The horse and rider moved slowly across the landscape. They were clearly in no hurry to get anywhere, giving the impression of having all the time in the world. Viewed from a distance it would be impossible to gauge the sadness that emanated from the young woman, or to decipher the reason behind it. To understand her quiet despair would require knowledge of the O’Malley family history and an understanding of recent events. As very few outsiders were ever allowed within the grounds of the Abbeylara estate, she was seemingly alone in her sorrow.
The day itself was a reflection of the grey shadow that seemed to envelop her. Dull, heavy clouds spread across the expanse of sky, filling every last inch and giving the land beneath a claustrophobic feel. Huddled beneath this sky, the green of the grounds seemed muted and flat; even the flowers in the rose garden offered no respite as their colourful heads drooped dismally. The huge house loomed above everything else with its flat grey frontage and blank windows that gave away nothing of its occupants. A few strands of dying ivy clung to the portico, having long since given up any ambitions they may have had of making it all the way up the walls. Although the house gave the impression of decay it was actually in fairly good condition, maintained by men from the nearby town who came in to take care of any structural work. The décor inside was looked after by the lonely woman and was surprisingly beautiful, full of life and colour. Perhaps the colour of her own life had drained from her and bled into her surroundings, leaving her but a pale imitation of the wallpaper.
A light rain was starting to fall and the woman halted the horse beneath a tree to shelter from the fine drops of water. She stroked the animal’s warm neck, causing it to lift its head and quietly start chewing at its bit. She watched the house closely; she had no desire to go back just yet because she was avoiding the presence of the first houseguest she could remember the family entertaining since her return several years ago.
Malachy Meany had turned up unexpectedly two nights ago, although she had only met him the previous evening. It had been clear her father had tried to prevent their paths crossing by his constant dogging of her footsteps, something that in itself was highly unusual. But in reality their meeting was unavoidable. She hadn’t been prepared for the shock on his face when he finally encountered her on the main stairs.
She had heard of the Meanys, of course; they were cousins of her father and lived in Sligo and Dublin, their large, impressive houses filled with expensive furnishings. There had also been an inheritance, which she knew her father felt should have been his. When the will was read, it had gone to his cousin. Malachy Meany had been a tall, gaunt figure with piercing blue eyes and severe black hair. She had only met him once before as a child. Even then she had felt his brooding presence as a malign influence at the family gathering to celebrate a distant cousin’s wedding. It was rare for them to attend any of these events, but for some reason her father had made an issue about this particular occasion, and they had eventually turned out for it.
Malachy had aged somewhat and his eyes had taken on an opaque quality, becoming two clouded moonstones rather than the clear sapphires of her memory. The hair that had once been black was now heavily streaked with grey and longer than she recalled, falling around his ears and neck in untidy clumps. He was still gaunt though, and the tight stretch of his skin made his face seem even more sinister than she remembered. The expression of shock on his face when he saw her was striking; he looked as if he had seen a phantom, which in effect he had. His thin voice had just stopped short of shrieking her name and he controlled himself at the last moment; her name eventually coming out as a sharp rasp.
“Malachy.” She had spoken his name quietly, backing away from him.
“But… ” He stumbled over his words, rubbing his left forearm as if in pain."I thought you were dead.”
“Did you?” she asked quietly. “Well, as you can see, you were mistaken.”
She was about to continue down the stairs but his voice detained her.
“How long have you been here?” he asked, a pale gleam in his eye that made her shudder involuntarily.
“Always.” She could hardly bear to look him in the eyes. “I’ve always been here.”
“You were killed,” he repeated, running an agitated hand through his hair and making it even untidier. “The Dark Lord killed you.”
“I don’t wish to speak about that.” She was scowling at him now, his interrogation beginning to annoy her. “Are you visiting us for long?”
“Yes…” he said, and then abruptly changed his mind. “No, no… highly unlikely now I should say… I have some business to attend to.”
“Oh, well in that case I shall say goodbye now.”
She moved quickly past him, continuing down the stairs. He stood where they had been and watched her progress, smiling with a slow curl of his lips, which made his face wrinkle alarmingly. This was bad news, but it could also be good news depending on how one looked at it and Malachy Meany was always an optimist.
As she continued to watch the house from her vantage point on the hill, the front door suddenly opened and she could see her father and her cousin in heated debate about something. They stood arguing on the steps for several minutes before Liam, the butler, drove a gleaming silver car around the side of the house and parked it in front of them. Malachy walked briskly to the vehicle and tossed the small black holdall in the boot before throwing one final gesture of his arms at her father who responded by turning his back, slamming the door and leaving Liam and Malachy alone in the stillness. The butler gave a small nod towards the guest who then climbed quickly into the car. With a whirl of dust and the crunching of gravel he sped off down the drive and away from the house.
She wondered what they had been arguing about and, although not surprised that he was leaving, she was surprised he was leaving on bad terms with her father. She squeezed her legs against the side of the horse and cantered back towards the house, hoping to waylay Liam and find out what exactly had happened. Liam, however, had other ideas and was being very tight-lipped about the argument that had preceded Malachy Meany’s departure. Maeve was extremely disappointed by this; Liam had been her friend and confidante for the past twenty years so she was surprised by his refusal to tell her anything.
Liam watched her leave the kitchen with a worried frown on his face. Her father might not be overly concerned by the sudden appearance, and disappearance, of the mysterious Malachy Meany, but Liam was. He had never trusted the Meany family, wrapped up as they were in dark things, and Malachy was the worst of them. The rumours had always circulated about him and the Dark Arts; there had even been suggestions he had been working for the Dark Lord, which Liam could quite well believe. If those rumours were true, however, it meant Maeve was now in serious danger and he couldn’t understand her father’s lack of reaction to this possibility. He knew Niall had a fairly ambivalent attitude to his daughter, indeed for most of the time he pretended she didn’t exist, but he couldn’t imagine her own father deliberately putting her in danger.
Maeve was reluctant to tackle her father over Malachy’s sudden departure. As they sat eating dinner he barely said a word to her, but there was nothing new about this. Since her return here seventeen years ago this had been the pattern of their lives, cool detachment and disinterest. Of course at the beginning she had tried. Despite her weakness and despair after her brush with death she had given a lot of herself to pleasing her father, but it soon became clear that no matter what she did nothing would affect him. She had spent the last seventeen years in lonely isolation with only Liam and the large library for company, and slowly her life had slipped almost beyond her grasp. Maeve eventually gave up hope, hope of a life beyond the walls and hedges of the estate, hope of love, hope of making her past and her present make sense. She began to almost wish she had died all those years ago and that the compassion, which had saved her, had never been allowed to flourish.
She glanced at her father’s discarded newspaper and read the headlines quickly. They told of the return of Lord Voldemort and the imprisonment of several Death Eaters after a battle at the British Ministry of Magic. It was meaningless to her though; she knew the names but in a disconnected way, as if they were part of something long ago and long forgotten. Her isolation was so total that reading the newspaper was like reading fiction for her; it held no significance in her life.
There was a light tap at the door and Liam entered looking vaguely apologetic.
“Sir, there are two gentlemen to see you.”
Maeve looked up at him with interest; this was unheard of and must be directly connected to Malachy. Her father’s flustered response told her she was probably right.
“Send them away,” he said gruffly, setting his glass down in a rough manner and spilling wine on the table. “It’s too late for visitors.”
Liam hovered in the doorway.
“WELL!” her father thundered. “Send them AWAY, Liam.”
“I can’t, sir.” Liam glanced quickly at Maeve who raised an eyebrow at him. His gaze returned to her father. “They must see you, sir, immediately.”
“Who are they?” he snapped, standing quickly and flinging his chair back.
“It’s rather delicate, sir.” Liam nodded in Maeve’s direction.
Niall looked at his daughter in confusion, as if he had forgotten she was there.
“It doesn’t matter what you say in front of her.” There was contempt in his voice that still had the power to hurt her. “She is hardly in the position to repeat it, is she?”
“But she may well be, Mr.O’Malley.”
A new voice floated into the room followed by its owner, who Maeve immediately recognised. She dropped her cutlery in shock. Nothing had seriously interrupted her life for seventeen years and now twice in the space of a few days something unusual had happened. She couldn’t quite believe it.
“What are you doing here?” Niall said peevishly, his eyes wide in astonishment. “Every time I see you, you cause me and my family trouble.” Then his eyes widened even more as a second figure came into view, and this time it was almost too much for Maeve.
“We are here, Mr O’Malley, because we happen to believe that your daughter is currently in grave danger and must be moved from this place for her own safety.” The man turned to Maeve with a gentle smile on his face. “Hello, Maeve, my dear, you haven’t changed a bit.”
She was too bewildered to make a coherent response and all she managed was a sickly grin that did nothing to reassure anyone of her sanity.
“And what,” Niall asked coldly, “makes you think that?”
“The recent visit from a certain Malachy Meany,” the tall man said, piercing Niall with a hard stare. “What surprises me the most is that you didn’t see fit to inform me of it or indeed surmise the possible outcome of that visit.”
“Why should I?” Niall turned his back on the assembled company and faced the fire, but something in it made him uncomfortable and he turned back to face them again. “What right do you have to her? What makes you think you can protect her any better than I can?”
“Oh come now, Mr O’Malley, that is a foolish question. We have always had Maeve’s best interests at heart. While she remained here and certain people believed her dead she was safe. There was no reason to offer her protection. Now, however, I believe things have changed and the time has come to act. She will be returning with us tonight with my protection and will remain under my guard.” He turned to Maeve with a warm smile and crossed the room, leaving his companion stranded by the door.
“Maeve, my dear.” He approached her chair and she rose stiffly, not sure what was required of her in this situation. It had been a long time since she had seen Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and she felt strangely uncomfortable in his presence. She was no longer the lively witch he had known many years ago and she was only too aware of her dowdy appearance and dead personality. Maeve felt she had nothing to offer him. The suggestion that she was in danger and would be returning to Hogwarts seemed vaguely ridiculous.
“Forgive me,” he continued, “we are talking about you as if you were not here.” He clasped both her hands in his larger ones and regarded her warmly.
“Nothing to forgive, Professor,” she mumbled. “I am used to it.”
A look of disappointment quickly flashed across his face, to be replaced by a look of encouragement.
“I am sorry about that, Maeve, I couldn’t be more sorry about that. Perhaps I made a mistake…” His voice trailed off slightly as he struggled to return to the point he had wanted to make. “The recent visit by a member of your family may have led to someone undesirable being made aware of your continued existence. I am sure you can see that this puts you in a difficult position. It is necessary to get you away from here before that person comes for you.”
“You mean Voldemort, don’t you?” she asked, her voice flat. There was a sharp intake of breath from the figure by the doorway, accompanied by a loud snort of false laughter from her father.
“Surely, Dumbledore, you don’t believe the rumours in the Prophet that he has returned?” Niall was almost mocking the old wizard now.
“Mr O’Malley, the Daily Prophet may occasionally print rumours and nonsense but I can assure you, having been there myself, that Voldemort has indeed returned and we will be at war again soon.”
He turned back to Maeve. “I would like you to pack a few essentials into a bag and leave with us tonight. Of course, I will understand if you would prefer to remain in your home, but I must impress upon you that it is not safe here. We have a car waiting to take us to a boat and we will be making the crossing tonight.”
Maeve looked into his bright, steady eyes and then turned her attention to her father’s, which were ablaze with indignation and bluster. Finally her gaze turned to the man in the doorway and there she could read nothing. His black eyes watched her with no feeling and his face was expressionless. But it was his presence, more than anything else, that brought her spiralling down to earth and out of her reverie. They had once had a close association, so close that some had predicted a ‘happily ever after’ for them, despite them being the oddest of couples. Her father had ended their close bond by removing her from the school she had been sent to after her mother’s death. They had only met once more after that, and it had been fleeting but memorable, for all the wrong reasons. Yet here he was now looking exactly as he had the last time their lives had converged, despite the number of years that had passed, and giving no indication that he even knew her name.
“Of course,” she said to Dumbledore. “Of course I will come. I must do what you think is right.”
“No, Maeve. You must do what you think is right. We have taken away your right to choose for many years now and I think perhaps the time has come to put that right.” He looked very serious for a moment and she blinked back at him, unused to the concept of choice and all its many implications.
“Well, yes, yes, I think it’s right.”
Dumbledore appeared to be very relieved and patted her gently on the shoulder.
“Excellent, my dear. I know it will be a wrench leaving your home but I can assure you, you will be perfectly comfortable at Hogwarts and, more importantly, safe.”
She looked at him with a strange, distant expression on her face and when she spoke she was still detached and aloof.
“Oh, this isn’t really my home, Professor. It hasn’t been my home for a long time.”
Dumbledore glanced across at his companion with a frown on his face and beckoned him over.
“Maeve, Severus will go with you to your room while you pack a bag. I don’t want you left alone at all. I can’t impress on you enough the need for haste. The sooner we leave the sooner you will be safe. Do you understand?”
She nodded, trying to avoid having to speak directly to Severus Snape, who had been her first, and only, teenage romance and one-time rescuer. She was emotionally unprepared for all of this and her long isolation left her even less able to deal with other people.
“Good,” he said. “I will stay here until you are ready to leave. I have a few last words for your father.”
Her father grunted as she led Severus from the room, clearly anticipating another ten minutes of Dumbledore moaning at him incessantly. They began to climb the main staircase that rose elegantly from the large hall to the upper floors of the house. As they climbed they could hear raised voices from the dining room, and her shoulders slumped as she wondered if her father would prevent her leaving. By the time she had reached the second floor she was becoming more receptive to the idea of going. The danger wasn’t really a factor; after all she might as well be dead with her barely-there existence, so she really had nothing to lose by staying. But the prospect of meeting people again, the prospect of joining the real world, was now a tiny seed that had been planted and was slowly taking root and growing. She could almost feel the lazy unfurling of leaves that promised her a real future.
They reached her room, which was as far away as possible from the rest of the house, tucked away in old servants’ quarters that had been enlarged and extended to give her a whole wing to herself. She opened a large oak door and entered the gloom that served as her bedroom. Severus followed her in and was shocked at the drabness of the place she called her home. As fond of the dark as he was, this room was the most depressing place he had ever seen. The walls were cold grey stone with no coverings; the curtains that concealed the small windows were heavy black cotton that hung like ghouls blocking out the only light that could have brightened the room. There were only three pieces of furniture, a bed, a bedside table and a desk. To say it was stark would have been an injustice; there wasn’t enough there for it to be stark.
“I won’t be long,” she said, almost timidly, and he was even more puzzled by the lack of life in what had once been a vivacious young witch who had been one of the most spirited pupils in his year.
“Very well,” he said, standing again in the doorway and watching her carefully. He found himself almost afraid, in the way that humans are sometimes afraid of startling wild animals and having them flee from their sight. Not usually the most perceptive of men when it came to feelings, he could not fail but notice that she was, if not exactly frightened, then at the very least made skittish by recent events. And of course, he thought to himself, who wouldn’t be?
She glanced at his face and quickly looked away again, unsure whether to try and start a conversation or just get on with her packing. She decided on the latter and from the large wardrobe pulled a brown leather holdall with the letters M.O’M. stencilled in gold on the front of it. He recognised it immediately from her schooldays and was unsurprised to see it looking as pristine as it had then; it hadn’t seen much use in the intervening years. She pulled a few dresses from the wardrobe along with a robe of dark green and folded them carefully before placing them in the bottom of the bag. She followed that with some underwear and a hairbrush before closing the wardrobe and crossing to another door that she opened. As soon as he realised it was another room he followed her through the door.
This was a completely different room to the one they had just left and he immediately felt far more at home in it. The walls were painted a celestial blue and were covered with row upon row of shelves. These shelves were weighed down with either books or jars of herbs and other assorted ingredients for potions. There was a collection of cauldrons, measuring cups, mortar and pestles, bottles, and jars lined up neatly on a desk in one corner while in another a sleepy-looking owl rested on a gilded perch. On the wall there was just one picture, a portrait of a young woman with dark brown eyes and flowing black hair, which could only have been her mother. As he stared at the portrait the woman suddenly smiled gently at him and gave a small wave. He quickly looked away and his gaze was drawn to a small object on another desk that sat beneath the only window in the room. It was a small golden orb that seemed to hover slightly above the surface of the desk, it reminded him of a Snitch but it had no wings.
Maeve stood still for a few moments, as if assessing the contents of the room; she looked incongruous amongst all this magical paraphernalia in her faded jeans and sweater with her hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. Her preoccupation gave him the opportunity to study her face more closely and it was hard to believe she was any older than when he had last seen her. Her pale skin was still flawless, with just the faint hint of pink to her cheeks, and her eyes still burned with an inner warmth, although they didn’t burn quite as brightly as they used to do. Her mouth was full and had a slight touch of lipstick, but apart from that she wore no make up; she had never needed to. The hair that was so cruelly bound was a wonderful burnished shade of red that glowed like fire when the sun shone on it. At least that was how he remembered it; in the darkness of this room it looked as if the fire had gone out of it altogether. Her eyes flickered in his direction and she caught him staring. He looked away quickly, aware that they were pacing around each other warily like two lions in a cage, neither wanting to make the first move.
She selected a few books, picked up the orb and pulled out a small slim box from the drawer of the desk, which caused her to drop the books. Severus quickly moved to pick them up for her. She thanked him awkwardly before taking them from him and moving back into the other room.
“You kept up your potions work, I see,” he said, breaking the silence with a deliberately neutral comment.
“Yes,” she said, “of course I did. I couldn’t let my mother and grandmother down.”
“No.” The conversation so newly begun ended abruptly.
She stopped moving again and looked around at the bedroom as if for the first time. Sitting down on the bed she dropped the things she had been carrying beside her and sighed. She saw how dreary it all was and how impossible it would have been for her not to become dreary along with it. Why had she allowed this to happen? Loyalty to her father, fear of Voldemort, or perhaps just apathy had caused this exile from life. Was this a way out or was Dumbledore just saving her for a little while, to be deposited back here if and when the threat receded? Perhaps this time she wouldn’t allow herself to be shunted into the sidelines of life; perhaps this was her escape not just from Voldemort but also from a cage of her own creation.
“It’s awful, isn’t it?” she said dejectedly.
“What is?” He was still cold and polite, edgy almost.
“This room.” She waved her arm at the walls. “And my life, me…. I have allowed myself to become awful.”
“I wouldn’t say that.” His tone was still noncommittal.
“Well, what would you say, Severus?” She laughed, and there was a bitter tinge to the sound. “I never thought I would say that name again. I never thought I would see any of you again. I had resigned myself to my fate.”
“That’s a little melodramatic,” he said unthinkingly. “You are comfortable here, surely.”
“Comfortable!” she spat. “Oh yes, I’m comfortable. If you call living with a father who couldn’t care less whether you lived or died comfortable, if you call seeing no one but the butler for years on end comfortable, if you call quietly dying inside for the past however many years comfortable… then, yes, I am supremely comfortable.”
“I’m sorry, that was thoughtless of me.”
He was instantly contrite but also aware that she wasn’t alone in suffering like that. He had been equally alone since she had left, although he’d endured the added disadvantage of having countless people around him forming relationships and inadvertently reminding him of that fact.
“Don’t worry,” she said, brightening suddenly. “Perhaps we have to suffer these things in order to appreciate the good in life... or perhaps I’ve been reading too many Muggle novels!”
“Perhaps, we really should get going,” he urged.
“Do I have time to get changed? I don’t feel like arriving at Hogwarts looking like this.”
“I don’t think Professor Dumbledore is planning on you being seen when you arrive at Hogwarts, but by all means change if you wish.” He hesitated. “I can’t leave the room but I will look away.”
Awkwardly she slipped out of her jeans and from the wardrobe took a long, dark green dress that dipped in at the waist and then flared out over her hips. Slipping it over her head she already felt like she was casting off her current life. She had not worn her witch’s robes and dresses since returning to Abbeylara and she felt strange wearing them now. She pulled another heavy silk robe from the wardrobe, a slightly darker green than the dress, with intricate symbols stitched down the front in black so that they could hardly be seen. Her mother had made this for her and Maeve felt her presence as she slipped it over her shoulders. She freed her hair from the elastic that bound it and shook it loose so that it fell in graceful waves down her back, a little of the fire flowing back through it.
“I’m done,” she said, placing the books into her bag.
He turned round and couldn’t suppress a small smile. Gone was the dowdy, sad woman and in her place stood a very familiar witch. One that he had known and loved, and he felt like she was coming back. He watched as she opened the box and took out a slim wand, which she slipped into her robes, placing the box into the bag alongside the books. She then took the orb and whispered something inaudible; it slowly opened as if on a hinge to reveal a pendant nestled within on a cushion of silk. When she took it out, Severus could see a glittering circle of bluish moonstone and in the centre there was a glint of gold that he couldn’t quite make out. She placed the pendant with its limp chain to her throat and the ends of the chain slowly snaked their way around her neck and joined at the back securely.
“It was my grandmother’s,” was the only explanation she gave. With the necklace around her throat there was a subtle change to her demeanour, as if the dead exterior was flaking away slowly. Her imminent departure seemed to have woken a dormant creature within her and already he could see a little more of the fire-glow in her eyes and a spark of life on her face.
“Are you ready to go?” He was beginning to get impatient now.
“Yes, I think I have always been ready to go, it just took someone to ask me.” She smiled lightly and picked up her bag. “Let’s go, Severus.”
“Very well, I am sure Professor Dumbledore will be ready for us.”
He opened the door swiftly and checked the corridor before beckoning her out of the room with his hand.
“Surely you don’t think Voldemort is hiding in the house?” she asked, her mood lightening by the second.
“It’s quite possible,” he said curtly. “In fact, given his hatred of you, I would say it is very likely.”
“We had better hurry up then, hadn’t we?” She was still half smiling. Although now she was beginning to feel the first flickering of new life she suddenly realised death at the hands of Voldemort wouldn’t be very convenient. In fact, it would be downright annoying.
They moved swiftly through the house to rejoin Dumbledore and her father in the dining room. Clearly an unhappy agreement had been reached as her father stood, with his arms folded across his chest, looking thunderous.
“We are ready to leave, Professor,” Severus announced, as he stood shielding Maeve from her father’s angry looks.
“I just want to say,” said Niall, with murderous calm, “that this is against my wishes. You are no longer a young girl that I can prevent from leaving, but if you leave you will never return to this house whilst I am alive. I have had enough of you and the inconvenience you bring to my life… It is simply too much. Your mother caused me problems… not least by dying and leaving me with you alone but…”
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” Maeve jumped at the sound of Severus’ raised voice. “HOW DARE YOU SPEAK… ”
But Dumbledore cut him off quickly.
“No, Severus. Mr O’Malley, before you issue threats like that I suggest you take another look at your late wife’s will. May I then suggest you temper your tone towards your daughter.” He hesitated over the word “daughter” as if it pained him to say it to this boorish man. “You may well find that this house is not yours to use as a threat against Maeve. Her mother was a very intelligent woman, although clearly she had occasional lapses of judgement.”
He turned quickly and swept the other two from the room. As they reached the hall Liam was waiting by the front door looking distraught.
“I’ll come back, Liam,” Maeve said gently. “I will, despite what he says. And you know you are more than welcome to come and stay with me when I get settled. Perhaps a job could be found for you at Hogwarts.” She glanced at Professor Dumbledore who nodded slowly.
“Well, Miss, I would like that very much. I don’t think I shall want to stay here much longer with himself.” He nodded towards the room they had just vacated.
“Well then, it shall be arranged.” She smiled at him and reached across, planting a kiss on his cheek. “Could you pack everything up in my room and have it sent on for me? All the books especially.”
“Of course I will, Miss, I’ll pack everything carefully. Have a safe journey.”
“Thank you, Liam… for everything.”
“It has always been my pleasure. You will take care of her?” He looked to Dumbledore who again nodded.
“We will take excellent care of her, my friend. But now we really must leave.”
Severus opened the front door cautiously and peered out into the night. A car sat at the foot of the steps, exactly as the large silver one had done earlier in the day. This one was even bigger and glossy black. The night was so dark that she could barely make out the outline of the car as they hurried down the steps. Severus opened the boot and dropped her bag into its vast interior, whilst Dumbledore opened the rear door for her and allowed her to sink gratefully into the warmth of the borrowed Irish Ministry car. He closed the door, strode around to the other side, and got into the front while Severus got into the back beside her. They lost no time in pulling away from the house, and the last view she had was of her sorrowful butler standing at the front door mournfully watching them leave. Once they had reached the gates she turned away from the house and sank into the darkness to be alone with her thoughts for a while. She knew it would take them at least two hours to cross Ireland and reach a port that would allow them to cross to Scotland.
Her thoughts wouldn’t organise themselves as she peered into the darkness beyond the car. Random things popped in and out of her head and she was too tired to make any sense of them. She heard Dumbledore speak to the driver and he seemed to be saying that they should be safe now they were clear of the house. Maeve was also aware of the large presence of Severus beside her in the back of the car and this distracted her somewhat. With the speed of their departure she hadn’t even begun to figure out where her feelings for him lay, she suspected that they were only just beginning to resurface. She hadn’t allowed him to enter her head for many years now; it was futile to torture herself with thoughts of what might have been so she had stopped thinking about anything beyond the walls of her prison. Strange, she smiled to herself, it had gone from home to prison in an evening, and her father had been her chief gaoler.
Severus watched her drifting and felt a rush of something he didn’t want to identify. His feelings for her were so caught up in the past that he had a difficult time relating her to his present, to his ambition and position within the school. He usually had no time for emotions; they were an unnecessary distraction from work that clouded a person’s judgement and made them fallible. Their youth and naiveté had led them to believe that their teenage attraction had been something more serious and, despite the incident with Voldemort and the fact she had inadvertently turned him against his one time master, he still wasn’t sure of his feelings for her. She turned to look at him. In the darkness he felt, rather than saw, her eyes questioning him, seeking, perhaps, some reassurance that this time things would work out well. He couldn’t offer her any reassurance; times were about to get hard and life dangerous. There were no guarantees that they would survive.
The car drove on through the night, as the weather took a turn for the worse. Rain began to fall and high winds whipped it against the windows of the car causing the outside world to become distorted by the rivulets of water. Eventually she slept, her head lolling against the cold window while the other occupants of the car stared tensely into the dark night that surrounded them.