by Victoria P.

He knows they hate and fear him. He expects that, even encourages it. He knows he'll never win their love, and wouldn't want to if he could. He doesn't even want their respect; the appearance of it is enough. As long as their fear keeps them in line and away from danger, it is enough.

He wonders if he's up to the task, up to guiding these children so they don't make the same mistakes he made. He fears that he's not, that he'll fail, and break not just the trust they and their parents have placed in him as a teacher, but the faith Dumbledore has shown in him by allowing him to teach at all.

He forces himself not to cringe when Longbottom begins pouring ingredients into a cauldron, and again questions his fitness to teach these children -- all of these children. He hates children; as a child he'd sought out the company of adults. Twenty years ago, if someone had told him he'd be teaching at Hogwarts, he'd have jeered. The idea was ludicrous then, and even more ridiculous now. And yet, here he is.

The mark on his arm itches even when hidden; it separates him from them the way Potter's scar raises him above the crowd.


He stares at the boy, bent over his cauldron and whispering with Weasley. Potter flinches, knowing he's being watched, and Snape feels a small tingle of satisfaction. He thinks sometimes of letting go of the petty hatred -- he knows it's petty, but it's fueled him for so long, and he can't let his fire die just yet. Not with so much depending on him.

Potter looks up, eyes wary behind his glasses, and Snape realizes he will never give up the hatred. It's hard to look at this child, the very image of James Potter, staring at him with Lily's eyes.


She had let him down gently. She never laughed at him, never made him feel the fool for loving her. And she was so easy to love -- her bright hair and laughing eyes drew him to her like a moth to a flame. She was everything he was not. Graceful and delicate as her name, Lily had a strength belied by her frail appearance, and he loved her even more for it.

He'd known, somehow, deep down, that he'd never have her, though she was always nice to him. Her kindness had made it hard for him to sneer at her, impossible to taunt her the way his friends had. She was one of the few people he had ever felt at ease with. Even with her Muggle background, she was above his touch, her inherent grace obvious to everyone. And even with his pure wizard's blood, he always found himself lacking.

But for her to have chosen Potter, of all people.

The only thing that could have been worse would have been if she had chosen Black.

That was the only thing that made the sting bearable -- Black, too, had lost out, had never held her heart.

And now he and Black and that damned untrustworthy Lupin are among the key people protecting Lily's boy.

He knows the boy will do great things -- has already done them, to be honest -- if they can keep him alive long enough. Just as he knows Malfoy will come to a bad end. It's bred into them. He doesn't generally believe in predestination, but he knows that in wizarding families, prophecies are often self-fulfilling, and the children of wizards often live out their parents' wishes without ever realizing they've done so.

His own humble beginnings are proof of that. He was the tagalong, the weakling trying to overcome years of poverty and hatred and a blackened family name; he chose the wrong path when he allied himself with the Dark Lord and his servants.

His eyes slide across the rows of students.



She's already a formidable witch. Under other circumstances, he might have taken silent pride in her proficiency, been secretly delighted by her thirst for knowledge.

But knowledge is power, and her thirst for it reminds him all too clearly of himself at her age -- always striving to know, as if knowing the proper potion or spell could somehow fix everything that was wrong in his life. Somehow erase the stains attached to his family name. Somehow make Lily love him for more than a fleeting second under the influence of some Valentine's charm.

He used to believe that -- that power was the cure for all ills. He'd needed to believe it, because it validated all the choices he'd made.

He wonders, fearfully, if Granger believes the same thing.

He has watched her, late in the evening, slip down to the library to study. She goes above and beyond what her classes call for; she always has. But now, as she gets older, she has moved into more dangerous territory. Territory that may be dangerous for them all, if she proves weak-willed and easily swayed by promises of secret, and possibly treacherous, knowledge.

Things disappear from his office occasionally, and he knows that she's involved. Potter and Weasley need her; they're not able to brew up anything more complicated than a sleeping draught without her, and many of the spells they've used can have unexpected, and unpleasant, consequences.

She must realize that, in these tense times, she will be limited, that there will be those opposed to her advancement, based solely on her parentage, and not all of them are Death Eaters.

Such restrictions had enraged him at her age, and he fears that she will be the same. She's brilliant, she's a hard worker, and she will always be in Potter's shadow. That will chafe at her. He would think less of her if it didn't. He doesn't understand how she's remained friends with the boy for this long; he was sure she'd have moved on from him by now, tired of being eclipsed by Potter's fame, and held back by her own Muggle heritage.

He just worries about what will happen when she reaches that limit, even as he pushes her to achieve everything she can.

Without guidance, she could fall so easily under the sway of anyone who would slake her thirst for knowledge without regard to her social status, or lack thereof. And the wizarding world has no lack of unscrupulous people, even amongst those unaffiliated with Voldemort. The Dark Lord isn't the only evil that walks in the world, though he is the most pressing at the moment.

A germ of an idea takes hold in the back of his mind, so wild and unprecedented that he wonders if Dumbledore slipped something into his morning coffee.

He turns away for a moment, wondering if he could pull it off; if he wants to pull it off.

Severus Snape has never backed down from a challenge, and he's not about to start now.

When class ends, he says, "Granger, stay a moment."

She looks up at him, startled, eyes wide with apprehension.

Potter and Weasley hover and he says, "I don't remember calling your names." He can feel his lips twist in disgust as he looks at them. The boys -- still children, yet shouldering adult burdens -- open their mouths simultaneously. "One word and it's fifteen points from Gryffindor." He pauses and narrows his eyes. "Each."

They snap their mouths shut and leave the classroom. He hears them waiting outside, and knows they're eavesdropping. Lowering his voice to a hoarse whisper, he says, "Write me two scrolls on the interaction of saxifraga with vetiver and belladonna."

"That's--" she stops, and he knows she's already familiar with the potion he's describing. He knows she's checked out Most Potente Potions at least once, and Verstadren is the Holy Grail for anyone who studies potions. It's also highly dangerous, and highly illegal, for him to do this, but he will ensure that her thirst for knowledge is sated, while guiding her hand in support of his -- Dumbledore's -- goals.

He will always hate Potter, but Potter needs Granger, so he will take her in hand, because losing her to a darker path would be devastating for them all.

"By Monday," he tells her. "Speak of this to no one." She nods.

The girl rushes out, flushed and nervous. He sinks back into his chair, and hopes he's doing the right thing.


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