Carine stood silently for a long moment. “At least you had the brains not to fall in love like Rowan.”
Arelia held the rail of the covered bridge and looked out at the breathtaking view around the school. She couldn’t hide her smile.
“So he wasn’t a beast?” Carine asked.
“No. He was rather irritable at first, but claimed it was because of your Quidditch team boys getting injured.”
“Well, maybe he was – but I got the impression he was annoyed because I was almost late.”
“That’s a heck of a way to start. You had an hour, what did you do? Get there at a quarter till?”
“I arrived with two minutes to spare.” She grinned at Carine’s shocked look. “On purpose. I wanted to see what he’d do, and I was so nervous I couldn’t get myself together until nearly then.”
“Not contradictory reasons at all.” Carine sighed. “So did you stop being a basket case?”
“Eventually. Then I proceeded right into brazen like you suggested, but that was this morning.”
Carine turned to face her. “You stayed the whole night?”
“Yes, plus most of this morning. That’s why I missed breakfast.”
“And he was nice to you,” she said, her voice flat with disbelief.
“I wouldn’t call it nice. He’s as moody and acidic as you said, but as fascinating as I always imagined, too. He was tolerating me, probably.”
“So what did you think? Was it worth it?”
“Yes. I don’t have anything to compare it to – but yes. Oh! He knew my Hufflepuff’s name: Silas.” Arelia frowned. “I don’t know if that’s his surname or not.”
“Who cares? If Snape used it, it was his surname. End of the Hufflepuff topic.”
“Not quite. Apparently he defended my honor to our Head Boy. Remember that stupid bet Beldon started in fifth year?”
“Yeah, but you can’t claim it with Snape. He’d keel-haul you.”
“He bet on me last year.”
“Snape? He would.”
Arelia looked out again, over the Forbidden Forest. Just as the sunset turned silver and gold, a black winged shape rose up out of the treetops. It looked like a dark Pegasus with a reptilian head. “Carine, look – a Thestral!” She pointed.
Carine glanced up and stared, then shook her head. “I know they pull the carriages, but I can’t see them.” She turned her head to watch her friend. “Who died on you?”
“I sat with my aunt in the hospital when she was in a coma after a car accident. I was ten, and my parents didn’t want me to stay in the room so much, but she was my favorite relative, and I won the fight.” The Thestral sank back into the trees. “You told me your cousin died when you were in third year, at your house. I’m glad you didn’t see it. He fell down the stairs, right?”
“After a mishap with a spell, yeah; he was playing with the Dark Arts, I’m sure of it.” Carine’s eyes shone with tears.
Arelia touched her shoulder gently. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know it still upset you so much.”
She wiped at her eyes. “It doesn’t really. We didn’t get along. I hated it when he’d stay with us. It was just – such a horrible way to die.”
“Wasn’t he an infamous Quidditch player here at school?”
Carine nodded. “Hellfire Hamish Ketch, the Bludger God. Mom goes on and on about the pro teams scouting him in his seventh year, right before he died; she’s still all myopic about it. She thought he could do no wrong.”
“So why didn’t you get along? Besides him being a member of the Slytherin brute squad.”
“He had a habit of throwing my pets against walls,” she replied, glaring out at the sunset.
“Oh. I’m sorry, and relieved he didn’t hurt Latimer.” Eager to change the subject, she added, “How is he? Rhiannon misses him.”
Carine smiled. “I bet. She misses picking him up by the tail and flying him over the lake, right? Bloody owl.”
~ ~ ~
Arriving at Potions class on Monday morning, Arelia ignored Snape as she set out her text and supplies. He paid no attention to her, and that made it easy. For the first time, she smiled at the handsome boy who took the desk next to hers.
He recovered from his surprise and grinned. “Hi.”
“I’m sorry I missed you at the game.”
“That’s okay. I ended up going down to help with the casualties.”
“Aiding Slytherins in need; very humanitarian of you.”
“Not really – I was hauling Gowan, the Gryffindor Chaser.”
“So you said you wanted to play professionally? Carine reminded me of her cousin Ketch the other day. He was going to play for a pro team, but he had an accident.”
“I knew Ketch.” He took out his book and quill. “If any team would take me, I could die happy, but I’d love to play for the Heidelberg Harriers.”
Heidelberg? Arelia hid a smile. No wonder Carine accused me of aspiring to be a house frau. She phased out the Quidditch talk and just studied him. If he weren’t so built, he’d almost be pretty. I’d be bored, but the children would be gorgeous. I wonder if I’d be bored in bed? After Snape, I might be.
Professor Snape called the class to order and they settled in to pay attention. Now and then, Arelia thought about what Snape had said about Silas defending her to Beldon last year. Once, she glanced over at the Head Boy and smirked at him, enjoying his nervous reaction.
“Are you friends with him?” Silas whispered.
“Who, Beldon? Not really. He’s not a mortal enemy but too pompous to call a friend. Why?”
He shook his head. When Snape turned to harass a Gryffindor, he looked at her. “He’s – he hasn’t got a habit of speaking about women with tact.”
“I know. I know about the bet, too, and heard that you called him something foul over it. I appreciate it.”
He closed his mouth with a snap and then muttered, “Anytime.”
“So what’s your first name, Silas?”
“Alexander, but my friends call me Xander.”
Arelia abruptly noticed Professor Snape watching her as he stood over the hapless Gryffindor’s cauldron. She let a smile spread over her lips and whispered, “Would you pass me a newt, Xander?”
Care of Magical Creatures was let out early again and Carine took the opportunity to duck out and visit Hagrid. The walk down to the Groundskeeper’s hut gave her time to think about what she could and couldn’t tell him. Hagrid wasn’t there when she arrived, and she didn’t hear Fang bark at her knock.
Is he in the forest? Looking around quickly once, she slipped under the shadows of the trees. “Hagrid? Fang?”
A deep voice hailed her from between the trees, “That yeh, Carine?”
Fang bounded out at her and begged for a scratch. She pacified the huge black Mastiff brute with her manicured nails and followed him to his master.
“Class is canceled early, so I came to see you,” she said when Hagrid came into sight.
The giant man with the heavy beard and mop of brown hair was bent double to inspect the foreleg of a Thestral mare. “What part o’ Professor Kettleburn got eaten this time?” he asked.
“Nothing eaten,” she replied with a smile. When she reached out to stroke the mare’s neck, Fang whimpered his neglect. “He lost a fight with a bowtruckle. Sad, really.”
“Well, it takes all kinds, don’ it?”
“Is this Ghania? She’s gotten so big. What’s wrong with her?”
“Yeah, tis her, but I don’ rightly know. Favorin’ it she was.” As he straightened, he eyed Carine closely. “Won’ do if yeh’re seen in here. What’s on yer mind?”
“Humph. Well, come on down ter the house. I gotta fix a salve fer that leg. Tea?”
The hut was tidy for Hagrid. He hadn’t known she was coming to visit, so he must have cleaned up for someone else. She sat at the table and stroked the dog’s head that had immediately landed on her lap. He’d drool on her school robes, but she couldn’t care about it.
She watched the man make tea and smiled quietly to herself. Some people were afraid of Hagrid for his size and fierce appearance, but he was as gentle and easy to like as Fang.
Carine blushed when she thought of the night she’d found out he was her friend. She’d snuck off to the Hog’s Head on a Hogsmeade weekend in her third year and gotten drunk on firewhiskey. The simple fact that she’d mistaken the light in Hagrid’s windows for part of the castle proved how far gone she had been. The surprised Groundskeeper had taken her in and helped her sober up with quarts of black coffee. To this day, she wasn’t sure of all she might have told him that night.
The following day she had snuck down to thank him and found him training some of the Thestrals for hauling carriages. The shock of seeing the beasts for the first time had taken her mind off of her troubles and Hagrid hadn’t said anything about the fact that she could see them. Without a word, he had let her help care for a mare and her foal. The foal had been Ghania.
“Here y’are,” he said, putting down two massive mugs of steaming tea. He took a chair opposite her and sipped from his mug. “Got summat wrong with yeh, Carine, Fang an’ I always can tell. Is it them boys? Hayden? Heard they was bein’ difficult.”
She smiled at his fiercely protective look. What’s the wrath of Snape compared to Hagrid’s fists? Too bad I can’t ask him to do that. I’d love to watch. I’m not sure it’s Hayden I’d want to sick him on, though. “Not really. It’s Professor Snape.” She swallowed hard. “He’s – well, the N.E.W.T. level class is tough.”
“I’m s’posed to believe that? On’y, yeh’re one o’ the smartest girls in school, right? Potions should be a snap fer yeh.”
“The work isn’t bad, it’s him. You know how he is.”
“I do.” He tugged at his beard for a second. “Carine, I got ter tell yeh summat that’s been botherin’ me. I know ‘bout the tutorin’.”
Shit. “You mean helping the other students? I’ve almost been too busy for it. How did you know about it?”
“A friend tol’ me ‘bout it last year, an’ I got eyes. The whole mob o’ them boys go after folks every year, an’ Hayden’s been leadin’ ’em awhile, too. Now I know yeh can’ jus’ report Snape, but yeh gotta get out o’ it.”
Oh my God. Who told him? Rowan? “Hagrid, please, you haven’t said anything to anyone have you?”
“No, an’ I won’, but yeh’re a mess. I ain’t seen yeh smile straight since the year started.”
Tell him, she argued with herself. You wanted a friend to talk to about it. Here he is, and he already knows. God, if Snape found out! She clutched the heavy mug, not trusting herself to lift it. “I can’t get out of it. Hagrid, you have to understand. I didn’t know – nearly enough about him. I thought I could handle him, like the rest of the idiotic male horde. Begging your pardon,” she added, and hoisted the mug at last to avoid his gaze.
“Professor Snape is’n’ a boy.”
“I asked for it. I wanted the advantages, the perks, and the whole damn thing. I went after him, and I got – what I thought I wanted. I couldn’t deal with those boys anymore. I wanted them to just leave me alone. I knew if I were the new Teacher’s Pet, they couldn’t touch me. Not Marcus or Hayden – any of them.”
“They been touchin’ plenty others. I heard ‘bout the Ravenclaw Seeker, too.”
Carine hung her head. Fang whined, but she didn’t let go of the mug. “I asked him to stop them from doing that. He said he would.”
“Then yeh can ask him ter stop it all. He ain’t hurtin’ yeh, is he?”
“No!” She stared up at him, willing him to believe it. “It’s not like that. He’s – callous … but he doesn’t hurt me.” A heated blush crept up her face. “Most of the time, he’s – well … he knows what he’s doing … in a good way.”
“Humph. Got yeh wound up in knots, though, don’ he?”
“It’s not his fault. I’m not… I’m…” The tears started before she could hide them.
Hagrid moved his chair closer with a loud scraping noise. Fang retreated as the giant hand reached out to comfort her, patting her back. He pulled a striped handkerchief from a pocket and handed it to her.
“It’s what yeh said ter me before, is’n’ it? ‘Bout that wretch cousin o’ yers?”
She dabbed at her eyes with the handkerchief. “I told you about that?”
“Yeah. Figured yeh didn’ remember.” He let out a heavy sigh. “Does Professor Snape know ‘bout him?”
“Tell him,” he urged. “Tell him yeh got a right ter be treated well an’ all, too. Mostly, yeh ought ter tell him ter go fish up a tree.”
Carine laughed in spite of herself. Hagrid’s bushy brows were frowning in earnest, but the image of her standing up to Snape was ridiculous enough to be funny.
“Maybe I could tell him about Hamish … but it just doesn’t work that way. I went after him and I agreed to play by his rules … so I’m stuck. If I backed out now, I’d be an outcast in my own house, and God – how could I talk about all that stuff to … him?”
“He’s human – or that’s the rumor, is’n’ it? Yeh can’ let him treat yeh like this. Don’ worry ‘bout askin’ fer it. Yeh knew Rowan, didn’ yeh?”
“Yes, I did. She warned me about him, but I thought…”
“So did she. She had it all figured out, she did.” He shook his shaggy mane. “She tol’ me that the girl before her was into it, didn’ care ‘bout it. She thought she could do the same. She was wrong, an’ so’re yeh.”
“I can’t back out. I won’t.”
“Then talk. Make him treat yeh right.”
I can’t do that either. She slumped in her chair. “I’ll try to make him understand.” She sipped the tea as Hagrid sat back. “Can I help you make the salve? I just – want to think about something else for a while.”
Hagrid gave her a kind smile. “Sure yeh can. Glad o’ the help.”
They finished off the tea and started putting the medicine together. Carine picked up his mortar and pestle and mashed up the strips of mandrake root. Fang had tried to worm his way into her lap again but seemed to change his mind when her tears turned to anger and the mandrake root suffered for it.
When they were finished, Hagrid carried the bowl of salve and Carine followed him back into the forest, trying to reassure Fang with pats and scratches that she wasn’t upset with him.
It was nearly dark when she headed back up to the castle, but she felt better than she had in weeks. Slipping into the Great Hall, she sat quickly and started in on dinner. She had been ignoring the teacher’s table so thoroughly that the meal was over before she knew that Snape hadn’t been present at all.
“I believe I told you to cease this sort of behavior?” Severus asked, his tone arcing from derision to arrogant distaste.
Hayden and Silas straightened reluctantly and their fists slowly uncurled. The hall was dim around them and neither boy had seen their Potions master approach.
“Yes, sir,” the heavy Slytherin responded, his eyes sweeping the floor.
“Professor Snape, I can explain, if he won’t,” Silas offered.
“If it has anything to do with Miss Lachlan, I already know about it, but I think ten points from Hufflepuff should suffice for fighting.”
“Sir! This oaf –”
“Is going to serve detention with me this coming Saturday afternoon; it would be a pity if you had to join him. What would your team do without you?”
Silas lifted his chin proudly. “Your pardon, sir.”
“Go about your business, Mr. Silas. Mr. Hayden, I need to discuss your detention with you.”
They waited until the Hufflepuff had gone down the stairs. Severus turned and entered an empty classroom, followed reluctantly by his student.
“This new rule kills our fun, sir.”
“So you’ve decided to harass students who have nothing to do with Miss Lachlan?”
“He got in my way. Sir.”
“Mr. Hayden, I do not care if the delicate sensibilities of Miss Lachlan have ruined your favorite sport in your final year. I expect obedience from students and to be obeyed without fail or delay by members of my own house – sans embellishment. Is any part of that unclear?”
“Meet me in my office after breakfast on Saturday – for detention,” Severus ordered. He smiled thinly as he watched the unborn protest fade from the boy’s face.
Exiting the room without a backward glance, he left Hayden to think over the consequences of disobedience.
A clear contralto voice called out to him from down the hall. “Professor Snape. Severus?”
He turned and frowned as she approached. “Professor Falchion.” She looks the same as the last time I saw her – was it a Blasting Curse she threw? “I hear congratulations are in order on your recent nuptials.”
“Thank you, but I didn’t stop you to chat. I’ve been talking with Professor McGonagall and we both feel we have a student in common who may be having problems. She’s in your house and one of your students, so I wanted to ask you about it. It’s Miss Lachlan.”
“The situation has already been handled. Miss Lachlan’s problems, namely Mr. Hayden and Mr. Marcus, have been dealt with for their displays of aggression.” He met her stare with a chilly calm.
“Then I will look for the situation to improve. She is a gifted young woman and we have been concerned that her lack of concentration in our classes could herald a deeper issue.”
“I will talk with her myself and determine if she feels justified in the disciplinary action on her peers. As it stands now, I see no further difficulty in her path. Good evening, Professor.” He walked away, but her voice called after him.
“Some things remain unseen, Professor. As we both know all too well.”
~ ~ ~
The fire in his chambers blazed, driving away the chill of the room. Severus sat on the couch with his wand twirling between the fingers of his left hand and his eyes on the flames.
She was there. She knows all of it – what was public, at least, which was more than enough. My past is nothing but a book to that woman, to be read at will. I never thought I could miss Quirrel.
He rose abruptly and went to stand before the Herrick tapestry. Reaching out, he lifted it and moved it aside. The pole that mounted it to the stone wall swung out on a clever hinge, revealing a wide painted black arch filled with silver runes.
Transferring his wand to his right hand, he tapped the inside of the arch once. “Visus.” The gray stone faded within the arch and became a window, looking out into a brightly lit and beautifully appointed chamber.
The lone figure of a blonde girl sat on the hope chest before the fire, wrapped in a thick bathrobe. A small dark creature curled in her lap looked up, staring at him unmistakably through the spell.
Does Angelique Falchion recognize your resemblance to another we both once knew? You are not her twin, but the similarities haunt me. The other one, your friend of fear and sudden boldness – it was a mistake to lie with her. Though she cannot recall the past with her face, the thin façade of gentle ardor threatened. And so it is you, again, and yet they try to take even that. I will not allow it.
He waited until she turned away – picking up an iron poker to stir the fire, and dislodging the rat. Placing his hand over the image without touching it, he raised his wand again.
The cold of the Portcullis Charm enveloped him as he stepped inside the arch. The rodent still stared and when Miss Lachlan turned, she cried out. Behind him, the wall appeared to be stone again, though the charm was still on it.
“Professor,” she said, holding the robe tightly closed with eyes downcast. When he said nothing, she made a soft sound, like a mouse snagged by an owl. Her hands moved, beginning to open the robe. Her rat bared its teeth at him.
“Stop,” he said. She obeyed, trembling. “There is a matter we must discuss, Miss Lachlan. It seems your behavior has altered sufficiently to attract the attention of your other teachers, eliciting their concern. The sport of Hayden and the others has been stopped. Is there any further thing you require before this distracted melancholy can be set aside?”
It seemed for a moment that she would speak but she shook her head instead, whispering, “No, sir. Nothing.”
“Then I may expect your behavior to improve and cease alarming others?”
The aggravating girl began to cry. “Yes, sir.”
Watching her, his anger kindled – yet something else rose up in him too, an emotion he refused to entertain.
“Do you wish…?” She asked, her eyes downcast again, fingers poised on the collar of her robe.
“No. I want you to rest, and I will determine later if your attitude has improved.”
“Sir? May I speak?”
“What is it?”
“I – wanted to thank you, for being kind to Arelia.”
Severus frowned. “That was a mistake I will not repeat. Do you understand that, Miss Lachlan?”
“Yes, sir, but – this weekend?”
“What about it?”
“It’s a Hogsmeade weekend, sir. You said…”
His glare stopped her cold. “I know what I said. I’ve changed my mind. You may go into town with your friend.”
She nodded and closed her robe again. For one blinding moment, he wanted to reach out and tear it from her. The urge built – to press her down and take her. Gripping his wand, he fought it fiercely.
Whatever her thoughts might be, emotional pain was plain on her exquisite face, and her tears called up the abyss of his loss. Knowing the heat of his anger wouldn’t stand against it, he backed into the waiting portal the moment her eyes weren’t on him.
Standing once again in his bedchamber, he whispered, “Finite Incantatum.”
He dropped his wand to his side as his other hand rose and touched the solid stone. Leaning forward, he rested his forehead against it as his hair fell to curtain his face. In the silence, he whispered a name, reverently, as if offering a prayer to a patron saint.
Author’s Note: The magical arch linking Snape’s chamber to the Tutor’s suite is one of my favorite things I invented for this story. I’ve also fixed a few details and gotten more of the school year chronology correct this time. There are so many more details and resources available now than there were ages ago when I originally wrote this. I’ve been editing this story all day and I may post another chapter soon but I also need to work on other WIPs. I guess I’ll roll the dice tomorrow. Thanks for reading! – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic) (anongrimm.tumblr.com)