The occupant heard a tentative knock on the front door of his cottage. The occurrence was as strange as a rock suddenly being able to talk. No one had visited him in years, which was precisely what he had wished for. He felt the crease between his eyes reflexively deepen.
“Go away,” he bellowed.
A more authoritative knock followed. The dark figure pondered whether or not to allow the interloper inside, but since nothing had happened to him for a very long time, his curiosity eventually got the best of him.
“Alright, alright. Who the bloody hell would come to see…”
The door swung violently open, hitting the visitor squarely in the face and knocking him on his arse.
“Nice to see you’re as graceful as ever,” Severus sneered, and stuck out his hand to help the former pupil, now a man, up on his feet.
“And you still appear to have your temper,” the cautious figure answered.
“Come in, come in,” he said gruffly. “I’ll get the tea.”
Neville stood in the small sitting room; as he surveyed his surroundings, he took in deep breaths and exhaled slowly. Professor Snape still scared the living daylights out of him; that was one of the main reasons he had come here. He wanted to finally confront the man who had terrorized him for so many years.
Neville settled in a well-worn chair and stared into the fire. As Snape brought the tray in, Neville noticed how feeble and old he was. No longer intimidating, but frail.
‘Was he always that thin?’ Neville mused.
“So what brings the illustrious Professor Longbottom to my humble abode?” Snape said sarcastically, waving his hand dramatically.
“Two things actually.” Neville’s voice cracked as he spoke. He still felt like a scared schoolboy.
“And they would be,” Severus drawled.
“First of all, Headmistress McGonagall needs your assistance in selecting the newest Potions Master,” Neville answered, shakily.
“Again! They seem to be dropping like flies. You would think the job had been cursed,” Severus said, raising his eyebrow and smiling unpleasantly.
“Yes,” Neville agreed, quietly.
“And the second reason you’ve darkened my doorway?”
“To tell you…that is. I mean to say,” Neville stammered.
“Spit it out, Longbottom. You always were one ingredient short of a potion…”
“Sir, I’ve come to say, I forgive you.”
“Forgive me? Forgive me! Whatever for?”
“For your cruelty, your sarcasm and your bullying.”
“Yes, sir,” Neville stated. “Although you went about it all the wrong way, you are one of the main reasons I became a professor. To show the likes of you, not only that am I competent enough to be an instructor, but that I could also do the job better, with more fairness and compassion, than you ever could.”
Neville immediately began to shiver, anticipating the onslaught of verbal abuse, but was surprised by what happened.
Severus was laughing.
“Good for you, Longbottom. Good for you. I can see that you have accomplished both.”