In Retrospect. by Magical Maeve
Summary: Severus Snape is a young Slytherin with a lot of homework and expectations. He has no idea that his world is about to be changed irrevocably. This is a Maeve/Severus short fic that details their time at Hogwarts.
Categories: Marauder Era Characters: None
Warnings: Mild Profanity
Series: None
Chapters: 5 Completed: No Word count: 11705 Read: 9503 Published: 04/19/06 Updated: 06/10/16

1. The Scent of Magic by Magical Maeve

2. Consolidation by Magical Maeve

3. Friendships by Magical Maeve

4. Enemies by Magical Maeve

5. Allies by Magical Maeve

The Scent of Magic by Magical Maeve
December had brought with it fast flurries of snow, and the castle was shackled beneath an impenetrable blanket of white. Towers peeped shyly from beneath crests of ice, and wildlife was nowhere to be seen as the temperatures plummeted. The students were mostly stowed away in their common rooms, the effort needed to muffle up against the elements too much for them to contemplate.

Severus was only too happy to take advantage of the inclement weather and enjoy the luxury of taking a walk unfettered by idiots doing their best to irritate him. He’d walked around the lake and, returning, had reached the fringe of the wide drive that carved a pathway between the grassed areas in front of the castle. He was heading for the main entrance when a rattle of wheels caught his attention. He stood, a black punctuation mark against the snow, and watched as a car rumbled towards him. A car, of all things, at Hogwarts. It was black, sleek as an otter, and carried markings on its front number plate that he didn’t recognise. As it drew level, it was going so slowly that he was afforded a clear view of the occupant on his nearside.

Shrouded by a dark green hood and a rim of copper hair, he could see a face bearing such an expression of hurt that his heart missed an involuntary beat. Clouded green eyes drifted, lost in her pale face, and then she was gone.

Severus blinked the snowflakes from his own dark eyes and trudged back up towards the castle, watching as the girl was bundled from the car and into the school by a snapping Rottweiler of a man. He wasn’t overly interested in her, or any girl for that matter. He didn’t consider himself to have the looks or the temperament to be much concerned with girls. In his narrow experience, the idea of girls was rather nice: smooth hair, bright eyes, all that flesh, but the reality of girls was something rather different and disconcerting. Severus had enough on his plate with thinking too much about the distaff side of the human equation.

Later, at dinner, he was doing his best not to speak to anyone and finish his food in enough time to allow him a visit to the library before Madam Pince chased the students away with her well-chosen reprimands. As he raised his eyes briefly from his lamb chops, he couldn’t help but notice the extra girl at the Ravenclaw table. She had her back to him, and the red hair, so tame in the car, now ran riot down her back. Severus was not a bad judge of character, and the set of her shoulders suggested to him even then that here was a character to be reckoned with. She seemed isolated amongst all the other students, not speaking to anyone or making any movement to suggest she was actually eating her food. He turned his attention back to the half-eaten chop before him and continued his minor butchery.

As the dinner service came to an end, the Great Hall and surrounding areas quietened down quickly as the students spread farther afield, to common rooms and corridors, Quidditch practice and all manner extra-curricular activities. The library always provided Severus with welcome relief from the clamour of the rest of the school. It was a place seldom occupied by several of his more tedious housemates, and certainly a place rarely visited by the odious Potter and Black. So it was with some relief that he slipped, unseen, into the library and settled himself at one of the desks. He placed his books carefully before him and unfurled the parchment he had been working on. With his head bent respectfully over his work, he began to scratch at the paper, working his way methodically through the complex problem before him.

His nose was the first part of him to become aware of her presence. He had often been told you could smell magic, but he had yet to experience such a thing, which is probably why he didn’t recognise the smell for what it was, at first. He inhaled deeply, thrilled by this new perfume. It excited all of his senses, made every fibre of his brain snap to attention at the presence of something so intoxicating.

–It’s salamander scales.”

He dropped the quill, splattering ink onto the table. –What?” he breathed, not turning around. He knew it was her. Had it not been her, he would not be feeling the dazzle of pure bewitchment.

–To get the memory right, you need salamander scales. One for every day that you wish the recipient to remember.”

–I know that.” He still did not turn.

–Really? You seemed to be hesitating. But that’s good, that you knew. Not many people would know.” Her voice was strange, foreign. Soft openings to her words that finished with a rapid crescendo of consonants and vowels. –Sorry to have disturbed you.”

She was moving away; a supple wave of robes rustling through the air, the scent of magic becoming fainter. He was betrayed by the need to detain her, his young mind incapable of resisting the gentle fizz of her presence.

–I don’t believe I know your name.” He stood up, the legs of the chair scraping ominously against the hard floor. There was hesitation when he finally turned, as if he wanted to prolong the moment he would catch sight of her for the first time, delay a pleasure that could not be revisited.

She, too, stopped, and half-turned. When their eyes finally met, she smiled; furtive, secret. Her turn complete, she held out a hand, formality that was at odds with everything else her body suggested. –Maeve,” she said. –And you must be Severus.”
It wasn’t a question; it was merely something she knew; something she had no reason to know.

–I must be,” he replied.

–You are not quite what I expected.”

–And what did you expect?”

He had forgotten his homework, forgotten Hogwarts, forgotten everything. Forgotten, even, that moments like this did not really happen, and certainly not to him. And yet, it was happening. She was real. She was, he pondered this for the briefest moments to make sure his assessment was accurate, flirting.

–Someone smaller, less defined, but you are very well-defined. You are the very definition of definition.” Her smile was easy, graceful, and it was for him.

–I…” Irritatingly, words failed him. What was he doing? Why was he not walking away? Could she not see his limp hair and poor complexion? Could she not see what everyone else saw?

–Come on, Sirius! We only have half-an-hour until it closes. If I don’t get this work done, Slughorn will kill me.” A muffled voice twisted the spell, dispelling it for him.

The doors opened and two boys spilled into the room, boisterous, alive with fun. Their smiles widened as they spotted Maeve, and then set as they took in Severus’ tongue-tied presence.

–Are we interrupting something?” The grey-eyed boy asked. –A tryst in the library?”

–Really, Sirius, we don’t have time for Snivelly now. I have to do this work. Save taunting him for another time.” This other boy glanced at Maeve and grinned, not considering for a moment that she would be troubled by anything he had to say to the stringy-haired Slytherin. –Hello. You’re the new girl, aren’t you? Sorry about your mum.”

Severus couldn’t fail to notice the roar of pain that crossed her face, but he felt powerless in the face of the tidal wave that was Sirius Black and James Potter.

–Yeah,” Sirius interjected, his face suddenly grave. –That’s really rough. Sorry.”

Maeve looked back to Severus, completely ignoring them, and he felt ashamed of his lack of knowledge. What had happened to her mother? He wasn’t good at condolences and that was clearly what was required here, that and some form of empathy.

–It was nice speaking with you, Severus. Maybe we can continue this another time,” she said, surprising him by suddenly taking his hand and squeezing it, an intimate gesture that almost had him reeling. With one last withering glance at Sirius and James, she left the room.

Deprived of her presence, Severus turned back to his parchments and hoped the boys would leave him alone. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

–So, Snivellus, you think you stand a chance with our new Ravenclaw, do you?” Sirius approached. –You know she’s Irish, don’t you. You’re no match for that temperament. She’ll eat you alive in seconds.”

So that was the accent. He’d never been aware of it before. It was like listening to a song, one long forgotten, but instantly remembered.

–And you are?” Severus mumbled as he threw together his things, mopping up the spilled ink with a quick Scourgify.

James laughed, pulling his friend towards an unoccupied desk. –Come on, Sirius. You don’t want her, and he won’t get her. What’s the point?”

–I might want her,” Sirius said, not that he did.

Severus left the library without another word to or from them.

As he slipped between his cold sheets that night he resolved to put the Ravenclaw girl, Maeve, from his mind. She was something that would only bring trouble to his door, and the less confrontation he had with Black and Potter, the better. Girls. Stupid, silly, frivolous things. And yet, he couldn’t quite quell the feeling that she was more than just a girl. It was his imagination, he was sure, that made his hand still burn where she had held it earlier.

Severus fell asleep with fine ideals of ignoring her and returning to his studies; ideals that were reinforced by dreams in which he was terror-struck by the thought of bending his rigid character in order to accommodate another.

He awoke with added resolve and the need to finish the homework he had left incomplete the previous night.
Consolidation by Magical Maeve
Several days went by without even a hint that a new student had arrived. She had melted into the cauldron that was Hogwarts and disappeared from his view.
Severus returned to earnest studying, and a little skilful revenge on his enemies here and there. In many ways he was grateful, glad that he did not have to deal with a complication, and yet he felt he had lost a new-found pleasure. His nostrils still contained something of her; his brain struggled to reconstruct the thrill of a new scent.

It was five days after their first exchange that he saw her again. She was standing by the fountain in the main forecourt, sitting on its stone wall and talking to a Ravenclaw seventh-year; a male Ravenclaw seventh-year. Severus had no idea that the sudden bitter taste on his tongue was jealousy. He had never had need of the feeling before, never having coveted anything for himself in this way. Her back was to him, that oddly familiar flare of red the only real slash of colour in the white and grey landscape.

He hurried across the icy stone, careful not to slip and bring attention to himself. His head bowed, avoiding her, avoiding anyone, he didn’t notice her rapid dismissal of the boy. The ice muffled her gentle steps as she slithered to catch up with him. Her voice, when it came, rang clear against the chill of the afternoon.

–Severus! I was beginning to think you were avoiding me.”

He tried to come to a dignified halt, but his foot, treacherous thing that it was, slipped and he stumbled. Her hand was instantly at his arm, steadying him against a fall.

–The ice is unkind,” she said with a smile. –I hate this time of year. I think I will always hate this time of year.” There was a now missing from the end of that sentence, Severus felt. A now that concerned her mother. But he did not know how to broach the subject, how to ask her about the missing information.

–I prefer autumn,” he replied, not knowing why the admission had fallen from his lips.

–Oh, me too!” The look of delight on her face at a pleasure shared was a puzzlement to him. Why should she be so delighted that they liked the same season? What did trifles like that matter?

–I have work to do,” he said, apropos of nothing.

–Do you?” Why did her eyes constantly have to smile like that? And Severus had a flash of insight that was so rare to him that he felt paralysed by it. She was burying whatever it was she had carried with her from Ireland. She was burying her feelings, along with her mother, beneath a smile and beneath distractions.

–Perhaps you would like to… –

The air cracked around them, in much the same way as the ice cracked beneath their feet.

–… to what?” She raised her face to meet his suggestion

–Walk. Perhaps you would like to walk?”

–Do you do much walking, Severus?”

–I try.”

–I like to walk too, or ride. I don’t think you ride, do you?”

He bridled for a moment under the implied slight, and then realised she hadn’t intended it as a barb. –No. I don’t ride. Not unless it’s absolutely necessary. Broomsticks are extremely uncivilised.”

–I meant horses,” she grinned. –I’m sorry. I forget not everyone spends all their time mucking out and generally being a bit horse mad.”

–I don’t ride horses either,” he admitted, feeling more uncomfortable by the second.

–But I find walking is best,” she said. –Definitely walking.”

And so they walked. They headed for the lake and their feet met with less hazardous ground as they reached the gravel track that led around it. Neither spoke for a while, content to breathe out clouds of air that met the cold in a flurry of white. Winter had dulled her smell, but it was still there, still apparent, and he breathed deeply of it.

–Your mother,” he began, unsure of the right words, unsure of his own reaction to grief.

–Has died.” She turned to him, her keen eyes marred by the fresh pain. –And I have been sent here to save my father having to deal with more than one thing at once. It is probably for the best. Thanks for asking though. I think everyone is else is scared of my sadness so avoids it, and me. It’s quite lonely really. The only people that talk to me are boys and they’re usually only after a trip to Hogsmeade for a quick snog.”

Severus processed this information slowly. –But I’m a boy.”

–Yes, you are.” She was smiling again, the grief chased away. –You are quite different, though.”

He didn’t know how to respond to that so changed the subject, falling back on the small talk his mother had been so fond of. –Do you miss your home?”

–Of course I do.” She shrugged her shoulders. –There’s little point dwelling on it though, is there. I won’t be going home in the near future. So, this is my home and I must make friends. Do you miss your home?”

–No.” He answered the question far too quickly. –Nothing to miss.”

–Everyone misses something.”

–Not everyone,” he insisted.

Maeve turned her face out to the lake and breathed deeply. –I should probably confess that you’re not exactly a stranger to me.”

–In what way?” Severus watched her profile, a sick feeling in his stomach. Everything was about to revert back to normal. He sensed his mother’s hand in this; she was forever trying to find him a suitable young lady, not that she ever had because any suitable young lady would have run a mile. An image flashed through his mind of his mother bent over her writing desk, commiserating with Maeve’s father and at the same time using the man’s vulnerability to catch his now motherless daughter for her unmarriageable son.

Maeve turned back to him and laughed at the serious face he wore. As his face fell further she realised that she had done the wrong thing by laughing and reached for his hand to reassure him.

–You look so severe,” she said, giving his hand a squeeze. –What do you think I’m going to say, that our parents have been plotting to marry us off!”

He was startled by this, wondering if mind reading was another one of her talents. His hand was warm in hers and he didn’t immediately pull away.

–I don’t know what to think.” Sheepishness didn’t come naturally to him; it crept up and pounced.

–Our butler spent some time working for your father before he came to us. Darkacre, isn’t it? He learned a lot there, I think. My father liked the idea that he had been working for an English wizarding family. When Father was getting ready to pack me off here, Liam said I should look out for you. He said, and I’m pretty much quoting, that you were a fierce intelligent boy who could do with a woman’s touch. He said don’t let the exterior put you off because there was something special on the interior.” She stopped abruptly, wondering if she had been too candid. –He said that he had liked you and that he thought I would too.”

Severus removed his hand from hers and walked on a little. She let him go. His dark cloak fluttered in the breeze as he moved, turning him into a giant disgruntled bat. He made it as far as the water’s edge, where he stopped and watched the shifting shadows for a moment. Liam had been right, there was something extraordinary about this young man, and she had seen that from the moment she had come across him in the library. There was a hum of powerful magic beneath the surface that she couldn’t wait to see manifest itself. She was sure he genuinely didn’t care that his hair needed attention or his manner could be a bit brusque, and the more she thought about it, neither did she.

–And do you?” he asked eventually. His voice was quite the iceberg, concealing most of what he meant to say beneath a sharp point.

–Like you?” she replied. –I don’t know you well enough to say for certain, but I am intrigued by you. Perhaps I should ask you the same thing. Do you like me?”

–Too soon to say.”

She was stung a little by the lack of playfulness in his words: he actually seemed to mean them.

–Okay. I can accept too soon. It’s not a no, at least.” Her voice was unusually small. –Shall we go back inside? It’s getting quite cold now.”

–You go ahead. I have some potions ingredients to collect from the edge of the forest.”

It was a dismissal. With no argument she told him simply not to get too cold and left him standing there, as lonely a figure as he had ever been in his life. He didn’t feel lonely at that moment though; he didn’t actually know how he felt because he was a welter of confusion. What he thought he felt was glad, but never having really felt gladness before, he couldn’t quite be sure. With a sigh, Severus walked towards the forest; having painted himself into an excuse he knew he needed to make it look real. When he thought he was far enough away he risked turning his head around. He managed to do it at exactly the same time Maeve did, so despite their abrupt departure from each other and the distance between them, they were both left with a slightly warm feeling that carried them on their way.
Friendships by Magical Maeve
It was several days later, the weather still cold with no Christmas yet to lighten the mood, and Maeve found herself once more alone in the grounds, walking to the greenhouses for her first Herbology lesson. She wasn’t overly concerned that she would be behind everyone else in this lesson; her grandmother had shown her more about Herbology than she could ever learn in a classroom. This wasn’t true for all of her lessons; she was finding Muggle Studies and Divination particularly testing as neither had been considered worthy of her grandmother’s attention so she had a lot of catching up to do.

She’d plaited her hair to try and tame, trying to do something to make herself more approachable to the female students or she’d spend the rest of her time at Hogwarts fending off unwanted interest from boys and having no one to talk to. Even Severus now seemed scarce following their brief conversation at the lake. She hoisted her satchel back on to her shoulder and tried not to look enviously at a groups of girls who were giggling together and enjoying each other’s company.

–Penny for them,” a voice said in her right ear. She jumped slightly as she turned to see a smiling face looking back at her. The other witch was vaguely familiar; a Gryffindor, Maeve was sure.

–They’re worth less than that,” she replied with a smile.

–I doubt it. How are you settling in?”

–Okay. It’s a bit weird being the new girl.”

–I can imagine.” She gave a sympathetic smile, not really knowing what it was like to be dropped into the middle of a school year, where friendships were already firm and new students not always welcome. –I’m Lily, by the way, Lily Evans.”

–Maeve O’Malley. It’s nice to meet you, Lily.”

They walked in comfortable silence for a few moments before Lily spoke again.

–Did you go to school in Ireland? I’ve heard great things about the Finglas School of Magic.”

–I didn’t go there,” Maeve said, remembering her father’s words as they had discussed the subject. No daughter of his, he had insisted, was going to a place where they taught all manner of undesirables. She was to go to a pure blood school across the border in the North; the Navan College for Young Witches and Wizards. It was expensive and exclusive and she had been very unhappy there, despite the excellent teaching. –I went somewhere in the North.”

–Oh, I didn’t know there was another Irish school.”

–There’s lots. Ireland’s a very magical place, in more ways than one.” She smiled away her unhappiness. –But my gran taught me most of what I really know; Potions and Herbology mainly.”

–You’re lucky, coming from a magical family. I didn’t know what I was until I met a boy who recognised it. I thought I was a total freak for years. I think you’ll like it here once you have a few more friends. I hope I can be one of them; us green-eyed monsters should stick together!”

Maeve couldn’t help laughing at that. Lily’s eyes were the same shade as hers, and she was more than happy to take that as an indication that they were meant to be friends.

–Are you off to Herbology?” Maeve asked, hoping her new friend wasn’t about to abandon her. –I can never tell who’s going to be where. I think we’re having it with Gryffindor.”

–You are. The timetable takes some getting used to because it’s such a big school. Have you elected your classes yet?”

Maeve shook her head. –They told me to try everything until after Christmas so I could make a proper decision. I think I’m pretty sure I’ll be dropping Divination though; it’s a complete waste of time with all those prophecies and tea leaves.”

Lily pulled a face that indicated her views on Divination matched Maeve’s. –I dropped Muggle Studies too. I’ve lived with Muggles most of my life so thought it was a bit of a wasted on me really. Potions and Herbology are my absolute faves, and Charms, of course. Ancient Runes can be pretty cool too if you get the chance to study that.”

–The timetable is pretty much ancient runes to me at the moment so I might give it a few months.”

They both laughed as they finally reached the warmth of the greenhouses. Lily put her arm through Maeve’s in a rather proprietary manner and steered her to the front of the class, where Maeve felt almost at home for the first time since arriving at the school.

Dinner was a distant memory, and Maeve found herself curled up on her bed reading a rather dry book about Muggle history. She had made it to something called the Peasants Revolt, an event that might have been quite interesting had the author not been such a bore. She looked up from the book and took in her surroundings once more. It was a nice dormitory really, but it was still a dormitory full of people she didn’t know and who didn’t seem that interested in knowing her. She hadn’t been exaggerating when she had told Severus that people were afraid of her grief; she seemed to exist in a bubble of loss that people were afraid to burst. The door opened and one of her roommates came in. The girl said a brief hello before picking up a book from a bed and disappearing again.

A stray tear escaped and dropped from her cheek. Tears had been kept under lock and key since she had been told the dreadful news about her mother and she was determined to keep them that way, but as the wave of loneliness swept over her she couldn’t help a few more. She rubbed at her face with the back of her hand, like a small child deprived of a lollipop or toy.

–Stupid girl,” she admonished herself. –Stupid girl and stupid tears and stupid school.” The book was flying across the room before she knew it, hitting the door with a thud and dropping to the ground. With a sigh she curled herself back into a ball and, weary of being awake, slept.

Daylight woke her early, creeping beneath the curtains and filtering into the gloom of the dorm. It took her a moment to assemble her thoughts. Of late she had to go through a series of steps on waking. Her mind had to remind herself that firstly her mother was dead; this seemed to be the most salient point and the catalyst for everything else. Then she had to remind herself that she was no longer at Abbeylara, her family’s sprawl of a house in Wicklow, which was quickly followed by the fact that she was in England, at an English school and lacking friends or family. This morning she also had to remind herself that she had fallen asleep fully clothed and on her bed rather than in it. She sat up and was surprised to find that actually she was in her bed after a fashion. Someone had covered her with a blanket and removed her shoes. The book she had thrown was back on the table by her bedside and there was a glass of water beside it. She struggled up from the blanket and glanced at her companions; all asleep and giving nothing away. Still, it cheered her somehow and made her feel more positive about the day to come. This wasn’t supposed to be easy, she supposed, anything involving love and loss generally wasn’t. Perhaps it was a test on the part of some malevolent spirit.

–I thought you might be cold.” The whisper broke through her musings of a greater power. –I hope you don’t mind.”

Maeve turned to see the girl in the next bed propping herself up on an elbow and looking at her from beneath sleep-heavy lids. She thought she might have been called Katherine or Kate, something with a K.

–I don’t mind,” she said. –Thank you. It was nice of you to do that. I think I was a bit fed up last night.”

–I thought it was something like that. My granddad died last year so I know it’s a bit hard. Harder for you with it being your… you know.”

Maeve nodded. She most certainly did know. Katherine or Kate seemed inclined to chatter on.

–We’ve got Potions together this morning. If you want to sit with me I don’t mind. I normally get Graham Lovedale breathing in my ear and asking me stupid questions. I have no idea what he’s doing in Ravenclaw, let alone at Hogwarts. He doesn’t even read outside of classes!”

They both giggled, which seemed to rouse the other members of the dorm. Katherine or Kate immediately stopped talking, as if she had been caught in a disloyalty, winked at Maeve and flopped back down on her bed. The other two girls glared at her and then stepped from their beds as if stepping onto a stage. She’d have given her right arm for half the poise those two had, not to mention the air of complete belonging. Confidence, not something she usually had a lack of, seemed to have deserted her completely of late.

She got lost on the way to Potions, even though she had followed the rest of the class from the Great Hall straight after breakfast. There had been a particularly confusing corner, and she had run into the caretaker, who had barked something at her that sounded like a curse. In her muddled state she had taken the wrong corridor and was now hopelessly lost. Tears threatened again at the sheer unfairness of her whole situation coupled with the frustration of always seeming to do the wrong thing. She thought perhaps that’s why her father had sent her away, because she had done or said the wrong thing. The possibility that she had somehow even been responsible for her mother’s death was also never far from her thoughts, no matter how outlandish the notion might be.

–Damn,” she swore, as a she felt the tears start again, hovering on her lower eyelid.

–Maeve, are you all right?”

It was Severus and he looked concerned. She had never been so relieved to see someone in her life and only just managed to stop herself hugging him. –I’m lost,” she admitted, flinging her arms around her in a hopeless gesture.

–Is that all?” he asked, peering at her closely. –You look very sad. In fact you look like you are about to cry. There’s a tear on your lashes.”

–I am not crying,” she insisted, and then, inexplicably, she found herself doing just that.

This was not quite how Severus had anticipated his morning going; there had been no girls involved, and certainly no crying ones. He sat on the horns of this particular dilemma for a moment, torn between running away as fast as possible or actually offering to comfort her. When she brushed the tears away angrily he decided neither option was really going to work.

–Stupid,” she snapped at herself. –It’s just a lesson. It’s not worth getting upset about. It’s not like they’re going to teach me anything new.”

–Where are you going?”

–Potions,” she said, irritated that he had seen her moment of weakness. –Just stupid potions.”

–Just stupid potions,” he repeated. –Come on then. I have ten minutes before Charms.” He took her arm, much as Lily had done the previous day, and without once letting go of it managed to deliver her to Professor Slughorn and the empty seat beside Kathleen. He left her with a one of his tissues to dry her eyes and a promise to meet her by the fountain at lunch. None of this was going in the direction he had anticipated and he could feel himself being derailed. Quite apart from the fact that she was a Ravenclaw and that spending time with her would be frowned upon by his own house, any kind of friendship would make him vulnerable. The one things Severus was quickly learning was how to make himself invulnerable to people.
Enemies by Magical Maeve
Maeve made it the Clocktower Courtyard before him, battened down against the snow in her winter cloak. She loitered by the fountain as time slowly moved on; it was already quarter past twelve and she was beginning to think he wouldn’t come. Some immature idiot had painted a pair of glasses on each of the eagles flanking the statue, which caused a huge eye roll as she deployed a quick Scourgify to sort them out. To distract herself from the possibility that she was about to be stood up she reflected on the morning. Potions had been far better than expected, especially as she had someone to sit next to who was prepared to talk to her. Kathleen hadn’t been the star pupil of the class, but she had certainly been able to help Maeve’s confidence grow a little. The highlight for Maeve had been sticking her hand in the air and answering one of Professor Slughorn’s more taxing questions correctly, which had led him to calling her his bright new star. Kathleen had given a very audible tut before whispering darkly in Maeve’s ear about an invitation to a Slug Club, something which Maeve though sounded revolting but hadn’t been able to ask for further explanation as the class had moved on quickly. She had resolved to ask Severus at their meeting, but to do that she would need the boy himself and there was still no sign.

The courtyard was empty at this time of day, the majority of the other students holed up having lunch or heading for the library to escape the diabolical weather. It was possibly one of the reasons he had chosen this spot; its current isolation would mean their meeting was unobserved. It was a failing of hers, she knew, to always over-think a situation and she tried to send her thought in a more positive direction.

Snowflakes began to drift down gently, frosting her face and eyelashes until she blinked them away. She had thought they would perhaps go and get some lunch together followed by a quick catch up on her lessons. The clock, however, disagreed as it continued churning out the minutes. It was almost half past twelve before she caught sight of a black blot on the bridge, hurrying towards her with his face hidden from view. She sensed something was amiss even at this distance. His cloak looked dishevelled and his hair, always messy, now looked positively bedraggled.

–Severus,” she called, realising that he was turning to his right as he exited the bridge. He looked up at the sound of his name being called, his eyes searching quickly for the source. Maeve winced as she noticed blood on his face, and tried to read the furtive look in his eyes. –Severus, has something happened? Did you forget we were meeting?”

The courtyard seemed to have doubled in size as she made her way to him. He didn’t seem inclined to move towards her; if anything she thought he might flee in the opposite direction. With a weary sigh she knew that he had forgotten their meeting; there was nothing in his face that even seemed to recognise her for a moment. His mouth opened, and then closed again without enlightening her further regarding his state of dress or the cut on his cheek. Now that she was level with him she could see the injury had been caused by a fist; there was bruising around it already and the skin was split rather than torn. There was no magic here; this was the result of a schoolboy fight, and the swelling on his cheek bore testament to that.

–Fighting?” she asked, preparing herself to give him the benefit of the doubt.

–Not really,” he replied. –I need to get cleaned up. I’m sorry you were kept waiting; perhaps it was a bad idea to begin with. Perhaps you’ll be better off not seeing me after all.”

–What happened then?” She pulled her wand from her pocket and to her horror realised this had made him also reach for his wand, raising it level with her face as if in anger. –What on earth are you doing? Are you mad?”

Her heart was beating a little faster as she stared this sudden stranger in the face. There was a layer of anger in his eyes that was as thick as seam of coal and for the briefest moment she was genuinely afraid that something very bad was going to happen.

–Put the wand away, Snivellus.” They both turned, wands still aloft, to see James Potter and Sirius Black stalking across the bridge as if it was their personal property, also with their wands drawn. –Get away from her.” It was James who was speaking, but it was Sirius who seemed filled with the most potential to menace.

Maeve turned back to Severus, glaring at him for a moment before giving her wand the merest flick alongside a muttered, –Episkey.”

He reached up with his free hand and felt the tear in his skin begin to heal, the tightness of the swelling already easing. She looked from his face to his wand, and then back again, a challenge in her eyes. With a flurry he pocketed the offending item just as James and Sirius reached them. With a low threatening growl, Sirius prodded Severus on the recently repaired cheek with his wand.

–I said get away from her.”

–Or what?” Severus asked, not budging an inch.

–Do you really want to find out?” Sirius snarled, his face made ugly with repulsion.

–Leave him alone,” James said, stepping in to play something of the peacemaker. –He’s put his wand away and she’s clearly not scared of the little toad or she’d be legging it by now.”

–I am here, you know,” Maeve snapped, feeling nauseous at the sight of so much male posturing. –And you’re right. I’m not scared. Severus wasn’t trying to scare me. I’m not entirely sure what the hell he was doing, but whilst I appreciate your concern I really don’t need it.”

–I’d have thought you’d have had enough by now.” Sirius continued as if no-one else had spoken. –Wasn’t our little lesson earlier enough to get you to leave decent people alone.”

–What do you mean?” Maeve asked, looking at Sirius properly for the first time and not liking what she saw. –Did you cause that on his face?”

Sirius waved a set of perfectly bruised knuckles in her face. –Well I assume you’re talking about the black eye and not his big conk because Mother Nature is entirely responsible for the latter. The black eye, naturally, was me. Nothing like a bit of putting people firmly back in their place; beats wand waving any day. Besides, it’s only Snivellus; he deserves everything he gets, nasty piece of work that he is. Has he told you about the amount of extra practice he puts in for Defence Against the Dark Arts?”

–So you’re a bully.” Maeve narrowed her eyes at the pair of them, Severus now out of her line of sight. She could see James glaring at Sirius and wondered how many times he had had to intervene to stop his friend doing something that everyone would come to regret.

–I am no such thing,” Sirius said, and then he exploded with laughter. –Although the day we tipped him on his head so the whole world could see his grimy underpants was perhaps a touch harsh. Bullying is completely the wrong word, though. It’s teaching, enlightenment, correction even.”

James tried to mutter something that could have been an encouragement for Sirius to stop, but there was something crazed about the other boy now. No amount of pleading by his friend was going to stop this barrage of taunts.

–Or the time we got all his books up in a tree and hid his wand. I think we saw rather more of his pants again then too. Or at Halloween, when we gave all the pumpkins his face…”

Maeve turned to see Severus marching away, his head down and his shoulders slumped. Peeking out from the right hand pocket of his robes was a small bunch of crushed white violets; their petals destroyed by whatever correcting Sirius Black had decided to mete out. She felt a sick feeling in her stomach when she realised he hadn’t forgotten their meeting, had perhaps even gone out of his way to steal some flowers from the greenhouses to please her. It took only a few seconds for the sick feeling to morph into one of potent fury. She had always loathed bullies, and she had seen enough of them among the elite at Navan during her time there; there was something frightful about an excess of money and privilege in certain people, as if it bestowed on them the right to be cruel without any sort of redress. She had sometimes chosen to be that redress. There was something in her, some force that even she didn’t understand, and occasionally it would not be tempered by her own reason. So after a couple of incidents a few letters had found their way home complaining of her behaviour from some of the more vocal, and influential, parents.

It was a shame that Severus had chosen that moment to leave, has chosen that moment to accept yet another potential friendship had been destroyed by Black and Potter, had chosen that moment to let shame get the better of him. Had he hung around he might have felt better for the rest of the day instead of skulking around trying to keep out of sight of the world and its occupants.

–So a bully and a complete arse too,” she said, her voice so low Sirius though perhaps he had misheard her. She took a step backwards, as if to move away from them and leave; in reality she was putting a little aiming distance between them. –What is it you don’t like about him? Is it just because he’s a Slytherin, and no one likes Slytherins, do they? Can’t be, because then you’d have to practice your arseholery on a whole house and even you probably aren’t that big a man. Is it because he’s cleverer than you, or more interesting? Or is it just because you can?”

James saw her wand move before Sirius did. He gave a shout of warning, but Maeve was far too quick.

–Let’s see how you like a taste of your own medicine,” she announced, before muttering something that sounded vaguely foreign and rather less vaguely ominous

Sirius’ nose simply exploded. He screamed, or tried to as his face became a mess of blood. Maeve watched for a moment, allowing a very familiar feeling of satisfaction to settle over her at seeing a bully become the victim. If there was one thing her father had taught her it was to meet violence with violence. No wonder, then, that the letters from Navan complaining of his daughter’s behaviour had gone straight in the bin and her occasional outburst of temper went unpunished.

–You’ve bloody killed him, you thug!” James shouted as he tried to help his friend by staunching the flow of blood with an inadequate handkerchief. –His face is ruined.”

Sirius looked thoroughly horrified by his friend’s verdict and pressed the sodden handkerchief to his burst nose even harder.

–The both of you are pathetic.” She looked at them in disgust. –It looks worse than it is. It might not even be broken. Get him to the hospital wing, if you don’t know how to fix it yourself that is?”

–You could help,” James said, panicking slightly.

–Not a chance,” she said, still furious. –He can suffer for all I care. Perhaps you should ask Severus; I’d bet your silly lives on him knowing what to do at a time like this.”

Maeve left them to it, heedless of the consequences her actions would have. Perhaps, she thought, almost hopefully, she would be expelled. Life at Hogwarts had seemed to be getting better, but now it had taken a distinct turn for the worse. She briefly considered trying to find Severus, but realised that she didn’t actually want to see him, remembering the wand in her face, and on a more practical level, she didn’t know how to find the Slytherin Common Room. She went instead to the only place she could go to without having to talk to anyone, and that was her bed. At least there she would be left in peace. Divination would have to do without her for that afternoon’s lesson.

Although it was quiet, sleep decided to be a stranger. Maeve tossed and turned on her bed and gave in to a sudden bout of self-pity. Her father might not kill her but it was going to be a close run thing. At best he could lock her in a room and throw away the key. Nothing this serious had ever happened before, even at Navan, and certainly not something that could result in an expulsion. She knew this whole Hogwarts thing was an exercise in getting her out of her father’s way and here she was, managing to do something so serious it could result in being sent right back to him. Her gran had been fond of sayings, and ‘Catch you temper before your temper catches you’ had been one of them, specially tailored for her granddaughter. Well, her temper had certainly caught her this time and she was going to pay for it.

The knock on the door wasn’t unexpected, but the person doing the knocking was. Instead of a teacher come to bring her to the Headmaster’s office it was Kathleen looking concerned.

–You’re not in class so they sent me to find you. Are you okay?” Her round face looked unusually pinched.

–Just a bit under the weather,” she replied
–Oh, okay then.” Kathleen looked unsure of what to do for a moment before moving towards Maeve’s bed. –Lily Evans asked me to give you this. I bumped into her on the way back from the lesson.”

Maeve took the offered note and placed it on her bedside table, not trusting herself to read it in front of Kathleen. –Thanks. It’s probably something about homework for Herbology.”

–Are you sure you’re okay. Shall I get Professor Flitwick?”

–No, no, it’s fine. I don’t think he’d be that interested in a bit of tummy ache.” She gave a little grimace, as if a cramp had just poked at her stomach.

–Madam Pomfrey then?”

–I said no!” Maeve was instantly contrite when she saw the look of hurt on Kathleen’s face. –No thank you. Honestly, I’m fine. It was really good of you to come check on me. Perhaps I’ll see you at dinner.” She made to turn away and then paused. –Has anything unusual happened this afternoon?”

Kathleen was puzzled, shaking her head. –What do you mean?”

–Any fights? Anyone hurt?”

–No. There’s never any fighting at Hogwarts.” Kathleen looked incredulous, as if Maeve had suggested Hogwarts was a perpetual boxing match. Maeve privately thought that Kathleen was very naïve if she believed there was nothing of that sort going on in the school, in any school. She suddenly felt far older than her years.

–Okay, that’s good. See you later then,” Maeve said. –And thanks again for checking on me.”

Once she was alone she quickly unfolded Lily’s note. It was an exercise in conciseness. It merely said: Sorted out you-know-who. Meet me on the covered bridge at 7. L

It was impossible to read anything into it. You-know-who must be Sirius, but she wasn’t quite sure what Lily meant by sorting him out. She would have imagined that Sirius would have raised hell about his nose by now, but still no-one had come for her. A quick replay of the events made her cringe. Any remorse she felt for hurting Sirius, which was very little if she was honest (and if she was being brutally honest she would probably have done exactly the same thing to him again), was outweighed by the remorse at not looking for Severus afterwards. It was his poor face that she felt the most regret about, from the murderous expression when he had first approached her, to the look of alarm when she had raised her wand, and then that final defeated look. Perhaps he was used to having to constantly defend himself, and for that brief moment she had become another potential bully in his eyes.

With a fatal resignation she knew she would have to lie low until later. Any opportunity to speak to Severus would mean being seen around school with no valid excuse for not being in class; besides, she wanted to hear what Lily had to say before she approached him again.
Allies by Magical Maeve
It was pitch dark when she left the castle, the stars obscured by low cloud, and she found herself once again passing through the courtyard that had seen such drama earlier. Flickering lamps now lit the way to the bridge and had circumstance been different she would have found it quite a pleasant walk. There were a few students moving around, although she didn’t know most of them, and then a couple of boys rounded the corner of the main building. Her heart almost stopped as she recognised James first, and then Sirius Black’s brooding face came into view. Sirius’ nose looked perfectly normal, confirming her interpretation of Lily’s note. They were almost upon her before James realised who she was and he gave her a completely unreadable look. She looked beyond him to Sirius and to her utter astonishment Sirius smiled at her.

–All right, Red?” he asked. –Off for an evening assignation.”

She was about to open her mouth when she saw James shaking his head at her.

–Something like that,” she muttered.

–Watch out for bats; lots of them in the grounds. Wouldn’t want them getting tangled in your lovely hair.” And with a smile he punched James on the arm and they were gone.

She watched them enter the castle, shaking her head at Sirius’ odd behaviour. Surely he would have something to say about what she had done to him; surely he wasn’t the type to just let something like that go. She carried on to the bridge, hoping Lily could shed more light on matters.

The place was deserted except for Lily’s solitary figure standing at the midpoint of the wooden structure. The other witch turned and gave a small wave, but there was no smile of greeting there, instead Lily looked grave, as if she was now quite unsure of her new friend.

–Cold,” Maeve observed, rubbing her gloved hands together.

–It is December,” Lily replied, her green eyes sombre.

–I got your note.”


–Okay.” Maeve turned and looked out across the landscape, her eyes blinking into the blind darkness.

–Is there something you want to say?” Lily asked, her tone more like a mother with a troublesome child than someone talking to one of her peers.

–Should there be?” Maeve felt her hackles rise slightly at the implication she had done something seriously wrong.

–Do you know how much magic it took to fix Sirius?” Her voice was a fraction higher, though she was still in control of her emotions.

–Not much. I didn’t hit it with a particularly strong curse. It’s not my fault he’s a bit weak.”

–You shouldn’t have hit it with any curse!” Lily’s hands were on her hips. –Hitting a fellow student with a curse is punishable by expulsion from the school.”

–I guessed as much, but as I haven’t even been given a detention I’m assuming whatever you did fixed more than just his nose.” Maeve could hear creaking and couldn’t decide if it was the bridge or her own shaky moral high ground.
–You’re welcome.” Lily didn’t normally like sarcasm, but faced with Maeve’s seeming lack of remorse she fell back on it like a crutch.

–I didn’t say thank you.”

–Then perhaps you should.”

Maeve gritted her teeth. –Perhaps Sirius should say sorry.”

–If Sirius said sorry to everyone he annoys we’d never hear the end of it. He’s always annoying people, but he’s basically harmless. What on earth did he say to you to make you do that to him anyway?” There was the hint of thawing in her voice.

They were both now leaning over the side of the bridge, talking into the night, their anger at each other evaporating.

–It’s not what he did to me; it’s what he’s doing to Severus Snape.” She pushed stray hair from her face. –It’s more than harmless.”

Lily puffed out some air, as if blowing away the notion that Sirius’s behaviour was anything other than high jinks. –Severus Snape can take care of himself. He has quite the reputation for Dark Arts.”

–He might have a reputation, but he appears to be following the rules better than I am and not using the Dark Arts on anyone else. And no one person can take care of themselves when faced with a group of bullies. I bet James Potter isn’t the only crony following Sirius around. You shouldn’t be so blinded by a bit of charm. I’ve met Sirius’ type before. I don’t like them. Anyone that can tip someone on their head and humiliate them in front of other students is just a nasty bit of work. I’m surprised you’re falling for it. I thought you were cleverer than that.”

Lily didn’t respond immediately; she allowed Maeve’s words to penetrate. The cold was biting harder now, the first flakes of snow dropping from the night sky.

–I like James,” she said eventually. –He’s asked me to Hogsmeade a couple of times. If you like James you have to like Sirius, they kind of come as a pair. Actually, there are four of them in the group, but James and Sirius are inseparable. Severus can be a strange boy sometimes and he really winds Sirius up for some reason. I’m not saying it’s right and I would have tried to stop it too had I been there, but Severus has to fight his own battles. He’s going to be quite a powerful wizard, I think, so he just needs to put Sirius in his place once and for all and then they’ll move on.”

–Or it will get worse,” Maeve said. –Each prank will get worse until someone really gets hurt. Sirius won’t stop if he’s the kind of person you say he is. If Severus hits back it just gives him a reason to go on. Severus probably knows that, which is why he’s being restrained.”

–You talk as if you know Severus. You don’t know any of these people,” Lily argued.

–I’ve seen enough other people.” Maeve looked at her. –What I really don’t understand is why I just saw Sirius and he acted like nothing had happened earlier.”

Lily avoided her gaze. –I might have made him forget what happened. It’s the best way to stop him ruining things for you because there’s no way he would have let it lie. Professor Dumbledore would have expelled you.”

–You used a mind-modifier? Now who’s breaking rules?” Maeve didn’t know whether to be appalled or grateful. –Mind-modification is for Muggles, not wizards.”

–I cleaned him up and made sure he had no recollection of what happened from the point he left Severus in the boat house. James asked me to do it so I did. He actually said he’d never seen a girl look so angry and he was pretty wary of you, but he also said Sirius was behaving like a complete arse. It’s the first time I’ve heard him openly criticise Sirius so he must have been behaving like a prat.”

–He was.” Maeve was grim. –And thank you, for helping me. –

–Was Severus all right?”

–That I don’t know,” she admitted. –He left before I… you know.”

Lily nodded. –He’ll be in the library. It’s Defence Against the Dark Arts in the morning and he always likes to swot up before that particular lesson. You’ll definitely find him there if you hurry. Library closes in half an hour.”

Maeve thought about it for the shortest time and then with another hurried thanks, bolted for the castle.

Madam Pince frowned at her as she entered, her breathless state entirely at odds with the calm of the library, but she ignored the librarian and moved quickly through the stacks. He was at the farthest table hunched over a book, his hair obscuring his face. It felt like a very long time before she was at his side and she could see him stiffen as she approached. She stretched out her arm and was about to touch his shoulder when he turned swiftly to grab her hand before it could land.

–What are you doing,” he hissed, his expression lethal.

–If you continue to fight my attempts to be nice to you I’ll only try harder,” she said, wresting her hand free and perching on the side of the table that he was working at. She reached out her hand again, and something in her face made him allow her to place it on his shoulder as she had originally intended, his eyes watching the fingers warily, as if they might turn into a trap at any moment.

–Did you want something?” he asked.

She hated the flat tone in his voice, her anger at Sirius Black filled with fresh fuel.

–Do you want to take a walk before curfew? I’d like to ask your advice.” She smiled, skating around the events of the afternoon.


–Because I think you’re the cleverest person I’ve met since arriving, and I include some of the professors in that. Perhaps you can teach me how to conduct myself at school without getting expelled?”

His forehead creased into a frown. –What do you mean?”

–Put those books away and I’ll tell you.”

She enjoyed watching him pack his things away; there was a neatness and precision about the whole procedure that she found soothing. Once his quill was cleaned and stowed away along with his books, he stood and pulled his cloak from off the back of the chair before swirling it around his shoulders. He really wasn’t at all unpleasant to look at if you focused on that dark intelligence in his eyes, and the steel in the set of his jaw. Those things pleased Maeve more than a nice hair style and easy charm.

–Where do you want to go?” he asked as he swept ahead of her and out of the library. –It’s only an hour or so until we have to be back in our dorms.”

–You choose,” she said, trotting slightly to keep up with him. –Somewhere quiet.”

They left by the main entrance, Severus taking the path around the school to the back of the Great Hall. It had become much colder and she was regretting the lack of a more substantial outer garment.

–Where exactly are we going?” she asked, hoping the answer wasn’t going to be the lake.

–Vegetable patch at the back of the Great Hall,” he replied.

–Very romantic.” She grinned at his back.

–I wasn’t aware that it was supposed to be romantic,” he snarled, stopping so quickly and turning that she cannoned into him and he had to grab her to stop her toppling over.

–Joke,” she said, not minding at all that he had hold of her arms longer than strictly necessary.

–Not funny.” He released her and carried on walking.

–It must take some effort,” she remarked, stepping over a small wall and onto a gravel path. They seemed to be walking towards a solid brick wall.

–What must?” There was definitely a sigh of exasperation accompanying his words.

–Being so prickly all of the time.”

–I am not prickly. I just have a low tolerance level for people.” He reached his hand towards what turned out to be a wooden door set in the wall and turned a giant iron handle. The door swung inwards, allowing entry into a well-tended and immaculately ordered walled garden filled with every type of produce imaginable. Low lights illuminated the walls, giving just enough visibility for them to negotiate their way around the beds. She could smell the wonderful odours of damp leaf mould and soil despite the cold. No snow was allowed to settle here, the paths and beds all cleared of the white stuff.

–This is interesting,” she said, looking at the naked plum trees growing up against the walls and thinking that their branches were splayed out like prisoners on a rack. Maeve made a mental note to stop reading Muggle histories; it was clearly starting to affect her.

–Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit,” he replied, casting her a long look.

–I wasn’t being sarcastic. This is interesting. I’d like to see it in daylight. I’ll bet there are all kinds of cool ingredients in here that could be borrowed for Potions experiments.”

–Well, yes, there are,” he confirmed, giving her a sudden insight into his spare time activities.

–We’ll have to talk about this afternoon,” she said, coming to a standstill. –If we want to be friends, anyway.”

–It’s nothing for you to worry about. Black and Potter will go away eventually.” She ignored the look of sadness on his face. –And who said I wanted to be friends?”

–You’re here, aren’t you? Anyway, I wasn’t talking about Black and Potter. I was talking about you pulling out your wand and pointing it at me.”

–You pointed yours first,” he retorted.

–To help you, Severus, not hurt you. I thought your reaction was pretty extreme considering.”

He rammed his hands in the pockets of his robes and looked mutinous. His eyes had a way of shuttering themselves when he needed to think, and with Maeve watching him in expectation he really needed to think quite badly.

Pulling his wand had been an instinctive reaction to several years of having to defend himself against the select group of Gryffindors known rather fatuously as the Marauders. He usually managed to deflect the worst of their so-called pranks, but occasionally, and today had been one of those occasions, he wasn’t quick enough. What really irked him was they never did anything too serious, or inflicted damage that would be either noticeable or lasting. He was between the rock of embarrassment and the hard place of being labelled a tell-tale if he went to the teachers. Not that he ever would go to the teachers; that would just be humiliation on top of humiliation, especially in the fifth year. He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his fingertips as he willed inspiration to come and explain away why he had pulled his wand in anger on this pretty, charming witch who hadn’t spoken to more than a handful of times.

–I can literally feel myself aging,” she said, her arms folded in a hurry-up attitude.

–I was waiting for you to do something undesirable to me,” he replied, hearing the weakness of his excuse even before it had passed his lips.

She blushed a little as she suddenly understood his reaction, feeling stupid for not realising it sooner. Any wand pointed at Severus probably wasn’t usually done in friendship. For the briefest of moments he had assumed she was just another student trying to taunt him.

–Sorry,” she said, chastened. –I didn’t think. I should have told you what I was doing.” She disarmed him by taking his hand and holding it, as if it was a normal thing to do, as if they really were friends.

–Are all the Irish witches so forward,” he asked to cover his confusion.

–No, I don’t think so. I don’t know what it is about you. I suppose that’s the thing with people, isn’t it, you can never know what it is that makes you like one person and loathe another. My gran had a saying that the heart will have what the heart will have and the head can go hang. I think she would probably think this was one of those situations.”

–Your grandmother sounds like quite a wise person.” He normally dismissed silly sayings as the sign of a feeble mind, but he actually quite like that one, it did, after all, end in a hanging, something he would quite like to have done to Sirius Black.

–She’s a bit bonkers, if I’m honest. Cleverest person I know, but slightly batty.”

–It must run in the family,” he said with a deadpan face.

She raised an eyebrow and peered at him closely. –Did you just make a joke, Severus Snape? I do believe you did.”

–I don’t joke,” he replied, but this time there was a ghost of a smile at the corner of his mouth.

–Ha!” she said, and punched him lightly on the arm with her free hand. Neither of them had noticed they were still attached by the other one. –I have found your weak spot. You do have a sense of humour.”

–We should head back soon,” he said, a little disturbed by the sudden intimacy. –What did you actually want to speak to me about? You said something about being expelled.”

–Ah. That. Yes.” Now that they were alone her reaction to Sirius suddenly didn’t seem quite so clever or her request for advice to not get expelled quite so funny. Now that he was standing there with his piercing black eyes looking right into her she felt the first twinge of regret at hurting Sirius; as if she had somehow failed Severus by doing so. –There was a thing, after you left.”

–A thing?” he asked, looking even sharper, though she wouldn’t have thought that possible. With an inner smile she realised he would make a very good teacher, or at least a teacher good at sniffing out misdemeanours.

–Sirius was being a creep, so I hit him with a small spell.”

–What sort of small spell.”

She was waiting for him to let go of her hand the further she progressed down the story, but he was still holding it, just.

–One from the Sanguine family; the Damnum one.” Her voice was tiny; as if the quieter she spoke the better it would sound.

–That’s not a spell, Maeve, that’s quite an advanced curse.” He looked at her in amazement, and it wasn’t her imagination; he was definitely holding her hand tighter. –I almost don’t want to ask which bit of him you used it on.”

–His nose,” she admitted.

–You gave Sirius Black a bloody nose using an advanced curse. – He laughed, a full blown laugh that she thought was the best thing she had heard since arriving at her new school. –What are you still doing here? You must have nine lives.”

–I have Lily Evans,” she said, and told him the full story.

He shook his head at her, at both her and Lily really. He had spent his school career not practising all the spells and curses that he shouldn’t know but did, and here were these two, flouting every rule there was about using magic on a fellow student. He’d clearly underestimated the Evans girl too, if she could pull that off on a wizard like Black.

–Promise me that you will never, ever use a curse on a fellow student again as long as you are here. I’m only just starting to like you so I don’t want you expelled just yet.” He was deadly serious, she realised, and he was now holding her hand very tightly indeed; she had almost lost all feeling in it.

–I promise,” she said. –What about a minor charm?”

–Maeve, please,” he said, –don’t. Do what I do and ignore him, not that he’ll come after you again anyway if he can’t remember earlier. –

–He might if I hang about with you, which I intend to do, by the way.” She had to remove her hand; her fingers were going numb. Linking her arm through his, which involved some complicated cloak manoeuvres, she reminded him of the time. They hurried from the vegetable garden together, matching each other’s’ stride perfectly. It was five to eight when they ran up the steps to the school, and one minute past when they both entered their respective common rooms, breathless but happy.
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