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Chapter 8 : A Table for Three
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Snape collapsed into his chair feeling as though he had aged several years just in the past week. He had to admit though, that he was feeling rather well about the process that had been made with the castle.
The first thing that Snape had taken care of was the whole headmaster business. McGonagall had not been overly receptive to his stepping down and allowing her to take up the position, but had finally given in when he promised to assume the position of deputy headmaster. He had told her that he feared the backlash that might arise with him as headmaster considering that he had held the position under the shadow of Voldermort’s reign and had even been appointed by Voldemort himself. He had been flattered by her insistence that she would defend him to anyone who dared complain, but he still insisted to return to his previous positions that he had held the year before this last one. Surprisingly Professor Slughorn was more than happy to relinquish Head of House duties back to Snape saying that he did not think he was as up to the task of anticipating the antics of the snakes as he used to be.
The next task that needed to be tackled was to get the castle back to operating conditions. The majority of the clean-up had not taken much longer than three days thanks to the large amount of volunteers that has shown up. After most of the debris had been cleared, Snape and McGonagall had been able to do a more thorough inspection of the damage that had been inflicted upon the school. It was quickly determined that since that majority of damage had been done either on a large scale by the giants or as a result of dark curses making it all too much for them to repair themselves. Especially since the stone block that had been used to build the castle were all enchanted by complicated protection spells that were essential for the protection of the students and the staff that lived and worked in the castle. The only option that was available to assure the castle would be repaired properly would be to hire the free masonry guild that had initially been entrusted with the building of the castle so many years ago. He had been grateful to learn that the masons still took great care to pass down through the generations, the tricks and secrets of their trade. He had been most relieved to be able to hand over the burden of rebuilding to such capable and competent hands.
He had to admit that perhaps he had gotten the easier of the tasks that needed to be accomplished. McGonagall had almost enthusiastically taken the daunting task of interviewing for the vacant staff positions that they were facing once again prior to the start of term. He wasn’t quite sure all which positions needed to be filled besides Muggle Studies, unless Slughorn had changed his mind again, which was entirely possible since he had done so many times already in the past week. Snape suspected that he felt that he no longer needed the castle’s protection any longer, but was unsure of what he would do with himself otherwise. No, Snape decided, he was very glad that he did not have to deal with personnel issues.
Now, having seen his duties through to completion, Snape found himself finally having a bit of free time. He decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to pay a visit to St Mungo’s. He had some questions that he needed answered and knew the perfect person that might be able to help.
Alexis walked into the Three Broomsticks very much in need of a drink. Her mind was in such a frenzied state after the trying week that she had just had and needed to desperately to unwind. She was most grateful to find that he favorite Irish whiskey was well stocked here as she ordered herself a double on the rocks. She made a mental note to be sure to add that to the positive column in favor of being back on this side of the ocean.
After collecting her drink from the bar, she turned with hopes of finding an out of the way table to sire and meditate on her situation, when she noticed a familiar face hiding away in the corner like she had been hoping to do.
Harry Potter sat seemingly lost in his own world with an empty dinner plate in front of him, and Alexis contemplated whether she should join him or leave him to his musings. Before she could make a decision about what she should do, he lifted his head, spotted her and gave her a small wave and a smile.
Figuring this to be as much of an invitation as she would likely be receiving, she walked over to the table.
“Mr. Potter,” she said with a nod of her head.
“Healer Prewett,” Harry greeted her. “What a surprise to see you out this way! Would you like to have a seat?”
“Oh, yes please,” she replied as she pulled out a chair. “And please call me Alexis or Lexi. Especially since I am not at work.”
“Only as long as you call me ‘Harry’,” he countered with a grin.
She chuckled and said, “Done. So how are you doing?”
The flicker of fear that crossed his face did not go unnoticed by Alexis, nor did the waves of sadness, guilt and confusion that were now rolling freely off of the boy. Not for the first time in her life, she wished that she could turn off her ability to sense people’s emotions.
“I’m okay,” Harry said. “I’ve been keeping myself busy helping out at the school with the clean-up all week. I think we have finally finished about everything that we could do for now. Professor Snape said that they had to rely on experts for the rebuilding because of how extensive the damage was.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. I was up there just before coming in here and I have to admit that I was astonished by the amount of damage that had been done. It makes everything just feel so much more real to see the castle like that,” she said as she attempted to block out the fresh wave of guilt and despair that was projected her way. “It is good to see you getting away from there for a bit. I imagine that it must be incredibly difficult for you to remain in such close proximity to everything that happened there.”
A shadow fell over the table and she looked up only to be surprised at the sight of another familiar face.
“Mr. Potter. Healer Prewett,” Snape said as he tried to hide his surprise at seeing her there.
“Professor,” Harry said. “Would you care to join us?”
Snape glanced at Alexis who nodded and gestured with a sweeping to her hand to an empty chair at the table.
“I wondered where you had been hiding, Mr. Potter. Professor McGonagall was worried that you hadn’t been down to the Great Hall for meals,” Snape remarked as he sat down.
“Oh…Well,” Harry began uncomfortably. “I guess I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing exactly. So a few of the nights I had Kreacher bring me up a tray to the tower, and a few nights I came out here.”
Alexis could not help but notice how Harry was avoiding looking at his teacher. She glanced up at Snape and could immediately feel his confusion and frustration mixed with, most astoundingly concern. She shook her head trying to clear it out. Both of these men were giving her quite a headache with their maddening arrays of emotions.
“You can’t possibly have thought that you would not be welcomed to join us for meals,” Snape sneered. After seeing Harry’s wounded expression as he looked up at him he stated, “Of course you did.”
“When do the masons arrive, sir,” Harry asked quickly as if anxious to change the subject.
“I believe they said that they would start work on the 18th, which would be Monday. Unfortunately, I had to assure him that the castle would be unoccupied by Friday, which only gives us two days to determine where you can go,” Snape said as he watched Harry cautiously. Lowering his voice slightly and leaning in a bit closer he continued, “I did do my best to try to convince them to allow you to remain until you were able to arrange more permanent living arrangements, but they were most unforgiving. It was only after I convinced them of Flich’s inability to perform even the simplest of spells that even he was permitted to stay.”
As Alexis listened to this exchange between the two of them she was growing more and more confused. She did, however, fin herself somewhat moved by the feelings of apprehension and concern that was emanating from Snape.
“It’s okay, Professor. Thank you for trying, but I suppose I will have to figure out something eventually. Might as well get a jump on it. I was planning on trying to return to Grimmauld Place, but Kreacher has begged me not to return saying that it was no longer safe. I’m sure Yaxley must have set up some kind of trap or something,” Harry said grimly.
“Hmm. That would explain Kreacher’s continued presence at the school. If a house-elf is too frightened to return to his home, it must be bad. How about you come to my office tomorrow morning and we can try to figure something out together,” Snape suggested.
For the first time since she had met Harry his mood was considerably lighter. He seemed to feel somewhat hopeful and even excited despite what his carefully maintained expressions and his quietly muttered “Yes, sir,” revealed.
“Can I get you all anything else,” Madam Rosmerta said as she approached the table.
After another round of drinks were ordered Snape turned his attentions towards Alexis. “I must admit that I was rather shocked to find you here, Ms. Prewett. I was under the impression that you had already gone off to the States.”
“Whom did you get that impression from?” she asked with a bitter tone. “Oh…and please…Call me Alexis or Lexi.”
“From your former co-workers,” Snape replied. “I was actually just returning from St Mungos actually. When I had asked to speak to you I was told that you no longer work there. So I naturally assumed that you had gone back to your American hospital.”
“You were looking for me?” she asked worriedly. “Is everything all right? Are you not feeling well?’
“I am quiet recovered, I assure you,” Snape stated. “I only wished to ask you some questions about an issue that is well beyond my areas of expertise.”
“Oh?” Alexis was quite intrigued. What could he possibly have to ask her that was beyond his knowledge? Even more interesting perhaps was that he was able to admit that he was lacking some important information about anything. She could not have imagined that his ego would have allowed for such an admission of ignorance of any kind.
“I think it would be best discussed in a less public situation, I’m afraid” Snape said softly. “Perhaps I could persuade you to accompany us back up to the castle?” he asked while looking carefully over at Harry who seemed to be studying the table intently.
“I am going to take a guess here, Harry, and assume that these questions have something to do with you?” Alexis said. Harry nodded. “You are all right with my being involved in this situation?”
“I guess if it means that you are able to help, it doesn’t matter,” Harry said with a shrug.
“Shall we head up now?” Snape asked.
“Yea, why not? I don’t have anywhere else to be right now,” Alexis replied. Truth be told she didn’t really have anywhere to be for quite a while.
“Shall I just meet you in your office, sir?” Harry said as he stood up and reached for a broomstick that was propped up in the corner.
Snape nodded as he stood and dropped several galleons on the table. He waved away Alexis’s attempt to give him the coins to cover the cost of her drinks as they walked out of the pub.
“Thank you,” she replied as they started up the street of Hogsmeade.
“My pleasure,” Snape replied. “I do hope that I am not inconveniencing you too much by asking for your assistance. I know you must be anxious to return to your hospital in The States.”
“Hmpf,” Alexis muttered under her breath as some of her earlier frustrations began to surface once more. “There is no reason to worry about that I am afraid. It seems that I am no longer needed in The States. Apparently when Dumbledore asked for me to come here, he sent a muggle-born as a replacement for me there. I was told that it was for her safety from everything that had been happening over here, but now I am not so sure. Anyway, it seems they are quite happy with her work there so they have decided to keep her, leaving me left to find alternative employment elsewhere,” she finished bitterly.
“Have you already found a new position?” he asked. She nodded. “Might I ask where this employment will take you?” he inquired cautiously.
Alexis looked up at the castle that had just come into their view, sighed and then said softly, “Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
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