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In Retrospect. by Magical Maeve

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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.