"A Fresh Start"by shadowycat
Raising his collar against a cold blast of snowflake laden wind, Snape let the door with its tinkling bell slam shut behind him and stepped down onto the narrow cracked sidewalk. He shot a dark glare back at the closed door of the apothecary and then swiftly moved off down the street, not entirely sure what to do next. He’d had cause to rue his decision to accept Dumbledore’s help and come to work at Hogwarts many times in the few months that he’d held the position of Potions master, but there always seemed to be yet another occasion to remind him that though it had been the prudent move at the time, it would never really feel like the right one.
He hadn’t made many forays into Hogsmeade since taking up his present job and apparently that was a very wise decision. What a colossal waste of time it had been trying to obtain needed supplies from Mr. Shaw. Even though the store wasn’t busy, he’d been kept waiting much longer than necessary, and then, once he was grudgingly attended to, his most critical need simply could not be met. No apology or offer to obtain the needed supplies had been forthcoming either, though he’d heard the offer made to others.
But then others weren’t looked down on as probable criminals who had somehow escaped their just punishment. Damn that rag of a newspaper for printing the name of every person who’d been suspected of anything illicit. You’d think that the fact that he was here walking around free would count for something, but not knowing the truth of the matter merely seemed to fuel the speculation.
Ever since he’d set foot in town, the air had been as full of whispers as it had snowflakes, and the snow was now fairly thick on the ground. The apothecary shop had been no different than the stationers, and the bookshop or the corner of any street he passed down. If he had a Galleon for every time he’d heard the words Death Eater muttered today in phony stage whispers, he’d leave town a very rich man.
Snape kicked at a drift of snow, launching the powdery white stuff back into the air as he hunched his thin shoulders against the cold wind and strode off along the road to the castle. Despite the many annoyances of his trip into town, he’d managed to make all of his desired purchases but one. He still needed to find powdered root of Thornashe. His third year classes would require it on Monday.
He could probably obtain some in Diagon Alley, but he wasn’t sure that his budget could stretch far enough to afford it. The prices there were likely to be far higher than those locally, but he didn’t have the time or the inclination to shop for the damn ingredient all over Britain. He had to do something. Too bad he couldn’t just go and dig some up.
He paused with his hand on the wrought iron gate to the castle grounds and gazed up through the swirling snow at the impressive stone boars on their pedestals. Why couldn’t he simply dig some up? It probably grew somewhere on the grounds. A cold northern hardwood forest was the proper place to find it. Perhaps near the edge of the trees where the light would penetrate more easily to the ground. It was also the proper time of year to harvest the roots for pulverization. The plant itself would be dormant. The biggest question was would he recognize it when he saw it? Surely he would.
A twinge of uncertainty flooded through him along with the cold; he’d always gotten his ingredients prepackaged. As a student it had made the most sense and student stores were either free, as they usually were at school, or greatly reduced in cost at most apothecaries. When he’d prepared potions for Voldemort, he’d simply asked for what he needed and someone had provided it. Now, however, he was on his own with the stocking and preparation of potion ingredients. So far it hadn’t been much of a problem. His predecessor had left a full storeroom, but some of its contents hadn’t been particularly well prepared nor had the variety and quality seemed to be overly impressive.
He’d always been good at Herbology, certainly identifying the needed plants wasn’t beyond his means with a short refresher, and he knew the value of proper preparation. He was just taking one more step in the process by finding his own ingredients in the wild. In the long run, it was actually the wisest move he could make. Potions were only as good as the elements that went into them; excellent technique could only take you so far if what you started with was substandard. And he certainly didn’t hold his breath assuming that Mr. Shaw held to any particular high standard in his gossipy little village shop.
With a faint scowl, he heaved a disgusted sigh and glanced out at the white world that surrounded him. It appeared that a decision had been made. He was going to start afresh, and though not entirely happy about it, Snape nevertheless wrapped his cloak around him a bit tighter and set off into the increasing storm towards the edge of the Forbidden Forest.
After an hour of tramping back and forth through the blowing snow, picking himself up out of unseen gullies, and tripping over hidden roots, he finally located what he needed in a small copse of trees just at the borders of the forest, not that far from Hagrid’s hut.
Identifying the plant itself without its leaves had been a bit more of a challenge than he’d thought it would be, but he’d managed in the end. This evening should probably be spent brushing up on his basic Herbology. And, if he was going to start gathering more of his ingredients himself, he’d best begin by making a survey of the grounds once he could see them properly, so that he could truly know what was available and where exactly to find it. Restocking his storeroom with fresh ingredients would be an ongoing process, but one he was beginning to warm to the more he thought about it.
At the moment, he certainly wished that something would warm him. His fingers felt stiff and icy, and he could barely feel his feet anymore. He hadn’t planned on wading through snowdrifts in freezing wind on this trip, so he wasn’t dressed as warmly as he should have been, and even well cast warming spells didn’t last forever or keep out every stray blast of wind.
Once he’d located the proper plants, it had taken quite awhile to cut through the frozen ground to extricate the roots without damaging them. Then once he had them lying before him, he’d had to slice them into small chunks with his wand so that he could easily transport them back to school. The bag that held the results of his shopping trip was barely large enough to accommodate the hefty pile of root pieces. He should look into obtaining a collecting bag of some sort. Something small and light that he could simply stuff into a pocket for unexpected use.
Stamping his numb feet against the trampled ground, he hefted the now full bag in his cold hands. Hopefully he’d dug up enough. He wasn’t really clear on how much root it would take to produce an ounce of powder, but fortunately the recipe for headache remedy didn’t require all that much. This would simply have to suffice. If he was wildly off in his estimates, he could come back tomorrow or insist that the students work in pairs this time to conserve supplies. Satisfied for the moment, he turned and headed off through the snow towards the castle that he could now barely see.
Exhausted from fighting the bitter wind, when he finally reached the castle opening the massive front door took all of the remaining strength that he had. Once he was inside, he leaned against the oaken panel to speed its closing and then remained there with his eyes closed for a moment of blissful relief. It felt so good to be out of the wind.
Just as he was about to force himself to leave the door and head down to his room, he was startled upright by a familiar and slightly disapproving voice.
“Severus, what on earth were you doing outside in such dreadful weather?”
Suppressing a sigh and a nasty rejoinder, Snape turned and stared back at the Deputy Headmistress, answering simply, “I needed some supplies.”
“Couldn’t it have waited? You look absolutely frozen,” Minerva asked, frowning at him from the first step of the Grand Staircase. “You look as if you’d bathed in the snow. Did you slip and fall? Are you injured?”
“No. I…was digging up some roots that my students need for class on Monday. Since I’ll require time to process them, they needed to be gathered today. Storm or no storm.”
No need for her to know that he hadn’t considered gathering them until this afternoon. It was always best to imply that things happened because that’s the way you wanted them to.
Minerva stepped off the stairs and crossed over to stand directly in front of him. “You went out in this storm to dig up roots? Why on earth didn’t you simply visit the apothecary in town? If they didn’t have what you needed, I’m sure that they’d have ordered it. Mr. Shaw has always been most accommodating.”
For a moment, he simply stared at her as if she was daft. Should he expound at length on the accommodating Mr. Shaw and his opinions on suspected Death Eaters? Would it matter? Her opinion was quite likely to be the same. She hadn’t exactly gone out of her way to be welcoming and friendly since he’d returned here as a teacher. Of course, he hadn’t really given her any reason to be either.
After a few seconds spent thinking up blistering adjectives to describe the residents of Hogsmeade including the not so accommodating Mr. Shaw, he discarded the idea as not worth the trouble. If he was starting fresh, he might as well begin with her, and he should begin by promoting his strengths rather than exposing his weaknesses.
“I prefer to obtain my own ingredients whenever possible. Fresh, properly processed ingredients are of the utmost importance in proper potion making. If I’ve done all the processing from start to finish, then I know that I can count on the quality of the final product. The students need to be properly provisioned if they are to succeed in their lessons. If that means going out in a small snowstorm like this to provide what they need, then that is what I’ll do.”
He raised an eyebrow and waited to see how she’d respond to that. Surely she couldn’t argue with his desire to see that his students were suitably supplied with what they needed to succeed in class. And it couldn’t hurt for her to at least begin to see him in the role of an imparter of knowledge instead of merely as a former student of questionable merit, which is what he was convinced ran through her mind most of the time when she looked at him.
Minerva’s eyes flashed speculatively as she seemed to be assessing him and what he’d told her. For a brief moment, Snape entertained the thought that she might be trying to read his mind. There had been many times when he was a student here that he’d wondered if she wasn’t a legilimens. It seemed unlikely…and yet, he still couldn’t be sure. She’d always been much more difficult to fool than most.
Finally, she responded, “I’ll admit, I’m impressed, Severus. It’s good to see that you’ve become so dedicated to your job. Not every teacher would go to such lengths for his students, and I’m sure that yours will benefit greatly from your thoroughness.”
Unexpectedly, she continued with a smile, “You must be chilled to the bone though. Once you’ve had a chance to put away the fruits of your labor and hang up your wet cloak, why don’t you join me for a cup of warm tea and some freshly baked biscuits in my study? I was just about to take a break, and you could do with a chance to spend some time before a nice warm fire, I think.”
Somehow Snape managed to hide his surprise behind a façade of casualness. How unexpectedly friendly of her. Perhaps she wanted to make a fresh start as well. If so, it would certainly be in his best interest to go along. He was stuck here for the foreseeable future. Since she was his immediate superior, it would be much more useful for him to establish a good working relationship with her. He hadn’t devoted much time to trying to get along with the staff so far, but maybe that had been a mistake.
Perhaps, with a little effort on his part, and a bit of time, he could silence the whispers and simply be thought of as a member of the staff…as if he actually belonged here. It was worth a shot anyway, and this was as good a way to start as any.
“Thank you, Minerva.” He inclined his head briefly. “I could use a bit of warmth at that.”