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Chapter 3: Quiet Elegance
When she came down into the common room at seven, he was already there.
He had arrived at 6:30 this time. After all, he had no other plans, and he might as well make sure everything was ready to go when she turned up. He set the heavy cauldron in front of the couch and then opened his bag of ingredients, laying each one out on the couch next to him, between where he was and where she would be seated. He was surprised to suddenly feel a bit nervous at the thought of her sitting so close to him. Last night he had detected the slightest hint of her perfume when she played with her hair. He had even noticed that she looked better without the layer of makeup she usually wore during the day, her blue eyes no longer competing with her thick eyeliner and black mascara. He blinked, realizing that he didn’t really know this girl, who had shared a House with him for nearly five years now, and here he was practically fantasizing about her.
He was thinking about how he’d never fantasized about anyone but Lily before when she entered.
“Hey.” She offered, smiling slightly as she took her place on the couch, markedly friendlier this time. Last night hadn’t been so bad, and she figured he might not be so quick to get rid of her if she acted like she didn’t hate every minute of being with him. Which I don’t, surprisingly enough.
“Hey.” He replied softly, and then cleared his throat. “So, I figured we’d review the Delirium Draught tonight, and then maybe go over the Anxiety Antidote afterwards so you can do it in class tomorrow.” He looked down at the cauldron. “You know, if you have time.”
“I’ve got time.” She replied. “Thank you.”
They began working on the Delirium Draught together. Severus carefully showed her how to slice the butterfly wings, which she already knew, but she appreciated his demonstration of how to mix them in and let them dissolve, finally recognizing the hue the textbook had described when the water had fully absorbed them. They went to the frog legs next, stirring and stirring until the water turned a deep purple. The colors are quite nice when you get them right, Lucy observed silently. As she paused, Severus proceeded with the next step.
“Why are you being so nice to me?” She suddenly blurted, causing him to halt.
“What do you mean? I’ve got no problem with you.” He looked at her, puzzled. “You’re Lily’s friend, you’ve never done anything to bother me… there’s no reason not to be nice to you. Well, except for the fact that you’re dating Sirius Black, but until now he hasn’t been mentioned, so all is well with me.” His expression darkened just slightly all the same.
“That’s it.” She almost laughed with realization. “That’s why you wanted to get rid of me.”
“Get rid of you?” He shook his head. “You mean last night? I thought the revisions would help.”
“Are you kidding? You barely said two words to me, except to send me away.”
“Right, that’s what I wanted to do.” He sighed, looking at her. “Fine. The revisions were an attempt to end our meeting early, I admit it. But I only did it because I thought you’d want to get back to your life. You don’t want to spend time with me.” He paused. “I’m not even sure why you insisted on this lesson, really.”
“I need your help, that’s why.” She replied. “You haven’t been so bad, anyway.”
“Fine.” He nodded, going back to the potion.
“Fine.” She agreed softly, watching him for a moment. It was sort of hard to see him the way Sirius always described him, so entranced by his work that it hardly seemed like anything less than a hobby for him. He must have already brewed this potion several times, between his pre-class preparation sessions and his time performing in class for Slughorn’s approval, and yet he seemed newly amazed by the delicacy of the brew. Quiet elegance indeed.
After a few minutes, it occurred to Lucy that she wouldn’t learn much if she just watched him do all the steps. She watched for the water to boil as indicated in the text, and then she picked up an earthworm, the next ingredient. As she leaned over to drop it in, he turned back from the cauldron, reaching for the worm to complete the step himself. Their faces halted an inch from one another, their eyes meeting. Neither of them moved for a moment, too surprised to know what to do next. Finally, Lucy pulled away, muttering an apology and turning back to her book to avoid looking at him and falling in love with Potions again.
They worked their way through the draught, and Lucy showed promise when guided by Severus’s patience and thorough examination of the procedures for the Anxiety Antidote. When it was completed, Severus drew a small vial from his pocket, filling it up and handing it to her. “You know, just in case you get nervous when Slughorn starts breathing down your neck tomorrow.” He said quietly.
“Thanks.” She slipped it into her pocket. “Same time tomorrow night?”
“You’ll do fine. You won’t need my help.” He shook his head. “But we can meet if you like.”
“Please. One session isn’t enough to fix me.” She smiled. “Good night, Severus.”
“’Night.” He replied, realizing he had forgotten her name. He looked over at the couch, where she’d accidentally left her Potions book behind. He opened it to the inside front cover.
Good night, Lucy.