The Sugar Quill
Author: Lucy Ravenclaw (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Sort of Homecoming  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Pen name: Lucy Ravenclaw E-mail address: caralync@hotmail

 

A Sort of Homecoming

by Lucy Ravenclaw

Disclaimer : Everything--but Sarah Craven and a few other incidentals--is borrowed from the copyrighted material by the wonderful and talented J.K. Rowling. The title, "A Sort of Homecoming" is borrowed from U2. Grateful thanks to my beta-reader, Elanor Gamgee!

 

Chapter One

Sarah Craven woke on the morning of August thirtieth feeling the knot of anxiety gnarl her stomach. Today, she would be returning to her old school, Hogwarts, for the first time since graduating seven years ago. Madam Pince had finally retired, and when Sarah saw the position vacancy announced in The Daily Prophet, she instinctively knew she'd get the library job at Hogwarts.

She applied for the job, and in her interview Headmaster Dumbledore told Sarah that she was his first choice. Besides her useful and quite impressive job experience since leaving Hogwarts, her academic achievements while a student there would prove just as valuable. Stretching awake, Sarah remembered how she blushed slightly when Dumbledore said in her interview, "I do not think I am mistaken in remembering that you brought Ravenclaw much pride when you earned more N.E.W.T.s than any Hogwarts student for more than a decade?" Not bad for a Muggle-born, she thought. But, more important things than N.E.W.T. levels had kept Dumbledore busy recently. The war had just ended with the destruction of Voldemort and his followers. A heavy battle in the countryside near Hogsmeade finally killed Voldemort and most of the Death Eaters--as well as the parents and families of many Hogwarts students. She realized that many students returning to Hogwarts this year would be burdened with heavy loads of grief, and little or no motivation for their schoolwork. Sarah was determined to be a helpful and encouraging presence in the lives of the students this year, no matter which house they belonged to. Hogwarts had been an important time in her life; she was eager to give back her talents to the place where she'd learned so much.

She put her feet on the cool floor in the bedroom of her empty flat (she'd been sleeping fitfully in the sleeping bag she'd used on her outdoor camping "adventures" with Charlie Weasley). She'd lived here for about four years now, ever since she left Flourish and Blotts for the Ministry of Magic's MIRC (Magical Information Resource Center), which was a fancy name for "library." Most days, she enjoyed her work at the Ministry: looking up obscure spells for this minister, finding the correct form for that one, locating an article in a Muggle newspaper or magazine, or the satisfaction of getting just the right piece of information someone in the ministry needed to complete a report. In addition to these duties, Sarah kept the Ministry's archives and confidential records on secret Ministry assignments and projects, the activities of spies for both sides of the war, as well as those who were known Death Eaters. It was exciting work, but she had been feeling for a while that it was time for a change. Hogwarts had been the perfect opportunity. She'd already sent her personal items ahead to Hogwarts with Professor McGonagall, who came to visit her last week to discuss the final details of her arrival. Everything else she owned in the world was contained within one large duffel and a camping backpack (another remnant of her Charlie Weasley days). As she showered, she felt slightly overwhelmed: she'd have two days to get settled in to her room, re-familiarize herself with the Hogwarts library collection, get adjusted to now being a colleague with all her former teachers, and get prepared for the students' arrival. She sighed and thought sarcastically, No pressure or anything!

Now, in a black pantsuit and robes, Sarah checked that she had both her bags before Apparating. She Apparated just outside the grounds of Hogwarts Castle. She had to remind herself that she was no longer a student, and that her most businesslike demeanor would be necessary. Not that she'd engaged in any unusual behavior while a student--she guessed that most of her old teachers would be hard-pressed to remember her name. Yes, she had earned top grades (which she worked very hard for), and still held the record for highest number of N.E.W.T.s earned in Ravenclaw house, but Sarah had been extremely quiet in school and not well known, a wallflower. She liked it that way--though by the time graduation rolled around Sarah had, in her own quiet way, made friends in all four houses.

As she approached Hogwarts, the front door of the castle groaned on its ancient hinges. Professors Flitwick and McGonagall greeted her as she squinted in the bright August sun. She couldn't, and didn't want to, hide her genuine pleasure at seeing Flitwick again; he'd been so wonderful and supportive throughout her seven years. As Professor McGonagall led her through the halls to the library, Sarah made no attempt to suppress her feelings of happiness and anticipation: this had been the right decision! She and Professor McGonagall chatted pleasantly, if formally, and McGonagall led her to a door at the far end of the library. Sarah thought she knew every inch, every nook and cranny in the Hogwarts Library--she'd spent that much time there as a student--but this was a corner she'd never seen before. McGonagall said with a small but pleasant smile, "Miss Craven, these will be your rooms. Your things have already been moved in for you. You'll want to get unpacked and settled. Dinner is at six-thirty, and Professor Dumbledore asked me to tell you he'd like to meet with you after dinner. We are very glad to have you here. Please let me or Dumbledore know if there is anything you need." McGonagall held two keys in her outstretched hand. "Here are your keys. The silver one goes to the library door, and the brass one to your rooms." Sarah replied, "Thank you so much, Professor McGonagall." The Transfiguration teacher retreated with heel-clicking steps on the stone floor.

Just as McGonagall said, inside the cool, stone rooms her trunk sat waiting to be unpacked. To her right, a wall of colorful stained glass windows in diamond patterns shone beautifully in the sun. A simple but serviceable bed, not quite as big as the Muggle "queen" size bed she'd had in her flat, sat against the wall opposite a large fireplace. Wooden bookcases, a wardrobe, a short sofa, and a desk comprised the rest of the room's furnishings, and a small room containing a sink, shower, and toilet were off to the left. Before unpacking the heavy trunk, Sarah scribbled a quick note to her Muggle parents. They'd supported her decision to live fully within the wizarding community, but she knew they wouldn't mind a note of reassurance from her that she'd arrived safely with everything in order.

Later, with her clothing and robes put away, her books on their shelves (organized by her own personally devised scheme), and her few mementos and photographs arranged how she liked, Sarah decided to what to do with the remaining two hours before dinner. She'd spend all day tomorrow reacquainting herself with the library's collection--so a bit of rest and relaxation sounded good. She flopped on the bed and stared at the stone ceiling, too full of anticipation, hope, and expectation to fall asleep. So, I'm back. Hogwarts, she thought. Sarah could feel that, before very long, she'd be part of something unexpected--but what? And when? Having shunned Divination in favor of Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, and Astronomy, she'd never developed her tendency to having premonitions, either chalking them up to basic intuition or dismissing them as rubbish. So, for lack of any way to substantiate these feelings, she let the whole thing drop.

As Sarah lay there, she allowed her thoughts turn to Charlie Weasley--for the first time in ages. She knew the only reason she thought of him now was because she was at Hogwarts. She'd been a timid second year with a crush she had told no one about when he was a seventh year; when they met again, she'd been working at Flourish and Blotts for three years, and the five year age difference between twenty and twenty-five seemed not to matter. From a spur-of-the-moment lunch date grew a wonderful and fun two-and-a-half year, very long distance relationship. With Charlie being in Romania, they mainly communicated by owl post. When he did make it home, sometimes he came to her flat, but their favorite activities were camping, hiking, and making up for lost time among the pillows and sleeping bags. Despite his callused, dragon-blistered hands, she found him sensitive and gentle. She'd been to the Burrow several times during the summer holidays, and she enjoyed spending time with the Weasleys. She had loved Charlie Weasley, more than she ever imagined possible. Sarah never dreamed of being as close to anyone as she was with Charlie. Then, his younger brother Ron and his friends Harry and Hermione went back to Hogwarts for their fourth year…the Triwizard Tournament…Voldemort's return…and war. Charlie's work and resistance efforts kept him busy and in Romania. Just before Fred and George's seventh year…Ron's fifth…Ginny's fourth…Charlie sent Sarah an owl. The whole wizarding world was living in a state of uncertainty, so she understood why he couldn't say when he'd be back home. What she couldn't understand was why he added, "Live your life. Don't wait for me to return, because it may never happen. It's too dangerous right now, so don't risk sending me another owl. When it's safe, I'll write again." That had been just over two years ago. Not another word from Charlie since then. Now the war was over. While working at the Ministry, Sarah knew that Ministry wizards had received owls from all over the world almost daily. Guessing that the war was a convenient excuse to break things off, Sarah eventually reached the point where she assumed that Charlie would never be writing her again, and she knew he hadn't been killed…after all she did work in the Ministry with his father. After a year, she faced the fact that this particular relationship was over (though she had every intention of continuing her friendships with the rest of the Weasley family--she had, after all, worked closely with Mr. Weasley and Percy at the Ministry, and loved the twins, Ron, and Ginny dearly). At first, she'd been deeply disappointed with the way things turned out, but with the passage of time she made the decision to take his advice and live her life. Since then, there had been a few dates here and there, but nothing she felt like committing to. And as the fading late summer light muted the beautiful colors in the windows, she felt at peace with the path her life had taken. She was ready, open for something new. She sat up, straightened her robes, checked her shoulder-length chestnut hair (thankful that some of the thick curls had tamed themselves today), and started on her way to the Great Hall for dinner.

Chapter Two

Dinner was, as she expected, delicious, but had been held in a smaller dining room to the rear of the Great Hall. Sarah sat with her old head of house Flitwick at the long table. Dumbledore had introduced her at the beginning of dinner saying, "As you all know, at the end of last term Madam Pince retired from Hogwarts. Please welcome our new librarian and former student, Miss Sarah Craven." Most of her old teachers re-introduced themselves; she enjoyed catching up with them, telling them what she'd been doing the past seven years. As she chatted with Professor Vector, the headmaster approached her. "I believe Professor McGonagall informed you of my wish to speak with you after dinner. Could you join me in my office?"

Sarah sipped coffee and watched Dumbledore across his desk. "I apologize for the absence of a few of the other staff, tonight, Sarah. Professor Snape and Rubeus Hagrid are away on important business until tomorrow. Now, it's been seven years since you've been here. We are very pleased to have you join us, and it is my hope that your tenure here will be long and productive. I want to remind you that students need a signed note of permission from a teacher to borrow a book from the Restricted Section of the library." She smiled and nodded, "I understand, Headmaster." He continued mildly, "You have my full confidence in running the library. Madam Pince was here a very long time. I've no doubt you want to make some changes. Aside from the two things I've already mentioned, I trust you to make changes or not as you see fit." Sarah relaxed back into her chair and spoke quietly but easily, "I appreciate very much your confidence in me, and I'm looking forward to getting started. Thank you for the opportunity to come back here. It means a lot to me." Dumbledore likewise leaned back into his chair and smiled. "Miss Craven, it is you who will be doing us the greater service. I hope you have a pleasant first evening here. The students arrive the day after tomorrow." "Thank you for everything. Good night, Headmaster." She turned and left his office almost silently.

Back in her room, Sarah flicked her wand at the fireplace, pulled off her robes and settled in for the night. She'd brought her favorite quilt from the bed in her flat, and now the small room glowed in the firelight. She smiled at the feeling of the crisp sheets against her bare feet, and snuggled into the bed as she opened the detective mystery she'd been reading.

Next morning, she had worked her way through the Charm and Spell sections, and the Magical Creatures, Arithmancy, Transfiguration, Ancient Runes and Astronomy books. She was planning to work through the Divination, Herbology, Potions, and Defense Against the Dark Arts sections this afternoon. Sarah had been working in the Potions books for about an hour, and she now sat on the floor, looking over the ingredients for a complex long-lasting invisibility serum she'd analyzed and made for her N.E.W.T. in Potions. Her head snapped up when she heard a deep voice murmur, "Miss?" It took a second or two, but then it clicked. Closing the book as she jumped up, she extended her hand and smiled. "Professor Snape, Sarah Craven." In response to his puzzled look, she explained, "You were my Potions master when I was a student here. But I'm working here now. I'm taking Madam Pince's place here in the library." She was embarrassed to have her former teacher, now her colleague, see her in jeans, t-shirt, bare feet, and plain black robes. She felt her curly brown hair falling disheveled across her forehead and out of its hastily arranged ponytail. Snape's hand was warm and dry as he shook hers.

Snape's brow lifted and she saw the first glimmer of recognition in his eyes. Sarah Craven? The details were coming back to him bit by bit as he said slowly, "Yes, Miss Craven. Ravenclaw. I remember…grading your N.E.W.T. paper in Potions--quite excellent." Sarah flushed slightly at this, but said, "Thank you. Speaking of that, I was just looking at this invisibility serum I wrote about on that test."

She showed him the page in Modern Potions and Serums. But he seemed to be studying her. She was tall; not thin but average build, with pale clear skin, chocolate brown hair and eyes, a sweet smile. She wondered if, in the slight insecurity that always accompanied a new job, she just imagined her former Potions master staring at her strangely, or if he actually was.

Snape thought quickly, Damn it, Dumbledore! Why couldn't you hire another old prune like Pince? This one will have every boy from third year up tripping over themselves to get to the library. He managed to reply simply, "It's a complicated serum. Your analysis and facility in completing it were--well beyond what I would have thought even a seventh year of your ability to accomplish." He looked quickly from the book back to her.

She said quietly, "Thank you, Professor," and replaced the book back on the shelf. Remembering that he had come into the library, she apologized, "I'm sorry I'm so untidy--I wasn't necessarily expecting anyone to need the library today. Is there something I can help you with? Were you looking for something specific?"

He seemed to have forgotten why he came in. He looked once more at her with a steady gaze and replied, "No, not right now. Thank you, Miss Craven." He turned and was gone in a soft whoosh of black.

Great, she thought, really "professional" there, Sarah. Jeans and bare feet. He'll take me ever-so-seriously now! Oh well… She turned back to the bookshelf. She still had the rest of the Potions section and Defense Against the Dark Arts to go before dinner.

***************

Severus Snape didn't understand why he'd been so taken aback by the girl's presence in the library. He knew Madam Pince left at the end of last term, knew that Dumbledore was searching for her replacement. She had been one of his students--why couldn't he remember her? She was still quite young; it couldn't have been that long ago. He decided to check the school enrollment records to jog his memory. At least that bat Pince is gone, he thought. The school records showed Sarah Craven was Muggle-born, sorted into Ravenclaw on September first, nineteen eighty-three and finished Hogwarts in June nineteen ninety. Snape's long pale fingers traced over seven years of top marks, the only exception being the first term of her fifth year, when the marks slipped slightly, but were nevertheless exemplary. Tied with four other students in the school for top number of O.W.L.s at the end of her fifth year, and her N.E.W.T. levels were indeed remarkable. He remembered he'd been impressed with her work on the invisibility serum, and he could see it plainly there in the book--seven years of perfect marks in his own Potions classes. He thought back and concentrated: very faintly he recalled what must have been Sarah's sixth or seventh year Potions class, a tall pale young woman on the periphery of the classroom, who rarely spoke but made each potion, antidote, and serum with flawless results. Snape closed the records book and returned to the dungeon.

*****************

September first passed for Sarah in a whirl of activity, preparing for the students' arrival that evening, going through Madam Pince's old files, and getting her desk in the library in order. Professors McGonagall and Flitwick walked with her to the Great Hall for the start of term feast, and she seated herself with Flitwick on her right, Vector and Snape in the two places to her left. Further down the table sat Lupin, McGonagall, Dumbledore in the middle, Sinistra, Sprout, Madam Hooch, Madam Pomfrey, and the groundskeeper, Hagrid. Sarah listened to the other staff around her talking about their summer holidays, though she noticed Professor Snape sat with his arms folded over his chest, not adding to the conversation. Flitwick politely asked, "Miss Craven, how did you spend your summer?" She felt Snape's eyes on her as she responded, "I stayed on at the MIRC until last week, cleared out my flat and came here two days ago."

The MIRC, thought Snape. But that means she had access to highly guarded information. On just about everything the Ministry deals with. His musings were broken when the students came into the Great Hall with a buzz of chatter.

Sarah felt a slight pinprick in her stomach when she saw Ron and Ginny Weasley, but she was distracted by McGonagall bringing in the first years and the start of the Sorting Ceremony. Sarah and Flitwick cheered on the newly sorted Ravenclaws.

After the feast, Dumbledore stood to make his customary start of term announcements. Finally he said, "As you know, Madam Pince went at the end of last term to a well-deserved retirement. Please welcome your new librarian, Miss Sarah Craven." Polite applause followed as Sarah stood, smiled briefly and sat again. When the first years left with their house prefects, most of the staff and students rose to go. As she pushed her chair beneath the table, Sarah saw Ron, Ginny, and the boy she knew to be Harry Potter working their way toward her. She was genuinely glad to see them again--she hugged Ginny and stood on tiptoe to give Ron a quick peck on the cheek. Ginny gushed, "I was so happy when Mum told me you were taking Madam Pince's place in the library", and Ron said, "Sarah, this is my best friend, Harry." She shook Harry's hand, and saw out of the corner of her eye Professor Snape watching the small group. "Our friend Hermione--she's Head Girl--she's dying to meet you," continued Ginny enthusiastically.

How does she know the Weasleys? Snape wondered. There were no Weasleys in her year, and she's a Muggle-born. As he watched Sarah walk out of the Great Hall with Ron, Ginny and Harry, Snape reprimanded himself for noticing Sarah's lively dark eyes and how the glow of the candles shone off the warm highlights in her hair. Come off it. Anyway, she'll favor Ravenclaws…and Potter's group too, by the looks of it. With a slight moue of disgust, he strode out of the Great Hall.

Chapter Three

Sarah was sitting at her desk in the library after the feast. So that's Harry Potter? I know I'm from a Muggle family, but if anything I've read about is true…why does a boy, who was a one-year-old baby at the time, get the credit for leaving Voldemort powerless sixteen years ago? It's obvious he was saved by his mother--she gave her life to save his. And when so many others gave up their security, their sanity, their lives, to fight him? But, the boy was very polite, and had been Ron's best friend through thick and thin. He had, after all, lost both his parents. And she didn't get the sense that he necessarily enjoyed his status as "The Boy Who Lived." Well, I'll treat him as I would any other student. That's what he is, after all.

She bent to her desk again; she wanted to have the new library hours posted for the beginning of classes tomorrow. She smoothed a flat piece of parchment and picked up a wide-tipped quill, when she heard the click of the library door. Turning from the desk, she smiled as Professor Snape approached. "Can I help you, Professor?" she asked pleasantly.

His face was the standard half-accusatory frown she remembered from her school days as handed her a list of books and said, "Miss Craven, I need to have these books placed on reserve for my sixth year class."

She took the list from him and reviewed it as she spoke, "Will you be bringing them to the library as a class, or would you like me to put them somewhere specific so that they can come in and use them at their convenience?"

He answered stiffly, "No, I will not be wasting valuable laboratory time by marching a bunch of inattentive sixth years up here during class. I expect them to read on their own time."

Sarah blinked, but didn't miss a beat. "No problem, Professor. Just tell your class to ask me, and I'll have their reserved books on a separate shelf back there," she pointed her thumb to an empty bookcase behind her desk.

He met her eyes in a quick glance. "Thank you, Miss Craven. Good evening."

When he turned to look at her before closing the library door, she was writing with her head bent over the parchment. He thought scornfully: Stop mooning, Severus. If you're lonely it's your own fault. Loathsome bastard. You don't become a Death Eater, or a spy, for the companionship.

*****************

Sarah wrote on the parchment:

Library Hours

Monday through Thursday 7am-9pm

Friday 7am-6pm

Saturday 8am-12 noon

Sunday 12 noon-9pm

Any changes in hours will be posted.

Thank you, Miss Sarah Craven

There, hours are posted! She mentally ticked the task off her To Do list. On the bottom half of a sturdy piece of parchment, she wrote another sign for when she'd be away from the desk:

If you need assistance while I am away from the desk, please leave a message here for me. Students-please indicate your name and house so I can get the information to you. Teachers-I will deliver yours personally or leave it in the staff room. I will respond to your request shortly!

Thanks,

Miss Craven

Noticing that it was nine-thirty p.m., Sarah locked the library door and headed back to her rooms. In just two days she already felt comfortable and at home in these two small, cozy rooms.

She woke next morning to the beeping alarm of her Muggle watch. Since leaving Hogwarts, she'd become quite dependent on some kind of alarm to wake her up. 6:00 am. The library will need to be unlocked in an hour. She showered, did the several quick-drying charms her thick curly hair required, and chose a long pale yellow linen dress from her wardrobe. Pulling on the long sleeved black robe, she locked the door to her rooms. After unlocking the library door, she folded her "away from the desk" sign in half and stood it upright in the center of the desk. Though she was never very hungry in the mornings, she did appreciate a strong cup of coffee and a slice of toast with butter and jam.

With the exception of a visit from Ron and Ginny's friend Hermione Granger, Sarah's first day as Hogwarts librarian passed without incident. She found Hermione delightful, and very much like herself in the sense that she seemed very academically ambitious. One difference between them was immediately noticeable, though. In her school days, Sarah would never have been confident enough to just walk up and introduce herself to a teacher or staff member. The confidence she had gained over the past few years had been won through struggling to conquer her shyness; she instantly admired Hermione's self-assurance.

"Miss Craven, I'm Hermione Granger. Ron and Ginny have told me so much about you!"

Sarah beamed at the pretty seventh year, "Ginny mentioned you last night. So, Head Girl?"

Hermione flushed slightly, "Yes, and don't think I'll ever hear the end of it. Ron has teased me mercilessly ever since I found out."

Sarah gave Hermione a knowing look, "That's a Weasley man for you. Just be glad Fred and George are gone!"

Hermione laughed and asked, "Do you like being back at Hogwarts?" Sarah leaned back in her chair and answered, "So far, I'm loving it!"

Hermione then said more seriously, "Miss Craven, I want to ask you about something. Last year I read your name on a list…of students who got top N.E.W.T. levels."

Sarah had been hoping none of the students would have discovered this little bit of information, but replied, "Oh yes, that was me. What do you want to know?"

Hermione said tentatively, "Well, is there any kind of special preparation? What can I do to be as ready as possible for the N.E.W.T.s?"

Sarah reassured her, "You'll do great--you couldn't have been Head Girl without a lot of hard work already. Do exactly what you've been doing and you'll be fine."

A look of relief passed over Hermione's face. "Thanks, Miss Craven. I'll see you later. I've got to get to Herbology." Sarah waved a hand, "See you later, Hermione," and thought, Couldn't exactly tell her to do what I did--spend every spare minute of every day studying. The girl has a life…I didn't…

The rest of the week went by as she expected: students and teachers coming in and out, learning lots of new names and faces, helping with papers and projects, completely engrossed in her new job.

The second week on the job proved much like the first. She only saw the other teachers or staff members if they happened to come into the library or at meal times. Ron, Ginny, Harry, and Hermione came through to chat or do schoolwork several times a day. Professor Flitwick invited Sarah to the Ravenclaw common room for an impromptu party in her honor on Tuesday evening after the library closed. Ravenclaws swarmed around Sarah as they asked her about Hogwarts when she was a student, compared notes on teachers and classes, laughed and swapped stories, talked Quidditch, and drank a bottle or two of butterbeer. Around one o'clock in the morning, she covered a huge yawn with her hand and laughed, "Ok, this old working woman has to be up in a few hours to open the library. But this was so much fun, let's please do it again soon!" Despite the pleas of the remaining Ravenclaws in the common room, she waved and yawned, "'Night, everyone," on her way out. Drifting off to sleep she thought happily, That was wonderful…so good…to be back…at Hogwarts…

Next day on her way back to the library from lunch, Terry Boot and Padma Patil caught her up in the hall. When they passed through the library door, Sarah noticed Professor Snape sitting at one of the tables at the back.

Snape didn't look up from his writing. As they neared the table where he sat, he heard Sarah say, "Well, Terry, sometimes Professor Binns' papers can be hard to find sources for. I loved History of Magic but was always afraid to admit it to anyone. History of Magic and Potions were my absolute favorites. Yes…here it is." SLAM! "In case you may not have noticed, Miss Craven, I am trying to get some work done! Is this the library or not?" Snape said angrily. Sarah apologized quickly but looked directly into Snape's flashing eyes, "I'm sorry, Professor. I didn't see you sitting there. (Not entirely true, she thought.) It won't happen again."

She pulled a book from the shelf and handed it to Terry. Very softly she asked, "Ok, Padma, you needed what?"

Snape couldn't hear Padma's murmur but he heard Sarah whisper, "Advanced Transfiguration? Follow me." Snape replayed her words in his mind, "History of Magic and Potions were my absolute favorites."

When Terry and Padma left, she saw that Snape had gone too. This was literally the first time she'd ever been on the receiving end of one of Snape's famous outbursts. Of course she'd seen his harshness dealt in liberal doses to classmates who bungled a potion, and she groused along with her friends whenever one of them was the victim. But she loved Potions class so much that, for her anyway, these incidents were soon forgotten. As a few of the post-lunch crowd of students entered the library, she wondered, Was he always, well…that…sexy when he got angry in class? I wouldn't have noticed anyway, with my head constantly in the book or the cauldron…but he really does have beautiful eyes.

Chapter Four

Sarah had been looking forward to Saturday; she'd sleep in a little, open the library for a few hours, and then she planned to go down to Hogsmeade. Hermione had staked out her usual spot, the top of her head barely visible above the stack of books around her. Sarah helped a Slytherin girl she hadn't met yet, named Pansy. The girl was rather hopeless, but Sarah gave her the best possible books for her project. If she can't do anything with the books I gave her, she doesn't deserve to be in seventh year! Snape would be furious if he knew she was here asking me how to do this project. How could a girl that thick even get to seventh year?

At noon, she locked the library door and returned to her rooms. Since it was Saturday, she'd worn jeans, a plain black t-shirt with black robes, and a pair of Muggle running shoes. Grabbing a small wallet full of Galleons and Sickles, she dropped it into her backpack and put the bag around one shoulder. The Hogwarts grounds were ablaze with sunlight, the surface of the lake sparkled, the air was crisp, and she could see Quidditch players practicing out on the field, zooming high above it all.

Apparating just off the main street through Hogsmeade, she turned a corner and walked to the bookshop. An hour later, she walked out with Simple & Stylish Small Rooms With Lots of "Charm" (For Witches with Loads of Creativity but Short on Galleons!), A History of Magic Between The Two World Wars, and a map of Hogsmeade, and stuffed them all in her backpack. Ten minutes later, she stood at the doorway of "Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes." She approached the counter while one of the twins--Fred, or George, she couldn't tell from the back--was facing the opposite wall, rearranging something on a shelf.

Sarah said loudly, "Sir, I'll take every Ton-Tongue Toffee you have. Right now, chop-chop!"

"Ma'am?" George wheeled around with a look of complete bewilderment, but it was replaced with that wonderful smile she'd come to Hogsmeade for in the first place. She felt a quick tug at her heart--she'd really missed the twins. "Sarah! What are you doing here? I mean, Mum said you were going to work at Hogwarts…"

"It's Saturday, so I came to see you and Fred. So, have you troublemakers had lunch yet?"

"Oy, Fred. Get out here, it's Sarah," George yelled to the back of the shop.

A small POW! was followed by, "Bloody hell!" Fred appeared in the doorway of a back room, wiping some kind of black slime onto the apron he was wearing. "Still can't get that exploding quill to work," he grumbled as he removed the apron over his head. He threw his arms open wide with a sneaky little grin. "Hi, Sarah. Come over here and give your old Uncle Fred a big hug."

Fred winked at George as she put his arms around his neck and pecked his cheek. "You old bugger!" laughed George as he grabbed Sarah's arm and dragged her away from Fred.

"Oooh," she cooed in a mock flirtatious voice, "I do like a man who sees what he wants and takes it!" Straightening her robes she said, "Anybody care to join me for lunch at the Three Broomsticks?"

"Well, you're the first person in here all day. We're not expecting much business until the first students' weekend, anyway. Let's go!" said Fred.

As they walked arm-in-arm down the street to the Three Broomsticks, George gave a low whistle. "Don't look now, but it's everybody's favorite Potions teacher." Indeed, Severus Snape was emerging from "J.X. Peabody Apothecary", which bore another, smaller sign that stated: Fine Ingredients for Potions and Elixirs Since 1200.

Snape held a brown, pouchy sack in his hand. There she goes with another pair of Weasleys, he thought. Look how those two adolescent twits struggle to impress her. As the three of them drew closer to Snape, Sarah called cheerfully, "Good afternoon, Professor." Snape's eyes narrowed as he said stonily, "Miss Craven."

They passed and Sarah looked over her shoulder; Snape stood watching them. She met his eyes, but this must have startled him; his eyes widened and he turned quickly, his black robe billowing behind him. When she looked at George again, he had sucked his cheeks in and crossed his eyes, "Miss Craven," he said in a fake, hoarse whisper.

She laughed, "Oh, come on, he's not that bad! I mean, I used to be really quiet and kept to myself. And I turned out all right, mostly! He's probably just lonely…or really focused on his work."

Fred howled, "Not that bad! Given the choice between sitting through another one of his classes and, oh let's say, kissing a Dementor…I just don't know, it would be a toss-up!" As they entered the Three Broomsticks, George teased, "Aw, poor lonely Snapey-kins, down there in the dungeon all by his ickle lonesome." A couple of hours and several butterbeers later, Sarah rose and announced she needed to get back to Hogwarts. She warned, "Now Fred, you'll have to be George's designated walker. Honestly, I never knew a few butterbeers would knock him for such a loop." Fred smiled and confided as George swayed and giggled, "I've always been able to drink him under the table."

She hugged them both and made her way to the side street where she'd Apparated earlier. Whew! That whole time and nobody brought up Charlie. Thank goodness! At dinner, she and Flitwick discussed some books and parchment documents he needed her to bring to him on Monday. She saw Snape take a seat further down the table and begin eating. She suppressed a strange and unfamiliar urge to go sit beside him, talk to him. From her days reading through Ministry archives and records, she knew where the mask of bitterness and pain came from. No doubt he harbored a lot of guilt and defensiveness over his days as a Death Eater. But she also knew that the wizarding world owed Severus Snape a debt of gratitude--he'd worked exhaustively, usually behind the scenes or as an outright spy, against Voldemort and the Death Eaters in both wars. And sometimes, she knew, Snape had seen and--unfortunately--done some truly awful things in the 'line of duty.' He'd been through so much, at a relatively young age. And the skill and knowledge he brought to the Potions laboratory…simply put, Sarah greatly admired Professor Snape. But, just as she hid her fascination for History of Magic from her classmates, this too would probably go unspoken.

She decided to go for a walk after dinner. Reaching the Quidditch pitch, she climbed the stairs and sat in the empty stands. She closed her eyes and remembered the roar of the crowd in her ears as the announcer shouted, "It's over! Charlie Weasley has the Snitch for GRYF-FIN-DOR!" Her mind wandered to the last time she saw Charlie: the night after Harry Potter outsmarted the Hungarian Horntail in the first task of the Triwizard Tournament. He'd come to her flat after helping his friends get the dragons safely squared away for the night. He'd looked fantastic: his solid, muscular body, his hair slightly bleached by the sun to a goldish-red, a couple of day's worth of reddish stubble on his face. He'd put his arms around her waist and kissed her gently. Enthusiastically he had relayed the details of each champions' strategy for getting the golden egg; she'd sat on her couch laughing and completely adoring him as he re-enacted each champion's moves, pretending to wave a wand, or swooping around on an invisible broomstick. Charlie had fallen onto the couch and kissed her, "Oh, Sarah, I wish you could have been there. It was fantastic!" Later, after she and Charlie made love, she'd turned over in the dark and kissed the shiny scar she instinctively knew where to find on his muscular arm. He'd let out a long breath and said quietly, "Sarah?"

"Hmm?"

"One of these days…I'll come home to stay," he had whispered.

"Oh, god, Charlie. I hope so." Sarah had reached for his hand.

He'd sighed again, "When I do…will you think about…how does Sarah Weasley sound to you?"

Sarah had leaned up on one elbow, put her fingers in his hair and kissed his scratchy cheek, feeling his body relax beneath her touch. "I love you, Charlie. It sounds perfect."

Letting the memory fade, Sarah sighed. That was the last time I saw him. There were lots more owls that year, but then, THE letter that summer. Maybe I seemed too eager when he mentioned getting married? Maybe he wasn't ready? Maybe he met someone else? Well, doesn't matter now. You're moving on, remember?

She rose and moved silently along the grounds and into the castle. As she neared the library, she startled as she heard footsteps along the corridor. Frozen in place, she saw Professor Snape come around the corner. He hissed accusingly, "Miss Craven, what are you doing wandering the grounds at night?"

She stammered, "I...I just went for a walk around the lake. But what are you doing down here? And how did you know I was outside?"

He handed a book to her, one she recognized that she'd given to Pansy that morning. "One of my students says this isn't what she needs," he said quickly.

Sarah recovered her wits from the initial scare and said crisply, "Is there anything else, Professor?"

He backed away and murmured, "No, but you want to be more careful, walking around alone at night." He turned and disappeared.

As she entered her rooms, she wondered, Is that his own weird way of trying to be concerned? He seriously needs to relax. Besides, what does he think I am--a first year?

 

Chapter Five

September made way for October, and Sarah was pretty well established into a routine. She spent about one night a week, usually Thursday, with the Ravenclaws in the common room. Saturday afternoons when the library was closed, she either walked out to the Quidditch pitch to watch the Ravenclaw team practice, took a stroll around the lake, or visited Hogsmeade. The first weekend of October was coming to a close, and Sarah opened the library for its regular Sunday hours. She was behind on several requests, the notes having piled up on her desk over Friday and Saturday. There were about twenty requests to fill, so she spent most of the afternoon roving the stacks. Being quite busy, she had no way of knowing that Snape had come into the library while she was retrieving something for Professor McGonagall from the Restricted Section. Another request note in hand, she turned down the aisle where the last range of Potions books were kept. She saw Ron sitting against the wall pulling at his bright red hair with his fingers--neither of them knew the Potions master was behind the heavy wooden shelves directly across from them.

"Ron?" At the sound of Sarah's voice, Snape froze and listened.

"Sarah, uh…I mean, Miss Craven. I don't know if I'm looking at the right book!"

"What are you looking for?"

"An antidote for a paralyzing spell. That greasy git Snape has given us all different potions to look up--doesn't want us helping each other," Ron muttered.

"Ron, don't say that about Professor Snape!" Sarah scolded gently. "He probably gave you all different potions to work on so you could cover more ground in class than if everybody just worked on one!" Precisely, thought Snape on the other side of the book shelf.

"You sound just like Hermione…and he's still a git!" Ron whispered sharply.

"First of all, I have noticed some similarities between myself and Hermione, so I take that as a compliment! Secondly, Ron…do you realize how much you owe to Professor Snape?" Sarah asked seriously.

"He owes me--hundreds of hours of my life over the last six years that I want back!" Ron hissed.

"Ron Weasley, listen to me," Snape heard Sarah whisper. "You have no idea of the work Professor Snape has done in the wars against Voldemort. He made it possible for nearly every last Death Eater to be destroyed. He sacrificed everything to stay loyal to Dumbledore. In fact, if it weren't for Snape, there probably wouldn't have been a Hogwarts for you to come back to this year! If it weren't for Snape, who knows how many more people would've lost their lives? Look, I can't tell you everything I know. So he's not the friendliest, most jolly man on earth? You wouldn't be either if you'd been through what he has. I know he's not exactly your favorite teacher, but he is a damn fine Potions master, probably the best in the world at what he teaches. I can't tell you how fortunate we are to have such an amazing man on our side. You don't have to like him, but you'd respect him too, if you knew how much he's done to protect us, how hard he fought for us."

Snape's mind reeled as he listened on the other side of the shelf. She's defending me? He could hardly believe it. He leaned his back against the wall. How much does she know?

Ron choked, "He couldn't do anything for Percy."

Sarah said lovingly, "Oh, Ron. Nobody can help Percy-- or Mr. Bones, or the Longbottoms, or any of the others." After a pause, she said gently, "You still have your mum and dad, Ginny and your brothers, and Harry and Hermione." Snape stood still as stone and continued to listen.

Ron sniffed and said, "Sarah? What happened…with you and Charlie?" She was connected with Charlie Weasley? Snape wondered, waiting for his answer.

"Well, let me ask you this. When was the last time your family had an owl from Charlie?" Sarah said, more sharply this time.

"Right before Ginny and I came back to Hogwarts. I dunno since then. Maybe Mum has had one. Why?"

She asked Ron, "Did Charlie ever write you, during the war, to say that his situation was too dangerous, and not to contact him?"

Ron was quiet for a moment. "Yes, right after the Triwizard Tournament. Then a few months later, he wrote back and said it was okay to owl him again."

Sarah's tone kept its sharp edge. "Ok. Charlie told me the same thing after the Tournament, that he'd let me know when I could contact him again. Only I never heard from him again. I was so afraid for him, but he specifically said it was too dangerous for me to owl him. So I waited. But I never heard anything again." She sighed, "I did love your brother, Ron. I don't know what happened. But Charlie himself--in that last letter--told me not to wait for him, to go ahead and live my life. And that's what I've done."

Ron was quiet again, then said, "He's been hurt. We think he's coming home."

She asked quickly, "Hurt? What do you mean? When?"

Ron seemed a bit angry. "I mean his left arm was ripped to shreds by a dragon. He can't use it--it's just one big scar! It happened about a year ago. He's been in hospital."

She sighed heavily, "Oh my god. I'm really sorry, Ron. That's terrible. Fred and George didn't tell me. Please tell him I hope…" she broke off.

She sat there a few minutes longer with Ron, then asked, "Do you want me to get the book you need for that paralysis antidote? I know where it is."

Sarah turned to go down the next row of shelves and saw Snape standing against the wall, just on the other side from where she and Ron had been sitting. She stopped with a shocked look, then walked on toward him. She was almost as tall as he was, and they were at eye level. She stopped directly in front of him and whispered, "I suppose you heard all of that."

His almost black eyes were highlighted with spokes of hazel-brown. Her eyes traveled over his face, his gently furrowed brow, the tiny lines around his eyes, and moist pale lips. She resisted putting her fingertips out to touch them. He swallowed and said softly, "Yes, I did."

She abruptly turned to the shelf, pulled out Regenerative Antidote Potions, and glanced once more at Snape, whose expression was one of disbelief. "Got it, Ron. I'll come around," she called.

Does she believe those things she said about me? Snape wondered incredulously. He stood stunned against the wall for a few minutes before he willed his legs to carry him back to his dungeon.

After leaving the book with Ron, she continued working on the stack of request notes on her desk. At nine p.m., she finally shooed out the last few students and locked the library. Five minutes later, she fell exhausted into bed. Her mind swirled with so many things: "He's been hurt…his left arm ripped to shreds….think he's coming home…" "One of these days, I'll come home to stay….."

***************

Snape spent the evening going over in his mind what he overheard Sarah saying to Ron Weasley in the library. "How hard he fought…what he's been through…damn fine Potions master…such an amazing man on our side." What exactly does she know about my spying, about the Death Eaters? How much of what I've done for the school, for Dumbledore, does she know? And she's been involved with Charlie Weasley. That explains why she's so friendly with the others. But she said that was over, that she wasn't waiting for him. As he closed his eyes to sleep, he saw her face before him when she confronted him in the library. Her long brown hair pulled back with a few untidy strands framing her face, pale skin, brown eyes flecked with green and gold, soft full cheeks, and perfectly curved lips.

****************

That night, Sarah dreamed of a Quidditch match in which dragons attacked, clawed, and shot fire at the players. As one of the players fell off his broomstick to the ground, she reached for the hand of the person next to her. When she turned, she saw the hand she held belonged to Severus Snape.

Chapter Six

While getting ready next morning, Sarah decided not to worry too much about the fact that Professor Snape had overheard her conversation with Ron yesterday. First of all, I didn't give Ron any classified Ministry information. What little I did tell him, he could have found out by asking his father anytime. As for the stuff about Charlie--it was never a secret that we were together. So he overheard that we broke up. Big deal. Stop worrying. Snape doesn't care about your love life, or lack of it!

It was a usual Monday. Mid-afternoon, she took the requested books and parchments up to Flitwick's classroom. Returning to her desk, she saw laying there a note sealed with some type of waxy substance. "Miss Craven?" Mandy Brocklehurst was waiting to borrow two very large, heavy-looking books.

"Oh, yes, Mandy. Sorry! How was your weekend?" she chattered as she checked the books out.

"Fine, thanks. See you later," Mandy called back, struggling with the books and her backpack.

Sarah picked up the sealed note, and tore it open:

Miss Craven-

After your touching speech to young Weasley yesterday, I think it is safe to assume we have a few things to discuss. If it is convenient, and agreeable to you, please come to my office this evening after your duties in the library are finished. Before you reach the Potions classroom, there is a set of four carved stones on the wall, each one bearing a symbol of the four houses. Tap your wand on the stone with the Slytherin serpent carved into it. The door to my office will appear.

Professor Severus Snape

Sarah sighed deeply. Is he angry with me? I didn't say anything I shouldn't have said to Ron!

Hermione, along with Terry Boot and Stewart Ackerley, accompanied her from the library to dinner in the Great Hall. Stewart was starting his second year as Ravenclaw's seeker, and the four were excitedly talking about the upcoming first match in about three weeks, Ravenclaw versus Hufflepuff. As Sarah took the only available seat at the staff table on the end next to Hagrid, her eyes shot involuntarily in Snape's direction. He saw her and raised an eyebrow in a cryptic sort of greeting. She smiled at Snape, and as she leaned in toward Hagrid and began talking to him, her gaze remained a moment longer on the Potions master before shifting her attention to the huge groundskeeper on her right.

The rest of the evening flew by as Sarah spent most of it helping some third year Hufflepuffs with a group project in Muggle Studies. After closing the library, she went to her rooms. She desperately wanted to change out of the navy pants and jacket she'd worn all day. I'll just go ahead and change--I'm not trying to impress anyone! She shed the working clothes, found a comfortable pair of jeans, and one of her brother's university sweatshirts. I'd better wear my robe. I am going to a colleague's office. The drafty hallway in the dungeon was lit by torches in brackets. Knowing she was near the Potions classroom, she began looking for the carved stones. Arranged in a square were four separate stone carvings. Sarah drew her wand out and tapped the carved serpent. A large wooden door appeared in the wall, and she knocked.

"Good evening, Professor," she said when the door swung open. Snape stepped aside and murmured, "Come in, please."

He wore a black shirt and trousers, his feet in flat-soled black boots. No robe. He looks…incredible. She was annoyed at the sudden tight loops her stomach seemed to be doing, and hoped the jelly-like feeling in her knees would correct itself on her next step. They stood across from one another, and Snape said briskly, "We are not in the company of students, and you are no longer one. If you will call me Severus, I will call you Sarah."

"Sure," she said quietly. "Please, sit down," he motioned to the identical armchairs that sat facing the crackling fireplace.

Sarah took the soft, worn-looking brown leather armchair turned slightly away from the fire, leaving the other one that faced it directly for him. She surveyed his office which, with bottles of strange-looking potions ingredients, looked like a combination laboratory and living room.

He sat and produced a tray with two pottery mugs on the large trunk in front of the fire, doing double duty as a sort of table. "Will you have coffee or tea?" he asked politely, looking not at her but the tray. "Coffee, please, with cream and a bit of sugar."

He pointed his wand into one of the mugs, and then pointed into the other, producing black coffee. She took up the coffee and sipped it. "Thank you." She paused, "S-Severus, you wanted to discuss something?" It felt strange to call him by his first name.

He now stared into the fire; she saw the flames flicker in his eyes. "Yes. I do. I realize that in your…talk with Ron Weasley yesterday, you did not divulge any privileged information about my past activities…"

Sarah interrupted quickly, "Well, when I went to work for the Ministry, I signed confidentiality agreements that I'm bound to for the rest of my life. And I intend to honor that completely…Severus."

He turned his gaze away from the fire to her. He looked almost hurt. "I know," he said slowly, "and I was not accusing you of breaking that confidentiality." She wanted to reach out and brush away the long lock of black hair that had fallen across his cheek. God, the way he's looking at me…

He turned back to stare at the fire. "Considering the fact that you believed yourself and Weasley to be alone in the library, your integrity in the matter is hardly in question." When he looked at Sarah again, he wore an expression of calm resignation. He said flatly, "What I now understand is that you know very much more about me than almost anyone, with the exception of Albus Dumbledore." He seemed to be waiting for some kind of response.

Sarah sipped her coffee, and felt his gaze penetrate her. She tried to ignore the dizzy sensation that waved over her as she said neutrally, "The Ministry's files on you are quite complete." What is he trying to do to me?

Snape leaned to rest his head on the back of his chair and let out a hollow laugh, "Yes, I'm sure they are." After a moment he asked, "So I can assume you know…how much?"

Here we go, she thought. "The short version is you can assume that I know a fair amount about your family background, and probably just about everything you did in both wars with Voldemort. What you did when you were part of the Death Eaters; how you risked your life to turn away from that and came to Dumbledore; all your work in this last war."

His eyes fixed on the ceiling as he said, "Quite clearly you know more about me than I do you." Lifting his head he looked at Sarah squarely and added, "That puts you at an advantage."

"What advantage?" she asked, slightly angrily. She moved to the edge of her seat in protest at his words. "I wasn't aware there was a situation in which either of us had an advantage. You were my teacher; I was your student. Now we both work here at Hogwarts. My goal in being here is to help the students, not reveal confidential information about you!" Is he so self-centered to think that I was hired here to tell his secrets?

"No, Sarah. I am merely stating that I know very little about you in proportion to your knowledge of my past. Please don't take offense," he said quietly.

She pushed back into her chair. A gentle, self-mocking laugh escaped her lips as she looked at the fire, "You want to hear about my life? It's not exactly the stuff of adventure stories." She stared at the fire, and heard him swallow a gulp of coffee.

He frowned at the contents of his mug, and continued, "I used to have so much anger. I hated…for years. I despised myself and almost everyone else. It was hard to remain so hostile for so long, but it was all I knew how to be. I grew very bitter. Then, when Voldemort came back after the last Triwizard Tournament, I had no choice but to join forces with some of the very people I'd loathed for so long. But when it was all over, there was so much devastation and loss. I was too tired to hate anymore. Sarah, no one has ever spoken about me the way you did to Ron Weasley yesterday. I need to know if you believe those things you said. I…I just want to know…about you." He looked as if saying this was almost killing him. He seemed vulnerable and scared, being this honest.

She moved from the chair to sit on the trunk in front of him. She covered his hands with hers around the cup. "Severus, I believe everything I said to Ron, and more. You fought so hard for what was right. You gave so much of yourself. And I know it wasn't easy for you. You never feel worthy of Dumbledore's, or anyone's, trust. But you're a great man, whether you believe it or not." He looked broken and defeated; he closed his eyes and whispered, "I…I'm not…" She was unaware of her actions as they happened; they felt reflexive and natural. She covered his lips with her thumb, taking his face in her hands, and kissed his forehead saying, "It's okay, Severus. You don't have to explain, I know everything. It's okay." What am I doing? "I'm sorry. Oh my god, I'm so sorry." She tried to pull away, but his hand circled her wrist as he kissed her thumb and the palm of her hand. He released her hand, but his dark eyes looked uncertain. She apologized again, and covered her face with her hands and moaned, "You used to be my teacher, and now I'm working with you, and what the hell was I thinking?"

Gently he placed a hand on her arm and said, "Sarah." She looked at him. The corners of his mouth formed an almost imperceptible smile. She breathed deeply and pulled herself together. "Okay," she said, relaxing.

His elbows rested on his knees, with his hands folded in front of him. He gave her a smirking half-grin, "Now before you tell me your scintillating life story, may I offer the opinion that Charlie Weasley is a fool?"

"Whoa, cowboy. You're getting way ahead of me in the story!" she laughed. Snape's eyes shone brightly in the fire but, surprisingly, radiated patience and gentleness. Sitting on the trunk in front of him, she crossed her feet beneath her and began. "Okay. You asked for it, so here goes. I was born in 1972 to Samuel and Mary Craven, upstanding and respectable--you guessed it--bookshop owners in Gloucester. I was brought home to a seven year old brother, Gregory, who was sure that my bumbling parents had brought the wrong baby sister home from the hospital, as I cried too much. Though growing up I was extremely shy, otherwise my childhood felt perfectly normal to me. That was, until I started making the odd thing happen around the house or at school. My parents were a bit confused when I received my letter from Hogwarts, but they were happy for me, and they have always been totally supportive of my life in the wizarding world. When I arrived here in eighty-three, I became a Ravenclaw. Gregory went to university in British Columbia when I was in second year. He's still there, teaching in Vancouver. Of course, in school I was still very shy and nothing changed, though I did manage somehow to make friends in every house. After school, I worked at Flourish and Blotts for three years. Out of necessity I began to get over my shyness. Got a flat in London. From there I went to the MIRC; stayed there four years. Now, I'm here. And yes, Charlie Weasley was back there somewhere, floating around in ancient history." She smiled lamely. "Told you it wasn't very exciting."

His eyes still shone and he spoke quietly, "But I wanted to know. Thank you for telling me." As he drank, he looked over the rim of the mug at her. He closed his eyes again. "So. We both know where we stand." "Right!" she said brightly, standing and dropping back into the other armchair. But what does that mean--where's he going with this? He asked casually, "Were you planning to go to the first Quidditch match?" Sarah's face glowed in the firelight. "Absolutely! Stewart Ackerley got the newest Firebolt model for his birthday. I cannot wait!"

Snape seemed tense; he stared at the fire. "Sarah, my work doesn't afford me much opportunity for friendship--companionship. I would be honored if…would you consider accompanying me to Hogsmeade after the match? For dinner?" He held his breath, not daring to look at her. "Well, sure. Sounds nice." She smiled at him, though she felt tired and still embarrassed over her earlier spontaneous burst of--something--affection?

She got to her feet and said, "So, we have plans. Look, I'm really sorry about earlier; I don't know what happened. And now," she stretched and yawned, "I'm going to have to plead exhaustion. I'm really tired. Thanks so much." Before she realized it, Snape had taken her hand and softly kissed the back of it.

"Thank you, Severus. Good night," she whispered. He opened the door for her and said, "Good night, Sarah."

She turned the next corner after leaving his office and slumped against the stone wall. How could I have been such an idiot? Kissing him like that? I mean, I really wanted to, but you just don't do that! He used to be my teacher! But….on the other hand, I am twenty-five years old and I'm not a student any more! But am I ready for this?

Snape closed the door to his office and leaned back against it. With the exception of meals at the Hogwarts staff table, he hadn't had dinner (or any other kind of social engagement, for that matter) with a woman since before he began teaching. Playing double agent didn't exactly leave loads of room on the calendar, either. Now what? he wondered.

Chapter Seven

The next three weeks passed in flurries of activity for Sarah: students needed help with papers and projects, teachers had their own requests and research interests, she continued her weekly visits with the Ravenclaws, and arranged with Dumbledore to start a group for students who wanted to volunteer in the library. The excitement over the year's first game of Quidditch was at fever pitch throughout the school. Sarah had watched the Ravenclaw team practicing on Saturday afternoons, and she was as excited as any student.

She and Severus seemed to have an unspoken understanding that their evening in his office, and their upcoming plans, weren't to be discussed openly. She caught herself watching him, and enjoyed the way his long arms and legs moved with gracefully fluid movement. And his eyes, those deep and beautiful eyes caught her off guard with every glance. These moments were usually followed by an immediate self-scolding: Come on, Sarah. Get over yourself! Not wanting to make a fool of herself, on the Wednesday before the Quidditch game, she wrote him a note and slid it under his office door while everyone else was at lunch. It read:

 

Severus-

Hoping that everything is still on for Saturday after the match. I'm looking forward to it. See you at the game?

Sarah

When she took her place at the staff table for dinner, she saw that his usual spot was empty. Uh-oh. Maybe he got my note and changed his mind about Saturday, she worried. Her worries were relieved, however, when he appeared in his regular seat a few minutes later wearing that unbearably (in her opinion, anyway) adorable smirk, like he'd just thought of a good joke but was keeping it to himself. As dinner was finishing up, Hermione approached Sarah and asked for some help with an essay she was writing for her Study of Ancient Runes class. "There's just one more source I need, but I was having trouble locating it." Sarah shot a look in Snape's direction, but he appeared deeply involved in conversation with Professor Sinistra, so on to the library she went.

After helping Hermione and a table full of Slytherins on various assignments, she returned to her desk. Another sealed piece of parchment lay on her desk. She broke the seal and read:

Sarah-

I appreciate your discretion as it concerns Monday three weeks ago, as well as our plans for Saturday. I will be at the match, sitting in the staff box. Until then-

Severus

She ran a fingertip over the ink on the parchment and allowed herself the thought: I think I'm falling in love with "everybody's favorite Potions teacher."

Two days later on Friday, the day before the Quidditch match (and her date with Severus), Sarah was surprised to receive a letter during the breakfast owl post. Though it had been over two years ago, she recognized Charlie's handwriting immediately. Why now? What does he want? She was determined that this unexpected correspondence would not disrupt her breakfast, and she let the letter lay there and waited until returning to her rooms to read it. Her stomach swam as she tore the letter open and surveyed Charlie's small, neat writing.

Sarah,

How are you? I know it's been a long time. I hope you've been well and that you're enjoying your new assignment at Hogwarts. Fred and George said they saw you in Hogsmeade. Ginny and Ron tell me you're doing a great job there in the library. Ron also told me about your conversation with him. About us. Sarah, I'm sorry things didn't work out for us. You are a beautiful, sweet woman. I know Ron told you about my left arm. While I was in hospital, my nurse Ana and I fell in love. We plan to be married, and then move back to England from Romania permanently. Ron didn't tell you because he didn't know about it then. I have just this week told my family. I wish you all the joy and happiness in the world. You will always be special to me and my family.

Sincerely,

Charlie Weasley

Sarah didn't know what to feel. She'd been assuming for the past two years that nothing remained between her and Charlie, but she couldn't deny that seeing it written in a letter from him still hurt. She couldn't decide whether she was relieved at finally having a sense of closure, touched by his sweet words, or furious and ashamed at the same time at being patronized like a discarded family pet: "You will always be special to me and my family." My god, I don't need his pity! What did Ron tell him, that I'm sitting around sobbing my eyes out over him or something? She didn't care, not really, that he was getting married. And she supposed that hearing it directly from him was better than from anyone else. After a good, few minutes' cathartic cry, she felt relaxed and resolved: I'll make the best of what's happening now; and what's happening right now is that very intense, very intelligent, very sexy Potions master.

Next morning, Quidditch was the only thing on anybody's mind. Library hours were shortened that day due to the match, and the few who popped in that morning got what they needed and left as quickly as they'd come. Sarah, though she felt silly about it, debated over what to wear. It is a date, after all, isn't it? Anyway, I know what he'll be wearing--black! Eventually she decided, because of the cool November weather, on khaki pants with a close-fitting navy blue velvet sweater (she had to show her support for Ravenclaw some way) and brown mules with her heavier winter robe. Her hair was behaving unusually well today (she hated using hair potion) so she brushed it out and left it long, falling past her shoulders. She caught up with Mandy Brocklehurst walking with a cluster of Ravenclaws on their way out to the Quidditch pitch. They chattered excitedly, and when she reached the staff box, Sarah waved goodbye to the others.

Ascending the stairs, she saw that Snape stood near the end of a row, talking to Professor Sprout behind him. She greeted the other teachers, and walked casually up to greet Sprout and Snape. As the match began, she and Snape settled on the bench together, and Sarah realized her emotions were doing battle within her. Quidditch always reminds me of Charlie. But Charlie's getting married, and it was over long before that anyway! I'm here with Severus, and I think this could really be something special if I give it a chance. I think I'm actually falling for Severus and I want to see where this goes. This is what's real, right now--not in the past.

All eyes were on the field during the match, so there wasn’t much time for conversation before Stewart grabbed the Snitch Yes! and won the game for Ravenclaw! Though nobody else knew she was at the match "with" Severus (it had looked like they casually met in the stands), Sarah didn't think he'd mind her clapping and cheering on her old house team, and she hugged tiny Professor Flitwick in the row ahead of her. When the cheering subsided and the crowd began to file out, she turned to Severus. "Ready to go whenever you are!"

On the other side of the pitch, Severus stopped and said, by way of a joke, "Where are my manners?" extending his bent elbow for Sarah to take.

She smiled, happy that she was tall enough to be able to look at him on eye level. She wrapped his offered arm with both of hers and asked, "So, we're headed to the Three Broomsticks?"

He scowled, "Absolutely not. That place will be noisy and crawling with all sorts of things. How can we talk if goblins or hags or any other creature imaginable is slopping around in their food and firewhiskey at the next table? No, we're going to a quieter place around the corner from the apothecary."

She looked at him as they walked arm in arm; he strode purposefully, keeping his eyes straight ahead and--for some reason--Sarah felt the odd urge to kiss the long nose that was the predominant feature of his face. She did exactly that when they reached the outer gates of the Hogwarts grounds.

"What was that for?" Snape asked confusedly.

"I just wanted to…" she smiled simply, leaning against the stone wall of the gate.

He faced her, put one arm round her waist and the other hand resting on her shoulder blade. She circled her arms round his neck and put her fingers through his soft black hair. His eyes smoldered, burning into hers.

"Kiss me, Severus" she whispered. Not even when she and Charlie made love had Sarah ever felt anything so intense, so overwhelming, so real. His arms, though not as muscular as Charlie's, were strong; she touched his face and hair as they kissed.

But he pulled away and said urgently, "Not here. We're still too close to the school." He relaxed a bit, "Let's Apparate, have our dinner, and we can pick this up later?" Sarah nodded, quite tongue-tied after their kiss.

The dinner was lovely, the place as quiet as he promised. On the tabletop, Sarah's hand rested on Snape's. After they finished, he stared across the small table at her, and she asked, "Severus, who is it that you don't want to know about us seeing each other? The students, or Dumbledore, who?"

He answered thoughtfully, "Dumbledore won't care, as long as it doesn't interfere with our work. In fact, he probably knows we were together in my office a few weeks ago--he knows everything that happens in that castle. Hell, he probably knows we're here right now. No, it's not Dumbledore. The other staff members might find it…irregular, but they won't give us any trouble. And no doubt most of them probably think a 'girlfriend' would do me some good," he sneered. "I do think, however, that it will be easier for both of us if the students did not find out."

"You're probably right," she agreed. "But I have another question. Okay, you know I grew up a Muggle, and I didn't come to Hogwarts until eighty-three." She continued quietly, looking around to make sure nobody was sitting near, "I've read all sorts of documents and reports at the Ministry about the first war against Voldemort. So many people gave up so much to fight him. So why does the magical world give one-year-old Harry Potter the credit for defeating him? I mean, he's a nice enough kid, but he was obviously heavily protected by his mother."

Snape covered his eyes with his hand, sighed heavily and interrupted, "I don't know. That's what I've been wondering for the last sixteen years. You say he's 'a nice enough kid' but believe me, he's broken every rule on the books. Dumbledore coddles him. And yes," he continued testily, "I'm aware I've been very hard on him and his friends, but he ought to be treated the same as any other student." He paused, then said wearily, "And I know I have an obligation to James and god knows I've honored it! I've saved that brat's skin more times than I care to count." He looked tired and beaten down.

She laced her fingers into his and said in a soothing tone, "Hey…we don't have to talk about this. It's okay. Sorry I brought it up. Look, why don't we head back to the castle?"

As they were leaving the tiny restaurant, she took Severus' hand and wondered: Is this the 'something unexpected' I felt when I started back in August? It felt good to walk the now dark lanes of Hogsmeade with him, his warm smooth hand in hers. The night was chilly and when they reached the outskirts of the village, she hugged into his robes. Her lips pecked his cheek lightly

"Cold?" he murmured as his arms enfolded her beneath her robe.

"Yeah, a little" she said. "But I also like being close to you." After a few minutes, holding him, Sarah playfully teased, "So, would the rest of the staff be right? Am I your 'girlfriend'?" His face was pale and bluish in the moonlight.

He smirked good-naturedly, "Call it what you wish, dear. Neither of us exactly have a lot of competition up at the castle, do we? Apart from the students, you and I are the youngest people there." When they reached the grounds outside the castle, they walked around the lake hand in hand, talked, and laughed. She loved the sound of his deep, rich laugh. Once inside the castle, he walked her to the library door. She faced him and whispered, "Severus," but before she could speak, he covered her mouth with a silent kiss. In his arms, Sarah felt safe. At home.

Chapter Eight

By the end of November, Sarah and Severus had decided they didn't want to keep their secret anymore; they wanted nothing more than to be together. Sarah wanted a small, no-fuss wedding at her parent's house, which naturally suited the reticent Potions master just fine. She also wanted to surprise everyone by coming back from the Christmas holiday no longer Miss Sarah Craven, but Mrs. Sarah Snape. The only person they told, besides Sarah's family and Severus' mother, was their boss, Dumbledore. He seemed genuinely pleased, but not surprised, and gave them his blessing: "Having a married couple on the staff will certainly be preferable to the sneaking around you two have been doing!"

She'd never forget the night Severus proposed to her. It was the last weekend of November, and he visited her in her rooms behind the library. She'd just finished a mug of hot cocoa when he took her hand. Never taking his eyes from hers, he drew her hand up to his lips and kissed her palm. Still holding her hand, he propped his head on his other hand and closed his eyes for a long time. She thought he'd fallen asleep when finally spoke, "Sarah, I've never met anyone like you. You understand me, more than I thought anyone ever would. You know the things I've done and yet you choose to see something good in me, something I can't even see." His dark eyes met hers in the firelight. "Sarah, I never want to be without you. I love you. Please marry me?"

**********

Ron, Ginny, and Harry visited at Hermione's house during the Christmas holidays. Three days before they were due back at school, they were surprised to receive an owl from Hogwarts. "We don't usually get post from the school during Christmas," Hermione puzzled. Four jaws dropped as they read:

The Faculty and Staff of

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Are Proud To Announce The Marriage of

Miss Sarah Craven--Hogwarts Librarian

and

Professor Severus Snape--Potions Master

At the Craven Home in Gloucester--Christmas Eve Day

Happy Holidays!

Severus and Sarah's marriage kept the school abuzz for the month of January, after which the commotion caused by a surprise wedding died down. Things got very much back to normal: life at Hogwarts went on, Quidditch matches were played, Snape taught his Potions classes, and Sarah ran the library. She kept her former bedroom behind the library as an office. Unless he had Slytherin house business to attend to in the evenings, Snape stayed in the library every evening with his wife, marking papers or reading. After the library closed, they went together to his head of house quarters in Slytherin.

The next few months slipped happily by for Severus and Sarah Snape, and soon it was time for the current group of seventh years to graduate. Hermione and Terry Boot tied Sarah's seven-year-old N.E.W.T. record; Harry and Ron performed admirably well themselves.

At the ceremony, Sarah sat in robes of blue with Professor Flitwick and the Ravenclaws who were graduating. After the ceremony, she joined her husband and found herself being dragged by the arm to meet Hermione's parents. The Grangers were bunched up in a circle with the Weasleys, and she noticed a slightly ironic look on Severus' face when he saw Charlie. Sarah introduced herself to the Grangers, and they chatted awhile about Hermione's upcoming training to be a wizard doctor. Severus was a few yards away, talking with a group of Slytherin parents.

Molly Weasley caught her eye, and she rushed over to Sarah, "Congratulations, dear. I'm so happy for you!" Sarah blushed and said, "Thank you, Mrs. Weasley." She waved to Fred, George, and Bill, and reached up to hug Ron, "Good luck, Ron. You'll be great in Magical Games and Sports at the Ministry." Charlie stood there alone, looking extremely uncomfortable. Sarah found to her surprise that she felt a little sorry for him, and wondered where his fiancée Ana was.

She extended her hand and said, "Nice to see you, Charlie." He shook her hand politely and responded, "Congratulations, Sarah. How's married life treating you?" She looked over his shoulder at Severus and smiled, "Very well, thanks. So when's your big day?" Charlie looked up at the sky and said, "August. Ana's just getting everything squared away and spending some time with her family in Romania before moving here." She noticed Severus saying his good-byes to the Slytherin families. "Well, best of luck to you and Ana. Good to catch up with you again," Sarah said. She breathed a sigh of relief and thought, That was very adult of us both. Thank goodness!

Sarah held Severus' hand as they ascended the castle stairs: home, where they belonged, together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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