horse as I opened the gate to his paddock. Just as Ashlar was about to follow me, he was startled by the large boar-hound who had bounded over to us without warning.

With a frightened snort, Ashlar abruptly wheeled around and tore off at a gallop towards the Forbidden Forest. Stunned, I couldn't believe that a horse that had once been a part of the Azkaban mounted patrol and a trained fighter had been spooked by an animal as harmless as Fang.


Grabbing the halter and lead rope, I set off on foot after the horse. Looking at the sky I noticed uneasily that it was beginning to get dark but figured that Ashlar had not gone very far into the forest, plus he always came when I called him.

It ended up being more difficult to locate the horse than I had previously thought and I realized I should probably have asked Hagrid to come with me as my surroundings continued to become steadily darker. The further I went the more puzzled I became over Ashlar not answering my calls. I began to worry that the reason he didn't come was because he was for some reason unable to.

Eventually my calls were answered my Ashlar's neigh, which sounded oddly frightened. Picking my way through the brush, I finally saw his large black form standing in a clearing.

"What's the matter?" I asked quietly as I approached. "You know Fang isn't something to be afraid of."

Ashlar turned his head towards me but to my surprise, did not move from where he stood. Finally when I was standing right beside him I saw that he was in fact tethered to a nearby tree by a dark rope that was around his neck.

"What the....." I muttered to myself as I immediately loosened the odd looking lasso and pulled it over the horse's head.

The next thing I knew, green glowing ropes had suddenly appeared around my wrists and abruptly tied my hands together. At first I was too surprised to be frightened but then I felt similar bindings manifesting around my ankles, loose enough to allow me to stand but restraining enough that I couldn't run.

Ashlar's ears flattened against his head and he bared his large teeth at something behind me. Turning to follow the horse's angry gaze, my heart nearly stopped when I found myself face to face with five Dark Riders on their demonic black steeds.

I didn't know what to say. Obviously they had come for Ashlar and regarded me as a horse thief.

Well, you are, I reminded myself.

As they slowly advanced my sight began to blur and I realized that the binding on my wrists and ankles were in fact slowly releasing a poison through my system. As the world went out of focus, I swayed unsteadily on my feet, powerless to do anything against these creatures. My loyal Ashlar was in a frenzy as he reared and kicked threateningly at the riders as they attempted to close in on us.

Everything that was going on around me ceased to feel real and time stood still. Unable to see anything but blurry movements, I weakly sank to my knees. What was going to happen to me? Would they kill me or take me off to Azkaban? What would happen to Ashlar?

As the poison did it's work my perception of what was going on became more confusing. I thought I heard voices that sounded like those of the students but what would they be doing out here? I also thought I perceived large white, misty shapes charging by but at that point I was unable to see anything at all and could only stare into space helplessly. The world felt as though it was turning upside down as I completely lost my sense of balance and fell to the side, my head dangerously close to Ashlar's huge feet.

More noises...voices and rapid movements. I could barely feel the ground beneath me as the poison slowly gave me a queasy sense of floating. I was now so disconnected from my environment that I had no idea exactly when the sounds stopped. It was suddenly so still that I wondered feverishly if I was in fact dead.

Ashlar nickered in my ear and pushed me a few times with his nose but I was powerless to move or respond. It was then that I was aware of someone or something walking towards me. My vision still terribly blurred, I made out the shape of a tall hooded figure in black....one of the Dark Riders. Knowing there was nothing I could do, I allowed my eyes to drift closed and awaited whatever fate the approaching being had in store for me.

Now without any strength left in my body I was vaguely aware of a pair of hands gently touching me. Moments later, I felt the bindings on my wrists and ankles disappear and I was very gently lifted into a sitting position and my head rested against someones neck and shoulder as arms went carefully and firmly around me.

I was strangely aware of hair that was not my own touching my face.
My last thought before sinking into darkness was that I didn't know the dark riders had hair.

*~*~*


23 October, 1992 - You Mean, I'm Not Dead?


Whatever happened during the time I was unconscious was unknown to me, the poison that the dark riders had used causing me to descend into a black, dreamless sleep. At some point I opened my eyes but was still unable to see or think clearly. My surroundings were nothing more than a blur of light and shadows. Eventually I became aware of soft, concerned voices and gentle hands touching and attending to my wounds.

"Gwen, what am I going to do with you?" said a voice that I recognized as that of my grandfather's.

He sounded as though he were on the verge of tears and as much as I wanted to answer him, I found that I was unable to speak. Shortly afterward I must have gone back to sleep. While not entirely sure where I was or what had happened, the knowledge that Dumbledore was nearby gave me comfort and assured me that I was not in fact in the hands of the dark riders.

The next thing I could clearly remember was opening my eyes and finding myself in the Hogwarts hospital wing. Stunned, I struggled into a sitting position and looked around.

"I'm home?" I asked incredulously.

"Yes you are." answered Madame Pomfrey who immediately approached the bed when she noticed I was awake. "Don't move around...the poison is still in your system so you'll find yourself unsteady on your feet if you try to walk.


Running my hands through my hair I noticed that my wrists and ankles were now bandaged where the Dark Riders had tied me with the green glowing bindings. While the worst was obviously over, there was still a burning sensation under the bandages.

"I'm really alive." I whispered in amazement.

"You're a lucky witch. Had you been out there a moment longer...well, I shudder to think." said the nurse. Turning her eyes towards the door she said suddenly, "Ah, just in time, Severus."

Following her gaze, I saw the Potions Master approaching my bedside with what appeared to be a flask. Seeing my look of confusion, Poppy explained, "That was an exceptionally nasty poison the Dark Riders used...In fact I didn't have a remedy for it. Severus had to do some quick brewing to come up with an antidote."

Before I could reply, the nurse walked away as Snape proceeded to pour some of the brew from the flask into a goblet that sat on the bedside table. Without a word, he handed me the goblet and watched sternly as I drank the surprisingly sweet tasting medicine.

Taking the now empty goblet away, the Potions Master glared down at me and said, "May I ask, Professor Archer, exactly how did you come to own that Azkaban horse?"

With a weak smile I replied, "I really don't consider myself Ashlar's owner. It's more of a mutual belonging. He is my horse and I am his rider. Does that make sense?"

Snape's eyes widened slightly as he leaned over me, his face now only inches from mine as he hissed, "You are the most impossible, aggravating, annoying, trouble-making witch I have ever met in my entire life!"

Gazing up at him, I gently touched his chest with my index finger and said, "So you're saying that of all the witches you've known, I stand out the most?"

His jaw dropped slightly as he looked at me in amazement. For a brief moment he looked as though he wanted to say something else, then obviously at a loss for words, turned around and rapidly walked away. At that moment Poppy had returned to my bedside and watched the Potions Master's abrupt exit with a look of amusement.

"He'll never be the same." she laughed. Looking down at me she added, "Other than to brew the antidote he never left this room while you were asleep."

"Brought me back?" I asked. "Wait...he was out there? Professor Snape got me away from the Riders?"

"He did." the nurse answered.

Looking towards the door, there was nothing I wanted more than to follow the Potions Master and express my gratitude.

As though sensing my thoughts, Poppy said firmly, "Stay right where you are. If all goes well I can let you go some time tomorrow."

Realizing that the nurse was right in that I still had not entirely recovered, I sank back against the pillow and contemplated what she had told me. Snape had faced five Dark Riders and had somehow gotten me back here. That was the moment my emotions towards Snape deepened from fascination and uneasy friendship into something else entirely.

*~*~*


24 October, 1992 - You Were Worried...About Me?


The following afternoon when Madam Pomfrey allowed me to leave the hospital wing, I had to go to my grandfather's office to explain what had happened and was caught off-guard to see quite a crowd already assembled. Along with Dumbledore, there was Professor McGonagall, Snape and three students who had followed Ashlar and I into the forest after they caught a glimpse of the Dark Riders.

Dumbledore, patient as always was standing behind his desk. Looking at me he said quietly, "I understand this was about Gwen losing her horse?"

Before I could reply Snape broke in, "Yes! An Azkaban horse!"

"Was! He was an Azkaban horse," I replied, "until the day his rider mysteriously disappeared in a puff of smoke!"

My grandfather's brow furrowed slightly, "And it didn't occur to you to return the horse to Azkaban?"

Smiling I answered, "Now why would I do that? It's obvious this horse loves me."

The old wizard shook his head and then addressed the students who had been watching this with poorly concealed amusement. "As the three of you are already aware, the Forbidden Forest is out of bounds. I'm afraid we have no choice but to give each of you an evening's detention....Now if that is all-"

"What about her?" Snape interrupted as he pointed at me.

Looking very tired Dumbledore turned his eyes towards the Potions Master. "What? Oh yes." Directing his attention to me he said, "Gwen, stop doing things to scare Professor Snape."

"Yes sir." I said agreeably.

Stunned, Snape exclaimed, "She's not scaring me!"

"She isn't?" asked the old wizard, "I thought said the other day that she threatened to bite you."

"I did no such thing!" I protested indignantly.

Snape looked wide eyed at the head-master and then at me. "That's not what I said!..Although it wouldn't surprise me if you did attempt do so something so uncivilized!"


Angrily I stepped towards him and said heatedly, "As if I would come that close! I detest you!"

With equal anger Snape stepped towards me and shot back "The feeling is entirely mutual! I mean it when I say I am this close to-"

"Doing what?!" I interupted.

Before Snape could answer, Dumbledore quickly came around his desk and put his hands on both of our shoulders. "Wait, wait, wait..." He looked at each of us warily as we resumed our old battle stance and glared into each other's eyes. "I was under the impression that the two of you had put your differences behind you. It would be a pity for all the progress you have made to become undone, especially over something that should have brought you closer together."

When he was sure we were not going to strangle each other, Dumbledore removed his hands from our shoulders and said gently, "Now I believe you both have classes that you need to go teach. Perhaps you should both just go about your business now."

"Agreed!" replied Snape as he turned on his heel and walked briskly towards the door. I refused to allow him to leave before I did and tried to rush past him, resulting in the two of us having a brief scuffle as we passed through the doorway.

At the top of the stairs we resumed glaring at each other. Scowling I said, "You know, no one forced you to go out there! You could have just kept to your busy schedule!"


"How was I supposed to do that when I got what happened out of Neville? When he told me you had gone out there on foot I was worried!" With that he started down the stairs.

Stunned, I asked, "Worried? About me?"


"Yes about you!" Snape answered as he stopped at the bottom of the stairs. "What would your grandfather have said if he had found out I knew where you were and had done nothing? It could have cost me my job."

With that I resumed scowling. "I see. Well, I guess you can rest easy now that there is no longer a threat to your job!"

Glowering up at me he hissed, "If you hadn't gone out there alone, this wouldn't have happened."

"If I had someone I thought I could depend on here I wouldn't have gone alone!"

Snape was silent a moment then said, "Well you need to start thinking before you act."

"And you need to stop all of this sulking and glaring at me. It's not very becoming!"

It appeared that his expression softened somewhat as I came the rest of the way down the stairs. At the landing I faced him and said sincerely, "Thank you for saving me."

After a moment of silence Snape said quietly, "You're welcome."

For a few seconds we stood there awkwardly before we finally walked in opposite directions towards our classrooms.

*~*~*


25 October, 1992 - My Dark Guardian



Now midway through the autumn term I really did wonder if the universe was making me pay some sort of karmic debt for aggravating Snape because I continued to find myself being on the receiving end of Lockhart's attentions. The man was as thick as ever, interpreting my disinterest as "being overwhelmed by the fact that I am living every witch's fantasy." What made me the "lucky" lady to be deemed worthy of Professor Lockhart is anyone's guess. Perhaps because my lineage and my blond, blue eyed appearance made me seem like a desirable "brood mare."

While he basically seemed to be a good person at heart, I tended to quickly become bored when dealing with a person who was all flash and no substance.

It was almost at the end of the lunch hour and I was heading back to my classroom when I spied the vain Lockhart at the other end of the corridor. Not ready to deal with another confrontation I went downstairs to the dungeon and quickly ducked into Snape's office.

He barely glanced at me as he sat at his desk grading papers. I looked at him a moment then came to stand behind his chair.

"Do you think I'm annoying?" I asked.

"Yes." he answered simply, not bothering to look up.

"No, I mean..." I grabbed the stool and pulled it over to sit near him. "Do I make you feel like you could just rip your hair out by the roots and grit your teeth all the way down to the gums?"

"Yes." he said, still not bothering to stop what he was doing.

Before anything else could be said, Professor Lockhart, who had apparently witnessed my flight down the dungeon stairway, appeared in the office doorway dressed in his horrid lilac robes.

"There you are!" he exclaimed. "I overheard you speaking with Hagrid about that fine horse of yours having inflamed hooves after his little gallop through the Forbidden Forest! Well I wanted you to know that I'm on top of creating a healing elixir potion that I've used many times on the Elvan horses in Norway!"

Fearing that my horse's hooves would entirely dissolve if this imbecile came anywhere near him, I quickly replied," That's very kind of you...but I've already asked Professor Snape to take care of that for me."

At that, Snape finally looked up from his papers. "No you didn't.....Ouch!!!"

Lockhart didn't seem to notice Snape grumbling under his breath as he raised his hand to where I had discreetly elbowed him in the ribs. Flashing his wide, toothy grin, Lockhart beamed, "Of course, of course. Just know that I would be happy to assist. These healing elixirs can be quite tricky!'

Snape looked at him wearily, "Why is everyone assembling in here? Don't you have classes to teach?"

"You're absolutely right, Professor Snape! It wouldn't do to keep the first years waiting. They're all so eager for me to share my vast knowledge with them! May I escort you to your next class, Professor Archer?"

No force in the world, not even Snape's dark glare could have moved me from that stool. Smiling weakly, "Oh, you go on...there are a few more things I need to go over with Professor Snape."

With one last toothy smile and wave, the object of my annoyance went on his way.

"Don't you have somewhere to go?" Snape asked as he returned to grading papers.

Ignoring his question I asked, "Would you mind putting together that potion for me? Please? If Lockhart does it Ashlar may never walk again."

Stacking the papers and putting them aside Snape hissed, "Alright! I'll brew it and bring it to you later this evening."

Delighted I stood up and to his surprise, gave him a quick hug around his shoulders "Thank you! I knew you had a heart hidden somewhere behind that dark, stoney stare of yours!"

"Anything to get you to stop fussing." he grumbled back at me.

Heading towards the door I stopped and glanced back at Snape who was still watching me from his desk. "If you're busy, you could always have one of the students or Filch bring the potion by when it's ready."

For a moment Snape just glared at me, then slowly got up from his desk. "And risk having it spilled or not given in the correct doses? I'll bring it by myself...after all I can't have that arrogant buffoon thinking he could have done the job better."

"Oh, of course not." I agreed. "Then I will see you at Hagrid's later on today."

Snape's response was nothing more than a slight nod. Since we managed to have a conversation without insulting each other I decided to quit while I was ahead and left the office to head back to my own brightly lit classroom. The afternoon was long as my thoughts kept turning towards this evening, due to relief that my horse's hooves would be cured of course. Yes that's it. I was looking simply looking forward to my horse being all better.

*****


Shortly after classes were over, I put on my cloak and walked across the castle grounds towards the paddock. My horse was standing against the fence with his head lowered slightly and his ears turned back, obviously in a foul mood. He turned his glowing red eyes towards me and snorted as I approached. Giving him a reassuring pat, I took a look at one of his inflamed hooves. There was no telling what he had run through during his brief adventure through the Forbidden Forest but as far as I could tell it wasn't anything that was going to cause Ashlar any long term damage.

The horse again snorted and shook his head as I let go of his hoof.

"Well, it serves you right." I told him as I reached for a brush to work some of the brambles out of his mane. "Perhaps you'll remember this the next time you decide to go running off."

"You needn't worry about ole Ashlar," said a warm, deep voice from outside the paddock. I glanced over to see Hagrid walking over to lean against the fence. "In a few days he'll be as right as rain."

Before I could reply we were distracted by the sound of an angry voice from the walk-way that led to the castle. Looking across the top of my horse's back I saw none other than Lucius Malfoy, briskly walking in that arrogant way of his, practically dragging a young red headed woman behind him. He seemed to be doing a lot of complaining but the only words I was clearly able to hear was "Muggle" and "banshee".

"Is she the new Muggle teacher that Dumbledore appointed to the staff?" asked Hagrid as he gestured towards the red haired woman.

"Yes." I answered as I continued to brush Ashlar's mane. "And none other than Lucius Malfoy has been appointed as her guardian. First Gildaroy, now this. Honestly Hagrid, I love my grandfather but at times I really wonder what's going through his head to have that sort of person at Hogwarts."

The giant looked at me with mild surprise. "Personally, I think the Muggles have a lot to offer to the students."

"I didn't mean her. I mean Lucius. Everyone knows how..abrasive..he can be. That poor woman will be lucky if she makes it through an entire week. He looks at her as though he can't stand the fact that they are breathing the same air." I replied. After a pause, I added, "I suppose I know exactly how she feels."

Hagrid grinned and chuckled softly. "Now what do you mean by that? Are you talking about Professor Snape?"

For a moment I stopped brushing my horse and rested my hand on his raven black neck. "Yes I mean Professor Snape! There are times when I believe he really does hate me."

That brought another chuckle from the grounds keeper. "Professor Snape may be charged with a variety of emotions right now but I guarantee you, dislike isn't one of them."

A sudden snort from Ashlar alerted me to the fact that the current subject of our conversation was at that moment approaching the paddock. Wearing his hooded black cloak, Snape walked around the outside of the fence towards the horse's head. In his hand he held a small glass bottle filled with a red liquid.

With an amused gleam in his eye, Hagrid stepped away from the fence to pick up a burlap sack that way lying near-by. "I'm sure the two of you have this under control, so I'll just get on my way."

"You're leaving?" Snape asked in surprise.

"Aye, one of the Thestrals mares is expecting a wee one tonight. Thought it would be best to go into the forest in case she needs help." With an amused wink to me, the giant ambled off, along with Fang, towards the Forbidden Forest.

For a brief, mischievous moment I considered letting Snape figure out himself how to get the horse to swallow the potion but then decided that poor Ashlar was miserable enough so I reached down for the long tube with a funnel on the end that was lying on the ground for the purpose of administering the medication.

"Here." I smiled as I held out the end with the funnel. "You can take care of the end that doesn't come close to Ashlar's teeth."

My smile was rewarded with Snape's usual dark glare as he took the funnel. "You're too kind."

After some gentle prodding I worked the other end of the tube into Ashlar's mouth and spoke to him softly as Snape poured the healing potion into the funnel. Judging from the way the horse laid his ears back and narrowed his eyes, the medicine must have had an unpleasant taste. However, he didn't put up much of a struggle and only shook his head and champed his teeth a few times after the tube was removed from his mouth.

"This will make him quite sleepy." Snape muttered quietly as he replaced the now empty bottle inside his cloak.

No sooner were the words spoken when the raven black horse lowered his head and allowed his eyelids to droop. The stinging in his hooves no longer appeared to be bothering him. He swished his long tail a few times but was otherwise quite still.

"If that is all..." said Snape as he abruptly turned and started to walk back towards the castle.

"Wait!" I called as I ducked under the fence. Drawing my own cloak around me I walked towards the Potions Master. "Are you going to be a gentleman and walk me back to the castle or am I going to have to work my way through the dark by myself?"

His response to my question was, as always, a silent scowl, but at least he didn't turn and walk away from me. Feeling adventurous, I linked my arm through his and cheerfully walked alongside him towards the towering castle. He wasn't very responsive to my attempts at conversation and would only occasionally look at me out of the corner of his eye.

As we entered the main hall we were immediately aware of Lucius and the red headed muggle teacher on one of the high stairways. He appeared to be berating her for some sort of offense which she stood against admirably.

"That poor thing." I whispered, as I looked up at the red headed woman.

"You needn't be concerned about her." Snape answered as he watched the pair, with what appeared to be an amused smirk on his face. "Lucius is the one who is getting in over his head. He doesn't have the control that he believes he does."

Lucius's voice continued to echo off the walls for a few minutes after he and the woman disappeared at the top of the stairs. To my surprise Snape continued to walk with me until we reached the staircase that led to my room. As I wished him a goodnight I thought I caught a movement in the shadows but at a place such as Hogwarts, such a thing is not unusual. Reluctantly, I let go of Snape's arm and walked up to the second step. I paused there briefly then looked back at the black haired wizard.

"Thank you." I said, trying to sound as sincere as possible. "I really do appreciate the help you've given me."

Before he could respond, I suddenly lost my footing, as though the stairs had suddenly turned to ice. Completely taken by surprise I was unable to catch myself and fell forward off the stairs and into Snape's arms. We were then aware of two laughing figures running off into the darkness. In spite of the shadows, there was no mistaking the red hair of the Weasly twins who had apparently decided to cast an Icing Spell on the staircase.

"You!" Snape called after them angrily. "Twenty points from Gryffindor!...Each!"

He was answered only with the sounds of their laughter as they continued their escape down the dark hallway. Much to my amusement, Snape's arms which had gone around my waist to keep my from falling remained around me as we watched the twins disappear from sight.

With a boldness I never knew I possessed, I gently touched the ends of his hair with my finger tips and drew back just far enough to look up into his deep black eyes as I whispered, "Once again you've saved me. I'm beginning to think of you as my own Dark Guardian."

For once I was not faced with his usual stony glare. His eyes had widened slightly giving him a look of surprise and uncertainty but to my delight he still did not remove his arms from my waist.

After a moment of silence and looking visibly shaken, Snape spoke in a low voice, "Gwen, I -"

What he was going to say I was never to know, for at that moment Filch became the next unfortunate victim of the Icing Spell and slid down the stairs. He landed at our feet, uttering a colorful stream of obscenities. Climbing to his feet he glared hatefully at the stairs.

"Damn Weasleys!" he snarled. "Now I have to be the one to to heat buckets of water to thaw them out!"

Stepping away from Snape I examined the staircase myself. Running my hand over the railing, I said, "I don't think that will be necessary. Icing spells don't usually last very long. In fact, it appears to have cleared up already. If you had only come down a few moments later....."

Regretfully, I looked at Snape who was still watching me but had recovered his composure, looking at me with his usual, disinterested stare. Filch, oblivious to what he had interrupted continued his tirade about the antics of the Weasly twins. With his cat Mrs. Norris, who had avoided the icy staircase, he stalked down the corridor ranting about chains and manacles. Silence again filled the stairwell but that brief enjoyable moment prior to Filch's entrance was lost.

Snape lowered his eyes and turned from me slightly. "Goodnight, Professor Archer."

"Good night, Professor Snape." I answered quietly as I watched him walk down the corridor towards the stairs that led to the Slytherin house. When he disappeared into the shadows, I climbed the stairs to the painting that concealed the door to my own apartment. "Morning Glory" I whispered to the ivory unicorn in the painting. Stepping through the doorway I was filled with discontentment, but held on to the hope that perhaps the events of the evening would bring about a change in the way Snape and I reacted to each other.

*~*~*


Chapter 12: Dinner at Hogsmeade and the Astronomy Tower
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27 October, 1992 - An Embarrassing Revelation


The next morning I discovered I was right about the events of the previous evening changing things between Snape and I. It was even worse! Now he seemed to ignore me completely, much to my aggravation. The few times we passed each other in the hallway he didn't appear to see me. By late afternoon I would have been grateful for a scowl or an insult.

As if that wasn't enough to dampen my mood, many of the students seem to have a bad case of the giggles which I tried hard to ignore. I couldn't say that I blamed them. With the way much of the faculty had been behaving the students didn't lack for things to giggle about.

Eventually we reached the final class of the day and were waiting for the dismissal bell to ring. Ordinarily this would have been the beginning of my free time but since last Tuesday's staff meeting at been called off, it had been rescheduled for that afternoon immediately after classes were dismissed. Ah wonderful, I thought to myself dismally, another hour or so of seeing Snape pretend that I had vanished into thin air.

At last the bell rang and most of the students got up and headed for the door. As I began gathering up the papers on my desk I noticed that a few of the students had stayed behind and were looking at me bemused grins.

"What is it?" I finally asked a girl from Hufflepuff, who was seated in the front row.

Tentatively she approached my desk with an issue of the Daily Prophet. Pointing to an article she asked, "This isn't true, is it?"

With great interest I looked at the article that she had brought to my attention. What followed was not one of the most lady-like moments of my life. I'm sure that if anyone saw me storming through the hallways with the newspaper clutched in my fist, the red headed muggle teacher would not have been the only one to be referred to as "banshee". When I reached the faculty meeting room I practically knocked the door off its hinges drawing the attention of the other teachers that had already assembled there.

"You!" I exclaimed furiously at Gilderoy Lockhart who was seated at the front of the room hanging on my grandfather's every word. I was dimly aware of Snape standing towards the back but at the moment I had things other than his infuriating indifference to deal with.

Obviously unaware of the fact that I was seriously considering using an evaporation spell on him, Professor Lockhart smiled and stood up. "Ah, Professor Archer, I'm happy to see you too!"

I was surprised the sight of him didn't result in flames shooting out of my eye sockets. Angrily I raised the crumpled paper and shook it at him as I exclaimed, "You did this and you are going to undo it!"

My grandfather at that moment stepped in and asked quietly, "Gwen, what is it exactly that you want Professor Lockhart to undo?"

"This!" I snapped showing him the article that my student had shown me only a few moments ago. "Yet another of his publicity stunts! He'll say anything to get in the paper!"

For a minute or so all was quiet as Dumbledore read the article then pretended to go all misty-eyed. "My only grandchild is betrothed. Why was I the last to know?"

"It isn't true!" I shrieked indignantly. Pointing at Gilderoy, I added, "With all due respect, you have to rein him in! Or better yet, sack him!"

Thick as a brick, the golden haired Lockhart got up to explain, "There there, Professor Archer. I know what you're thinking...'Of all the witches in the world, how did I get so lucky?'" Without giving me a chance to reply, he continued pompously, "It's understandable for you to feel that you don't deserve me, but believe me when I say, you come pretty close!"

To add insult to injury he concluded his speech with an arrogant wink.


"Oh dear." sighed my grandfather who probably thought I was going to rip Gilderoy's head off on the spot.

Exasperated I practically wailed at Lockhart "What do I have to do to make you understand-"

I was interrupted by Professor Sprout who suddenly appeared at my side and put her arm around me. Usually a cheerful woman, Pomona was no fan of Gilderoy and found him almost as aggravating as I did.

"I'll handle this." she said with an affectionate squeeze. Turning her attention to Gilderoy her voice took a no-nonsense tone. "Listen!...There is no way in a Chaos Dragon's lifetime that Gwendolyn will ever be engaged to you!"

"Right!" I agreed, grateful for Professor Sprout's support.

She continued, "There's no point in pursuing her because she doesn't love you!"

"Right!" I exclaimed emphatically.

"And there is nothing you, or anyone else can do to change that because she already loves Professor Snape!"

"Right!....What?" I looked at the short, plump woman at my side in horror.

"You're welcome, Gwen." she smiled as she patted my hand before returning to her chair.

There was an all too brief moment of silence that was abruptly broken by Lucius Malfoy's laughter. I glared back at him in the corner where he sat with his head thrown back, tapping the tip of his snake headed cane against the floor. Like his son Draco, Lucius seemed to find great amusement in the discomfort of others. Next to him, the quiet muggle teacher gazed at me sympathetically.

Dumbledore than cleared his throat and said, "I believe we've all had enough excitement for one afternoon so we'll adjourn this meeting early."

It was all the excuse I needed to get out of there. I darted from the room as quickly as I had come in. Hurrying down the corridor I was wishing that the floor would open up and swallow me. I hadn't felt so humiliated since that day when I was a student and that horrible Sirius Black had enchanted my long hair so that it came to life and tied me to a tree.

Before I had gone very far I heard my grandfather's gentle voice call to me. "Gwen."

Anyone else I would have ignored and kept going, but I simply couldn't walk away from Albus Dumbledore. I stopped in mid-stride and waited as he quietly walked up to me, folding the newspaper he still held in his hands.

Smiling he said, "I'll personally see to it that a retraction is printed."

"Thank you." I answered quietly. Raising my eyes to his I suddenly felt as though I were going to cry. "Oh Grandfather, I'm so embarrassed."

"Why?" he asked.

"Why?" I replied. "You were there. You heard what...." I clenched my fists, unable to finish the sentence.

"Ah Gwen." my grandfather smiled kindly. "Professor Sprout didn't say anything that the rest of us didn't already know...expect of course for Professor Lockhart...and perhaps Severus himself."

For a moment I looked at Dumbledore in stunned silence then asked, "Really?"

Placing his hand on my shoulder, he answered, "My dear, it isn't that difficult to see. In a school filled with people who find him intimidating and attempt to avoid him, you are the only one who gets angry due to a lack of attention from Professor Snape."

While my grandfather meant well, his words made me want to go outside and find the nearest rock to crawl under. "No wonder he considers me a pest!" I whined. "What am I going to do? He must hate me."

"I doubt that." the old man laughed softly. "Don't let his lack of outward emotion fool you. Perhaps you should speak to him."

My stomach churned nervously at the very thought facing Snape after Sprout's announcement in the faculty room. Grasping the deep blue fabric of my dress, I said despairingly, "I don't know where he is."

Dumbledore pondered a moment then replied, "In that case, let him find you....In other words, don't go into hiding. Just go about your evening as you normally would. Be easy to find should he decide to come looking for you. Your grandmother always said that opportunities have a way of presenting themselves when they are needed most."

I greatly doubted that Snape would do such a thing but I agreed that I would stay put and not assume my animagus form and go hide in the woods over night.

The old wizard gave me a reassuring hug, then looked down at the crumpled newspaper in his hand. "Now to take care of this. It will all be cleared up in the morning."

As he started to walk away, I thought of everything Dumbledore had said and stated, "You approve." It was not a question.

Looking back at me, he pondered yet another moment before answering. "Yes, I do." Smiling fondly, he continued, "You come from a long line of strong willed witches and are very much like your grandmother, and your mother, therefore I know what I'm talking about when I say, only a man of infinite patience, strength...and a certain amount of courage would have the needed qualities to go through life along side you."

In spite of how badly I had been feeling I couldn't help but laugh. No matter what, Dumbledore always knew what to say to make me smile through tears. I couldn't fathom my life without him. With that, we bid each other a good afternoon and continued our separate ways.

I returned to my office for a while and busied myself with some rune drawings that needed to be graded. By the time I had finished it was nearly dinner time so I reluctantly left the room and forced myself to approach the Great Hall. The sound of voices alerted me that most of the students and faculty were already in there and I paused outside the door to brace myself for the giggles that were sure to greet me.

No sooner had I strengthened my resolve when I heard the rude snickering of Lucius Malfoy. He was swinging that obnoxious cane of his and walking so fast the muggle teacher had to practically run to keep up. As they disappeared into the dining hall I murmured to myself, "How can she stand him?"

Deciding it would be best to have dinner in my room that evening, I turned around and walked into none other than Snape who was standing directly behind me.

My hands went up over my mouth to stifle a scream as I jumped a few inches off the floor. With my heart feeling like it was going to burst through my chest, I exclaimed, "Don't do that!"

Almost as still as a statue, he glared at me and said, "It doesn't make a good appearance for the granddaughter of the Headmaster to take her meals alone in her rooms."

Trying to regain my composure, I looked towards the Great Hall entrance and answered, "I'm not in the mood to be stared at."

"Really?" Snape asked in mock surprise. "It never seemed to bother you before...Dumbledore's lovely darling, admired and adored by all who see her. You and Professor Lockhart are alike in that way."

"You take that back!" I demanded, stepping forward so that we were almost toe to toe. After a pause I added, "I thought you weren't speaking to me. All day you have been acting as though I were silent and invisible."

"Silent and invisible." He repeated with the slightest of smiles. "Ah, how perfect. Actually we have been seen together often and after reading that amusing announcement in the paper this morning I was afraid your fans would become confused."

Scowling at him, I replied, "You of all people should have known that every word of that was utter rubbish! And furthermore....wait! This morning? You knew about this all day long and never said anything? I ought to-"

"Ah, ah, ah!" Snape interrupted, waving his index finger at me condescendingly. "Temper."

Staring up at him, I asked incredulously, "Are you trying to make me angry?"

"No. I am trying to persuade you to join me for dinner." He answered, gesturing towards the dining hall.

Caught by surprise, I took a step backwards and put my hands behind my back. He was regarding me with his usual emotionless stare but at least he wasn't scowling. I couldn't help but feel a little indignant that Snape thought coming down here and picking a fight with me was an acceptable form of a dinner invitation, although he did manage to make me forget for a moment about the incident in the faculty room.

"You didn't say 'please'." I muttered under my breath.

Admittedly that was bratty of me. Snape's black eyebrows drew together slightly and I knew immediately that I was pushing my luck at a moment when he was, in his own way, extending an olive branch.

"I mean yes, yes." I said hastily. "I would be very happy to have dinner with you."

He could have at least smiled. Why did he have to be so damn hard to read? Without a word, he stepped towards the door and offered his arm. Wondering for a moment if I was being set up for some sort of joke, I linked my arm through his and walked with him towards the faculty table. Ignoring the stares and giggles from the students I thought about something Snape had said to me a moment ago.

Looking up at him I asked, "Do you really think I'm a spoiled brat?"

"Yes."

*~*~*


29 October, 1992 - The Astronomy Tower


Dinner that evening was blissfully uneventful, I was seated towards the end of the faculty table between Snape and Professor McGonagall. As much as I hated to admit it, having dinner with the staff instead of hiding in my room helped me to get over my embarrassment regarding the incident at the faculty meeting earlier that day. Minerva kindly assured me that the general consensus among my peers was that I was not the one who had looked foolish. As usual, Snape contributed little to the conversation. In fact, other than a moment or two when he made a snide comment, I wasn't sure he was listening at all.

The following morning I awoke in better spirits than I expected considering the events of the previous day. It was Friday and both students and staff were eager for the start of the weekend. At the conclusion of the last class, I went out to the paddock to check on Ashlar and discovered that the infection in his hooves had finally cleared up. He nickered a cheerful greeting to me and his eyes glowed a healthy red. Picking up the freshly cleaned tube and funnel, which actually belonged in the potions equipment cabinet, I realized that I had an excuse to pay a visit to Professor Snape whom I had seen very little of that day.

As expected, he was seated at his desk, apparently grading homework. On the desk before him were a number of small bottles containing liquid of various colors that he would pick up and examine with a look of annoyance.

He never bothered to look up as I crossed the room. As I replaced the tube and funnel in one of the cabinets he asked, "Why are you always in here?"

"Because for some mysterious reason I find your company enjoyable." I retorted.

Reasonably sure that he wouldn't get angry, I walked around behind his desk and pulled up the stool that I had used the other day and sat down next to him.

"Hiding from your over-zealous suitor?" Snape asked as he continued to examine the contents of the bottles and making notes next to each students name on a piece of parchment.

"He's not my suitor." I answered. After a moment I continued, "Professor McGonagall said he still hasn't taken the hint and the concept of a witch not being romantically interested in him is beyond his comprehension."

"Lockhart not understanding something? Will wonders never cease." Snape whispered as he sniffed the contents of a bottle and shook his head in disgust. "Still, one can hardly blame him for being persistent."

Could it be that I was finally going to get a compliment out of this man? Against my better judgment I asked, "Do you really think so?"

That was a mistake.

"Of course." he answered, finishing with one bottle and picking up another. "You are the grandchild of one of the most well known and respected wizards in the world. A connection with you would give anyone a considerable boost in social circles. The wizard who has the misfortune of taking you off the Headmaster's hands will find himself with powerful connections. You, Professor Archer, are chattel!"

For a moment I just sat there and glared at him. "How do you always manage to say things to make me feel so special?" I asked sarcastically.

"It's a gift." He answered snidely as he finally turned his head and looked at me.

Before I could respond, we were interrupted by the sound of loud voices in the hallway. Lucius, looking to be in his usual foul mood, swept through the door followed by Hagrid and the red haired muggle woman, who to my surprise actually had lasted the entire week without handing in her resignation. I noticed Snape's eyes narrowed slightly as he surveyed the group that had assembled in front of his desk.

"Severus, perhaps you can assist me in being the voice of reason." said Lucius as he gestured towards the others. "I can't believe the ridiculous idea they are proposing!"

Professor Prewitt countered, "What better way is there for the students to see how Muggles live without magic?"


Ignoring her, Lucius continued to address Snape. "My 'Muggle charge' here has suggested taking the students on a...a field trip...into the muggle world."

Hagrid broke in cheerfully, "You know what I would love to see? One of those money machines that I've heard our Muggle-borns talking about. How do those work again?"

Smiling, the muggle teacher answered, "The bank issues a little plastic card with a series of numbers on it. Then for each card the bank issues a PIN"

"PIN?"

"Personal Identification Number." the muggle teacher explained politely.

"Oh and the PIN is on the card?" asked Hagrid.

"Oh no!" the woman answered with a laugh. "You don't want it there."

"Why is that?"

"Because if you had your PIN on your card-"

"Why is everyone socializing in here?" Snape interrupted, half rising out of his chair. "Unlike some people on this staff I"m working. Out!" he snarled, pointing at the door.

Briefly they all just looked at Snape as he sat there scowling at them. Finally Hagrid left the room, followed by Professor Prewitt.

Lucius watched them go then looked at Snape with a sarcastic grin. "You know Severus, you really need to learn to relax." His ice blue eyes shifted towards me for a second. "Perhaps the princess here can help you with that."

Without noticing how the Potions Master was glowering at him, Lucius left the room with an arrogant laugh.

Not wanting to anger Snape any further, I stood up intending to leave him to his task of evaluation the student's potions.

"Leaving so soon?" he asked to my great surprise.

Looking at him warily I answered, "Well you did just make it quite clear that you wanted everyone out."

He raised his black eyes to me briefly, then looked back at the bottle in his hand as he muttered something I couldn't quite hear under his breath.

"I beg your pardon?" I asked.

Without looking up, Snape again muttered something that I couldn't understand.

Sitting down, I leaned close to his shoulder and said, "I'm sorry. I still wasn't able to catch all that."

With a deep sigh, he straightened in his chair and said clearly, "I didn't mean you."

"Oh, that's what I thought you said." I whispered playfully in his ear.

Looking rather tired and defeated, Snape once again turned his head and looked at me. His expression was not exactly friendly but I saw none of the annoyance that he had shown towards Lucius and the others.

"Are you finished yet?" I asked, delighted that he didn't despise my company after all.

"More or less." he answered dryly.

"Then why are we down here in this cold dungeon?" I smiled as I stood up. Tugging gently on his sleeve I added, "The school week is over and it's nearly dinner time. If you weren't too bored last night I was hoping we could once again spend dinner together."

He stood up and looked down at me a moment then answered, "No, I don't so."

Crushed, I did my best to conceal my hurt and said, "Alright then. I won't trouble you any longer."

As I started to walk towards the door Snape said quietly, "I meant that after a long week I am not in the mood to listen to never ending babble from the students during my meal. Is your cloak easily accessable?"

"Yes." I answered, wondering where this was going.

Wrapping his own black hooded cloak around himself he said, "Then get it. I shall escort you to Hogsmeade."

*****


The journey to Hogsmeade was made by Thestral-drawn carriage. Like my grandfather I was able to see the dark, skeletal horses due to what had happened to my parents. While the Thestrals are noble animals, I didn't find them as charming or as handsome as my Ashlar.

Whether or not Snape could see them was unknown to me and I didn't feel comfortable asking.

The Three Broomsticks was surprisingly quiet and I had to agree, it was nice to dine without the sound of the student's voices echoing off the walls of the dining hall. However, I would have appreciated it more if my dinner companion would have been more talkative. Making conversation was like pulling teeth and I came the conclusion that his only facial expressions were either anger or indifference. Is it really so much for a lady to ask that the gentleman with her looks even slightly pleased to be in her company?

Snape was obviously more of a listener that a talker. Although he didn't say much I had to admit he kept his eyes on me and seemed for once to be paying attention. From time to time he made a snide comment but not one was at my expense. By the time we had finished dinner I realized Snape tended to dislike everyone on general principle and I shouldn't have taken his insults as personally as I did when I first arrived at Hogwarts. I had been outraged at his suggestion that I had only being given the job of teaching magic in art because of being related to Dumbledore instead of earning it on my own merits.

True my form of magic may not have been the most practical but I believed artistic magic was an important part of our heritage. The ancient moving cave paintings attested that our ancestors were using pictographs long before the use of candles. This magic had no need for a wand.

It after dark when we returned to the carriage and headed back to Hogwarts. I could only image how amazed everyone at the school would be if they knew Professor Snape and I had managed to get through an entire evening without insulting each other or raising our voices.

The stars were incredibly clear by the time we reached the castle. Leaving the carriage and walking up the stairs towards the entrance I remembered the last time Snape and I had been in that spot we had a terrible argument when he snidely inquired exactly how many strings my grandfather had to pull to have me teaching there. The frightened first years watched with their mouths hanging open wondering if we were going to kill each other on the spot.

Looking upward at the sky I said, "It's a pity to go indoors on such an evening."

Briefly glancing upwards at the Astronomy Tower, Snape answered, "True, but we do not necessarily have to stay indoors."

I hadn't been up there since I was a student and it was certainly a wonderful place to be on such a bright, starlit evening. Pleased that Snape was not eager to rid himself of me, I walked with him through the Entrance Hall towards the staircase which led to the tower. Before we could begin the ascent however, we heard a grumpy voice from the shadows.

"There you are, Professor Snape! I'm in need of your assistance!" grumbled Filch as he came stalking out of the darkness, his skeletal cat Mrs. Norris alongside him.

"Is this really necessary?" asked Snape as he drew his eyebrows together.

"Oh it will only take a moment or two of your time. I'm sure Dumbledore will give me permission to use the manacles after I tell him about this."

Just I was was figuring the evening was over, Snape looked at me and said, "I'll return momentarily."

Surprised I nodded and replied, "I'll be here."

As the two men walked down the corridor I overheard Filch saying something about the Weasley twins and a suit of armor. Laughing softly I could only image what they had done this time to anger Filch and I walked towards one of the windows to look out at the darkened grounds.

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the voice that I disliked above all others.

"Ah, Professor Archer, the very person I wanted to see!"

Trying not to groan in disgust I turned around to see Gilderoy Lockhart swaggering towards me with his usual wide, toothy grin.

"What do you want?" I asked wearily.

"Only to beg a thousand apologies my lady for yesterday's misunderstanding." he answered cheerfully.

"There was no misunderstand, Professor Lockhart. You acted completely out of turn with that announcement."

"I know!" he agreed. "I should have asked you first but I figured it would be best to get that bit of business out of the way."

Glaring at him I said, "That was putting the cart before the horse wouldn't you say?"

"Ordinarily yes, but knowing you were going to be asked the question that every witch in the world dreams of, it seemed logical to speed things along. Were you planning on doing the obligatory 'I'll think about it' for the sake of appearance?"

I felt my eyed widen. "You are unbelievable."

With a wide smile Lockhart answered, "Why thank you, Professor Archer. I've heard that many times before but it's always nice to hear it again, especially from a witch such as yourself."

"How kind of you." I muttered, my sarcastic tone completely lost on this self absorbed man.

"Now that we put that somewhat embarrassing incident behind us, perhaps you would like to join me in the dining hall for a glass of wine while I tell you all about the next book I'm writing. You no longer have to endure the company of Professor Snape to fill the boredom of your empty evenings."

Offended, I glowered at Lockhart and said firmly, " Endure? I haven't had to endure anything! Professor Snape is my friend!"

At least I think he is, I thought silently to myself.

"Well speak of the very devil!" Lockhart suddenly announced with a wide smile.


Snape did indeed look like the devil as he approached. His look of indifference was now replaced with a dark scowl. He said nothing as he stopped beside me, glaring at Gilderoy in such a way that made me wonder why the vain man didn't fall to the floor writhing and twitching.

"If you would excuse us, Professor Lockhart." I said as I touched Snape's arm and began walking towards the stairwell that led to the Astronomy Tower.

"Oh! Of course!" answered Gilderoy. "Have a good evening, Professor Archer. You too, Professor Snape."

Not a word was spoken as we climbed to the top of the tower. Enjoying the feeling of the wind in my hair I allowed my hood to fall back. I leaned against the low wall that surrounded the top of the tower and gazed upward feeling relaxed and content.

"This was a wonderful suggestion." I turned and smiled at Snape, and was completely taken aback at his expression.

He was scowling directly at me. I had no idea what I could have done to provoke that dark look and thought perhaps it had something to do with whatever Filch had spoken to him about or simply seeing Lockhart had put him in a foul mood.

"Is something wrong?" I asked tentatively.

"What in the world gives you that idea?" he whispered coldly.

"Perhaps because you're looking as though you would like nothing more than for a bolt of lightening to hit me."

With a visible smirk, Snape said in an icy voice, "I see, and we can't have anyone looking at Dumbledore's Darling with anything less than adoration can we?"

Feeling hurt and confused I took a few cautious steps towards him. "Why are you doing this? I don't want to fight with you, not after the evening we've had. I very much want to -"

"Ah you want." he interrupted. "Something that Dumbledore may not have taught his little princess is that in life we don't always get what we want....unless we are someone who has obstacles moved out of the way for us."

Hard as I tried to keep them back, my eyes flooded with tears of frustration. "Is this why we came up here? So you could berate me? Put the spoiled brat princess in her place? Is that it?" I shook my head and took a deep breath. "I actually started to think you were my friend."

"Yes." he scowled. "Your friend".

Standing there in the dark, his black hair and cloak along with his pale complexion really did make him look sinister and I saw for the first time why so many students were deathly afraid of the Potions Master.

Trying to keep my composure I whispered, "Apparently I was mistaken."

Without a word Snape turned his back on me and began to walk back towards the stairs.

Taking a few steps after him I asked, "What is it you want! Do you want me to leave?" He stopped but did not turn around as I continued, "Should I go hand in my resignation and leave Hogwarts never to return? Would that make you happy?"

Without warning he suddenly turned around, the wind billowed through his hair and cloak making him look quite menacing.

"No, you maddening witch!" he hissed as he pounced on me.

For a terrible moment I thought he really had brought me up here with the intent of throwing me off the tower and I would have screamed had he not covered my mouth with his own. His long fingers twined through my hair and held me as the wind gained in strength, whipping his cloak around us both. My heart beat rapidly as I reached up to put my arms around his shoulders. As highly charged as our numerous arguments had been, they all paled next to that long embrace.

At last he drew back slightly and looked in my eyes. I had heard the term "weak in the knees" before but until then I never really knew what it meant. I brushed the hair from his face, not wanting him to let me go.

After a few seconds he drew back from me shakily. He swallowed and looked uncomfortable as he again walked towards the tower stairway.

"You want me-" I started to ask as my breath caught in my throat, preventing me from finishing the sentence, which was asking if he really did want me to stay at Hogwarts.

Snape looked back at me, still appearing shaken. Clutching his cloak around him he answered, "So much that it hurts."

With that he swept back downstairs leaving me with my thoughts.

*~*~*



30 October 1992 - A Yellow Rose


I slept poorly that night resulting in rising late in the morning the following day. It was a little after eleven in the morning when I got dressed, went to have a light breakfast and then walked out to the paddock to visit Ashlar. He was in high spirits and very tired of not being able to stretch his legs.

"The Wild Hunt isn't until tomorrow night." I smiled as I scratched his nose affectionately.

He answered with a snort and a shake of his head.

"Alright then." I conceded as I clipped on his lead rope and took him to a near-by supply shed to saddle him. It was a cool, crisp October morning and there was no better way to kill time and get your mind off things that are troubling you than a spirited canter around the outskirts of the school grounds and certainly better than pacing around the corridors wondering if Snape was going to resume avoiding me.
Late in the afternoon Ashlar and I returned to the paddock. The horse was obviously in good spirits with his ears perked forward and his tail up. His glowing red eyes may have made him look demonic but his personality was more like that of a friendly puppy. He certainly wasn't cut out for a dreary place like Azkaban.

After letting him back into his paddock, the horse shoved his head against my pocket, knowing that I had a treat for him hidden in the folds of my riding cloak. Smiling, I gave him the apple that I had taken from the kitchens that morning. After eating it, Ashlar shook his head making his heavy black forelock fall forward, partially obscuring his face. At that moment he reminded me in an odd way of Professor Snape.

Snape. I sighed thinking about last night's events and wondering if I would have better luck finding him now that it was later in the day. Returning to the castle, I stopped by my classroom to take care of some last minute preparations for tomorrow morning's class. Lying on my desk was a single, long stemmed yellow rose.
Placing it in a vase that I had in a near-by cabinet, I wondered who put it there. Could it be? A moment later I thought, no, not likely. Dumbledore was the only person at Hogwarts who knew that my favorite flower was the yellow rose. I then realized I hasn't spoken with my grandfather in a couple of days either. Finishing my work, I went to the stairwell that led to his office.

Entering the room, I was greeted cheerfully by the charming Fawkes. I walked around the desk and knocked on the slightly open door that led back to Dumbledore's sitting room.

"Hello?" I called.

In the process of pouring a cup of tea, my grandfather looked up and smiled. "Hello, Gwen. I was wondering where you were. Come in!"

Smiling I came into the room and gave him a quick hug saying, "I slept a little later than I meant to, then I decided to take Ashlar out for some exercise."

Pouring a second cup of tea, he replied, "Well that it what Sundays are for. Have a seat." Taking a chair, he continued, "Ashlar seems to be doing quite well from what I could see."

Dumbledore gestured towards his window which overlooked the grounds....and to my dismay, had a clear view of the Astronomy Tower.

Accepting the tea he offered me, I took a comfortable chair that was near his own and asked, "Is everything ready for the Halloween feast?"

"As ready as it can be." answered Dumbledore as he settled back into his chair. "I do hope you plan on attending."

"I wouldn't miss this for anything." I smiled, taking a sip of my tea. "In fact I'm really looking forward to spending Halloween here again."

The old man smiled. "Have you any other...plans...for the holiday besides the feast?"

"No." I answered, shaking my head. "If the Hogwarts Halloween feasts are the way they were when I was a student, I'm sure there will be enough excitement for one night."

"I see." he answered quietly as he gently stirred his tea. "It's not uncommon for the members of the faculty to have other activities on the holidays that don't involve the students after the feast is over."

Feeling slightly uncomfortable with his searching gaze I looked down at my teacup. "I can understand that. Adults need time to themselves too."

"Yes, they do."

There was a lull in conversation for a few moments as I looked out the window. Then as casually as I could, I asked, "By any chance have you seen Professor Snape today?"

Shaking his silver haired head, he said, "No, but Severus isn't usually seen very much on the weekends. He's always been a solitary man. The only person I've really seen very much of today was Professor Lockhart who said he was going to go advise the students during their Quidditch practice."

"Then I came inside just in time." I said. "Forgive me. I know that's unkind, but that man drives me up the wall."

Dumbledore laughed, "I seem to recall you saying something similar about Professor Snape.

I pondered a moment then said, "Yes he drives me up the wall as well....but it's not the same thing."

Taking another sip of his tea, he asked, "Did you and Severus have another one of your...disagreements?"

"Disagreement? Oh...no...Well there was that one moment when......No. No we didn't."

Dumbledore smiled, "Well that's good to hear. Truth be told I was getting rather concerned."

"So was I." I said, feeling a little uncomfortable. "but I think we might be able to declare some sort of truce."

"How was Hogsmeade?"

It was un-nerving how my grandfather always knew what was going on around him. Of course a number of people saw Snape and I leaving the castle the previous evening so I suppose where we had gone was no secret.

"Very well." I answered truthfully. "He's devilishly hard to have a conversation with but, dinner was very nice."

Dumbledore beamed, "I'm so pleased to hear that, and I'm sure the longer the two of you know each other, the more Severus will open up."

I smiled slightly, "I wish he would. It's so hard to know what he's thinking. I never seem to know what he's going to do next."

"One could say the same thing about you, my dear." he laughed.

"You know better than anyone." I replied warmly.

"Indeed I do." He finished his tea and poured himself a second cup. "I'm sure Severus will turn up."

"Oh I know he will...I was just hoping to speak with him before classes tomorrow."

"If nothing else you're bound to see him at dinner this evening." raising his eyes to me, he asked, "Or is that still a little too...busy?"

Now I really wondered what how much the old man knew. Still trying to look casual I answered, "That wouldn't be the most ideal setting."

Glancing towards the window, Dumbledore said off handedly, "Severus was always partial to that large black dragon painting. The one with the night sky in the background. I'm sure you know which one I mean."

"Yes I do...It's an impressive work of art." I paused a moment. "The scaling detail on the dragon is incredible."

"It is. I can't seem to remember the name of the artist. Perhaps the next time you see it, you could check the signature for me."

"I'll do that." I smiled as sipped my tea. "By the way, were you the one who left the yellow rose on my desk?"

Shaking his head, he answered simply, "No."

Puzzled, I continued, "I wondered because you're the only person here who knows how much I love yellow roses."

My grandfather smiled and said, "Yes I do....and so does Severus."

Raising my eyebrows I asked, "He does?"

"Yes. I hope you don't mind that I told him." with a mischievous glint in his blue eyes, he added, "When a man takes the time to formally ask me for my permission to court my granddaughter, I feel he deserves some...inside information."

I nearly dropped my teacup as I stared at my grandfather for a few seconds of silent amazement then said, "He did what?"

Acting as though this were all perfectly normal, Dumblefore continued casually, "It was the morning after the faculty meeting that he came to speak with me. I gave my blessing of course. I found the gesture most impressive."

For another moment I was too stunned to speak. I could only think about what my grandfather had just told me. So Snape had spoken with him the morning after the faculty meeting, which meant it was before he had invited me to dinner at Hogsmeade. It was also before....

"He called me chattel!" I exclaimed indignantly.

Dumbledore had been in the process of sipping his tea when he suddenly started coughing. Recovering, he said in an amused tone, "Yes that sounds like something Severus would say. Don't take it personally my dear."

Mildly exasperated, I just shook my head then finished my tea.

Leaning forward in his chair, Dumbledore smiled and said, "I'm afraid you must excuse me. There are some last minute arrangements I need to make for tomorrow's feast."

"Of course." I said as I stood up and placed my cup on the tray with the teapot. "I'll see you at dinner."

Still smiling, my grandfather stood up and walked with me towards the door. "And I hope you are able to get this matter cleared up."

"Thank you." I said, giving him another hug.

After leaving Dumbledore's office, I went back downstairs and worked my way towards the stairwell which led to where the large painting of a black Chaos Dragon hung. It was somewhere near the entrance to the Slytherin house. The magnificent creature had red eyes similar to Ashlars and was covered in shining black scales. Seeing me approach, it shook its head and said in a deep voice, "He isn't here."

"Thank you." I said to the painting, remembering that dragons, even dragons in paintings should always be treated with the up-most respect, after all they were far older and wiser than the human species.

Not knowing what else to do, I walked outside onto one of the balconies that overlooked the Quidditch playing field and observed a couple of the teams practicing, all working very hard for the match that would be coming up. It was easy to pick out Lockhart in his ghastly pink robes.

As I was taking pity on the students I became aware of a tall, thin form in black who had silently appeared at my side. At first we continued to watch the students without speaking. Finally Snape said, "I assume your loyalty still lies with the Gryffindor team?"

Glancing at him I smiled, "Of course. Gryffindor was my house when I was a student....but that doesn't mean we would have to be seated on opposite sides of the field during games does it?"

He didn't answer as he continued to watch the students. Placing his hands behind his back he took a deep breath and said, "Gwen, I...would like to offer my apologies if I...offended you."

The air was growing cooler as the sun was setting. Slowly rubbing my hands together to warm them, I answered, "You didn't. Not at all."

There was another awkward pause. The Quidditch teams were wrapping up practice and beginning to head inside for dinner. Finally I turned towards him and said, "Professor Snape-"

"Severus." he broke in, still looking unsure of himself.

"Severus," I smiled, "The rose was a very sweet surprise."

Turning to look at me, he said, "You shouldn't be out here without your cloak. The air is growing cold."

"Yes it is but it's nearly dinner time. We should probably head for the dining hall."

Without a word, he stepped towards me and looked in my eyes...looking almost cheerful. I don't think I would have noticed the change in his expression if I hadn't gotten to know his angry glower or his bored expressionless stare so well. Placing his finger under my chin, he tipped my head back and gently kissed my mouth. There was all of the emotion, but none of the desperation from the previous night.



Allowing me to slide my arm through his, we walked with my back into the castle.



*~*~*


Chapter 13: The Opened Chamber
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31 October, 1992 - Halloween


I awoke a little earlier than normal on Halloween morning and since it was a special day, I chose to wear my royal-blue dress with the gold accents. Blue was always my favorite color since my Grandmother Archer told me when I was a small child that it "complimented my blond hair and brought out my eyes." Admittedly my attire was more than a little impractical for class but Halloween only came around one day a year.

The students had difficulty concentrating on their lessons that day which was perfectly understandable as we were all looking forward to that evening's feast. The Great Hall on Halloween night was always magical, even for those of us who have magic in our daily lives.

Due to the fact that our classrooms were a couple of floors apart, I saw Severus very little throughout the day and I confess, that played a part in the hours dragging out for me. As expected, I was greeted with smirks and whispers by those who saw us entering the Great Hall the evening before. Pretending not to notice, I went about my day as I always did.

At long last the final class of the afternoon arrived. For that day's lesson I continued teaching the candle magic that involved scribing an image on the side of a beeswax pillar. When lit, the candle would manifest whatever had been inscribed. To insure that that the spell would basically be harmless, I had the students inscribing song-birds.

Barely five minutes from the end of class I saw a flash of sparks in the corner of my eye, going from Draco Malfoy's desk into the heart of the image that Neville was hard at work inscribing. The sparks also caught the wick, making the unfinished spell manifest. Following a loud crack, a repulsive, featherless, bat-like creature appeared in the air above the candle, fluttering madly.

Most of the students drew back in disgust, except for Draco and his friends, who were nearly doubled over with laughter. Grabbing my wand I immediately came to Neville's desk and performed a counter spell, making the ugly, half-formed creature disappear.

At that moment the dismissal bell rang. Cocky as always, Draco got up to leave, flanked by his large friends.

"Oh no, not you." I said firmly. Glaring at the students at his sides, I added. "That was not directed at all three of you. Go! Draco will catch up with you later."

Looking sheepish, Draco's followers went on their way along with the rest of the students. Neville stood next to me, looking disheartened at the wax mess on his desk. My class was one subject where he actually thrived and I hated seeing him so discouraged.

Placing my hand on his shoulder I said, "Neville, I saw the lovely image you were working on and I assure you, this...incident...will have no baring on your grade."

Draco demanded, "What are you keeping me for? Neville is a walking disaster! Everybody knows it!"

As much as I hated to, I said, "Ten points from Slythern."

The pale boy was outraged as he protested, "You can't do that!"

"I can and I did."

"That's not fair!" he argued.

Becoming angry, I scowled, "Not fair? Draco, you sent a Blasting Curse into Neville's candle!"

Draco looked at me with a challenging smirk. "You can't prove it."

Before I could respond we all heard a familiar voice say quietly, "Twenty points from Slytherin."

We all looked with surprise at Professor Snape who had silently come into the classroom.

Draco looked wide-eyed at his favorite teacher. "But, Professor Snape!"

"That was for arguing with a teacher." Severus answered coolly. "Do you want detention as well, Mr. Malfoy?"

"Why don't you go join your friends at the feast?" I said quietly to Neville who was standing there looking at Snape in open mouthed amazement. He silently gathered his books and went on his way, looking back over his shoulder once on his way out the door.

"You may go as well." I said to Draco. "I will let you go with only the point deduction this time but if you do anything like that in my class again you'll be forcing me to give you detention."

Giving me an evil glare, Draco also gathered his belongings and left the room. I was sure that before the evening was over he would be complaining about me to his father, not that it would do any good.

Leaning against my desk, I sighed, "I hated doing that. We were so close to the end of the day."

Walking towards me, Severus answered quietly, "You are their teacher, not their friend. You should have given him detention."

"You're right." I agreed. "It's just that it's Halloween."

"Detention doesn't cause long term damage...as I'm sure you remember."

Severus had been a couple of years ahead of me when we were students, but even to those who I didn't go to school with very long, it was well known that the Headmaster's granddaughter had been given detention on more than a few occasions.

"I should have known that you would eventually throw that at me." I laughed softly.

Standing before me, he raised his hands and gently brushed my hair away from my face. "No long term damage," he repeated. "but I'm not sure it did you any good."

"Really? I'm that bad?" I asked playfully.

"Utterly hopeless." he whispered as he tipped my head back and kissed my mouth.

The day behind us, we left the room and went to the Great Hall that was decorated lavishly for Halloween. It was very much the way I had remembered it from years ago. There were countless elaborately carved pumpkins, black and orange streamers plus the annual live bats fluttering around the ceiling. Seated towards the end of the faculty table next to Severus, I was again struck with how happy I was to be back at Hogwarts. There was no other place like it anywhere in the world. Looking at the other end of the table, I noticed how radiant Narya, the Muggle teacher looked as she sat next to Hagrid Hagrid. She had made herself right at home in a world that must have seemed so strange to her. Amused, I saw her watch the resident ghosts sweep through the room in utter amazement. Seeing how well she had adjusted I smiled realizing that my grandfather's experiment was going far better than any of us dreamed it would.

After a number of hours the feast drew to a close and the students dispersed into the common rooms of their Houses. The staff also began to trickle out but not quite ready to call it a night, a few over us moved to the staff room.

Pulling a couple of chairs close to the windows, Severus and I sat down with our goblets of wine and ended up having a long conversation. I'm not saying that the man became talkative, but he did share more with me that night than ever before. There was no telling how long we would have remained there had Professor McGonagall not appeared abruptly in the doorway looking quite distressed.

Obviously our of breath, she said, "Professor Snape, the Headmaster needs our assistance. Something happened upstairs."

Drawing his eyebrows together, Severus replied softly as he rose from his chair, "Of course." Turning his gaze toward me he added, "Please excuse me."

Curious, I only nodded as I too rose from my chair and watched my peers as they hurried from the room. Stepping cautiously into the corridor, I could see Minvera was speaking to Snape as the quickly climbed the stairs but at that point they were out of earshot.

Figuring that I would not be of any assitance to whatever had occurred, I made my way to the staircase with the intent of going upstairs to my room. There, I met the new Muggle Studies teacher who was staring in the direction Severus and Minvera had gone.

Seeing me, she asked hesitantly, "Do you have any idea what all the fuss is about?"

Shaking my head, I replied, "Your guess is as good as mine. Hopefully it's nothing serious."

Appearing nervous, Narya smiled slightly and said, "Probably just the students playing a Halloween prank."

"Yes. I'm sure you're right." I nodded.

After a moment of awkward silence, we wished each other a good evening and continued on our way. As I neared Gryffindor Tower I was still burning with curiosity but figured I would be informed about whatever had occured in the morning.

*~*~*


1 November, 1992 - A Visit From Lucius Malfoy


"Petrified?" I exclaimed over breakfast as I sat next to Severus at the staff table.

Nodding, he replied, "The Headmaster will of course be addressing this at the meeting."

Lowering my eyes to my plate I whispered, "Poor Mrs. Norris...and Filch. You say Harry and his friends were there?"

After taking a swallow of coffee, Severus replied, "Yes, but your grandfather doesn't believe that they were involved."

Needless to say, the entire school was buzzing about what had happened to Mrs. Norris. While I wasn't exactly fond of Filch, I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. For all his faults, it was obvious that he dearly loved his cat. Keeping the minds of the students on their work was difficult as they were all understandably wondering how such a thing could have happened and who was responsible.


As expected, Lucius Malfoy stopped by my office later that day to express his displeasure over his son being reprimanded. It was late in the afternoon when he appeared at the door while I was at my desk going over some paperwork. He walked into the room arrogantly and stopped in front of my desk.

"I would like a word with you, Professor Archer!" he snapped.

"Of course." I said casually as I gestured towards a nearby chair with my swan feather quill. "Have a seat."

Pulling up a chair, that much to his dismay was a bit too low for him, Lucius continued, "I want to speak with you about what happened to my son in your class yesterday!"

"I see...You mean when he destroyed Neville Longbottom's project with a Blasting Curse?"

"How do you know Draco was the one who did it?" Lucius demanded.

"Because I saw him do it, Mr. Malfoy." I answered, trying very hard not to raise my voice. "I saw him point his wand at Neville's candle and send a Blasting Curse at it and such behavior is unacceptable."

Lucius stared at me a moment then said snidely, "So you say...but I understand that you have...shall we say a 'talent' for finding loopholes so that circumstances can be arranged to suit you. That Azkaban patrol horse outside is a perfect example."

I felt my eyebrows draw together. "My horse is not the issue, Mr. Malfoy. The issue is your son was disruptive. He doesn't take this class seriously."

"Well it isn't the most practical course!" Lucius retorted.

"As I told Draco on the first day, with this class still being in an experimental stage, it is elective and that means he can drop the course if he wishes to. I admit my class isn't for everyone. If it isn't to his liking perhaps you as his father can help him transfer to something that it more suitable for him."

Lucius scowled at me. "Are you insulting my son?"

"Not at all." I answered calmly. "But he seems to think that in taking this course he could just coast through the afternoon with little to no work. That is not the case and I will not tolerate disruptions in my class for the students who really want to be here."

Standing, Lucius sneered down at me. "Perhaps I should speak with Professor Dumbledore about this."

"You do that." I said, stroking the swan feather. "I'm sure my grandfather will agree with me. When I was a student he made sure that if I did something I should not have then I, like the other students, had to face the consequences. Draco got off with less than he deserved and if this were any student other than your son you would agree with me."

Lucius narrowed his eyes and glared at me, but said nothing. After a moment he turned his back and went out the door.

"A good afternoon to you too." I said quietly as he disappeared into the hallway.

Surprisingly, I was pleased with that meeting as I sat back in my chair. I hadn't lost my temper and the brief argument went very well. One of the things my grandfather had tried my entire life to teach me is that there are few things more powerful than a softly spoken answer.

"Perhaps there is hope for me yet." I said softly to myself as I finished my paperwork and prepared to go to weekly staff meeting.

Arriving early, I found my grandfather already in the staff room standing at the podium going over some notes.

"Hello, Grandfather." I said brightly. "From what I understand you had a rather tense evening."

Dumbledore raised his eyes and sighed. "Indeed I did."

Walking up to the podium I asked curiously, "Do you have any idea how it happened?."

Looking back down at his notes my grandfather said, "No, I'm afraid not. Hopefully what happened to Mrs. Norris will be an isolated incident." Smiling slightly, he asked, "Prior to Severus being called away, did the two of you enjoy your evening?"

"Yes we did.....We went to the staff room and spent the evening talking..just talking....Nothing to worry about."

"I wasn't worried." Once again raising his eyes to me, he continued. "You and Severus are not children, Gwen. Everyone on the staff is entitled to their privacy. I only ask that discretion be used in front of the students."

I must have had a stunned expression on my face for Dumbledore looked at me and chuckled softly and said, "I may be an old man my dear but I am not ignorant to the ways of the world."

"I didn't....Of course not." I stammered.

I was spared further awkwardness by the remainder of the staff who had begun to file in and take their seats before the podium. Taking a chair along one of the windows I waited for the meeting to begin. When Lucius arrived followed by Narya, he gave me an angry stare, but said nothing as he went to the back of the room. Laughing to myself I thought about how useless it was for anyone to try to intimidate me by glowering after all the times I had been through that with Severus.

No sooner had he entered my thoughts when Severus came silently through the door. With an ever so slight, barely noticeable smile, he took the chair next to mine. The meeting itself went by was somber and was primarily focused on the petrification of Mrs. Norris. Professor Sprout assured us that the cat would be cured once the Mandrakes in her greenhouse had matured. The only other news was a reminder that the first Quidditch match of the year between Sytherin and Gryffindor would be held that weekend.


After an hour, the meeting concluded and the staff began to file out of the room. Again, Lucius gave me an evil glare on his way by but said nothing. Severus, who leaning back in his chair barely gave him a glance. I noticed that he had dark circles under his eyes and seemed reluctant to leave the chair.

"You look tired." I commented softly.

"It was a long night." he replied.

Looking towards the door where Lucius had disappeared into the hallway, I said, "I expected him to make a scene during the meeting. He came by to speak with me a little while ago about Draco and expressed his displeasure over the point deduction."

Severus relaxed even more into the chair and smirked, "I know. He came to speak with me as well. I believe he was trying to goad you into losing your temper so he could paint you as unprofessional."

That comment made me feel even more pleased with myself and I resolved to take my grandfather's advice more often.

Severus continued, "He then implied that my involvement with you was effecting me in ways that have caused me do things that I wouldn't do otherwise," Turning his eyes towards the door, he whispered, "to which I responded that statement was certainly a case of the pot calling the kettle black."

Turning sideways in my chair I asked curiously, "Meaning?"

Lowering his eyes, Severus began to examine his fingernails. "I must speak to the house elves about making sure to keep a fire going down in the dungeon. It's getting rather cold down there even for me."

"Don't change the subject. What did you mean by the 'pot and the kettle'? You can't make a comment like that and then not tell me what you mean!"

That was the worst thing I could have said in an attempt to get him to tell me something. He looked at me out of the corner of his eye and the sides of his mouth turned up slightly and I knew right away that he wouldn't say a word simply to aggravate me.

Once again lowering his eyes, he said snidely, "With it being so cold you really need to stop going outside without your cloak. It would be a shame for you to miss class due to a cold."

Leaning towards him in my chair I said, "Tell me what you meant by the comment to Lucius."

With that annoying smirk, he once again raised his black eyes to mine as he reached over and gently ran his fingers through a lock of my hair. "Have I told you that you look lovely today?"

That put a stop to my questions, at least for the time being.

*~*~*


3 November - The Truth About Narya

When the mail arrived, I was delighted to see a group of a dozen owls deliver a large package that I had been waiting for. The moment the final class of the day was over, I carried the box out to Ashlar's pasture.

As always he was happy to see me and extended his head over the fence in greeting. Ducking under the fence, I said to him, "The Slytherin team is going to be so jealous that they don't have a handsome fellow such as yourself showing support for them."

Opening the package I pulled out the custom trappings that I recently had made. All red and gold for Gryffindor, the bit and breast plate were molded in the shape of a lion. The horse nuzzled the bridle and whinnied his approval.

"This is all going to look splendid on you." I told him as I started to braid locks of his long mane with shiny cords of red and gold. Ashlar, who loved nothing more than to be fussed over, arched his neck and swished his heavy tail as I commented, "Red is certainly your color."

"Ah, look at ole Ashlar!" laughed a booming voice.

I turned to see Hagrid, smiling as he approached the paddock accompanied by Fang. Reaching the fence he brought his hand up to give the huge black horse a friendly pat on the neck.

"I placed an order for all of this shortly before the school year began and I was beginning to worry that they wouldn't be here in time for the first Quidditch game." I said as I finished one section of braiding and began another. Glancing at Hagrid, I asked, "Have you ever seen such a vain horse?"

"Aye, he has every right to be vain, don't you boy? He knows how handsome he is."

The horse bobbed his head in agreement then turned to look attentively towards the walkway that led to the castle doors. Looking to see what had caught Ashlar's attention, I felt my heart sink as I watched the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge rapidly approaching the paddock.

"It'll be all right." Hagrid said quietly as I stepped forward to stand in front of my horse as though my frame could hide the large black animal.

A nervous looking, portly man, Fudge stopped a few feet from the fence. Pointing, he demanded, "What's that?"

I turned towards him and innocently answered, "What's what?"

"That!" he repeated. "That beast behind you!"

As though he resented being referred to as a beast, Ashlar turned and put his head over my shoulder and snorted. Looking up at him as if I hadn't known he was there, I answered, "It's a horse."

"I know it's a horse!" snapped Fudge, obviously annoyed. "It appears to be an Azkaban patrol horse!"

Again, I looked up at the huge black head that was over my shoulder. Turning back to Fudge, I said, "You're right. He does look like one of those doesn't he?"

Narrowing his eyes, Fudge asked, "Where did he come from?"

"He was a gift." I answered.

"From who?"

"Well that's just it, I don't know." I shrugged my shoulders. "He was an anonymous gift that one day appeared outside my house. I would love to know who sent him. Mother always taught me that it was rude to not send an owl with a thank you card right away."

Hagrid made a sound that started like a laugh that he then turned into a cough. Fudge turned his eyes towards the gamekeeper, then looked back at me as he said, "So it didn't seem strange to you that there was a horse like the kind that is used by the Azkaban mounted guards outside your home?"

Smiling I replied, "It's not unheard of for Azkaban to sell some of their stock. Not every foal that is born is cut out to be a patrol horse."

The Minister of Magic studied me a moment longer than said firmly, "Each of the Azkaban horses have a symbol with a series of numbers tattooed on the inside of the ear."

"That makes sense." I nodded, trying to stay calm. "That's an excellent way to keep track of the herd which I understand is rather large."

Take a few steps closer to the fence, Fudge said, "You wouldn't mind if I took a look in this horse's ear would you?"

It was over. I knew Fudge would see that identifying mark and Ashlar would have to go back to that horrible prison. Stepping aside, I allowed the man to reach up and check the inside of the horse's ear. With a smug smile he said, "There it is. The Azkaban breeding mark."

To my surprise, Hagrid spoke up, "Sir, if you send an owl to Azkaban and have them check that set of numbers, they'll tell you that this horse was removed from their mounted guard due to 'excessive friendliness'."

Both Fudge and I looked at the giant with equally puzzled expressions. "Due to what?" asked Fudge.

"Excessive friendliness. Look at him. He doesn't have the right temperament for the mounted guard. He's too fond of wearing red ribbons in his mane and having the students come out here to feed him sugar cubes. Go ahead and check. They'll tell you that Ashlar here isn't the property of Azkaban anymore."

Fudge raised an eyebrow and looked from Hagrid, to me, then back at Hagrid who repeated, "Go ahead and check with them."

"I'm going to do just that!" Fudge snapped and headed off towards the castle.

Ashlar lowered his head and I placed my hand on his soft velvet nose. "Why is he here? Did he make this trip all the way to Hogswarts just because of Ashlar?" I asked.

Hagrid shook his head, "I doubt it. He was likely here on other business, but Ashar's a bit hard to overlook."

Convinced that this horse that I had become so attached to was going to be taken from me, I snapped his lead rope on and brought him out of the paddock. "This is it." I said grimly. "I should have known that sooner or later someone would come looking for him."

"I meant it when I said not to worry, Gwen." Hagrid replied as he walked along with us towards the castle.

"How can I not worry?" I asked as I placed my hand on Ashlar's sleek ebony neck. "I know I shouldn't have kept him...Technically I'm a horse thief but I just couldn't send him back to that awful place, Hagrid. I just couldn't."

"Believe me when I say that Ashlar isn't going anywhere."

For a few minutes we walked along silently. Then Hagrid said, "Gwen, do you mind if I ask you a question?"

"Of course not. What is it?"

"Cornelius made a good point. Didn't you even once ask yourself why there was an Azkaban mounted guard around your house?"

I tried to think of some sort of excuse and then said simply, "No."

Feeling incredibly silly, I stopped walking at the stairs that led to the main entrance. There was no point in running off. Any moment now Cornelius was going to come back out and inform me that guards from Azkaban were on their way to collect their horse. Pulling Ashlar's head down, I pressed my face against his muscular neck. I was about to say something to Hagrid when I saw Cornelius Fudge coming back down the stairs followed by Professor McGonagall.

"Did you send the owl?" asked Hagrid.

"I didn't have to." answered Fudge, looking somewhat deflated. "It appears an owl arrived a few minutes before I got here, with this document from Azkaban." After pausing a moment, he continued. "The numbers match. This horse was deemed unsuitable for the prison due to...excessive friendliness."

"I told ya!" beamed Hagrid. "He wasn't cut out to be a prison horse."

"So it appears." Fudge grumbled. Looking at me, he said, "You appear surprised, Professor Archer."

Finally able to find my voice I said, "Me? No...No I knew he was too friendly. Do you think I would just keep a horse that someone left on my property?" I laughed nervously. "Why, that would be wrong."

"Indeed." agreed the Minister as he looked at me suspiciously. Turning to Professor McGonagall, Fudge added, "Now that this matter had been cleared up I will be on my way."

Watching the Minister of Magic walk away, Hagrid commented, "So he did come out here because of Ashlar."

"Yes. Someone must have sent him an owl." I replied. After a moment I muttered. "Lucius!"

Hagrid laughed softly, "Now now, you don't know that."

"Well who else would it have been? Just yesterday Lucius was in my office and suggested that Ashlar was not legitimately mine!"

The gamekeeper winked, "Well, as far as you knew, he wasn't."

"That's not the point." I exclaimed. Turning to Ashlar, I reached up and pushed his long black forelock away from his face. "Not that any of that matters now. You're not going anywhere. I would love to know who saw to it that you were thrown out."

Ashlar nickered in response.

Professor McGonagall said gently, "Gwen, your grandfather would like to speak to you."

I had nearly forgotten she was there. Sighing, I said, "I suppose I should have seen that coming." Turning to Hagrid I handed him the lead rope and asked, "Would you mind taking him back to the paddock?"

"Why I don't mind at all. It's my pleasure." Hagrid beamed as he took the rope and led the raven-black horse away.

As I walked to the stairwell that led to my grandfather's office, I found myself remembering that mysterious evening when Ashlar and his Rider had shown up outside my house on a dark evening last summer. It was a few weeks before it had been confirmed that I would be teaching at Hogwarts and I had been up late reading when I saw Ashlar and his dark hooded Rider outside my window.

The Rider had extended a black, bony hand from it's cloak and pointed up at me. Then the figure was gone and there was nothing but Ashlar and a dark swirling cloud where the Rider had been. How could I not have questioned why in the world that...thing...had been there?

Dumbledore was at his desk when I finally reached his office. Smiling at me, he gestured for me to come in.

"Close the door behind you."

Doing as he asked, I went over and sat in a chair. For a moment he simply gazed across his desk at me.

Feeling mildly defensive, I said, "Grandfather, I swear I don't know what happened to that mounted guard. One moment he...it...was there and then it was gone."

"That's not why I sent for you." he said grimly. "There are some things you need to be told but I need you to not ask for any details other than the ones I'm going to share with you."

Noting the serious tone in his voice, I straightened in my chair.

Taking a deep breath he said, "I need to speak with you about Narya."

I smiled slightly, and commented, "She isn't a Muggle is she?"

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows and answered, "No, she is not."

"I knew it." I said with a soft laugh. "She has fit in so well that I was beginning to suspect."

"Did you now?"

"I did." I replied. Studying him, I asked, "But why do you look so grave?"

Standing up and coming around to the front of the desk, Dumbledore sighed, "There is more." Taking a seat in the chair next to mine, the old wizard looked at me and said, "Narya is my sister's grandchild."

Sister? For a moment I didn't think I had heard him correctly. As far as I knew the only other relative we had was my grandfather's brother Aberforth.

"Sister?" I repeated.

Dumbledore only nodded.

"Why have you never spoken of her?" I asked.

"There are reasons....That part of the family withdrew from the magical community shortly before you were born and have been passing themselves off as Muggles."

Stunned, I sat there a moment to simply allow what he had told me sink in. Raising my eyes to his I said, "All this time I thought it was just you, me and Aberforth. This is amazing that the woman who was chosen when you decided to add-" I broke off and pondered a moment more before saying, "This isn't a coincidence. There is more going on than wanting to add a Muggle teacher to the staff."

For some reason that made my grandfather look uncomfortable as he replied, "You are correct. That was simply what we told the Ministry."

Now very curious I asked, "Why didn't you tell me? It's wonderful to know we have more family."

Placing his hand on mine, he answered solemnly, "Those are the details that I can't give you because what you don't know cannot be used against you."

That didn't make sense to me at all.

"How could the fact the Narya is a relative and that you have a sister be used against me? Wait! What do you mean 'we?'" I asked, becoming agitated. "Who else knew? Professor McGonagall?"

"Yes, she and the other House Heads knew that we were not simply searching for a Muggle teacher."

There was no denying that I felt hurt at being kept in the dark over this and I realized just how low I was on the Hogswarts' hierarchy, even when there were matters that involved my own family.

Feeling foolish for being kept in the dark, I gripped the arms of the chair tightly and said, "I see...so you didn't see fit to tell me that we had other relatives somewhere."

"It was for your own protection, Gwen."

The memory of the Dark Rider was suddenly foremost in my thoughts and made me speak more sharply than I intended, "Protection? Protection from what?"

"I can't tell you that. Not right now. It's safer for you if you don't know." said Dumbledore firmly.

I exclaimed, "Safer? There was a Dark Rider at my door! How is that safe?" I stood up and paced around the room. "Why would a Dark Rider show up at my house?"

Stopping, I looked at my grandfather who was still seated in his chair and asked, "That isn't why I'm here is it? Is that why a chance to teach at Hogswarts suddenly appeared out of the blue?"

At this point Dumbledore was looking at me with concern and I admit my behavior was becoming irrational. Logically I knew there was no reason to be this upset but still, I kept seeing that figure.

A Dark Rider at my door

Running my fingers through my hair I started ranting, "So Professor McGonagall and the others all knew about this little plot and my mysterious relatives but you decided to leave me, your granddaughter, in the dark!"

Standing up, the old wizard replied, "That's not what I said. They only knew there was more going on than just adding a Muggle teacher to the staff."

For some reason I was hearing but not really comprehending what my grandfather was saying. I just knew that I felt deceived...lied to. Turning on my heel, I opened the door to his office and ran down the stairway. I wanted to get to Ashlar. At the bottom of the stairs I darted past the four House Heads who were at that moment speaking together in hushed tones.

Once outdoors, I ran without stopping to Ashlar's paddock. After opening the gate, I grabbed a fist full of his long black mane and vaulted onto his back. He reared excitedly before we tore out of the paddock and across the grounds.

*****


It was almost completely dark when Ashlar and I reached the ancient temple ruins that were located at the heart of the Forbidden Forest. Very few people knew they were there. Once magnificent, the ground on which the fallen rocks rested still held an mysterious, ancient power.

Ashlar stepped carefully over the fallen stones. Dismounting, I walked quietly to the pool of water that was located near what remained of the western wall. A brilliant blue, the pool was still in a perfect circle and reflected the moon brightly. Kneeling down, I submerged my hands into the water, allowing it's soothing coolness to settle my nerves. I then brought a handful to my mouth and swallowed it slowly, again feeling the effects of what had happened earlier wash away, making me feel calm and centered.

Leaving the pool, I carefully approached the stone, table-like altar that had been built next to what remained of the northern wall. Getting down on my knees, I placed my hands on the stone's carved surface, which had once been etched with elaborate knot-work, now worn and weathered by time. Over the years I had been here many times with my mother, Aislyn and my grandmother, Gabrielle. That night I felt that I needed those maternal figures to guide me, but they were no longer here and would never be with me ever again.

Leaning against the altar, I could feel the heartbeat and rhythm of that powerful place as it cleansed me of my fear and confusion. Finally relaxed and my emotions calm, I began to feel silly for running away. While I had a right to feel hurt that I had family that I didn't know about, that still was not a good reason to become as upset as I did. As far as the House Heaeds knowing something I didn't...well...that was the way it should be. This was only my first year as a teacher at Hogwarts and being the Headmaster's granddaughter did not mean I would be privy to all confidential matters. In fact, I had been the one who had insisted all along that I didn't want any special treatment because of being related to Dumbledore.

For a while I silently knelt there, allowing my eyes to drift closed as I listened to the sounds of the night. Leaves would gently blow across the altar top from time to time. From a nearby tree came the sound of an owl.

The serenity was abruptly interrupted by the sound of someone or something moving behind me and coming towards the ruins. Ashlar had wandered a few yards away as he grazed and was too far for me to reach. Rising to my feet, I turned around and reached for my wand and prepared to raise a barrier which would keep whoever or whatever was approaching, outside the ruins. As I began to raise my arm, I stopped abruptly as I recognized the figure in the black cloak.

Lowering my wand, I turned around and once again dropped to my knees before the altar as I muttered, "Oh wonderful. Here it comes."

A few moments later, Severus got down on his knees next to me and also leaned against the side of the altar stone as he said sarcastically, "You know, if you insist on always running off into the night like this, I may have to rethink our arrangement."

Glancing at him I retorted, "I wasn't in any danger here."

"Really? It looked very much to me like you were not prepared to defend yourself when I stepped into the clearing."

Turning my head slightly, I glared up at him. He was nearly invisible in the dark other than his sharp, white profile. I wished I had an excuse but the fact was I had overlooked my defenses and we both knew it. A wizard like Severus would never be fooled with hastily made up reasons for why something wasn't done. His students all knew that too well.

"Have you come to terms with the fact that your perfect world is not as neat and tidy as you thought it was?" he asked snidely.

Perfect world? I had been here missing my mother and grandmother. My world was far from perfect. I had my share of pain just as every other person did.

I replied, "I know it was childish to run away the way I did. Surely you can understand what a surprise this news was to me...to never have been told of an entire branch of my family."

"Not everything is about you. I know that must come as a shock, especially after the evening you've already had." In a mocking tone he added, "The world is crawling with dark witches and wizards that can invade your thoughts and your grandfather had the audacity to withhold information that you might have unknowingly given them! What was the man thinking?"

I angrily lowered my eyes to the altar surface, concentrating on the faded knot-work in an effort to keep from losing my temper as I asked, "How did you know where to find me? Very few know that these ruins are here."

For nearly a minute, Severus didn't answer. He merely stared towards the broken northern wall as though deep in thought. Finally he answered, "Over the course of my life I ended up being one of those few."

There was no need for him to say more. I understood and would not ask for further details. Severus had been one of the Death Eaters and it was that group of dark witches and wizards who had conducted meetings at similar ruins throughout Great Britian. An awkward silence descended as we both knelt there, lost in our own thoughts.

Hesitantly, I placed my hand over his that was also resting on the stone and whispered, "Thank you for coming to find me."

"If I hadn't that would have made it appear to your grandfather that I didn't take my responsibility seriously." he replied scornfully.

"Responsibility?" I said, once again getting angry. "Is that was I am? A responsibility?"

"Yes you are!" he scowled. "Your grandfather made sure that I understood that I would have a responsibility to you...The same as he had to Gabrielle and as Galen had to Aislyn."

What in the world did that mean? No competent witch needed a wizard to look after her. Neither my father or grandfather had "taken care" of their wives as far as I knew.

"I don't believe anyone has forced you into this." I said defensively. "Why even be here if I am such a burden?"

Looking at me out of the corner of his eye he answered, "The responsibility has its rewards, or so I'm told."

"It does?" I asked looking at him with disbelief.

Seeing my expression he snapped, "I didn't mean that!" He paused a moment then added, "Well, not entirely."

Once again I lowered my gaze to the altar surface. Why did this man always manage to make me feel like I was nothing but a spoiled child that had to be looked after and protected lest I get caught up in trouble of my own making?

After a few minutes of silence he asked, "Shall we return to the castle or do you need more time to pout and lament the fact that you are indeed not the center of the universe?"

Angrily I rose to my feet and glared at him. "Why? Why do you say things like that to me? If you really feel that way then why spend any time with me at all? Perhaps you would be happier down in your cold dark dungeon!"

Also rising to his feet, Snape replied, "Very good. It's best to get your tantrum out of your system now rather than later."

Exasperated I raised my hands as though I was going to lunge forward and grab him by the throat. "I could just....just...."

"Hold your breath until you turn blue? Please don't. While that is your color I doubt it would look very becoming in your skin."

All I could do was glare at Severus in silent outrage. Turning away from me, he took a few steps toward the woods and asked, "Are you finished yet or do you want to take a minute or two to stamp your foot on the stones?"

At that moment I felt like I wanted to throw a rock at his head. I looked up at the stars and pleaded for the strength to deal with his insults. Pointing in the direction of the castle I said, "Go! I was calmed down until you came out here to badger me. Please, just go."

He looked back at me, his face almost entirely hidden in shadows. "You know I won't do that."

"Oh of course not!" I said sarcastically. "Who would you berate and ridicule during the walk back? Silly me!"

"Obviously you aren't finished with your tantrum but I can wait while you get it over with. The night is young." Smirking, he added, "I'm sure there will still be time for us to sit down to dinner."

"Dinner?" I exclaimed.

"Yes, dinner." he said. "That meal we have been sharing in the evenings for the past several nights."

"You've been berating me and now expect us to go to dinner?"

"Yes I do."

"So that you can show everyone that you are living up to your responsibility. Is that it?" I said as I clenched my fists.

"Not entirely." he answered quietly. "As amazing as it sounds, I would miss your companionship."

I started to turn away and said sarcastically, "Oh, is that it? You live and breath just to spend your free moments with me! You eagerly count the hours until you can be at my side!"

Severus unexpectedly came rushing back and pounced on me in the same manner that he did the night we were at the top of the Astronomy Tower. Pulling me tightly against him he hissed, "Yes, Gwen I do! Don't you know that by now?"

Before I could answer, he roughly kissed me. Caught up in the moment, I reached up and put my arms around his shoulders and twined my fingers in his black hair. My cloak slipped from my shoulders as I leaned my head back in surrender to his rough kisses.

This shouldn't be happening here, I thought to myself as the moment intensified. I felt the hard stone of the altar behind us as his fingers dug into my back. For a very brief moment as I clung to him, I worried about the beasts of the forest. Anything could come by at any moment...but nothing did.

There were no interruptions as Severus continued to kiss me or when we lay down together on that ancient table-sized altar. Not quite believing what I was allowing to happen, I eagerly reached up to put my arms around him barely noticing the hard cold stone under my back.

Those ruins in the middle of the woods were certainly not the sort of environment where I had imagined our first time together would take place and I suppose I should have stopped it, but I didn't want to. The part of me which had been repressed and dormant for so long came alive as I lay in Severus' arms, his long black cloak covering us both like large dragon wings.

I don't know how long we lay together on that stone under the stars. Time didn't matter as we clung to each other. Afterward, we continued to lay in each others arms a little while longer as we listened to the sound of our own breathing and the light wind in the trees.

*~*~*


4 November, 1992 - The Morning After


As the morning sunlight filled my room, I sat at my vanity brushing my hair. I studied my reflection and wondered if I looked any different. Would the others look at me and have any idea what had happened? How would Severus treat me when we saw each other? Pondering these questions, I took a little longer to get ready for the day than I usually did.

When I finally worked up the courage to leave my room, the first person I saw was Severus who waiting at the bottom of the stairs that led to the unicorn painting. He looked up at me nervously with a very slight smile. When I reached the landing, he pulled me into his arms for a moment. I gave a deep sigh as I felt his hands in my hair. I had missed him during the past hours that we had been apart.

Looking down at me, Severus said quietly, "Your grandfather is in the staff room. He wanted to speak with you before breakfast."

Nodding I replied, "I wanted to see him as well and apologize for running away."

Severus walked downstairs with me to the staff-room where Dumbledore was waiting. My grandfather looked up when I came through the door and smiled, "There you are!"

"Grandfather." I whispered as I crossed the room and hugged him. "I am so sorry if I had you worried. I should never have run off. Forgive me?"

Dumbledore smiled and looked in my eyes, "When have I ever been able to stay angry with you?"

"Never." I admitted, laughing softly.

Severus had started to leave the room when Dumbledore called him back, "Severus, could you wait a moment? It's alright for you to hear what I need to tell Gwen."

Severus looked a little nervous but remained next to us as my grandfather took my hands and directed his attention to me.

Taking a deep breath, the old wizard said, "Gwendolyn, I know that all of your life you have been accustomed to being able to come and go as you please...but you can't do that right now. It isn't safe...and...you are the only one left." He paused a moment, his voice breaking, then continued. "I had to oversee my Aislyn being entombed. I could not bare to lose you as well. It would be....too much."

My vision blurred a moment when I saw that he too had tears in his eyes. I felt terrible that I had worried him so. He had always been so good to me. The last thing in the world I ever wanted to do was hurt this dear man in any way. He had been my rock for these past long years at a time when my life had been shaken to it's foundations.

Wiping the tears from the corner of my eyes I nodded and said, "It won't happen again. It shouldn't have happened in the first place."

"Well...no real harm done. You're safe and sound." His brilliant blue eyes turned towards the Potions Master as he continued, "As I knew he would, Severus made sure you came home safely."

I don't know what made me do it. Perhaps I wanted to lighten the mood or maybe the sight of Severus looking nervous brought out the mischief in me. Linking my arm through his, I said, "Yes I was in very good hands. The best in fact."

Severus' eyes widened as looked at me in surprise. Dumbledore didn't seem to notice as he began walking towards the doorway. "That doesn't surprise me at all. Severus has always given a lot of effort in everything he does."

"You are absolutely right. He does." I agreed, taking great amusement in Severus' discomfort.

Stopping at the door, Dumbledore turned around and said, "I hope she wasn't too much of a handful when you found her."

Severus swallowed and replied quietly, "Not at all."

"Very well. I will see the two of you at breakfast." my grandfather smiled as he left the room.

Abruptly turning towards me, Severus hissed, "What were you doing? If you make any more comments like that your grandfather might figure out that I....I..."

"Made Dumbledore's Darling a woman?" I asked brightly.

"Shhh!!!" Glancing towards the open door he exclaimed, "Do you want me to be sacked?"

"You are not going to be sacked." I answered.

He paced for a moment and then stopped in front of me. Still looking nervous he said, quietly, "What's done is done but it can't happen again."

"Until the next time."

"Exactly....No!...I mean yes...I mean....Wait!" he resumed pacing, still looking nervous. Running his hand through his hair he whispered, "You should have told me."

"What difference would that have made?" I asked.

Grasping my hands he said haltingly, "I would have stopped."

"I didn't want you to stop." I pointed out.

Lowering his gaze he said softly, "If I had known...Gwen, you deserved better than that. We could have planned it differently."

Smiling, I reached for him and kissed his mouth, then replied, "In case you haven't noticed, I didn't complain. Now let's go to breakfast. I'm feeling hungry."

The subject was dropped once we reached the Great Hall. I immediately offered my apologies to the other three House Heads for the way I had behaved the evening before. Smiling, they all assured me that there were no hard feelings and realized that I had been through a shock and were all relieved that I hadn't been harmed while in the forest.

During the meal I found myself being absorbed by my own thoughts. While I had enjoyed those few minutes of watching Severus look uncomfortable, I felt guilty about what had taken place at that ruins, on the very altar where I had so often knelt with my mother and grandmother.

My thoughts were interrupted by some confusion that was taking place at the other end of the staff-table and I looked up in time to see Narya abruptly leave the Great Hall. No doubt she had her own difficult issues to deal with. The world as she had always known it had changed. Severus got up briefly to speak with Profssor McGongall and the other House Heads, then returned to my side.

"Is something wrong?" I asked.

"Only that your temper tantrums now have competition." he answered sarcastically.

No doubt he was referring to Narya's sudden disappearance. Sighing, I realized that compared to what she had been through I had things relatively easy. At least I was still the same person I had always been. My life had not radically changed its course. There were no serious decisions that needed to be made, at least not at that time.

After breakfast, Severus walked with me to the door of my classroom. For a moment he paused, looking at me with what appeared to be concern. We hadn't really spoken about what had happened between us. When we had returned to the castle we had a late dinner and then he saw me back to my room before retiring to his own. While it pained me to be separated from him, I was grateful to have a few hours to myself while I reflected on what had taken place.

Squeezing my hands, he looked down at me, again with a look of concern before heading for his own classroom in the dungeon.

Other than a few curious stares from the students, my classes were all relatively uneventful. My last class of the day was an hour before the entire school was dismissed for the weekend, giving me time to myself. I had decided I was tired of the unicorn's scornful gaze and wanted a new painting over the portrait hole. Laying out some parchment on the large tilted drawing table next to the row of tall windows, I began to sketch out a preliminary drawing of Ashlar. As I defined the shape of the horse's head my thoughts drifted back the previous evening.

Responsibility was the word Snape had used. Dumbledore and my father, Galen had been "responsible" for Gabrielle and Aislyn. A lot of good it did, I thought grimly. Both witches were dead. Galen Archer, a soft spoken, sensitive man, an artist himself, had been a competent wizard as far as practical magic went but he had certainly not been a fighter.

The sketch finished, I stood up and drew out my wand. I pointed at the drawing then made a sweeping motion towards the large canvas that waited nearby on its easel as I uttered, "You!...There!"

Moments later the outline that had been on the parchment transferred itself to the canvas. The Ashlar drawing tossed its head and began pawing the ground. Amused, I said, "If you are anything like the real Ashlar this project is not going to be an easy task. Be still!" With another wave of the wand the drawing ceased its moving about and held its pose.

As I began work on painting the background, I once again allowed myself to contemplate what had happened to my mother and grandmother. Gabrielle had been a beautiful but intimidating witch. With her bright blue eyes and long wavy, pure white hair there was something unearthly about her. She was a true mistress of magic and could summon lighting from the sky. She radiated power in the way that the sun radiated light....and she too was slain, in spite of being the lover of the greatest wizard in the world.

As the afternoon wore on, I became aware of the sounds of voices in the hallway. It was almost time for classes to be dismissed and as I glanced at the door I caught of glimpse of long red hair. Replacing the paintbrush into the tool tray, I stepped out of the room and saw Narya walking down the corridor. Feeling guilty that I still had not taken any time to speak with my new cousin, I began to follow her and was suddenly detained by Lucius Malfoy.

"I don't think so, Professor Archer." he sneered.

Scowling at him I said, "You don't think so?"

"I am not going to allow you to upset my charge any more than you already have."

"Exactly how have I upset her, Mr. Malfoy?" I asked defensively.

"She was quite distraught about that dramatic show you put on that ended with your wild dash to the forest. I think she has been through enough without having to deal with your spoiled princess routine." he explained smugly.

I exclaimed angrily, "How dare you! That had nothing to do with her! Narya is my cousin. While it is your job to guide and protect her, you do not have the right to say who she may or may not talk to!" Glaring at him, I whispered, "You had better not be poisoning her against her family. That would not reflect well on you."

"Is that a threat, Professor Archer?" Lucius demanded.

"No, it is a statement. I don't make threats." I answered as I crossed my arms. "There is a difference between guiding and influencing, and if you are influencing Narya against her family, that is unethical. How is this poor woman supposed to adjust if she continues to think that you are the only person she can actually trust? She is not a toy that you can cut off from the rest of us as your own personal possession! She is a confused woman who just found out that she is really a witch and she needs to know that she has family who care about her and want to get to know her! The House Heads have already noticed and expressed concern."

Admittedly I didn't know that for a fact. It was only a guess based on the way McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout and Severus had huddled together that morning. My statement did however have an effect on Lucius who's arrogant sneer had faded slightly.

"How interesting that you have the confidence of the House Heads." he said quietly.

Refusing to be drawn into his game, I retorted, "One does not have to be told inside information to know this. One need only observe how they, along with the Headmaster, were watching the two of you. You are being closely observed, so I strongly suggest you stop behaving like an arrogant rooster being possessive of his favorite chicken!"

Lucius's eyes widened as he glared at me angrily. As the corridor began to fill with students and fellow staff members, he turned on his heel and marched away from me, knowing that despite the "official word" that I was not to be treated differently, he would not be welcome at the school for long if he was seen being overly rude to the Headmaster's granddaughter.

For a moment I stood and watched him stalk down the corridor in the direction Narya had gone before going back into my classroom to return to my painting. Being the end of the week, Severus would take a little longer than normal in his office getting any homework that needed to be graded out of the way so I decided to busy myself with the Ashlar painting. Sitting down at my easel, I studied the horse sketch that suddenly turned its head and snorted at me.

"Why do I get the feeling that everything is going to be made more difficult than it needs to be?" I asked.

The horse drawing obviously didn't have the answers and growing bored with the work I was doing on the background, it galloped and disappeared into the side of the canvas.

*~*~*


5 November, 1992 - Everything I Do


Saturday was the first Quidditch game of the school year and in the afternoon Slytherin would be playing against Gryffindor. That morning I had skipped breakfast and was curled up on the window seat in my room trying to read and from time to time would watch the snow flakes that were dancing in the light wind.


I was feeling mildly annoyed at Severus...not because he had insulted me, but because he had not. Ever since the night in the ruins he had been nervous, behaving as though I were something fragile that would break. Any reference at all to what had happened between us made him obviously uncomfortable. It hurt me that he appeared to want to pretend that nothing happened.

Friday night he spent time with me in the staff-room long into the evening. Then, much to my disappointment, he saw me to my door and then retired to his own private quarters. I had wanted him to stay with me but was too shy to ask. The encounter in the ruins had been sudden and abrupt on a hard, cold stone. As I closed my book I realized that what I was wanting was comfort. Warm, intimate comfort...more comfort than a goodnight kiss could give me.

Taking note of the time I realized I should probably start getting dressed and prepare to go out to join the others at the Quidditch pitch. Choosing a dark red dress to show my support for Gryffindor, I got cleaned up, changed, then grabbed my cloak. Leaving my chambers, I headed down to the dungeon to look for Severus.

He was at work at his cauldron brewing a potion. At that time of year much of the staff and students were fighting off colds so he was working on a remedy for the school nurse. He glanced at me as I came in and laid my cloak on one of the nearby tables.

"This is nearly finished." he said quietly.

"There's no hurry." I answered. "I know I'm a little early."

For a little while Severus only stood there and carefully watched the simmering cauldron. Then when it appeared safe for him to leave it for a moment, he approached me and gave me yet another of his careful, chaste kisses.

As he turned to return to his cauldron I asked, "You do realize that I'm not breakable don't you?"

"Why do you say that?" he whispered as he returned his attention to the brewing potion.

Struggling to find the right words I answered, "Because of the way you've...been...lately."

"Been?" he asked as he continued to stare into the cauldron.

"Yes...the way you have been pretending that nothing happened in the ruins."

That got Severus' attention. He anxiously glanced at the door then came back over to me.

"Keep your voice down!" he said with a slight look of panic in his eyes. "That should not have...Your grandfather trusted me to bring you home!"

"And that is what you did, right after we-"

"Shhhh!!!!" he cut me off as he once again glanced at the door.

I exclaimed, "Don't shush me! Don't you realize how much it hurts that you want to just...forget?"

"That's not it at all, Gwen. It's just...you are the Headmaster's granddaughter!"

"My grandfather doesn't care what we do!"

"Of course he does!" he snapped.

"No, he really doesn't." I replied. Feeling awkward, I started to clench the fabric of my robe's flowing sleeves and added, "Last night I was hoping...that you wouldn't go."

Looking agitated, Severus turned back to the bubbling cauldron, saying nothing.

After watching him a moment, I said bitterly, "I think I understand. You've had your way and now you never intend to touch me again."

"That's not true. I do intend to." he said quietly, his eyes still on the fumes.

"When?"

"Later."

"What do you mean later?" I demanded.

"Just that..later."

"Exactly how much later?"

"I don't know!" he answered as he looked towards me. "Just...later."

"Why not now?"

Snape's eyes widened in surprise as he protested, "I have this potion to finish and then...there is the Quidditch match!"

"Alright then....after the game." I said as I started walking towards him.

"Gwen, that...It just wouldn't be right." he replied as he took a couple of steps backwards.

"How much longer do I have to put up with you treating me like an untouchable porcelain doll? You haven't even been insulting me!" I exclaimed as I continued to walk towards him

"Well, you haven't been throwing tantrums." he explained as he backed into a table.

Furious, I leaned forward and jabbed my index finger into his chest as he continued to lean back almost to the point of tipping backward on to the table.

"Oh, there is going to be a tantrum." I said fiercely as I glared into his black eyes. "There is going to be a tantrum unlike anything anyone has ever seen! This tantrum will be echoing off the walls of Hogswarts long after the great grand-children of the present students have graduated....unless you do something about it!"

With that, I turned on my heel and marched towards the door. Before leaving I looked back at him as he watched me with a faintly panicked stare.

"I had better see you later!" I snapped before storming out into the corridor.

I continued to mutter to myself as I climbed the stairs and charged across the Entrance Hall. Most of the staff and students were already crossing the grounds towards the Quidditch pitch and taking their seats. Before joining them, I needed to go meet with Hagrid who had the honor of leading Ashlar around the field before the game with the horse wearing his Gryffindor trappings.

Dumbledore was making his way to the faculty seats along with Professor McGonagall and several of the other staff members. At the sight of me stomping by and muttering out-loud to myself, my grandfather called out with concern, "Gwen, is there a problem?"

I stopped for a moment and looked at him and the other professors.

"Is there a problem? Yes, there's a problem!" I pointed in the direction I had just come from and shrieked, "Professor Severus Snape! That's the problem!"

A loud cheer went up from the Gryffindor section and most of the staff members looked amused and somewhat relieved. Embarrassed that I had said that much louder than I meant to, I went on my way to where Hagrid was waiting with Ashlar.

It didn't take long to get the stallion ready. He looked wonderful with the glittering red and gold cords braided through locks of his long mane and tail. The horse arched his neck and seemed to be particularly proud of wearing the gold lion breast-plate. The finishing touch was the red satin blanket that was embroidered with a gold lion. Hagrid clipped the gold braided lead robe and the two of them went on their way to strut around the field before the beginning of the match.

Watching them go, I wished that I was taking the horse myself rather than going up to the faculty section. Drawing my cloak around me, I lowered my gaze and walked quietly towards the bleacher stairway. Waiting for me at the base of the stairs was Severus. He was glaring at me, but nonetheless, gestured with his hand that he was ready for us to go take our seats with the other teachers.

Ignoring the amused looks from my peers, I took a seat in the front row between Dumbledore and Severus. Noticing that my grandfather was rubbing his hands together, I asked with concern, "You aren't too cold are you?"

"Oh no, dear. I'm fine." he smiled. "But this evening it would be a good idea for the house-elves to have the fires going shortly before the conclusion of the game."

Looking down towards the field, I said, "I should probably have one lit in my room as well." With a snide look at Severus out of the corner of my eye, I added, "It's not as if anything else is keeping me warm!"

I was answered with a silent, angry glare from Severus.

"Ah, look at Ashlar. How splendid he looks!" said Dumbledore abruptly.

Nothing more was said. After a few walks around the field, Ashlar was returned to his paddock and Hagrid joined the rest of the faculty to watch the game. Feeling guilty, I slipped my arm through Severus' and took his hand. His expression softened and he closed his fingers over mine as we turned our attention to the match.

I was by no means an expert when it came to Quidditch but I was fairly certain that the Bludgers were not supposed to target and pursue the players yet, during the game one of the Bludgers appeared to be doing that very thing to Harry. The crowd let out a sympathetic gasp when it finally came in contact with the boy's arm, appearing to break it.

In spite of his injury, Harry somehow managed to capture the golden snitch, winning the game for Gryffindor before crashing to the ground. From the faculty box, we all watched anxiously as a crowd gathered around the injured Seeker who was obviously in pain. I felt a wave of sympathy for the boy as I saw none other than Gilderoy Lockhart aiming his wand at Harry's arm.

A moment later, I gasped, "What did he do? Did he...I don't believe this! He de-boned Harry's arm!"

Severus said nothing as he gazed at the fallen Seeker with a very visible smirk. Scowling, I exclaimed, "This isn't funny!"

Severus continued to say nothing, barely containing his amusement over what Gilderoy had done to Harry. We waited for most of the staff to leave the bleachers before going down the stairs as well. I wanted to check on Ashlar before going in for the night.

Reaching his paddock, I saw the giant black horse was happily grazing, oblivious to the Gryffindor team's victory. He glanced at me as I approached the fence, snorted and returned his attention to the pile of hay that Hagrid had placed along the fence.

Before heading back to the castle, Severus turned me to face him. I braced myself for an argument but it never came. Taking my hands in his own, he seemed to be searching for words.

I felt terrible and wanted to apologize as I began, "Severus, I-"

He said firmly. "Wait. I...I do not want you to think that what happened was not important. It was. And please don't think that I no longer want you...because I do."

He took a deep breath and looked at the sky a moment before returning his gaze to me.

He continued, "Everything I do has been because I care about where this...where we go. Everything from asking for your grandfather's permission to spend time with you to seeing you to your door, is because I want to do this right. I don't want you to regret....me."

I didn't know what to say. Overwhelmed by his emotion and sincerity, I reached up and embraced him. His arms tightened around me as he took another deep breath. For a while we stood that way silently as the sky began to slowly darken.

Finally he drew back slightly and looked down at me. "I don't feel inclined to listen to students in the Great Hall. Shall we again have dinner at Hogsmeade?"

"I would like that." I smiled.

With my hand in his, we walked together towards the Thestral carriages.

*~*~*


6 November 1992 - Another Night, Another Attack


Dinner at Hogsmeade was without a doubt, more relaxed than the first evening we had gone there together. Long into the evening we lingered over wine and soft conversation. Perhaps it was my imagination but Severus seemed less nervous and watchful. The incident in the ruins had affected him as well but I had been too caught up in my own confused emotions to see that. He was more insecure than I ever realized and seemed to find it difficult to believe that I, the Headmaster's spoiled granddaughter, found his company enjoyable.

Judging from the position of the moon in the sky, it was nearly midnight when we returned to Hogwarts. The night was clear and the occasional snowflake could be seen in the air. Before much longer the school grounds would be covered in sparkling white.

The castle was quiet and still as we crossed the Entrance Hall. The students had gone to bed long ago and staff members had retired to their personal quarters. Not even Filch was seen or heard when we reached the stairway the led to the unicorn portrait hole.

Before he had a chance to say a word, I firmly took Severus hands and said, "No, we're not saying goodnight yet. Please come inside with me."

His eyes widened as he looked around warily.

"You're not going to be sacked!" I laughed softly. "Now come with me."

Still looking unconvinced, he allowed me to lead him by the hand through the portrait hole. Feeling a little unsure myself, I busied myself with hanging my cloak on one of the wall hooks and then turned around to take Severus'. It was then that I noticed that he was staring with mild amazement at our surroundings. I saw his black eyes pass over the polished mahogany wood paneling along the walls, the cushioned window-seat with its layers of curtains and the ornately carved fireplace in which burned a cozy fire, lit by the house-elves earlier that evening.

"Don't all of the staff quarters look this way?" I asked nervously.

Still looking around, he answered, "No."

Since I had never set foot in another staff member's rooms other than Dumbledore's, I had no way of knowing how my own chambers compared to the others, but judging from Severus' expression, I had not been given just any old hole in the wall.

Turning his eyes towards me, he said quietly, "You're spoiled."

"I know." I whispered nervously as I stepped into his arms. Pressing against him, I asked hesitantly, "Do you want to stay?"

After kissing my forehead, Severus answered softly, "Very much."

Taking my hand, he led me to the four poster. I couldn't help noticing that he raised his eyebrows slightly in reaction to the size of the immense bed. Turning his gaze towards me, he commented, "It's a pity that you've been here alone all this time."

He began to undo the top buttons on his black frock coat as we each stood facing each other along the side of the bed. Smiling slightly, he then took my hands and whispered, "Care to help me?"

My fingers trembled slightly as I reached up and undid the remainder of the buttons. I was surprised at how nervous I was feeling, after all I had already been intimate with this man. What was there to be afraid of?

"So you really do have a neck under that collar." I laughed softly as I began unbuttoning his shirt after the frock coat had been removed.

"Imagine that." Severus replied very softly as he leaned forward and gently kissed me as I finally reached the last button on his white shirt.

My heart fluttering in my chest, I lowered my eyes and said, "To think, I thought all this time that my clothing had a lot of fastenings."

"Where would these fastenings be?" Severus asked as he nuzzled my neck.

"In the back." I whispered.

Stepping behind me, Severus pushed my long hair over my shoulder and proceeded to slowly undo the series of satin buttons. After a moment, he asked in an amused tone, "How do you manage to dress yourself in the morning? I can't image how you reach all of these."

"Some mornings it takes a while." I admitted, trembling as he reached the last button which was slightly below my waist. My heart pounded in my chest as I felt him pushing the now open neck of my robes off my shoulders. Closing my eyes, I allowed the garment to fall to the floor as Severus pressed himself against my back.

Wrapping his arms around my waist, he kissed my neck and murmured, "My lovely princess, are you cold?"

"A little." I admitted, as I stood there in my long satin slip. While the material was hardly warm, I didn't believe that was the reason that I stood there trembling.

"We will take care of that momentarily." said Severus as he reached towards the mattress and pulled down the dark red bed covers. "Let's lie down."

Self conscious about being seen in my under-garments, I climbed onto the bed.
As we lay in each others arms, I wondered if he could feel how rapidly my heart was pounding in my chest, his gentle touches and kisses filling me with a variety of emotions.

"I will never hurt you, Gwen." he whispered as he looked in my eyes.



I tend to consider that night in my bed our true first time together. There was no hurry and no sense of desperation. Later as Severus laid down beside me, I had thought it would feel strange to sleep next to someone after having slept alone my entire life, but the sound of his breathing was soothing and before long I drifted into a restful sleep.

*****


The following Sunday morning was gray and overcast but the weather was unable to dampen my spirits. As I became aware of the daylight coming through my windows I gave a deep sigh and stretched, almost purring like a lazy cat. While the previous day may have gotten off to a rocky start, the evening had ended on a positive note.

Severus' words at Ashlar's paddock the previous night had brought tears to my eyes. After the way I had behaved it was amazing that he was speaking to me at all. None of his insults had ever effected me in such a way. Never before had I taken an honest look at my admittedly bratty behavior. It would have been perfectly understandable if he would have decided to never bother with me again. Fortunately for me, that was not the case. In fact, the emotional bond seemed to be stronger, at least it felt that way for me.

The fire had died during the night but thanks to the layers of curtains on the windows, the room had held the heat. Wondering what time it was, I pulled on my dressing gown and walked quietly to one of the windows and looked down at the school grounds.

Judging from the amount of students that were outdoors, it was safe to say that breakfast was long over and the day was approaching noon. My grandfather was probably expecting me for our usual Sunday afternoon visit over tea, or on a day like this, steaming cups of hot chocolate. As soon as I finished getting cleaned up and dressed I would go up to see him, after my guest had awakened and gone on his way of course.

About an hour later I watched with great amusement as Severus listened for sounds on the other side of the unicorn painting. He was hastily buttoning his frock coat all the way up to his chin and I wondered how he was always able to wear something that looked so uncomfortable.

Crossing my arms I asked, "How many times do I have to tell you that you're not going to be sacked?"

He turned his eyes towards me, looking almost suspicious.

I continued, "We have done nothing wrong. Stop behaving as though at any moment my grandfather is going to jump out from the shadows and cast Blasting Curse at you. I'm telling you, he doesn't care how we spend our time."

"So you say!" he replied.

Somehow I managed to keep from laughing as he carefully stalked through the portrait hole after kissing me goodbye. While I could understand his anxiety, it was comical to see this teacher that most of the students lived in fear of, behaving as though at any moment he would be caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

After seeing Severus on his way, I got dressed and left for my visit with Dumbledore. As always, I was greeted when I entered his office by Fawkes who was looking particularly beautiful that day. The Phoenix's plumage was always at it's best shortly before he began the waning process that would eventually lead to his rebirth.

"Hello there, handsome." I smiled at the charming bird.

The phoenix blinked and puffed out his feathers, almost looking embarrassed.

"Hello?" I called as looked through the back doorway into the sitting room.

"I'm here, Gwen." Dumebledore answered as he came through the office door, looking very grave. "I had matters to see to in the hospital wing."

Alarmed at his serious expression I asked, "What happened?"

Taking a seat at his desk, my grandfather answered, "There has been another attack. This time, a student."

"No!" I exclaimed as I took a seat in one of the chairs opposite his desk. "Who?"

"Colin Creevey. He was found on the stairs last night...petrified."

While I would have felt terrible for any student, there was something endearing about this particular young Gryffindor. He sincerely loved being at Hogwarts and was very curious and inquisitive, always taking photographs to send home to his parents.

Thinking about the camera, I asked, "By any chance was Colin able to photograph who or what did this to him?"

Looking very tired, Dumbledore shook his head and replied, "The camera was melted." With a sigh he added, "As I told Professor McGonagall, it appears the Chamber of Secrets has been opened."

"Colin is Muggle-born isn't he?" I asked as I raised my eyes to my grandfather's.

"He is."

I suddenly felt terribly guilty for the pleasurable night I had spent with Severus while one of the students, one from my own house no less, had been attacked by something and now lay petrified in the hospital wing.

Turning my gaze toward the window I asked, "Do you have any idea who could have done this?"

Dumbledore answered, "No. There is no evidence pointing to anyone at this time."

Leaning back in the chair I said softly, "What about Lucius? He's here all the time now and everyone knows how he feels about Muggles and Muggle-borns."

"As I said there is no evidence." my grandfather replied. "Besides, he is no longer as hostile towards Narya as he was in the beginning."

I countered, "He now knows that Narya is really a witch. Not only is she not a Muggle, she is from one of the oldest and most well respected pure-blood families. Of course he's much kinder to her now." Crossing my arms, I grumbled, "I wonder if Narcissa is aware of how fond her husband is of our Muggle Studies teacher."

"Gwendolyn." said Dumbledore in a scolding tone.

I replied quickly, "Forgive me, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds it odd that all of this is happening when Lucius is now at the school on a regular basis."

With another defeated sigh, my grandfather said firmly, "As I said, right now there is no evidence pointing to anyone."

After a moment of silence I asked, "Will Colin be alright?"

"He, along with Mrs. Norris, will be cured once Professor Sprout's Mandrakes have matured." he answered. Lowering his gaze to his desk, Dumebledore said wearily, "Now, I have some letters to write."

"Of course." I said softly as I rose from my chair. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Simply be watchful." my grandfather replied. With a slight smile he then asked, "Did you and Severus have a pleasant evening?"

Trying very hard not to blush and keep my voice neutral I answered, "Yes, yes we did."

"Good. That pleases me." Dumbledore nodded with approval.

Avoiding his eyes, I walked around to his chair and leaned down to give him a quick kiss before leaving his office. I didn't envy my grandfather at all at that moment, having to deal with a student whose safely had been entrusted to the school having been attacked within Hogwart's very walls. As much as I wanted to ask him some questions I had about my grandmother, I knew he had far more important matters to see to at that time.

Later on that afternoon I slowly walked down the corridor where Mrs. Norris had been attacked on Halloween night and paused near one of the windows. As I gazed out at the grounds, I suddenly became aware of a dark shape moving toward me.

Much to my relief, the shape turned out to be Severus who was silently walking down the corridor. Stepping away from the window, I said, "You startled me."

"I was looking for you." he whispered.

With a smile I replied, "And so you have found me."

"Indeed I have." he said as he placed his arms around my waist and gently kissed me. Gazing into my eyes, he asked, "Did your grandfather tell you what happened?"

As he took my hands, I answered, "Yes. I feel so guilty." When Severus raised his eyebrows slighty, I added quickly, "Not about us...Well, I feel guilty that such a thing could happen while we were...together."

The corners of his mouth turned down slightly as he replied, "No one could have known that something would be on those stairs. In fact, Mr. Creevey should not have been on those stairs at that time of night. It would have happened even if you and I had been alone in our own beds."

"You're right." I agreed. Taking his hand I said softly, "Perhaps we should dine with the others in the Great Hall this evening. I believe it's important to be around the staff and students right now. "

With a slight smile, Severus took my hand and we walked together down the darkened corridor past the sinister, blood red writing on the wall.


*~*~*


Chapter 14: Autumn Flus and Childhood Fears
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7 November 1992 - The Duel


On Monday morning I woke up from a restless sleep. Since there were classes the next morning, Severus retired to his own quarters for the night. It was then that I realized how much I had enjoyed the sound of his breathing as he slept...a sound that I immediately missed.

When I saw Severus at breakfast that morning I noticed that his eyes kept flickering warily down the table towards my grandfather. After a few moments of trying to ignore it, I finally asked him, "What is the matter?"

With another glance at the Headmaster, he answered in a hushed voice, "Your grandfather has called for a meeting immediately after breakfast."

I smiled at him fondly and shook my head. "For the one hundredth time, Severus, you're not going to be sacked."

Truthfully I could understand Severus' discomfort. While my grandfather was a kind man, he had an uncanny way of looking a person in the eye and appearing to know his or her secrets.

The Headmaster and the four Heads of the Houses left breakfast a little earlier than normal. As I walked to my classroom I was curious about what the meeting was regarding but doubted that it had anything to do with me or my relationship with Severus. More than likely it was regarding the Chamber and the recent attacks.

The morning was uneventful although it was more difficult than ever to keep the attention of the students focused on their lessons. Needless to say, many of them were frightened and I overheard a few of them mention purchasing amulets and talismans that were suppose to protect them from whatever had attacked Mrs. Norris and Colin.

That week I had my students study the magical properties in various paint mixes..such as adding careful measurements of Dragon's Blood to different shades of red for either protection or healing spells or a pinch of powdered unicorn horn to white or blue in order to banish nightmares and bring good dreams.

By the end of the lunch-break I thought I would finally be able to enjoy a day without drama, but that was before I ran into Gilderoy Lockhart who was lurking outside my classroom. For a moment I considered ducking into another room but I realized too late that he had already seen me. With a deep breath, I forced a polite smile and continued on my way to my office.

"Ah, Professor Archer!" he exclaimed with his usual wide, toothy smile. "Could I have a moment of your time?"

"Yes you may. "I answered warily. "What can I do for you, Professor Lockhart?"

"I simply wanted to beg your forgiveness for the way I behaved these past weeks." he replied grandly. "I realize I made assumptions that I had no business making and for that I am deeply sorry."

"I see. Well, I do appreciate that, Professor Lockhart. Your apology is accepted." I said, feeling mildly relieved.

"After giving this matter some careful thought I came to the conclusion that I had been going about things the wrong way! A witch such as yourself does not simply accept the first suitor who comes along, no matter how handsome, witty and charming that wizard may be!" Lockhart announced with a wink.

That didn't sound good and I was afraid to ask where this was going.

"I don't?" I asked weakly.

"Of course not! A lady such as yourself wants to know she is appreciated! She wants to be fought for! And that is why-"

"You didnt!" I whispered as my eyes widened.

"I have challenged Professor Snape to a duel!" he exclaimed loudly, drawing the attention of the students who were currently in the hallway on their way to their afternoon classes.

Looking at him in amazement I asked carefully, "Professor Lockhart, are you sure that was wise?"

"Ah, you need not be worried about me, Professor Archer. As I mentioned in a number of my books, I'm an expert in the art of dueling. In fact I was thinking about starting a dueling club here at the school." Lockhart assured me happily. "For a wizard such as myself it's very easy to pick up on what a man like Professor Snape is about to do."

After a pause I asked, "What was Professor Snape's response to this?"

With another wink, Gilderoy replied, "At first he was speechless. He just stared at me and I believe I saw a glint of fear in his eyes but he rose to the occasion and accepted my challenge."

The staring part I could believe but I doubted that fear was an accurate description of Snape's expression at that moment.

"Exactly where is this event supposed to take place?" I inquired.

"In the staff-room immediately after our final classes are dismissed!" Lockhart answered loudly.

"How exciting." I said as I forced a small laugh. "If you would excuse me, Professor Lockhart, I have a class to teach."

"Of course, Professor Archer and I assure you there will not be any bloodshed this afternoon!" he exclaimed with a final wink before heading on his way.

"I wouldn't bet on that." I muttered to myself as I watched this egocentric man walk down to the other end of the corridor.

The afternoon wore on and I overheard a number of the students wishing that the duel had been set to take place in the Great Hall where everyone could watch. When the final bell rang I hurried downstairs intending on doing what I could to prevent the disaster I felt sure would take place.

Gilderoy and Severus were already in the room with their wands drawn when I arrived. The two wizards faced each other, Lockhart with his usual wide smile, Snape with a dark, icy glare.

Before they could begin, I quickly crossed the room and stepped between them.

"Wait! Just wait a moment!" I said. "This really isn't necessary."

"You had better stand back, Professor Archer!" Lockhart advised. "This is going to be over quickly."

"Don't I have any say in this at all?" I asked, looking back and forth between them.

"No." answered Severus, his black eyes on Lockhart.

Appauled, I turned towards him and demanded, "What do you mean 'no'?"

"Just that....No."

I put my hands on my hips indignantly and exclaimed, "The two of you have declared me the prize in this little farce. I believe I should have something to say about it!"

"You can believe that all you want." Severus whispered, his eyes still on Professor Lockhart.

Despite my effort to keep from losing my temper, I couldn't stop myself.

"I am not chattel!" I shrieked with a stamp of my foot.

"Of course you're not, Professor Archer!" agreed Lockhart. "In fact I am willing to give you permission to continue to go by your maiden name!"

"Expelliarmus!" Snape snarled.

A streak of red went by right where I stood. Screaming in fright, I jumped and turned around to see Lockhart go flying across the room.

With my heart pounding, I watched Snape silently walk over to where Lockhart now slumped against the wall. For a few seconds he silently stared down at him before asking, "Are we finished?"

His blond hair askew, Lockhart blinked up at Severus. "Ah...Yes....Yes I believe we are."

Without another word, Severus turned on his heel and came back to me.

"I was standing right here! You could have hit me!" I wailed.

"But I didn't." he smirked.

"I....but....you..." stammered, looking at him with disbelief.

Placing his wand inside his robes, Snape placed his hand in the small of my back and asked, "Would you care to take a walk with me before dinner?"

Still feeling the effects of the Disarming Charm streaking by me, I saw the amused glint in his eyes that told me he had been very sure of his aim, and would not in fact have used the spell had he thought it would hit me. However, the brief scare made me feel mildly indignant.

As we left the staff room, I said quietly, "While you knew that I wouldn't be hurt you still gave me a fright. I expect you to make it up to me."

"Do you?" he asked as he looked at me out of the corner of his eye. "In that case I will have to think of something."

*~*~*


9 November 1992 - Deadly Fingers of the Gods


It was dark...so dark and I couldn't move my hands. If only I could move my hands I would be able to defend myself again these dark hooded figures. My back and shoulders ached painfully as I stood against a wide wooden stake, my arms held out at an awkward angle with magical chains.

The wind became stronger and for a few seconds the temple was illuminated with silent flashes of lightening. I lowered my gaze to the ground beneath the stake to which I was chained and for the first time noticed the deeply etched design in the stone beneath my feet.

Black cloaks were billowing. My hair in my eyes. Shocking white fingers of lightening struck the ground.

Deadly fingers of the gods.

If only I could move my hands. With the last of my strength I again raised my eyes to the storming sky....and all was consumed in a blinding white flash.


With a soft cry I saw up in bed, clutching the blanket to my chest. I was safe in my bedroom at Hogwarts and it was early in the morning. For a few seconds I sat there, letting the realization wash over me that what I had experienced was only a dream.

After catching my breath, I climbed out of bed and went about my usual day. Once I was cleaned up and dressed the vivid details of the nightmare finally began to fade. Resolved to put the frightening images out of my head I left my room to head to the dining hall for breakfast.

As always Severus was waiting for me and his eyebrows drew together as I approached.

"Are you feeling ill?" he asked.

Shaking my head, I answered, "No, I'm fine." Since he didn't look convinced I continued, "I just had a bad dream. That's all. It happens to all of us at one time or another."

Still looking concerned Severus walked with me to the staff table. As we took our seats he asked, "Do you care to tell me what this dream was about?"

Sincerely surprised at his interest, I shrugged and said, "Just the typical dark room with scary monsters and flashing lightening."

Again Severus' eyebrows drew together. I also noticed Dumbledore, who was seated a little ways down the table, glance at me. He had concern in his eyes.

I repeated, "Everyone has bad dreams. It was nothing."

With that the subject was dropped but I couldn't help but feel puzzled at Severus and Dumbledore's reaction to the description of my dream. Thankfully no further questions were asked.

Following breakfast, Severus walked with me to my classroom. Gently squeezing my hands he said quietly, "I will see you as soon as I can."

I nodded and allowed him to tip my head back as he gave me a light kiss. Watching him walk down the corridor on his way to his own classrooms in the dungeon, I felt touched that he would show such concern over something as harmless as a nightmare.

As the day progressed I heard the sound of rolling thunder far in the distance. While my students were huddled over their projects I took a moment to walk to the window and observed the thin forks of lightening that flashed in the storm clouds. They appeared as delicate as a spider web, yet could kill on contact.

Deadly fingers of the gods....

I shuddered and turned my attention back to my students. Storms had never bothered me before so it didn't make sense that this one was making me feel so nervous. Quite a few of my students looked uneasily towards the windows as the wind began to increase in speed and volume. Reassuring them that we were all perfectly safe inside the castle, I continued with my lessons.

At the end of my last class for the day I took a quick walk to the staff room for a drink of water. Since that afternoon Snape had a potions lesson with my newly found cousin, I wouldn't be able to see him until later in the evening.

As I entered the staff room I saw my grandfather having a chat with the auror Alastor Moody who had come to Hogwarts that day to visit with my grandfather. They both glanced at me as I crossed the room.

While I was pouring my water from a glass pitcher, I heard Moody comment to my grandfather, "I'm sure the holidays will be more enjoyable for you this year, since you'll have family around you."

"Indeed." said Dumbledore as he turned and smiled towards me. "Before Gwen came to Hogwarts I didn't get to see her near as much as I would have liked."

Returning his smile, I said fondly, "I'm enjoying knowing that my grandfather is right upstairs if I ever need him."

Moody came said gruffly, "You'll forgive me for staring Gwen, but it still amazes me how you are the spitting image of your mother."

Touched, I answered. "Thank you. I will take that as a compliment."

"As well you should." Moody replied. After a pause, he added, "You've come a long way since that embarrassing incident at the start of the term."

Blushing, I laughed and said, "You heard about that? It was not one of my prouder moments."

My grandfather who had been standing nearby suddenly asked, "How are you feeling this afternoon, Gwen?"

Turning my eyes towards him I answered, "I'm fine. I'm really fine. It was only a dream and nothing more than that."

With a concerned smile, Dumbledore said quietly, "Alright then. I just want to be certain."

After a few more minutes of trivial conversation I excused myself and returned to my room. Normally I curled up on my window seat to read, but that evening I didn't care to sit where I could see the lightening, so I instead sat down in an arm chair with my book. Once I allowed myself to become absorbed in the text, the hour past quickly and I suddenly became aware that a dinner had magically appeared on my small dining table. Before I had a chance to wonder about it the unicorn painting alerted me that there was someone outside.

Opening the portrait hole I was pleasantly surprised to see Severus who accepted my invitation to come inside. Looking at the dining table he said quietly, "I see the house elves didn't waste time."

"You had them send this up?" I inquired.

"Yes, I thought it best for us to dine here this evening." he answered as he pulled a chair out for me.

While I was touched as the gesture and most certainly enjoyed having a quiet meal alone with him, I couldn't help but wonder why Severus was so concerned over a bad dream.

As we lingered at the table over our wine he said, "You will tell me if you have another of these dreams won't you?"

"Severus, there is no need to be concerned. Dreams are harmless." I tried to assure him.

"Usually." he said icily.

Sitting back in my chair I smiled and said, "Would you feel better if I went to speak with Professor Trelawney for a dream interpretation? I'm sure she would be very happy to describe the hour of my death in every gory detail."

"That's not funny!" he snapped.

Reaching across the table I took his hands in mine. "I am touched by your concern Severus and I love you for it, but this isn't something to get upset about."

"We'll see." he answered as we both rose from the table.

The now empty dishes sparkled and disappeared as silently as they had appeared on the table earlier in the evening. As I approached one of my windows and watched the distant lightening I was vaguely aware of Severus lighting a few of the candles on my bedside table. I'm not sure how long I stood there, becoming slowly mesmerized by the lightening before abruptly snapping out of it. I turned to see Severus standing near my four-poster, watching me with a deadly serious expression.

With a sigh, I smiled and walked towards him and said, "My dear, bad dreams are a part of life. I'm sure it would have happened whether you had been here or not."

"Perhaps." he whispered as he suddenly reached out and pulled me against him. "Let's put that theory to the test."

He seemed so insistent that I decided it was best not to argue. Lying across the bed in each others arms, I gave no more thought to the storm or my dreams as we once again spent the night in a passionate embrace.

*~*~*


10 November 1992 - Promise Me That You Will Never Die



The silent storm went on for most of the night, the cloudy sky occasionally being illuminated in a brief white flash. At some point I did manage to finally go to sleep and although my dreams were not pleasant, I was able to wake up the following morning without recalling any details.

I did however, feel terribly sick. Turning over on my back, my head was spinning and my stomach turned. The last thing in the world that I wanted to do was get out of bed and face the day.

Almost resembling a very large bat, Severus looked down at me, his eyebrows drawn together as he leaned forward to push my hair away from my face.

"Please stop looking at me that way." I murmured as I reached up and touched the side of his neck which was encased in the high collar of his black coat and asked, "How in the world do you feel comfortable in this?"

Ignoring my question, Severys said in a low voice, "I'll let the others know that a substitution will be needed for your classes today."

Sitting up, I protested, "No, that's not necessary. I've never missed a class."

He replied firmly, "Today you do. Go back to sleep. Madame Pomfrey will come to check on you later."

"She doesn't need to come down here, but I do want to see my grandfather if he has time." I said weakly.

Nodding, Severus leaned over me, kissed my forehead and gently stroked my hair before leaving the room. After I heard the portrait hole close, I got up and walked to the bathroom to splash some cold water on my face and put on a clean cotton night gown. Wrapping my bathrobe around me, I walked to the window and looked down at Ashlar in his paddock. While I would miss not being able to get out to see him today, I knew Hagrid would be more than happy to look after the horse.

Once again feeling queasy, I was turning from the window to return to my bed when a soft whinny from the unicorn painting alerted me that there was someone outside. As the portrait hole opened, my voice caught in my throat at the sight of my grandfather.

"I heard that you aren't feeling so well today, my dear." he smiled as he stepped into the room.

Feeling as vulnerable as a small child, I stepped forward and put my arms around him. For an unknown reason my eyes clouded with tears and I was still unable to speak. All I knew was that I was frightened and was being consumed with a dread that for the past few years had been raising its ugly head, a dread that I was normally able to push into the back of my mind.

Placing his hands on my shoulders, Dumbledore said quietly, "I came across someone in the corridor who wanted to see you."

He reached inside his robes and pulled out a fairly large, handsome silver tabby-cat. I felt my eyes widen and my heart pounded at the sight of the contented looking tom.

"Where did he come from?" I whispered as I reached out for the cat.

He answered, "I'm not really sure. He was outside my door this morning and indicated to me that he thought he could be of help to you. Then when Severus told me you were unwell I thought it would be best to bring the little fellow to you as soon as I could."

Holding the cat against my chest, I rested my chin on top of the tabby's head as he snuggled against me and purred like an engine. While the effect was soothing, it still brought mysterious tears from the corners of my eyes.

"You need to get back into bed." advised Dumbledore as he put his hand on my shoulder and steered me back towards my four poster. Still holding the cat, I curled up under the covers and leaned back against my numerous pillows and looked at my grandfather gratefully as he pulled up a chair to my bedside.

Watching as the tabby made himself quite at home against my pillows, Dumbledore assured me, "I spoke with Madame Pomfrey and she told me she would be here as soon as she could to check on you. She feels you might have the same ailment that many of the students and staff are coming down with. The house-elves will also send up some soup for you when you feel you're able to eat something."

I smiled as I stroked the cat's large silver head as I replied, "Thank you. I don't know what I would ever do without you." With those words my smile faded and once again I felt that terrible dread creeping over me. Taking my grandfather's hand I said, "I need you to promise me something."

"I will if I can dear."

"Promise me.....Promise me that you will never ever die." I begged as I began to choke up with fear and sorrow. "Please tell me there will never be a time when I look up and you're not there!"

Dumbledore's eyebrows drew together in much the same way Snape's had earlier. After a moment he answered, "I can't promise you that, Gwen."

I protested, "Yes, you can! You are Albus Dumbledore! I need you to tell me that you will always be here."

Leaning forward, my grandfather said in a low voice, "Gwendolyn, I can't do that. I can tell you that as long as I am able, I will be here for you....and later I will be with you in spirit."

I shot back irritably, "I don't want you here in spirit! I want you to be here as you are now."

"What has brought this on, Gwen?" he asked.

I didn't know myself why I was feeling so frightened of losing him and was aware that I was behaving like a young child but was unable to control my desperation to hang on to this old man.

Lowering my eyes to the cat, I whispered, "I'm sorry, it's just...you have always been here."

Reaching over and scratching the top of the tabby's head, Dumbledore said, "We all have moments when we feel, unsure and vulnerable. It's not at all uncommon when we are sick. What you need is to rest and let those who love you look after you." He leaned back in his chair as he continued, "I have a meeting I need to get to, my dear."

Almost in a panic I asked, "Will you come back?"

With an amused smile, the old wizard commented, "That brings back memories."

It did for me as well. When I was a small child, I always looked forward to Grandfather Dumbledore's visits. At the end of the visits I would always run after him as he approached the door and would ask, "Will you come back?"

Without fail, he would smile, pick me up and say, "I promise, my little Gwen Doll, I will always come back."

The memory brought me a nostalgic smile. Dumbledore looked at me fondly and said, "As long as I am able, I will always come back.

As long as I am able. The past few years he had been adding that on to his promise and each time it tore at my heart.

My grandfather continued, "Later on today I will be sure to come by to see you and as I mentioned Madame Pomfrey and of course Severus-"

I protested, "No! Please, I just want to see you."

His smile faded a little and he leaned forward and squeezed my hand as he said, "We have been through much together. We lost those that we love in one cruel blow and these past long years it has been just you and me...but it can't stay that way, Gwen. That isn't fair."

"Not fair?" I asked.

He explained gently, "You are not just mine anymore and that is the way it should be. You will always be dear to me but it's time for me to step aside. Hear me out." he said firmly as I opened my mouth to protest. "If you were so ill that Madame Pomfrey felt that you could only have one visitor, I am not the person who should be sitting in this chair. I am no longer the person that you should ask for or turn to first, not when there is now someone else who is entitled to that place."

The cat stretched contentedly then snuggled back into my blanket as I considered what my grandfather had said. After a moment I nodded silently. Dumbledore was right. I was no longer that little girl that he used to pick up and assure that he would indeed return.

With an affectionate smile, my grandfather excused himself and left for his meeting, leaving me with my thoughts and the loudly purring cat. Comforted by the tabby's presence, I curled up and dozed off and on through out the day.

Later in the afternoon I woke up and found that a bowl of soup had appeared on my bedside table. On the floor near the dining table I noticed some bowls of cat food and water had also appeared. The silver tabby now crouched over the food dish eating hungrily. After finishing my soup I started to reach for my book when the school nurse arrived.

"Just as I thought." said Madame Pomfrey after a quick examination. "You don't have anything that bed rest and plenty of fluids won't cure. Here, take this."

She handed me a goblet with a strong smelling liquid that I recognized from Severus' cauldron the previous weekend. Taking a sip it was all I could do not to retch.

"Is this to cure me or put me out of my misery?" I asked as I choked over the bitter flavor.

Smiling, the nurse answered, "I know it has an unpleasant taste but it will burn the illness out of you. Drink it all."

It was easier said than done. I wasn't sure if this remedy would actually burn away the illness or simply burn a hole in my throat. Every swallow was forced and made me feel even worse than I had before tasting it.

I was still fighting the medicine down when the portrait hole opened and I heard a couple of people enter the room. A few seconds later Severus and Dumbledore appeared at the foot of my bed.

"How is she, Poppy?" asked my grandfather.

"She would be much better if she would take her medicine." the nurse scolded.

"I'm doing the best I can." I said defensively.

"I really think you should come up to the hospital wing." Madame Pomfrey advised as she prepared to go on her way.

"Why?" I asked. "You said I needed bed rest and I'm in my bed. What can be done for me there that can't be done here?"

The nurse only shook her head and smiled. "If you need anything, let me know."

"I will. Thank you." I said appreciatively as she left the room and exited the portrait hole.

Leaning forward, I somehow managed to force the last of the bitter potion down and shook my head in disgust. Severus had come to the bedside and took the now empty goblet as he said, "I will bring another dose to you later."

"Oh no! Please no more." I winced.

"Do you want to get better or do you want Professor Lockhart to substitute in your class?" asked Severus with a scowl.

I looked up at him in surprise and exclaimed, "He didn't! He'll have the students all painting pictures of himself!"

"No he didn't. Not today, but he could if you don't recover." he answered.

With I sigh, I relaxed back into my pillows and resigned myself to fighting down however many doses of that horrible medicine I would need.

My grandfather took a few steps forward and said, "You do seem to be doing better than you were this morning. I confess I was more than a little concerned but all seems to be well here."

I smiled at my grandfather and nodded as Severus settled into the chair at my bedside that Dumbledore had used earlier.

The old wizard smiled and said, "If you will both excuse me, I have some school matters to attend to before dinner. I will come by to see you tomorrow, Gwen."

"Thank you, and don't worry about me." I replied.

After he left, I turned over and looked affectionately at Severus who was holding my hand and looking at me with mild concern.

"It's good of you to be here." I said sleepily.

Gently running his fingers through my hair as he had that morning, he whispered, "Where else would I be?"

*~*~*


13 November 1992 - Recovery


The next couple of days went by in a feverish haze. I felt much worse before I started to feel better but Madame Pomfrey assured me that it was an unfortunate part of the process as the illness fought it's way through my system. There were times when I felt pain as though my insides were being twisted but for the most part the medication I was given kept me asleep. As Friday and Saturday went by I was vaguely aware of Dumbledore, Poppy and Severus coming and going.

The drapes were kept drawn so that the sunlight wouldn't bother me so after a while it was hard for me to keep track of the passage of time. At the moments when I did wake up there was immediately someone over me holding a goblet to my lips. Sometimes it was water, other times it would be sweetened herbal tea. More times then I would have liked, it was that horrible tasting potion that everyone kept assuring me would stop the pain and overcome my illness. Often too sleepy to protest, I would drink what I was given then allow myself to go back to sleep.

At one point I awoke on what must have been Sunday afternoon to hear the sound of male voices speaking in hushed tones at my dining table. Keeping still, I strained to hear their conversation but could only catch a few words now and then. Once I heard my own name along with Narya's. Something else was said about dreams and I heard the voice of my grandfather say, "At this time all any of us can do is keep watch."

I'm not sure how long that would have gone on if the cat would not have bounded up on my bed and sat on my pillow as he looked at me with his curious yellow eyes. I was so surprised by the tabby's sudden appearance that I began to cough. Immediately the tall thin frame of Severus in his billowing black robes swept to my bed side. Turning my eyes towards him I noticed that he had brought a goblet of the bitter medication.

"I was just about to wake you." he whispered as he leaned towards me.

Sitting up weakly I said, "You wanted to wake me so that you could give me something to help me sleep. Where is the logic in that?"

He replied, "Ah you're being difficult. That must mean you're feeling better."

"I would feel a lot better and be more happy about seeing you if you would stop bringing me goblets of this horrible stuff." I retorted as I pointed at the goblet.

"Are you going to take this willingly or do I have to pin you down and force it down your throat?" he asked as his eyebrows drew together.

"I would do as he suggests, Gwen." said my grandfather who was now also standing at the side of the bed and looking at me with amusement. "A number of the students and teachers have had the same illness but you seem to be recovering far more rapidly than they did, more than likely due to the diligent care you have been receiving."

"My ever faithful dark guardian." I snapped as I reluctantly took the goblet. "How in the world would I ever manage without him?"

Severus replied, "That's an excellent question. You're a constant source of trouble."

Looking at the awful green fluid, I winced and raised the goblet to my lips. Swallowing was becoming more difficult as I fought to keep from retching.

"The less you need it, the worse it tastes." said Severus as though sensing my thoughts that the medication was indeed even more bitter than it had been before. "I suggest you force it all down. Just because you feel better now does not mean you couldn't have a relapse."

"Severus and I have been taking it ourselves as a precaution." my grandfather smiled as though he was also sensing my thoughts and concerns about all the time the two of them had been spending in my sick room.

It seemed like I would never drain that goblet but somehow managed to get all of the foul tasting liquid down, feeling as though it was burning holes in my throat and stomach along it's way. Severus took the empty goblet and placed it on my nightstand. To my surprise he sat down, not in the chair but on the bed next to me as he swept my long hair back behind my shoulders. Without showing any reaction to this familiarity, my grandfather then took the chair that was next to my bedside.

"Now my dear," said Dumbledore as he turned towards me. "I need to ask you if you had anymore dreams while you have been asleep."

Shaking my head I said honestly, "No, at least not that I recall. Why do you ask?"

After pondering a moment, as though choosing his words my grandfather answered, "Narya has also been having some frightening visions. When two witches who are almost the same age and from the same family start having these experiences around the same time it is usually best to keep a watchful eye on both of them."

I glanced at Severus then looked at my grandfather and asked, "Narya? She's having dreams?"

Dumbledore explained, "Not exactly dreams. She has been walking in the night and having visions...visions that have a great deal of negative emotion attached to them. Now I have considered the fact that perhaps her...sleepwalking...for lack of a better term, was brought on by nerves and all of the changes she has been through and your dream was only that...a dream....but in my life I have seen that there are rarely true coincidences. Your mother and your grandmother had similar dreams."

"They did?" I said with genuine surprise. I hadn't been aware of this.

"They did." Dumbledore said soberly. "That is why it's very important to let us know if it happens again, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you."

Struck by the seriousness of my grandfather's tone, I nodded as I felt Severus' hand resting lightly against my back.

Dumbledore continued, "I would rather be too careful then discover too late that we had overlooked warnings. I hope that Narya is comfortable enough with me to let me know if she has any other experiences, just as I hope you will let us know if anything similar happens to you."

Again I looked at Severus and then back to my grandfather as I said. "Of course. I promise."

Dumbledore smiled. "Thank you, Gwen. It's good to see that you're so much better. Do you think you will be dining in the Great Hall this evening?"

Before I could answer, Severus said snidely, "She will if she behaves herself."

I looked at the black haired wizard indigently as my grandfather laughed and rose from his chair saying, "Much as we have all been missing you, Gwen, we'll all understand if you decide to have your meals here for one more evening. You must not tax yourself so soon after your recovery."

Leaning forward, my grandfather kissed the top of my head than said, "I don't want to tire you so I shall leave you in the capable care of Severus. If I don't see the two of you at dinner, have a good evening."

"You as well." I smiled as I watched him leave the room and exit the portrait hole.

After the painting clicked shut, I felt Snape's arms go around me as he gently pulled me down against the pillows. Sliding my hand into his I said, "I'm guessing that taking a walk to the paddock to see Ashar isn't an option."

"I don't think so." he answered.

As he curled up next to me I noticed for the first time how tired Severus looked. Resting my head against his neck I said, "You have been here the entire time. I think you have gone above and beyond this 'responsibility' that you have taken on."

"It has it's rewards." he murmured as he twined his fingers in my hair. "Although I suppose since you have recovered this will mean it's time for me to resume sleeping in my own room."

"I don't think so." I whispered, using the same words that he had a few moments ago.

"Well, if you insist." he said as he opened his eyes slightly.

"Oh, I do." I said as snuggled against him contentedly. "I insist."

*~*~*


15 November 1992 - Caught


Tuesday morning we missed breakfast entirely. As I looked at the clock I saw to my great dismay that we only had a few minutes before the start of morning classes. Jumping out of bed I wrapped myself in my dressing gown while Severus hastily got into his black frock coat and robes.

Picking up the bedside clock, I scolded the little gold bird that was perched on top of it, "You're supposed to wake us!"

The mechanical bird only blinked its eyelids and shrugged.

"I don't believe this. I just don't believe this!" Severus hissed as he fumbled with his coat's many buttons.

Tying my dressing gown shut as I followed him to the portrait hole, I assured him, "It's alright. You have just enough time to get back and change and still make your first class. Everything will be fine."

Stopping at the portrait he turned and looked at me with the whites of his eyes showing and snapped, "You need a new clock!"

"Agreed."

Opening the portrait hole, Severus stepped into the hallway. After looking around, he quickly turned to me and kissed my mouth.

"Ah, there you are, Severus!" said an all too familiar voice.

We both let out an audible gasp and turned to see my grandfather, accompanied by Professors McGonagall and Sprout at the bottom of the staircase. I instinctively clutched the front of my robe as Severus and I looked down at the other three professors in dismay.

"Severus, I need to speak with you as soon as possible about a matter of the up-most importance." said my grandfather gravely as the two women behind him smirked.

"I...yes, of course, Headmaster." Severus replied stiffly.

Dumbedore added, "I'll be in my office. We can go over everything once you get yourself situated." Turning his eyes towards me he said, "I will see you at the staff meeting, Gwen."

Unable to speak, I could only nod weakly. Severus turned his eyes towards me uneasily and then hurried down the corridor towards his own private quarters. With one last polite smile at my grandfather and the others, I withdrew back into my own room and closed the portrait hole.

Once inside, I put my hands in my hair and started moaning, "No...oh no, no, no...That did not happen. Please tell me that did not happen!"

As I hurried to my bathroom I glanced at my rumpled bed and again started moaning aloud, "No....no, no, no."

I got cleaned up and dressed as quickly as I could. My mirror began laughing softly as I ran a brush through my hair.

"Please keep your comments to yourself!" I snapped.

Once I looked presentable, I left the room and hurried to my classroom where the students were already taking their seats. That morning I had them experiment with using their newly painted Trumps as portals. The Hermit was a relatively harmless card so the lesson was spent invoking the portal magic to step through the card and speak with the Hermit that they themselves had created. Other than a few Hermits that simply wouldn't speak and would only stare over the student's head, my classes all went smoothly that day.

Due to missing breakfast my stomach was growling through out the morning so during my break I walked down to the staff room for some coffee and pastries. Thankfully no one came in as I sat there and worried about what my grandfather, Minerva and Pomona had witnessed that morning. There was no explaining it away. It was obvious that Severus was continuing to stay with me in spite of the fact that I had completely recovered from my illness.

As I swallowed the last of my coffee I found myself wondering what my grandfather had wanted to speak with Severus about. Poor Severus. I had never seen him look as uncomfortable as he had that morning. If only that clock would have done what it was supposed to.

After my break I crept back to my classroom and worked through my afternoon classes, dreading the upcoming staff meeting. The hours flew by and I winced as I saw that the final bell was about to ring.

At long last, the day was over. I sat at my desk and watched as the students left to head back to their common rooms. With a deep breath, I stood up and noticed Severus standing in the doorway.

"Are you ready?" he asked quietly.

I nodded and left the classroom with him. As we walked along the corridor to go to the staff meeting, I glanced up at him as I tried to read his expression which was serious and grim.

"Is everything alright?" I asked tentatively.

"Something happened with your cousin. That is the reason your grandfather was looking for me this morning." he answered with his eyes straight ahead.

That information sparked my curiosity but there was no time to ask any more questions as we entered the staff room. The rest of the faculty was already assembled and I could feel every pair of eyes on us as we entered the room. The two chairs that we normally took that were directly in front of Dumbledore, were empty and waiting for us.

"There you two are." my grandfather smiled.

I felt myself blush as I kept my eyes to the floor, desperately trying to ignore the amused grins from my peers. Without a word, Severus and I took our chairs and listened silently to everything Dumbledore and Minerva needed to go over during the course of the meeting. That weekend was another Quidditch match, this time between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Minerva also touched on the upcoming mid-term exams that we needed to prepare for.

Finally Dumbledore concluded the meeting, but not before he said to me. "Gwen, could you stay behind for a few minutes? There is something I need to discuss with you." Turning his blue eyes towards the Potions Master, he added, "You may as well stay as well, Severus."

We sat there in our chairs, still avoiding the looks from the other staff members as they left the room. Severus' eyes were staring at the floor as he grasped his chair's arm-rests. I nervously fidgeted with the folds of my skirts as Dumbledore drew up a chair and sat in front of us.

My grandfather was holding a leather-bound folder that he handed to me with a smile. "This is something that I'm sure will interest you."

With my fingers trembling slightly, I opened the folder and began looking through the numerous documents within it. To my surprise there were a number of black and white copies of paintings my father had created over the years. Reading over the documents I saw it was a proposal to create a gallery to honor Galen Archer.

Raising my eyes to my grandfather, I asked, "A gallery?"

With a warm smile, Dumbledore replied. "I had heard about this some time ago that the Wales Witch and Wizard Art Society wanted to create the Galen Archer Gallery and the last time I met with Cornelius at the Ministry he said they were hoping to meet with you to go over the particulars." Pointing to the folder, he said, "They have a list of paintings that they are hoping you would be willing to donate. As Galan's daughter you have the final say over what will be displayed there and of course you don't have to part with any painting you don't want to."

For a moment I simply stared at Dumbledore, then asked, "This is what you wanted to talk about?"

"Of course. What did you think this was about?" he asked.

Stammering, I answered, "Oh, I don't know...I guess...well...I just thought...."

I trailed off as I noticed Severus glaring at me with an expression that clearly said, Why don't you quit while you're ahead?

Flipping through the folder contents I said, "Well, of course I would be happy to help them in any way I can."

My grandfather replied, "Very good. This weekend they will be coming to Hogsmeade and you can go meet with them then." Turning to Severus he added, "You could go along with her if you would like, Severus."

With a sense of relief, I began looking through the images of the paintings the Arts Society was asking for permission to display. Many of them I recognized and were in fact carefully stored in the attic of my home. A few were my father's earlier work that I had never seen. It was one of these earlier pieces that made me gasp in surprise as I nearly dropped the leather folder and all of it's contents to the floor.

My grandfather leaned over to see what had caught my interest and said, "Ah yes, that one. Your father painted that before he and your mother were married."

I was vaguely aware of Severus' eyes turning towards the image and then quickly looking away, clearly wishing he was elsewhere.

The image was of my mother. My mother as she was illuminated by the warm light from the fireplace behind her. My mother as she stretched languidly on a rug and propped herself up on her elbow. My mother who's long blond hair hung in heavy waves past her shoulders with a few stray tendrils flowing around the curves of her exposed breasts. My mother as I never wanted to see her.

"They...They want this?" I asked, raising my horrified eyes to Dumbledore.

Grimacing slightly, Dumbledore replied, "That wouldn't be my first choice, but I must admit, it is a beautiful painting." Sitting back in his chair, he laughed fondly, "The first time I accidentally came in on a session, they assured me that there was nothing going on except this painting but sure enough, nine months later, there you were."

My eyes widened as I looked at the completion dates that were written at the bottom of the image. "But...if he started this work before they were married..and you just...but they...." Then the realization hit me. "Oh no!"

My grandfather assured me, "I'm sure they would have gotten married anyway. You just hurried the process up a bit."

Closing the leather folder I studied the old wizard for a moment before asking, "Were you disappointed in her?"

Dumbledore shrugged and said, "It would have been rather hypocritical of me."

Again, Severus glared at me, this time with a look that said, Don't ask. Don't you dare ask!

Unable to help myself, I swallowed and asked weakly, "Hypocritical?"

Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and sighed, "Your grandmother was very....shall we say, creative and I was a much younger man then. It would have taken someone with far more restraint than I had to resist her seductive charms." With a smile he turned his bright eyes towards me. "There was a rose trellis under her bedroom window and nearly every night-"

"You didn't climb it did you?" I squeaked.

"Oh no, I was far too afraid of noises waking her father whom I feared more than death." Dumbledore laughed. "No your grandmother would climb down. At that time her parents had a few of those Abraxan flying horses like the kind that Madame Maxime breeds. Anyway, there was usually an empty stall and we would sneak off to the stables. Oh if those walls could talk."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing and could only stare at Dumbledore in silent amazement.

There was a pause as he got a far away look in his eyes as he was obviously recalling fond memories before he continued, "Those were by far, the most pleasurable days of my life, not just because of the sex, but also-"

"No! Oh no!" I interrupted, visibly wincing as I fought to banish unwanted images that were suddenly dancing before my mind's eyes.

"What's the matter, Gwen? How else did you think your mother came to be?" he asked innocently.

Wishing I could simply disappear into thin air, I practically whimpered, "I don't want to hear about....you and Grandmother!"

Dumbledore again smiled and laughed. "There's nothing to be squeamish about. The physical expression of love is a beautiful and natural thing, wouldn't you agree, Severus?"

Severus, who was looking even more pale than normal, had at this point sank down a few inches in his chair and looked at though he was wishing with all his might that the floor would open up and swallow him.

My grandfather got up from his chair before he added, "That reminds me, the two of you might want to consider a set of portal mirrors. It wouldn't do for the students to see either of you coming and going. Now if will both excuse me, I need to send an owl to Ministry."

For several minutes after Dumbledore left the room, Severus and I just sat there in our chairs, barely looking at each other. Finally, the black haired wizard stood up and took my hand.

As I rose to my feet, he looked down at me with a weary expression and said, "You need a new clock."

I sighed and nodded in agreement.

*~*~*


16 November 1992 - Another Animagus


"Do you ever stop purring?" I asked the silver tabby and I cradled him in my arms. The cat closed his eyes and nestled against my chest.

With an affectionate squeeze I placed the cat on the window-seat where he curled up against a pillow. After giving him a friendly scratch between his ears, I changed into my dressing gown, then sat down at the small table to go through the information on the Galen Archer Gallery that my grandfather had given me earlier in the day. My father's painting of my mother still made me uncomfortable but I had to admit it was an impressive work of art. In fact, had the model been anyone other than my mother, the nudity would not have bothered me at all.

As I flipped through the parchment I came across a small black and white photograph of my parents. My father was a striking man with his long blond hair and neatly trimmed beard. He stood with his arm around my mother's shoulders as they smiled at the camera. During his life, Galen had been a moderately successful artist, but like many who worked in that field, the value of his art increased drastically after his death. In fact, the way he died, being murdered by Voldemort's Death Eaters, made much of his original work untouchable except by wealthy.

My eyebrows drew together slightly as I continued to study the photograph. Both of them had been murdered by the Death Eaters and now their only child was closely involved with a former Death Eater. How well would that knowledge be received by the organization which was proposing to build the Galen Archer Gallery? Turning my eyes towards the window, I found myself feeling self conscious about Snape's dark past.

The stars were shining brightly, very much the way they were that night I had run off to the ruins in the middle of the Forbidden Forest. That night when Severus followed me and........

With a deep sigh I looked back at my parents' photograph. With a wistful smile, I whispered, "If either of you can see me now, I hope you understand."

My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the unicorn painting swinging open. I was not terribly surprised to see Severus come through the door. With his black eyes glittering in the dim light, he came to the table and looked down at me.

Leaning back in my chair, I said, "I thought you were staying in your own room tonight."

"I was." he answered.

I waited a moment as he continued to look down at me, then said, "And?"

"And.....I found myself missing you."

"I missed you too." I said quietly as I replaced the parchment and photos back inside the leather folder.

It had only been a few hours since dinner, which was when we had last seen each other and considering the events that had taken place earlier that day, we had decided that it would be best to retire to our own quarters that night. Rising from my chair, I put my arms around his waist and leaned my head against his chest.

"You came back because my bed is more comfortable than yours. Is that it?" I asked teasingly.

He whispered, "No. I came back because I don't want to be without you."

*****


Amazingly my clock worked as it was supposed to the following morning, allowing us to wake up in time to have breakfast with the rest of the staff. Glancing down at the other end of the table, I quickly noticed that Narya was absent. In hushed tones, Severus and Dumbledore told me what had happened to my cousin the day before and that she was still in the hospital wing. In complete shock, I listened as my grandfather described Narya's transformation into a magnificent scarlet bird, very much like Fawkes. When she attempted to fly from one of the castle's high balconies, her concentration had broken which resulted in a terrible fall, breaking several of her bones.

Through out the day I found my thoughts drifting towards Narya as she slept and slowly healed. The moment my final class was over, I went to the hospital wing to visit my cousin.

Lucius was seated protectively at the red-headed woman's bedside. He raised his weary eyes to me as I approached and watched me as I silently studied Narya's sleeping face.

Turning to Lucius, I asked, "She's an Animagus?"

"So it appears." he sighed as his gaze turned to Narya. "I saw it with my own eyes."

For a moment I pondered my own experiences as an Animagus and reflected on the first time I had successfully transformed into a swan. Although I had studied under the watchful eye of Professor McGonagall, that first transformation had nonetheless been frightening.

Amazed, I whispered, "It's unheard of for an Animagus to successfully transform on the first try, especially when one is unfamiliar with the skill as she is."

Lucius agreed, "I know but she did it."

"Has she awakened at all? Does she know what happened?" I asked.

The pale blond man shook his head and answered, "No. She has been sleeping since she fell." At that point I heard his voice begin to break. "She fell because of me. I called to her and her concentration was broken. There was nothing I could do. I could only watch as she....."

He broke off as he raised his hands over his eyes.

After a moment's hesitation, I came to the other side of the bed and placed my hand on his shoulder and said gently, "Lucius, this is not your fault. If you hadn't stopped her who knows how far she would have flown. She could have gotten lost in the forest...or she could have fallen from a much greater height. Lucius, you more than likely saved her life. She's lucky to have you looking out for her."

Lucius raised his eyes to me and smiled slightly, "That's what your grandfather said."

I replied, "And my grandfather is a very wise man. If you don't want to listen to me, then listen to him."

He was about to reply when we heard Severus enter the room. The black haired wizard glanced at me, then turned his attention to Lucius as he said quietly, "I need to speak with you. It will only take a moment."

Lucius looked at Severus, then turned his gaze to Narya, obviously not wanting to leave her side.

"I can stay with her until you come back." I offered.

Again Lucius turned his weary, reddened eyes towards me and smiled gratefully as he said, "Thank you."

With a small smile, I replied, "No need to thank me. She is family."

After the men left the room, I took the chair that Lucius had been sitting in while he had kept watch over my sleeping cousin. Glancing towards the door I could see Lucius and Severus in deep conversation, their tones hushed and their facial expressions were grim. A number of times Lucius ran his hand through his hair, looking deeply agitated.

Narya moved slightly in her sleep, then taking a deep breath she whispered, "Lucius."

Turning my attention back to my cousin, I whispered, "For your sake, I hope that Narcissa never hears of how her husband looks at you."

She didn't respond and continued to sleep. As I watched her I couldn't help but feel fearful for her but reminded myself that there was no place safer than Hogwarts. Dumbledore, and obviously Lucius, would do everything in their power to keep this young woman and budding witch safe from harm.

Once again I looked towards the doorway where Lucius and Severus were continuing their conversation. Finally Snape gave a serious nod and Lucius, looking very distressed turned and came back into the hospital room. Curious, but knowing better than to ask questions, I rose from the chair to allow the blond wizard to resume his watch at Narya's bedside.

Severus was still waiting in the hallway when I left the room. For a moment we stood there and silently observed Lucius as he leaned protectively over my cousin as she continued to sleep.

"So much keeps happening." I whispered.

Severus replied, "Yes, and it's only going to get worse."

He lowered his eyes from the couple in the room and took my hand. It was obvious from his expression that he was not going to explain what he meant by that cryptic statement so I again kept my questions to myself as we left the hospital wing.

*~*~*


17 November 1992 - A Terrible Memory


"Run! Don't try to fight them, Gwen! Just run!" cried my mother as we fled the house.

The Death Eaters' symbol loomed in the night sky over our house...my father lay dead inside. Dark hooded figures materialized from the shadows around us. A few of them fell as my mother released stunning spells at our pursuers.

Trying to get to the woods.....Mother falling behind.

"Don't look back!" my mother called as she fell to the ground, a curse from the Death Eaters binding her body.

I felt myself covered in a rush of warm energy and for a moment I thought I too was bound, yet I didn't fall. I stopped abruptly as a few more Death Eaters appeared on the road before me. I was trapped.

I waited for the curse but it never came. The hooded figures walked past me, taking no notice of me at all.

They couldn't see me.

Yet one of them, a dark haired woman, stopped and looked back at where I stood. Her eyes glaring, she carefully worked her way towards me and studied the flattened grass beneath my feet. She stopped a short distance from me and reached out. I dared not move. I dared not breath.

"Bellatrix!" growled one of the male Death Eaters.

With a look of uncertainty, the dark haired woman turned and followed the man who had called to her. My heart was pounding in my chest. Mother was screaming.


With a cry I abruptly sat up in bed. Gasping for breath my eyes searched the familiar darkness of my room. I let out another yelp of fright as I felt Severus' arms go around me. He asked no questions as he drew me close and stroked my hair. It was several minutes before my heartbeat slowed and my breath returned to normal.

"What was it this time?" Severus asked.

"A memory." I whispered. "A terrible memory."

He said nothing more as he gently pulled me back down against the pillows and took my fear away.

The following afternoon I took Ashlar out for a gallop around the school grounds the moment the final dismissal bell rang. Hogwarts was now covered in a blanket of sparkling white and puffs of steam emitted from my horse's nostrils as we circled the castle. I allowed my hood to fall back, letting the cold winter air cleanse my mind and spirit of the previous night's dream.

Revitalized, I slid down from the saddle and walked with Ashlar back to his paddock. The gallop had done the horse a lot of good as well, as he arched his neck and switched his long, heavy black tail.

A short way from the castle, we came across Draco and his two faithful followers. They were not exactly certain how to respond to me. I was well aware I was by no means one of their favorite teachers but I was now their Head of House's significant other, which made it in their best interest to treat me with respect.

"It's getting a bit late to be wandering around outside, don't you think?" I asked them.

"We were just going in." Draco answered sullenly. His friends as always, silently flanking his sides.

"By the way, Draco, I really was impressed with the work you did on your Trumps. You exceeded my expectations." I said sincerely.

That was entirely true. Draco had for once put effort into his own work instead of tormenting Neville. In fact, he had been a stellar student the past couple of weeks.

Draco shrugged and said, "Mother is into all that. I thought she would be pleased."

I agreed, "Indeed she will be. I have no doubt she'll be very proud of you when she sees your Trumps over the holiday break."

"Oh, she'll see them before then." Draco said cheerfully. Lowering his voice he added, "She's coming to the Quidditch game."

I tried to appear natural as this news sank in. What would this mean for Narya? Forcing a smile I said, "I see. You must be so excited about seeing her."

"I am and I'm sure Dad will enjoy watching the game with her too."

Unsure of what to say, I placed my hand on Ashlar's sleek neck and replied. "Yes...Yes, I'm sure he will be." After a pause I added, "You three had better go inside now. You don't want to be late for dinner."

With a surprisingly respectful goodbye, Draco and his followers turned and went into the castle as I led Ashlar back to his paddock. As I removed his saddle I glanced a few times towards the windows of the hospital wing where my cousin still lay, healing and regaining her strength. Once my horse was safely in his paddock, I returned to my quarters to get cleaned up for dinner.

"Narcissa is coming here?" I asked Severus later that evening after I had changed out of my riding clothes and into more appropriate dinner attire.

Severus was sitting lazily in one of my armchairs, his black eyes on the flames in the fireplace as he answered, "According to Draco, yes."

"Will she only be here for the match or longer?" I inquired as I ran a brush through my hair.

Not taking his eyes from the fire, Severus replied, "I got the impression that hasn't been decided yet."

"Poor Narya." I whispered as I put on my earrings.

A silent understanding passed between us. Lucius had stopped being merely my cousin's guardian a long time ago.

"Lucius should have figured something like this would happen sooner or later." said Snape as he turned his eyes towards me.

Turning from my mirror, I pondered a moment then said, "My meeting with the representatives from the Art Association is in Hogsmeade that day. If you're sure you don't want to go with me, perhaps Narya can come along if she is feeling up to it."

With a snide smile, the black haired wizard asked, "Taking her to meet her Uncle Aberforth and the, ah, family?"

My eyebrows drew together as I said firmly, "Those goats are pets!"

He repeated softly, "His pets. In the same way that you are mine?"

"No!..I mean...wait, Uncle Aberforth is not the issue!" I exclaimed. "If Narya wants to she can come to the meeting with me, then perhaps afterward we can have lunch or explore the shops. That would be better than letting her pace around her room wondering what Lucius and Narcissa are doing."

"She will wonder about that anyway." Severus pointed out.

"True, but the fresh air and the Hogsmeade environment would still be better than driving herself crazy while she is forced to stay away from Lucius while his wife is here." I replied. Placing my hairbrush back on the vanity I added, "At least I can ask. All she can say is no. Are you sure you don't want to go along?"

Severus silently shook his head and turned his attention back to the fireplace.

"Then it's settled. I'll invite her along. If she accepts that will keep her away from Narcissa plus the two of us can start to get to know each other." I smiled as I walked away from my vanity.

Seeing that I was ready for dinner, Severus rose from his chair and said, "How good of you to grace your cousin with your presence. Your generosity never ceases to astonish me."

My nightmare almost entirely forgotten, I gently grasped the front of his robes and kissed his mouth. Looking down at me, his expression was one of mock exasperation as he said, "I don't know how Lucius does it. I have more than enough trouble just dealing with you."

Smiling up at him I said, "And you love every moment of it."

*~*~*


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