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In Retrospect. by Magical Maeve

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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.