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Chapter 1: Chapter One - Avrille
I would have never guessed that running into someone could totally change the course of my life. And I really mean running into someone.
A few weeks prior, I had been honoured as a recent winner of the North American Potioneer Society’s Rising Star Award with an invitation to attend an exclusive lecture being given in London by Professor Severus Snape. He would be giving his dissertation on the effectiveness of demi-human blood in restorative potions and the controversy surrounding its use. I couldn’t believe my luck when I received the invite; my Remedial Arts Thesis (R.A.T.) was on potion-making in the healing arts, so this lecture seemed made for me. I was also dying to hear a lecture by Professor Snape. His innovations in the art of potion-making were famous, and it was mostly because of his position as a staff member that I applied to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for my teaching apprenticeship following graduate school. My mother had tried to talk me out of applying there. Although she regarded Albus Dumbledore to be one of the most important and powerful wizards of the modern age, she worried about me being so far from home. I managed to convince her eventually by reminding her that Britain held far better opportunities than our home in rural, though picturesque, Nova Scotia.
Anyway, I had arrived in London a few days early and spent most of them pursuing normal Muggle-ish tourism like visiting Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. Foolishly, I had not spent much time on my magical sightseeing, so it took me much longer than I had planned to find St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries where Professor Snape was holding his lecture. A Healer at the reception desk directed me to the ninth floor, mainly administrative but also holding numerous lecture halls as well as observatories for interesting magical operations. By now I was on the verge of being late to the lecture and berated myself repeatedly for my unpreparedness and poor time management and having acted like a primary-school girl on a field trip.
Since I was hurrying down the long and twisting hallways with my nose buried in a directory pamphlet, I had little vision as to where I was going. Therefore it was hardly surprising when I crashed into someone at a virtual run, strewing the contents of my bag across breadth of the corridor. I dropped to the floor to collect my scattered belongings while being gently dusted by loose leaves of parchment filtering down from the collision.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” I gasped and looked to see if my victim was injured. My eyes came to rest on a wizard who appeared several years older than me. His long, black hair hung over his eyes as he stooped over to pick up the closest of his dropped notes, an empty file folder clutched in his left hand.
“Yes, I should hope,” he muttered irritably. He then retrieved the far flung papers astonishingly quickly with what seemed to be a nonverbal Summoning Charm directed with his empty right hand as his left gathered the parchment around his feet. Watching this deft spell-work left me frozen in amazement for a moment in an awkward half-crouch as I was trying to gather up my own things; the wizard was not even using a wand. Within seconds he was standing, and his folder was full once more. Then he looked over and saw my expression, which must have been a strange mixture of undiluted awe and utter mortification.
His scowl softened somewhat, and he said in a politer tone, “Forgive me. I’m quite late and was not paying attention to where I was going either.” He knelt down beside me and helped me quickly locate the rest of my personal items as I fetched a quill of his that had gone astray. Once or twice his eyes darted to my Muggle jeans and pink hooded sweatshirt, quite different from his elegant robes of deep charcoal with black top-stitching.
“No, it was my fault. I’m just hopelessly lost, you see. I’m trying to find the hall where Professor Snape is giving his lecture. Am I close to it?” The wizard looked at me with a strange expression, the nature of which I could not guess.
“I’m headed to the hall myself, so I can escort you if you like,” he said, straightening up and rearranging his grip on his bundle, perhaps just in case another maniacal twenty-something crashed into him again.
“Oh, that would be great!” I replied, and we took off down the hallway together. In fact, I had only been a few doors away, and if I had not been completely absorbed in that directory, I would have seen the placard in front of the hall bearing the words: “Professor Severus Snape of Hogwarts, ‘The Benefits and Shortcomings of Demi-Human Blood Usage in the Restorative Arts,’ Saturday the Twenty-Second, Noon to Two O’clock, Questions and Answers to Follow,” lit up in silver lettering. The wizard opened the door and held it ajar for me.
I gave him what I hoped to be a charming, apologetic smile and said, “Thank you and sorry again for that.” I held out my free hand to him, wondering if the British did that sort of thing. The wizard, who I now noticed to be quite interesting looking with his dark, brooding, melancholic eyes, gave me the same peculiar look once more, but took my hand nevertheless. I noticed his gaze lingered on the little Canadian flag pin I always kept on my hoodie.
“It has been a pleasure,” he said, rather like he meant it too, and walked into the auditorium. I scampered in after him and tried to find a seat as quietly as I could without attracting too many disparaging stares from elderly witches and wizards alike around me. Finding a seat near the back, I quickly took out my notebook and auto-refill quill and glanced out of the corner of my eye to see where my poor assaulted wizard was sitting. I could not say why, but he greatly intrigued me. My breath caught when I saw he had not taken a seat but was striding purposefully to the center of the theatre-in-the-round. He reached the podium on which he briskly sorted through his many sheets of parchment, thoughtfully rearranged by me. I sank down into my seat, as if he could have seen me, and covered my face in my hands. However, that did not stop me from hearing his polished baritone state, “Good afternoon, I am Professor Severus Snape. I apologize for the delay.”
Oh God, let me die now.
I had never been so mortified in my entire life. I had just physically assaulted my future mentor without a clue as to who he was. It would not be so drastic but for the fact that I would be “meeting” him in a week’s time when I arrived at Hogwarts to begin my apprenticeship. No wonder he had looked at me as if I were speaking Japanese when I referred to him in the third person. Even though I was lucky enough for him not to know who I was now, he would certainly recognize me at Hogwarts since I would probably be spending a lot of time under his tutelage. Well, obviously; that was why I had applied to Hogwarts after all. I could just picture him a week from now upon seeing me. “Oh wonderful,” he would think, “I get to spend the vast part of this year with head-on collision girl.” As it happened, my mental self-berating caused me to miss the introduction to brilliant, forgiving, normal Professor Snape’s lecture. What a wonderful beginning I was having here.
Fortunately, I had a squat witch in front of me from whom I was able to glean what I had missed by looking at her notes over her shoulder. So far it seemed Professor Snape had just covered his education, qualifications, and experience, mostly things I already knew from reading his essays and books. He attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, graduated 1977 second in his class; was accepted into the highly exclusive Academia Veneficiorum in Rome for graduate school; wrote his B.A.T. (Black Arts Thesis) on potion-making and the Dark Arts and received unprecedented full marks; graduated top of his class from the Academia in 1980; was hired a year later by Hogwarts to be their Potions master after six months of apprenticeship under the previous Potions master who was retiring that year, and has been teaching there ever since. Yes, I knew these facts well enough. What amazed me, now thinking upon it for the first time, was that I had never actually seen Professor Snape before. His picture was never published in his works, as far as I knew. So he couldn’t blame me, obviously foreign from my accent and pin, for not knowing who the hell he was. Honestly!
I listened with rapt attention. How could I not? Professor Snape spoke with an authoritarian certainty about everything, never once bringing the thought to my mind that he could be incorrect about any of it. Not to mention his rich, deep voice that gave me shivers more than once as I furiously scribbled down every word he said in shorthand.
At the end of the lecture, which I was convinced was at least five hours too short, Professor Snape called for questions. I had come to the lecture with more than one question on my mind, yet I feared now whether or not I had the conviction to ask any of them and create the possibility for further embarrassment. Several witches and wizards around me were already raising their wands, tips aglow in the darkened hall. I debated back and forth the pros and cons of asking a simple question.
Pro: asking a really insightful, intellectual question would not only show I had paid excellent attention to the lecture, but also that I was not an absolute spaz, contrary to what Professor Snape might now be thinking. Con: I could always ask him my questions later, in private, when I was at Hogwarts just in case they were not as clever as I thought. Pro: asking now meant that when I met Professor Snape later, he might remember me as “that girl who asked that really great question” rather than “that girl who almost gave me a concussion.” Con: I was totally petrified.
“One more question only, please.” Professor Snape’s statement jarred my reality, and without realizing it, I shot my hand in the air, my wand emitting little sparks from my over-zealousness. Professor Snape looked my way and raised an eyebrow when he saw it was me.
“Yes … Miss?” he asked, pointing to me.
Before any more internal debate could occur, I heard my far-away sounding voice ask, “Owing to the fact that the giant population is rapidly diminishing, what would work as a substitute for their blood in potion-making if the race soon becomes extinct?”
Professor Snape looked at me for a moment, contemplating. “There are several possible substitutions,” he said simply after a minute, “but I would like to research more thoroughly which one would be most effective before giving a definitive choice. If you would be so kind as to leave with me an address by which you could be reached by owl, I will write you an answer when I find one.” His reply was utterly serious with no hint of sarcasm or condescension. With that said, he addressed the full audience once more, thanking them for their attendance and giving how he could be contacted if any more questions needed answering. As soon as it was polite to do so, I bolted from my seat and out of the hall, annoyed by my own unanswerable question. Of course Professor Snape would probably be wondering at this moment where I had gone, but I couldn’t face him right now. He would be able to answer me, if he still wished to, in a few days when I showed up on the Hogwarts doorstep.
The air outside of St. Mungo’s was fresh and breezy compared to the stuffy lecture hall. After a moment I began to smell once again the automobile exhaust and industrial smog, but the smells were blocked out as I pressed a hand over my mouth, cursing my bad luck. I knew I was probably making too much of it all. With all likelihood Professor Snape would forget about me between now and my arrival at Hogwarts. Alright, probably not.
Hopping on the Muggle Underground, I let my body gently sway with the train car, closing my eyes and trying to dispel the headache that was slowly spreading from my temples. I tried taking a few deep breaths but only succeeded in nauseating myself after breathing in the smell of body odour and jacket potatoes that seemed to be as much a part of the train as the seats or handrails. Finally the train came to my stop, and I gratefully disembarked, taking the upward steps in twos. Emerging once again in the London afternoon, I spotted The Leaky Cauldron a bit down the street. I ran the last few hundred feet to its peeling green door, desperate for a cold, hard Banshee Buster on the rocks. Entering the tavern, I saw it was practically filled, mostly with students and their parents seeking entrance to Diagon Alley or just a nice, chilled Butterbeer. I managed to find a seat at the bar and gave Tom the barman my order, blowing my bangs angrily out of my face.
“Rough day, Miss Asphodel?” he asked with a smile as he placed my smoking green drink in front of me.
“You have no idea,” I replied and downed my Buster in three scorching gulps. I decided to retire to my room; the rising level of chatter and shouts was not agreeing with me as many more witches, wizards, kids, and Muggles filed into the tavern. Upstairs, my room was much as I had left it, robes and books scattered absolutely everywhere. My cat, Caligula, opened one blue eye as I entered the room. I named him myself. I thought it was funny. My mom said it was morbid.
Flinging myself on my nicely made bed, I covered my face with my arms and let the day wash over me once more. Turning over on my side, I picked up my latest copy of American Witch. I thumbed through the pages, wanting to lose myself in the shallow familiarity of the latest in hairstyling spells and magicked nail polish. However, I found no matter what I tried to read, my thoughts kept wandering back to Professor Snape with his black hair falling over his mysterious eyes …
I did some quick math in my head. Graduated 1977 means … born in 1959, therefore … thirty-three years old. And you are how old, Avrille? Twenty-four?
Why am I even thinking about this?
With an exasperated sigh, I flung American Witch across the room, Caligula voicing a resentful yowl as it missed his tail by an inch. Ignoring his indignation, I rolled over onto my stomach, ready for a nice long nap.
Author's Notes: I've decided to add this note because of something that is brought up often in my reviews. In this story I have Severus as having been simply very good friends with Lily Evans. He was never in love with her. This is important to keep in mind in later chapters because the likelihood of certain feelings of his might be called into question by readers who have completed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Though the majority of the story strictly follows canon, I decided on most aspects of the plot before Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince had been released. Therefore certain things, like aspects of Severus' past, will not follow canon. (I originally gave this story an AU genre, but have since decided to remove it, even though that was the category of the Silver Dobby the story won. I worked too hard to make the story canon for me to feel comfortable calling it AU.)
Thank you for checking out my story, and I hope you keep reading! If you have time, please leave a review because they mean the absolute world to me! And many thank yous to Celticbard for the gorgeous chapter images she was able to make me in the past.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. All original characters are products of the author, as is the premise and plot.