At the front of the room, Serena saw Severus was already beginning to work on the potion. He was bent over the cauldron and was muttering under his breath. His hair was falling into his face and he kept pushing it away with the back of his hand.
“You started without me?” she mockingly pouted.
He straightened up and glanced at the clock behind her. He smirked and opened his mouth, but Serena held up her hand.
“So help me, if you say one word about me being on time, I will…” her voice trailed off.
His smirk deepened. “You’ll what?”
She laughed. “I don’t know, but it will not be good.” She walked to the table and looked at the progress he had made. The ingredients were lying on the table in a systematic manner, lined up in precisely the order they were to be added. The tools he would need were polished and ready for use. She looked at him. “There’s not much for me to do here.”
“You never know. I might need something.”
She rolled her eyes. He had to be the most organized man she had ever met. She was sure that he had thought of every item he would need. Why exactly had he asked her here? She smiled slyly. Perhaps he just wanted to spend time with her. She looked at him and he returned her gaze warily, unsure of what her satisfied smile meant. Turning back to the potion, he slowly stirred the liquid ten times clockwise. Serena watched as the potion turned a light gray color. Severus smiled slightly and brushed his hair out of his face again.
“Wait a minute,” Serena said. She reached up and pulled out the hair band that held her bun in place and walked up behind Severus. She gathered his hair in her hands, pulling it tight at the base of his neck, and tied the band around his dark hair. Coming back around, she winked at Severus.
“Now you can concentrate on the potion and not on your hair.”
He stood there staring at her. Her hair had fallen completely from her bun and formed a pile of red waves around her shoulders. Her wide green eyes were twinkling. To him, she had never looked more beautiful. Reaching back, he touched the band in his hair and smirked.
“See? I told you I might need something.”
She laughed. “Well, don’t I feel useful! All my training in potions and the dark arts, and I was able to tie back your hair to keep it from falling into your face.”
Severus glanced back down at the potion, noting that it was almost time to add the wolfsbane.
“Have you made this often?” Serena asked quietly, trying not to be too disruptive.
“Enough,” he replied. “When Lupin taught Defense, I made it every month.”
“That’s impressive, Severus. I know that this is a very difficult potion to brew.”
He stared at her serious face, searching for any trace of dishonesty or cruelty, but finding none. He wasn’t used to receiving compliments and he wasn’t sure how to respond. Instead he turned back to the potion, and added the wolfsbane. Stirring slowly ten times counterclockwise, the potion turned bright silver and made a popping noise. Severus stepped back, looking pleased. Serena peered over the edge of the cauldron and then smiled up at him.
He felt his breath catch and his stomach drop. His eyes were drawn to her lips. He could just lean across the cauldron and… Taking a deep breath, he focused once again on the potion in front of him. What was she doing to him?
“Congratulations! What’s next?”
He blushed slightly at her praise and answered her question, pleased that he was able to keep his voice from showing any of the conflicting emotions that he was feeling. “I’ll pour it into these two vials,” he waved his hand over the two large vials on the table, “and store them until tomorrow.”
“What happens tomorrow?” she asked curiously.
Snape paused, unsure of how much he should reveal to her.
“Then Dumbledore will use it when needed.”
He gave her a disgusted look. “Well, let’s consider all of the possibilities. What could he possibly be using this potion for?”
She gave him a withering glance. “Thank you for stating the obvious.”
He snorted. “You’re the one who asked the foolish question.”
Serena’s brow furrowed. “Does he know many werewolves?”
Severus started clearing away the tools, trying to escape her questions. “I do not keep track of everyone the man knows,” he snapped.
Serena’s expression turned cool, and she straightened. “I think you have this under control, Severus. I told Minerva I would take a walk with her before lunch.” Turning, she called over her shoulder, “I’ll talk to you later.”
Severus watched as she stalked out of the lab, obviously angry with him. Perhaps asking her to assist him had been a mistake, but he found himself wanting to be with her whenever possible. Over the past few months, she had somehow become very important to him. He thought about her all the time. He counted the hours until her visits and then felt a loss when it was time for her to leave. He grimaced. In other words, she had turned him into a soft, pathetic man. Who would have thought that under his brittle exterior there was a living, beating heart? He sighed, and began to clean up his mess, intending to find her and apologize as soon as he was able.
“He just drives me crazy, Minerva. I only asked him a question and he practically bit my head off.” Serena walked at a furious pace around the edge of the grounds with Minerva practically running behind her to keep up. Serena stopped suddenly and looked back. She saw Minerva bend over, place her hands on her knees, and take in deep breaths.
Serena ran back to her. “Are you okay? Sit down on the bench and catch your breath.”
Minerva sat down gratefully and felt her racing heart begin to slow. Serena plopped down next to her and covered her face with her hands, groaning.
“What is wrong with me?”
Minerva smiled and said, “It seems to me like you won’t admit how you feel about Severus.”
Serena looked at her friend in astonishment. “What do you mean?”
Minerva gave her a knowing look. “Severus drives us all crazy, but you’re the only one driven to running laps around the school grounds, dragging an old woman behind you, simply because he snapped at you. He snaps at everyone, but for some reason it bothers you more than most. Honestly, I think you care about him more than you want to admit.”
Serena looked sadly at her friend. “I am sorry. I didn’t realize that I was walking so quickly. I was just so angry with him.”
Minerva looked at the figure in black coming towards them. “You know what Mr. Whitman says, dear.”
Serena gave her a questioning glance.
Minerva smiled and quoted, “ ‘Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage’.”
When Serena just stared at her in bewilderment, Minerva laughed and said, “Someone I know has a fascination with poetry.” Standing, she brushed herself off. Nodding her head towards Severus, she added, “Perhaps now would be a good time to examine what you truly feel.”
Walking away, Minerva passed Severus and smiled widely. He simply glared at the woman and wondered what she was so pleased about. Reaching Serena, he sat down in Minerva’s spot and looked at the flushed woman beside him.
“Serena,” he began. She refused to meet his eyes.
He sighed. Maybe she was angrier than he had first thought.
“I’m sorry I snapped at you. If it makes any sense, I wasn’t really snapping at you.”
Serena looked at him, wondering what he meant by that.
He looked away from her probing eyes. “I was angry with Dumbledore for asking me to make the potion in the first place, and when you kept asking me about him, I just got angry, I guess.” He looked back at her. “But I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”
Serena smiled softly. “Yes, well, don’t let it happen again.” The smile faded and she looked at him, wondering if she should ask the question burning in her mind.
Deciding she had nothing to lose, she asked quietly, “Why were you angry with Dumbledore?”
Severus stared at the snow-covered ground. Looking back up at her, he replied, “That is a long story.”
“I have nothing but time.” She placed her hand on his arm.
Taking her hand off his arm, he held it in his, and studied the smooth skin on the back of her hand, his thumb tracing circles there lightly. She felt a spark travel up her arm and she shivered slightly.
“I was making the potion for Lupin,” he smiled wryly. “Lupin and I have never gotten along. It goes way back to our days as students at Hogwarts. To make a long story short, he almost killed me once during his transformation because of a joke played on us by his best friends. Dumbledore didn’t even suspend them. He just made it seem like a harmless schoolboy prank that went too far.” He looked at her, her face showing concern and compassion. It encouraged him to continue.
“My life didn’t appear to be important to him and that hurt. I guess I saw him as sort of a foster father, considering that my own was, well, not anything like a father.” He ran his hand over his face, not really sure why he was telling her this.
“When I became a teacher here, Dumbledore never hesitated to “request” that I make whatever potions he needed.” He sat there, silent, her hand still clasped in his.
“You felt used,” she said quietly.
He looked at her, surprised that she understood what he felt. “Yes.”
Serena took her free hand and caressed his cheek. “Didn’t you ever think that Albus asks you to brew his potions because you’re the best? I’ve seen you work, Severus, and you are amazing. Perhaps he just forgets to tell you that.”
Severus felt his breath hitch as his eyes were drawn once again to her lips. Pushing all thoughts aside, but one, he finally gave in to the temptation. Leaning in, he brushed his lips softly over hers. Shifting slightly, he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer to him, deepening the kiss as he did so. He felt Serena’s arms snake around his neck as she moaned against his mouth. Her fingers became tangled in his hair and she tried to pull him even closer. Finally pulling back, he panted and looked at the woman in his arms. Her cheeks were flushed and she was breathing heavily, her eyes still closed. Smirking slightly, he placed a quick chaste kiss on her lips. She opened her eyes and tried to glare at him reproachfully for ending the kiss, but was unable to muster the strength. Taking her hand in his once again, he wondered why this felt so natural to him. He felt like he was alive for the first time and in some respects that scared him.
Refusing to allow those thoughts to continue, he stood and pulled her up behind him. “Would you take a walk with me?”
She smiled brightly at him. “Of course, Professor Snape.” She tilted her head and added softly, “I would like that.”
They strolled around the grounds in a companionable silence, their hands clasped tightly together, stopping every few moments to give in to the temptation once again.
The next day, Dumbledore summoned Snape. Severus just clenched his teeth and cursed under his breath all the way to the Headmaster’s office. Stepping into the room, he realized that Albus was not alone. Two men were standing in front of Albus’ desk. Scowling, he eyes fell on Lupin, his threadbare clothes and graying hair giving the man away. He looked at the other man, but did not recognize him. However, based upon his previous conversation with the Dumbledore, he guessed this was the mighty leader of the werewolf clan.
“Yes?” Snape spit out.
Dumbledore looked at him warningly. “Severus, I wanted to introduce you to the leader of the Mergona werewolf clan. He is very interested in seeing how the Wolfsbane potion works.”
The man walked smoothly toward Snape, his hand extended. His blue eyes shone brightly and his black shoulder length hair was tucked behind his ears. He offered Severus a toothy grin and Snape felt a shiver of fear run through him. He regarded the hand coolly and then held out his own. The man engulfed his hand and shook firmly.
“My name is Tom,” he said in a heavily accented voice. “It is a pleasure to meet you. I understand that you are a gifted Potions Master. I look forward to talking with you these next few days about this potion that could change the lives of the lycans in my clan.”
Snape’s eyes narrowed when he realized that the man was French. He let go of the man’s hand and turned towards Dumbledore, sure that the Headmaster was keeping something from him. It seemed to be too much of a coincidence that this man would arrive at Hogwarts a few months after Serena.
Dumbledore just looked at Snape and smiled slightly. “Severus, I need you to take Tom and Remus to the lab and give them the Wolfsbane potion.”
He glared darkly at him, not sure what the Headmaster’s plan was. Nodding stiffly, he left the room, not even glancing behind to make sure the men were following him. For some reason, as he made his way down to the lab, he prayed that Serena was nowhere near the dungeons.
Serena heard a tapping at her window. Looking up, she saw a large tawny owl staring at her. He had a package held firmly in his claws. She opened the window and the bird flew in and landed on her bed. He waited patiently for her to untie the package and open it. It was a letter and book from Jacques.
I hope this finds you well. Enclosed you will find a mock up of my new book. It is due to be published in three months. I thought you could take a look at it and make sure that everything looks good. I hope that you will come and visit us very soon. We miss you more than you know!
Serena shook her head, amused. Even thousands of miles away, Jacques still only wanted to talk about potions. She wrote him a quick note telling him that she had received the package and would love to take a look. Tying it on the owl’s leg, she whispered directions in his ear, and let him fly out the window, watching until he was only a black spot on the horizon. Closing the window, she latched it and looked at the parcel on her bed. She picked up the book and began to flip through it. Scanning the titles, she thought some of the potions sounded very interesting. Perhaps Severus would help her preview it. Grabbing the book, she made her way down to the dungeons, realizing that she just wanted to see him. She laughed to herself. Well, maybe she did not just want to see him.
She pushed the heavy door open, still flipping though the book.
“Severus, I got a new book from Raulbia today. I thought we could start it…” she looked up and was shocked to see that he was not alone.
Her face flushed and she looked at the Headmaster. “I apologize, Albus, I did not know you were here.” She looked at Severus and smiled. His face was frozen and he did not return her smile; in fact he refused to even meet her eyes. Serena felt slightly uncomfortable. No one was saying a word. What exactly had she walked in on? She looked at the worn man standing next to Severus. He was studying her and smiling faintly. Her eyes swept to the man behind Severus. He was turned slightly away from her, but he looked vaguely familiar. She took a step forward to get a better look at the mysterious visitor, when Severus suddenly stepped in front of her, so that she could not see the other man.
“Serena, I will see you later tonight.” His voice had a slight edge to it that made Serena feel uneasy. His dark eyes were silently begging her to turn around and walk out the door. Her brow furrowed in confusion. What was he trying to hide? She glanced at Albus and saw an expression that unexpectedly terrified her: pity. His face was filled with pity.
“What’s going on?” she asked, her voice trembling.
The man behind Severus stepped forward out of the shadows, so that Serena could see his face clearly. Her heart dropped, a roaring filled her ears, and she couldn’t breath. ‘It couldn’t be! It couldn’t be,’ her mind repeated over and over again. He spoke and all doubt was instantly removed.
“Hello, Serena,” the man said tenderly.
Dropping the book, she gasped, her legs giving way beneath her. Severus quickly reached out and caught her before she hit the floor. Holding her up, she looked at him, her eyes filled with fear and confusion. He looked at her apologetically. She realized that he somehow knew who the man was. How long had he known? Pushing Severus away, she turned and faced her flesh and blood ghost, her legs still trembling.
“Hello, Thomas,” she replied faintly, before promptly losing consciousness.
The Walt Whitman poem that Minerva sampled was “Sometimes with One I Love”. I just want to make sure that proper credit is given to the man.