Felicity rose early the next morning. It was her habit to wake before the sun whether she could see it or not. After her meditation she headed for breakfast in the great hall. She remembered the way. She’d been to Hogwarts at the age of eleven. As so many of her future students now were, she had been excited and full of promise for her first year. She’d been so thrilled and so eager to succeed.
As she walked the steps from the dungeon and through the halls she remembered that time with a tug on her heart. She’d been a student at Hogwarts for a whole two weeks before her father had stormed in and snatched his only daughter from this heaven and plopped her in the rolling hills of the Berkshires. Every Wood through all generations in family memory had attended Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but her.
She purposely sat down next to Severus Snape at the teacher’s table. He also seemed to be an early riser. She looked nostalgically at her house table. There was a small group of students at the long table, just as she had been for two glorious weeks. Poor daddy, she sighed, outwardly sad. He’d tried to save her but he had only set her life rolling down a similar path. Her father had been so angry when he’d heard the house she’d been sorted into. He had said sternly to the Headmaster that there could be nothing on earth that would compel him to allow his own flesh and blood to belong to Slytherin House. There would be no snakes in daddy’s portrait parlor. Such was the prejudice of her father.
The sad sigh from the upstart who had the audacity to sit next to him brought Severus’ head up from trying to eat his breakfast quickly and be on his way. He stared at her. Her pale skin glowed and she had several freckles across her nose that he tried not to admire.
“You’re the only one that I know here, Severus,” she said defying him with her eyes. “I didn’t think you’d mind if I sat next to you.”
“Though the table is long and wide with room to sit anywhere,” he said with distain.
Her eyes fixed on him, green and bright with light. “You shouldn’t judge me so harshly, Professor Snape,” she said. “Look, we’ve gotten off to a bad start. Let’s not fight, okay?”
He kept his face as impassive as he could, an easy feat for him. “I suppose.”
“Perhaps you wouldn’t mind showing me around?”
“I’m very busy.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“What are you doing that could be more important than showing a new fellow teacher around the school and making her feel welcome?” She wanted to stick her tongue out at him but held back. “The Headmaster expects it, Severus,” she said exasperated with his defensive wall of malice that surely kept everyone in his life at arms length. “Please? He said as much last evening. We, being nearly the same age and all.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t think it’s meant to mean anything. You know Albus Dumbledore and what the politics at Hogwarts must be like more than I would.”
Severus raised a brow and pursed his lips in thought. “Yes,” he said, thinking that he might have to play along to please Dumbledore. Perhaps it would be in his best interest to be nicer to the woman.
“See? I knew you’d see my point.”
She was doing it again. It was as if she heard his thoughts, yet he knew she wasn’t inside his mind. He felt no presence.
“I’m very quiet, you won’t even feel my presence, ” she said and he almost jumped off the seat in alarm. “And I won’t bother you much. Just show me around the school and we’ll pretend to like each other. That should make the Headmaster happy until he forgets about us.” She prattled on while eating her breakfast but he was so alarmed that she had seemed to hear what he had thought that he sat gawking at her like a first year.
“What’s wrong?” she said finally. A piece of toast poised to bite. “Are you all right, Professor Snape? You don’t look like you’re breathing.”
He shook himself. He calmly transformed his exterior to his usual impassive and found his voice. “I suppose that if it will please the Headmaster, I might find the time to show you around.”
“Will you show me the grounds, as well? I’ve heard of an unusual tree that I’d like to see.”
“You must be referring to the whomping willow. I assure you, Miss Wood, it is a very dangerous tree and you should refrain from searching it out.”
“I’d like to see it.” She wasn’t going to back down from his challenge.
“If you wish.” He ran his hand through the greasy strings of hair hanging in his eyes. It looked to Felicity as if it was a nervous habit of his and she noted it for memory. “Shall we say that we meet at noon for luncheon?” he continued. “I’ll show you about then.”
He seemed resigned to her inevitable company knowing it would be in his best interest to at least appear hospitable. He rose abruptly and strode out of the hall without another word. She watched him as he marched past the few students at the Gryffindor table. She could see them visibly cower in fear of him.
What Professor Dumbledore had asked her to do for Severus Snape was not going to be easy. She wondered about him. His mind was as calculating and cunning as the best of minds but she had not dared reach into his soul as yet. There was fire there. Burning hot and bright like a volcano yearning to explode. She hoped she could do as Dumbledore had asked her. Severus Snape did seem to need her help.
Felicity wandered about the halls for a while after breakfast and found the library. She introduced herself to the librarian, Irma Pince. She was quite a fierce old bird and reminded her of any number of her New England professors. That thoroughly pinched look of severity had made its mark on the Prior Academy matrons, as well.
“I will find special requests for teachers, Miss Wood, but you must give me at least a weeks notice,” she said firmly. “I won’t go searching all over kingdom come for some obscure volume that you must have for a lesson the next day. It infuriates me!”
“I understand, Miss Pince.”
“Ancient Runes books are often obscure,” she continued in the same no nonsense voice. “Don’t forget! One weeks notice at the very least!”
“I suspect that I won’t have to trouble you, Miss Pince. I’ve plenty of books with me that will serve my purposes. Thank you so much for your time. I’m so happy to have met you.” She was on her way out the door in escape when a student hesitantly approached her.
She was about sixteen with frizzy brown hair, a clear complexion and very pretty eyes that glittered with intelligence. “Excuse me, Professor,” she began. “Are you the new Ancient Runes professor?”
“I am!” Felicity smiled warmly. This girl must be one of her new charges. “My name is Felicity Wood.”
The girl’s face broke into an enthusiastic grin. This girl loved her professors. “I’m so pleased that you’re finally here, professor! I’ve been looking forward to starting my Ancient Runes class. My name is Hermione Granger.” She held out a small hand that Felicity shook gently.
“I see from your robes that you’re from Gryffindor House, and you’re Prefect this year, Miss Granger. I will hazard to guess that I should expect great things from you in my class this year.” The sweet girl blushed. No snob in this one. No, she would not be from Slytherin or even Ravenclaw. “My cousin was in Gryffindor House, you might have known him.”
“Yes, he was. His name is Oliver Wood. Did you know him?”
“Of course, Prof. Wood. He was Captain of the Quidditch team! Oh, Harry will be so excited when I tell him that you’re related to him.”
“I’m sorry, Professor. Harry Potter, he’s my friend and he’s on the Gryffindor team as a seeker. He was very fond of Wood, hmmm, I mean Oliver.”
“Harry Potter?” asked Felicity pretending to be taken aback. “You mean the boy-that-lived? Is he in Gryffindor House?” Even as Herimone babbled on about her friend, Felicity saw the logic of the boy being in that house. He was the one marked by the Dark Lord. His life was bound for challenges. Poor boy.
“I’d like to meet your friend sometime, Miss Granger,” she said.
Hermione’s face fell slightly. “He doesn’t really like being noticed, Professor. For that, I mean. You know, he doesn’t really like it when people point to his mark.”
“Heavens, child,” Felicity laughed. “I won’t even mention it. I promise. Shall I pretend that I’ve never heard of him?”
Hermione smiled, knowing that Felicity was being kind. Everyone knew who Harry Potter was.
“He’s on the Quidditch Pitch at the moment, practicing, I expect,” said Hermione. “If you’d like, I could show it to you and perhaps I could persuade him to say hello?”
Such a kind heart this girl had. “That would be lovely, Miss Granger. Lead away!” They trooped out into the sunshine together. Soon it would be full fall but now the days switched occasionally back to summer. This was one of those days, glorious and bright.
They made their way to the pitch. It was a place that Felicity had not gotten a chance to know in her short two weeks at Hogwarts. There was not much Quidditch play in New England either, where the winters were long and harsh.
It was hard to hold onto a broom in that freezing cold no matter how much magic heat you applied. No, Americans didn’t much go out for Quidditch. Her cousin Oliver had been scandalized when she’d told him that fact at the clan gathering in July. He was such a Quidditch nutter that she could tell that the Americans went down a full peg on his board.
She and Hermione sat on a bench in the warm sunshine looking up to the flyers practicing.
“There’s Harry, there!” said Hermione waving to her friend. He waved back and did a little loop in the air. Perhaps they were more than just friends, Felicity speculated. Or, perhaps Mr. Potter wasn’t showing off but just glad to be flying on such a beautiful day.
Felicity’s breath caught with the memory of flying. Merlin! How she wished she could transform right here and now and fly high with these children. “I love to fly!” she said aloud before she thought better of it.
“Do you?” asked Hermione, pleased. “So does Harry. He says it’s the most free that he’s ever felt.”
“Yes, that’s how it is…to be free.” She felt sad suddenly, not able to fly. Dumbledore had warned her not to even bother registering with the Ministry. They would not accept her as an animagus and she risked Azkaban if she transformed while in Britain. Not that anyone could ever put her in Azkaban. She’d never allow it. There were so many rules here. She yearned for home. She felt the breeze and felt the memory of Tibet. Somehow she could smell the dry air of the high mountain desert in summer though Scotland even in the sunshine was not dry. She’d been away for so very long.
Hermione shaking her arm shook Felicity out of her daze. “Here he is Professor, here he is!”
Harry Potter raced up on his broom, a full grin plastered on his flushed face. Felicity saw that he was having one hell of a time.
“Harry! Harry!” gushed Hermione. “This is Prof. Felicity Wood! She’s the new Ancient Runes Professor.”
“How do you do Professor?” said Mr. Potter smiling and hopping off his broom. What a wonderful smile the young man had. He was very handsome, though terribly thin.
“Hermione, has told me that you love to fly, young man,” she said in mock severity. “That’s what’s needed in a seeker!”
“Harry,” said Hermione pulling on his sleeve. “Guess who her cousin is?”
“Oliver! Oliver Wood!”
The boy looked both pleased and surprised. Hermione looked as if she would burst. She obviously loved to give the boy something to smile about.
“Yes, I confess,” said Felicity. “Ollie is a close cousin.”
They both laughed at her calling him, Ollie. Another boy, very tall and well built with flaming red hair walked onto the pitch and waved to their group.
“Hey, Harry, Hermione,” he said coming up.
“Ron,” said Hermione reaching for him and dragging him near her. Obviously, Harry was not first in line, noted Felicity. “This is Prof. Felicity Wood, Ron. She’s Oliver Wood’s cousin, isn’t that nice?” He looked pleased and shook her hand. He seemed a nice open-faced boy that was surely a loyal friend.
“Well,” said Felicity. “You’ve all made me feel so welcome! But I must be leaving to go back to the Great Hall. I’ve an appointment with Prof. Snape and I’m sure I’m right in saying that being late is not in his vocabulary.”
The change of spirit in the small band of friends was deafening in the chill that suddenly appeared before her. Harry frowned visibly concerned, Ron shifted uncomfortably and Hermione looked crestfallen. It was as if she had said that she’d an appointment with the Dark Lord his self.
“Don’t worry,” she said to their evident concern. “I can hold my own with Prof. Snape. He’ll not eat me.” They laughed hesitantly for her sake. “Hermione, dear, I might not always be the kindest Professor, either.” She winked at her. “We, teachers live to make the occasional student quake with fear.” She laughed; as did all of them save Harry, who looked very serious.
“Be careful, Professor,” he said.
She reached out then, her compassion compelling her to touch his arm. She’d promised Dumbledore that she would not interfere, but this boy called out for her with his wanton need to make things right around him. The poor young man, she felt her heart wrench.
“Don’t worry, Harry. Prof. Snape will be putty in my hands when I’m through with him,” she said. They didn’t believe a word of it.
Felicity walked out of the field, turning to wave at the little band of concerned faces. Prof. Snape must be a very troubled soul to inspire such emotions in the young. What a challenge Dumbledore had set before her, giving her this secret mandate, to heal a man’s tortured spirit.
She walked into the hall. It was empty but for a few students with books. Because she was the only teacher about and Prof. Snape was not due for a good fifteen minutes, she walked over to the Slytherin table. Prof. Snape certainly would not come early. He probably made a life rule to be exactly on time at all times. Never arrive early and never arrive late.
There were no students at the Slytherin table. Felicity ran her hand along the worn wood. Imagine all the hands that had caressed it. She let the feeling of loss and regrets flow through her. The tears well up in her eyes. She might have been here had her father relented. She would have felt that Slytherin pride in her veins had he just let her.
Of course, her father had saved her life, and she knew it. Had she remained at Slytherin, she most surely would have followed her friends, the ones that she had just begun to make all those many years ago. She would have followed them to Voldemort.
Severus Snape walked into the hall and glared at all around him. He expected that Miss Wood would certainly be late. Instead, he saw her standing at the Slytherin House table, her face in profile. She caressed the wood of the table as if it were precious silk, obviously lost in thought. Snape crept stealthily up behind her. He was a man that could make himself invisible in a crowded room. He was a master at secrecy. He would certainly surprise her.
He was almost upon her and intent on startling her in order to throw her off-balance when she turned very suddenly to face him. The look on her face stopped him dead in his tracks. She was a blaze of emotions and all of them raw.
“Thought you’d sneak up on me, did you, professor?” she said and the emotion was gone. Packed down deep behind her beautiful green eyes.
“Yes,” he was the one off-balance again, “No, I…confound it! Why do you do that?” he asked exasperated.
She smiled. “Finally, some honesty. Gee wiz, Severus. You’re a hard one to reach, let me tell you!”
“I wasn’t aware that you were trying to ‘reach’ me. What does that mean exactly? Is it some quaint Americanism that I’m supposed to understand?”
She laughed at him. Mr. Pompous puss was back in full measure. “Come on, Professor Snape,” she said taking his arm and pulling him to the teacher’s table. “Let’s have some lunch and then you can show me around this beautiful place.”
He did not pull away as she lead him. He even introduced her nicely to several of the teachers who all seemed to be arriving for lunch. In fact, the hall filled up quickly with students as well. There was the noise of free and happy teenagers arguing, laughing and gossiping. There was the slam of books and bags upon the tables, and scuffles down the isles. She felt quite thrilled to be there. It was all coming back to her. It was where she’d first met those that might have been her friends.
She let it all wash over her. It was only when she felt him look at her that she snapped out of her reverie. “Where shall we start?” she asked looking at him. He tried to lock her gaze. He was going to try Legilimency on her, the little snake.
“Don’t you dare,” she said sternly to him. She did not, however avoid his eyes, in fact, she challenged him with a glint.
His face didn’t even flinch. “What are you talking about?”
“Legilimency is something you should not try on me, Severus,” she whispered. She did not want the other teacher’s to think that they were arguing.
“You are extremely conceited,” he said with that cold, deadly warning in his voice. She could already tell how tiresome he could be. Mr. Denial, that’s what she should call him Mr. Denial of his feelings and Mr. Denial of everything.
He turned back to eating a salad, something with mandarins and egg that looked simply awful. “Okay, then Severus,” she said, knowing he would be sneaking up on her and trying to catch her off guard until she showed him who was boss. “Try me.”
He put down his fork and sneered at her as if she were the most crass woman on earth and had just propositioned him. “Don’t be vulgar, Miss,” he said sternly. “I have no intention of entering your mind. It’s most likely a dusty little hole of broken dreams and lusts for the willing. I’ll not be a party to it.”
“You’re chicken, then.” She picked up her sandwich, a bacon, lettuce and tomato. How the elves knew she’d love it was beyond her. Hogwarts was amazing.
Severus threw down his fork so hard that a few of the teachers that she’d just met and even some of the students
nearest the table looked up in alarm. Felicity looked at him in surprise, as well. He was like a powder keg. He really needed to learn to release his emotions slowly on occasion. No wonder he struck such fear in the students.
Felicity looked out at the student body to release her self from his withering silent glare. She caught the eye of Harry Potter, who sat with his friends. The look of fierce concern on his face, as if he was about to jump over the table to pummel Severus if only she would cry for help, just melted her heart. She couldn’t help but smile at him. He was such a sweet young man, so sad.
Severus watched her face, willing himself not to reach out and strangle her. He followed with his eyes in the direction of her gaze and saw whom she was smiling at amongst the students. He glared at Harry Potter with a heat so hot it would fry an egg. To his credit, Mr. Potter stood his ground. Felicity saw in an instance that those two did not get along in a BIG way.
Snape was pulsing with venom and even he didn’t know why. He stood up and stormed from the hall. All the teachers and many of the students watched him go. Felicity attempted as deftly as she could manage without looking like she was chasing down a stag to walk very quickly after him. As soon as she left the hall she sprinted after him. She knew where he was going. She could feel his presence in the very walls. She memorized the scent of him and tracked him to what must have been his classroom. A wounded animal always returns to its lair. The door was shut to her.
Taking out her wand she opened the door with a wind spell. Shaman Lu had taught it to her. It was useful against western magic sealing spells. The door flew open and smacked against the wall. She walked toward him, her wand held out of sight, just in case. He was in a dangerous mood. “Severus,” she said calmly and as soothingly as she could.
“You promised to show me Hogwarts.”
The man that turned stiffly from his desk to face her was as cold as ice. He would have fooled anyone but her. There wasn’t a trace of the powder keg smoldering within him. Nor the fact that he’d just lost it in front of everyone. She didn’t know him very well yet, but she knew that that fact alone might move him to murder her.
“How dare you intrude?” he hissed at her.
Being coy and pretending that she didn’t know what he was talking about was not going to work on this man. “I had no idea. Severus, I had no idea how you felt about the boy. I’ve only just met him this morning.”
“I have no idea what you’re babbling about, Miss Wood.” His voice was so cold it could freeze water.
He would deny it until the cows came home. She made a decision. She would never get anywhere with him in his current state of mind. He was a wounded animal in a trap that would snap at her forever until he died. She stuck her wand in her braid. He was watching her closely. She stepped as close to him as she dared and put her hands to her face. She looked as if she were about to cry. Severus assumed that she was.
It was hard to do the spell and something that Master Tong had made her practice for six months before she’d got it right. Her hands covered her face. She breathed in the essence of her own spirit deeply. Opening her hands in a flat cup, she blew Severus the kiss of her spirit. Her breath hit him like she’d just caressed his soul or she’d drugged him with a happy drug. Severus stood still as it enveloped him. He was powerless. His breathing came more deeply. She could feel his heart calm down. His mind came into focus.
“What did you just do?” he said almost civilly.
“It’s a calming spell, Severus. I was afraid you were going to hurt me. Sorry, it’ll wear off in about five minutes.”
“It feels quite nice, actually,” he said surprised at his own words. “I feel fully aware and yet strangely good.”
She thought with chagrin that it was probably an unnatural feeling for the man. She stepped up to him and gingerly took his hand and led him to the chair at his ponderously large desk. When he came around, having him in a comfortable familiar surrounding would be best for all concerned. He sat down willingly, the scowl on his face
somewhat softened but no less a scowl. No doubt about it, he was quite the challenge.
“Severus,” she said touching his face and gently pulling it toward her to look into his eyes. His eyes were the most amazing black with flecks of hazel green. “I need your help.”
“Miss Wood, I hardly think I am the rescuing type.”
She stifled a laugh at his dry humor at a moment like this. “Severus, I’m going to leave the room and when I come back you’ll be back to your old self, but this time you won’t be mad anymore. Your anger at me, your anger at Harry
Potter and your anger at losing control of your emotions in front of the whole school are not going to exist anymore. You’ll talk to me as you have before. Your emotions will be in control as always. You have not lost control.”
“All right, if you wish,” he said calmly. “You know, Miss Wood, if I might be so bold, you’re quite beautiful.”
“And you won’t remember that you just said that to me, either. Trust me, it’ll just get you all worked up again.”
“Fine.” He sat calmly.
It was going to be all right to leave him. She walked out the door and closed it behind her.
Felicity Wood stood outside Severus Snape’s door biting her nails. This man was a hard case. He had a volcano inside. He was a roaring fire. Prof. Dumbledore had NOT given her all the facts. She’d have to take him to task on that.
She waited enough time and knocked on the door.
She knocked again.
She knocked once again. Harder.
The door flew open and Prof Snape loomed over her. “What do you want?” he snapped.
“Prof. Snape, you promised to show me Hogwarts.”
“Must I?” he asked exasperated.
“If you would be so kind?”
He gave a sigh of ultimate boredom. “You know I’m going to complain to Prof. Dumbledore that I am not a tour guide,” he said as he walked out the door and shut it behind him. “I find you very tedious, Miss Wood.”
“Why ever for?”
“Because you seem to play a great many games,” he said pushing her gently toward the dungeon stairs. “That daring me to try Legilimency on you was idiocy. It tried my patience, no end.”
“I’m sorry, Professor,” she said not even bothering to hide her relief. “I’ll not do it again.”
“See that you don’t,” said Prof. Snape with just enough severity to make her listen. He led her up to the sunlight and out onto the grounds for her silly tour.
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