Since having to deal with the antics of Mr Weasley and Mr Potter made me miss my dinner, I returned to my rooms so at least I could have something to eat in peace. I used the voice tube in my parlour to call down to the kitchens and request a meal. The kitchen-elves were, of course, happy to oblige and sent a plate of the turkey dinner straight down. I sat and ate in my preferred solitude, staring through a window at the black depths of the lake as it gently swirled against the glass.
The main benefit of being housed in the dungeons was that I had the largest private rooms of anyone in the castle. My sitting room and bedchamber were both cavernous with cathedral ceilings and windows that stretched from the floor to well over a dozen feet high. Since I was in the cellar of the castle and therefore submerged, each window was a portal to the great lake. During sunny winter days when the water was cold and clear, one could often see the giant squid clinging to the underwater cliffs. A permanent Warming Charm kept the rooms from being draughty and damp like the dungeon classrooms. Over the years I had managed to outfit my quarters with everything I needed to live a comfortable existence at Hogwarts year-round. It was not common practise for professors to be permanently lodged at the castle, but since Dumbledore knew of my unwillingness to spend a large amount of time at my family home, he generously obliged me.
After Vanishing my empty plate, I walked over to the sofa near the fireplace and lay down with my arms crossed over my eyes. It felt wonderful to relax for a little while. It had proved to be an unusually busy first day of school, and I was still immensely aggravated that Potter and Weasley had managed to scrape by with just a detention each. Unless Dumbledore took a firm hand with those two soon, they would end up as asinine and useless as Potter’s father and Weasley’s elder twin brothers. What did it really matter that Potter had an unfortunate childhood? So did countless others who did not receive special attention from the headmaster. A troubled past was even more of a reason to impart stern guidelines now while the child was in school rather than have him learn later that being weak will not garner sympathy and special treatment from others in the real world.
I opened my eyes to stare up at the distant ceiling, definitively pushing thoughts of those two troublemakers from mind. They were not worth my concern or my time. Watching the shadows cast by the fire dart over the stone walls, Avrille slid gracefully into my thoughts instead, the way she had earlier in the day into my office.
Any one of my acquaintances could vouch that I kept my life orderly and concise. I liked schedules, grades, formulas, things that held very little margin for error. For God’s sake, I even kept my potions ingredients alphabetized. I could reason with the idea of being attracted to a woman. After all, attraction to the opposite sex was something ingrained in our very genetic code to guarantee the continuation of the species. But to fall in love? Love was a different matter entirely. Love could be as corrosive as acid, as volatile as nitro-glycerine, more intoxicating as opium and more deadly than the venom of the Inland Taipan. Only fools allowed themselves to become swept up in something so obviously dangerous. And I must have been a fool for even considering such an emotion in connection with a woman I had only met a week ago. It defied logic, therefore it must not be true.
So why was it that instead of effectively hardening my heart whenever I saw Avrille in the hallways, I instead allowed myself to indulge in the fantasy of her suddenly turning my way and running into my arms?
Shaking my head to clear it, I stood once more, shrugged on my school-robe and decided the only way I could bury such dangerous thoughts was to throw myself wholeheartedly into work. I quickly made my way through winding corridors and down twisting stairs until I found myself at the blank stretch of wall that led to the Slytherin common room.
The moment I entered, most of the students fell silent immediately, with the exception of a couple of new first years who continued to talk excitedly to each other for a few moments until noticing the sudden hush. They quickly silenced themselves as well and looked around to see what was the matter. I gave a dismissive wave of my hand, and the older students began talking amongst themselves once more. The first years continued to glance around themselves, utterly bewildered. I knew I should have introduced myself to them, being the head of their House and absent for the majority of the welcoming feast, but I currently had business on my mind.
“Mr Malfoy,” I called, taking a few steps into the common room. Draco was sitting by the fire with his two chief retainers, Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe. Draco smirked at them before jumping up and hurrying over to me.
“Yes, sir?” he asked.
I studied him for a moment. He appeared to have grown taller over the summer but retained his light frame. His long arms, for the moment, seemed slightly awkward and gangly, but they would add precious inches if the Snitch were in reach…
No. I was going to do this fairly so that Minerva would have no justification in complaining to the headmaster if
the next time she saw the Slytherin Quidditch team it was on seven Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones.
“Go fetch Flint,” I told Draco.
Draco’s eyes gleamed greedily in the firelight for the briefest moment before he turned and called, “Yes, sir!” over his shoulder as he ran down the stairs leading to the upperclassmen dormitories. I barely had time to take a visual survey of the common room before Draco was running back with Marcus Flint, my Quidditch captain, at his heels.
“You wished to see me, sir?” Flint asked. He and Draco shared a blatantly obvious look of triumph before fixing their attention back on me. However, I needn’t have seen that look to discover that Draco had already been bragging about his father’s generous offer to the Slytherin team. I didn’t even need to actively employ Legilimency to see the thoughts of brand-new broomsticks flashing through their minds.
“Thank you, Mr Malfoy.” I looked at Draco pointedly to let him know he was no longer needed. Draco barely concealed a scowl before slinking off back to the fire. I turned my attention solidly to Flint.
I said quietly, “Quidditch Seeker try-outs will be held Thursday an hour after classes have ended. Make sure all
likely candidates attend. I want the best flier for the position, and I want a complete team ready to practise over the weekend.”
“Yes, sir!” Flint straightened his usually skulking posture as though I were a lieutenant issuing a command. With another dismissive wave, I motioned for Flint to return to his dormitory. He raised his eyebrows slightly at Draco as he passed the hearth but retreated down the stairs once more. Draco looked to me, but I refused to show him any sign of intention. With one last sweeping look around the common room, I turned and exited.
I knew that the moment I left, Draco had probably run down after Flint to find out what I had said. Hopefully I had made it fairly clear to Flint he should make Draco no promises. In fact, what neither of them knew was that I had already approached Madam Hooch to request her presence at the try-outs on Thursday. I wanted someone above reproach there to be a witness if Draco did turn out to be the best flier for the team. No matter how much I wanted those new Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones for the team, I was not willing to sacrifice my integrity for them. That, at least, I still had left to me.