by Christina Teresa
Author's note: When I discovered that the wonderful and talented Alan
Rickman was chosen to portray Potions professor, Severus Snape in the upcoming Harry
Potter film, I just had to write this little story. "Late Bloomers"
is just for fun and is not intended to infringe upon any copyright owned by J.
K. Rowling, Scholastic Press, or Warner Brothers Pictures. Original story and
characters © Christina Teresa, 2001. This tale of teenage (and adult) angst
takes place during Harry Potter's fifth year at Hogwarts, in which the head of
Slytherin House finds himself the object of a Gryffindor girl's affections.
Rated PG for language. Comments are encouraged and appreciated: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Oooo," Peeves the Poltergeist leered as he floated around fifth
year Gryffindor, Tara Ross, "look at the delicious piece of witchly
pulchritude we have here. How about a snog, girlie?"
"Go away, you pervert." Tara tried to get
away herself, but Peeves wouldn't let her pass.
During her first four years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,
Tara Ross had done a remarkably good job of remaining anonymous. She was a good
student, but no so good as to draw attention to herself. She never caused
trouble or brought an ounce of shame on Gryffindor House. And if anyone
bothered to look at her long enough to describe her, they would have called her
plain to the point of being invisible-- the shy girl liked it that way. But
something happened prior to her fifth year at the famous school of magic that
made continued anonymity impossible: the heartbreak of late puberty.
Over the hot, California
summer spent with her Wizard father and Muggle mother (who ran a successful
coffee house/magic shop in Berkeley),
Tara's bean-pole figure blossomed into that of a
voluptuous young woman. Her pale, thin face filled out and developed a healthy
rosy glow. Even her previously stringy blonde hair had a luster it never had
before. How she hated it.
"Peeves the Pervert," the poltergeist mused, "has a nice ring
to it, don't you think?"
She tried every which way to get around him, but was forced to walked right
through him instead.
"That was fantastic!" Peeves' eyes rolled back in his head in
ecstasy. "Was it good for you?"
Tara ran the rest of the way to her first class,
Transfiguration. Being tucked safely away in a classroom may have solved the
Peeves problem, but presented another. Girls who didn't even know her name last
year were giving her dirty looks and clutching their boyfriends' arms tightly.
The boys just stared.
By her last class Tara had just about had it. Peeves
appeared for the fifth time that day as she made her way to the dungeon for
Potions class. She tearfully dug in her book bag for her wand, but before she
could find it, she heard a voice behind her boom, "Vaporous Obnoxicus!"
"Bugger!" Peeves cackled petulantly and disappeared.
She spun around and found herself face to face with her Potions teacher,
Professor Snape, who was tucking his wand back into the sleeve of his robe. Tara
involuntarily shrank from him-- a reflex reaction shared by most Hogwarts
Snape narrowed his eyes and studied her with a look of suspicion. "Do I
know you, Miss--?"
She nodded. "Ross, Tara Ross. Gryffindor. I'm in the same class as
At the mention of Potter's name, Snape's expression became positively
poisonous. "Well, don't be late." He turned on his heels and marched
down the hall, black robes waving behind him.
"I-I won't." I never am. She had never told a soul, for
obvious reasons, but Potions was her very favorite class. More than any other
form of spellwork, brewing magical concoctions made her feel like a real witch.
She knew everybody else hated Professor Snape-- after all, he was a pretty
miserable excuse for a human being-- but Tara found him
sort of… interesting-looking.
Since Tara's first year at Hogwarts, Gryffindor was
forced to take Potions with the nasty Slytherins. Next to Peeves, the
Slytherins were the cruelest of all. She hadn't even settled into her seat
before they started in on her.
"You should be brought up on charges, Ross, for unauthorized
magic." Despite his voiced disapproval, Draco Malfoy stared at Tara
with a particularly lecherous look in his eye.
"It's not a spell, Malfoy," Hermione Granger piped in, "just
puberty-- not that you would know anything about that."
Ron Weasley and Harry Potter snickered.
"I think she's a veela," said pug-faced Slytherin, Pansy
Parkinson, "pretending to be human all this time just so she can sneak up and
steal our boyfriends." She gave her beloved Draco a whomping kick in the
shin when she caught him still staring at the Gryffindor girl.
Snape entered the classroom at that moment. He scanned the room and glared
at the Gryffindors for a few seconds, giving Harry Potter a particularly nasty
sneer. "Can any of you tell me the secret properties of veela blood?"
Instantly, Hermione raised her hand.
"Anyone but Granger?" Snape sighed when no other student raised
their hand. "Oh, very well." Reluctantly, he gestured for Hermione to
"Veela blood is a deadly poison to most life forms except goblins which
is why it's the goblin poison of choice."
"Since we have a suspected veela in our midst, let's do a little
experiment." Snape pulled out a thin dagger from his sleeve. "Ross,
The poor, beleaguered girl complied, but protested, "I'm not a veela, I
"Well," Snape said with the hint of an evil grin, "we'll know
for certain in a moment. Hold out your right index finger."
He pricked the tip of her finger with the dagger and allowed one drop of
blood to fall into a glass of water. Then he shoved the glass in Harry's face.
"Don't worry, Potter," Snape said, smiling unpleasantly, "I
have the antidote right here. Just in case."
"But, Professor," Hermione said, "there isn't-"
Snape shot her a dangerous look and she fell silent.
Harry glanced at Ross, who attempted a look of encouragement.
Draco Malfoy rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
Harry didn't die. The Gryffindors heaved a sigh of relief. The Slytherins
made no attempt to hide their disappointment.
"I suppose Miss Ross isn't a veela after all." Snape glared once
again at Harry. "Pity."
During class, Hermione was teamed up with Tara for a
Potions experiment. Hermione liked the quiet, shy girl, especially the way the
California-born witch talked-- when she talked. She sounded like one of those
girls on her favorite Muggle TV show, Beverly Hills,
90210 (even brilliant students needed a little mindless entertainment every
once in a while). Now she sort of looked like one of them too. Hermione would
have been jealous except for the fact that Tara didn't
seem very pleased with her transformation.
"I see Snape's looking as slimy as ever," Harry said. He and Ron
were having trouble with their experiment. The potion was a disgusting green
instead of the bright purple it was supposed to be and the gigantic lumps in it
growled at them every time the boys tried to squish them with the stirring
"Yeah," Ron agreed. "I hear he washes his hair every Guy
Fawkes Day whether it needs it or not." Both he and Harry snickered.
Hermione looked mildly disapproving, trying not to laugh herself.
"You know," Tara began conversationally,
"where I come from it's considered a style. Sort of a combination of Goth
and Grunge. Marilyn Manson with a little Trent Reznor thrown in."
That was the most Ron had ever heard her say at one time and he didn't
understand a word of it. His father did say that Americans were a strange lot,
especially the ones from California.
"Muggle musicians," Hermione explained.
Without thinking Tara blurted out, "I think it's
kinda cool-- his style I mean."
"You think Snape's cool?!" Harry, Ron and Hermione hissed
Tara lowered her head as she felt her cheeks burn
with embarrassment. She was saved an awkward reply when they found the subject
of their conversation looming over them. "If the four of you don't have
enough to occupy yourselves perhaps double the amount of homework is in order."
Harry, Ron and Hermione didn't seem to hear Snape. They just continued to
stare at Tara in horrified amazement.
"I-I'm sorry, Professor," said Tara,
"It won't happen again."
"See that it doesn't."
As soon as Snape was safely across the room, Ron dug in his pocket and
handed Tara a Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean. Any
Hogwarts student past their first year knew exactly what a vomit-flavored bean
looked like. "I figured I shouldn't be the only one who feels like puking
"Don't worry, Tara," Hermione said,
"we won't tell anybody."
"Nobody'd believe it anyway," Harry added.
As was wont to happen with teenage girls, her classmates' disapproval had
the exact opposite effect on Tara. By the end of their
first Potions class of the year, her harmless fascination with Snape had turned
into a full-blown crush.
On the way out of class, Tara approached him.
"Well, what is it?"
"I wanted to thank you for sending Peeves away. And for proving I'm not
Snape started to explain to her that he had done the veela blood experiment
solely to frighten Harry Potter but she looked so grateful that the words stuck
in his throat. There was something else very odd, but strangely familiar about
the look in her eyes, but for the life of him he couldn't put his finger on
what it was.
He grunted acknowledgment of her thanks and waved the girl away.
It was an entire week before Snape remembered why that look on Tara Ross'
face seemed so familiar. It was the same look Lily used to give James Potter
when they were all Hogwarts students together. It was just one of many painful
memories of his own adolescence.
When he was Ross' age, Snape had a tremendous crush on Lily, but she only
had eyes for Potter. It was the one and only time in his life that he had
succumbed to the idiocy called love. He had toyed with the idea of casting a
love spell on Lily to force her to care for him, but love magic tended to
backfire, even on the most experienced wizards. So he worshipped Lily from afar
and hated James Potter with every fiber of his being.
Now this girl-- this very attractive girl was giving him that same
look. It just didn't make sense. Paranoia washed over him. It had to be a spell
of some kind. Obviously, the girl wouldn't have cast a spell on herself;
someone must have done it to her in order to make him look foolish. Well,
tomorrow he'd find the culprit and make them pay dearly for their little
That night he prepared a Discovery Potion. He would surreptitiously let a
few drops fall on the top of Miss Ross' head. If her hair turned blue, a boy
had cast the spell, if pink-- a girl. That would narrow the suspects down by
half. He'd think of some way to blame the color change on Potter and Weasley.
The next day in class, while Miss Ross was concentrating intently on a
particularly difficult assignment, he strolled past her and dropped a few drops
of the Discovery Potion on her head. By the time he walked the length of the
dungeon classroom the potion should have taken affect, but when he turned
around the girl was still a blonde. He passed her again, letting a few more
drops fall. This time she turned and smiled sweetly at him. Still nothing
It couldn't be the formula. He had used it a dozen times before with
complete success. It could mean only one thing. Snape was overcome with a vague
sense of terror. That look in her eyes was for real!
That evening at dinner...
"Minerva," Snape began slowly, "I'm having a problem with one
Professor McGonagall sighed and rolled her eyes, "What's Potter done
"It's not Potter."
"No." He hesitated. "It's (cough) Ross."
McGonagall had to think a moment before she could recall the Gryffindor
girl. "Oh, yes, Ross. The one that, uh…" she made an expansive
gesture with her hands. "Blossomed over the summer."
Snape started to perspire. "That's the one."
"You know," McGonagall said as she espied the girl at the
Gryffindor table, "Miss Ross reminds me a little of that famous Muggle
actress from some years back-- what was her name..?
"Marilyn Monroe," Dumbledore supplied in a slightly wistful tone.
"Yes, that's it. Well, what about her?"
"I believe she," Snape lowered his voice to a barely audible
whisper, "has a… crush on me."
Unfortunately, Headmaster Dumbledore had chosen that moment to take a sip of
hot cocoa, which went down the wrong pipe at Snape's declaration. He coughed
and sputtered for several minutes while Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall
patted him on the back. McGonagall tried, unsuccessfully, not to burst out
Snape stormed from the teachers' table and never mentioned it again.
Maybe it was his imagination. No one else seemed to notice the adoring
glances Miss Ross gave him during class. Snape tried to ignore her, but the
more he tried the more he was drawn to the look in her eyes. A voice in the
back of his mind told him there was something definitely inappropriate about
his own growing fascination, but he had no idea what to do about it.
One day, Snape noticed Tara making a particularly
successful Wart-reducing Potion. As he stood looking over her shoulder, she
turned and gazed up at him. The sincerity and affection in the girl's bright
blue eyes had an almost mesmerizing affect on him. "Very impressive, Miss
Ross, ten points to Gryffindor."
The whole class stopped dead. "Did you just say 'ten points to
Gryffindor'?" Ron Weasley asked in shock and amazement.
Snape instantly recovered from his momentary haze. "No-- no, I-I said
ten points from Gryffindor." His black eyes narrowed as he pointed
an accusing finger at Tara. "That's for showing
off! I swear you're getting as bad as Granger."
As the students filed out of the dungeon after class, Snape told Ross he
wanted to see her in his office.
Usually he had no trouble 'counseling' students, but he was out of his depth
in this situation. "Miss Ross," he began as he started to pace
He opened his mouth to speak, but his mind was a complete blank. "Miss
Ross," he repeated.
She just sat there patiently, that same incomprehensible look in her eyes.
Snape couldn't do it; he couldn't ask her to explain it. What if he was
wrong? He'd be absolutely humiliated. He sighed, then rubbed his eyes as if in
pain. "Just-- go."
She picked up her book bag and slung it over her shoulder. As she made her
way to the door, she turned to him and said quietly, "It's not your
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he lied. "What
isn't my imagination?"
Tara blushed. "I.. like you. A lot."
He ordered her to sit once again. He took a few steps back, arms folded across
his chest in a defensive, almost protective, gesture. "Why??"
She giggled nervously and shrugged. "Well, partly because of the way
"The way I look?" he laughed derisively, "Miss Ross, I look
the way I do in order to repel people not attract them."
"I know!" Tara said brightly, "That's
why it's so cool!"
Snape raised an eyebrow. "Is there a history of insanity in your
"I don't think so," she answered matter-of-factly.
He motioned for her to continue. "You said that was only part of the
She hesitated slightly. "The rest is a little hard to explain."
"I can well imagine."
"I guess it's kind of like when I was a little girl and my parents said
I could have a dog."
Whether the girl knew it or not, Snape was sure there had to be a crazy Aunt
tucked away in the Ross Family closet somewhere. "What?"
"Well, when we went to the pound, there were dozens of cute, cuddly,
adorable puppies to choose from..."
"...but this one scrawny, little, mangy runt caught my eye. I just knew
that if I didn't take him home, nobody else would." She smiled sadly.
"His name was Buster. We had to put him to sleep after he got into a fight
with the neighbor's lawnmower, but before that he was like, the best dog in the
whole world-- even if he was half bald. All he needed was a little love and
affection." Tara paused, trying to read his
reaction. "Do you understand?"
"Oh yes, I understand perfectly," he replied, "That was a
truly heartwarming story, Miss Ross, particularly the part about the lawnmower."
She breathed a sigh of relief. "Thanks."
He suddenly exploded with anger. "I WAS BEING SARCASTIC!!"
She sunk down in the chair. "Oh."
He got one of those particularly nasty looks in his eye as he loomed over
her. "How dare you!" he sputtered. "How dare you compare me to
your dead, defective mutt! Fifty-- no, one hundred points from
Gryffindor! And in the future, Miss Ross, I suggest you keep your," if
possible his expression became even more disdainful, "love and affection
to yourself if you don't want to find yourself back in California doing
whatever it is you people do there!"
Tara sobbed, "I'm sorry," and ran out of
Usually, Snape took a certain perverse pleasure in making students cry,
though the kind-hearted Dumbledore frowned upon it. This time he just felt--
well, bad. He thought that perhaps there might have been some other way he
could have handled it, but dismissed his concerns. "She'll get over
Tara barreled into the hallway, practically running
over Pansy Parkinson.
Far from being angry, the Slytherin girl grinned wickedly. "Loved the
story about your dog, Ross. Truly heartwarming."
If it was possible for Tara's heart to sink further,
it did. She ran from Pansy, convinced that her life was ruined.
Snape sat at the teachers' table, not much interested in his dinner, still
experiencing that pesky twinge of guilt over yelling at Miss Ross. When he
glanced at the Gryffindor table, the girl wasn't in her usual place. Guilt
turned into another unfamiliar emotion-- concern. What if the silly creature
had done something rash because he'd rejected her? He smiled. Concern was
replaced with a peculiar swell of vanity. Imagine a pretty girl like that doing
herself in over him? Perhaps I'm not as repulsive as I thought. Guilt
quickly returned with concern close on its heels. He was just about to say
something to Professor McGonagall when the chatter of the students reached his
"Can you believe Ross actually told him she liked him?"
"Do you mind, I'm trying to eat!"
And from his own Slytherins he heard cries of, "Snape, the wonder
All of Snape's strange, noble emotions evaporated. He sincerely hoped that
Miss Ross was indeed dead, because it would save him the trouble of killing her
Tara was still quite alive. She had spent the rest of
the day sitting in the out-of-order girls' bathroom crying so hard that Moaning
Myrtle flushed herself down the toilet just to escape the noise. By the time
she entered the Great Hall, dinner was half over. She found the eyes of the
entire school on her. The students at the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables
pointed and whispered. The Slytherins laughed openly. The Gryffindors glared at
her then turned away.
When Tara tried to take her usual place, Parvati
Patil said, "Why don't you just go and join the Slytherins, everybody
knows you want to." A few other Gryffindors muttered "traitor"
under their breath.
"Oh, yes Ross," Pansy said from the Slytherin table, enjoying
every minute of Tara's torment, "why don't you join
us. There's always room for one more." She patted the seat next to her.
"Don't be shy." The other Slytherins grinned evilly looking a little
like a bunch of salivating vultures getting ready to swoop down on a piece of
Hermione was the only Gryffindor to come to her defense. "Tara,
why don't you sit next to me?" But Lavender Brown, who was sitting next to
her made no attempt to move.
Professor McGonagall and Headmaster Dumbledore saw what was going on, of
course. The situation needed to be dealt with, but now was neither the time nor
the place. "Miss Ross, please take your seat," McGonagall said gently
but with a stern look at the Gryffindor table.
Tara risked a glance at the teachers' table and found
Snape seething with a hatred he usually reserved for Harry Potter alone.
Lavender had reluctantly made a space for her, but the heartbroken girl ran out
Professor McGonagall eventually found Tara sitting
outside the portrait hole to Gryffindor
Tower, still in tears. Even the Fat
Lady had snubbed her, deserting her portrait before Tara
could give her the password.
McGonagall took the girl to the hospital wing and left her in Madam
Pomfrey's capable hands. Then she made her way to Dumbledore's office where the
Headmaster and Professor Snape were waiting.
McGonagall shook her head with disgust. "Why must children be so
"Because, Minerva, that is what children do best," Snape replied.
"Just as well Ross found that out now. That girl is far too naive for her
"Oh, yes, Severus, she'd be much better off living a life full of
bitterness and resentment," she snapped. "It's done wonders for
Dumbledore sighed heavily. "If only we'd listen to you when you first
brought this to our attention, all of this could have been avoided."
Snape opened his mouth, but closed it again. He didn't feel much like
gloating for some reason. The one time he was completely right and they were
totally wrong, he couldn't even enjoy it. Damn that girl.
Tara asked to be excused from classes the next day,
but Professor McGonagall insisted she go, knowing it would be that much harder
for her if she avoided the inevitable.
It wasn't the teasing so much that bothered Tara--
the Slytherins were bound to tire of it eventually. She could even stand being
ignored by her fellow Gryffindors. But the one thing she couldn't stand was the
memory of the horrible way Snape had treated her. What a dope she'd been
thinking there was anything worth liking inside that vile carcass of his.
If Tara found Potions class uncomfortable, Professor
Snape found it doubly so. Though none of the students dared say anything to his
face, he heard their snickering comments behind his back.
Even worse was the one time Tara met his eyes. She
fixed Snape with such a palpable look of hurt and recrimination, he could have
bottled it. Much to his annoyance, he found he missed the girl's devotion. It
wasn't a great leap in logic to assume that Miss Ross would be the only
beautiful teenage girl that would ever have a crush on him. He found he
couldn't bear the thought of her hating him like everybody else did.
Once again, he asked the girl to stay after class, but this time obnoxious
hoots and whistles accompanied his request. He angrily shooed the rest of the
students out and slammed the heavy dungeon door. Then he took out his wand and
bewitched the door so no sound could leak through. A side effect of which was
that a few prying ears pressed against the other side of it were singed. Snape
smiled when he heard the muffled cries of pain.
He turned to Miss Ross. She had her arms folded across her chest looking a
little afraid, but defiant. "So, what? You want to yell at me again? Or
maybe you'd just like to rip my heart right out of my chest and stomp on it a
"As tempting an offer as that is..." he motioned for her to sit.
He paced for a few moments, even less sure of what to say than he was
yesterday. So he said the first thing that popped into his head. "I see
you've been ostracized by your peers."
"And you wanted to rub it in?"
"Actually, Miss Ross, I wanted to tell you that there are distinct
advantages to being an outcast at Hogwarts. For instance, you never have to
worry about what to say or how to act because no one ever talks to you. And the
Yule Ball-- no worries there about not knowing how to dance, because no one
would ever dance with you, even for all the Galleons in Gringotts." He
sighed, suddenly depressed. "Who am I kidding? It's bloody miserable.
Where in the hell were you when I was fifteen?"
"I don't think I was born yet."
He winced. "It was a rhetorical question."
"Oh." Tara was confused. "Professor,
are you trying to apologize to me?"
He nodded, feeling slightly nauseous.
Her eyes welled up and she looked as if she were about to cry.
"Please, not the tears again!"
The adoring look in her eyes returned. "I was right about you-- you're
not heartless, after all."
He scowled. "Tell anyone and I'll poison your porridge."
Tara giggled, but stopped when she realized he was
serious. "Don't worry, your secret's safe with me." She got up and
started for the door.
"And for gods' sake, Miss Ross," he said with irritation,
"don't be bitter-- it doesn't suit you."
Suddenly, he felt something warm and moist on his cheek. Ross was out the
door before he realized she had kissed him. Snape grinned in spite of himself.