1. Andromeda Black
Severus took an extra sandwich from the lunch table every day. Only one. Two would have been greedy, and three would have looked desperate. Truth was, he knew he didn't need to. The breakfast table was always piled high with toast; the lunch table overflowed with sandwiches, and the dinner table was spread with three kinds of roast meat, four kinds of dessert, and more side dishes than he could count. Once he'd missed half of lunch working on a potion, and he thought he'd go hungry for sure, but the plate in the middle of the table had been full as ever, as if sixty-seven hungry Slytherins hadn't been eating there for half an hour. Even so, he wrapped a roast beef and cheddar in a napkin and slipped it into his bag, muttering a quick cushioning charm to protect it from his heaviest books. Severus was no fool: if there was extra food to be had, he would have it. Just in case.
Most nights, he ate the extra sandwich in bed. Even if he was full from dinner, it didn't make sense to let good food go to waste. Once or twice, though, he'd gotten so absorbed with his reading that he'd forgotten. A ham sandwich had fallen down beneath his books, and he didn't realize it was there until it was far too late.
Being called Snivellus had been bad enough. Smelly Snivellus was worse.
The odor had clung to his bag for days until he finally abandoned it in the courtyard for the afternoon, hoping some fresh air and sunshine might do it some good. When he came back, the bag was resting against the trunk of a tree. The hole in the corner had been mended, and it smelled like laundry soap, the nice kind they could only afford when his Da was in work.
A girl with curly, mouse brown hair was sitting on a bench not far away. A book was open in her lap; a silver P gleamed on her chest. He wondered if she was the one who'd cleaned his bag, and he supposed he ought to thank her. But suppose she wasn't? He'd look a fool. He shouldered his bag and walked away. If she'd done it, and she wanted something for her trouble, she could ask him.
She caught up to him before he reached the door.
"Andromeda," she said, holding out a hand.
Severus studied her, trying to decide what she wanted and whether he could provide it.
"Severus," he said, but he didn't take her hand. Her smile flickered a bit but didn't fade.
"I'm going to get a sandwich," she said finally. "Want to come with?"
She was taller than him, and older, but he glared up at her anyway. If the price for cleaning his bag was being made fun of, he wasn't going to pay. He stomped toward the door, but she followed him inside.
"I really wasn't having a go at you," she said, and her smile really did look kind, nothing like the predatory leers usually directed his way.
Severus shifted on his feet and tried to glance down the corridor without her noticing. It was empty, so he decided he could trust her. People only set him up if their friends were around to watch.
"All right," he said, figuring he'd have plenty of time to run away if he saw her friends coming -- though, now that he thought about it, he never had seen her with friends. Her sisters were popular; she was not.
She led him to the end of an empty corridor, where they stood beneath an enormous still life of fruits.
"All you have to do is tickle the pear," she said, and reached up to stroke its side. Severus was glad she hadn't asked him to do it himself; he wouldn't have been able to trust her. The pear shivered and quaked under her touch, and when it giggled, it swung open to reveal the Hogwarts kitchen.
"That's amazing!" Severus couldn't contain his excitement. He knew you could talk to the portraits of course -- he'd been getting potions tips from Friar Humberdink by the dungeon -- but he hadn't known the other paintings were interactive too.
"You can come and ask for whatever you want, anytime, and the house elves will make it for you," Andromeda told him. Severus knew his manners, and he tried to focus on Andromeda while she spoke, but it was difficult to pay attention in the face of so much food. It was more than his family ate in a year, he thought, and none of it was second-rate like the dented tins of beans his mum brought home from the Muggle supermarket.
A house elf whisked a platter of sandwiches toward them, and Severus tried not to stare. He had read about them of course, but he had never thought to see them in person.
"Would Miss Black and her companion like anything else?" the house elf asked, bowing.
"Two butter beers, thank you," Andromeda said, and Severus just nodded, knowing he couldn't replicate her easy authority.
Severus sat down at the table and stuffed a sandwich into his mouth unapologetically. He would never need to steal food again. Maybe he could even get the house elves to pack a hamper fro him to take back to his mum when he left for Christmas. He would owe Andromeda a great deal for showing him this place, which was worrisome, but he could sort that out later; it was hard to think about anything too difficult when he was surrounded by so much food.
"You know, you might have a few more friends if you didn't glare so much," she said, and Severus didn't have an answer to that. His da said he was ugly even when he smiled.
Even so, he smiled at Andromeda the next time he saw her walking down the corridor.
2. Lily Evans
"Well, aren't you going to open it?" Lily asked, and Severus stared at the package stupidly. Enchanted snowflakes danced on the midnight blue paper, and Severus reluctantly set his picnic hamper on the floor, and tore halfheartedly at a corner of the wrapping.
"But I don't have -- " he began, but Lily shook her head.
"That's not the point, Sev. It's Christmas. It wouldn't kill you to let someone be nice to you once in awhile."
It was the point, although he didn't expect Lily to understand. The Felix Felicis potion he'd tried to brew for her was a sodden, green lump in the bottom of his cauldron, and he'd been avoiding Lily for the past week because he couldn't face her without Christmas present. He'd been doing quite a good job of it too, until she put a tracking jinx on his bag at lunch.
He pulled off the last bit of tape, revealing a thick book with a nobbly leather cover. A silver and green quill was wedged inside.
"It's a journal, so Slughorn will stop getting you in trouble for writing notes in your book," Lily said.
Severus swallowed hard; words were required, good ones, but he didn't know what to say. It was easily the nicest thing he'd ever owned, and he had a feeling Lily knew that. She leaned in and planted a kiss on his cheek.
"Happy Christmas, Sev. You'll be alright here, by yourself?"
Was that why she'd given him the journal? he wondered. Because his mum had written and told him not to come home, and she felt sorry for him? But no, that had only been two days ago, and even if Lily had seen his name on the list of students staying over, she would have had to order this a long time ago.
Severus nodded, and Lily smiled.
"Owl me if you get a chance. I've always wondered what Christmas would be like here."
When she was almost out of sight, he did a quick Reparo on the wrapping paper and tucked it into his robes. She already at the staircase when he remembered the picnic hamper.
"Lily, wait!" he called. He was out of breath when he caught up to her. "Could you deliver this to my mum?"
"Of course." She took the basket from his outstretched hand, and for a moment, their fingers touched.
"Don't go inside. Just leave it on the steps and ring the bell." If Mum had told him not to come, his Da must be in a frightful state. His throat clenched at the thought that he would see Lily, or hurt her, but it was a chance he had to take -- if Da was that bad, his mum would need the food for sure.
Lily nodded gravely. "I'll owl as soon as it's delivered. And don't worry, I'll be careful."
Severus nodded back. He should have been ashamed to tell Lily how bad things were, but it was always a relief when she knew the truth, and he didn't mind owing her, not one bit. He would pay her back someday, he was sure of it.
3. Narcissa Black
Severus knew he ought to have gone to the Halloween Feast; Lucius had told him that socializing was important if he wanted to come up in the world. Most of the time, he did it, even though he found people tiresome. Tonight, though, he couldn't resist the quiet of his dormitory. Slughorn had written him a pass for a few volumes from the restricted section, and he wanted to read.
A fly buzzed overhead, and he almost Avra Kedavra'd it, but he caught himself just in time. He didn't know if the castle had an automatic warning system for forbidden curses, and he didn't want to find out first hand. Severus saw no reason why he shouldn't practice the curses his enemies would use against him, but he doubted Dumbledore would see it that way.
A stair creaked, and Severus looked up, carefully schooling the irritation from his face. If Lucius -- or more likely, one of his underlings -- had come to fetch him, he would have to come downstairs.
But it wasn't Lucius; it was Narcissa Black. She was barefoot, and she'd rolled up the waistband of her skirt. Severus found it hard not to stare at her legs.
"I haven't come for that," she said, leaning against the wall, and Severus managed not to blush. He hadn't thought it was a reflex he could control, but he was learning.
"Obviously," he said, not taking his eyes off his book his book. As near as he could tell, the secret to popularity was pretending that you didn't want to talk to anyone.
"How do you stand to live in this hellhole?" she asked. An obvious play to reassert her dominance, Severus thought, though it wasn't going to work. He kept his side of the room clean; he didn't have enough possessions to scatter them around carelessly, unlike Mulciber and Nott.
"I manage," he grunted. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her long legs, but he reckoned he was doing a good job pretending to look only at his book.
"Abraxas Malfoy mentioned you at dinner over the holidays," Narcissa said, and Severus judged that to be worth looking up.
"Oh?" He kept his tone disinterested.
"He said he heard you were talented, and he admired that prank you pulled with Mulciber. Everyone knew you did it, and no one could prove it. Not even Dumbledore."
"Do you think he might pass on my name to...anyone who matters?" Severus asked, unable to keep up the pretense of indifference any longer.
"Abraxas Malfoy is someone who matters, but I know who you mean." She sat down on the end of Severus' bed, and he fought hard to tamp down the thought that no one else in this room -- maybe even no one else in Slytherin -- could claim Narcissa Black had been anywhere near their bed. "I think he aims to make you one of us. That's why I'm here."
Severus raised a quizzical eyebrow, hoping it would hide his confusion. He had made the right connections, evidently, but only because of his potions skills. What Narcissa would want from him he couldn't imagine.
"You won't fit in with us, not with my help. I can teach you things. Literature, French, how to dance, all the things we grew up knowing."
"I know plenty of things," Severus snapped, even though he didn't. He made a mental note to sign up for McGonagall's damned dancing lessons and find a list of landmark wizarding novels.
Narcissa lifted a disdainful brow; she looked as if she'd been practicing the expression since birth.
"Which fork do you use to eat salad?"
Severus shook his head; he didn't know, and there was no use pretending otherwise.
"Why should you want to teach me?" he asked, and Narcissa shrugged.
"I like it when people owe me favors."
"All right." He snapped his book shut, giving her his full attention at last. If Narcissa Black wanted him in her debt, she thought he would matter someday, maybe even some day soon. Anyway, he doubted she would demand anything too difficult to give.
Narcissa smiled hungrily and extended her hand.
4. Minerva McGonagall
Severus did not, as a rule, speak to his fellow instructors of dunder-headed idiots. He stood up Rolanda Hooch when she invited him for tea, insulted Flitwick's hideous choir, and harassed Professor Sprout endlessly over the quality of her ingredients before demanding a garden patch of his own.
"Have you quite finished alienating the faculty?" Dumbledore asked when it became obvious that no one would sit within three chairs of him at staff meetings.
Severus glowered at him silently for a moment before sweeping out of the room.
"Severus, small bit of business, I'm afraid," Dumbledore called just before he reached the door. "A member of the board of directors would like to speak with you at noon tomorrow about your grading policies. Given the very recent fall of Voldemort, they feel the students are adequately traumatized without receiving failing grades and scathing comments on every potions essay."
Snape stared at Dumbledore for a moment, dumbfounded. "I will not reduce my academic standards merely because children are sad about a war."
"Of course not, Severus," Dumbledore said mildly. "I'm sure the board will understand when you explain."
The door creaked open, and Severus spun on his heel, ready to face his interlocutor. Instead he saw Professor McGonagall, looking harried and clutching a stack of parchments, the topmost of which was marked with TROLL in bright red letters.
"Oh goodness, Severus, not you too. What they mean to accomplish by reducing performance standards at a time when our society needs to rebuild itself..." Her voice trailed off into angry muttering, and she crossed her arms over her chest. "Well, I refuse to lower my expectations just because Hayden MacNair cried over a bad grade."
"Quite," Severus said darkly, straining his ears for the sound of footsteps in the corridor. "The sooner this farce is completed, the better."
"I can't even imagine why Dumbledore would even allow this meeting to go forward. Surely he can't expect us to give passing grades to substandard work. I'd sooner follow them to the toilet and wipe their behinds."
"I'm sure that won't be necessary, Prorfessor McGonagall," said a crisp voice behind them. A small, balding man wearing pinstriped robes walked toward them, holding out his hand. "Armorious Winthrop, Board of Directors."
Severus crossed his arms over his chest. McGonagall did the same. They stepped forward as one. Winthrop departed five minutes later, stammering and ashen faced.
Severus smirked. McGonagall smiled.
"Do you think he's crying in the toilet now?" she asked.
"I should hope so." Severus eyed the full tea pot on the table. The aroma was enticing. Dumbledore's special blend, no doubt. "Tea?" he asked.
"Don't mind if I do." McGonagall pulled out one of the heavy wooden chairs, and Severus sat down across from her. "That was fun," she said. "We should frighten underachieving nitwits together more often."
Severus quirked an eyebrow. He generally preferred to work alone, yet he could not deny that teamwork had occasional merits.
"You know, I didn't intend to like you, Severus. Some very good friends are in the ground because of you," McGonagall said at length.
"I could say the same to you."
"Your friends deserved it."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Are you certain of that?"
Professor McGonagall -- it was impossible to think of her as Minerva -- shook her head, her face suddenly softening. "No, no, I'm not. You were all so very young."
"I don't want your forgiveness," Severus spat.
"That's good, since you don't have it." McGonagall sat her cup down in its saucer with a decisive clink.
Severus stood up from the table at the same time she did. They reached the door together quite by accident, forcing them into a civil exchange rather than a solitary exit.
They had breakfast together every Tuesday morning.
5. Albus Dumbledore
The portrait was asleep when Headmaster Severus Snape stepped into his office for the first time. The sight of it made Severus feel rather limp with relief, though he didn't let the emotion show on his face or in his body. Even here, he would not allow himself to relax his control; weakness in private begat weakness in public.
Cautiously, he approached the portrait and tried to lift it from the wall, first with his fingers and then with magic. The permanent sticking charm did not yield. Next he flicked his wand, and a small flame appeared at the tip. The portrait repelled it, sending a small shock down his arm. Minerva had protected it well, then.
He was hovering a few centimeters over his desk chair when the portrait awoke.
"I wouldn't sit down there if I were you," Dumbledore said. "Minerva left a few surprises for you, I'm afraid."
Beneath him, the chair growled faintly.
"Perhaps you might tell me what other objects are hexed, cursed, transfigured, jinxed, or otherwise enchanted?" he asked, even though he already suspected the answer.
Dumbledore shook his head, smiling faintly. "Severus, what would be the fun in that?"
Irritating, even in death. He really should have known.
An armchair sat slightly to the side of it, angled so that it was impossible not to look at Dumbledore's face. It was affixed to the floor with a permanent sticking charm -- Minerva's doing, of course -- and it was the only piece of furniture in the room that had not been hexed. He was glad of it; he liked to sit there on bad days and tired ones, but he might have denied himself the comfort if the chair hadn't been stuck in place.
His throat itched; he swallowed more of the soothing potion and grimaced. Minerva had hexed his tea in the staffroom. Again.
"She does you a disservice, although she does not know it," Dumbledore said. "I admire your self-restraint in allowing her to best you."
Severus' lips twitched upward in a half-smile. He had gone to some trouble to locate her underthings in the laundry. Though he had not cast an itching curse in many years, he'd wager he was still quite good at it.
"Severus," the portrait said, faintly admonishing.
"You have given me an impossible task," he spat, not even bothering to check whether Dumbledore was awake, or even present in the frame.
"You do more than you know, Severus," Dumbledore said evenly. "Is it truly a coincident that Mr. Longbottom overheard you discussing the room of requirement with Amycus Carrow this morning?"
"And he was tortured for trying to reach it."
"A risk he knew he was taking, I'd wager. He will survive, and be stronger for it." Dumbledore looked at him carefully and added, "I will visit him tonight. He's hidden in an alcove with the portrait of Ungrint the Unlucky."
"Of course. Dumbledore's portrait wandering the halls at night, offering succor to students in need while others do your dirty work."
Even in the portrait, Dumledore's eyes were piercing. Looking at them gave Severus a small pang.
"I shouldn't think you would complain, Severus," Dumbledore said quietly. "You know that no one at Hogwarts is ever truly alone."
Severus huffed, by which he meant spouting platitudes, even in death. The damned portrait probably even knew what he was thinking. Now would be the right time to stalk off to his rooms, but his body was far more tired than it had any right to be. Gradually, his eyes drifted shut and he fell asleep in the chair beneath Dumbledore's watchful eyes.