Round and round and round we go, and where Severus is....nobody knows....or do they? Wormtail keeps an eye on things and Gran arrives at Hogwarts.
"Well, well, well...look what the cat dragged in..."
What's the good word...or bad?
Severus awoke to weak winter sunshine filtering through sheer curtains. He could see bare branches swaying in the wind as puffy white clouds skittered across the bright blue sky.
He carefully, slowly, turned his head to take a good look at his surroundings. The furniture was well proportioned to fit the room and the walls were painted the palest grey. He couldn't shake the feeling he should know this room but maybe it was just his imagination; after all, he had sustained a fairly severe blow to the skull.
Turning his head to look at the other side of the room, his eyes widened. There, sitting on a chair watching him, was a ghost. But...it couldn't be....
"Ma-ma?" he whispered.
"Hello, my darling boy."
"Am I dead?"
"Good heavens, no."
"Am I dreaming?"
"But..." Suddenly his eyes darted around the room. 'My God,' he thought. 'It can't be...'
"Welcome home, Severus," Eileen said softly.
He looked again at this Mother's ghost and noticed that she looked apprehensive; as she used to when his Father was working himself up to one of his rages. Was she frightened...of him? /NO/...of his /reaction/!
"Anna asked me to keep an eye on you."
"Devious, conniving, sneaky, bloody brilliant wench!" he sputtered, the corners of his mouth twitching with a barely suppressed smile. "Where [i]is[/i] my wife, by the way?"
"She's tending to the babies...you're not mad? That you're here? That Anna is using this house as her hiding place?"
Severus thought for a moment, and then carefully and slowly shook his head.
"No. There's not a better or safer place on earth."
"Oh, thank goodness! I was so worried you'd be furious." Eileen leaned back, visibly relieved.
"Ma-ma, there are more important things to worry about than my opinion of Anna's choice for her hiding place. If I didn't think of it, no one else has either. As I said, it's bloody brilliant."
"She thought she might have to hex you into coming here and then tie you up until you agreed to stay."
"She wouldn't dare!"
One cocked eyebrow from his Mother and Severus smiled.
"You're right, she could and would!"
"It's good to see you smile, dearest."
"It's good to see you, period, Ma-ma. I did miss you, terribly."
"As I missed you."
"I sprinkled your ashes at Hogwarts, on the gardens and greenhouses. I hope you don't mind."
"Oh, splendid! What a wonderful, thoughtful gesture. Thank you."
An awkward silence fell over the room. Severus was convinced he was NOT dreaming, but he was at a bit of a loss for words. He opened his mouth, then closed it and frowned. Eileen looked similarly perplexed. Then she smiled.
"Thank you for making me a granny. I never expected that."
Severus fought to keep from chuckling, not wanting to startle his Mother.
"It was my pleasure, Ma-ma," he replied, straight faced.
"They're just as cute as can be. I'm sorry I can't hold them on my knee like a proper granny, but they seem to enjoy watching me float around the room above their cribs."
"Do not spoil them, Ma-ma; I won't allow it."
"Oh, /pooh/! That's my job. I'm their only grandparent and I intend to do my duty; 'Spoil them rotten and send them home'."
"But we're living here, are we not? This is home."
"I'm glad to hear you admit that, dearest."
Severus laid there, mouth agape, realizing what he'd just said. He decided on a different tack.
"What, exactly, has Anna done to the house?"
"You'll hardly recognize it, Severus, dear; lots of paint and polish, rearranged the furniture she deemed usable, replaced what wasn't. Brought some from various places, just in case, also curtains, slip covers, dishes, paintings, various things and then Gwen picked up anything else that we needed."
"Gwen's gone out, /alone/?"
"Yes. In disguise, of course; to do some shopping and get supplies."
"What if she'd been seen?"
"Oh, it was so amusing!" Eileen laughed. "She was in York, crossing the street, when Tut...you do know who Tut is, don't you, dear?"
"Yes, I do."
"Oh, good. Anyway, Tut honked at her and it seems three of the boys from Hogwarts were riding him back to school. They wouldn't have recognized Gwen if she hadn't stopped when she realized it was Tut's horn tooting. It was...let's see, Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnegan and, oh dear, who was the third boy?"
"That's right! How did you know?"
"The 'Three Musketeers' returned to school in triumph on Tut; it was a sight to behold."
"I can just imagine. They swore, however, not to tell that they'd seen Gwen."
"They have kept their promise, rest assured. No one has any idea where Anna, Gwen and Cissa are hiding. Or that Gwen was spotted."
Silence descended again, for a few moments.
"I like Anna, Severus. She's a very special witch."
"I count my blessings every day that I was granted a second chance with her, Ma-ma."
"The first night, when we met in the garden, I saw she was wearing my necklace and I knew then that you truly loved her."
"I do, Ma-ma, with every fiber of my being."
"You kept my necklace all these years. Why?" Eileen asked, softly.
"It was the only love left in my world; everything else was evil...dark...filled with hatred. It was my only link to you, but it was in my vault in Gringotts; I wanted it in a safe place, where no one would see it and question. 'Sentimental' is never used to describe me and my reputation isn't exactly that of 'Mr. Congeniality', either."
"So I've heard," answered Anna, who then giggled at Severus' raised eyebrow. "You see, Anna has told me a lot about the last twenty years...I'm sorry you had to endure such solitude."
"It was self-imposed, I assure you."
"Be that as it may, those days are over and gone. You're married and a father and...you're home."
"But not safe, Ma-ma; none of us are until he's dead."
"'I know. But for now, I'm going to enjoy every minute of your visit."
Eileen sat there smiling at him and he couldn't help but feel hopeful; that maybe there was a future for him and Anna and the children.
'The children/,' he thought. 'I'm a /father/. Wouldn't Bella have a seizure about /that bit of news?"
A smile pulled at the corners of his mouth.
"Knut for your thoughts, dearest."
"I was just contemplating my life...now, here. Everything will turn out alright, Ma-ma; we'll win, thanks in no small part to our Anna."
A frown creased Severus' brow.
"By the way, Ma-ma, who knows I'm alive?"
"Let me see," Eileen replied, counting off on her fingers as she named the different people who were in on the secret. "Albus Dumbledore, Mad-eye Moody, Remus Lupin, Christopher, Anna, Gwen, Cissa, Winky and Dobby, so ten, total, if you count me."
"I must speak to the Headmaster."
"Should I go and find Anna? She'll want to know you're awake in any case."
Just then they heard footsteps approaching in the hallway and Anna put her head around the door to take a peek.
"Oh! You're awake!"
She came over to the bed and bent to kiss Severus.
"How do you feel?"
"I'm not quite sure."
"No, itchy palms."
"I'm itching to take you over my knee for not telling me where you and the children were hiding. I'd have rested easier, you know."
"Sorry, complete secrecy is the key."
"Does anyone else know?"
"No. Except, of course, our Secret Keeper."
"In that case, you're forgiven."
"Oh, well, thank you, kind sir." She sat next to him, on the edge of the bed.
"Where are the children?"
"Taking their morning nap. You'll see them soon, darling."
"Let me sit up, at least. I feel foolish laying here like a corpse."
"You're lucky you aren't one, Severus. What happened?"
"Let me sit up and I'll tell you."
"No. Bed rest, and I mean REST for twenty-four hours, at least."
"What! I don't think..."
"Those are you Healer's and Doctor's orders; out voted two to one, so lie still and let your head heal!"
"Sorry dearest, it's out of my hands."
"I'm a prisoner in my own house then?"
"Apparently." Eileen was watching this exchange with barely suppressed amusement.
"But I really do need to talk with Albus, Anna. It's important; you know that."
"I /do/, but I'll have to make arrangements. Let me go have Christopher take a message to him. If he's not busy he can walk over. I'll be back in a minute." She stood and walked out of the room.
Severus looked at Eileen with a frown on his face.
"Did she say 'walk over'?"
"You'll never guess what Gwen found, dearest," Eileen giggled.
"I shudder to think."
"A /Passage Door/."
"That old door in the entrance hall, behind the tapestry?"
"You knew about it?" Eileen was aghast.
"Yes; I used to hide behind that ancient rag when I was small. The Door Keeper wouldn't talk to me; I was just a mischievous intruder. He threatened to give away my hiding place if I didn't stop jiggling the latch and making up nonsensical 'passwords', trying to open the door.
Eileen dissolved into a fit of the giggles.
"What, may I inquire, I so funny?"
"Wait until we re-introduce you and Cyrus. He has wanted to meet the owner of this house, as he now is at your service. The mischievous boy returns!"
"But where does the door lead, Ma-ma?"
"Directly into Albus Dumbledore's office at Hogwarts."
Severus' eyes widened and his eyebrows shot up.
"You're not serious/? And he never /told anyone?"
"/He/ /didn't know/! Never had a clue it was there, six feet from his desk!"
"I can't imagine the Headmaster not being aware of its existence. He knows everything that goes on in that school. And I do mean /every /bloody thing!"
"So Anna told me." Eileen replied, wiggling her eyebrow and then laughing at Severus' reddening face.
"Albus says he will be free to come over this evening after dinner. There are some people coming from the Ministry this afternoon and he does have a Potions classes to teach this morning. Also, Augusta Longbottom will be arriving in a few days and he's busy with those arrangements."
"Gran? Why is she visiting?"
"She's substituting for Severus."
"Oh...my...God!" Anna sat down on the bench and shook here head. "I don't know whose facial expression will be more fun to watch: Severus when he hears who's teaching in his stead or Neville when he realizes who's teaching for Severus."
"Neville will be happier that he's not taking Potions, than shocked about his Gran doing the substituting!" Christopher chuckled.
"Probably correct about that, dear. Well, tell Albus I'll come fetch him around 8 o'clock, then, alright?"
"Fine. See you later. Tell Severus I said hello, won't you?"
"Of course. Ta!"
"Bella. Come in, come in."
"Master." Bella knelt at Voldemort's feet and kissed the hem of his robe.
"Arise, my dear, I won't have you groveling at my feet, I'm in too good a mood."
"Yes, my Lord."
"Bella, you did a masterful job, ridding me of that traitorous Potions Master. An excellent 'accident', if I do say so myself."
"Thank you, Master."
"I almost regret having to trick you as I did, but it helped you achieve my goal."
"Trick...me? I don't understand."
"You had to be mad enough to do the job properly, Bella. I couldn't have any doubts in your mind, any glimmer of pity for Severus, no hesitation; so I put the thought in your mind that he was the father of Narcissa's baby, which, of course, he is not."
"But, Master, you said he was the..."
"No, Bella, I said he COULD be, not that he WAS. I knew you'd be livid, blind to any reasoning he might have tried to use to stop you. Thus, you very nicely exacted my revenge for his deceit, ridding me of Dumbledore's spy."
"I killed Severus for no reason?"
"Oh, I had my reasons for wanting him dead, Bella, but I also wanted to get you '/in the mood/' to help me tie up a few loose ends before we go after Potter. You see, my next targets are near and dear to your own heart and their deaths will be yours to carry out, finishing a job you started fifteen years ago."
"Yes, Master. It will be my pleasure."
"Ah, yes, speaking of pleasure..."
/BANG/! The door of Dumbledore's office slammed shut.
"That went rather well, don't you think?" Christopher leaned back in his chair, a smile on his face.
"Our Minister for Magic is /not /pleased with me and my apparent lack of panic and dismay; is he?"
"/He/ seemed to be positively beside himself that Severus is missing, though. Imagine that."
Albus chuckled, and then looking down, extracted Noel from where the Pygmy Puffskein had been hiding under his beard. "And I'll thank you not to tickle me when I'm speaking with guests. It wouldn't do, /at all/, to have me break out in a fit of giggles for no apparent reason." He wagged a finger at the small furry creature who was purring contentedly in the palm of his hand.
"Oh, thank goodness; I thought I was seeing things there for a minute, Albus. I saw your beard move but told myself it was a trick of the light shining through the window. What on earth are you doing with that little furball?"
"I'm going to take him to Severus this evening; it's his pet, he should be looking after it, not Miss Weasley."
"Won't Ginny wonder where it's gone?"
"I told her that I was sending it to Narcissa, for the time being, as a pet for little Lyn; until Professor Snape returns."
"And she bought that outright lie?"
Albus shrugged, "It's not a total lie, as I'm sure Noel, here, will make itself known to young Miss Malfoy and it leaves the question of Severus' return open, does it not?"
"True. When are you planning on telling the D.A. the truth?"
"When Severus is recovered sufficiently to send a message of his own, as my word alone might be thought just wishful thinking or false moral boosting."
"I'd give them a little more credit than that Albus."
"Oh, I do, but I also want any reports that filter back to Tom to be tales of genuine apprehension and worry. For a little longer, but not too long, as I think he'll get bolder in his attacks, now. I'm actually a bit worried about the students traveling home over Spring Break, although it would be better to get as many innocent students out of harms way as we can, without alarming them."
"That's when you think he'll attack, over Spring Break?"
"Possibly, or soon after."
"Then perhaps the students should have the option of staying home, should anything be uncovered, as far as his plans go."
"Information gathering could be a bit of a problem for a while. That is why he 'rid himself' of Severus, Christopher; so there would be no leaks back to me and thus to Harry. Surprise is his greatest weapon, so we must be prepared at all times."
"Well, I should toddle down to dinner. Tell Anna I'll be ready at 8 o'clock."
"You're in for a big surprise, Albus and I can't wait to see the expression on your face," Christopher chuckled.
"Oh, excellent! I could do with a nice surprise. I promise not to disappoint; I will practice my facial expressions before Anna arrives."
"As Anna would say, Albus, '/you/ are a brat!'."
Hermione leaned over and whispered to Harry, "Did you see the Minister for Magic when he was leaving? He looked positively /livid/!"
Harry glanced up at the staff table and noted the Headmaster's jovial mood. "/Dumbledore/ doesn't seem too upset. I don't get it; don't you think he'd be a little more subdued with Snape missing in action, so to speak?"
"There's two possibilities there, mate," Ron piped up. "One, he's trying to put on a 'happy face' for us students; stiff upper lip and all that rubbish, OR...Two, he knows something we don't, like Snape is ok or at least not dead."
"I wish he'd let us in on it if he does know the truth; I'm really worried. Do you think Anna knows?" Ginny asked, a frown on her face.
"Of course she knows; she'd have to know. But she can't do anything, either, except wait for word. Poor Anna," Hermione answered.
"The Headmaster took Noel, to send to Draco's Mum to keep, until Professor Snape gets back," Ginny added. "Do you think that's a good sign or a bad one?"
They all frowned and generally shrugged.
"Hard to tell," Harry said. "We'll just have to be patient and wait for word...good or bad."
Wormtail watched as the two Wizards left the Hogwarts grounds, the taller of the two muttering to himself. As the gates swung closed, they stopped, preparing to Apparate back to the Ministry.
"Dumbledore is lying, I know he is! Why would he be so calm, if he's not positive what has happened to his Potions professor? He knows he's dead, that's all there is to it! Why won't he admit the truth?"
"Perhaps he's holding out some hope that the rumors are just that; rumors." Percy Weasley looked at his new boss, Rufus Scrimgeour, and then shrugged.
"Nonsense! Snape, supposedly a 'reformed' Death Eater, leaves the school, going - well, who knows where, but undoubtedly to his Master, and doesn't return. He's not on holiday, Percy!"
"No, sir, I agree with you on that point. It doesn't look good for him."
They were gone.
'So, Dumbledore won't admit Snape is dead; ever the optimist, eh?' thought Wormtail, as he came a little further out of his hiding place, checking the area. 'I'd better report to my Master, although he probably already knows Scrimgeour was here. I /can /tell the Dark Lord what was said, though.'
Deciding the coast was clear, the rat bounded through the snow into a small group of pine trees.
'pop' Peter Pettigrew Disapparated.
"Good evening, Albus."
"Are you ready?"
"Yes, I'm quite looking forward to seeing your new home."
"Ah, now there's the ironic bit; it's new to me but not to Severus."
"We're at 'Greystone Manor', Albus; Severus' boyhood home."
"Anna, you do know he swore he would never set foot there again, don't you?" Albus looked concerned.
"I've always told him, 'never say never', but he didn't listen. Actually, he thinks it was a brilliant idea,"
Anna assured him. "Oh, and there's an added bonus."
"Eileen Snape's ghost is in residence."
"Really? And she is agreeable to all of this?"
"Oh, yes, she fits right into this insane little troupe of ours," laughed Anna. "And she's a doting Grand-Ma-ma, too."
"Splendid! Well, shall we?"
Anna proceeded to the wall and whispered the password. 'Click' She pulled the door open and ushered the Headmaster through.
Severus was sitting, propped up in bed, having just finished his dinner, when Winky appeared in the open door.
"Master, Professor Dumbledore and Missy Anna is coming. Is you wanting Winky to take your dinner tray?"
"Yes, thank you. Oh, and Winky..."
"Don't call me Master, please. Professor will do nicely."
Winky looked up at her Mistress' husband and cocked her head, frowning.
"Is Mas...Professor Snape sure, sir?"
"Very sure, Winky; I am not your Master and it makes me uncomfortable to be addressed as such."
"As you wish...Professor."
The house elf took the tray and padded out. Severus heard her conversing with Anna and the Headmaster at the top of the stairs, and pushed himself a little more upright and waited, facing the door.
"Ah, Severus, looking none the worse for wear, I see."
Albus flicked his wand and settled into the comfy armchair that glided over the side of the bed as Anna circled around and sat on the other side of Severus, taking his hand.
"So...I've been waiting with baited breath for the details of your latest visit to Tom's hideout, Severus. I'm all ears, my boy; please begin."
"Wait!" Gwen and Narcissa entered the bedroom and pulled two small chairs over to the end of the bed. "You're not telling this story without us!"
"What about the babies?" Severus looked back and forth between Anna and Cissa.
"They have all been put to bed for the night and Winky and Dobby will keep watch over them for us, have no fear," Cissa informed him.
Just then Severus' Mother glided through the door.
"Did I miss anything? Oh, hello Professor Dumbledore."
"Madam Snape, how wonderful to see you again, it's been too long." Dumbledore rose, smiling at the ghost. "Won't you join us?"
"It's lovely to see you again, also, Professor and yes, I believe I will stay, if it's alright with everyone."
"Of course, Eileen, come and have a seat." Anna patted the bed and Eileen settled down to listen to the discussion.
"So...what happened?" Gwen was on the edge of her seat.
"First, you should know that Bella and Rodolphus were the only witnesses to my 'death' but I believe they are totally convinced that I did die," Severus revealed, as he started telling his version of the whole incident.
"Cissa, you aren't saying much," said Gwen, after all of the details had been told.
"I can't really...I don't know...it's crazy...no, my sister is crazy, and I can't figure out if I should be furious or just laugh at her total lack of sense. Me...and Severus? No offence."
"/Her/...mother to MY daughter? /NEVER/! She's really out there in la-la land, isn't she? No clue as to what she's being set up for, and no idea how she's being used. I really, /almost/, feel sorry for her. It's a shame, it truly is." Cissa shook her head.
"But she's also very dangerous, Cissa, don't forget that," Anna reminded her.
"Oh, I'm well aware, but also totally prepared, don't worry on that score." Cissa sat back, a grim look on her face.
"How we react at Hogwarts to your continuing, unexplained absence, Severus, will be key to keeping you survival a secret," Albus said, looking at his Potions Master. "I've already contacted Augustus Longbottom and she's agreed to substitute as Potions instructor and as Head of Slytherin House."
"/Merlin's Beard/!" Severus was gob-smacked.
"She'll be arriving at the end of the week, as we wish to show that we are hopeful of your return. If word or rumor starts spreading about your 'death', all the better; she knows the truth but will act as if she's doing this as a favor to me, as an old friend, until your return or the appointment of a new Potions Master."
"I think Poppy should be alerted, Albus," Anna suggested.
"Why?" The Headmaster looked at her, puzzled.
"To be there should Neville faint when Gran arrives, of course!"
There was a moment of silence, and then they all started giggling and laughing. Even Severus was smiling.
"Now, where was I...oh, yes, the reaction to your continued absence, Severus." Dumbledore turned his gaze to his Potions Master. "There's been some concern expressed already, among the students and staff, regarding your whereabouts."
"I should think there would be widespread dancing in the hallways."
"I'm not saying that there isn't some erstwhile celebration, but then the reality of why and not knowing where you are, does weigh on their minds."
"Not heavily, but there not the less," Narcissa injected, smiling. "I had an owl from Draco this morning, telling me the latest 'gossip' about you disappearance. He did report widespread rejoicing...."
"Enough out of you, Cissa," Severus snarled. "I've already threatened my wife with a paddling; don't push your luck."
"I've survived worse, Severus," was her tart reply, sticking out her tongue at him.
"Be that as it may," interrupted Dumbledore, chuckling, "we will not tell the D.A. of your actual status or whereabouts, until we can gauge if Tom truly thinks you are dead."
"How can we do that?"
"The Daily Prophet should start churning out speculation and innuendo, starting tomorrow morning, with a report of Rufus' visit to Hogwarts today. Then, if we start hearing stories of your demise, and they are anything near the truth, we'll know they were planted by Tom and he truly thinks you are no longer alive."
"Then, we prepare for his next attack."
"Hogwarts?" asked Anna.
"No, he still needs you and Cissa to come out of hiding, before he launches his final attack to get Harry, we'll just have to wait and see."
"I've got a bad feeling about that." Gwen mumbled.
"Oh, speaking of feeling..." Albus reached into his pocket and extracted Noel, placing him on the coverlet of the bed.
"Noel!" exclaimed Severus, picking up the tiny creature, and then freezing as he realized all four women were staring at him. "/What/?"
"Noel, you named it...Noel?' Anna looked at her husband, wide eyed.
"Well it had to have a name, didn't it?" Severus placed the Pygmy Puffskein on his shoulder. "I thought it a very appropriate. Why, do you object?"
"No, no, it's a lovely name; it's just I thought you'd have a hard time thinking of what to name it, that's all."
"It's my first pet, you know; not counting owls, of course," Severus revealed, absently batting at Noel, who was poking at his bandage with its long pink tongue. "Stop, Noel."
"I told you he'd like it," Narcissa poked Anna in the leg.
"Oh, this was your idea, huh?" Severus turned and looked at her.
"No, I just pushed her to go ahead and get it for you for Christmas, as she was having second thoughts."
"You doubted my ability to care for the creature?" he questioned his wife.
"No, dear, I just didn't want to ruin your reputation. It's hard to look formidable or foreboding, striking fear in students hearts, with that on your shoulder," she answered, pointing and then breaking into a fit of giggles, joined by the rest of the group.
"Humph!" Severus crossed his arms. But he lost the battle to stay stern faced, dissolving into laughter, pulling Anna to him and giving her a kiss.
CRACK! POW! Rumble, rumble. HONK! HONK! Wormtail jumped, scared by the loud noises.
The Knight Bus suddenly appeared on the road outside the gates to Hogwarts, rolling to a stop, the rear door flying open to reveal Stan Shunpike wrestling with an enormous, old fashioned, dome top trunk. Heaving it off of the platform, he put out his hand to the lady standing in the door.
"Give us a hand, Missis, there you go. Welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
"Thank you, Stanley."
"Mrs. Longbottom, it's good ta see ya," boomed Hagrid as he came around the back of the bus. "This yours?" he picked up the trunk, effortlessly, with one hand
Stan muttered, "Showoff," and climbed back onboard the tripledecked, violently purple machine. "Take it away, Ernie," yelled Stan, as the bus shook itself into motion and CRACK! POW! took off and disappeared.
"Why, hello, Hagrid. How good of you to come and fetch me," replied the old woman, beaming up at the gentle gamekeeper. "Oh, how lovely," she added, looking toward the gates.
When the Knight Bus had pulled out, a sleigh, pulled by a Thestral, could be seen sitting just inside the grounds, waiting to carry Gran to the castle. Hagrid helped her step up into the sleigh, put a blanket across her lap, put her trunk on the back and then walked next to the black winged horse, holding its bridle loosely in his hand, as they started up the approach road.
"Right good of you to come and help us, Mrs. Longbottom; Professor Snape missin' an all."
"I'm sure he'll turn up, Hagrid."
Hagrid gave her a sideways look, but didn't argue. "Stranger things have happened, 'specially 'round here," he added.
"Indeed. One always has hope."
'Don't count on it, old woman,' thought Wormtail, as he scampered to the pine trees to Apparate to his Master with this latest news.
The students wandered into the Great Hall for the evening meal, and after they were settled, most noticed that the Headmaster's seat was empty. Looks were exchanged around the room but the answer to their collective question of his whereabouts was answered when the doors opened, allowing Dumbledore and 'Gran' Longbottom to enter.
Neville's mouth dropped open, but he at least had the presence of mind to stand as the duo approached the section of the Gryffindor table where he and his friends were seated.
"Gran! What are you doing here?" Neville was totally confused.
"Hello, Neville, dear. I've come to help out, if that's all right with you?"
"Help out? With what?"
She leaned over and whispered in his ear, "Substitute Potions teacher."
Neville's mouth dropped open and he sat down with a thump.
"I knew he'd take it well," Augusta Longbottom beamed at Dumbledore as they continued to the staff table.
"Neville? What is it, what s going on?" Hermione hissed at him. "/Neville/!"
Shaking his head, he turned and watched as his Grandmother was introduced to some of the staff members on her way to her seat next to the Albus' chair.
"I don't know whether to laugh or faint from relief," he muttered as he turned to face his friends. "She's going to teach Potions."
"What?" "Bloody hell!" "Your Gran?" "My word!"
"But, does that mean Snape isn't coming back? That he's dead?"
"Let's not jump to conclusions. It does make sense for Dumbledore to get a substitute," reasoned Hermione. "He can't run the school and teach Potions, too, so why not get someone to cover for Professor Snape until we find out what happened."
"But, Gran? Blimey!" Seamus exclaimed.
After dinner was finished, the Headmaster stood and the Hall fell silent immediately.
"As you no doubt noticed, we were joined this evening by one of our most illustrious alumni, Mrs. Augusta Longbottom, Grandmother of Gryffindor's own Neville Longbottom. She has graciously consented to be our substitute Potions teacher, until such time as Professor Snape returns to us. She was top in her class in the subject when she attended Hogwarts and is looking forward to getting to know all of you."
Professor Dumbledore started applauding, quickly joined by the staff and then the students, while Mrs. Longbottom waved merrily at the group before her.
"She will also be temporary Head of Slytherin House, having a few members of her own family going through school wearing the silver and green. However, she says she will have to cheer for Gryffindor during the Quidditch matches, in deference to Neville."
There was polite laughter at that announcement.
"Well, if there's nothing else, off you go to do your homework. Good evening, all."
"Hello Seamus, Dean," Gran said cheerily, as she stopped at the tableside, on her way out of the Great Hall.
"Hello, Gran!" "This is quite the surprise, Gran!"
"Well, the Headmaster was in a bit of a pickle; so he asked for my help and I couldn't say no to an old friend, could I?" She beamed at them, looking around at the group. "Hello Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and you too, Harry."
"Hello, Gran." "Hi, Gran!" "Welcome back to Hogwarts." "Hello, Gran, good to see you again."
"Well, I must get unpacked, so I'll talk to you all later."
Waving, she turned and joined Professors McGonagall and Sprout at the door, chatting with them as they walked away.
"Wow, Neville, this must be weird for you, huh?" Ron asked.
"Oh, I don't mind Gran being here."
"No. /I'm not taking Potions class anymore/!"
Throwing back his head, he roared with laughter, and they joined him, causing some of the others students to shake their heads and hurry away from this obviously deranged bunch of Gryffindors.