After the first week of having nothing to do, Carine had come to visit as promised. For the first time in her life since starting school at Hogwarts, Arelia had a fun summer. Naturally, her parents adored the gregarious Slytherin girl instantly. She adored the fact that they were both too busy to interfere with her plans for their daughter.
Arelia’s parents, all their friends and neighbors, and everyone else she knew away from school, were Muggles. Her father was a neurosurgeon, her mother a psychiatrist. They had accepted the news that their only child was a witch with some difficulty, but over the years, she’d convinced them that it could have its benefits.
Carine, who was from an old pure-blood wizarding family, was fascinated by a lot of the Muggle things in Arelia’s home. They’d spent the first few days immersing her in Muggle music, movies, and diversions.
Then Carine began her own campaign – the breaking of Arelia’s good girl mold, which she went along with more or less willingly, and the utter change in her wardrobe.
“We can’t help the school uniforms, but there’re plenty of opportunities to be seen in casual clothes, and yours need upgrading,” the blonde announced on the way out the door.
The local shops were raided, Arelia taught Carine the finer points of using plastic to pay for their purchases, and the girls had to have help getting all of the bags and boxes into the taxi. After dinner, they dragged everything out in Arelia’s bedroom and took stock.
“Why did you make me get this?” Arelia asked, holding up a delicate white silk nightgown that wouldn’t get as far as her knees. “The girls in my dorm aren’t who I’m trying to impress, are they?”
“I hope not. You needed it. The Ravenclaw blue pajamas are so not a part of our plan.”
“Who am I trying to impress? I’m already disgusted with most of the boys in my house. The Gryffindors are about the same.”
“And the Slytherins?”
“Please. They were never in the running.”
“Except for the Head, right?”
Arelia frowned. “Could you drop that? I’m not in love with Professor Snape. Maybe that Quidditch Captain – the Hufflepuff. What was his name?”
“If you waste all of my genius make-over tips on some insipid Hufflepuff, I will leave you to your dismal loveless fate. Try to aspire a little higher than future dirt-grubbing house frau.”
“He’s nice – and handsome.”
“His family has been a pack of farmers for centuries. Not a decent wizard or witch in the lot. Besides, miss ‘he’s nice and handsome’, if you don’t even know his name, stop pretending to be interested.”
“All right, all right.” Arelia sighed. “Who am I supposed to be after? And don’t say Professor Snape.”
Carine ignored that. “First of all, stop thinking about boys our age. Unless you go for Slytherins, there’s hardly a marriageable one in our class. Aim for our classmates’ older brothers. Hell, aim for their fathers!”
Arelia laughed. “You are mad. So why aren’t you dating a rich Slytherin from school?”
The other girl shrugged. “They’re boring. They’re boys! We want men. Go for the ones who’ve already made their fortune.”
“I don’t need a fortune, my family is rich.”
“So? They’ll want you to marry well.”
“My parents are more interested in whether or not I plan to go to Oxford after I graduate, not which man I marry – and you don’t seem so keen on it yourself.”
“I’m not. My family is. But I want to be free, travel – have adventures. That’s why I want to get into the Ministry or Gringotts, in any job that lets me do that.”
“Your parents are in the Ministry, aren’t they?”
“Yes … but they’d rather I marry rich.”
The warm days were fading. After tomorrow, she’d have to head home for the last week of vacation. When she opened her eyes, moonlight illuminated the bedroom. The dim shape of Arelia lay under the covers a foot away.
A dark spill of rich silken brunette hair fell over the pillows. Carine had talked her into getting it cut. Not short – just styled. The new look had delighted Mr. and Mrs. Galen. It was going to shock their classmates. Arelia could pass for a woman now. Teaching her to act like one was the tough part. The Ravenclaw prefect was too proper, too perfect. Not for the first time, Carine wished she’d been Sorted into Slytherin.
What a path of social destruction we could have wreaked if the problem of different houses hadn’t held us back! We only ever get to share a few classes and getting together at meals is seen as disloyal by both houses. Frowning at her sleeping friend, she sighed. How can I turn you into the wild and free thing you ought to be at this rate?
Her thoughts turned to Rowan Fletcher. They hadn’t strayed far for long, but Arelia didn’t want to talk about Slytherin’s secret and decadent traditions, so the subject of the Slytherin Tutor had been a private puzzle.
She didn’t know when it had started – probably not long after Snape had arrived at Hogwarts. Before that, rumor had it he’d been mixed up with You-Know-Who in the war.
Obviously, he was a Death Eater – but one of those claiming they were under the Imperious Curse? Or was he proud of what he was? Mother said his name was listed in the trial records, but they couldn’t pin anything on him. Then Dumbledore let him into Hogwarts. Does the Headmaster know about the Slytherin Tutor? Teacher’s Pet … what are the perks, exactly? Besides the personal suite? Rowan wouldn’t say.
Rumor, or course, said plenty. Whispers in the dorms and in the common room said the same things. The Slytherin Tutor was chosen at the beginning of each year, always a seventh year student and always a girl – a pretty girl. They were generally the smartest of the class, as long as the smartest wasn’t the most homely.
Officially, they took extra classes – some evenings, some weekends – to learn the inside track of teaching potions to younger students in need of help with their studies. Yet the position wasn’t official and none of the other houses had anything like it.
Do they even know about it? Probably not – no one can keep a secret like Slytherin.
Once the girl was chosen, however that happened, the others all knew who she was because she was given the private room. None of the Slytherin boys would try to date her and they’d give hell to any other boy who tried.
From then on, until graduation, she is marked … as his.
Professor Severus Snape: in his early thirties; not much was known of his family. The stories were sketchy about his past and no one asked him about it. There weren’t many Slytherin girls who hadn’t daydreamed at one time or another about the six foot one tower of sneering acerbic mystery. His skill at magic and potions was stunning. Even better, his habit of telling the brutal truth to his charges was appreciated by them, even if he was sometimes harsh.
After all, if you can’t expect the truth from your Head of House, who can you get it from? Some simpering Gryffindor Head Girl? But what were the perks? Besides getting to mess with the ultimate challenge? Does he let you slide in class?
Carine frowned. She already had that – she belonged to his house. Free help with exams was pointless as a perk – her grades were almost as good as Arelia’s, Ravenclaw’s star. Then a wicked smile wiped away her frown.
Well, it might be worth it just to hear that velvet baritone whispering in my ear – and to keep the rest of the boring children at bay. Private quarters with my own bath wouldn’t be hard to get used to, either. All I have to do is make sure he chooses me.
Warmed at the thought, she glanced at her best friend again and the smile started to fade.
What about Arelia? I can’t teach her how to wage war on the hearts of men if I’m too busy playing tutor with Snape.
Wrestling with limited inter-house options, she quickly abandoned fairness and boring common sense to welcome in a truly evil plot the moment it sliced into her thoughts.
Maybe the good professor is bored. He might need two pets next year. After all, men do like variety. When I’m through with remaking her, he won’t even care that she isn’t a Slytherin. What better way to initiate her into the ranks of womanhood than teaching her to conquer the man she loves?
The old joke was still funny, but the more Arelia protested it wasn’t true, the more Carine became convinced it was. She turned away from the moonlight and snuggled in to go back to sleep with a mischievous smile lingering on her lips.
Standing in the shadows beside the Slug & Jiggers Apothecary in Diagon Alley, Severus watched the two girls. Lachlan and Galen had escaped their parents and were window-shopping along the street. They had originally emerged from Flourish and Blotts, and were now admiring the new brooms in the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies, just up the street.
When he crossed the street and walked back toward Gringotts, he saw Lachlan take notice of him. She said something to her companion and to his surprise, they began following him.
At the bank, he turned left down Knockturn Alley. The sign of the tiny pub he stopped at was too grimy to read but he walked into the Gallows’s Pole with no concern for the suspicious looks the clientele shot his way.
He chose a booth at the back, against a wall. It was dim and smoky in the pub and the waitress was a witch who had undoubtedly served time in Azkaban for something lewd. He ordered a firewhiskey and watched the door and the greasy windows.
The girls arrived in a flurry of hushed argument. The regal bearing of the Ravenclaw prefect wasn’t as straight-laced as he remembered. She appeared as aloof as ever but her clothing was more provocative. She also seemed scandalized to be in Knockturn Alley at all, let alone a pub.
Both her change of wardrobe and her presence in the pub could be laid on Lachlan’s doorstep, no doubt. The blonde was dressed warmly in a dark gray coat, yet her clothing underneath it was not meant for the autumn chill.
When the brash Slytherin spotted him, she gripped her friend by the elbow and steered her through the stares to his booth.
“Professor Snape, hello!”
“Miss Lachlan, Miss Galen. I believe you know this establishment is out of bounds for students?”
“Here be dragons?” Lachlan asked. “We won’t stay long. May we join you?”
Severus traced the rim of his glass with a fingertip. “Briefly, if you wish.”
“We’ve been walking all morning and Arelia’s feet are tired, aren’t they?”
The brunette started to shake her head but the blonde pushed her down into the booth beside him. He made room for her along the bench seat, but she didn’t move closer. Her bold friend sat opposite and smiled at him, catching his gaze and holding it a moment before the waitress returned.
“What’ll you have, other than alcohol?” She eyed them both suspiciously.
“We’ll both have a butterbeer, please,” Lachlan piped up.
“On my tab, if you would,” Severus said.
“Thank you, sir.” She winked an emerald eye at him.
The Ravenclaw, Flitwick’s pride and joy, remembered to close her mouth. The fingers she clasped demurely in her lap trembled slightly. The waitress brought their drinks in bottles, opened them, and left with a grunt.
Severus raised his heavy crystal glass. “What shall we drink to?”
“Slytherin’s victory over Gryffindor the first game in,” Lachlan said, glowing with eager and ambitious Quidditch spirit.
“And you don’t mind such a toast, Miss Galen?”
“What? Um … no. Sir.”
The blonde used her bottle to make sure her friend’s struck his glass with her own. “Arelia doesn’t watch Quidditch much, the philistine.”
Severus smiled at the pink blush that crept up the Ravenclaw’s pale and perfect skin. Her eyes were a shocking light gray. Is she eighteen? Lachlan would be, by now. “As I do not believe the given excuse, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”
The blonde leaned forward, even as her friend shrank back slightly. “We just saw you come this way and wanted to say hello. Potions is one of Arelia’s favorite subjects, and I thought she might like to talk to you outside of classes for once. Me, I’m just a loyal Slytherin, checking in.”
“A Slytherin is never ‘just’ anything,” he remarked with an arched dark eyebrow.
Lachlan actually giggled – a calculated sound meant to entice. The girl had removed her coat and laid it beside her on the bench. Her low-cut midnight blue blouse offered an inviting view.
You aren’t the first to attempt to campaign for it – but why are you dragging your companion along? We mustn’t risk house secrets.
Setting his glass down, he crossed his arms over his chest, fingertips stroking slightly at the long bulge of his wand in the breast pocket of his black caftan. Then he set aside the impulse to read their thoughts. It was too easy and the mystery was more entertaining.
Turning to the pale beauty with the cloud of dark hair, he asked, “What would you like to discuss?”
“I – don’t know, sir.”
“She’s nervous. He doesn’t bite, Arelia.”
Galen blushed more deeply. She spoke in a rush. “I was wondering if you would tell me about some of the areas we’ll be covering this year?”
“I could, but it would spoil my speech for the first day of classes. I’d rather satisfy my curiosity about your friendship with Miss Lachlan. It is unusual for a Ravenclaw prodigy to go romping with my prize deviant genius.”
When that rendered her mute, Lachlan swooped in. “We met in fourth year, sir. Double Charms. Lately, Arelia’s decided she wants more out of life – I’ve offered to help her expand her horizons.”
“Intriguing. Unfortunately, I doubt if you are slated to be in the same class. I shall have to monitor your progress in this matter individually.”
“We’d be grateful for your guidance, sir.” Lachlan widened her bright emerald eyes slightly as she beamed at him – a ploy that would have easily pulled many men into her clutches.
The statuesque Ravenclaw was silent, clinging to her drink and staring daggers at her friend. Severus mused that if he were to touch her now, she would startle and possibly end up sitting on the floor. He hoped it was the normal fear of his infamous temper he detected – and not Lachlan telling tales.
Carine Lachlan leaned back languidly against the high back of the booth. After a moment, Severus felt the unmistakable gentle pressure of her slender foot against his groin. The toes, wrapped in a sock, kneaded him into life with an impressive talent.
“Your parents may be concerned about you,” he said, his voice dropping as the prodded lust grew. “Students shouldn’t be in Knockturn Alley at all, Miss Lachlan. You walk where others fear to tread.”
She held his gaze, not stopping her ministrations – she didn’t even blush.
Galen, obviously unaware of the dicey power play being waged under her nose, took his cryptic warning as an excuse to flee.
“He’s right, Carine. We should go. Thank you for the drinks, sir.”
Severus nodded to her. The delicious little foot withdrew as Lachlan stood. His prefect made a face as she sought her shoe under the table. “Yes, thanks, sir – for everything.”
When she rose to join her friend, he remained seated. “My pleasure, Miss Lachlan.”
The girls carried their bottles with them out into the alleyway. The stares and mutters followed them out but none of the pub patrons turned to stare at him.
Severus tossed down the rest of his drink in one bracing gulp. Responding to a gesture, the waitress brought the bottle and poured him another. Taking his time with it, savoring the heat in his throat that matched the heat in his groin, he waited.
He had looked forward to the selection process, but perhaps now he wouldn’t bother. It took a while before he trusted himself to be able to walk out of the pub discretely.