Chapter 13 : Chapter Thirteen - Avrille
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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, most of the students celebrating Gryffindor’s surprise win over Slytherin with gusto.
“I’m so relieved Harry Potter managed to pull it off in the end.” Lavinia stated as she picked at her salad. “Slytherin’s 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 from teaching 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, there’s probably nothing to worry about.”
Well, I hadn’t needed Lavinia to tell me that. Just from the two meetings I’d had with Lucius, that much had been obvious. But like Lavinia said, some other governors would be there, so I was sure he’d be professional.
At the time 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 as I climbed in. The rain had since stopped, but I was glad I didn’t have to get my shoes soaking wet. Lucius had said that the gathering was going to be casual, so I hadn’t bothered to change my clothes from what I’d worn during the day.
The drive down to Hogsmeade went by very quickly. As we neared the Three Broomsticks, I expected the carriage to slow, 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’d never heard of it, and from the outside it didn’t appear to be the sort of place 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 barely 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 the hoods of their cloaks pulled up to obscure their faces. The hoods could’ve also been simply practical, I surmised, for the pub was draughty and cold. As I passed over the threshold, all heads turned to me and stared from underneath shadowy cowls. 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 hadn’t been white at some point.
“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 measure of 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 climbed the pokey staircase carefully since it was almost completely dark away from the insufficient light of the taproom. I was hoping the rooms upstairs were better maintained than the bar, which smelled like it occasionally housed various barn animals. Upstairs there was what I suppose would technically be called a hall, though it was barely 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 it.
The room inside was surprisingly nice-looking and consisted of a bed and a table 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’d been seated 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 blond 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. The old barman entered, carrying a dusty bottle of wine and a tray holding 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 and left the room.
Wanting to get the situation perfectly clear, I asked, when 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 didn’t 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 wouldn’t have agreed to the meeting if I’d known it would be just Lucius here and certainly not in front of Professor Snape. What would he have thought of me then?
I stalled until Lucius took a deep swallow of wine before picking up my own drink. Even then, I waited until he’d placed his own glass back down so that I could see there was indeed less in it than before. It might’ve seemed like undue 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’ve been able to see if he’d slipped anything into my glass, I allowed myself to take a small sip. It tasted normal.
Lucius took another, long pull of wine before saying, “I hope that you are enjoying your stay at Hogwarts.”
“Yes, very much so,” I replied, taking another small sip myself. The wine was very dry and obviously very expensive. I didn’t like it much.
“I also hope Severus isn’t 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 claret. I was still slowly sipping mine, not wanting to get buzzed.
“Draco flew very well in the match today,” I commented.
Lucius smiled once more, though I noticed it didn’t often 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’ve been pretty nervous, but I’m sure he tried his hardest.”
Lucius brushed the air with his hand as if trying to shoo the topic away like a bothersome fly. “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’s pale eyebrows rose. “How tragic!” he remarked, trying, I’m sure, to sound sympathetic, but something about his tone rang hollow. I suddenly found myself battling annoyance, but I 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 so, you must be terribly lonely.” Lucius’s pale eyes studied me over the rim of his wineglass. I felt like he was trying to look right into me.
I placed my half-full glass down, deciding I’d had enough. “Not really. I’ve made some good friends at Hogwarts.”
“I’m relieved 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 hijacked 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 hand cupping my chin, pulling me closer to his lips. Lucius’s 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 of me that was still conscious knew he wanted me to be the one who made 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 to be 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 …
Professor Snape …
I love SEVERUS!
My mind retrieving this thought achieved the mental equivalent of dropping a match into vat full of firewhisky. For some reason I’d never allowed myself to think of Professor Snape by his first name before. I’d been fighting to control my growing feelings for him and keep him as an authority figure in my mind, but the simple act of finally acknowledging 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’s surprised face. As the Imperius Curse’s hold over me melted away, I was suddenly confronted with the full measure of revulsion, horror, and rage at what Lucius 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 exactly, 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 up out of my chair, took 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 paralyzed disbelief as I advanced on him, his arms held up protectively. He no longer looked the least bit handsome to me, his formally sleek hair now a tangled mess covering his red face. I picked up a broken chair leg and jabbed it into the floor, dangerously close between his drawn up knees.
“If you ever come near me again, I will kill you,” I hissed into his face, 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 stomped down 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’d 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.
“Just wonderful!” I yelled, not quite sure if I being sarcastic or not. I flung my cloak around my shoulders as I slammed the tavern door behind me. The sudden noise startled the horses attached to Lucius’s carriage, and the groomsman stared at me in surprise. Perhaps he hadn’t expected to see me emerge before morning.
“Well, what the hell are you looking at?!” I shouted at the groom. I spun angrily to head back up the street …
… And almost walked right into Professor Snape.
He’d 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. The uncharacteristic softness 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’d been able to use that newfound love to fend off Lucius’s despicable advances, but now having Severus here in the flesh in the immediate aftermath, and remembering he probably couldn’t care less about me … 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 with a forced cheerfulness, “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’s tone conveyed to me that he would brook no more refusal on the matter, and he’d only asked as a politeness.
“Thank you. I’d appreciate it.” I started to walk back up the High Street once more, Severus trailing 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’ve 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 normally upright teenager who’d just been caught out after curfew. Although what Lucius had done was unpardonable, a part of the blame lay with me, as well. Lavinia had tried to warn me about Lucius, and I’d brushed her off. I knew I should’ve left as soon as I realized the other governors weren’t 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’s 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’d been there. Had he known of Lucius’s 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 as well when he was on a first name basis with the man and often conducted business with him. Maybe he’d felt it was somehow his duty as my supervisor to make sure Lucius didn’t “tamper” with me. After all, it’s not like he could’ve 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 herself, and she was a friend of mine.
At least Severus wasn’t talking about it. I don’t think I could’ve abided discussing what had occurred in that room with him. 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 what exactly to say to him.
“Thank you,” I said finally.
Severus nodded silently in reply.
Knowing I was fast approaching tears again, I said quickly, “Good night, Professor Snape,” and walked away to 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, a single tear breaking free to glide down my cheek. I wiped it away discreetly, but glancing back down, I saw Severus had already strode out of sight. I resumed climbing. 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, that one had stemmed 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.
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