Lavinia and I ate lunch together in the Great Hall after the Quidditch match. We were still a little cold from being outside in the rain, so the selection of hot soups and stews on the table were welcomed wholeheartedly. I ladled myself an enormous bowl of beef stew and allowed its rich warmth to fill me up. The Great Hall was much louder than it had been at breakfast since most of the students were celebrating Gryffindor’s surprise win over Slytherin.
“I’m so relieved that Harry Potter managed to pull it off in the end.” Lavinia stated as she picked at her salad. “Slytherin has won the Quidditch cup ever since I started working here. Gets a bit boring after a while.”
“I would imagine,” I said after hastily swallowing a burning hot spoonful of stew. Truthfully, though, I was a little disappointed. I had been rooting for Slytherin since it was Professor Snape’s team.
We ate in silence for a while. I think Lavinia was a little tired since she had a late class the night before. I chewed on a warm piece of bread and butter thoughtfully, wondering if Slytherin still was in the running for the Quidditch cup. I wasn’t really familiar with the particulars of the sport.
Then out of nowhere, Lavinia said, “Be careful around Lucius Malfoy.”
“Why?” I asked.
“He’s just a bit of a flirt, that’s all… But since the other governors will be there, I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.”
Well, I hadn’t needed Lavinia to tell me that. Just from the two meetings I had had with Lucius that much had been obvious. But like Lavinia said, some other governors would be there, so I was sure that he would be professional.
At the time that Lucius had stipulated, I walked out of the castle to find his carriage indeed waiting for me. The driver was very polite and held the door open for me as I climbed in. The rain had since stopped, but I was glad I didn’t have to get my shoes soaking wet. Since Lucius had said that the gathering was going to be casual, I hadn’t bothered to change my clothes from before.
The drive down to Hogsmeade went by very quickly. As we neared the Three Broomsticks, I expected the carriage to stop, but instead we kept going straight past it. The carriage did stop a moment later a few streets down and near the outskirts of the village in front of a small pub with a weather-stained sign reading, “The Hog’s Head.” I had never heard of it, and from the outside it did not appear to be the sort of place that high-ranking bureaucrats would likely frequent. Nevertheless, I thanked the driver as he helped me down and opened the inn door for me.
The pub was small, dark, and dingy. Smoking, sputtering torches illuminated a single room consisting of several rickety tables and a long splintered bar. There were several people already in the pub, though it was hard to tell if any one of them could be Lucius since almost all had dark hoods pulled up to obscure their faces. The hoods could also have been a good idea, I surmised, since the pub was draughty and cold. As I passed over the threshold, all heads turned to me and stared. I took a few hesitant steps inside.
A tall old man with a stringy grey beard was standing behind the bar, wiping it down with a brownish cloth which I seriously hoped had not once been white.
“You Mistress Asphodel?” he grunted as I approached him.
“Yes, I am. I’m supposed to be meeting some of the school governors here.”
The bartender took a full look at me with a squinted eye. Finally, he said, “Up the stairs. First door on your right,” and continued with his slow and lethargic wiping.
I carefully climbed the old pokey staircase since it was almost completely dark. I was hoping the rooms upstairs were better maintained than the bar, which smelled like it normally housed various barn animals. Upstairs there was what I suppose would technically be called a hall, though it was only a few yards long and led to only four closed doors. A single oil lamp stood on an uneven table at the end of it, casting a sickly yellow light on the unpainted wooden walls. I turned to the first door to my right and pressed an ear against it. I couldn’t hear anything; perhaps I was the first one to arrive. I knocked then opened the door.
The room inside was surprisingly nice-looking and consisted of a bed and two tables surrounded by several cushioned chairs. Sitting at one of the tables was Lucius Malfoy and only Lucius Malfoy. He rose with a charming smile as I took off my cloak and hung it on a hook on the back of the door.
“Avrille, I’m delighted you were able to come,” he said as he approached. Before I could do anything, he reached out and took my hand in both of his, kissing it lightly. I tried to keep myself from blushing as he led me over to the table he had been sitting at. I hated myself for thinking it of a married man, but it was impossible not to notice how handsome Lucius was with his sleek blonde hair brushed back and shining against his black wool business robes.
As he pulled a chair out for me, another knock sounded at the door and the old barman entered carrying a dusty bottle of wine and several glasses. He placed the wine and glasses on the table then stood back.
“How many more are you expecting, sir?” he asked Lucius.
“No more. Some urgent business came up, and I was the only one able to get away,” Lucius replied, the whole time keeping his eyes firmly on me as he sat at the chair across. The barman shrugged his bony shoulders then left the room.
Wanting to get the situation perfectly clear, I asked once the door was closed once more, “So it’s going to be just the two of us?”
Lucius smiled as he uncorked the wine bottle. “I hope that’s alright. Unfortunately, things like this happen all too often in the business world. The other governors bade me offer their sincerest apologies to you and their wish to meet you some other time.” He poured me a full glass of deep red wine.
I pulled the glass closer to me but did not drink. I watched as Lucius poured a glass for himself, then put the bottle back down on the table between us. I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable. I would not have agreed to the meeting if I had known that it would be just Lucius here and certainly not in front of Professor Snape. What would he have thought of me then?
I waited until Lucius took a deep swallow of wine before picking up my own drink. Even then I waited until he had placed his own glass back down so that I could see there was indeed less in it than before. It might have seemed like paranoia, but I knew better than to blindly accept a drink from a man I didn’t really know. However, since Lucius had drunk it himself, and I would have been able to see if he had slipped anything into my glass, I allowed myself to take a small sip. It tasted normal.
Lucius took another drink before saying, “I hope you are enjoying your stay at Hogwarts.”
“Yes, very much so,” I replied, taking another small sip. The wine was very dry and obviously very expensive. I didn’t like it much.
“I hope also that Severus is not making you work too hard,” Lucius said with a flirtingly concerned expression.
“No, not at all. Professor Snape is a wonderful teacher.”
“My son Draco speaks very highly of him. And, of course, Severus and I go far back.” Lucius did not elaborate on that point, however, and poured himself another glass of wine. I was still slowly sipping mine, not wanting to get drunk.
“Draco flew very well in the match today,” I commented.
Lucius smiled once more, though I noticed it did not reach his eyes. It gave him the appearance of grimacing slightly. “Not well enough, I’m afraid,” he said, slightly rearranging the drape of his robes.
That seemed like a rather harsh thing to say, so I reasoned, “It was his first match, so he must have been pretty nervous. But I’m sure he tried his hardest.”
Lucius brushed the air with his hand as if trying to sweep the topic away. “Oh I’m sure he did. He’s a good boy. But I would like to hear more about you, Avrille. For instance, what do your parents think of you studying so far away from home?”
“My mother was a little worried, but she’s alright with it now.”
“And your father?”
“He was killed when I was a child.”
Lucius’ pale eyebrows rose. “How tragic!” he remarked, trying, I’m sure, to sound sympathetic but something about his tone rang hollow. I suddenly felt annoyed, but knew it would be stupid to anger such a powerful man. Besides, if he was a friend of Professor Snape, he deserved my respect.
“Yet, even though, you must be terribly lonely.” Lucius’ pale grey eyes studied me over the rim of his wineglass. I felt like he was trying to look right into me.
I placed my wineglass down, deciding that I had had enough. “Not really. I’ve made some good friends at Hogwarts.”
“I’m very glad to hear it,” Lucius said quietly. He gave me another cold smile before saying, “I
would very much like to be your friend, Avrille.” Then, unexpectedly, he stood, and I saw that he had his wand in his hand. He flicked it once in my direction.
All of a sudden my mind went blank, then a feeling of combined euphoria and calmness stole my senses. As though watching from outside of my body, I saw Lucius move closer and slowly lean down into me. At the same time, I heard his voice whispering seductively in my thoughts, “Kiss me.”
Devoid of any control I thought, Why not? He’s certainly handsome.
I closed my eyes and enjoyed the feeling of his strong fingers on my chin pulling me closer to his lips. Lucius’ voice repeated its insistent command of, “Kiss me,”
and my traitorous freewill seemed perfectly happy to obey him. Lucius was so close now I could feel his breath against my face, yet he had stopped a finger’s width away from my lips. The smallest part inside of me that was still conscious knew he wanted me to be the one to make the first move.
“Kiss me. Kiss me.”
But then, from deep inside my heart, a tiny flame of resistance sputtered to life.
You’re already married…
I don’t love you…
“Kiss me. You won’t even remember it later.”
The small flicker of my self-awareness was desperately ransacking my mind for a reason to refuse, but it was quickly becoming overpowered. There seemed so many reasons to give into Lucius: He’s attractive and wealthy. You’re lonely. No one would ever know. What harm could it do? It’s not like Professor Snape is ever going to notice you…
I love SEVERUS!
My mind retrieving this thought achieved the mental equivalent of dropping a match into a tanker truck full of gasoline. For some reason I had never allowed myself to think of Professor Snape by his first name. I had been trying to control my growing love for him and keep him as an authority figure in my mind, but the simple act of thinking of him as the man of my true desires was enough to snap me back to my senses.
“NO!” I screamed aloud. My eyes snapped open to a view consisting entirely of Lucius’ surprised face. As the Imperius Curse’s hold over me melted, I was suddenly confronted with the full measure of revulsion, horror, and rage at what he had been trying to do to me. All I knew at that moment was that I wanted him as far away from me as possible. Without knowing how, I gathered all my fury into a hot ball of sheer energy and loosed it directly at Lucius, sending him flying across the room to crash, I hoped extremely painfully, into the wall opposite. I jumped out of my chair, raised it in my hands, and threw it after him, missing his head by about two inches as it broke into pieces. Lucius stared up at me in disbelief as I advanced upon him, his arms held up protectively. He no longer looked the least bit handsome to me, his normally sleek blonde hair now a tangled mess covering his red face. I picked up a broken chair leg and jammed it into the floor dangerously close between his drawn up knees.
“If you ever
come near me again, I will kill you,
” I hissed, striking the floor with the sharp wood once more for emphasis. Then, without waiting for a reply from the crumpled wreck on the floor, I threw down the chair leg, grabbed my cloak, and strode furiously from the room.
As I descended the stairs into the main tavern, I saw that every pair of shadowed eyes in the place was turned to me and the room was completely silent. I suppose I had probably made quite a racket.
“Everything alright, miss?” the old barman asked me tentatively, one hand now holding the dirty rag over a tankard resting in his other that was steadily dripping water into a pool on the bar.
“Yes! Just wonderful!” I yelled, not quite sure if I being sarcastic or not, and flung my cloak around my shoulders as I slammed the tavern door behind me. The sudden noise startled the horses attached to Lucius’ carriage, and the groomsman stared at me in surprise. Perhaps he hadn’t expected to see me again so soon.
“Well, what the hell
looking at?!” I shouted at the groom then turned angrily back up the street…
…And almost walked right into Professor Snape.
He had been about to enter the Hog’s Head, and in my towering rage, I hadn’t noticed him when I first exited the tavern.
“Oh. I’m sorry,” I said hurriedly, my anger cooling quickly in the brisk November night’s air into something more along the embarrassed-to-death lines.
“Are you alright?” he asked me quietly. Something in the soft tone of his voice told me he was not referring to my verbal attack on the hired help. All of a sudden I found myself wanting to cry.
“Yes,” I murmured, willing the tears back behind my eyelashes. A moment ago my subconscious had forced me into the realization that I was, in fact, very much in love with Severus. I had been able to use that newfound love to fend off Lucius’ despicable advances, but now having Severus here in the flesh, and remembering that he didn’t love me in return, it was almost too much to bear.
Severus stood silently next to me as I turned my face from him to let the cool breeze discreetly dry my eyes. After a while he asked, “May I escort you back to the castle?”
Composed once more, I turned back to him and replied, “No, I wouldn’t want to cause you any trouble. You can go on ahead inside. I’ll be fine.”
“It’s no trouble at all. I have no more business here tonight.” Severus’ tone conveyed to me that he would brook no more refusal on the matter, and he had only asked as a politeness.
“Thank you. I would appreciate it.” I started to walk back up the High Street once more, Severus a step or two behind. I pulled my cloak tighter around my shoulders. The adrenaline rush in the tavern had drained me, and I felt cold and exhausted. I probably would have just collapsed by the side of the road and bawled my eyes out if Severus hadn’t been there silently herding me back up to the castle where I belonged.
I felt like a teenager who had been caught sneaking out of the house by her father. Although what Lucius had done was unpardonable, the blame lay with me as well. Lavinia had tried to warn me about Lucius, and I had brushed her off. I knew I should have left as soon as I realized that the other governors were not going to be present, though now I strongly suspected that the “urgent business” Lucius had referred to probably had something to do with him never informing them of a meeting with me in the first place. How could I have been so naïve?
Severus’ even footfalls behind me matched up with my breathing as we climbed the long hill to Hogwarts. I wasn’t sure if it made me feel better or not that he had been there. Had he known of Lucius’ true character and come down to Hogsmeade to make sure I didn’t get into trouble? If Lavinia had known what Lucius was truly like, then it seemed almost impossible for Severus not to know when he was on a first name basis with Lucius and often conducted business with him. Maybe he had felt it his duty as my supervisor to make sure that Lucius didn’t “tamper” with me. After all it’s not like he could have just told
me Lucius was a pervert. Severus was too proper and reserved for that sort of thing. Besides, Lavinia hadn’t gone into any details, and she was a friend of mine.
At least Severus wasn’t talking about it. I don’t think I could have stood discussing what had occurred in that room. Somehow I knew Lucius wouldn’t be bothering me anymore, and all I wanted now was to go bury my head under about ten pillows in bed and try to forget about the whole thing.
Once we were inside the front hall of the castle, I turned back to Severus. I stood there for a moment, not sure exactly what to say to him.
“Thank you,” I said finally.
Severus nodded silently in reply.
Knowing that I was fast approaching tears again, I said quickly, “Good night, Professor Snape,” and walked away toward the stairs leading up to my room.
“I…” His voice stopped me as I had just reached the foot of the stairs. I turned and took a few steps back toward him.
“I would be… honoured… if you would call me Severus,” he said quietly. I was so surprised at the coincidence of this, since I had just begun to think of him by his name a short while before, that I froze for a moment. I didn’t really know how to respond. Should I thank him again?
Severus seemed to understand the reason for my hesitation for he smiled faintly and said, “Good night… Avrille,” then turned and walked quickly toward the dungeons.
I turned away as well and began to ascend the stairs, tears now flowing freely down my face. However, even though the events of the past hour had given me enough emotions--rage, disgust, relief, regret, et cetera
--to warrant all sorts of tears, these were stemming from a bittersweet joy.
I thought I would eventually leave Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry without ever hearing Severus call me by my first name.